The Modest-Mouse-Heath-Ledger-Whaling Connection

by Published on

One of my favorite bands from high school, Modest Mouse, has just released a video for their new song ‘King Rat’. No, I’m not turning this space into an indie-rock fanpage. Allow me to explain.

The animated video, a project of actor Heath Ledger’s before his death, violently depicts the modern whaling industry through an inversion of human-whale relations. In the video, whales hunt, harpoon, bludgeon, skin, and process humans, turning people into something like dog food. It’s bloody, disturbing and bound to anger the whaling industry. Let’s just say it’s NSFW, as they say.

Here’s some background from the band’s website. You can also watch the video there. (Note: The YouTube version has been stripped of its audio due to copyright-something-or-the-other.)

In January of 2007, while visiting his homeland of Australia, Heath Ledger presented Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse with an idea to direct a video for their yet-to-be-released song ‘King Rat’. Heath’s vision, brave and unapologetic in its nature, would marry his love of bold and original music with his impassioned stance against the illegal commercial whale hunts taking place of the coast of Australia each year.

Always one to operate from his heart and take a stand for what he cared deeply about, Heath’s intention was to raise awareness on modern whaling practices through a potent visual piece without having to say a word. It was his way to let the story, in its candid reversal, speak for itself.

Proceeds from the video go to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Forrest Wilder, a native of Wimberley, Texas, is associate editor of the Observer. Forrest specializes in environmental reporting and runs the “Forrest for the Trees” blog. Forrest has appeared on Democracy Now!, The Rachel Maddow Show and numerous NPR stations. His work has been mentioned by The New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, Time magazine and many other state and national publications. Other than filing voluminous open records requests, Forrest enjoys fishing, kayaking, gardening and beer-league softball. He holds a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin.