In the age of misogyny-inspired mass shootings, a cute pop song from my childhood is ominous

Do you all remember Joe Jackson’s 1979 breakout single “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” It has a catchy, quirky rhythm and engaging lyrics.

Nearly 40 years later, after learning about domestic violence and hearing about those who engage in mass shootings, I imagine that the protagonist of the song is doing more than “staring as my coffee grows cold” and getting “so mean around the scene.” I imagine him stockpiling guns and ammo so that Jeanie learns the hard way that her new boyfriend isn’t half the man he is. Then we won’t have to find out “if looks could kill.” We’ll have proof that a real man with guns can.

Of course, many popular cultural songs from every genre portray great violence against domestic partners. My favorite is Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of “Hey Joe.” Commercial rap music is sadly replete with the theme of controling women using violence. But my parents, on our vacations, would plug in an 8-track cassette of Sir Tom Jones which included “Delilah.” The next to last line of an excellent country music song with anti-war themes, Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town by Kenny Rogers, is  “And if I could move I’d get my gun and put her in the ground.” And I guess we should overlook the intimate partner violence in the opera Carmen by Georges Bizet.

Hat tip to Gina Barreca. She wrote an article on this theme in 2000, and she alerted me to a Dixie Chicks song “Goodbye Earl which is an alternative to the narrative of widespread tolerance of domestic violence.

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