Seeing More Broadly

Chris BeecherArgument, Film and Media, New Voices, Previous Editions

Individuals always have a tendency to criticize from first impression without acknowledging the full outlook of the situation. On January 7, 2015, Sia debuted her music video “Elastic Heart.” In the music video, Sia uses Maddie Ziegler, a 12-year-old girl in a nude leotard who is locked in a bird cage battling a thirtyish Shia LaBeouf who is also wearing a nude colored pair of shorts. Throughout the video, Ziegler is seen stalking and attacking LaBeouf as she manages to jump on his back. He spins her around to get her off and succeeds. At the end, Ziegler exits the cage, while Labeouf continually tries to stop her, in order to win the battle. This video has created controversy among some critics and fans. Many have viewed this video, having mixed feelings towards it. Some audience members quickly interpreted it as inappropriate with shades of pedophilia. Some people are trying to express their disagreements of the video that it is giving a sense of sexual inappropriateness because a 12-year-old girl is in a sexual dance with a hardly dressed thirtyish man creating a vision of a seemingly sensual intention. In the article, ‘”Elastic Heart'” is striking, not sexual,” Anna Mae Ludlum advocates the video by stating “discounting the value of an artistic expression due to simply misunderstanding  the artist’s concept is a mistake.” When an individual has a difficult time understanding something, they should not quickly jump to a conclusion creating negative assumptions. Although, the video promotes negative ideals, I am defending Sia’s choice because she is telling a story using  a creative approach to illustrate how she could have been mentally abused in her previous relationship.


Sia’s music video is an artistic expression of her painful relationship because she tries to concentrate on the story and give it life by choosing a specific color for the costume. Douglas R. Nielsen, a UA dance professor, defends Sia’s choice by telling a story about the time he had an audience express their disbelief for the same color leotards he chose for his dancers as Sia did, during a recital. The professor explains his choice by stating, “nude leotards allow the audience to see each intricate movement of the dancer without analyzing meaning of colors in costumes” (Ludlum 5). Sia has chosen the nude leotard because she wants the audience to look at the story she illustrates, by using a different approach. The nude color represents skin, at the same time amplifying a free nature. The color gives a free intention because the audience would not miss any important steps the actors portray in the music video that are necessary to create Sia’s story. She did not want to put much effort into the costumes because then, the meaning of the story would be lost. The audience would be focused on the costumes, rather than the significant part of the video.

Artists are encouraged to express their creativity freely in this country. Ludlum demonstrates “the use of an older male opposite to a young girl is nothing new in cinematic dance history, but the layers of emotion embedded in each frame of ’Elastic Heart‘ is new.” Sia represents a new ?form in her video by expressing her ability to hold on to her inner strength. The bird cage and the two human characters in the cage exemplify that Sia wants to be free from her pain and tell her story the way her life has been, in sequence. Her desire is to capture the audience by letting them know who she is by not giving away her truth easily, in the video. Our artist wants us to discover her purpose on our own, through the difficulties she has experienced.

Although the music video does not illustrate any signs of her true self freely, it quickly causes controversy due to the extreme age gap present. The viewers are blinded by what they see at first sight. Many create negative assumptions related to the video and quickly jump to a conclusion that is sexual in content. Most importantly, they view it as “pedophilia.” In the popular “Elle Magazine,” they describe the video using the word “creepy” (Hurst 6). Also, if the viewers are watching the video for the first time, they would quickly assume the actors are naked. The audience imagines an inappropriate scenario. However, I believe Sia is trying to express her painful life through this unusual art form. She intentionally chose a nude leotard to express herself freely and the pain she had experienced. Barbara Ellen defends Sia’s video by claiming “In Elastic Heart, the grown man and the young girl are alive with feelings for each other, running the gamut from amusement and play through to fury to despair” (Hurst 4). The viewers need to be open minded and accepting because it’s an art form and not real life. Sia represents the little girl who is alone in the bird cage trying to escape her nightmare, which is her devastating relationship. She is surrounded by a dark path where there is no escape. She is attempting to free herself by scaring the man who used to have power over her. At the end, when she finally escapes, Ziegler regains her soul that was missing.

The music video has triggered much criticism from social media users because Ziegler and Labeouf are both expressing abnormal behavior. The little girl who is not even a teenager yet is put in a cage with an older guy, who has had much life experience. There are many fans who commented on this abnormality, where one indicates “the video would be magic if her dancing partner wasn’t 30 years old, looked like a child predator and was a good dancer” (Hurst 6).

