Look at the shiny happy people laughing -- push and pull aside, they're beautiful

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/09/14 03:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2007/09/14/4904644.aspx

If you're looking for technical, you likely will not find it here in this post....

Anyhow, Andrea called a few nights ago.

We ended up talking for a few hours, which might have been weird since it started at 2am, but I was up then anyway and it was mid-morning for her.

As you might have gathered, we have done this a few times before. :-)

When she calls it is usually about some cultural reference that she has figured out or thinks she has figured out and she wants to run it by me. And this time was no different....

She has just seen The Devil Wears Prada and after the movie she looked up the soundtrack because she had decided that the R.E.M. song Shiny Happy People and the Moby song Beautiful (which was in the movie) were both about the same topic (celebrities), but from the other end of the telescope, as it were.

This idea sidetracked us for a bit because she suddenly remembered that she has wanted for years to ask me whose version of The Other End of the Telescope I preferred -- Aimee Mann's, or Elvis Costello's.

This distracted me from the original topic. :-) 

I had to tell her that it depended, I liked them both but only consecutively, never concurrently. I have not yet been able to analyze the factors of life situation or feelings or whatever that cause one or the other to be the favorite, mainly because both of them have songs that I happen to enjoy more. But we talked about it for a while.

I think I mentioned the phone call went on for a few hours....

Anyway, eventually we made it back to her Beautiful/Shiny Happy People unification theory, which was essentially that the R.E.M. song was being sung by ordinary people singing about celebrities (the "Shiny Happy People" who they can experience and dream about but never really have themselves), while the Moby song was being sung by the celebrities about themselves ("Look at us we're beautiful / All the people push and pull but / They'll never get inside / We've got too much to hide" and so on).

Now if you take the context of Beautiful and where it ended up in the movie, the idea kind of fits -- it is when Emily and Andrea are inside at the benefit, with all of the beautiful people around them, etc.

But I had to break the news to her....

As has been recently reported widely (you can see the exact same sparse info all over the web), Shiny Happy People is intended to be "...an ironic reference to a piece of roughly translated Chinese propaganda; and the massacre in Tienanmen Square, Beijing, two years before the song was released" (ref). The video of course is very memorable for me because Kate Pierson was so wonderful in it and Michael Stipe was such a goof. Its placement in soundtracks includes such wonderful movies as Fahrenheit 9/11 but that was years later, so that doesn't help. In any case, it is pretty clearly not about celebrities at all....

And as for Beautiful, the lyrics are very sparse so there is not much to go on. But if you watch the video (you can find it on YouTube, no doubt), you'll be shocked, probably, so let me briefly describe the action since I finally got over my shock (description stolen from here):

...if you haven't seen the video it's about just loving each other for who you are.

Now, if you've seen the music video then it could also be about loving one person and one person only.

In the music video a bunch of people are at a Plushie party. Plushies are people that wear animal costumes and get off on each other, basically. There's more to it than that, I'm sure. At any rate, they draw keys to see who hooks up with who to go "yiff" (Wikipedia or Urbandictionary it) and a boy bunny gets hooked up with a girl squirrel. The bunny decides he doesn't want to yiff the squirrel after all because he loves his bunny too much so he goes to find her. He sees that she is happily yiffing a moose and he pulls out a gun. First he shoots the moose, then he commits suicide.

So when you try to analyze the song with the music video in mind, it's about being comfortable with who you are, who you're with, and what you do. The bunny, in the end, couldn't stand that his bunny wanted to be with other people.

The description has a lot more detail in it then I would have extracted, though if you watch the video with this description in mind you can pretty much see everything that it points out.

But again, not about celebrities, with or without the video.

Andrea reluctantly agreed with me and seemed a little sad by 4:30am, but then I pointed out to her that in movies songs NEVER seem to be used appropriately in recent years, with the only exceptions I can think of offhand being Magnolia and High Fidelity, both of which were written around the songs so they possibly don't count. So a single movie could use both songs as Andrea imagined and it could genuinely work. She seemed to brighten up a bit at that, and then I went to bed for a few hours before heading into work.

In retrospect, I have trouble imagining how both songs would work in a movie, but maybe some screenplay or some director could pull it off.

But maybe that is just me (and I am neither a screenplay writer nor a director!).


This post brought to you by (U+1509, a.k.a. CANADIAN SYLLABICS MOOSE-CREE SK)

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referenced by

2007/10/21 'Today' is not a breakup song (said her favorite cylon), aka Readers here might prefer to listen to music like normal people do

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