Archive for the ‘music video’ Tag

Literally no one asked me to overanalyze Avril Lavigne’s early work   Leave a comment

In 2001, the film Josie and the Pussycats was released. It was part of the trend of adapting old TV shows to movies. In the movie, Josie, Valerie, and Melody are aspiring pop stars called “The Pussycats”. When the biggest boy band in the world, Du Jour, all disappear in a plane crash, the trio are plucked off the street by a desperate studio head. In the end, it turns out that all pop music that exists has subliminal music telling your subconscious to buy new clothes and eat McDonalds. It was a pretty dumb movie.


This song makes it all worth it somehow.

Someone online pointed out that the movie predicted the rise of female power pop artists, and that said rise would replace boy bands.

In 2002, Avril Lavigne released her first album, and she was unleashed onto the world. For those of us who rejected the mainstream, studio-generated, wholesome bubblegum pop, she and her ilk were the perfect alternative.


Not that pop-punk didn’t have its share of interchangeability, no sir.

They were angry and they wore terrible clothes terribly because they were real artists, not just models reciting generic love songs written by five people at studio headquarters.

avril lavigne songwriter

Her first big hit was probably Sk8tr Boi. It was about a preppy girl and a skater boy who are totally into each other.

He wanted her.
She’d never tell.
Secretly she wanted him as well.
And all of her friends stuck up their nose.
They had a problem with his baggy clothes.

He was a skater boy.
She said, “See ya later, boy.”
He wasn’t good enough for her.
She had a pretty face but her head was up in space.
She needed to come back down to earth.

So the preppy girl was a bad person for listening to her friends and being high-and mighty in her social status. That’s not how it works in the real world! Don’t we all relate to this feeling, being rejected by the popular people? Later in the song, Lavigne crows:

Sorry, girl, but you missed out.
Well, tough luck, that boy’s mine now.
We are more than just good friends.
This is how the story ends.

…I’m with the skater boy.
I said, “See ya later, boy.”
I’ll be backstage after the show.
I’ll be at the studio singing the song we wrote
About a girl you used to know.

She even brags, “Too bad that you couldn’t see/ See that man that boy could be/ There is more than meets the eye/ I see the soul that is inside.” Because, you see, this girl is so shallow! Not like Avril Lavigne! Are you shallow? Or are you like Avril Lavigne? “Does your pretty face see what he’s worth?” Avril Lavigne mocks.

One of the most-remembered parts of the song is probably the opening (He was a boy, she was a girl, can I make it any more obvious?) but I think that a key part to the subtext is in the next line:

He was a punk
She did ballet

Mrs. Pancakes is unknowable - Imgur
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She does ballet. The girl does ballet. Now, in elementary school, maybe being into ballet is rather girly — lots of girls do it, they dream of being pretty princess ballerinas in poofy pink tutus. But I had a friend in high school who did ballet, and let me tell you. It’s hard to balance school, friends, and ballet. You’re always tired. You’re not left with a whole lot of time. Certainly not enough to pursue a relationship outside of your immediate friends group. But Avril Lavigne only knows her boyfriend’s side of the story.

The other big single on that album, Complicated, did take a kinder view to finding relationships outside of your immediate social group. But that’s not saying much.

Somebody else ’round everyone else
You’re watching your back like you can’t relax
You’re tryin’ to be cool
You look like a fool to me

…I mean, relatively speaking. After all, Avril Lavigne is one of the guys. That’s her persona. Check out the music video for this.

avril lavigne complicated

avril lavigne complicated 4

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avril lavigne complicated 9

She is literally surrounded by her dudes at all time, equally active in aggressive, boy activities. She’s even specifically shown rejecting femininity by straight-up attacking it:

avril lavigne complicated 5

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Except that she’s not one of the boys. She’s singled out by her damned womanhood. They do things with her that they wouldn’t do to their fellow dudes. They put on a fashion show for her, trying on the outfits of different personas. When she teases them for it, they pick her up.

avril lavigne complicated 6

Like, they literally pick her up, playfully, because she’s a woman and they’re guys and they’re bigger than her and so they can and so it’s funny. As someone who has been picked up for similar reasons, it is funny! It’s fun to be picked up by big strong dudes! But, you know, guys don’t lift up other guys just because they can. It’s far too physical and, specifically, flirty.

That’s the dream of being One of the Boys, but it’s also the tragedy.

In 2007, Avril Lavigne released a single called Girlfriend. Some people have called it the end of the “punk” part of her career, and that’s not without reason.

avril lavigne girlfriend 1

She lost the iconic tie, her shirt is white, she has on a miniskirt and fishnets instead of the bulky cargo pants that were inexplicably popular in the early 2000s. It’s more than just the fact that her outfit changed significantly five years, though. The content of her song has changed too.

