“Josie (Everything’s Gonna Be Fine),” (the third video from Dude Ranch)
It started a summer ago, I guess. My best friend was like, “I just want to start writing about queer readings of Green Day, and how they were such a big deal to me growing up, you know?” And I was like, “hey, if you want my help, I have like decades of feelings about feminist readings of Lookout! bands.” So we bought guitars to play covers of pop punk songs about girls, but then I realized that I didn’t know how to play guitar. The only solution was to learn “Dammit” (because anyone can learn “Dammit”) and then start listening to Enema non-stop for the first time in practically a decade and, eventually, try (and fail) to learn “Dumpweed” as a (failed) exercise in elementary feminist reclaimation. Over twelve hundred plays later, and here I am.
“Josie” is a pop punk song about a (imaginary, completely made-up) perfect girl. The pop punk perfect girl song is canon. My favorite ever is Screeching Weasel’s “Pauline,” an anthem of the mediocre-looking girl with moderate punk credit. blink’s more notorious entry in the genre is “The Rock Show,” which in some way draws from the “Josie” playbook—imperfect punk girl who’ll “always be there.”
“Josie” is problematic because it’s the male-gaziest. “Josie” is problematic because Josie is unquestioningly loyal and reliable. “Josie” is problematic because Mark Hoppus invented an “independent” girl who waits around for him all the time even though she’s too good for him. “Josie” is weird because Mark admits that he is dependent on her. “Josie” is problematic because it’s flat-out sexist. “Josie” is problematic because Josie laughs at Mark’s jokes. (A total “No One Else” move, Hoppus. I thought you were better than that.*)
*this is now a Weezer rag-fest, in true spirit of nineties dude pop dick-offs, I guess
I have to mention how much I love those dropped punk names. Like, okay Mark, your imaginary perfect girlfriend has the same favorite bands as you. Cool, whatever! But I’ve always secretly admired Mark’s public adoration of Dance Hall Crashers. It’s not like they weren’t a powerful punk force themselves. They’re a crucial band. But they were a girl-fronted California punk band—and god, there weren’t many of them—with a huge female fanbase. I can’t help but think that’s an important piece of this puzzle.
This video was directed (again) by Darren Doane. It was released just a few months before the band wrapped on the set of a film they guested in, a film they knew as East Great Falls High, which we remember as, duh, American Pie. American Pie was made before Enema dropped, so the choice to include the band had more to do with their position as the nineties’ ultimate high school spokesband than it was about their fame and power. “Mutt” and “Going Away to College” are both in American Pie, and the band cameos in the webcam cum scene. blink-182 also appeared on the soundtracks to Can’t Hardly Wait (“Dammit”) in 1998, Loser (“What’s My Age Again?”) in 2000, Daria (“Adam’s Song” and “What’s My Age Again?”) in ‘99 and 2000, and Buffy (“All the Small Things”) in ‘99. They were becoming a huge band, but they had already become the nation’s most important adolescent band. (This seems like a good time for a “what’s their age” update. When this video came out, Mark was 25, Tom was 22, and Scott was 19. Travis Barker was 22.)
“Josie,” as a video, is complicated and skillful because it highlights the ultra-weirdness of Mark’s mental space.* On one hand, choosing to make a clip about an unattainable popular high school girl was what the market demanded, especially in the wake of “Dammit“‘s success. On the other hand, I think the tension between “hot cheerleader Alyssa Milano” and “likes UL and DHC” kind of unsettles both hetero tropes. (Or at least, I like to pretend it does.)
*Yeah, I said “skillful.”
But if I had to choose one most important theme in the “Josie” video, it would have to be, um, urinals. It’s a clip way more about relationships with dudes than it is about girls. (This homosocial business is a defining characteristic of Enema, too.) There are three key dude-on-dude relationships going on in this video—Mark and his bandmates, Mark and the Fat Nerdy Kid,* and Mark and his crush’s football-playing boyfriend. Hot Alyssa Milano is ultimately objectified, a tool for transferring and manifesting weird masculine tensions between Mark and other dudes. Mark’s jealousy of Football Bro drives his motivation to perform athletically and compete for Hot Alyssa Milano’s attention. Fat Nerdy Kid intercepts Mark’s boner-note in the classroom and interactions between the two are forever (as queer theorists like to say) “fraught” with hetero fears. (Fears which, I should note, are especially tense in the boys’ locker room.) Tom and Scott serve both to challenge and nurture Mark’s hetero-masculine exploits. This is where the boys’ bathroom becomes so important: it’s where this latter relationship blossoms, a “safe” space away from girls where dudes challenge each others’ heterosexuality.
*by saying “fat kid” I am referring to the trope of “the fat kid in high school” and not policing that kid’s body
There’s lots of theory about homosociality and bathrooms!
The design of the men’s room, says Lee Edelman, “has palpable designs on men; it aspires, that is, to design them.” As a gendered “social technology,” men’s toilets make it clear that masculinity is something to be struggled over, and that men have unequal access to its more socially favored forms. As perhaps the “most culturally visible form” of sexual spatial segregation, public toilets are a prime, yet often ignored, site for a gendered cultural analysis.
…Male toilets are, to continue the performance metaphor, “a theater of heterosexual anxiety.” They are criss-crossed with tacit anxieties.
…Yet for all that, toilets may also be places of retreat, communality or jocularity. The revelation of private parts, coupled with the public management of bodily functions we learn to control in childhood, might be one reason for the occasional emergence of childish glee in the toilets.
—Ruth Barcan, “Dirty Spaces: Communication and Contamination in Men’s Public Toilets.”
Literary theorist Lee Edelman notes that the men’s room is unique in that it can strongly affi rm heterosexual identity. However, a straight man can be sheltered only “so long as he performatively shelters the structural flaw that opens his body, by way of its multiple openings
(ocular, oral, anal, genital), to the various psychic vicissitudes able to generate illicit desires.”
—Olga Gershenson and Barbara Penner, “The Private Life of Public Conveniences”
I’m 100% positive that this was what Darren Doane was thinking when he shot this video. 100%.
Final comments on “Josie”:
- I know that everything, know that everything, know that everything, everything’s gonna be fine gets to me every time. It has to get to you too.
- The band shot a different version of the video first. No one liked it so it was scrapped, but you can watch a leaked clip from it here.
- I am obliged to say something about how Mark is “lacking in the bulge,” and how it’s totally relevant to feminist theory. Very relevant.