Because it's the only way to know how you're really feeling.
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Indie artist BIIANCO truly went above and beyond for her latest release, which is accompanied by nothing less than an interactive video game.
For her brooding new single "that's what friends are for," the LA-based, Queens-born artist and producer was inspired by R. L. Stine's "Choose Your Own Adventure"-style Give Yourself Goosebumps books to create her own multi-scenario music video adventure.
The video starts innocuously enough, following the artist on a motorcycle speeding towards a friend's house. Then, as she enters, the camera pans back to reveal a zombie lurking in the bushes.
Inside, one friend receives a text that begins, "Is your hair still pink?" and ends with the inevitable, "I'm outside." She opens the door to see her ex — a mad-eyed zombie.
Then the screen freezes, and the viewer is given two choices: "Kiss him" or "Tell him to f**k off right now."
Yes, the zombies are metaphors for manipulative exes coming back from the grave; and as the viewer, you're given the opportunity to fall prey to the encroachments of zombified lovers or send them speeding back whence they came. Each answer will lead you to a different outcome, some bloodier than others.
"Thematically, this song is really inspired by poor choices that get made during breakups. People become the worst versions of themselves. It's almost like they become zombies or this Mr. Hyde version of their Dr. Jeckyll," said the artist. "So, when it came time to make the video, I was obsessed with the idea of having exes show up as zombies and force my fans to make choices and show the consequences of their actions."
She felt that an interactive video game would be the best way to force viewers to make their own choices about how to handle the zombies of their and their friends' pasts. To create the video, BIIANCO and collaborators shot no fewer than 8 separate videos so that every possible storyline had its own unique ending. Spoiler alert: It involves a lot of cathartic skull-crushing and zombie-stabbing (if you play your cards right).
"This was easily the most in-depth and complicated thing I've ever created," the artist said. "We had to shoot for upwards of 8 different versions of a music video — so every choice in the game has a corresponding outcome. And then we had to code it all into a game. It took almost half a year but was worth it. I'm a diehard video game lover so this was a dream come true for me."
BIIANCO - that's what friends are for (official music video) www.youtube.com
Like much of BIIANCO's work, the boundary-breaking video aims to deconstruct strict binaries and limits, instead envisioning a more creative landscape. "I have always encompassed a myriad of masculinity and femininity and it naturally translated to my presenting appearance — blending menswear with ornate fake nails or working on my motorcycle in lingerie," she says,
"I — like many women — also have had personal experiences dating toxic men who were endlessly threatened by my masculine sides and really pressured me to move away from it. And I almost succumbed to that pressure before waking up and getting out. So, continuing to challenge these binarisms in my fashion and appearance is a way of me reclaiming my identity back from toxic masculinity."
Murdering zombies is one way of sticking it to the patriarchy (though not all toxic exes in the video are cis men). But BIIANCO's career and music has never fit into boxes — and her penchant for self-produced, dizzying down-tempo electronic music is matched by her love for creative disruption.
The artist began producing music during an all-womxn Ableton retreat in Joshua Tree, and since then she's been creating unstoppably innovative and genre-breaking art in many different forms. During quarantine, she released five new singles and seven covers. Her other recent creative offerings have included a series of music production tutorials shared on TikTok and a book of poetry called This will wreck your heart. She also has a full-length album coming soon.
With "that's what friends are for," she's marked herself as not only a masterful producer and musician but also as an innovator in terms of both technical form and conceptual creativity. The song itself, a blurry and seductive cluster of synths and bass, sounds like it wouldn't be out of place at a club in Berlin or in the penultimate episodes of Russian Doll, and the release is a promising window into a new kind of media form and an artist with limitless potential.
In case you had no childhood and don't know, Brenda Song is a 33-year-old actress known for playing early prototypes of the manic pixie dream girl on kid's shows like Nickelodeon's 100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd and Disney Channel's The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.
Brenda Song is NOT, however, a 42-year-old racist banshee who screeches at her co-hosts on the talk show The Real: That's Jeannie Mai. In 2019, Twitter did not compute the difference between these two Asian women, despite their different ethnic backgrounds.
Let's hop into our time machine to ask the unthinkable: Have we as a society made...progress?
For a strange moment in 2019, Brenda Song became a trending topic with over 20k tweets shortly after rapper Young Jeezy confirmed long-standing rumors that he was dating Jeannie Mai on Instagram (as of March 2021 the couple is now married). Why? Because Mai has a history of fetishizing black men and was formerly married to a white, racist Trump supporter. And Jeannie Mae has said that the one celebrity she hates to be commonly mistaken for is Brenda Song.
So, after Jeezy confirmed he was dating Mai, a disgruntled fan called out Mai's history of racist comments by posting, "Here's Brenda Song's racist ass saying she only f**ks Black men but married white. I wish her and Young Jeezy all the best."
