When Arcade Fire released the video for "We Exist," it garnered tons of attention for its star, Andrew Garfield of The Amazing Spider-Man, and the fact that he rocked a dress, a wig and face paint as he walked through the crowd at the band's Coachella set.
Since then, Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! has criticized Arcade Fire's choice to cast Garfield, thus failing to provide a trans actor with the opportunity. This weekend, Win Butler, Arcade Fire's frontman, responded to her comments in an interview with The Advocate, in which he admits to understanding where Grace is coming from with her concerns.
"There was just so much thought and love that went into the video I don't personally see it as negative," Butler tells The Advocate. "I can totally see the sensitivity of the issue."
The video for "We Exist" explores the overarching themes of the song, which embraces Jamaican musical flavors while exploring gender identity and the conversations it inspires. For Butler, casting Garfield was a very intentional choice that wasn't just about getting a famous person's name attached to the project. Arcade Fire wrote the song while they were in Jamaica, and they couldn't ignore the country's problematic history with homophobia and anti-gay violence.
"There is a very kind of homophobic undercurrent, even in a lot of popular music and dancehall music, where there is a lot of violence against gay people," Butler continues. "And we were in Kingston, and we went to this kind of film event and met some gay Jamaican kids and just kind of talked to them and realized that they were constantly under the threat of violence. For me, I get kind of used to being in this sort of extremely liberal bubble — where we have Whole Foods and people are tolerant. And you can kind of trick yourself into thinking that the world is that way. For me, it was really eye-opening to hang out with these kids who, if they were going to dress differently or express who they were, there was this real tension ... Once something gets on the Internet, it works its way into people's lives in a way that I think is pretty powerful. For a gay kid in Jamaica to see the actor who played Spider-Man in that role is pretty damn powerful, in my opinion."