Tales from MVT: “Girlfriend” by Avril Lavigne

Tales from MVT is a regularly-occurring series of blog posts where I choose one of the videos from our Music Video Theatre sessions and write about it. Music Video Theatre has become one of the most fun and enriching experiences of my current life, and for a multitude of reasons, has sparked abundant creativity. It serves as the inspiration for this series of silly little blog posts.

Song: “Girlfriend”
Artist: Avril Lavigne
Director: The Malloys
Appeared in: MVT Vol. 12
Chosen by: Me


“It’s annoying. Of course it’s annoying. Avril Lavigne has a voice like a knife, and if you aren’t in the mood for that voice, even her most majestic ballads can feel like they’re specifically engineered to make your brain bleed. ‘Girlfriend’ is that voice cranked all the way up and then given a megaphone. She’s just bleating at us the whole time, and the canned guitar riffage and big drum booms can feel forced and oppressive. But the song is also catchy and insidious enough to get stuck in your head from here to eternity.” – Tom Breihan writing about “Girlfriend” in his The Number Ones column.

That paragraph comes about ¾ of the way through the column, and it’s dead-on. But here’s the very first paragraph of that same article.

“Avril Lavigne’s ‘Girlfriend’ kind of sucks, but it kind of sucks in a way that I like. I realize that this doesn’t necessarily make a ton of sense, and it’s not the kind of praise that I intend to hand out very often, but the blatant shittiness of ‘Girlfriend,’ Avril Lavigne’s only Hot 100 chart-topper, is the right kind of blatant shittiness. It’s the kind of shittiness that I can’t fully hate, no matter how hard I try.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself, which, I suppose, is why I just block-quoted that article twice. It’s probably also why I continue to choose high-gloss, high-cheese horseshit like this, and why when our MVT cohort Jeff chooses something like “Boy with a Coin” by Iron & Wine which features remarkable indie folk guitar picking and beautiful flamenco dancing, I find my attention flagging. I recognize all of the elements of his video as excellent. I also recognize I’ll likely never watch it again because it bores the shit out of me. It’s beautiful. It’s exquisitely executed. And the fact that I’m not into it makes me feel like a fucking rube.

MVT is a buffet, and even stuff I don’t necessarily like, I deeply appreciate getting exposed to. In cooking it’s said that the best dishes all have salt, fat, heat and acid. You need those four elements in some measure to propel a dish from good to great. Those elements could be applied to the four MVT participants, and if we continue this metaphor, Iron & Wine is rich, nourishing fattiness like a nice, rich stew on a cold day, and that Avril Lavigne video is pure acid.

In the video you have a preppy red-haired girl (played by Avril) playing miniature golf with her boyfriend, when black-haired punk girl (also played by Avril) shows up and starts terrorizing the preppy girl while blatantly trying to steal her boyfriend. It’s thoroughly ridiculous and played as big and broad as possible, which is fitting for a song whose chorus is “Hey! Hey! You! You! I don’t like your girlfriend! No way! No way! I think you need a new one!”

The song and the video are an assault on the ears and the eyes, and I love it so much. Hook this antic, Looney Tunes nonsense right up to my veins and I’ll coast on the dopamine rush for hours afterward. It’s cultural junk food that you’ll burn out on quickly enough, but the quick jolt of caffeine, sugar, and empty calories is a fucking RUSH. And it lends itself to great MST3K and Beavis & Butthead moments.

At some point, I turned to Jason and attempted to say this: “One thing I also like about this video is that it takes place at Golf N Stuff, which is where they went on that date in The Karate Kid.”

What I actually said was, “One thing I also like about this video is that it takes place at Golf N Stuff…” to which Jason interrupted, “Ah yes, Golf N Stuff. That’s where I do all of my golfing and most of my stuff.”

The next 60 seconds are something of a blur because I started laughing uncontrollably and could barely breathe. First of all, that’s a perfect reference to Parks and Recreation, which happens to be my all-time favorite show. Second, he INTERRUPTED me to frying pan me in the face with that joke. And third, really the best way to enjoy this insipid Avril Lavigne video is to have a friend say something so funny to you in real life that you laugh your way through like half of it.

A decade ago when craft beer fandom could be an entire personality and I was trying new breweries every weekend, I used to try and differentiate myself from the neckbeards by saying dumb shit like, “I’m not a beer connoisseur, I’m an enthusiast. I will appreciate the subtleties and nuances of the malt profile of this Russian imperial stout (or whatever the fuck I pretended like I knew what I was talking about), but I will also gladly shotgun a Coors Light with you in the alley before this Reverend Horton Heat show.” It was a distinction without a difference because I was still full of shit and just cloaking myself in a different color of pretension.

But in the case of music videos, I truly do love the high art/low art tension of these lists. Because music videos can be anything. And sometimes the frothiest bullshit like “Girlfriend” is the most fun especially when it happens in a place where you do all of your golfing and most of your stuff.

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