Statuary in Jay-Z and Kanye: No Church In The Wild

This video was brought to my attention by a friend who writes the blog musictomyeyez.tumblr.com. For a cinematic analysis of the video check out that blog, it is very well written; he does make mention of the classical references, but his focus is more on the film aspects. Here, I am just going to look at these references from the classical point of view.

My favorite reference is one that Matt also mentions, the use of a statue which is supposed to look like Bernini’s Rape of Persephone. This statue can be found in the Villa Borghese in Rome, Italy and is something that anyone remotely interested in art or mythology must see. I saw it while I was studying in Rome and it was definitely one of the highlights of my trip. The use of it in this video is great as the story behind the statue has a strong link to the message of the song. The story comes to us from The Homeric Hymn To Demeter. The myth is that Hades took Persephone out of the meadow she was playing in as a little girl and brought her to the underworld to be his queen. There are variations of this stories and varying theories about the willingness of Persephone to go, but it is commonly taken as a message of stealing youth and creating the sadness of Demeter which formed the four season year to which a lot of civilizations are accustomed.  The song, to me, is directly about the occupy movement and possibly the struggles in the Middle East and Northern Africa (at least the Jay-z parts are, Matt explains this). The link for me to Persephone, however, is that it is more and more the case that younger generations wish to stay young and protected longer. The occupy movement comprised mostly of recent college graduates is about security and protection in our political and societal system. The link to Persephone suggests that our society is stealing our youth. This is partly my personal bias as I watch kids give up sports, music, theater, and other childhood fun in order to get ahead in their field so they can secure a job in today’s economy.

There are many great uses of Ancient Greek Gods and Goddesses in this video, but I will focus on only a couple more. The use of Nike (goddess of victory) at 2:38 is very tentative as we have just seen an image of a car being flipped over, then a man is hauled down by police and held to the ground, and then back to a car which has been lit on fire by the mob. It is almost as if the question is being posed, “Which is truly victory?” At 3:32 the horses shown very briefly are, in my opinion, the chariots of justice. This is a statue which has been re-purposed all over the world. The video depicts only the horses which could be yet another question, “Who is pulling justice’s chariot?” Later at 4:26 a police officer is kicked off of the same statue which answers this question by saying the people are pulling the chariot and maybe even the people are the chariot of justice. Matt also analyzes the use of Athena so I will not do that here except to add that Athena is often accepted as a goddess of only defensive warfare and therefore she is a better image of this protest because protests are often about maintaining rights not taking them. This image shows that the people are being attacked and simply defending themselves from the brutality of the police. Overall, these references are a great use of Ancient Greek Mythology and Art to convey a modern message.  Huzzah for the survival of the Classics.

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