Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend”

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There’s a hit song on the radio by Avril Lavigne called “Girlfriend”. Each time it came on, I listened more closely, past the catchy hook in the song, to what the lyrics were saying, and was appalled. The matter of this song came to a head when my ten year old daughter asked if she could download it onto her iPod. My husband encouraged me to watch the video accompanying this song, after he’d seen it. He’d already said no to her request.

So I did. I watched the video (it’s on YouTube) and called the lyrics up on the computer, just to be sure that what I’d been hearing on the radio was what I thought I’d heard. Here’s a selection of the lyrics of this pop song:

I can see the way, I see the way you look at me
And even when you look away I know you think of me
I know you talk about me all the time
again and again(and again and again and again)
So come over here, tell me what I want to hear
Better yet make your girlfriend disappear
I don’t want to hear you say her name ever again
(And again and again and again!)

Cause, She’s like so whatever
And you could do so much better
I think we should get together now
And that’s what everyone’s talking about!

The song is all about a girl who wants another girl’s boyfriend, to the point of coming on to him and telling him his girlfriend is dumb, not worthy, etc and she is. In the video, you see the hip, dressed-in-black narrator of the song shoving the nerdier looking girl into a port-a-potty, swinging a golf-ball and hitting it on her head, knocking her out, pulling her away from her boyfriend and climbing all over him, and so forth. It’s offensive.

It’s offensive because, not only is the message pretty clear that if you want something that belongs to another girl, it’s okay to grab it by any means possible, it’s also okay to bully other girls. It’s demeaning to the girls who are bullied, and to the girls who listen to the song, thinking it’s oh-so-cool to be a bully stereotype.

There are girls like this, I don’t doubt it. But Lavigne’s audience is also made up of younger girls than the ones in the video (like my ten year old). My daughter, who’s had her own feelings hurt by other girls (and it’s going to get worse) thinks this video is extremely funny, and sees nothing wrong in the actions and words in the video and song. If it were a self-mocking song, or an ironic song, or one that knowingly addressed the issues of wanting someone/thing you shouldn’t have, then I might not have the issues I have with it. I almost expect songs sung and written by male musicians to have some sort of misogyny in their songs; but not usually from a female musician-singer.

Song lyrics: http://www.elyrics.net/read/a/avril-lavigne-lyrics/girlfriend-lyrics.html

Video: http://www.downloadyoutubevideos.com/watch.php?v=cQ25-glGRzI

Comments

  1. Jennifer Kesler says

    I like that your husband got what was wrong with this, too. Ugh.

    AFAIC, this is a real life problem. I’ve been advised a number of times that some guy liked me, so I should immediately start work on stealing him from his girlfriend! Some women really think this is how you do it.

    The one time I developed an understanding with a guy that if he was available and asked me out I’d go, once he broke up with his girlfriend he no longer had the nerve to ask me out! These situations are never cases of “He really wants me, not her”, they are cases of insecure guys who can only approach you when they have the backbone of a girlfriend to fall back on.

    Even if you don’t care about deceptions and morals and all that: it’s all so beyond pathetic .

  2. says

    I find the video quite disturbing, too. It’s a shame the music is so catchy and up-beat, because the message isn’t cute at all.

  3. Gategrrl says

    My husband objected, as I did, to the video and the song glorifying bullying and bullies, and a rampant sense of entitlement. I object to it on that ground, but also for another aspect.

    As I stated in the article, I found it especially rotten that it was a girl singing a song and performing in a video about putting down other girls.

    My daughter’s friend asked me while I was driving her home, why I disliked this song so much. I had to tell her that, as bad as I thought some rappers (and other musicians) were with their messages of violence against women and girls I thought that this song was actually worse. Because it was girl-on-girl violence, glamorized and hightened by the catchy pop tune. Because the singer, Avril Lavigne, actually started out with a career with a positive bent. It’s a waste of talent; and it’s vindictive.

    I don’t think Girl Power or Woman Power rides on pushing other females (or males) down into a toilet in order to get ahead and get your jollies.

