by carl wilson

Oh, Avril, How Could You?


Like everybody else with a pulse and the capacity to smile, I'm down with Avril Lavigne's new single, Girlfriend, which stands sturdily, albeit not stunningly, in the lineage of Mickey-esque cheerleader-shout songs.

But am I the only one who was taken aback by the video, in which it turns out that the reason Avril doesn't like the guy's girlfriend is that she's kind of nerdy? Maybe I've been mistaken all this time, but I thought Avril's schtick was to be on the side of the outcasts, but in this vid she postures as an obnoxious popular girl who's essentially bullying her way to the heart of her guy. It alters the song for me, since I'd reflexively assumed that the p.o.v. of the song was from lower on the social ladder, directed at a prissier, snobbier girl.

Or am I being obtuse? Perhaps the whole joke is that she's playing against type, and we're meant to be rooting against her character. But wouldn't the video then pay that idea off by giving the nerdy girl some little note of revenge in the end?

Is this the teenpop version of selling out - going corporate isn't an issue, but maybe turning against the underdogs and siding with the Heathers is? Or have I just been misreading Avril's stance all along - were her skater boys and skater girls always alpha dogs? Paging Frank Kogan.

(Later: One thing I didn't realize watching the video (thanks to low YouTube resolution) is that the girlfriend of the title is actually played by Avril herself, as a couple of commenters pointed out. Which mitigates my dismay, though not entirely.)

| Posted by zoilus on Monday, March 12 at 4:00 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (24)



from the youtube comments:

"and avril lavigne's hair is not black and she isnt gothic or anything. her real image is the blonde haired one"


Anyway just wanted to comment on the ridiculous assertion that avril and kristen bell have anything in common (other than they're both women and both blonde and both, uh, blonde women!). Please watch the episodes of Deadwood that featured Bell and you'll never get them confused ever again. Or, just watch Veronica Mars - once.


Posted by Justin... on April 7, 2007 10:41 AM



I'm struck by the fact that, simply put, Avril's become one of the "mean girls."

Posted by Thomas on March 19, 2007 5:23 PM



I am as grudgeless as a spring rain, Carl, and a spring rain is pretty grudgeless. It just seemed somewhat LOL-able is all. Plus I've just recently picked up "The penny drops!" and wanted to take it out for a spin.

Also, we are of the same opinion re: the ratio of late. Thanks. If I can just get SR posting again the ratio will be an unstoppable blogging force.

Posted by KS on March 16, 2007 2:13 PM



What part of my open admission of that did you think needed repeating, KS? Drop the grudge match. By the way, the Ratio's been awesome lately.

ps - not to go on forever debating the social status of the Gf-vril, but DAR is more accurate than 'preppy.' If they'd managed preppy, the video wouldn't have bugged. I'll settle with Peli on 'badly done.'

Posted by zoilus on March 15, 2007 11:09 PM



"Hold on!"

The penny drops.

Posted by KS on March 15, 2007 8:26 PM



Is it possible that everybody has failed to mention the fact that Avril looks to be turning into Britney? Don't get me wrong, I am not going to call her a sellout or anything, I know she's been all pop from the get go. But still - the parts I always liked about her were her talent for writing (they always emphasized that she was writing the songs, right?), her amazing voice, and her attitude. This song has the attitude ("she's so like whatever" - hilarious) but in a cheap imitation of things that were already mediocre - Gwen Stefani's solo gig and Britney Spears for many years now, it seems to be wasted. As if with the fall of so many of our golden haired pop stars, Avril is stepping in like the jester and the thorny crown...but then again in the end I think the jester showed everyone, so who knows.

I've been saying for years now that Avril Lavigne is going to turn out to be an awesome musician - but I have to be honest, I am not so sure right now. But the song is totally stuck in my head.

Posted by ali marcus on March 14, 2007 3:57 PM



Hold on! When J. Kelly mentions the "double casting" - is Avril actually in a wig playing the girlfriend? The picture on YouTube is too fuzzy for that to be immediately apparent, although now I realize the possibility should have occurred to me. It mitigates the message an awful lot, allowing an immediate extra degree of empathy for the gf, and does make the whole thing seem more like a silly farce than it did when I thought she was bullying an anonymous character actress.

I find it hilarious I didn't grasp this until people had mentioned it two or three times in the comments. I still don't really like the vid, but it doesn't actually seem *evil* this way.

Posted by zoilus on March 14, 2007 10:31 AM



Jack Sprat..

You'll get over it, right? You seem upset.

I kinda feel enlightened by his observations, personally. Please read this in the sweetest way, but not only music snobs read the man, yanno? :)

xo ~brainless

Posted by w on March 14, 2007 10:18 AM



I can't believe no one has said anything about this whole post being beneath Zoilus. Avril Lavigne? Are you kidding me? I feel a little dumber just for having found out about her shocking new posturing.

Posted by Jack Sprat on March 13, 2007 11:44 PM



Well Carl, it all fails to cohere cause it's badly done, but I don't think you can ignore the "look at me I'm a bitchy snob" looks the gf is shooting all around in the beginning, which mark her as an aenemy rather than victim.
I'm voting "incoherent" rather than "evil".

Posted by Peli Grietzer on March 13, 2007 7:06 PM



agreed, the prissy one is definitely of lower status.

Posted by andrew on March 13, 2007 5:42 PM



But Peli, don't those gangs still sort into status hierarchies of various kinds? And doesn't the prissy girl in the glasses still look like a loser in that combat before it's even begun? Plus, you know, where's her gang, then?

