Psychiatric Hospitals and Music Videos: Part 2

People seemed to like the first edition of this series! So here are some more music videos set in psychiatric hospitals! In the last post, all of the videos used the mental hospital setting as a visual demonstration of the depth and intensity of love, depicting institutionalization as a result of loving someone a whole lot. These videos do not do that.

One video that especially doesn’t do that is Green Day’s ‘Basket Case’

Visually, the video seems similar to the previous ones. The band plays in the common room of a mental hospital in which they are patients. There is no padded room, but several people are being wheeled around passively as if they are catatonic or sedated. Later in the video, both staff and patients appear wearing masks from Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. So what is different? The song itself (lyrics here), which is about lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong’s struggles with anxiety and panic attacks. So while in the same setting, instead of declaring his love for someone, he is saying:

Sometimes I give myself the creeps
Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me
It all keeps adding up
I think I’m cracking up
Am I just paranoid?
Am I just stoned?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s Eminem with the video for “The Real Slim Shady.”

There’s a lot going on in this video and I really don’t want to describe or discuss very much of it at all, because it is offensive up and down and across and diagonally in 17 different ways. (Wikipedia has a very detailed description of the video and an explanation of all the references and insults in the lyrics and the video.) Let’s focus just on the portions set in the mental hospital, where Eminem and other patients, in scrubs or hospital gowns, fidget and wander in a waiting room while Kathy Griffin and another nurse try to control them and hand out their medications. It is just as cliched as the other videos’ portrayals of hospitals, but seems to be played for laughs. And the message of the song and the video are that Eminem is so much better than other celebrities and musicians, so much more clever and original and “real,” that he’s been institutionalized to control him for speaking truth to power. This message could be read as a good reminder of the use of institutions to control and punish people both with and without disabilities for being political and advocating for their rights! Like happened just recently! However, the whole rest of the song and the video is so puerile and hateful that the comparison itself is offensive.

Ugh. I dislike Eminem very much.

Let’s move on and look at a video that is utterly ridiculous and is a tie-in to a movie that is also utterly ridiculous – Limp Bizkit and ‘Behind Blue Eyes,’ from the Halle Berry movie Gothika:

I have a really hard time doing any kind of critical analysis of this video due to the aforementioned ridiculousness factor. The song (lyrics here), which was originally written and performed by The Who, can be read as expressing the lived experience of mental illness? Maybe? But the video – which starts with Limp Bizkit lead singer Fred Durst as a patient in a phsyciatric hospital and Halle Berry as a doctor, and then they kiss, and then they have magically switched bodies? souls? something? So now Berry is the patient and Durst is the doctor! Gothika the movie featured Berry as a doctor in a psychiatric institution who became possessed by a ghost and murdered her husband and then was a patient in the institution but only because of ghostly possession, not because she had a mental illness or anything. But even putting all of that ridiculousness aside – and that is a boatload of incomprehensible creative choices – Fred Durst’s efforts to engage in “acting” when he becomes the doctor and leaves Berry in her padded cell make me laugh so hard it’s impossible for me to focus on anything else in the video.

I have a few more videos for a part 3, but if you know of any I’ve missed, please let me know in comments!

2 Comments

  1. It *just* occurred to me that you might not listen to country music! (I love country music. everyone can stop being my friend now.) The Dixie Chicks did a video to “Not Ready To Make Nice” that’s set in a nineteenth century asylum. I would love your response to that.

  2. What about David Bowie’s ashes to ashes or Garbage’s Bleed like me?