    There’s actually another song that pops up on the radio now and then, male singer and band, and it’s about suicide because a guy doesn’t feel he can go on without his girl. Very goth. It’s a nice tune. Crappy sentiment, though. Blame the girl for the male narrator’s emo state.

  4. scarlett says

    I’d love for someone to do a song about how encouraging a man to leave his girlfriend/wife for you almost always ends up with him doing the same thing to you down the track. Haven’t these people heard of ‘what they do WITH you they will do TO you’???

  5. MaggieCat says

    I’d like to see the point made that you can’t “steal” someone’s boyfriend (or girlfriend). You can try obviously, although it’s unbelievably tacky and insulting to everyone involved, but you can’t actually do it. You can steal a television because it is insensate and has no will of its own (well, most of the time… ) but a human being shouldn’t be treated as a commodity that you can win or steal or trade in for a better model. Everyone always seems to forget that part, so it winds of being a showdown between two women or two men acting like morons.

  6. scarlett says

    That makes me think of a quote from Zsa Zsa Gabor, that you can’t truly steal someone from someone – that they were theirs or their not.

    Having actually watched the clip… ugh. I can’t believe someone actually subscribes to this kind of cattiness publicly, let alone has so many people think it’s funny. What’s so funny about hitting someone with a golf ball? Those things are hard, and fly fast. You can do some real damage. And what’s so funny about someone falling into a portaloo that tips over? That’s just gross.

    My sis says she’s sending herself up, playing two different characters – the girlfriend and the one who wants to be his girlfriend. I say while there’s some degree of subtley to irony, if that’s her idea of subtle, she’s completely missed the mark. It’s just crap. She was doing better with Complicated and Skater Boy (however it’s spelled).

  7. Gategrrl says

    My sis says she’s sending herself up, playing two different characters – the girlfriend and the one who wants to be his girlfriend. I say while there’s some degree of subtley to irony, if that’s her idea of subtle, she’s completely missed the mark. It’s just crap. She was doing better with Complicated and Skater Boy (however it’s spelled).

    You know, I wasn’t sure if that was Lavigne playing the nerdy goody-two-shoes girl or not. The tiny video wasn’t clear enough to let me know for sure! If it were apparent that the Nerdy Girl was the same girl, trying to change her image into one of a goth sex pot (and yes, I realize those are loaded terms)…well…I’m not sure what “message” that would have been sending, except one that “Grease” made evident back when I was in Junior High. Nerdy, or Good girls, don’t get the boys they want: only sexy slutty behavior and looks gets them to look at you twice, so you can keep them.

    Oh yes: Grease was on TV the other day, and we watched it. I wasn’t thrilled with the message in that movie back then, and certainly not now.

    Makes me wonder how the guys think about this sort of thing – that a girl should sex herself up as a … Bratz Doll in order to get attention and keep her man. Maybe they don’t mind being demeaned like that? Or are they being demeaned?

  8. Jennifer Kesler says

    I think they are being demeaned, but since society artificially limits how demeaned a man can be by a woman (via denial, which all your friends will join you in), it doesn’t affect them much, so why not just be shallow and bask in the sense that She has to Be Sexy to Keep Your Gloriousness?

  9. Gategrrl says

    I suggest you take a look at the purpose of this website.

    If you don’t think the song is worth critiquing, then why bother commenting on a site that does?

    Yeah, and I do believe that there’s plenty of crap in the media that shows our girls, cheap songs, shitty movies, that girls are there to service the boys. Kinda goes for minorities, too, when all they see themselves portrayed as are whores, drug dealers, servants, sex slaves and red shirts in the back ground with postive roles few and far between.

    Yeah, even a stupid little song like this contributes to that pile on by the entertainment media.

  10. Jennifer Kesler says

    You go, Gategrrl. :D

    I trolled it out too, just because they should always be forced to wear the hat. :D

  11. scarlett says

    Hehe, love the toll hat :p

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… most of what we critique here is ‘just a movie’ or ‘just a song’. There’s nothing we’ve critiqued on this site which as, on its own, contibuted a lot to patriarchal values. But it’s all these thousands and thousands of ‘just a movie’ and ‘just a song’ which really add up.

