Voodoo Donuts/ Portland / Diabetes, here I come! @wits with @reggiewatts & @johnmoe tonight at the Aladdin Theater
What do you do when your favorite thing turns on you? Or you turn on it?
Saves the Day is going on tour this fall to play the entirety of “Though Being Cool”. Hell fucking yes. I cherished this album in high school. The song above, Rocks Tonic Juice Magic, one of my favorites. Best yelled at the top of your lungs in a shitty American Legion, it made me feel empowered. It’s brutal with intense, violent imagery - full of pain and angst. Everything a teen wants.
This weekend, in anticipation for the tour, I decided to re-listen to this seminal song where the lyrics are buried deep in my head. But there was a problem; it made me physically ill.
You can read the lyrics here. In short, it’s a recently dumped young man’s violent fantasy against the girl who broke his heart. In high school, I sympathized with him. I wasn’t an angry teen, but hormones are intense and scary (and still are). There where certainly crushes I wished “I could somehow make you mine.” The violence in the song is visceral and interesting; surprising and fun to scream out. The music is catchy and pleasing. I get it why I loved it so much.
But life is very different now than it was back then (as it should be). I’m a 28 year old comedy writer in Los Angeles sinking deeper and deeper into feminist activism in media. Many events have changed the context of my life dramatically in my young adulthood (aka growing up). One of which being, in May, a woman I went to high school with was murdered by her ex-boyfriend. They had a fight, he left to “cool off” and when he returned, he strangled her to death. I didn’t even know Victoria that well, but her murder put a familiar face on the domestic violence epidemic that is plaguing our country. And when I listened to my favorite song, instead of feeling empowered as I always used to feel, I felt anger, sadness, and shame.
But I loved this song? I love this song. What happened? What should I do now?
We all have these moments in life when a thing that meant something to us, made a huge impact, maybe even sent us in a life-long direction - now seems irrelevant. Or embarrassing. Or out of touch. Or racist. Or misogynistic.
It comes in many forms too. Maybe you finally met your hero and they were an asshole. That comedian who really “got you” turns out to be a racist. Maybe the video game that helped you through your parents’ divorce is brutally violent against women. It’s a letdown. Sometimes shameful. Probably embarrassing. Totally a disappointment. And maybe even a betrayal.
But it’s what we decide to do in these moments that matter.
Do you shun your love for this person, game, band? Do you call them out on the Internet? Burn their CDs? Carry on enjoying them, knowing it will never feel the same?
I’ve found that in these moments its often best not do anything. At least to start. It’s important that we let these feelings live side by side, for whatever duration of time, to figure out what they actually mean. Your brain has made a new connection that takes time to process, and that’s OK. You don’t have to become an activist or stop loving what you love. You must allow yourself to legitimize the existence of these contradictory emotions. For then you will eventually figure out how you really feel. And that may change over time.
Continue playing your game, watching that movie, seeing your favorite band on tour, but don’t suppress this new perspective that has come into your life. And certainly don’t blame the person who enlightened you. If at some point, you have to move on, do it. If the song upsets, don’t listen. If the game offends, don’t play. And if you feel like you need to talk about it, do it. You’re probably not alone.
No one is going to take away my wonderful, positive memories of Saves the Day. They have added so much to my life, and continue to do so. Also, the band wrote “Though Being Cool” almost twenty years ago. They were teens themselves, and men’s violence against women is by no means a consistent theme in their work. Great art is sometimes violent, and to me, this album is still great art. I cannot speak to their feelings on returning to these songs, although I’m sure it’s fraught with many more complicated memories and emotions than I have now.
But still, this song. I just can’t listen to it the same way I once did. The violence it evokes has turned from interesting imagery to a girl I once new dead in her home. It makes very sad, and I don’t know what to do about it. So for now, I will do nothing. And maybe in a couple weeks I’ll have an idea.
Last second plug for anyone in the NYC area. The Kondabolu Brothers are hosting “Night Train” TONIGHT, Monday September 8th, 2014. Show starts at 8:00 and tickets are only $5-8. http://www.littlefieldnyc.com/event/668603-night-train-guest-hosts-brooklyn/
Watch Ashok and I goof around and me work on new material. Tonight in Brooklyn!
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