Back in 2015, Sia debuted the video for her song “Elastic Heart” from her ARIA Music award winning album 1000 Forms of Fear. The song depicts an internal battle over a toxic romance. She expresses frustration in her inability to “conquer love,” then goes on to say that while she knows the relationship is bad for her, she can’t help from wanting it so badly. The chorus expresses her “elastic” strength, but implies that she can only be pushed so far.
The music video itself features an interpretive dance between 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler, who also stars in four other Sia music videos as a miniature version of the singer, and 28-year-old Shia LaBeouf. The actors wear dirty, tight-skinned, nude colored leotards as they chase each other around in a giant cage. The video almost immediately sparked controversy as many interpreted the close dancing between Ziegler and LaBeouf as pedophilloic. Though Sia herself was quick to defend the artistic integrity of the video through twitter:
While there is an undeniable, blatant perversity to the way they are dressed and the closeness of their dancing in relation to the extreme age gap, it seems more like a ploy to reel in viewers than anything else. Nothing sparks attention quite like a controversy. However, it seems that Sia breaks down the symbolic meaning behind the characters in her tweet when she says that they are simply “two warring ‘sia’ self states,” which relates to the complicated lyrics of the song. The lyrics describe a mental fight between two versions of herself over a failing relationship, one that is “elastic” and one that “may snap”.
The giant cage setting represents the singer’s complicated mind. The two versions of Sia are essentially trapped within the cage, just as conflicting thoughts are trapped within a brain.
The child version of Sia is wild and animalistic. When Maddie is chased by Shia, she is able to swiftly run away and easily slide out of the bars. The character’s flexibility and aggression symbolizes the singer’s “think skin and elastic heart”.
The grown man version of Sia is ironically weaker than the child. Though he is the one who chases the child around, he proves to be sensitive and timid when he pets the child on the head (like an animal) when she finally settles down. He doesn’t react when she bites him in the hand. He is also trapped inside the cage and cannot slide in and out like the child can, just as the most vulnerable thoughts are trapped inside the mind.
Having the characters play opposite roles reveals the complicated and abnormal dimensions of a broken-hearted mind. When the wild child jumps into the man’s arms and starts hitting him in the head, she finds that he can be playful when he gives her silly faces. At this point, the characters reveal new dimensions of their own. While the child was aggressive and standoffish throughout the entire video, she breaks through when she realizes that there is a soft, playfulness to the man. She tries to help him out of the cage, but the video ends with her pulling his arm as he stays stuck behind the bars. This symbolizes the fight she has within her own mind. Though there’s a part of her that realizes she needs to get out of the relationship, another part of her is still stuck within the cage.
By Lauren MacDonald