    And I second Gategrrl – why do people come onto a critical websiteif you don’t think the culture is worth critiquing? Surely you recognised within a few sentances that this is not a fansite???

  12. Jennifer Kesler says

    My answer to “Just don’t watch the show/video/whatever” is always “Just don’t visit my blog, then.”

    You can’t tell me to do the opposite of what you’re doing and expect me to grant you credibility.

  13. sbg says

    I spent today in a migraine haze, which included lounging on the loveseat with the TV on. That’s not a good cure for an aching head, by the way, but that’s another story.

    I had on Nickelodeon. During a commercial break, there came an advertisement for “Kidz Bop 12″…which included, in their words, kid-friendly songs, sung by kids!

    On the track listing – Avril’s Girlfriend.

    Yeah. Uhm, sung by kids does not automatically make a song kid friendly.

  14. Jennifer Kesler says

    WTF is Nickelodeon thinking there? How could you listen to your kid singing those lyrics and not think, “Hey, whoa, what?” A catchy tune wouldn’t diminish that effect.

  15. MaggieCat says

    Yeah. Uhm, sung by kids does not automatically make a song kid friendly.

    Hee. Considering that by age 6 I knew all the words on the album Bat Out Of Hell, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show by age 9, I can say from experience that you’re right.
    (My parents were very, very strange.)

    Sorry, it’s late here and that’s where my brain went. :-)

  16. Gategrrl says

    Kidz Bop is a series of CDs that advertises on Nick, and some other kids oriented channels. There are a fair number of pop songs on these albums.

    My daughter doesn’t like them, even if the songs are sanitized. After all, who in their right mind wants to listen to hit songs not sung by the person who made it a hit?

    An interesting trend in the music industry: in order to sell music/songs to younger audiences, studios/record companies have “clean” versions up on their music sites. Especially iTunes.

  17. Jimmy K says

    The video is crap and so are the lyrics. Stuipd girls like Avirl make good F* buddies but not good girlfriends. The video is truely offensive yet this garbage gets pumped out day after day from the music and movie establishment. And we wonder why kids kill each other in school…

  18. says

    I know the video. Its really mean. I mean, that Black dressed dumbo is practicly killing a girl to take her stupid boyfriend.

  19. SunlessNick says

    Haven’t these people heard of ‘what they do WITH you they will do TO you’??? - Scarlett

    Which in this case also includes watching as the next girl who wants him beats his current girlfriend to a pulp, apparently entertained by the whole thing. What a catch; nothing like training girls to set their sights low.

  20. Scarlett says

    The Other Bolyen Girl should be recommended reading for any girl who CAN read. Girl sets her sights on married man. Girl seduces man away from wife. Girl finds out that if a man can be seduced away from his wife once, he can be seduced away from his wife again. While they don’t behead wives who their husbands have lost interest in anymore, has anyone learnt anything in the last 500 years?!?!

  21. Andy says

    I’ve been trying to find a place to rant about this for sometime now.

    Avril had problems as a young girl and spent most of her time in her room writing music. I found it quiet disturbing that now with her new found fame and her “sk8er boi” husband she thinks its ok to bully others.

    The video is pathetic and I’m surprised that nobody of importance has realised it. If this was somebody a little less perfect the media would have been all over them!

  22. Charles RB says

    Got linked back here, and YES! More people who hate this song and vid with the fury of a thousand suns! Thank Christ!

    I’m always disturbed when people like this song (and I know some who do). Even divorced from the video, it’s someone singing about how they’re obsessing over you, want to forcibly get rid of your current girlfriend, and are slagging her off something fierce while screaming about how great they are – cover this up with a catchy cheery beat and it’s still pretty ugly, arguably UGLIER because of the cheery backing.

    What it needs is a cover version designed to bring out the inner ugly, like the Alanis one of My Humps.

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