by: Amanda Tague
The “Boy meets girl, boy gets girl, and they live happily ever after. Or at least until the credits end or the next album comes out,” story is fraught with lovesick men trying to figure out just what it’s going to take for him to get the girl to return his feelings. In this quest for love, the boy usually resorts to The Grand Romantic Gesture™, which can take many forms and often toes the line between being genuinely sweet and being really uncomfortable.
Sometimes these gestures come as a simple declaration of love, often in the form of a song. Using the Peter Cetera song “Glory of Love” as an example, it’s easy to see where things can go from sweet to bothersome. Cetera positions himself as the man who will fight for your honor because he wants to be your hero. He asserts that he will always love you, which sounds fine. Until he immediately follows that up with the fact that he will never leave you alone. From a distance, it sounds nonthreatening enough to be included in the Karate Kid II soundtrack and for New Found Glory to have covered it. But even in it’s pop punk cover form, it’s problematic to say the least, especially if you stop to consider the fact that the object of the song may not have actually wanted the attention.
There are countless other songs in the pop punk genre that are cut from the same cloth as “Glory of Love.” So many more of them explore how the gesturer is going to react if you dare to deny his advances. Kris Roe of The Ataris is asking if you’ll be his best friend if he offers you his heart and he wants you to know it’s already yours anyway in a song so titled “IOU One Galaxy.” Then he turns around and has given up on love in another song and it’s all you’re fucking fault because you had the nerve to reject him or leave when you weren’t feeling it anymore. But it’s okay, because in another song, he’s going to call you from Paris and tell you that he’s written your names on the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower. Mark Hoppus from blink-182 is going to brag about how amazing you are because the little things you do make him so happy and you don’t even care about his small penis which probably isn’t really even that small in the first place. But you’re going to wind up the source of his most frustration when you move on and it’s totally going to ruin instant messaging for him. When Jordan Pudnik of New Found Glory isn’t covering soundtracks from 80′s movies, he wants you to know that he thinks girls are crazy and he’ll still pick his friends over you. But he’s going to wonder if it’s too late to be with you.
That’s where The Grand Romantic Gesture™ becomes flawed and can go from sweet to manipulative in an instant. The trope of the gesture has become so ingrained in so many men that they think that as long as they do the work, they’re entitled to a prize. In this case, the prize is a woman. So when you’re the object of the gesture and you reject it or ask to be left alone, the automatic response is that you’re either an irredeemable bitch or that he needs to try harder to see if he can’t wear you down the way your stubbornness has worn down the needle on Jordan Pudnik’s record player.
Lloyd Dobler from the movie Say Anything is the king of the gesture and has been a huge source of inspiration for so very many pop punk boys. He wears a Clash t-shirt almost everyday, girls swoon over him, and he plans on being a professional kickboxer when he’s not making being Diane Court’s boyfriend his primary occupation in life. His devotion to her seems envy-inducingly sweet. Until she breaks up with him because she’s going through some pretty heavy shit and she’s not sure it’s a good time for her to be in a relationship. So he calls her frequently. He cries into a payphone about how he gave her his heart and she gave him a pen. He finally resorts to standing in her front yard with a boombox held high over his head, blasting the song that was playing the first time they had sex. At this point, Diane has made it clear that she needs her space and he’s still probably waking up her whole neighborhood with the Peter Gabriel. Lloyd thinks he is saying something about how much he loves Diane and how special she is. But what he’s really saying as that he doesn’t respect her ability to make decisions when it comes to their relationship.
Not every pop punk band is stricken with what I like to call the Dobler Syndrome. Some of them are well aware of just how uncomfortable these advances can be. In “Violins,” Lagwagon’s Joey Cape wants you to know that he’s trying hard to let you go, if for no other reason than the fact that you’ve told him that he’s giving you the creeps. In “Very Pretty Song For A Very Special Young Lady Part 2,” Mikey Erg croons, “And I love you more that I could say, And probably more than you’d ever wanna hear anyway, But I’m sure you get that an awful lot.” Then he ends the song by saying that he hopes you feel the same way but understands that you might not and probably don’t.
But no band gets how scary these advances can be, especially when they come from strangers, than Masked Intruder. Masked Intruder is a relatively new band whose debut album was released on Red Scare Records in August. The band consists of four masked mystery punks singing about unrequited love and taking The Grand Romantic Gesture™ a step further to illustrate a point.
In “Unrequited Love,” the blue intruder laments his loneliness, letting you know that it’s got him so down that he’s wringing tears out of his mask. In “Why Don’t You Love Me In Real Life,” he’s letting you know about the perfect dates he’d take you on. He knows that they’re perfect because they happen every night in his dreams without your consent. Then he answers the titular question when he asks, “Is it because of my mask or because I’m brandishing a knife?”
These lyrics make it seem like the masked men are no better than that guy on the bus who won’t take, “Sorry, I’m not interested,” for an answer, who responds to “I’m seeing someone, ” with “Is it serious?” But where they differ and you know this is all just trying to prove the point that unrequited love can be creepy is a wonderfully catchy song called “Heart Shaped Guitar.” In this song, the blue intruder sings about standing out in his crush’s front yard singing songs on a heart shaped guitar at 3AM, an obvious nod to Lloyd Dobler. But then the girl chimes in with, “Dude, you’re freaking me out. Seriously. What the fuck’s wrong with you? I don’t even know you.” The girl (Maura from the band Mixtapes) and the intruder go back and forth through the whole song as he tries to prove his love and she calls the cops. It’s amazing that they’re letting the woman answer for herself because that rarely, if ever happens with songs about girls from all male pop punk bands. And this girl is not being polite about her discomfort, which is maybe something women in this situation need to do more of and something that our society needs to make safer for women to do.
The saddest thing in all of this, though, is wondering what it says for our culture and gender dynamics in heteronormative interactions when it takes a masked man with a knife to point out that our big romantic film heroes were kind of disrespectful creeps.
Amanda Tague is a twenty-something MFA candidate in Northwestern’s School of Continuing Studies. She is primarily interested in reconciling her super expensive and serious education with the fact that she mostly likes really lowbrow, cheesy, or kitschy stuff. She lives with her partner, dog, and cat and is one of the few people who genuinely enjoys the taste of Jeppson’s Malort. After enough Malort, she can be found talking very loudly about Star Wars and tacos. She attempts to have a “web presence” as an “artist” at yourdisappointmentappointment.tumblr.com and tries to remember to talk about food at welikefoodfoodtastesgood.tumblr.com. She wants to be a classroom skeleton when she dies.