The commenter attached a clip of Mai declaring her love of Black men on The Real, with the bizarrely tone deaf caveat: "For me, dark meat on the side, white keeps me mean and lean. You know, that's why I married a white man."
The Hosts Talk Race and Romance youtu.be
While she attempted to smooth over her comment later, she only piled on more cringe-worthy statements: "I like a good brother, I do! I think they're cute!" She acknowledged the comment sounded "horrible," but after hearing her attempt to back-pedal, her co-host advised her she was only making it "sound worse, don't explain it!"
While not excusing what she said, nor are we going to forget, but she did clear this one particular incident up. An… https://t.co/t2FfjpWnBt— na$ty. (@na$ty.)1567705538.0
Hordes of commenters quickly pointed out the hypocrisy of calling out Mai's racist rhetoric while confusing her for another Asian female. Without knowing the joke that Jeannie Mai hates being confused for Song, the comment reads as another drop of ignorance in the bucket of Twitter vitriol.
But plenty of commenters defended the mix-up, even without knowing the context or being in on the joke. In the initial wave of over 20k tweets, those comments boiled down to: "Yeah, but they do look the same... Don't they?"
@LaCienegaBlvdes You calling her racist and then calling her Brenda Song is wild lol, the hypocrisy jumped out— Shaynahhh ✨ (@Shaynahhh ✨)1567697318.0
@LaCienegaBlvdes i get this was some poke at the trope “all asians look the same” but that joke is tired and it had… https://t.co/qtCN0H7Zau— kiki ♡´･ᴗ･`♡ (@kiki ♡´･ᴗ･`♡)1567706529.0
It's mystifying that so many could disagree on the facial similarities of two Asian women. But then again, maybe it's not. Yes, Song's parentage is Thai-American and Hmong while Mai's is Vietnamese and Chinese. Those are distinct, unique cultures, and Asians do not present a monolithic face.
But in America, where Asians only comprise about 5% of the population, representation of Asian faces in the media are still scant. Only 1% of Hollywood's leading roles are given to Asian actors, and even after Crazy Rich Asians' box office success, disparities in mainstream representation (and even pay) still continue.
As a result, while "they all look alike to me" is still a form of coded anti-Asian racism, that confusion is based in systemic erasure and underrepresentation of Asian faces in America. It's also eerily grounded in the science of how our brains perceive differences when we're simply not exposed to faces unlike our own.
Simply put: When your face is unlike 95% of the population, people are more likely to confuse you with someone else, because being marginalized in your own country, left out of your country's textbooks, and reduced to a "model minority" myth means that you're barely noticed in the first place.
So in that sense, it's not your fault if you mixed up these women. It's the result of systemic inequality and severe underrepresentation of POC communities in the media, which has inculcated many of us with dismissive attitudes and blinders towards Asian American women. What we can do, however, is hold ourselves and others accountable — not become apologists for others' blindness and ignorance.
@NahNahBad @LaCienegaBlvdes She ........ literally ....... looks ....... like Brenda ...... almost like sisters & not because of ethnicity— Jai•ailaa (@Jai•ailaa)1567712900.0
Of course, the confusion hits very differently in 2021 amidst widely publicized spikes in hate crimes against Asian Americans, following a year of anti-Asian rhetoric from the former President of the United States. And none of this is to say enough about Mai's comments highlighting the history of racist, anti-Black sentiments woven into Asian communities (because fetishizing Black men as "dark meat on the side" while white men kept her "mean and lean" is just another form of anti-Black racism).
Her comments echoed white supremacy's calculated divisions between Asian and Black communities as a way to prop up systemic inequality. Scott Kurashige, professor and chair of comparative race and ethnic studies at Texas Christian University, stated to Vox: "The model minority stereotype really isn't meant to define Asian Americans. Rather, it's meant to define African Americans as deficient and inferior to white people by using Asian Americans as a proxy or a pawn to serve that purpose."
He added, "It was never an accurate portrayal of Asian Americans, but actually consciously meant to distort and stereotype Asian Americans."
So on the one hand, it's shameful that Brenda Song's quiet life dating Macaulay Culkin (with whom she recently welcomed their first child, Dakota Song Culkin) and her beloved roles as London Tipton and Wendy Wu had to be dragged into the comments (seriously, boo you, Twitter).
But on a greater scale, the confusion pointed out that American media is still homogeneous to a fault, and racist rhetoric should not be answered with even more racist rhetoric. Optimistically, one would hope that none of these comments (made by Mai or her Twitter haters) would be remotely tolerated today.
*This article was originally published on May 9, 2019 and updated on April 12, 2021.