Avril Lavigne’s 2002 hit song Sk8er Boi (pronounced ‘skater boy’) is an excellent example of the kind of dualistic duplicity practiced by many artists with a Message. It is a song aimed clearly for teenage girls, but its real message, the one that parents might find objectionable, is covered up by an ‘official message’, one that the parents can’t argue with.
The song is ostensibly about a teenage boy who wants a girl who is too stuck-up to appreciate the ‘real’ person inside him:
“He was a punk, she did ballet
What more can I say?
He wanted her, she'd never tell
secretly she wanted him as well.
But all of her friends stuck up there nose
they had a problem with his baggy clothes.
He was a skater boy, she said see ya later boy
he wasn't good enough for her”
Later on in life, he strikes it rich and she strikes out:
“five years from now, she sits at home
feeding the baby
she's all alone
she turns on tv
guess who she sees
skater boy rockin' up MTV”
This sets up the song’s official message: judge people by the content of their character not by their external appearances:
“too bad that you couldn't see
see that man that boy could be
there is more that meets the eye
I see the soul that is inside”
Who can argue with that? We shall overcome!
I mean, if she had not been so shallow, she wouldn’t have ended up as a (presumably) single mom in a dead-end life. If she had seen the potential inside skater boy, she could have been Nancy Spungen to his Sid Vicious. Oh wait. That didn’t turn out so well.
In any event, the official message is just a wank for the parents.
Which brings us to the unofficial message, the one that actually excited the young female fans of the song: go ahead, chase after the lowlife jerk you really like. You don’t have to settle for the goody two-shoes wimp your mother is trying to set you up with.
So how do we know skater boy is the kind of bad boy that makes girls’ hearts’ run pitter-patter? Lavigne leaves plenty of clues:
“He was a skater boy” – i.e. a cool guy,
“He was a punk, she did ballet” – i.e. he was a rebel,
“his baggy clothes” – i.e. he was stylish,
“now he's a super star
slamin' on his guitar” – i.e. he’s an alpha-male rock star.
The song is sung from the perspective of Skater Boy’s Nancy Spungen:
“sorry girl but you missed out
well tuff luck that boys mine now
we are more than just good friends
this is how the story ends”
I’ve got some bad news for you honey, I doubt it. Part of what you love most about him - his state indifference (i.e. his coolness) – means that you will be just one in a long line. But that’s another truth about human nature that Avril glosses over.
Traditional morality implicitly understands that young women are instinctively attracted to alpha male thugs (notice the lyric, “secretly she wanted him as well”), and that this is bad for society because female preferences play a big role in shaping male behaviour. When women tend to prefer beta-male provides, men tend to act like beta-male providers. When women choose alpha goons, then men will act likewise. Because traditional morality knows that beta-male providers form the backbone of modern society and alpha males can be antisocially disruptive, it places a lot of emphasis on influencing female choice: “find a nice young man,” “don’t be the kind of girl who goes out with him”, etc.
All of which is a real downer for young women who are simultaneously feeling the urgings of their instincts to snag the most alpha-est macho man, regardless of his destructive proclivities. Hence the real appeal of the song. It gives cover to the most primitive instincts of young women under the veneer of Civil Rights terminology.
Notice also the juxtaposition of the words ‘punk’ and ‘ballet’. The kid with bourgeois, middle class values ends up a loser while the anti-social rebel becomes a “super star”. Does this happen in real life?
Occasionally. But it’s not the way to bet. Thanks to the popularity of this song, I’ll wager there were a significant number of young people who took the long shot and ended up snake-eyes in the lottery of life.
Which is why the song's lyrics are stupid. Or, to be more precise, evil.