Oppression and Empowerment – Past and Future of “Dirty Computer”

While there is so much to unpack when discussing Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer,” I find it really incredible how much of a different experience it is to solely listen to the track vs. watching the emotion picture as well. The emotion picture gives off a picture of a very oppressive nature throughout the majority of it that those who do not fit into the specific box of what is “norm” in the US experience. Meanwhile, while the specific songs mention the impacts of this oppressive environment, they are all extremely empowering and give off a powerful tone of reclamation.

The ways that the emotion picture works to display the ways in which she is stripped of her identity, memory, name and experience clearly draws a parallel with the ways that our society has historically and presently worked to strip people of color, and specifically black queer women, of their voice and experience to not only place them in a box of constant oppression but to take away their ability to have the power to speak out against this as well, at least not without putting them in a place of even higher vulnerability.

At the same time however, the emotion picture continues to refer to the “memories/dreams” that are unable to be deleted/seem to reappear after being deleted. I think this is referring to the empowering point that Monáe tries to make when referring to her own identity, and her power and ability to reclaim it and the strength that her identity gives her to break down the systems that work to oppress her. The words of her songs as well as the badass ending, seems to refer to providing a hopeful message to the future of black lives, and the future of the ability for individuals to reclaim their identities and re-harness their power that is constantly being broken down by society.

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