“Dance and Shake the Frame”: Culture Industry and Absurdity in Childish Gambino’s “This Is America”

  • Kate Wallace Fry


This essay uses early twentieth-century critical and literary theory to examine the ways in which Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” critiques the violence and racism of American culture. While “This Is America” does not present an overtly Marxist critique of America, the song and video complement Horkheimer and Adorno’s Marxist criticisms of the culture industry. Furthermore, Gambino adopts devices and approaches popularized by absurdist art movements that critique the ideological mainstream. This essay concludes that, by applying absurdist approaches to his art, Gambino exposes the ways in which the American culture industry normalizes racism and gun violence.