Pink: Please Don’t Leave Me

I’m a long fan of singer Pink. She frequently writes about female independence and mindless female stupidity, domestic abuse, the toxicity of fame and is unapologetically political. But as for clip to her newest single, – Please Don’t Leave Me, well, I would have expected more class from Avril Levigne, let alone Pink.

The album, Funhouse, was written following her split from her husband and has themes of anger, regret and growth. The song itself is about a woman who took her partner for granted, emotionally and verbally abused him until he’d had enough and left her. There’s shades of Scarlett O’Hara as a woman who didn’t realise what she was taking for granted until it was gone. But Scarlett eventually learns that she has no-one but herself to blame and that if she truly loves Rhett, she has to let him go. As for this clip… if you haven’t seen it, imagine Misery’s Annie Wilkes. I’m not exaggerating, it’s the most common analogy made by YouTube commenters.

When he first tries to leave, he slips on some marbles she leaves at the foot of the stairs and falls down them. In the hospital, she’s spoon-feeding him, then takes a golf club to his knee. When they’re back at their house and he tries to hobble away, she sics her dog onto him. Then she pushes him in his wheelchair down a flight of stairs and into a scene involving creepy-looking dolls that could have been pilfered from a b-grade horror movie. Finally, when he tries to leave again and she’s physically trying to make him stay, she slips on her own marbles, over the banister and hits the ground a storey below. The clip ends with her singing the closing lines as he’s being carted off in a stretcher by the ambulance officers.

I don’t get what point Pink is making. Sure, she’s not the first person to have revenge fantasises about an ex. But to express it in such a way? To present herself as a woman who would rather see her partner brutally injured, even dead, than someone who has to dignity to let him go? It not only reflects badly on Pink, but perpetuates the stereotype of the bitter, vengeful woman who would rather see her partner dead than without her.

Comments

  1. Cat says

    I like P!nk, too, and really enjoyed the song, but hadn’t seen the video (until now). I actually had to stop watching it half way through, because it was intensely disturbing to me, and was so clearly domestic violence (how often are women abused to the point where they can’t leave?). I really don’t know what she’s trying to say here.

  2. other Patrick says

    I said it on a German site already. I don’t think this video is so bad. First off, the images mostly pay homage to Stephen King films. Misery is easy, but there’s also Cujo and Shining; only the wheelchair thing I don’t get, but then, I haven’t seen all films made from King books.

    Also, compare this to Justin Timberlakes infamous video (“What comes around”). Here, in the end, Pink lies dead (?) whereas her victim is transported away, finally.

    So I don’t see this as condoning revenge fantasies, more an ironic or postmodern (or both) take on them. There are worse offenders in that regard.

    The video may be misguided, but I don’t think it’s that bad.

  3. scarlett says

    I have a feeling the wheelchair thing is from the Misery movie, from what I’ve seen, Annie carts Paul around in it a fair bit. But if she’s chosen to pay tribute to King – that’s a bit obscue, isn’t it? Even a well-known writer as King can’t be paid homage to in a 3-min clip without a lot of head-scratching WTF?!?!

    As far as Timberlake… there are definitely worse performers out there. But we’re not here to offer ‘could be worse’. We’re here to demand ‘could be better’.

  4. scarlett says

    Ah, ok. Nope, no idea except again, if she’s playing homage to something, it’s very obscure, and it’s not ok to have a pop star paying homage to something where she beats up her ex in various ways rather than just lethim go.

  5. scarlett says

    Oh, Patrick, and I meant to say – I got the feeling too that Pink as trying to be iroic or postmodern like she was with Stupid Girls… but when you start on the domestic violence fantasies without some sort of context – I don’t know who she was trying to appal to.

  6. Robin says

    I can see how the video would be upsetting for those who don’t understand the Stephen King references. The ones that stood out to me were Misery and Cujo, as have been mentioned above, as well as The Shining (the bit at the end with the axe), and Delores Claiborne which is, ironically, a story about a woman killing her husband in order to escape an abusive relationship. Being a fan of King’s work myself, I was entertained by the homages to the film adaptations of his books.

    What I didn’t find so fun were the lyrics of the song itself. They pretty clearly indicate that the relationship being described is mutually abusive and downright unhealthy for both people involved. And because everything in life can be related to Buffy, it was uncomfortably reminiscent of Buffy and Spike’s awful “relationship” during season 6. It was hurtful to both of them and a great relief when it ended.

    That said, I’m hoping that P!nk intended this as a cautionary tale about abuse and obsession. Otherwise, it’s just upsetting for no reason.

  7. says

    Usually like Pink…if she is paying homage to Stephen King, that’s pretty awesome. You don’t see a lot of Misery homages in music videos these days…too much gyrating.

