A Couple Different Points of View About the Beach House Video for Wishes

12 Mar

The documentary Room 237 is a feature-length film indulging theories about Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. The documentary and the film theories about the film are a good example of how searching for satisfaction provides answers that fit the question shaped holes in our mind, even if those answers need to be jammed into the holes. The “experts” in this film forced a lot information into their question shaped holes in their head under the guise that Kubrick was a meticulous and borderline infallible director.  Everything has to have meaning if it’s in a Kubrick film. I guess that’s what post-modern film criticism looks like. It sparks the imagination, and if you’re creative outlet is writing scholarly papers or making video essays, then post-modern film criticism is directly for you.

Here’s a wonderful video on Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited that is very much unlike the film criticism in Room 237. The video essay is not jamming answers into the question shape holes, it is studying and observing and with carefully crafting those observations into a coherent focused essay. In the video, he takes all the information in the film as well as surrounding the film, information gleaned from the press tour and general lore of Wes Anderson, to examine the film as a whole. Ideally, this is what everyone with a creative bone in their body wants to happen to their work; for someone to give it the same amount of attention to appreciating it as they did in creating it.

So, that was the set-up. Here’s the pitch: I’m going to examine the Eric Wareheim’s video for Beach House’s Wishes twice. Once in the post-modern-Room-237 way and once in the style of the video essay. The goal is to keep it under a thousand words, so feel free to stop reading after you’ve read the 1000th word in the this post.

The video for Wishes shows great progression in Eric Wareheim’s artistic sensibilities. The video starts with shot of flaring stadium lights burning a horizontal line across screen. The line of the lens flares across the screen symbolize the dividing line between the crowd of observers and willing participants on the field. He takes special care to show this difference between the audience and the performers. Ray Wise is the perfect choice to for this role, he carries that faux-authority-figure cockiness that permeates from high school coaches, as well as having a thematic connection to Beach House by playing Leland Palmer on David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. The band has always had a Lynchian-Badalamenti vibe to it, and casting of Ray Wise to play coach/main attraction fits perfectly with Wareheim’s sensibilities for casting interesting and unique actors instead of aiming at names with the most “star power.” The thematic connection adds to the viewer’s experience of the video and further puts them inline with the audience in the bleachers of the stadium. Wise will play the role of the coach, leader of the team of the fictional and unidentifiable sport and the leader of the performance. This role will be Wareheim’s surrogate throughout the video and the on field performance.

The lens flares that opened the video consistently appear in relation to the coach and the performers on the field. The prior is made to appear as if he’s glowing throughout the video. At first the audience calmly watches as the coach, a figure that is presumably a familiar individual in their lives, begins to sing to the audience. Their attention is rapt, but subdued. As the performance continues and expands in scope the crowed and their admiration of the coach increases. When both the male and female dancers begin to use weapons in the routine, the crowd escalates to near euphoria status. It is at this point in the video where there is an important Eric Wareheim cameo. The camera dollys across the cheering crowd and Wareheim stands unresponsive to the performance he’s observing. He is the literal creator of the pageantry on the field, yet he is sitting with the audience. His lack of response shows the inability to appreciate his own work while in the middle of it, and more specifically right before the performance takes a step toward the grand finale. He is unable, as the director and creator of the project, to feel the same satisfaction as the observing audience.

The performance that began with the lyrics “The roses on the lawn/Don’t know which side you’re on/In a daze it will change.” This is the same question that Wareheim is asking about himself and his creative work. The work being the “roses”; is he a gardener cultivating the beauty of the rose or his he an admirer of the roses? After his cameo, the performance on the field continues to increase in beauty, scope and aesthetic pleasure. The performance causes the audience to have a spiritual experience on par with any Pentecostal worship service. At this point the coach is elevated to royalty, his vision of the performance succeeded and he’s allowed to bask in the satisfaction of the “roses.” It is worth noting that the opening lines of the final verse of the song, “The roses on the lawn/Won’t know which side you’re on” are not (1000th word) sung by the coach, and are the only lines in the song where the coach doesn’t have a microphone. This implies that even Wareheim isn’t sure which side he’s on. Is he on the side of creating beauty or is he an admirer? He, and all artists, have the progression from one side of the lens flare to the other, and this video shows that while in the middle of creating beauty it is impossible to appreciate and admire it with the same passion as the audience.

