Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Juke Box Throwdown: Jane's Addiction- Ted Just Admit It

"Ted, Just Admit It..."

Camera got them images
Camera got them all
Nothing's shocking...
Showed me everybody
Naked and disfigured
Nothing's shocking...
And then he came
Now sister's
Not a virgin anymore
Her sex is violent...

The T.V.'s got them images
T.V.'s got them all
It's not shocking!
Every half an hour
Someone's captured and
The cop moves them along...
It's just like the show before
The news is
Just another show
With sex and violence...

Sex is violent...
Sex is violent...
Sex is violent...
Sex is violent...
Sex is violent...
Sex is violent...
Sex is violent!

I am the killer of people
You look like a meatball
I'll throw away your toothpick
And ask for your giveness

Because of this thing!
Because of this thing!
Because of this thing!

That's in me
Is it not in you?
Is it not your problem?
A baby to a mother...

You talk too much
To your scapegoat
That's what I say
He tells you everyone is stupid
That's what he thinks!

Make a girl look cheap
Like a tongue extended
A baby's to a mother

Sex is violent!
Sex is violent!
Sex is violent!
Sex is violent!

I wanted to focus on this particular song, because Jane’s Addiction has long been one of those bands who I can slip into as easily as a well worn pair of oversized coveralls. I loved them with the intensity that only a 14 year old kid can love a band for a good portion of high school, and then, as is often the case, I sort of forgot about them. However, there have been a few random occasions throughout my adult life where they have come back out of nowhere to remind me of how much I love them. One such occasion was just a few weeks ago when The Dead Guy and I were hanging out and listening to Nothing’s Shocking and Ted Just Admit It popped up. At that moment, I could not help but think about how this particular song, with its themes of sex, violence and media, seems even more relevant today than it was in 1988, when it was released, and again in 1993, when it was included in the Natural Born Killers soundtrack. I then began to babble about it, which is exactly when the idea for Jukebox Throwdown was formed.

That said, I suppose a good place to start with this song would be examining why the lyrics were and are so relevant. Well, obviously, Perry Farrell was reacting to an onslaught of shocking and highly sexualized content in the news media, especially on T.V. I don’t remember the eighties well, but I do remember the very late eighties and early nineties as a time when television news seemed to focus almost entirely on violence and sex. I have no idea if my perception of this time is accurate, or if it was simply a case of me becoming more aware. I suspect it was a combination of the two.

To that end, the title of the song has always made me think of nightly news anchor Ted Koppel. Now, I know that there are references throughout the song to Ted Bundy, whose trial and interviews were being conducted around the time that this song was written, but I think it is entirely possible that the title and resulting lyrics are a double entendre of sorts: asking the listener to consider the fact that most media had become violent and that most of our primal urges are violent by definition. Flash forward to now, and it is easy to dismiss the amount of violence we see in our every day television viewing, even if it is just the nightly news, as a symptom of living in more violent or unstable times, but I think this is a misnomer, and that this song is asking us to examine exactly that.

When we see or hear of an act of violence, from a slightly less than equal sexual encounter to a brutally horrific murder, we are at once repulsed and titillated. Our hearts speed up. We get very agitated. Our endocrine system kicks in and we are flooded with hormones. These reactions are similar to what occurs when we are sexually aroused. This arousal is, of course, uncomfortable for us. No one wants to admit that they feel anything akin to enjoyment when they are confronted with the most heinous of acts, but we do. We know, on a visceral level, that we would not act out of this primal reaction, but just that slight tingling of excitement causes us to watch these items more intensely. We are as captivated by the horrors of truly diseased men as we are by images of sex acts.

As we move along through the lyrics, there are many references to images of naked and disfigured women being made to look cheap. Again, a parallel is drawn between the literal image of a murder victim and the highly polished and artificial images which are presented in pornography. Our society gasps in audible disgust at the idea of seeing an image of a woman who has been cut or altered in an act of violence such as murder or rape, yet images of women whose physical appearances have been altered by a surgeon are widely accepted and even sought after, both now and then. I think that, by using the sexual imagery in the song along with the violent imagery, Farrell was reminding us that we are drawing an invisible and ever moving line between how much violence and disfigurement is acceptable and how much is not and then using that line to both justify our own actions and to sell the actions of those we despise.

In other words, by fetishizing violence in the news ad using it to sell ad space and keep viewers engaged while lashing out against sexual imagery in the main stream, we have created a bizarre vacuum. We spend hours viewing acts which are vile, heinous and frightening via the news and no one questions it. However, we still fight to keep images of sexual acts and expressions under cover. Perhaps, we, like Ted, need to admit that this sort of shaming of something natural and beautiful along with the exploitation of something so vile may be causing some of the problems we are facing.


After the Tipper Gore PMRC debacle, many bands felt it necessary to mock, stand up to, and expose what they thought was a true purveyor of the perversion of sex and violence, the news. It also informed us that these drives in the human psyche had a very thin line of distinction. Ted Bundy had been on the run since he escaped in the late 70's, and violence and murder was always enticing to the audience, as we would learn over and over again, with Jeffery Dahmer, John Wayne Gayce and O.J Simpson. The American public had their eyes glued to the screen to find out all of the horrors that had been perpetrated, and in particularly graphic detail during the trails.

We've learned very little since then about the correlation of sex and violence in the neurology of the human brain. But one could make the claim that the simple act of penetration, even in the case of sex is, in and of itself violent. Not all human beings enjoy the more extreme practices of S&M, but you could also make the case that acts like pulling hair, and even the dominant act of mounting evoke a Sadomasochistic element. What we have learned is that when it comes to entertainment sex (commercials) and violence (sports and movies) always sell. As Farrell sings “The news is just another show with sex and violence...”

Perry Farrell takes the time to really blur the line that separates these two acts. If you look at the lyrics one way he may be describing the photos of the victims that Ted Bundy captured during his rampage, or under another light of awareness it could be describing the circus of news camera before, during and after Bundy's trail, “Every half an hour someone's captured and the cop moves them along...It's just like the show before.” Farrell seems to be pointing out that the people think the news helps raise awareness about the heinous acts, when that is not the case. The news covers these stories for one reason, because people like them. The news is not here to rid the world of evil, if anything its mission is to create a culture of fear in order to desensitize people into accepting the fact that these atrocities will probably never go away.

- The Dead Guy


  1. I love this song, this album, and this group. And I think this blog entry is particularly apropos, not solely of the contemporary 24 hour news and media circuit, but particularly of the recent vampire phenomenon in pop culture - the Twilight Series, True Blood, etc. Think about it, what's more fetishistic of the intricate nature of sex and violence than the notion of vampires? In many ways, Ted was a modern day vampire himself. And the media lionized him for it, I think, precisely for the reasons Shannon mentioned - the inextricable repulsion and titillation in response to Ted's atrocities. And I believe somewhere between the two we're all called to "just admit" that we felt something at some point, in spite of our desensitization. Question is, when and where did we feel it?

  2. first actual line of the song is "everybody's so full of shit." that about sums it up for me.