  8. scarlett says

    I feel like a bit of a tool. watching the clip, my mind registered both the Misery and Shining references, but didn’t make the connection that they were both King books. (In all fairness, the only King books I’ve read are Misery, Tommyknockers and Desperation, and I’ve seen TGM, Shawshank and Carrie, so Misery is the only relevant one of those.) Knowing it’s actually a compilation of King homages makes it al least better in her intent, although I still find the clip disturbing. I think part of that is reading the youtube comments, so many are from people who think the whole beat-up-your-ex-to-make-him-stay is funny.

    Sadako, I’m a long fan of Pink to, especially ‘Stupid Girls’. That was brilliant.

  9. says

    Within the context of it being a tribute, the video looks…. fine, I guess, but knowing it’s a tribute doesn’t make me feel any more comfortable about the imagery. It really does feel like it plays into the common “angry vengeful woman” trope.

    My favourite Pink song is “U and Ur Left Hand”, though. “Stupid Girls” was funny the first few times, but after that it felt that she was dissing the ‘traditionally feminine’.

    Funny this would be brought up on the same day I watch Britney Spears’ Womanizer vid for the first time too – THAT one definitely disturbed me. I love the song and the lyrics, but the video is just, ick.

  10. scarlett says

    I think it goes back to what Jennifer Kessler said a while ago about intention. Did Pink INTEND to make a video that at face value comes across as crazy vengeful ex? I highly doubt it. Does that take away from the fact that, even if intended as a tribute clip to a well-known writer, it can easily be interpreted that way? IMHO, no.

    In regards to Stupid Girls, I think the point wasn’t so much that she was parodying the traditionally feminine, but that she was parodying a very narrow standard of beauty that maybe one in ten thousand women achieve naturally – extreme thinness but big boobs (am yet to see someone who was NATURALLY a size 8 and d-cup), toned and tanned with a universal shade of platinum blond hair. Oh, and a dog that fits in a small handbag ;p Which she carries with her everywhere, when she’s not getting herself into overly sexual situations, like washing a car in a tiny bikini :p

  11. says

    “Womanizer”–now *there’s* a song for the ages.

    My daughter was getting mightily into it, and at one point I asked her if she wanted me to tell her what “womanizer” meant. She said NO! I think she really just liked the beat and the rhythm of the music, and the words were just there. She’s 12. If later she understands what the song is about, okay. There are plenty of songs from my childhood that I didn’t “get” were actually about sex until later.

    But songs that set girls upon girls or rip them to shreds…no.

  12. says

    scarlett: How much weight would one give to “intention” though? We’d still question the action and hold them accountable for any possible ill effects, right?

  13. scarlett says

    @ gateggrl, that reminds me of how many people I’ve spoken to who have chosen Sarah McLachlan’s ‘Angel’ as their relationship/wedding song… even though any half-wit who had bothered to read the lyrics would know it’s about someone praying for a friend to kick their addiction. (From the arms of an angel/fly away from here/from this dark cold hotel room/and the endlessness that you fear/you are born from the wreckage/of your silent reverie/in the arms of an angel/fly away from here.) At least your daughter has the excuse of youth to simply like the melody and lyrics without thinking about the words :p

    @jha. The link is below. The first comment I made was this:

    I think intent only matters when the person demonstrates a genuine understanding of why people found their words/actions offensive and actually try to rectify it. I realise there are far more people out there who are ignorant, cowardly and lazy as opposed to downright bigoted and malicious but if the ignorant, cowardly and lazy do nothing to rectify the product of their actions, that makes the effect no less powerful than that of the bigoted and malicious.

    And I hold that to Pink. I’m prepared to believe she wanted to pay homage to King and didn’t realise that a lot of people wouldn’t get it and the clip just comes across as a woman-on-vengeance-spree tripe, but does she recognize backlash like this? I hope so, although I don’t expect to see a public acknowledgment anytime soon :8

    Open Thread: Does Intent Matter?

  14. Patrick J McGraw says

    Scarlett, if you think couples having “Angel” as their relationship song is bad, there have been a number of couples whose relationship/wedding song is Pearl Jam’s “Better Man.” Do people never actually listen to lyrics?

  15. scarlett says

    Good one. Whenever I hear that song, I cringe because I’ve had people say it’s such a beautiful, romantic song and I’m like WTF, have you LISTENED to the lyrics? Also, ‘LoveFool’ by The Cardigans. Shouldn’t the title alone clue you in? Reckon Angel wings by sheer numbers of stupid people subscribing to it, though. (Don’t get me wrong, beautiful song, IT’S JUST NOT A WEDDING SONG!)

    Though I have to admit, my favorite love song is about drug addiction, ‘I’ll Stand by You’, but I like it because the lyrics are ambiguous enough that they can be about ANY kind of love and the addiction element isn’t really obvious until you see the clip.

