I can understand why the video for Sia’s ‘Elastic Heart’, featuring Shia LaBeouf and twelve year old Maddie Ziegler has caused some viewers to feel uncomfortable. However, I feel that many of its watchers have become too sensitive, or simply too quick to throw around damaging labels. I also can’t help but feel like the accusations are a bit of a ‘who smelt it, dealt it’ scenario, with people projecting paedophilic thoughts onto the video rather than the video capturing a paedophilic event.
What ‘Elastic Heart’ demonstrates through a stunning contemporary dance performance is the victimisation of a man who is being emotionally and even physically beaten by a significant female other. In an age of feminism that can sometimes beat down on men, ‘Elastic Heart’ offers a glimpse of an often under represented group: the men that are abused and emotionally exploited at the hands of a woman.
Unsurprisingly, the dance performance itself has gone largely unnoticed – shadowed by accusations of being inappropriate. The video is evidently charged with emotion, but can we really call it sexual? Where is the sexual touching? Is it the touch on Maddy’s shoulder? I’m yet to read something that questions the way Maddie strokes Shia’s face. Instead, the artistry of the concept is entirely lost while we all blame the man for causing discomfort to viewers. Are there many who blame Maddie Ziegler’s mother, who could have simply said no to her daughter’s participation in the video?
We’ve lost art to accusations. Claims that Shia LaBeouf acts in a paedophilic manner diminishes his performance and the sensitive issue that the video attempts to highlight. In their cruel words, viewers silence the real issue lying at the heart of the video, while simultaneously becoming the emotional abuser that Maddie Ziegler performs as. Of course a man can’t deliver a powerful performance that is indicative of the lives of many who go unrepresented. We can’t allow such sensitivity in this day and age. We have to label him with something disgusting rather than acknowledge his nod towards damaged men in society. In fact, we’ll just contribute to the damage and damnation. He just has to be a paedophile, doesn’t he?