“Borders” and Brand Controversy


MIA’s video for “Borders” is controversial in many ways: it’s full of refugee imagery, MIA rapping in the middle of boats packed with bodies. But its biggest backlash comes from what seems like its least controversial gesture—in some shots, MIA is wearing a shirt with a doctored logo, changing “Fly Emirates” to read “Fly Pirates.” One would think that critiquing big money and corporations through clever logo manipulation is old news, but MIA has received letters threatening legal action and describing the event as if the logo were a sensitive teenager with hurt feelings.

The FADER has published a piece that attempts to account for the controversy by discussing music’s relationship to corporate entities and commodification, hip-hop’s use of bling imagery to combat the idea that luxury goods were an exclusively rich white experience, and the inherent unfairness involved in the way that corporate imagery is protected by copyright law. Read the full piece here and watch MIA’s video for “Borders” after the jump.

Liz Wood is a freelance editor, fiction writer, and current student in the NYU MFA program. More from this author →