When the ugly is beautiful

I love Third Eye Blind, and after a long hiatus, they released a new album, Ursa Major, in August of 2009. It’s not my favorite of their albums–I’d say that’s a toss up between Blue and Out of the Vein–but it does have one of my favorite songs of theirs: Don’t Believe a Word (which, incidentally, has a kick ass video of black and white stop motion photography).

I’ve got a habit of listening to songs on repeat until I know all the words, and I’ve probably listened to this song a hundred times (and I still can’t get all the words!), including yesterday in my car on the way home from work. And there’s this one line in the song that I just love–but that I feel sort of wrong for loving.The line goes “Give me back my photos will you? / You fucking whore I’ll kill you.” And I just love the way those last six words sound linguistically: all the soft sounds broken up by the two hard aspirations on the Ks.

Yes, it’s an ugly line–especially when I think about the cultural implications and stereotypes surrounding the word whore, but something about the way the letters sound on my tongue makes it a bit beautiful.

And this isn’t the only line of Third Eye Blind’s that I feel both ways about. The entire middle section of Semi-Charmed Life is often omitted from radio versions of the song yet it’s my favorite part, especially the strange image of a woman lying face down on a mattress. The song Slow Motion has numerous instance of the physical beauty in really ugly things such as the arc of a fist as a man beats up his wife, or the color of blood from a nose bleed after snorting coke. Jumper is the story of a gay high school student who committed suicide. Wounded is about a woman trying to move past a sexual assault.

But many people refuse to acknowledge any worth in something awful. I know a woman who will stop reading (and attempt to return) any book with profanity, regardless of the rest of the book. And I can almost understand the argument of not wanting to be exposed to these types of instances in art when they are already so prevalent in the real world, but in the end, I feel that art can help us understand these hard-to-face things, can get us talking about them, and help us recognize that they don’t just happen to “others.”

I’m not talking about darkness for the sake of shocking and I’m not saying that thing like beating up your wife become less horrific because of the beauty with which they can be talked about. I’m not advocating for movies like the Saw or Hostel movies that seem to glorify violence only in order to titillate. I’m not advocating for the promotion of senseless violence. But I do see a use, and in these Third Eye Blind songs I see more of a window into a world that too many people would rather pretend doesn’t exist. And by taking something horrific and turning it into something with a bit of beauty, it becomes easier to address.

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