The early 2000s white adolescence was marked by a culture war between “preps” and “punks”. I referenced this even in the beginning of this essay. When I said, “For those of us who rejected the mainstream, studio-generated, wholesome bubblegum pop”, what I meant was, “For those of us who were punks.” There was an alternative, geeks, and their neutrality eventually rose to supremacy above preps and punks. But for the first few years of the twenty-first century, everyone had to be either punk or a prep.

A large part of this culture was the assumption that preps were on top. It was assumed that they had money and popularity, that they wore the right clothes and listened to acceptable music and that adults would listen to them because of their perceived goodness. We all knew they were secretly terrible, cruel bullies to punks, lording over us with their ill-gotten power. So punks had to wear terrible clothing and listen to terrible music, because it was real and cool.

That paragon of great literature, My Immortal, has a great example:

A fucking prep called Britney from Griffindoor was standing next to us. She was wearing a pink mini and a Hilary Duff t-shirt so we put up our middle fingers at her.

Avril Lavigne’s One of the Boys persona fitted this attitude perfectly. But with Girlfriend, she flipped that on her head: the punk was outright stealing another girl’s boyfriend.

She’s like so, whatever
You could do so much better
I think we should get together now
(And that’s what everyone’s talkin’ about)

Over the course of the video, Avril:

Flirts with her boyfriend in front of her:

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Knocks her go-kart off the track:

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(I just want to point this out)

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Snatches her out of a photobooth so she can take pictures with the boy:

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Steals the giant churro just before they finished eating it (just before kissy times ensue):

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Whacks her in the head with a golf ball:

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She actually hits her hard enough in the head that she loses her balance, stumbles, and falls over. That’s a pretty mighty hit.

Then, in the resulting confusion, Avril finds the boyfriend and finally steals him.

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Upon finding them, the girlfriend charges them, but then trips and falls into a porta-potty, where she screams in impotency.

Avril’s antagonist is an interesting character. She’s also played by Avril Lavigne, and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen her play a not-Avril.

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In each skit, the first few seconds always shows Boyfriend and Girlfriend doing their dating thing. They actually seem to like each other. He’s always smiling at her. She can sucker him into doing what she wants. They go out and do all these cool things (go-karting, golfing, eating giant churros), and they do them just the two of them, so clearly they enjoy each other’s company. Visibly they’re a completely mis-match, because she’s wearing pink and plaid and he’s wearing black and white, but if they were wearing similar colors they would probably look fine together.


*coughs*

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It’s only when Avril Classic enters the picture that trouble enters paradise. Which means that the protagonist is the villain of the story. We can’t trust Avril Classic or Avril Lite’s interpretation of the story. So when the Boyfriend is shown smiling after Avril Classic steals the churro, kisses him, and runs, what does that mean? Is he just so easy-going that he’s just happy to be kissed? Or does he really, truly, want to date Avril Classic and not Girlfriend?

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I find Girlfriend’s outfit fascinating. It’s a pink cardigan over a pink polo shirt, with a knee-length plaid skirt, knee-high socks, and black flats. It’s hideous. It’s disgusting.

It’s also totally, completely, 100% in. Not the colors, oh no, not by any stretch of the imagination. No one would mix that bright pink with that dark plaid. And the skirt is formless. But the schoolgirl style is in: part geek chic, part layered, equal parts classy and casual, it was especially popular in the mid-2000s, when this video was made.

Preps wear pink. Preps wear schoolgirl outfits. Despite our rejection of those atrocious colors, Girlfriend is meant to be a stereotype of a prep, seen through a pop-punk so pop-punk that she’s forgotten how to behave in social situations. The protagonist (the villain) shows her making snotty faces in her introduction, but why should we trust her interpretation?

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I also find it really interesting that Avril is shown having female friends for the first time. In fact, in contrast to Complicated, Girlfriend features a lot of female faces. They also happily help Avril in her quest to torment Girlfriend.

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We see here again two Preps — note the schoolgirl/layered outfits, although less insanely colored this time. Avril and her friends intimidate them into the leaving the bathroom, breaking into their personal space and jumping at them until they leave. They don’t really do anything wrong, they’re just standing where Avril and her friends want to stand.

Pretty much the only male face that we see in this video is that of Boyfriend, who is more of an object than a character. He could very much be a Sexy Lamp Test fail. This video, unlike her earlier videos, takes place in Girl World. And it’s a nasty, vicious place, isn’t it? Boy World features inept mall cops and friends banding together to have a good time. Girl World has cat fights, personal vendettas, and concussions as conclusions to romantic drama. But it’s okay, because the punk beat the prep!