Now, for the Room 237 take:

The video for the Beach House song Wishes directed by Eric Wareheim mirrors the current  gay rights movement in America. Through the used of color in production design and the recurring gender swapping you can see the Wareheim shows exactly what is happening in the fight for Gay Rights and the struggles of a homosexual individual in the USA.  The first two things I noticed when I watched this film was that there was a lot of very shiny brightly colored fabrics that aren’t traditionally used in athletic competitions because of their inability to breath and keep the athletes cool, and I also noticed that the coach figure was a male, but the lyrics he sang were from a female performer. And that is what really got me thinking that there is something else going on here.

The the beginning of the video he walks through a hung sheet, that has to be pulled back. This is really like his birth and the pulling back of the sheets by the two men with horses masks is a really obvious metaphor for exiting from his mother’s vaginal canal. From birth, society has forced the coach into this masculine role of coach, when all he wants to do is perform and dance, a traditionally homosexual activity. So, as soon he begins singing we realize that this isn’t your typical high school coach; this is a man who wants to be free with his sexual choices. When he takes on the female vocals of this song, it shows that he’s actively trying to become more feminine while staying in his socially acceptable masculine role.

The theme makes itself more obvious when the two waterboys symbolically blast the traditional masculine athletes with the metaphorical semen when the spray their faces with water. Only one of the players is able to hold a mouthful of the metaphorical semen showing a fine example of the closeted gay male in high school athletics. The female cheerleaders then break through a similar banner as the coach walked through showing that they females are forcing their nature instead of embracing it like the coach. Their mission is to seduce the coach and keep him living the heterosexual lifestyle. They dance erotically in front of him, tempting him to return to them. It is no accident that the close-up slow motion shot of the woman shaking her bottom is followed up by the coach shaking his head “no.” He wants nothing to do women. He is clearly a gay man. The cheerleaders conclude their dance by symbolically offering to allow the man to beat them while the remain quite, as seen in the dance move of faux-hitting themselves then covering their mouths.

At this point in the video, the two homosexual waterboys realize that the coach isn’t responding to the female advances and decide to jump into action. With a knowing nod, the two jump at the chance to impress the coach with their offerings. The waterboy’s dance includes faux-pissing contest as well as ripping the clothes from each other’s bodies. This drives the crowd wild. Where before The Gay Rights Movement people would have scoffed at this kind of behavior from men, they are now applauding how gay men are following their nature.

The video then progresses into a battle between the men and the women for the coach’s favor. The cheerleaders break out large phallic weapons, but the waterboy’s show more agility with that as well. Which is when the cheerleaders call in for back up. A new wave a cheerleaders, wrapped in the symbolic vaginal curtains and spin for his pleasure. This causes the fireworks to explode in the background of the screen. This shows that while society, the people in charge of putting on the sporting event and launching the fireworks and attending the event, wants to provide support for the plight of homosexual individual it still prefers the heterosexual pairing, and will support that by adding extra flair, here seen in the form of fireworks, to those relationship.

In the end though, the coach is lead down back behind the curtain, blocking him from the gazing eye of society where he can not be seen mounting the horse and striking the pose similar to the one the curtain. And notice how the horse is exactly out of view from the other side of the curtain. Even if an audience member could see through the slit in the middle of it, the horse and the coach would not be visible. This just shows that The Gay Rights Movement still has a long ways to go and many of the supporters are still fearful of showing their support, as seen by the many members of the crowd wearing horse heads.

Eric Wareheim undeniably meant for this video to be a metaphor for gay rights and the plight of the homosexual individual in society.


C. Charles

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2 Responses to “A Couple Different Points of View About the Beach House Video for Wishes”

  1. Carl Wells March 12, 2013 at 6:18 am #

    I need to see Room 237 to really compare your 2 approaches. I totally missed the whole gay rights message and after reading this I re-watched it and it made total sense. My stupid opinion on Wes Anderson is he has made 2 good movies and those movies are the first 2 Wes Anderson movies you happen to see.

    • ccharlesconfidential March 12, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

      Doc man like you should really check out Room 237. If nothing more to hear delusional people talk about cinema. That’s too harsh. There are some great idea in the film, but it reminds me of the old Freud quote, “Some times a sillioute of a skier is just a sillioute of a skier.”

      If I didn’t have to run to work this morning, I would have re-written the Room 237 to be about the guy deciding to get into beastiality. I forced/found all sorts of images to support that claim too. It would probably be a pretty compelling essay.

      Did you watch the video essay on The Darjeeling Limited? It’s a good critique of film I wasn’t too fond of. Also, did you see Moonrise Kingdom yet?

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