Andrew Garfield donned a Spider-Man costume for his role as The Amazing Spider-Man, and now he’s in the Arcade Fire video, We Exist, as a cross dresser. The Canadian Indie rockers filmed the We Exist video at the recent Coachella music festival. The video, shot including crowd scenes at Coachella, depicts Garfield going into a country music bar and being attacked by a group of men.
In the We Exist video, Andrew Garfield shaves his head, applies makeup, and wears a wig and dress in his role as a cross dresser who decides to be the person he is and face the world. His brave act of being himself is met with violence instead of acceptance, when he is attacked by the men in the country music bar.
The We Exist video shows that prejudices die hard, and that many people still have a hatred of and bias against people in the LGBT community. Andrew Garfield’s character is seeking to express himself, at the same time realizing that he might fall a victim to being punished for his failure to conform with societal norms. The conflicting emotions of both joy and fear that members of the LGBT community often experience when they just want the freedom to walk out into the world and be themselves plays out on Andrew Garfield’s face in the video.
Arcade Fire’s We Exist video doesn’t end on a downer note with a message about society’s reluctance to accept people for who they are. Instead, after Garfield’s character is attacked and falls to the floor of the bar, there is a sort of dream sequence, where he does a dance routine with four male dancers in crop tops and high heels who look like they could easily mete out justice if the need ever arose. Towards the end of the video, Andrew Garfield takes the stage at Coachella as Arcade Fire plays. He’s dressed in a white dress and has red makeup on. The enthusiastic crowd cheers its approval.
The new We Exist video by Arcade Fire comes at a time when there is both a degree of growing acceptance of the LGBT community in the United States and Europe as well as an oppression of them in other countries like Nigeria, Russia, and Uganda. In America, when Michael Sam kissed his boyfriend after he was drafted in the NFL football draft, it hardly raised any eyebrows at all. In Copenhagen, at the televised Eurovision Song Contest held on Saturday, Conchita Wurst, the drag persona for Austrian singer Thomas Neuwirth, won singing “Rise Like a Phoenix.”
While there are still many barriers to cross and break down, and the civil rights battle is not over in the United States for the LGBT community, strides are being made towards that goal. The Arcade Fire video We Exist, starring Andrew Garfield dressed in drag and shot at Coachella where frontman Win Butler and the band closed out the music festival to an audience estimated at 90,000 strong, serves as a powerful message that intolerance can never ultimately prevail over the human spirit and struggle for basic human rights.
Written by: Douglas Cobb