  16. says

    Best Stupid Wedding Song Ever: “I Will Always Love You.”

    That song is totally about a break-up.

    Ahem, back on topic. Intention matters if you’re judging a person, not a work. In this case, Scarlett is kind of doing both – judging the video regardless of what P!nk meant by it, but also trying to decide if she should lower her high estimation of P!ink as an artist.

  17. scarlett says

    We came up with a few at work: Celine Dion’s ‘It’s All Coming Back to Me Now’. She and her boyfriend had the last in a series of fights, he gets on his motorbike and dies in a crash. It’s a song about grief and loneliness – great way to start a marriage, NOT. Also The Hunter’s and Collector’s ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’ (It’s an Aus band, so it might be a bit obscure) which is about a one-night stand. But I think ‘I Will Always Love you’ wins :8

    I think the song on its own is good. I don’t think she’s glamorizing abuse in a relationship and I like the fact she addresses how destructive and unhealthy emotional abuse can be, which IMHO most people don’t understand. And in all fairness, I think it would be insanely difficult to make a clip for a song like that without either glamorizing/parodying violence like she’s done or doing something inane like most of the clips out there.

    I’m not sure I entirely agree that intention doesn’t matter if you’re judging a work. I’m questioning the intention of her as an ARTIST and how, as an artist, her intentions have influenced her work. I GET that she probably didn’t intend to present herself as a vengeful, axe-wielding ex, but that’s how it comes across to a lot of people.

    It isn’t so much about the intention of the work but the person responsible for it. Admittedly, one of the reasons the clip attracted my attention is that is IS Pink. If it had been Britney or Avril or whoever I wouldn’t have bothered watching the clip, let alone giving them space on this site. They both have far worse track records for rubbish that’s demeaning to women than Pink does. But I hold Pink in quite high regard because she’s done some great songs and clips in the past that addresses themes as a feminist, a human being and a celebrity that other singers are too busy writing sons about love (can someone shoot Taylor Swift, PLEASE?) and gyrating around in their underwear (and Lady Gaga at the same time, thanks). Is it unfair to hold her to a higher standard or is it a compliment that we hold her in higher regard?

  18. scarlett says

    People who don’t have the good sense to listen to the songs they’re getting married to probably shouldn’t be getting married in the first place :8

  19. MaggieCat says

    Best Stupid Wedding Song Ever: “I Will Always Love You.”

    I still have to throw my vote behind the WTF wedding classic “Every Breath You Take”, but this would be my close second. Unless it’s the original Dolly version, in which case an exemption may be applied on the basis of excellent taste.

  20. Bladerade says

    The reason that ppl relate this video to Misery is because (surprise surprise) Pink intended it to be that way. It was her own humor throughout the whole video. She’s begging him not to leave her yet she’s the worst girlfriend ever and then a bunch of Stephen King action. Misery, Cujo, The Shining, Delores Claiborne, and even IT. Its just pink being pink.

  21. bill gates says

    > if you haven’t seen it, imagine Misery’s Annie Wilkes.
    > I’m not exaggerating, it’s the most common analogy
    > made by YouTube commenters.

    Did it ever strike you that the reason why YouTubers are comparing her to Annie Wilkes is because there are very deliberate and obvious allusions to her and the film adaptation of Misery (not the least of which being the hauntingly famous scene in which she breaks his ankles to prevent his escape)?

    The video really brilliantly alludes to the works of Stephen King and the film adaptations thereof, while also bringing more emotional power to the lyrics. To borrow some words offered by the Digital Spy review of the video: “‘Please Don’t Leave Me’ seemed like a quite good angsty break-up song…but after watching the Misery-inspired promo it becomes something far more memorable. ‘I can be so mean when I wanna be, I am capable of really anything,’ sings Pink here, one of several lines that resonate harder once you’ve seen her brandishing a golf club.”

    In a lot of ways, the video is just amazingly-done and easily appreciable through its allusions to an author famed for his contributions to the horror and thriller genres.

    • says

      Yeah, you know, in the comment thread we already did kinda cover the fact that IF you know King’s work and get the allusions, the video plays very differently than if you don’t. But that doesn’t invalidate the impression it makes on people who don’t know the material it’s referencing. Artists have to take that into consideration when choosing to do an homage. There is no work in the universe that everybody knows.

  22. Scarlett says

    Well neither I are my editor are familiar enough with King’s work to get that it was a homage, so that’s al least two of us :8 Had I been aware of that, I might have looked at it differently.

    Having said that, I think Jennifer has a point. No-one, let alone an individual artist’s body of work, is so universally known that you can page homage and everyone will get it. And at the risk of generalising, I don’t think Pink and King have much of a fanbase in common. One of the things I noticed about the comments on youtube is that while people GOT the Misery reference, a lot thought the abusive girlfriend/vengeful ex scenario was funny.