I spent my early teens in that mindset: punks vs. preps. When I see the writings of kids that age in these mid-2010s, I see the discussion focusing on gender and equality. Why should girl attack girl? Where is the boy’s consent in all this? The kids might not have the best vocabulary to think their arguments out entirely, but they can sense something wrong in this piece. Why should Avril get the boy just because they both wear black shirts?

That is why Avril’s last big hit was Girlfriend. The song was too far from the perspective that built her up. One of the Boys cannot live in Girl World.

Posted February 22, 2016 by agentksilver in writing

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Brian Wilson is my spirit animal   Leave a comment

Today I was working the window at Starbucks. As a guy was waiting for his drink, he said, “I was cleaning out my other car, and I found this old mixtape from high school. Do you want to hear?”

There was absolutely no reason why I shouldn’t, so I leaned over to listen to the first song. The first chords started playing over his stereo. It was acoustic.

Drove downtown in the rain
Nine-thirty on a Tuesday night,
Just to check out the late-night
Record shop.
Call it impulsive
Call it compulsive,
Call it insane;
But when I’m surrounded
I just can’t
Stop.

It’s a matter of instinct
It’s a matter of conditioning
It’s a matter of fact.

“I know this song,” I said.

You can call me Pavlov’s
Dog,
Ring a bell and I’ll salivate,
How’d you like that?
Dr. Landy tell me
You’re not just a pedagogue

“It’s Barenaked Ladies, I can tell that much,” said the guy.

“My favorite band,” I said.

We finally got to the refrain.

‘Cause right now I’m

Lying in bed
Just like Brian Wilson did
Well I am
Lying in bed
Just like Brian Wilson did.

So I’m lying here
Just staring at the ceiling tiles,
And I’m thinking about
Oh what to think about.

Brian Wilson. A great song. The guy’s drink appeared; I handed it off and we waved each other goodbye.

As I drove home tonight, I turned on NPR and listened to an interview with Brian Poulad, the director of a biopic for Brian Wilson, entitled Love and Mercy. It was vaguely interesting. I’m kind of considering getting back into watching movies. Anyway, they ended the interview with this quote:

After everything we’ve gone through in the movie at that point, we see the real Brian performing, what he really looks like at that time, and that he came out of this — not unscathed, but he came out of it. And he’s the last one standing, it turns out; unfortunately, both of his brothers died, and he’s still there. The most fragile one, for some reason, has survived all this and is still out there performing.

Posted June 4, 2015 by agentksilver in Personal

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Razzle Dazzle ‘Em   Leave a comment

Song Reference if you haven’t seen Chicago

[MEDIA]
Who’s Mi-chael Brown?

[DARREN WILSON]
A Black Teenager.

[MEDIA]
Why’d you shoot him?

[DARREN WILSON]
We were fightin’.

[REPORTERS]
Was he angry?

[DARREN WILSON]
Like a monkey
Still I said, “Mike, move along.”

[GRAND JURY]
He hasn’t done anything wrong.

[MEDIA]
Then describe it.

[DARREN WILSON]
He ran toward me.

[MEDIA]
With the pistol?

[DARREN WILSON]
From my holster.

[MEDIA]
Did you fight him?

[DARREN WILSON]
Like a hero.

[TOM JACKSON]
Mike had strength and he had none.

[DARREN WILSON]
And yet we both reached for the gun
Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes we both
Oh yes we both
Oh yes, we both reached for
The gun, the gun, the gun, the gun
Oh yes, we both reached for the gun
For the gun.

[MEDIA]
Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes they both
Oh yes, they both
Oh yes, they both reached for
The gun, the gun, the gun, the gun,
Oh yes, they both reached for the gun
for the gun.

[KKK]
Understandable, understandable
Yes it’s perfectly understandable
Comprehensible, Comprehensible
Not a bit reprehensible
It’s so defensible

[MEDIA]
How’re you feeling?

[DARREN WILSON]
Very frightened

[MEDIA]
Are you sorry?

[DARREN WILSON]
Are you kidding?

Posted November 29, 2014 by agentksilver in history

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Id possum tollere   Leave a comment

I’ve started on Chapter 6 of my Wheelock textbook, trying to relearn Latin. I’m focusing a lot more on the vocabulary this time around. It’s helping! I’ve never had difficulties understanding the grammar of foreign languages, but applying it practically has always been difficult, because vocab is hard. I drill myself a few days a week on it.

