The two music videos have obvious similarities: both produced in ‘ninties, era of glossy shows and big ballads, they both showcase the fraught love of a young photogenic couple. The frontman/lead singer for both songs is way beyond average good-looking, and they both sing from the sidelines, as it were, as the narrator of the story. Jarvis from Pulp appears in the TV screen, apparently set in the living room of the young couple, while Jon is yelling away in a different room from the main story. More creepy still, the male half of the couple in both shows bear a striking resemblance to, only not quite as pretty as the lead singer. A pale imitation, as it were. So the viewer in both cases is slightly confused, is this the love story of the actual singer himself? When he was a different person? Or not? And in both cases, the song is quite different from what is going on in the shows. And in both shows, the young lovers are clearly portrayed to be “not rich”, although more on that later.
Though similarities drew me to put the two videos side-by-side, it the differences which are the most striking. I saw “Disco 2000” this past summer, and my first thought was, where have you been hiding all my life? I also thought it was a new video, not from the ‘nineties. Then I realised it is from the same era as the B. Jovi garbage. Only it was never played back then, at least not for us.
So. The point of this post, then, is to show how two things can be superficially similar, indeed, one can be even more famous than the other, but yet, the other is far, far, far better. On a different planet level better.
“Always” was part of our ‘ninties consciousness- by our, I mean the whole satellite-tv-watching battallion of our friends and neighbours in “Ekbatan”, the dingy middle-middle-middle class prison-like suburban set of apartment blocks built close by Mehrabad Airport, west of Tehran. We were fascinated, but absolutely fascinated by that show. How was it possible not to be? In the stifling middle-class propriety of Ekbatan twenty years ago, where a boy and a (covered) girl talking together was breaking news, the behaviour of the young, amazingly beautiful people on “Always” was a revelation. Is it a wonder there are queues out the embassies? A beautiful boy photographs a beautiful girl, they dance, wearing soft, beautiful clothes… the beautiful boy kissess a beautiful roommate. The beautiful girl comes in, and throws a beautiful bag of groceries at them. Oh God, we endlessly discussed what could be in that bag of groceries, I can still remember my mother saying she wishes she was there, to pick up the groceries and take the them home with her. Somewhere in the world, beautiful people are sleeping together, betraying each other, painting pictures of each other, burning each other’s houses… not in Tehran, though. Somewhere.
It was only later, much later upon a rewatching of the show, that I was filled with repugnance at it- phony, violent, stupid. That stupid girl, prancing about, only existing to be looked upon by men, to be photographed or painted. That horrible, self-satisfied, violent boy. That air of “fake” poverty and phony art-ish-ness. Rich people playing poor. Fake people pretending to be genuine. Shallow people pretending to be in love. Exaggerated and unreal emotions. By then, I had learned about feminism, domestic violence, crude media stereotypes, female beauty construced as only existing in the eye of the male gaze, and the show’s moral universe repelled me so much that I wondered how I ever thought those people attractive, or judged that song to be nice.
But Disco 2000- we are in a different universe all together. The “poor”ness of the protagonists shines through: the clothes, the fried egg on toast of the heroine, the wall, the heavy working-class accent of the singer. “we’d gE married and never split Op…” The gentle hesitance of love. The scene where they turn and kiss each other in the taxi breaks my heart. “Her name was Deborah… Deborah” The unbearable nostalgia “let’s all meet up in the year 2000“. It is 2012, and we never met up. Sorrow at the passage of time, the bittersweet blossoming and inevitable fading of love.