I picked up the new Jimmy Eat World DVD EP yesterday and I can now say that I’m the proud owner of the video of “The Middle” (from their self-titled album)This video has to be my favorite sneaky, counter-culture video of all time. The song itself talks about being your own person and not trying to fit in with what society expects. It’s what I needed to hear in high school: “Hey, you know they’re all the same / You know you’re doing better on your own so don’t buy in / Live right now / Just be yourself / It doesn’t matter if that’s good enough for someone else.”
Unlike so many music videos that are just a creative way to show the band performing and give them valuable face exposure, this video has a greater purpose. It’s one of those rare videos that actually expresses what the song is talking about.
The video starts with a girl getting out a car and walking into a party. She takes her jacket off as she walks in to reveal she’s only wearing her underwear. But no problem, every soul at the party is only wearing their underwear. Sounds like a perfect MTV video, huh? But be patient, it gets better. Then this new kid comes to the party, but guess what? He’s fully clothed. He spends most of the video walking around the party trying to find his own place and be accepted, but everyone looks at him weird because he’s not dancing in his under-roos with the rest of them. Fed up, the fully clothed boy heads off to a distant room of the house and starts stripping. Then we see a girl in the next room doing the same thing. Wham. Illumination. There’s this great shot of the two of them taking their pants off and they look up into each others’ eyes. The pants go back on, the rest of their clothes go back on, and they leave the underwear party fully clothed and together.
Now I’m the kind of person who likes to find hidden meaning and dig a little deeper than is probably intended, but for me, that video is the ultimate undercover agent. MTV put it in heavy rotation, yet the whole video undermines what MTV is all about. MTV markets sex and their own liberal worldview. Sure, MTV tries to act like they’re the most hip, understanding, open place there is. They give off this aura of acceptance and tolerance, when really they exist to tell you what’s cool. It’s a glorified form of the high school popularity system. Why do you think they only promote a limited list of proven artists? (and I say promote, because MTV no longer plays music). They don’t take risks and they’re not on the cutting edge. They’re just like mainstream radio, a wasteland that’s been bought out by the big players.
Okay, sorry about that little MTV rant.
“The Middle” is all about standing up against the crowd and being your own person. The video stands up in the sea of bare skin that is MTV and says no, you don’t have to do that to be cool. I’m going to keep my pants on, thank you.
That is counter-culture. And the fact that MTV played it is even better. Now if only the Christian music industry could take a page from that book.
Watch the video of “The Middle” (but also check out the rest of the Jimmy Eat World web site – they use frames so I couldn’t figure out how to link to the video page and keep the rest of the site’s frames).