For Chapter 6 one of the vocab words was salvus, -i, and the definition given was safe, sound. This immediately put into my mind Capital City’s “Safe and Sound”.

I thought, Sumus salvus. I then began humming the ending of the song, which is basically “We’re safe and sound” over and over. They have the same amount of syllables, too. Suuuumus, sumus salvus — suuuuumus sumus salvus! Because I am a huge nerd. Then I tried translating the whole thing from the beginning, and then I got frustrated because I don’t know enough Latin grammar, basically.

I could lift you up Te possum tollere
I could show you what you want to see Te possum exhibere oh no I ran out of room
And take you where you want to be Et te word for take? It can’t be carpere, that is the figurative use of “take”, could it be “bring”? Is that in the subjunctive or is it ablative or what?

So I gave up and went back to studying Wheelock. But the first sentence took me a surprising amount of time. I couldn’t find a word that fit with “lift”. There isn’t a direct translation for the word, as with most English:Latin vocabulary. Latin is a very direct language. It doesn’t allow for much poetry. The first word I found that I sort of liked was “atollero”, and it took me forever to find proof that “tollere” was the same word (it has one less syllable). So the word stuck out in my mind.

So this morning I picked up my biography of Cicero. I read about the success of Marc Antony’s march on Mutina (he wanted the governorship of the Cisalpine province for strategic reasons, but Decimus Brutus already had the position, and anyway it was a big conflict between the people who wanted the Republic to stay unified and those who wanted it to have a stronger central command — an imperator or a dictator at its head). I came across this paragraph:

If the Consuls had survived and his strategy had succeeded, as it very nearly did, Cicero’s attitude towards Octavian would surely have been very different [Cicero had praised Octavian and pushed for honors and complacency towards the boy, hoping to appease him], for his usefulness to the Senate as its protector against Antony would have been at an end. In this connection it was most unfortunate that Octavian learned his “father’s” true intentions. Never one to avoid careless talk if a witty remark or a pun occurred to him, Cicero had observed that “the young man must get praises, honors–and the push.” The Latin is laudandum, ornandum, tollendum; the last word had a double meaning: to “exalt” and to “get rid of”. Towards the end of May, Decimus Brutus warned Cicero that someone had reported this joke to the young man, who had been unamused, commenting tersely that he had no intention of letting that happen.

I thought about how terrible of a Latin translator I am. And how weird of a coincidence it was that the word I had struggled over yesterday, tollere, turned out to be the central word in a pun by Cicero written two thousand years ago; and that I happened to have read that pun the day after I learned about the word. Then I thought how weird it was that Latin had a word that meant both “exalt” and “get rid of.” How often do those situations come up together?

Maroon 5’s “Daylight” was playing nonstop on the radio, I had to fix it   Leave a comment

As the song begins, Guy and Girl are lying in bed. She is lying on her side, her back to him, sound asleep. He is also on his side, facing her. He is sitting up on his elbow, however, his arm lightly across her, gazing at her. He sings.

Here I am waiting, I’ll have to leave soon, why am I holdin’ on

The slow scene of him gazing at her becomes interspersed with fast shots of him climbing out of bed, putting on his pants and shoes, checking to make sure he has his keys, and climbing out the window.

We knew this day would come, we knew it all along
How did it come so fast
This is our last night, but it’s late and I’m tryin’ not to sleep
‘Cuz I know, when I wake I will have to slip away

Guy is walking in the street as the sunrise begins. It is all very pretty and artsy-fartsy. He sings towards the camera.

And when the daylight comes I’ll have to go
But, tonight I’m ‘gonna hold you so close
‘Cuz in the daylight, we’ll be on our own
But, tonight I need to hold you so close

A few more shots of Guy making his exit from the room.

Oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoa
Oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoa

A coffee shop, broad daylight. Girl smiles at Guy. She has a kind, warm smile.

Here I am staring, at your perfection in my arms; so beautiful.

We look again at Guy walking in the street. He looks up at the streetlights, which are going out because the day has started.

The sky is getting bright, the stars are burnin’ out.
Somebody slow it down.

Back in the coffee shop, Girl hands Guy a cup of coffee from across the counter. He smiles at her. His smile is full of affection and excitement. She returns the smile.

This is way too hard, ‘cuz I know when the sun comes up I will leave
This is my last glance that will soon be memories

Guy looks up a ladder at the Girl’s window.

Girl leaves the coffee shop, checking her phone. She gets out her car keys, gets into her car, drives away. We see Guy sitting in a truck. The truck has a ladder in the back. He turns the truck on and follows her car.

