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Music Video Breakdown: 'Supplies' by Justin Timberlake

A Touch of Levity

Justin Timberlake in "Supplies"
What do albino alligators, the Los Angeles Public Library, and Harvey Weinstein have in common? They are all featured in Justin Timberlake’s “Supplies” music video. Confused? So is the content. As J.T.’s attempts at political activism play out on screen, it becomes clear that he has taken on too much too fast too soon. This music video breakdown is not one of those “celebrities should shut their mouths and stay out of things that really matter” pleas, but a respectful entreaty that they wade into the muck of political discourse tastefully. This attempt to tackle Trump, #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, gun violence, and anti-Muslim discrimination in one four-minute music video is not tasteful. Nor is it effective: Such a bombardment of content spawns comment section gems as, “WTF is doing Eiza Glez here!!! OMG she looks so flawless ! Good for Mexicans!”

To set the record straight, her name is Eiza González, and yes, she is a Mexican woman of color. But who cares what her name is or how positive for diversity the “Supplies” video could have been when she is hypocritically painted as Timberlake’s sexy lover/sidekick? She may clock a dude in the beginning, drive a fast car, and throw a torch, but a true pursuit of equality will take much more than performative support.

Timberlake first meets González in an alternate dimension where everything is white—hair, masks, police uniforms, people—except for the two leads, who pop against the frosty setting in black leather. You may be thinking: A world where you can wear hair curlers and firearm chokers in public seems quite liberating. Yet the video goes out of its way to suggest that this albino wonderland represents the whiteness of elite America—the emphasis placed on ostentatious buildings and outlandish fashion is unmistakable, even in this monochrome universe. Or perhaps the video simply calls for a daring individual to step up and change the status quo. Timberlake humbly offers himself up for the task. The use of only two colors here does not make the “Supplies” music video any easier to understand. We can only begin to imagine what will happen when the rest of the rainbow is thrown into the mayhem.

The task of keeping up becomes impossible when a blue-beanied Justin Timberlake begins to bob his head oddly before the Los Angeles Public Library, while dozens of men in black atop the building hit us with flashlight beams directly in the eyes. “Cause I got supplie-ie-ies / Supplie-ie-ies / I got you, I got supplie-ie-ies / Supplie-ie-ies,” he sings, resembling James McAvoy in “Split” (and not in a good way). In these moments, we are struck with our first profound question of the music video: What does Justin mean by “I got supplies?” Let’s take a look at what he’s “got”: “you” (us, the audience?), flashlights, books, and a hapless-looking Pharrell Williams.

Then, in the first comprehensible action of the music video, González runs through a crowd of worshippers to ignite and destroy the cause of their blind following: a glowing pyramid. Where have we seen this idea before? Maybe it calls to mind the meme of Mark Zuckerberg’s happy stroll through a sea of people wearing VR headsets? Or perhaps the we-are-all-zombies spiel of Katy Perry’s “Chained To The Rhythm.” This idea is so unoriginal that it recreates a 35-year-old commercial based on a 70-year-old book.

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Our viewing experience comes to a close with Timberlake awakening in the “real” world: a barren, red landscape, featuring dust-covered children. “Just leave,” says one of them to the camera. “Die already.” After making it to the end of the “Supplies” music video? Happily.

—Staff writer Tiffany A. Rekem can be reached at tiffany.rekem@thecrimson.com.

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