Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Twosday: Views Inside a Mental Hospital with Melissa Etheridge and Green Day

What is it about mental hospitals that holds such fascination for us? Is it because we all feel like outsiders? Is it because we love the idea of being able to spend our entire day in pajamas? Is it because mental hospitals ceased to exist in the 1980s? All of these are excellent reasons.

I think it is clear, though, that we all have our own, individual reasons for being drawn to them. You can see this in these two radically different music videos that take place in a mental hospital.

First we have Melissa Etheridge's video for Come to My Window:

First off, I just noticed while watching this video that this song has the smarmiest bass playing in the world. Seriously, listen to this song and imagine the bass player smirking and winking at you while playing. I guarantee that it will fit perfectly.

The video is all in black and white and centers on this woman in a room with a window to which you should come.

The black and white video along with her angry and intense matter suggests a gritty reality. I'm a little worried that this video plays into the mentally-ill-women-are-sexy-and-vulnerable stereotype, but it doesn't seem too exploitative in that direction.

We also get shots of Melissa Etheridge playing a 12-string acoustic guitar and singing.

I love how husky her voice is on this song! It's like she smoked two packs of cigarettes, spent an hour imitating Rod Stewart imitating Louis Armstrong, and then recorded this song. It's a little unclear what that amp is doing there since she is playing acoustic guitar and it doesn't look like it is a P.A., but whatever. Gives her someplace to sit.

The worrying thing about this video is the infantilization of the woman in the mental hospital.

I understand that she can't take care of herself and might say things that don't strictly make sense, but she isn't a child. She is an adult woman. What is with this drawing? It looks like the scribbles of a pre-school child with a crazy sun. I don't understand this sun especially since the song refers to the light of the moon. I've never seen the moon drawn like that. Is that the norm? Just draw a sun and then scribble inside of it? Not to mention that the moon doesn't actually have light, it is all reflected sunlight. Astronomy, people. It's important.

Green Day has the opposite approach in their video for Basket Case. Rather than suggesting true reality with black and white, Green Day uses colors brighter than reality to indicate the false world of a person on drugs.

The video opens in a colorful world with the singer alone. It's not entirely clear where he is, but the man in all white standing next to him with his arms crossed gives a hint.

Once the other band members arrive it becomes clear that they are in a mental hospital. They act confused and need prodding to perform their normal societal roles.

The drugs they take give a semblance of reality and normalcy, but everything is not quite right. The singer's eyes are too green and the floor is too turquoise. The video seems to make light of being in a mental hospital a little bit, but I think the song is about feeling numb to the world. The question, "Am I just stoned?" appears throughout the song because they can't separate their feelings from how the drugs make them feel. That seems scary.

I think these videos show two different serious views of the mentally ill. And that's a little surprising. Is this a public service announcement to hug a mentally ill person? Are we the insane ones and they the only truly sane? Is it time to eat lunch yet? Not quite. It is too early.


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