Marriage Equality, Spring Break and Exploding Myths About Virtue

 

The Wack Album: the latest release from The Lonely Island.

The Wack Album: the latest release from The Lonely Island.

It is easy to watch a video from The Lonely Island and laugh at the absurdity of the juxtaposition presented.  Often times their work offers contrasts that appear so outwardly random or conflicted it seems as though there is nothing more at work than simple irrationality.  This is not the case though, as they have demonstrated most recently with the video for their song ‘Spring Break Anthem’.

In the video we see a collage of hypersexual images often associated with the spring-break ritual of highly sexualized teens and young adults indulging in a variety of vices which were expertly lampooned in the recent Harmony Korine film Spring Breakers.  The lyrics of The Lonely Island track seem to be very in tune with the sexist and perhaps misogynistic mentalities associated with the hyper-heterosexual males that populate Florida in March of each year.  The opening line employs sexist synecdoche in referring to women as “pussy” and implying that the narrators are the ‘kings’ of ‘pussy’, then aligning those who would objectify women with gluttonous alcoholics by suggesting that they are “pounding brewskies” and “slamming shots”.  It also supports the traditional valuing of male homosocial relationships as being superior to male-female relationships with lines like “bros before hoes” which implies a metaphorically familial tie between two male friends while subverting the value of women by calling them ‘hoes’.  Later in the song this sexist mentality graduates, or rather devolves, into rape culture as the narrators speak to making “jokes about roofies”, a tragically popular date-rape drug.

 

A promotional shot from the film 'Spring Breakers', which shares similar themes with 'Spring Break Anthem', as well as some cast members.

A promotional shot from the film ‘Spring Breakers’, which shares similar themes with ‘Spring Break Anthem’, as well as some cast members.

So where is the satire?  At the end of each verse the narrators juxtapose this hypersexual mentality with contrasting images of monogamy.  The irony of course is that it is monogamy as contextualized in a homosexual relationship, an extremely relevant reference considering the recent landmark ruling made the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of marriage equality.  This homosexual monogamy is actually more in line with accepted social values than are the overt sexist mentalities projected by many heterosexual people, but of the two it is the monogamous relationship that is under attack from the religious right.  The religious right, though it doesn’t support the behaviour presented in ‘Spring Break Anthem’, at the same time makes little if any efforts to curtail such behaviours, often down playing the impact of things as traumatic as rape.  Though many religious organization propose abstinence, at the same time they openly welcome people who have had multiple sexual partners and do not reject heterosexual couples who have sex outside of marriage.  Nor do they openly reject adulterous parishioners.  But these ‘sins’, as some organizations would call them, are just as sure to warrant entry into hell as any other sin, but for some reason these incursions against religious mores do not get the same attention from the religious right as same-sex marriage.

 

Take away the flesh, and what is left to a kiss?

Take away the flesh, and what is left to a kiss?

What the song does is present noncommittal sexual relations based on the physical, in contrast to monogamous relationships based on mutual affection and then implies a number of questions: Why fight one and not the other?  What does it say about your moral system if you choose to fight monogamy, but not rape culture? Or sexism? Or misogyny?   Or drug use? Or alcoholism?  Which of these issues does one perceive as most detrimental to our social structure, and what does one’s answer say about one’s reasoning?

Todd Atkin, who is opposed to marriage equality, and is also more than happy to suggest that women who get pregnant during a rape, actually wanted it, otherwise they wouldn't have gotten pregnant. Clear reasoning is not part of the conversation for the religious right.

Todd Atkin, who is opposed to marriage equality, and is also more than happy to suggest that women who get pregnant during a rape, actually wanted it, otherwise they wouldn’t have gotten pregnant. Clear reasoning is not part of the conversation for the religious right.

There is a separation of church and state in America and most Western countries.  For a religious group to suggest the two merge is to suggest that they are willing to have their own religious views become subject to the law.  Should the law adopt a given church’s view on marriage, then what other views should the state adopt from that church? For the religious right to suggest that the law should adopt their definition of marriage is to suggest a remediation between church and state which rather than lending power to the church, actually makes the church subservient to the state.  The religious right, even if they disagree with the state’s definition of marriage, must respect it if they hope for the state to respect the church autonomy.

 

James Franco and Akiva Schaffer, from "Spring Break Anthem".

James Franco and Akiva Schaffer, from “Spring Break Anthem”.

In the song, the narrators speak to a love that is to last ‘forever’ and is ‘bound by the law’, not bound by the church.  They are not subverting the religious definition of marriage, but rather embracing an inclusive legal definition.  They are also speaking to a monogamous relationship based on ‘trust and respect’ where one partner cherishes the other.  The relationship is defined by virtues such as trust and respect, not wantonness or licentiousness as are the heterosexual relationships presented in the song, nor is the partner objectified or degraded by the narrators.  What makes a relationship virtuous?  Is it the gender of the persons involved, or how the couple feels about and treats each other?  If we were to believe the rhetoric of the religious right, we might assume that gender has more to do with virtue than virtue does.  This song, via the juxtaposition of two lifestyles, explodes that myth.

 

Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

Comments

  1. I think you’re onto something when you say the committed gay relationships appear more virtuous than spring break-style heterosexuality. it’s interesting how the gay community is gaining legitimacy by appropriating the concepts of romantic love and monogamy at a time when many younger heterosexuals seem (according to pop media) to be throwing all that out the window.

    Also, one recurring theme of Lonely Island videos is an ironic undercutting of masculinity as it is presented in current media. Remember, not only women are gender-bound. And these are guys who really know how to laugh at themselves. Could this also be at play here?

  2. Thank you for your insightful comments! Some very interesting perspectives here. I think you are spot on about how they undercut social constructs of masculinity.

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  1. […] same-sex partners, a theme highlighted to comical effect by The Lonely Island in their song ‘Spring Break Anthem’ where they juxtapose the hedonistic nature of the heteronormative ritual of ‘Spring Break’ […]

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