Music As A Metaphor In Neil Gaiman's 'How to Talk to Girls At Parties'
Start writing a post

Music can represent various aspects of identity - how we see ourselves, how we want to be seen, and how we act in different settings. I may listen to Metric and Janelle Monáe at home, but you can bet if someone asks me for music recommendations, it's going to be less political and more Top 40. At social events, I like listening to what different people play. Whether it's Drake and Khalid or Sufjan Stevens and Vampire Collective, personal playlists are a fun way to gain some insight into what matters to people. Do they see themselves as partiers or loners, romantics or eccentrics?

I listen to a lot of different music myseIf, and I find that it helps me connect with people. There is no difference in the spark that lights up someone's face when you recognize the music that's important to then, whether it's a fifty-something lady who loves Lita Ford, or a nineteen year-old who is enamored by Ariana Grande. Music can even transcend language, as seen by the recent explosion of K-Pop fans and listeners in America. It is a way to connect, to feel and be seen.

In Neil Gaiman's short story "How to Talk to Girls at Parties", music represents all this and more. While the story's theme of alienation is blatant in the stilted conversations our main character Enn has with the eponymous girls, it is also more subtly shown through the music mentioned. Specifically, the references to punk rock and David Bowie (who quite literally had a song called "Space Oddity").

The story also reflects the reason why the idea of an "emo phase" has become a cultural meme. Young people often feel alienated from society. They feel frustrated, ill-at-ease, alone, conflicted, and put-upon. On top of which, they are trying to establish their identities. Like, are they going to be the "kind of person" who can quote football stats* or Sylvia Plath at the drop of a hat? Are they going to go for a more confrontational punk alt-rock vibe, or a more conformist pop glam-rock one? How about around your family vs with different friends? As Enn notes, there is some music you listen to at home, and different music you play with other people**. Crossing the streams is a rare bit of luck, because it makes you feel less isolated. It reaffirms that others feel the way that you do.

The fact that he doesn't recognize the music at the alien party can be read as a metaphor for him not understanding their culture, worldview, or emotional states. There is no shared sentiment between him and the girls, which makes the lack of connection more apparent. It's especially telling that the closest he can come to a comparison is the German (i.e. foreign) band Kraftwerk.

Since the advent of Jerry Siegel's Superman and Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, extraterrestrial life-forms have been used as metaphors for foreigners. Space-based science fiction is often used to examine attitudes and anxieties around immigration and colonization. The whole idea of the two genders as separate cultures, with differences akin to those between Germans and Britons or Martians and denizens of other planets, was also gaining cultural traction. in the decade preceding Gaiman's story. So it is unsurprising to find these threads woven together to tell the story of a young man and his feelings of alienation from both society at large and the opposite sex.

Note: Bowie's predominance in the LGBTQ* community, as well as the bodily alienation and societal separation experienced by LGBTQ* individuals is also rich ground for narrative interrogation. In honor of Pride Month, and inspired by a friend's complaints that "there isn't enough sapphic science fiction", here is a link to a book about space lesbians.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

"Schitt's Creek" has quickly become an absolute fan favorite in the US and Canada and their seven wins at the Emmy Awards last night proves just that.

Keep Reading... Show less

Just when we thought 2020 couldn't get any more unpredictable, we find out that Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died at 87 of complications from pancreatic cancer.

Regardless of where you might stand politically, you can't deny that the was a very honorable woman, who has accomplished a lot in her lifetime. Writing majority opinions for many cases such as United States v. Virginia, and Olmstead v. L.C., she has paved the way for many women, showing that no matter what obstacles stand in your way, you can achieve your goals.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

Coronavirus, The Arizona State Legislature, And The 2020 Election

The Arizona State Legislature might shift its majority in the House and Senate come 2021.

107

Arizona State Senator Martín Quezada spoke today on legislative changes that may occur in 2021 due to the possibility of Arizona becoming a bipartisan state.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Asked 27 People What Positive Things Happened To Them Despite The Pandemic, And Their Answers Are Inspiring

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope." - Martin Luther King Jr.

81
https://unsplash.com/photos/DWaC44FUV5o

Let's be real: COVID SUCKS! So many events have been ruined and not being able to see friends and families really blows. But, I reached out to people and asked if anyone had anything positive happen for them despite the pandemic and I got so many answers!!! Here are a few that were shared with me!

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

RBG Just Passed Away, And Trump Is Already Jumping At The Chance To Replace Her

I think it's a worse time than ever to put another conservative on the Supreme Court.

61

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, otherwise known as RBG, sadly passed away Friday, September 18 after a battle with metastatic pancreatic cancer. This woman was tough, no doubts about that. This was her fifth — yes, you read that correctly — bout with cancer over the span of two decades.

Keep Reading... Show less
Paramount Pictures

From the iconic one-liners to the Plastics themselves, "Mean Girls" has gained a cult following of millions of fans.

Since its birth 16 years ago, the movie has expanded into a whole empire consisting of a sequel, pop vinyls, and even a Broadway musical.

Keep Reading... Show less
Entertainment

What 'Grey's Anatomy' Character You Are Based On Your Zodiac Sign

Are you ambitious like Cristina? Devoted like April? Find out below!

1598
ABC

Scroll through to find out which character from the famous medical drama suits you best.

Keep Reading... Show less

I didn't believe the notification when it came through to my phone: Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died from complications due to cancer.

Keep Reading... Show less
NBC

By now, I'm pretty sure we can all agree that 2020 has been a rollercoaster ride of a year. Luckily, we are almost at the end (thank God!)!

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am Chandler Bing almost to a T, which is why I thought it would be fun to pick out some of his one-liners that explain this year all too well.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments