A 32 year old Single Girl’s perspective on Abigail Breslin’s You Suck and the controversy surrounding it.
I say “controversy”. First-world teenagers are upset.
When teenagers get upset about something their entire world is thrown into absolute turmoil. It’s so easy to be harsh and overly critical of this, but honestly their world is small. That sounds harsh. I mean their world is small – but it should be. They are at the stage between being children and being adults and it’s a hard stage. It’s hard to balance the shifting levels of dependence and responsibility. There is a lot of growing and learning required before you can approach the wider world with adult sensibilities – and that is supposing that these teens are surrounded by sensible people who are giving them tools to become functional adults, which is supposing a lot. At the same time teenagers think that they have already achieved levels of maturity which they... well, they haven’t. But they won’t realise this until they, too, are 32 and looking at teenagers being teenagers. Trust me.
By the way, I am so grateful that social media is a new phenomenon. There is no digital record of every dim-witted and nasty thing I’ve ever said which could potentially affect my future employment or relationship prospects. Teenagers today are not so lucky.
Yesterday I listened to Abigail Breslin’s first song You Suck, and it made me smile several times. I got right into the boppy pop vibe and I related to the quirky lyrics. It’s a little bit Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain, a little bit Pink’s So What, a little bit Hilary Duff’s So Yesterday, a little bit Miley Cyrus’s 7 Things I Hate About You, a whole lot of Avril Lavigne’s songs... In short I thought it was a fun song and I related to it on a personal level. It’s exactly the song you write in the heat of the moment when someone hurts you and you are young and probably still pretty inexperienced with romance. Abigail is still only 18, and while she has been working as an actress since she was very young she is still young. Is it immature to say ‘yeah, well you’re a dumbass anyway and I hope all your hair falls out!’ to someone who broke your heart? Yeah it is. Of course it is. But it’s absolutely what we do; even we supposedly mature adults have those moments. And that is what this song is. It’s that moment.
After I listened to the song I saw it was trending and found out why. Teenage fans have had their idol (allegedly) besmirched and they are angry. And hey, I get it. I was in love when I was a teenager. He was a boy in a famous band and I was a teenaged nobody. We never met, but I knew it was real. He was amazing, and flawless, and beautiful, and if someone had written a song about how he’s really a giant butthole who uses girls then I would’ve gone ahead and written a nasty song right back at them. Like I said, social media wasn’t around back then so most of my thoughts and feelings ended up as song lyrics. Some of those actually earn me a few extra dollars in royalties now, so it worked out. And yes, at least one of those songs was inspired by my love for... let’s just call him Band Boy and leave it at that. It’s my blog and I’ll digress if I want to. Back to the subject at hand.
I don’t know Abigail personally and I don’t know Michael Clifford either. There is every possibility that the song isn’t even about him, although the evidence is pretty compelling. So I’m going to leave conjecture out of it and talk about my personal experience, my personal reactions to some of things I’ve read that have been directed at Abigail, and why the song resonated with me.
Firstly, just because the song has been released now doesn’t mean it was written now. I can see why people may assume that but some odd accusations have come out of this assumption and it’s probably not accurate.
Secondly, dating and relationships are incredibly complicated and there is no way to know what is going on/has gone on between two people from the outside. Just because two people “weren’t even in a relationship” doesn’t mean someone wasn’t lied to and even cheated on. This has happened to me and it’s a fairly common manipulation tactic. Let’s take two people and call them Bob and Anna. Now Anna likes Bob, and Bob does sort of like Anna, but he doesn’t want to commit to her in an exclusive relationship. He knows that if he is honest to Anna about this he won’t be able to get anything out of her, so he says something to her along the lines of “I would love to be with you, but I’m really dedicated to my work right now.” Or maybe “You’re someone I see myself with, but I’m still getting over my recent break-up and I just can’t right now”. So Bob keeps Anna in this quasi-relationship holding pattern because he knows whenever he feels like having some time with her he can call and Anna will come running, but since they’re not a couple he is not obliged to be there for her in return. And Bob can do the same thing with Caroline and Danielle at the same time and that’s fine because it’s not like Anna is his girlfriend. Then if Erica comes along and Bob decides to make Erica his girlfriend and Anna, Caroline, and Danielle get upset with him then they don’t have a leg to stand on. It’s not like he promised them anything, why would they be upset? I’m not saying this is what happened to Abigail, just that these lyrics reminded me of my Bob experiences. Not technically being in a relationship doesn’t necessarily mean someone isn’t culpable for damage they have done.
Thirdly, it’s possible for someone to be a really nice, sweet person to everyone in public and a total jerk to people close to them in private. There are countless examples. Fans won’t ever know unless someone speaks out and when someone does speak out fans are inevitably the most vocal detractors of their claims. And that is understandable. It is very difficult to separate admiration for an artist’s work from admiration of the artist. Most people can’t. It’s disillusioning. How can someone who created work that is beautiful, and meaningful, and beloved behave in an abhorrent manner? Though it is possible to admire someone on a professional level while disliking them on a personal level most people do not separate these out. Fans put artists on pedestals, but they are human beings and they have flaws. Acknowledging these flaws doesn’t make you a bad fan. It doesn’t even have to detract from your feelings for their art. Frankly, as far as flaws go, being a jerk to girls is low on the scale of things other fan bases have had to come to terms with.
Fourthly, I can’t find any quotes from her claiming that this is a song to empower women. I don’t know why people think this was something she said? The closest I’ve found was an article that had the words ‘girl power’ in it, but that came from the writer of the article and wasn’t a quote.
I will say though that I’m against the term ‘like a girl’ being used as an insult, so I was disappointed to hear it used in this song which I otherwise enjoyed.
Obviously if this song wasn’t believed to have been about anyone in particular, there wouldn’t have been this backlash. Backlash is the wrong word, because what is actually happening here is an online harassment campaign. This song doesn’t warrant that. That is a fan over-reaction. It is ok to dislike the song. It is ok to say that you don’t like it for whatever reason. It’s not ok to dish out such hatred. And no, it isn’t justified, because it isn’t equal to her song. Abigail does not hope that someone dies, for example. Also the song is not actually directed at someone. Even if you believe without doubt that it is about someone specific she never made that explicit and, as far as I know, never said these things to that person directly. There is a difference between expressing a negative view of someone through a song and saying horrible things to someone directly. I’ve also noticed that people complain that this is a song putting down his physical appearance, but they seem to have missed the main complaint about him; the core of the song: He used her and he lied to her.
I’d also like to point out that the song is actually pretty tame. It’s really very tame for a break up song. In my day we sang along to Alanis: “Every time I scratch my nails down someone else’s back I hope you feel it...” Now that song has some solid antagonism behind it. Abigail is really just blowing a raspberry at a boy who hurt her.
Hey, we’ve all been there.