    Part of what I found disturbing about the clip, parody/homage or not, is that I’ve been in an abusive relationship and it’s really not funny. The lyrics themselves are quite good because I think she captures the whole violence-and-remorse attitude of a lot of abusers (hit/insult now, feel bad later, but not bad enough to stop). But the way she went about the clip – I get that she isn’t trying to saying violence/abusive is funny, but that’s still how it can be interpreted.

    And what if we gender reverse the situation? What if we have an abusive man engineering a series of potentially fatal injuries to make his girlfriend/wife stay with him? Would it be as entertaining then?

  23. Annie says

    I was going to point out “I Will Always Love You” as the most stupid wedding song (one of my best friends had it, aaughhh) but Jennifer beat me to it. I’d have chosen Linda Ronstadt’s “All My Life”.

    As a huge Stephen King AND Pink fan, I just love this clip. To me it’s Pink taking responsibility for her part in the break-up with Cory, saying please don’t leave but admitting that she knows she’s a pain in the butt to be around sometimes and has hurt him. It also shows her great sense of humour. I reckon SK would be tickled.

  24. says

    And at the risk of generalising, I don’t think Pink and King have much of a fanbase in common.

    Yeah, exactly. Even when a sci-fi show wants to homage Star Trek, they have to make sure the story holds together and doesn’t send any creepy messages for those who don’t get the homage.

    I tried to watch the P!nk video as if I didn’t get the King references, and to me it came out sort of a muddle. Dolores Claiborne and Misery are both stories of someone holding people captive (physically or financially) and torturing them. If she had stuck to referencing those, the message is clear: “I’m trying to hold you captive in this relationship, and will stoop to any level to succeed.” But there are also references to King stories that have nothing to do with unhealthy relationships like that, and that’s where I get confused. Not sure what she’s trying to say.

  25. Biker says

    As Scarlet posited above; what if the roles were reversed? Would there still be discussion of references to Stephen King books and movies or would the proverbial ‘furr’ be flying over a video that depicts domestic violence?

    Personally, any homage to Mr. King is lacking without even a tertiary mention of Maximum Overdrive. :-)

    On a serious note, this video honestly infuriated me. The references meant nothing, regardless of the fact that I did notice them. The homage to Mr. King’s work placed in the context of a situation of domestic violence is abhorrent!

    Perhaps the action of my ex-wife punching me in the eye after I was spattered by a bowl of yogurt was her homage to Jacky Chan. Makes it no more acceptable.

  26. Dan says

    Well, point A: “IF you know King’s work and get the allusions, the video plays very differently than if you don’t. But that doesn’t invalidate the impression it makes on people who don’t know the material it’s referencing. Artists have to take that into consideration when choosing to do an homage. There is no work in the universe that everybody knows.”

    Frankly, that doesn’t bother me. An artist can’t avoid the risk of someone, somewhere, misinterpreting their work. If some people miss the reference, so be it. It’s the Information Age. Google the video and you’re sure to find someone who mentions the context.

    That said, the Stephen King references here seem pretty facile and pointless, and the gleeful tone to the video is disturbing regardless of the references. I guess it’s dark humor, but it just feels indulgently ugly.

    Also, I can’t stand Pink’s music.

  27. Scarlett says

    For sure, EVERYTHING will, at some point, be misinterpreted by SOMEONE.There will always be someone who doesn’t ‘get it’. But there’s a few people not getting it and than there’s the confusion and distaste this clip has generated in a lot of people. The homage only works for the small group of people who are fans of both King and Pink – and worse, for the rest of us who aren’t familiar with King’s work, the clip can come across as condoning or parodying abuse. If it simply made no sense to someone who wasn’t familiar with King’s work (like myself), I would have had no problem with it. The problem I have is that, intentionally or not, she’s put across a whole different message that whatever it was she planned in the first place. (Assuming, of course, that she didn’t actually PLAN to condone and parody abuse.)

  28. Annie says

    See, I didn’t think she was condoning or parodying abuse…I thought she was parodying herself and condemning her own actions. As in: I know I’m a rotten girlfriend and I try so hard but I get it all wrong and screw it up every time, but please please please stay with me anyway.

  29. Scarlett says

    I actually really like the song because I’ve been in an abusive relationship and I’ve taken a lot of the abusive traits in my next relationship so the theme of knowing you treated someone like shit but still want them to stay strikes a chord with me. It’s the clip itself which I have a problem with. I don’t doubt Pink meant well… but I also know for a lot of people, no matter what she intended, the clip left them feeling she was parodying or condoning abuse.

  30. PGG says

    Ok. I’ve read enough “analysis.”. Can anyone say “borderline personality disorder?”. And I think the worst wedding song could very well be “Every Breath You Take – The Police.” People play this thinking it’s about deep love instead of what it’s really about – stalking!

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