“Bang bang, I shot you down…” or How Europe Fights the Others

I have a feeling that I start to specialize in posts about the EU promo videos. Well, there’s a lot to say/write about this genre! Once in a while a new bizarre propaganda movie comes out and just asks for a commentary. So here it is — the new masterpiece about European identity-building practice that happens on the expense of fortifying yourself from the Others:

So, where do I start?

1. The space

The scene is set up in an industrial space of a railway station. Historically Europe has a special relation to this location. Let me notice that the symbolics of the train station is a crucial trope of modernity: on the one hand it is the gate to the city, a place of intense traffic in people and magnificent machines of transportation that increased the mobility of the moderns, while on the other hand it creates an opportunity for various ‘unwanted others’ to enter the city. Thus, the crowded and anonymous space of the public railway station becomes potentially dangerous. It is here, where the agents of the moral panic of the 19th and 20th century will look for the “perverts”, “degenerates” and “inverts” lurking behind every corner. Even in late modernity the train station is recognized as ” a site of vice and sin“. It is here, where progress, technological advancement, rationality, movement and increased mobility all mix with masses of human bodies, the gazes of strangers, social friction and potential mixing across hierarchies and classes. It is here, where you can gain a temporary identity of a traveler, a passenger. It is here, where time and space gain new meaning. But is also here, where you enter a risk zone, because the democratization of that space makes it easily accessible for intruders.

Coming back to the movie, the railway station here is empty. It’s rather an abandoned metropolitan post-industrial setting. It might be agoraphobic in this way. A lonely woman wanders aroundempty platforms. She soon realizes she is not alone.

2. The main protagonist

Here she is. A beautiful, young woman in a sport-suit. The reference to the classic Kill Bill movie series hits the viewer with its obviousness. More importantly though, she is supposed to symbolize Europe. It is not surprising at all that a white woman in her reproductive age is here to convince me that Europe is a great place to live in. The glorification of white womanhood, elevated to the role of a civilizing trademark has a long history in both Europe and the US. Back in the 19th century “the cult of true womanhood” was an ideology that enabled upper and middle class women to enter the public political scene with a mission of promoting the ideals of domesticity, piety and submissiveness. Paradoxical? Well, of course at the same time it persistently excluded non-white, immigrant and lower class women from the category of a “true woman”, to which those radically “Others” could only aspire. Fueling the heterosexist ideology of the nuclear family, capitalist values and the separation of the public and private spheres the bourgeois True Lady figure was an ideal symbol for the nation state. Female body has been used as a fleshy metaphor for the nation for ages now.

Let’s not forget the mythical Europe who was kidnapped and raped by Zeus in a form of a white bull. Interestingly, the EU often uses this myth, as a kind of ancient story of origin. Problematic? Extremely!

3. The Threat 

We learn from the video that Europe is threatened by various foreign warriors who attack her for no reason, demonstrating their power through elaborate martial arts performances. The first one is an Asian fighter, who shows off in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” style. The next invader is a levitating Arab or Indian man equipped with a kind of scimitar. He looks more like a character from One Thousand and One Nights tale — necessarily bearded and wearing a turban. Last but not least, a black guy enters the scene forcing the door and demonstrating his advanced capoiera skills. All men’s faces look angry and they are ready to fight. This extremely stereotypical, orientalist and racist representation of Otherness is just striking. A perfect classification of Others from a European perspective: the threat  comes from the East, the Middle East and the colonies. The gender dynamics is also notable — female Europe is attacked on her own territory (the railway station looks western) by a group of foreign men. One can just suspect how her integrity and dignity is endangered by that situation. But no worries, not only the villains have superpowers in this story.

4. The Solution

While the barbarian and brutal attackers jump around, Europe remains peaceful, rational and controlled. She knows exactly what to do! Her superpower is… multiplication! In other words, reproduction! With her many cloned selves she surrounds the Others and just peacefully sits down, making them drop their weapons. Although the filmmakers probably wanted to show some kind of assimilation policy, the result is a bit different. In my reading Europe creates a wall, a fortification, a border that makes the Others perish in the dust of the abandoned railway station, annihilates them.  Building fences is supposed to be a solution to neutralize the dangerous outsiders. Well, Europe already does that job pretty well …

Ceuta border fence

The women turn into 12 EU stars. As the music in the background (clearly taken from a western movie) fades away, instead of the classic “The end” or “Fin” the viewers are left with a different message: “The more we are, the stronger we are” says the moral of this story. Needless to say, the whole rhetoric of this video is extremely orientalizing, and it also shows (even if unconsciously) one of Europe’s biggest fears: “the is not enough of us and we need to multiply in order to outnumber the Others”. Imperialism in its finest, again realized through biolopolitical machinery of demographics. Although the method of reproduction represented in the movie seems interesting (parthenogenesis? why not!), it confines the female body into a task of reproducing the new forces of EU citizens. The rhetoric of the clash of civilizations still seems to be appealing to some.

This offensive video has been withdrawn by the European Commission after obtaining severe criticism. However, the fact that it has been realized in the first place is outrageous.