Posted by zoilus on March 13, 2007 4:42 PM



I think they all got carried away with Avril doing her own pratfalls. It does change the meaning of it when you know they're both her (which I didn't) but the first thing it reminded me of was Kelly Ellard.

Posted by Dixon on March 13, 2007 4:21 PM



Carl- what I think you're missing is that status is an anachronistic concept to apply to today's imaginary high-school. Today's imaginary high-school isn't a ladder system but a gang war.
I'm not saying the video does the best job manifesting this, but I think it's a major presupposition.

Posted by peli grietzer on March 13, 2007 3:21 PM



Yeah, substitute dowdy or prissy for nerdy, it doesn't matter - she's clearly lower-status. And I agree that Avril's set up as "rockin'" by contrast but she's also got the traditional popular-girl posse while the gf is alone except for the guy.

I hadn't known about the Paris connection, but a Hilton type is exactly what would have worked better in the video.

Posted by zoilus on March 13, 2007 1:40 PM



Yikes. That really is horrible.
Regardless of the girlfriend's social identity (ie, prissy, nerdy, preppy?) she definitely reads as vulnerable, which is what makes Avril's bullying disturbing.
Apparently things have changed since the days of John Hughes movies. Looks like mob mentality is the new misunderstood.

Posted by ST on March 13, 2007 12:39 PM



I'm with the crowed- "preppy" is a completely different coding than "nerdy" in that semiotic system, and the gf is preppy .

Posted by peli grietzer on March 13, 2007 12:31 PM



Although the video doesn't necessarily reflect it, I thought it was just common knowledge that Girlfrind is written about Paris Hilton dating Avril's now husband, Derek Whibley. I'm sure that scene in real life played out like a ridiculous high school drama.

Although I want to think Avril is not as shallow as the video suggests, I have heard the entire album, and can see (hear) that she is a genius at writing catchy pop songs.... my question: does being shallow help, in the case of pop? (haha)


Posted by w on March 13, 2007 12:30 PM



I, too, read the girlfriend in the video as more conservative/DAR/straightlaced than nerdy. But I see where you're coming from--the glasses send a very mixed message. I think her costuming was done rather badly.

I also think the video takes a sinister turn from the point where the golf ball is launched. Then it's just mean. It would be better if it were less one-sided.

Posted by Jamie on March 13, 2007 10:46 AM



To my eyes, the only "nerdy" signifier with the old gf is the glasses. The rest of it plays out as a contrast between girlie (pink sweater, knee socks, long-ish plaid skirt) and rockin' (black jeans, black T, black hair). Note that the bf is also dressed like rockin' Avril -- same colour hair, same black jeans, same black T, same white underjersey. Clearly, the clothes say, he and Avril were meant to be together.

I would disagree with JKelly's read re. the potty humour, though. The old gf gets tossed into the portapotty (which, note, has a fat guy leaving it, so we can be sure it's full) which then gets up-ended, presumably on her. Thus, the portapotty stands for humiliation (and really, given the size and odor of such things, who would use one for a quickie?). By contrast, when Avril drags the bf have into a toilet stall in the ladies room, it's a naughty show of triumph. So the video ends with Avril covered in glory, and the old gf covered in shit. Seems pretty straightforward to me.

Posted by JD on March 13, 2007 10:42 AM



"i'm shocked you didn't even touch on the much, much larger issue at hand here -> the gradual merging of avril and kristen bell into one single entity"

Haha, exactly what I've been thinking. Anyway, I see your point only I read it as conservative/snobish vs. rebelious like JKel here. The thick rimmed glasses lends a certain ambiguity to the snob tho', and the rebel is perhaps too, eh.., bitchy to gain much sympathy.

Posted by Chris M on March 12, 2007 10:09 PM



See, I didn't see it as nerdy vs. cool, but conservative vs. rebellious. But it can be read either way. that's the problem, teen styles that seem obviously conformist to adults often seems "alternative" to teens - and vice versa. Nerd can be cool or outcast depending on perception, likewise black-haired rocker chick. Is it even possible to identify outcasts anymore? Isn't teen culture as fragmented as the rest of the culture ?

Back to the video, what's interesting to me in the double-casting (triple-casting, if you consider the omnipotent narrating blonde Avril) is that now the song is about Avril's inner battle to be "your girlfriend," which apparently means dying your hair black and behaving like a hoodlum. She wants to get you in the portapotty for a quickie, but her prissy/nerdy self is unable to, so she has to fight that restrained part of herself off. It's a coming of age story, in a way.

Posted by JKelly on March 12, 2007 6:03 PM



i saw this video on the weekend and thought pretty much the exact same thing. isn't the skater girl supposed to be the nerdy/outcast one? whats even creepier, i also went to ILM to check Frank Kogan's "Rolling Teenpop 2007" thread to see if he had mentioned it.

Posted by pinder on March 12, 2007 5:49 PM



nerdy != prissy

plus the fact that she's essentially co-opting cheerleader pop with the song makes the video defensible as a pretty simple genre exercise; avril gets to be the cool one for once (altho not totally, hence she plays the girlfriend too)

anyway carl, i'm shocked you didn't even touch on the much, much larger issue at hand here -> the gradual merging of avril and kristen bell into one single entity. i swear every time i see either one of them i have to pause to reflect on whether i'm looking at the chart topper or the crime fighter. (incidentally this video would be SO much better if wallace played the boyfriend.)

Posted by markp on March 12, 2007 5:29 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson