August 11, 2004

Pop Classics, Revisited

The other day, British daytime talkshow host Richard Madeley got himself into a spot of bother by referring to lesbians as 'dykes' on air (he claimed he did it because he thought the term had changed from a derogatory one to a "hip" one).

Anyway, all that's really by the way, but the reason I bring it up is because, while reading the BBC's report on the incident, I discovered that another term entering the already overflowing arena of homolexemes is 'boi', meaning "a boyish gay man or lesbian".

Which I think throws a whole new light on Avril Lavigne's song 'Sk8er Boi'. Let's take another look at the lyrics, bearing this new information in mind...

He was a boi
She was a girl
Can I make it any more obvious?


Clearly, the use of the term 'boi' throws the character's gender into doubt. Although Lavigne does specifically use the term 'he', the concreteness of this term is later belied by the claim that "He wanted her"-- clearly, for a 'boi' to be sexually interested in a 'girl', the term must be referring to a homosexual female, not a male. Given this, I would suggest that 'Sk8er Boi' is, in fact, a very masculine homosexual girl (the line "Can I make it any more obvious?", in this context, takes on a playful irony: Lavigne could, indeed, make things far more obvious).

He wanted her
She'd never tell
Secretly she wanted him as well.
But all of her friends
Stuck up their nose [sic]
They had a problem with his baggy clothes.


Clearly, these lines are not the diatribe against high school cliques that they seem to be; they are, in fact, a scathing critique of the "compulsory heterosexuality" of mainstream society (see, for example, "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence" by Adrienne Rich). The 'girl' of the song is struggling to come to terms with her newfound feelings of desire, including the possibility that she may be a homosexual. However, her teachers and peers have socialized her to believe that homosexuality is 'wrong' (indeed, is not even an option), and the 'girl' is forced to remain in the closet ("secretly she wanted him as well"). Of course, in today's climate of political correctness, it would be quite impossible for people to openly tell the 'girl' that homosexuality was wrong; thus, they veil their message in superficial criticisms about the 'boi's' apperance.

He was a sk8er boi
She said 'see you later, boi'.
He wasn't good enough for her.
She had a pretty face
But her head was up in space
She needed to come back down to earth.


However much the 'girl' tries to resist her homosexual urges, Lavigne seems to be suggesting that she will, one day, have to face them ("See you later, boi"). In the meantime, however, she tries to justify her decision not to pursue the 'boi' with superficial, hegemonic values: since she has "a pretty face", she must clearly be destined to complete an idealized heterosexual family (one with a beautiful wife, rich husband, big house, etc.). Lavigne disputes this heterosexual ideal, painting it as nothing more than a pipe dream ("she needed to come back down to earth"; the 'ideal' is merely "space", nothingness).

Five years from now
She sits at home
Feeding the baby, she's all alone.


Here, Lavigne further compounds the falseness of society's heterosexual ideal. Although the 'girl' has fulfilled her dream, she is still "all alone", as the dream was always an empty one.

She turns on TV
Guess who she sees?
Sk8er boi rocking up MTV.
She calls up her friends,
They already know,
And they've all got tickets to see his show.


Although Sk8er Boi might seem to have been accepted at this point (appearing in mainstream culture), this acceptance is a hollow one. The same homophobes who rejected the 'boi' earlier on are now his 'fans'; but clearly the relationship is one of convenience. Sk8er Boi provides them with entertainment, and so is kept around for their amusement, like a member of a freak show (a freak show for which everyone--ie. society-- "has tickets"). Lavigne is striking out against the treatment of homosexuals as 'jesters' for heterosexual society (eg. Queer Eye For the Straight Guy, etc.).

She tags along,
Stands in the crowd,
Looks up at the man that she turned down.


"Stands in the crowd" is an obvious metaphor for being swept away by society. The juxtaposition of "looked up" and "turned down" symbolizes her wavering feelings about her own sexuality.

Sorry girl but you missed out;
Well tough luck that boi's mine now
We are more than just good friends
This is how the story ends.


The story ends, as Lavigne later explains, with the 'boi' in love and having his (her) world rocked ("Haven't you heard/How we rock each others' world? [sic]"). In other words, only a homosexual who has fully come to terms with his or her homosexuality can truly be happy in life. Those, like the 'girl', who repress their own desires will "miss out".

Finally, to remove any doubt that the 'boi' is in fact a homosexual female, I draw your attention to these lines in the final verse:

Too bad you couldn't see . . .
There is more than meets the eye
I see the soul inside.


...

Yes, I may be taking the piss just a little.

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