And when the daylight comes I’ll have to go
But, tonight I’m ‘gonna hold you so close

Girl parks, gets out of her car, and walks into her apartment building. A light turns on in her apartment on the second floor. Guy sits in his truck across the street, watching.

‘Cuz in the daylight, we’ll be on our own
But, tonight I need to hold you so close

Oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoa
Oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoa

In the dead of night, Guy gets the ladder from the back of his truck and puts it under the window that had lit up earlier.

I never wanted to stop, because I don’t want to start all over, start all over

Guy opens the window easily. She is asleep, her back to the window. He creeps in and begins taking off his shoes and pants.

I was afraid of the dark, but now it’s all that I want, all that I want, all that I want

He sets his keys and cell phone on the end table and climbs into bed. We have a shot of them lying in bed in the middle of the night. He is cuddled up to her, and sings.

And when the daylight comes I’ll have to go
But, tonight I’m ‘gonna hold you so close
‘Cuz in the daylight, we’ll be on our own
But, tonight I need to hold you so close

We see the scene again, when he climbs out of bed, puts his pants and shoes back on, gets his keys, and climbs out the window.

And when the daylight comes I’ll have to go
But, tonight I’m ‘gonna hold you so close
‘Cuz in the daylight, we’ll be on our own
But, tonight I need to hold you so close

Guy loads his ladder in the truck, then looks around.

Oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoa

Girl wakes up, rolls over to look at the clock, and sees the cell phone still sitting on the night stand.

Oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoa

Guy decides to start taking a walk. Girl is very confused by the existence of the cell phone.

Oh whoa, (yeah) oh whoa, (yeah) oh whoa (yeah) (yeah)

Guy realizes that his cell phone is missing.

Oh whoa, (yeah hey) oh whoa, (yeah hey) oh whoa

Girl looks out the window and sees the truck and Guy, obviously missing his cell phone.

Four hundred thousand dead in Beijing doesn’t have the same ring to it   1 comment

So in my Post-1949 China course (aka “history of the PRC”), we’re learning about the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution. Around 1966-1976, urban China was basically taken over by a whole bunch of radical students. They started out protesting against educational standards. Mao started to take advantage of the situation, and suddenly we had students dressing up in military uniforms, putting on red armbands, and walking through the streets beating up people less enthusiastic than they were. Or maybe they beat up people who were more enthusiastic than they were, because those people were taking advantage of the situation.


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Very few urban dwellers got through this period unscathed. People died regularly. A lot of these kids — the Red Guard — beat people or even killed people. We’re reading the memoir of Ye Weili. Whenever we see or read about her, she talks about how girls at her high school murdered their headmaster. They forced the woman to do manual labor. The woman was old and arthritic and had heart problems; when she collapsed, they dumped her in a laundry basket and left her there overnight. We’ve read and heard interviews of people saying that they had beat people, and when the people they beat protested, they beat them even more harshly. We’ve seen videos and images of authority figures being forced to walked around with a sign hanging on their neck while stadiums of people shout abuse at them. We’ve seen Red Guard members burning and beating old symbols of art. “Cultural Revolution is not a dinner party,” Chairman Mao told them.

My professor, Prof Chang, asked us, “Who do you think did the most violence in the Cultural Revolution?”

I answered, more because it was obvious what he wanted us to say than anything. “The Red Guard.”

Prof Chang reviewed all the images we had seen in all the classes before, of the Red Guard beating and interrogating and parading their victims around. It was obvious that he was going to end this with a “But…”

And he did. The Red Guard committed a lot of violence (don’t misunderstand), but the People’s Liberation Army did worse, in shutting down the Cultural Revolution. The Chinese Government plays up the idea of the Red Guard committing all the violence. After all, the PLA was sent in by the government. The PLA is the current military of the People’s Republic of China.

“It’s like Kent State,” Prof Chang said. “The National Guard came in and shot people.”

Now I learned that what happened in Kent State was…an accident? Let’s call it that. The students were protesting, wildy enough that the National Guard was called in. The National Guard fired into the air to get the students to calm down. What goes up must come down, and four bullets land in the heads of student protesters.

Compare that to the systematic, intentional urban warfare of the Cultural Revolution. Not to mention the fact that we discuss the Kent State shootings. Both the Chinese and American governments talk about the Cultural Revolution as if the biggest atrocities were only committed by the Red Guard. Yet Kent State entered our national dialogue.

More videos!   Leave a comment

As long as I was on youtube, I decided to see which of my videos had the most views (and by that I mean “over 100 views”)

763 views.

855 views.

939 views and three comments! Five if you include my comments.

227 views.

114 views and two comments!

I’m not going to try to become famous on youtube until next year. This year…I should just focus on my education. And my blog. Yeah.