Monday, July 22, 2013

Musical Monday - Titanium by David Guetta (featuring Sia Furlar)

This Musical Monday is about science fiction as a metaphor. It is about how science fiction allows an artist to say moderately profound things about the world using a means that lets the statement sneak into the conversation. The context of this is the music video for David Guetta's song Titanium, and unlike many Musical Monday's, which are usually just about the song, this is about the song and the music video made for the song.

On one level, the video is about a teenager with paranormal powers that he seems to have limited control over. The opening scene shows a devastated school, with the boy in the epicenter. As he rides off on his bicycle, a terrified teacher tells the police her story. After pedaling furiously to get home, the boy reaches an empty house that oddly has a television on, showing a news report of the incident he was apparently the cause of. When the police arrive at his house, he flees to the woods, and then is cornered by heavily armed SWAT officers before he curls into a ball on the ground and unleashes a blast of energy to throw them back. His confusion at the events is palpable through the miniature movie. The viewer can feel his fear, but also hears the defiant lyrics I'm bulletproof, nothing to lose/Fire away, fire away. He is hunted, but he has an ace in the hole.

But I think the song and the video aren't about paranormal powers at all. The opening lyrics of the song reveal the real root of the story: You shout it out/But I can't hear a word you say/I'm talking loud, not saying much/I'm criticized/But all your bullets ricochet. This song is about the bewildering and frightening experience of being a teenager, specifically a teenage boy. Or at least, I identify it as being about being a teenage boy. I have only experienced being a teenage boy, but I imagine that being a teenage girl is not significantly different, although given my limited perspective I cannot be sure.

Through the video, the central character is at the heart of events that he fundamentally doesn't understand. He's adrift in an adult world, but all the adults in this world are either scared of him, or threatening. He doesn't understand what is happening, but the only way he can react is by running away or lashing out indiscriminately. No one will listen to him - the one adult in the video who isn't a police officer shuts the door on him. Notice also that there are no other children in the video: the protagonist is alone, by himself, him against the world. When he gets to his home, there is no one there, but there is a television. Even at home he is alone, and when the police break down the front door, even home is not a refuge. These are feelings that I can recall feeling vividly as a teenager, not for any particular cause, but just because that's how a teenager perceives the world.

Being a teenager is not easy. You're on the cusp of adulthood, so you're kind of expected to be an adult. But you're not an adult, although you're not really a little kid either. You're in an in between space, and you're trying to figure out who you are, what is expected of you, and so many other things. Look at the video - when he is home and trying to pack for his escape, he throws aside a teddy bear and a stuffed frog, which are on his bed because in a real way he is still a child. But like all teens, he is confronted with the adult world in full force. Adults are baffling creatures that you thought you'd understand when you got older, but now you're older and they seem even less explicable than they did before. And you just want everything to go away. You lash out, because that's what you know how to do, and the rage inside you needs to work its way out somehow. And you put on the armor of uncaring, because if you don't, the raw feeling will overwhelm you.

I know a teenager who is living this right now, and I've definitely, although not intentionally, contributed to his confusion and anger. And he's made some decisions that I think are probably going to prove self-destructive and that he will almost certainly regret. And even though he probably will never read this, and I may never get to say it to him, what I has to say is this: I've been there. I know what you are feeling. Most of it anyway. None of what has happened is your fault, but you have had to deal with the worst parts of it. It's not fair. Nothing is ever fair. I can't stop you, or even really influence you. But I understand where you are right now. And, it seems, that's all you will let me do.

Previous Musical Monday: Anthem of the SFWA-Fascists by Stephen Brust
Subsequent Musical Monday: Nothing to Prove by The Doubleclicks

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