Sexx Laws

Tonight’s song is Beck’s “Sexx Laws.” The video for this song really makes me laugh. And it has Jack Black!

This song is what it sounds like inside my head most of the time. It’s bold, it has a horn section and a part for the banjo, just like the inside of my head does.  Plus, the chorus kinda says it all:

I wanna defy the logic of all sexx laws

Let the handcuffs slip off your wrists

I’ll let you be my chaperone

At the halfway home

I’m a full-grown man but I’m not afraid to cry…

Aside from the sheer joy of this song, it reminds me of possibly my favorite television show evar, Strangers with Candy. In case you missed it in the late 1990’s (for shame!), Strangers with Candy chronicled the foibles of Jerri Blank, a 46-year-old high-school dropout and runaway who spent a life on the streets before returning back home, moving in with her father and stepmother, and starting high school all over again. Yes, you read that right. The premise is wildly improbable, of course; it basically furnishes an occasion for Jerri to get into all sorts of situations straight out of old afterschool specials from the 1970’s and crash through them with ex-prostitute fish-out-of-water aplomb. Jerri can be counted on to do or say precisely the wrong thing in any given situation, and usually the wrong thing involves something impossibly filthy.

Jerri is an extremely complicated character. On the one hand, we are clearly meant to feel superior to Jerri. She is blatantly racist, small-minded, deliberately ugly, and does horrible things like defecate on home furnishings and give the homecoming king syphilis. On the other hand, though, she is needy and uncool, desperate for friends, and perpetually confused by her inability to fit in. Jerri simply does what comes naturally to her, and what comes naturally to her after a lifetime on the streets is hardly appropriate for a suburban high school. Yet Jerri is ultimately a sympathetic character because she is at the very least straightforward and honest, which is more than can be said for every other character on the show, from hypocritical, uptight, closeted history teacher Mr. Noblet (played perfectly by Stephen Colbert) to her hideous, hateful, keeping-up-appearances stepmother. If you’ve never seen the show before, track it down somewhere. It’s trashy and occasionally extremely offensive and utterly indescribable. And over the ending credits of the very last episode of the show, the cast dances to Beck’s “Sexx Laws,” which is possibly the most appropriate ending in the history of television.

I feel like Jerri Blank often. Few people understand just how intense and institutionalized the academic life is. It imposes tremendous demands upon those who devote their lives to it, as I once did, and it habituates them to all sorts of odd customs and outright indignities. It is– and I use this comparison seriously and deliberately– rather like I imagine prison to be. Unlike prison, I was able to leave the academy voluntarily, but like a parolee, I found it (and sometimes still find it) extremely difficult to live on the outside. I am a middle-aged man who never got out of school and learned how the world works. I often feel like a fish out of water, saying or doing the entirely wrong thing, too large or too weird to fit in most situations. There is no halfway house, either, for people like me, unless four months of unemployment or underemployment counts.

I wish I had half of Jerri Blank’s ability to be herself regardless. I get by pretty well by being nice and keeping my mouth shut, which probably serves me better than the alternative. Just once, though, I want to burst into a room and shout out “I GOT SOMETHING TO SAAAAAAYYYYY!”:

God love the Jerri Blanks of the world.

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