TV Girl is the musical equivalent of @beam_me_up_softboi.
You couldn’t convince me that Brad, the lead singer/songwriter, has never said “if you were a real feminist, you wouldn’t be ashamed to show me your tits. Free the nipple, right?”
I live near Church Street, and TV Girl’s lyrics remind me of the things I hear drunk cis guys say while stumbling home from the bars. Things like, “It’s not that I think that the women that I fuck aren’t smart, it’s just that I think that I am smarter than any of them are,” or, “No, you don’t understand, she had, like,,, a personality” … and they wonder why they’re walking home alone.
If we dissect the thematic narrative from almost any TV Girl song, we get something like this: “My ex-girlfriend is a psycho bitch, so there must be something wrong with all women. Also, I’m sensitive, so it’s ok for me to blame women for my problems. Also, I smoke cigarettes— I have to mention that every time I speak or I will spontaneously combust.”
Or, as Brad has actually said: “We [men and women] are drawn to each other, but we don’t even really like each other or at the very least don’t understand each other. That interests me. It’s a Greek tragedy.” HUH???? DON’T LIKE EACH OTHER????????
I wish I could believe that he was being facetious and making a joke about how emotional manipulators use the guise of “softness” to absolve themselves of any wrongdoing, but here’s the other thing about Brad: based on everything that he’s given me to work with, I don’t really believe that Brad has ever had a moment of self-reflection in his life.
But there’s no need to simply take my word for it— let’s review some more TV Girl, song by song.
PRESENTATION OF EVIDENCE:
First is the worst— “Melanie.” This song commences with Brad listing all of the girls who he’s fucked around with and saying that they all look and act alike. (This, of course, says more about Brad than it ever could about any of them.)
The chorus to this song rings with “I don’t even know why I talk to her.” Which, once again, is more revealing of Brad and his values– the way he perceives and judges women– than it is about the girls who are subjected to his misogyny. I mean really, Brad, do you really think that you sound smart or cool when you say that the women who you fuck,,, aren’t smart and cool? Opposite. You sound like a fuckin’ doofus.
But it’s the bridge and ending to this song that is Absolutely Bananas. He says”They oughta put you away, ‘Cause you’re too good-looking, They ought to put you in chains, Before you get your hooks in, They ought to smack you around, they ought to cut off your tongue, They ought to shave off your eyebrows, send you to a nun, They ought to get you a job ’cause you have too much fun, They ought to carve you in marble, sell you by the ton…”
Let’s sit with that for a moment.
What do you think it means?
Here’s what I think: He’s wishing for Melanie to be locked away and/or stripped of any semblance of beauty (and/or that her beauty be sold as an object like stone?) because um,,, he thinks she’s too hot and doesn’t want her not to be with him? Doesn’t that sound like a very stable genius?
Second is the best; I would argue that “Pantyhose” is the most valid TV Girl song. It is also a song for simps, through and through. (Not a bad thing, just something to note.) For lack of a better way of putting it, this is the one song where I feel I can safely say: He did something! Brad did something!!
The song is inspired by The Things They Carried, a 1990 collection of linked stories by Tim O’Brien, which chronicles the tales of American soldiers in Vietnam. The chapter “Stockings” tells of a soldier who wore his sweetheart’s pantyhose around his neck everywhere, from bed to battle. The girl across the sea breaks things off, but the soldier can’t let go of the lucky charm which has gotten him so far.
So yeah, credit to Brad. He did something! But, of course, I’m here to critique in full. And here’s something else that I consider as I listen to this song: We know that Brad likes to sample. He samples songs. He samples stories. In fact, nobody samples quite like Brad. (In all honesty, it’s what keeps me coming back.) Ultimately, though, I wonder, what does Brad have to show for a completely original creation– something all his own? We might consider, also, that Brad also has the expertise of his producers, Jason Wyman and Wyatt Harmon, to fall back on.
“Hate Yourself” is a song wherein the speaker is a little bitch boy who can’t handle having a hot, charismatic girlfriend. What I think Brad is trying to get at, is the concept of having an “artichoke heart.” Not like a literal vegetable artichoke heart from an artichoke, but rather, the French idiom, which describes the way that some people develop infatuation. And considering that the album is titled “French Exit,” I would hope that this would be a nod to the French language and culture.
