How Sheep Teach Us To Hate Gun Violence

Jan 13, 2017

The video for Watsky's "Stick To Your Guns" stands out from the opening shot, a storybook image of a young boy telling a story to his flock of sheep. As in many children's tales, a harsh truth is about to be told. George Watsky, who performs under the name Watsky, is a slam poet and hip-hop artist with five albums and a number of mixtapes to his name. And in spite of the sheep and the cartoony nature of the video, it aims to tackle the issue of violence and mass shootings.

Director Carlos Lopez Estrada writes via email that the challenge of making the video for "Stick To Your Guns" was in dealing with the incredibly specific lyrics of cocking a shotgun as people fall to the floor.

I was immediately drawn to the contrast between the stark nature of the lyrics and the very pleasant quality of the music, so I figured the video could similarly take an allegorical approach to some of the more serious themes that the song explores. It is a fable about a shepherd who raises his sheep with violence and accidentally starts a vicious cycle within the herd. It's a seemingly straightforward idea that we tried to present in a colorful and hopefully unexpected way.

Watsky writes that he wanted to tackle gun violence differently, by avoiding absolute statements that would shut down conversation altogether.

My aim was to present one archetypal shooting, each verse coming from the perspective of a different person involved in the event, and highlight the similar pageant we go through every time this happens in America. The first verse is from the perspective of the shooter — I'm trusting the audience to listen on, because until you get to the second verse, it's almost impossible to know the song is satire. I did worry that this could come off as callous to people who have lost loved ones in shootings, but ultimately decided that I would let the song stand on its own merits.

The second verse comes from the perspective of a newscaster barely suppressing their excitement about the bloodshed, and the third verse is a politician, posturing grief in a eulogy, eager to pin the blame on this single deranged individual and move on. I hoped that, by ending the song on the politician's point that the shooter was a lone-wolf weirdo, I could accomplish two things: one, force the audience to recognize how familiar this argument is, and also, since it is an argument we're hearing over and over, undermine the very idea of the lone wolf. How many lone wolves can we have before they're not lone anymore? That's the broader, uniquely American tragedy — that this song is reminiscent of so many past events, and if we continue to sit on our hands, more to come.

"Stick To Your Guns" features singer Julia Nunes and can be heard on Watsky's 2016 album X Infinity.

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