It should be obvious what’s wrong with Nicki Minaj’s video for Only. For those that haven’t seen it yet, it’s based on her in a role as a dictator of some unnamed country that YMCMB are in control of, a country with a massive military and a penchant for black, red and white colour schemes.
From the get-go glamourising dictatorships is pretty shitty but what’s worse is that the particular dictator she’s likened herself too is everyone’s favourite maniacal 20th century Führer, Adolf Hitler.
I don’t know where to begin explaining why this is so wrong, there’s too much, so I’ll just refute some of the defences I’ve seen of the video.
- "It happened a long time ago and is no longer relevant"
A personal favourite. With it being a song from an American artist most people listening are American and therefore no longer feel the effects of WW2. Cool. However, across the Atlantic, Nazism is on the rise and has been for quite some time. Greece’s Golden Dawn, Hungary’s Jobbik and France’s National Front are all far right parties with some representatives in power. Golden Dawn are especially bad and have been linked to several murders. One of their representatives even assaulted a female politician on live TV. Nazism is alive and kicking in Europe and shows no sign of decreasing. Anti-semitism is on the rise as are attacks on migrants and other minority religious groups. These are all linked to Hitler’s idea of National Socialism. While the man and the Nazi party may be dead, his ideas and dreams live on almost as much as if he were alive today.
- "It’s not necessarily based on Nazis, just the role of a powerful dictator"
To not be able to spot the Nazi imagery in this video you would either have to be blind or stupid.
This scene looks PRETTY familiar.
Also featured are armies of soldiers wearing red armbands with a white circle inside. Type in “red armband soldiers” into Google images and about 90% of the results are regarding the Nazi army. There is no way this isn’t based on Nazi Germany. There is literally nothing else that shares these aesthetics.
- "What about Stalin/Vietnam/slavery, this isn’t that bad in comparison"
Stalin’s rule was terrible. The Vietnam war was terrible. Slavery was terrible. I think we can all agree on that. However, the difference is there are no major music videos explicitly depicting artists as slave owners or civilian murdering soldiers. Why? Because it would be offensive and in poor taste. This is a straw man argument. It’s not about whether slavery was worse than the holocaust, it’s about whether it’s appropriate or not to feature it in a music video. The answer is no.
- "Nazis have been used in other media and no-one cared"
The only media I’ve seen that included Nazis have been WW2 movies and games that portrayed Nazis pretty much solely as the “bad guys”. In fact, Nazis are one of a few things that are ALWAYS the bad guys in western media (lumped in with terrorists, serial killers and zombies). An example that keeps coming up is Nazi imagery within the Lion King, with Scar representing Hitler. The difference is, Scar is through and through the villain. There’s nothing glamorous about his hyena army, unlike Nicki’s almost fetishised view of military might in smart uniforms.
- "They’re not really Nazis, just using the imagery for controversy" also, "She had no creative control over the video"
I know Nicki Minaj isn’t a Nazi. But she DID have some influence over the video as it’s her song. Controversy is fine and could have come in many shapes and sizes, but glorifying the deaths of minorities for views is just wrong. Sell sex, sell gore, sell horror, just don’t sell a real life event that ruined the lives and legacies of millions.
- "If you don’t like it, don’t watch it"
By this reasoning blackface is fine, because if you don’t like it you just don’t have to watch it. Gay-bashing TV shows are fine, because if you don’t like it you don’t have to watch it. Sexist humour and rape jokes are fine, because if you don’t like it you don’t have to watch it. Everything’s fine, until if affects you. As Martin Niemöller said, from a Nazi concentration camp, “at first they came for the socialists…”
Sorry for the long read, but this has made me pretty angry. Not just the video but the lengths people will go to defend it. During Nazi rule my mum would have been murdered. My girlfriend’s family had to flee from their home country in Romania to Venezuela to avoid being murdered. My neighbour, who died last year, spent time in a concentration camp and had a number tattooed onto him. My grandfather was shot in the leg and narrowly avoided death fighting against the Nazis. Real people, many of whom are alive today, made real sacrifices.
Nazism is a vicious, dangerous, evil ideology. It is not something to be used to sell records, it is not an aesthetic and it is definitely not justifiable to glorify and fetishise, even in a comparatively minor way such as the release of this video.