So I, like anyone who does what I do, often take jokes from other people. I don’t know if everyone does the same, but I know Todd does, as he helps me write my episodes and I help him write his. Well, “write” is a strong word, really if party A says something funny party B will write it down and either incorporate it into our script or not. In City of Angels I know it was a bit blurred- he helped me try to figure out Himmel, and a lot of the Nicolas Cage jokes. The bit about pajamas was his, as well as sex being his favorite part of living. Pears was mine. For “If I Die Young” I can claim a couple- “the touch the feel of satin, the fabric of our…” and of course the “You understand my pain, (shitty band)” gag. Now, though Todd and I disagree on, well, most things, we really come together on how awful this song is, which I want to have a word on in non-video form because I’ve seen some people jump to the defense of the song. If they like it, that’s their business, but I want to explore it a little more. He did leave out a couple things we’d talked about, which I wanted to touch on to really drive home how vapid this song is, the first of which being, how you tackle this subject right:
I don’t have much to add; I’ll let that speak for itself.
See, “If I Die Young” is an incredibly self-centered song, which is what disturbs me about it; to me, it’s really telling of the me-centric attitude our culture is taking, which is why I compare it to “Passage”, which never once mentions the dying person’s desires. I imagine that’s why “If I Die Young” is a hit and “Passage” is not, nor would it ever be. “If I Die Young” is twee, romanticized and has a heavy set of blinders on. It kind of reminds me of the romanticizing of tuberculosis in the 19th century, how you waste away to a frail thing that other people have to take care of but you leave a porcelain doll for a corpse that everyone can look at and contemplate. “Passage” is haunting, and has no agenda, save for the painful tragedy that dying young is.
Which brings me to point two: Clearly, this person does not know anyone who has died young. I have; I knew four. None of them left behind cute corpses.
None of them were best friends or siblings; they were friends, in one case a student, or in the first case my best friend’s sister. She was four or five. I was eight, so I didn’t really care, having only the faintest concept of mortality at the time. And I can say I didn’t get it, and if my best friend did she hid it well; we had no concept of what was going on, or that she wouldn’t pull through. But I can say that that young death did tear that family apart, in many ways. That one was brain cancer.
The next three were more gruesome. Number one was James- I mentioned him in the TLC video. I won’t go into details, but he was murdered, and his body wasn’t found for weeks. It wasn’t an open casket. He was nineteen.
Then came JB- oddly enough the guy through whom I met my current roommate, Paco. He was hit by a car on Park avenue in Harlem, running from some muggers. For a while we were fearful that he would become a white conservative rallying cry that his death was a hate crime, but the police shot that one down pretty quickly. An interesting example of no one giving a shit who he was, though they sure were quick to hop to use him for their horrible agenda. He was twenty.
Then was Sandy- I detail his death in a blog entry about a year ago. He died in a car accident between LA and Bakersfield. He was twenty.
Let me remind the reader that tragedy is not a contest. You see this a lot in insecure people; when someone shares a story, someone else tries to negate their story with a tragedy of their own that’s even worse, to show that they have no right to feel the way they do. My point’s not to out-sad anyone, my point is to drive home how simply un-romantic young death is. It is meaningless, it is painful, and it very rarely leaves behind a cute corpse that one can dress in satin and lay down in a bed of roses. How romantic!
No, young death is painful and usually violent. Anyone who would write a wistful, self-centered song like this… either doesn’t know the reality of what it does to people, how painful and meaningless it is, or just doesn’t care!
So my treatise is this; it’s bad enough to encourage the nuanced me-centric narcissism that is engulfing the globe, slowly and surely, but let’s not use a romantic young death as your vessel to get that idea across. Trust me, young death is many things; romantic it ain’t.
You can see Todd’s review, here: