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The Optimism of Zero

Synthesizers buzz and hum as she puts on her makeup and zips up her PVC outfit. She runs her hand down her bangs and grabs her leather jacket. Her initials are on the back and she slides it on. She stands behind a curtain waiting to show herself to the world. This is her look and she’s proud. She has one final unsure look on her face and then pulls the curtain back to rapturous applause and she struts down the empty street evolving into dance. The song soars in praise with her. It’s her life and her self-expression and she is showing it to everyone. All she can do in response is dance while others look on. They look a little surprised by her outfit and her attitude but they see that she’s happy and eventually she runs into people who smile upon seeing her.
In these four minutes The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Zero directed by Barney Clay is deeply humanistic in a completely optimistic and joyful way. In this world, self-expression equals true joy, and the only responsible way to act on joy is through dance as Karen O suggests here when she seems so happy that she dances on top of cars. We live in a cinematic world where the most prized stories are about tragedy and the films that make the most money, and therefore control the Hollywood system, are about the end of the world or general destruction with no consequences. Even in television the narratives are controlled by serial killers, cops, and bad men. The musical, screwball comedy, and romantic comedy are nearly all dead so where did good feelings go? We live in a scary enough world that we don’t always need it reflected back at us on screen but our avenues for escapism are dour. Zero was made a few years ago, but I think its joyfulness is still relevant today. It’s self-empowerment of expression through choice is vastly important and in a time where things like selfies are constantly criticized as being vain and narcissistic Zero presents a different idea. It’s happiness within self so much so that you just have to dance, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being happy. That’s what we all want. Isn’t it?

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