LaBeouf has a long beard, which makes him look dominant and terrifying. It portrays his thirst for control because he does not want to let her go. He has piercing eyes that show he wants power over her. His facial expression symbolizes that his life is taking a complete turn. In the end, he manages to capture her by grabbing her hand and body when she escapes building energy in him, but ultimately he loses.  On the contrary, “Elastic Heart” shows Sia is finally searching for her strength by using the little girl. In her video, Sia sings “yeah, I’ve got an elastic heart.” Elastic heart means that she is finally building the pieces together that he shattered. The little girl grows and evolves during her relationship struggle, throughout the video. Ziegler is finally at a point where she has found her strength and escapes the cage.

More importantly, Sia expresses her dark past by letting the audience feel her pain and her final success by giving a creative touch to her video. She wants to tell a story by doing something different to grab the audience’s attention. Ellen comments by stating, “Watching it, I realized the intensity (Sia’s “emotional content”) was the reason it was jarring–the mere fact that the video wasn’t carefully benign, cheaply titillating or just plain boring, like so much else in the genre” (Hurst 4). Sia uses a different approach to express her feelings, in which it allows the audience to think critically. It leaves the audience with mixed interpretation for why she chose this storyline. It is able to quickly grab attention because we have to dig deep to find what the purpose of the video is. She does not do something that the public is used to; instead she wants her video to identify her relationship struggles. The little girl illustrates that Sia felt like a child in her relationship and she wants to finally have power again.

The video tries to distinguish a small part of Sia’s childlike behavior that is growing as she overcomes the man who made her feel like nothing once. She is finally regaining her strength from a mentally abusive relationship. For example, Sia’s director comments on the controversy by advocating, “the video represents Sia’s internal emotions and the cage represents Sia’s skill enduring the volatile strife” (Ludlum  10). When an artist tries to choose a specific style for a music video, the viewers have to always analyze what the artists are trying to convey. Sia has a purpose, choosing a child and a grown up. Maddie tries to express her confidence and her careless nature, while Shia is finally becoming fearful of her newly found power. Shia has become weak because he has lost his dominance. Sia reached a point where she stops caring about her appearance and she uses Ziegler to portray her confident behavior. Sia entitles her music video “Elastic Heart” because she wants to show the years she was constantly put down that she is not fearful of anything anymore. She is finally putting the pieces of her past together and trying to feel like a warrior. Sia finally gains her confidence that she had lacked previously due to a destructive relationship

Furthermore, the audience quickly jumps into a false assumption because they struggle to understand what is happening. Some quickly argue the video is expressing pedophilia, which is defined by “Nolo Legal Dictionary” as “an abnormal obsession with children as sex objects” (Campbell 2). In the video, Shia looks like the child, while Maddie is powerful. Labeouf was afraid to take a step closer to her. For instance, there was a scene in the video, when they were both lying on the ground and staring at each other. Maddie quickly jumps up and runs after him. She manages to grab his hand and spin him around, into the wall. This scene shows the strength the little girl carries in her tiny body, while Shia had trouble stopping her with his buff body. Maddie is the dominant figure in the cage as she is growing and becoming more wild. As she becomes fierce, Shia weakens.

In conclusion, Sia chooses to add uniqueness to her video that makes her pain less identifiable. She wants to leave the audience guessing about the way her life is. She illustrates her mentally abusive relationship by using an artistic form. Just like Sia, every individual has a story to tell and they express it in a different way. They will illustrate their pain or happiness by doing something that identifies with their life or with their personality. It will mean something to the author, while the general audience will not understand it. The public does not have a say in  how people should run their story because they do not have control of how their life turns out to  be.


Works Cited

Campbell, Kristie. “‘Elastic Heart’ pedophilia accusations exaggerated.” Ka Leo 0 Hawaii, Honolulu, Hi., 10 January 2015. Web. 8 November 2015.


CONTROVERSY.” THE INQUISTR NEWS., 13 January 2015. Web.  9 November 2015.

Ludlum, Anna Mae. ” ‘Elastic Heart’ is striking, not sexual.” THE DAILY WILDCAT., 23 January 2015. Web. 8 November  2015.

SiaVEVO. “Sia- Elastic Heart feat. Shia LaBeouf & Maddie Ziegler (Official Video).” Music Video. YouTube, 7 Jan. 2015. Wed. 2 Nov. 2015.