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The new Justin Timberlake video is existentially menacing

I like Justin Timberlake, but I have a couple of small issues with his latest music video — you know, the one for “Can’t Stop the Feeling (From DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls).” For example, it’s rude to throw a ton of produce in your shopping cart without weighing and labelling it for the convenience of your checkout person. For another, it shouldn’t take anyone 4 minutes and 45 seconds to eat a piece of pie.

Everyone dances, but nobody moves

Also, the whole thing is a metaphor for purgatory. Metaphors, generally, are not my strong suit, but this one feels pretty undeniable, as much as I would like to deny it.

The world this video takes place in doesn’t appear to belong to any specific place or time. Some costumes and settings appear drawn from the 1950s; others, like Justin’s outfit, hail from 1997. There is no one in a laundromat. It is clean and bright, like I imagine purgatory to be. Everyone dances, but nobody moves.


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This is the kind of music video that inspires endless questions (questions that aren’t really questions, so much as statements of fact I can’t bring myself to fully reckon with).

Watching this video turned my internal organs to the consistency of half-frozen cheesecake?

Justin Timberlake’s ever-present hats / bouffant hairdos are like Marsellus Wallace’s ever-present head Band-Aid, as in they cover up where his soul exited his body?

I’m just curious if this video scares you. Just a little?

For example, does watching this video sort of make you want to explain what you would use some additional years on Earth for?

I don’t know, maybe just look at it. Can someone call my mom for me?

I’ll supplement the imagery with some words by famous purgatory expert Jean-Paul Sartre, and maybe that will help you see this for what it is. I know it can be hard to face. I haven’t faced it yet.


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“Can you stop your thoughts? I hear them ticking away like a clock, tick-tock, tick-tock, and I’m certain you hear mine.”


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“Your silence clamors in my ears. You can nail up your mouth, cut your tongue out — but you can’t prevent your being there.”


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“You’re everywhere, and every sound comes to me soiled because you’ve intercepted it on its way. Why, you’ve even stolen my face; you know it and I don’t!”


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“When I can’t see myself I begin to wonder if I really and truly exist. I pat myself just to make sure, but it doesn’t help much.”


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“And you’re another trap. And of course there’s a whole nest of pitfalls that we can’t see. Everything here’s a booby-trap.”


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“I know what’s coming to me. I’m going to burn, and it’s to last forever.”


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“Anything, anything would be better than this agony of mind, this creeping pain that gnaws and fumbles and caresses one and never hurts quite enough.”


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“You know the way they catch larks — with a mirror? I’m your lark-mirror, my dear, and you can’t escape me…”


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“I’m going to smile, and my smile will sink down into your pupils, and heaven knows what it will become.”


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“There were days when you peered into yourself, into the secret places of your heart, and what you saw there made you faint with horror.”


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“Open your hands and let go of everything.”


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“There’s no more hope — but it’s still ‘before.’ We haven’t yet begun to suffer.”


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