You may wonder, what does this idiom mean? I answer with another question: how do you eat artichoke? You tear off a leaf, cover or dip it into some substance that disguises the pure flavor, you scrape your teeth against a little piece of it, and toss away much of what is left. Because artichokes are frequently appetizers or even amuse-bouche, you consume this in preparation for your real meal.
And although Brad could have done something interesting with this concept that this person gives away little pieces of themself to a lot of people, he really only uses it to pitch a bitch fit over the fact that this girl will probably leave him. Maybe a hot take Brad, but no woman will be safe until you take a vow of chastity.
In “The Blonde,” Brad explains that beauty and brains are mutually exclusive. He uses the stereotype of the “dumb blonde” and beats that dead horse to a fucking pulp. He proposes that the blonde is the subject of everyone’s adoration, and his too, but his tone is also deeply haunting, as if he hates her. (Not in like an interesting or complex way. Like in a “he’s gonna fucking murder her and chop up her body” kind of way.)
We know from a series of feminist artists and art theorists that objectification often leads to the dehumanization of femme subjects, ultimately leading to violence against femme people. That being said, if this song was written by a woman, how might that have changed the tone? Would it be less threatening? Would her assessment of the patterns that she sees in the world be more meaningful?
Brad pontificates on his pity for women who are not the beautiful blondes of the world, wondering who, oh who, will fuck these women? And how will these women fulfill their societal roles if they aren’t being fucked?
Brad attempts to persuade these women towards changing their outward appearance to fit the standards that he may not have set, but that he certainly upholds. He then says that even this will be a cheap trick, obviously impermanent “‘cause pretty soon your roots will be showing.” Oh my god, there is literally no way to please this man. Be blonde, but also don’t be blonde.
And the chorus. “Anyone who ever had a brain, wouldn’t stand out in the rain, or keep it up for very long just to prove somebody wrong. And anyone who ever had a heart, or sang a lonesome song, would sell their little souls just to make it with a blonde.”
Ok so yeah a lot to unpack here. It seems like he’s saying “Guys will fuck ugly girls for a while to prove that they’re not vain but ultimately would leave the coolest and smartest, yet homeliest girl for a hot blonde. Anyway. Titties.”
And I wonder, can’t Brad ever just refer to himself? Does it always have to be a “guy thing”?
TV Girl itself is not a red flag. It’s more like a yellow flag. Stop the action. Give your player a two-minute penalty. There’s no way he’s getting a touchdown tonight, but he’s not necessarily disqualified… (It’s safe to say that I don’t understand sports. It also seems safe to say that I don’t understand men.)
Equivalent pieces of media might be “Fight Club,” or maybe Catcher in the Rye. If someone tells you that they loooooove these pieces of art, a few further questions are required to determine whether or not they are a serial killer. These pieces aren’t outright bad art, they just require an acknowledgment that their protagonist is a monster towards whom a person shouldn’t feel empathy or even really sympathy.
To any man who loves TV Girl, I would ask you to explain, in depth, but slowly and in simple terms (because I’m just a simple girl) what precisely you think is expressed in the song “Every Stupid Actress.”
But to the rest of y’all, if you’re into someone, and they think that the music goes SO hard but Brad is a douche, you should lock that shit down immediately. HOWEVER. If a Dude (not exclusively, but in particular, a cis man) tells you he loooooves the Writing from TV Girl– if he thinks Braaaaad is The Poet of our generation– baby, run for the hills. Get yourself out before you have a nic addiction and a broken heart. There is no amount of soft that is worth dealing with that boi.
And who knows? Maybe I’m the misguided asshole here.
After all, I’ve changed my mind about TV Girl lyrics before.
For example, in “Loving Machine,” Brad asks “will he ever smack her ass like she likes?”
Now, I can admit that when I first heard this lyric, I rolled my eyes so hard I thought that they might get stuck. But then, I purchased my first jean skirt. And now I understand that she Does like to have her ass smacked and that’s okay. We should encourage her.
So in conclusion of the conclusion, I might be wrong, but TV Girl is something of which one should be wary. Stay safe out there besties.