"Britl Binary," the new gender-smashing anthem from Toronto electronic collective Pale Eyes, begins with the Margaret Atwood-borrowed words "gender treachery," driven by repetition from threat to treatise to huge pop hook.
The song and video follow the same trajectory, questioning and challenging the precarious gender binary until it crumbles, and letting you dance in the ruins before planting the seeds of something brand new. McCarthy describes it as "Trent Reznor meets Judith Butler with Madlib's eclectic MPC in their backpack," which is perfect. Infectious politics for the dance floor.
The video, directed by artist Adrienne Crossman, juxtaposes individuals who vary in gender identity and representation against a variety of indoor houseplants (orchids, ferns, cannabis and cacti, as well as greenscreened footage of manicured plants from Allan Gardens) to question the idea of normativity and what is considered "natural." But though Crossman is the director, the video is a collaboration with its actors. Crossman explains:
"The actors were encouraged to experiment with costumes and makeup, giving them agency to appear however they felt comfortable. The same approach applied to on camera behavior, as each actor was free to respond to the music whichever way they felt appropriate."
The goal, says Crossman, was to challenge the gender binary and thereby create a "queer aesthetic." If that sounds heady, it is. But it's also going to get stuck in your head. In fact, it probably already is.