A scene from the highly acclaimed music video for "The Universal" which was inspired by the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange, featuring the band as quasi-Droogs in an all-white bar, complete with Damon Albarn wearing eyeliner similar to Alex DeLarge.
A highly acclaimed music video for the song was directed by Jonathan Glazer. The band is presented in imitation of the opening scenes from the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange, in the Milk Bar. Blur star as the quasi-Droogs, complete with Damon Albarn wearing eyeliner similar to the character Alex DeLarge. They perform in the bar in all-white. Though the band do not engage in their usual vibrant stage demeanor, Damon Albarn frequently turns to the camera and gives a sly, crooked smile. Graham Coxon spends the majority of the video sitting against the wall while playing.
The bar patrons consist of different groups; a lone female entertains male business colleagues by exploiting their sexual interest in her; two men, one identified as a 'red man' (dressed entirely in red) who used to be 'blue', conduct a stilted (subtitled) conversation; two other men – one of them wearing a vicar's clerical collar – become increasingly drunk on cocktails, laughing more and more hysterically until the clergyman tells his friend something to which the viewer is not privy, causing his friend to withdraw into stunned silence (a device similar to that used in Radiohead's promotional video for the song "Just" in the same year). There are also two old men who make a few comments marveling at the scene.
These clips are interchanged with scenes of a crowd of ordinary people standing motionless before an oddly shaped speaker. Similarities between them and the patrons in the milk bar, as well as behavior mimicking between the two scenes, indicate that the patrons in the milk bar are the people in the crowd, captivated and transported by the music into the ethereal, seemingly utopian world.
Minimalistic stills can also be seen scattered throughout the video, used to accentuate certain aspects of the video. For example, when the man in the clerical collar and his friend begin their drinking binge, a still showing a fetus in a cocktail glass is shown where the glass seems to represent a womb. When the female begins entertaining her fellow patrons, a still of handcuffs is shown, suggesting that though she seems happy, she is really feeling trapped and dehumanized. A similar still of a magnet drawing a man is shown, directly after the man in the clerical collar whispers something to his friend, which prompts a reaction of quiet dismay. The still in this case seems to have a dual-meaning, representing the band's ability to attract people and doubling as a euphemism for homosexuality, as at the end of the video the man with the clerical collar attempts to kiss his shocked friend.
The golf ball-shaped speaker featured in the video was sold in a charity auction in 1999.