Monday, 18 January 2016

The addiction of consumption

Without too much thought, food is one of the basic needs of life. We need it to sustain our bodies to develop and grow and maintain our strength.

If we go without food, we become irate and most of our functioning decreases. Going without food for too long our body goes into starvation, where it kind of eats itself in order to sustain itself. I suppose if you take this on its logical face value, we are in one sense addicted to consuming food both physically and cognitively.

Up until this point, I have also pretty much kept within the boundaries of our relationship with food, its meanings that we attribute to it. Today I will look at food’s relationship with humanity, or rather dark substitutes that, sadly, many consider as routine as ‘food’.

‘Weak and Powerless’ by A Perfect Circle is an interesting song with an even more harrowing music video. In fact, the album to which this song is from The Thirteenth Step (which ironically only has 12 songs in its track listing!) is predominantly focused on the different perspectives, dimensions and consequential recovery of drug addiction.

At no point is food (human food at the very least) shown within the music video, and the only overt reference to food in the lyrics is simply the word ‘feed’ and ‘ravenous’. However, the multiplicity of symbols, allusions and slightly harrowing imagery show the dangers of consuming the wrong products - in this case hard drugs.

A woman with long blonde hair, naked, standing up. The camera edges closer and it becomes seemingly apparent that something is not quire right. Focus is placed on her navel, which instead of a belly button there appears to be this gross, almost burnt looking hole (much unlike some of the graphic anti-smoking campaigns and adverts). It isn’t clear to me whether the intended effect of this is to make it look similar to a black hole, that is commonly understood to have such a poignant gravitational pull even light (a cliche symbol for happiness and life?) cannot escape it OR this is one of the few examples of necrosis in a music video.

I digress.

The initial lyric takes no prisoners to immediately throw the audience into the dark depths to which the song is based on. Using a simple metaphor, “tilling my own grave to keep me level” the speaker outlines the conflict of the entire song - doing drugs to make yourself feel better, however it is bringing him closer to death. It’s matter-of-fact tone directly correlates consumption with decay: the antithesis of what consumption is designed for (see above).

The chorus carries this reading even further:

Desperate and ravenous
So weak and powerless
Over you

Only three lines, the speaker clearly defines the relationship of enslavement. Though subtle, the repetition of the word ‘and’ demonstrates a deeper level of addiction, as the speaker is unable to even form sentences without using a different conjunction or alternative to fuse the clauses together. The first two lines have a similar amount of syllables. By comparison, the final line feels disjointed, which can easily be reflective of the incoherence that substance abuse has led the speaker to.

"Someone feed the monkey while I dig in search of China
White as Dracula as I approach the bottom"

Feed the monkey is an idiom for a serious problem that you cannot forget. A much more sporadic reading into this line conjures an image of organ grinder… although what that has to do with anything I don’t quite know. Meanwhile, ‘dig in search of China’ is an interesting phrase. While ‘China’ is an allusion to opium, if the phrase is taken literally it seems absolutely ridiculous. Somebody digging to find China, picture that for a second. Madness. It is this nonsensical logic that masterfully maps out the mind of an addict, as rational thought is abandoned in order to ensure the next fix.

Intertextuality is used as the speaker refers to one of the most famous Victorian Gothic fiction novels: Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The effect of this technique immediately evokes connotations of horror, disgust and the inhuman as the ‘white’ ‘China’ again recalls the motif of the grave earlier seen in the initial line.

It is during the second chorus that clusters of Amblypygi appear. If you are not a fan of their general appearance - do not worry. I have a newfound fear/loathing for Amblypygi. Horrifying demonic looking creatures. I hate them. I suppose that is the exact purpose in this video.

Amblypygi - horrific looking creatures. Nightmare fuel. 

The more observant of you may notice that the size of the animal that is thrown into the hole gets progressively bigger as the video continues. A lizard, small snake, iguana-based creature and finally a massive python. Each time without fail the insects shred the flesh of the creature and devour it almost immediately… as the hole in the woman’s stomach grows larger and larger. Towards the end of the video (2:41-2:42) the hole incases the entirety of the woman’s body, as what looks like a field of gravity drifts into the cavity that has now formed.

The video, sadly, ends with the creatures leaving the leftover pieces of animal carcass into an imperfect, broken symbol - the symbol of the group. This insignia flashes in the woman’s eyes and in a daze falls into a pit. As an audience we do not find out her fate… but I think it is pretty obvious what this represents.

References: - accessed 21/02/16