A few thoughts on The Ataris

I was a really big fan of The Ataris as a teenager. I had been reading lyrics from my old favorite songs for like an hour and I got progressively more teary-eyed with a kind of nostalgia or wistfulness for the way their music used to make me feel. Here is the one that finally made me crack. It’s funny, this song came out in 2003, I remember when it was “their new album” to me. Here are just some thoughts on it, most of which I’ve had before but which I feel more sure of my ability to express now.
– yes, part of me is still able to be briefly enchanted by the longing to experience that scenario The Ataris specialized in portraying: of being so obsessively, so elaborately and romantically infatuated with someone and having them feel exactly the same same way and sharing a mutual excitement with them not just in being together in the immediate moment but also at the thought that it was only going to get deeper and sweeter and more infatuation-y the deeper we dug into each other, because it turns out we were just literally perfectly made for each other and would only become more perfect for each other the longer we knew each other–as though the castle-upon-air that is our projections onto someone we’re first meeting could be fully true, let alone true forever. as though one didn’t divide into two.
– yes this is disney romance, yes this is unhealthy. by that i mean, it is selling the concept that “The One” is out there somewhere, an incredibly powerful tool of patriarchy and capitalism that provides a perfect justification for the institution of hyper-isolated nuclear families. a society broken up into hundreds of millions of couples who are wrapped up in a marriage-worshiping, family-centered selfishness is obviously easier to exploit and manipulate than one where everyone instead prioritizes many and diverse strong, intimate bonds and active connections across all society with many different people. the more “The One” a person takes their partner to be, the more they will try to make a whole world out of that relationship, to the exclusion of connections with the rest of society.
– some of it is horrifying, hearing the “i tried to convince you not to go home” in this song that i listened to over and over, sighing heavily and thinking that that was romantic and sweet instead of rape culture. and that i made that same mistake for so much other stuff in their songs. in general, a *lot* of The Ataris’ work is about being in the ~Friend Zone~ even though it doesn’t use those words, like, many songs telling the object of infatuation that their choice of partner is foolish, and how much it hurts that they don’t dump them and get with the singer. so presumptuously entitled and infantilizing. some of it just outright misogynist, albeit “jokingly.”
– yes, it is disney in more ways than one–it is disney in the way every setting for every song is so utterly predicated on a society with such a massive suburban middle-class population that it really does seem to stretch off in all directions and be all that there is to the world. (i think there is a lot of good historical materialist work to be done on the epistemology of growing up in such a massive middle class as the one that came about in the united states after the 50s.)
– pitying the poor naive young person i was, who would have to forfeit basically every last one of the sweet fantasies of connection i had at that point. (but on the other hand, it occurs to me to say, when i was like 23 and thought, “I’ll move to Brooklyn, that’s where all the most passionate people go, and I’ll be among the greatest and most beautiful of ideas and engage with them”–actually that idea really did more or less come true here in Austin. i am so incredibly fortunate to be able to learn from and work alongside the people i have met here, in more challenging and fulfilling work than i could even have imagined at 23.)