So i’ve discovered this new artist, a singer. Her name is Emilie Autumn, and she has bipolar disorder (according to common knowledge and Gothic Charm School). Some of her songs are obviously about mental illness, mentally ill people, and how mentally ill people are treated by society (both contemporary and past). They are also about who is perceived to be sane, and who is perceived to be not. It is for this reason that Emilie is interesting to me. Now, of all the songs by her that I know, two deal with mental illness. These songs are “Take The Pill” and “Girls! Girls! Girls!”. These are the songs that I will be discussing further in this post. Both songs are quoted from the lyrics videos that I found on Youtube. Although “Gothic Lolita” (which is about childhood sexual abuse) and “Fight Like A Girl” (something of a feminist anthem) are both worth your time, I will not be discussing them here. Neither of them deal with mental illness.
“Girls! Girls! Girls!” is sung (in literary terms) by an unreliable narrator. He claims to treat the mentally ill women under his care with humanity. However, he treats them like freaks. He refers to the women under his care as “entertainment”. This song paints a picture of a man making money off of spectators looking to gawk at mentally ill people. He refers to them in the chorus as “hot, nuts, and suicidal”. This is the beginning of the narrator sexualizing the women. He says although “they look a lot like you and me, don’t let them fool you!” This is an example of dehumanization. Apparently, in the period this song is set in, insanity was considered purely a feminine thing. The narrator speculates that the instability of female reproductive organs, and their influence by the moon, is what causes insanity.
The song then progresses to openly address the misogyny of the time. The narrator declares that a lady’s brain is “really very small”, and that “a simple thought is quite a strain”. The douche says that mentally ill women are really more like animals than people, who he says have no souls. He then says it’s ok to point and laugh. It ends with the narrator saying to obey the social rules of the time, and keep their mouths shut, and not cultivate their minds, or think for themselves, or try to have any rights, or this is what will happen to them.
If this doesn’t have any woman, or any mentally ill person, or any human for that matter, shivering in their skin, I don’t know what would. This is a truly brilliant song, that everyone should listen to. However, it is important to read between the lines, or the real message will be lost.
Now onto “Take the Pill”.
This is the song for any mentally ill person that does not want to take their medications. This song could also be for someone who suffers horrible side effects. This could also be for anyone who is being forced to take meds against their will. It could also be for anyone who starts taking meds, goes into depression from a mania, and blames their meds for their decline. Either way, this song is very obviously about forced treatment. The first chorus is the line “Get back in line” over and over. This is very powerful for me. Saying “You’ll be just fine” (this is after the chorus) is the one comforting thing the doctors say for the entire song. The effect is extremely disconcerting. By the end of the song, the doctors say “Your accusations are a joke, your credibility is shot.” The patient’s only choice is to keep their “eyes down and mouths shut”. The song goes on to highlight that people are more likely to believe a doctor than a mentally ill person. The narrators proceed to say that “the drugs are your only friend”. The song ends with chanting “Take the pill” “take it” and “swallow” over and over again. After are some windchimes, creating a sudden calm after all that pain. I hope that was a happy ending.
The first chorus is the line “Get back in line” over and over. The last line of the chorus is “You’ll be just fine”, the one comforting thing the doctors say for the entire song. The effect is extremely disconcerting. By the end of the song, the doctors say “Your accusations are a joke, your credibility is shot.” The patient’s only choice is to keep their “eyes down and mouths shut”. The song goes on to highlight that people are more likely to believe a doctor than a mentally ill person. The narrators then proceed to say that “the drugs are your only friend”. The song ends with chanting “Take the pill” “take it” and “swallow” over and over again. After, there are some windchimes, creating a sudden calm after all that pain. I hope that was a happy ending.
I don’t know how historically accurate those songs are. Mainly, they’re a frikkin horror show. However, it is quite amazing to hear songs about mental illness for once. No one ever sings about it. More people should.
Now, do these songs help or hinder our cause? In the case of “Girls! Girls! Girls!”, we are encouraged to sympathize with the mentally ill, who in modern days would be considered quite sane. But there lies the crux. This song only mentions the “chronically hallucinating” in passing, and implies that most mentally ill people aren’t really mentally ill at all…just different. This isn’t true. As we all know, there are such thing as truly mentally ill people.
“Take the Pill” paints a nightmare portrait of mental hospitals. And personally, I don’t think this helps us. It encourages people who need hospitalization to stay the hell away. And people who believe that everything this song mentions still goes on in the present day…and people who’s knowledge of mental hospitals doesn’t extend beyond “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”…are more likely to refuse to visit us when we are sick. Because they are so fucking afraid of mental hospitals. Because they are fucking cowards.
When I was in the hospital, I didn’t get to choose whether to be there or not. I had to face my environment, and deal with it, every single day. I had to be battered by the voices, hallucinations, and delusions, every day. I didn’t get a choice in that. Believe me, if I could have…I would have run away from that situation. But I couldn’t. And I resent that Hameed, because he had read “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” and probably listened to songs like “Take the Pill”, didn’t have the compassion or the courage to face my illness with me. He just ran away.
Like a coward.