going full paramore

This is a self-indulgent post probing into the lyrics of Brick By Boring Brick and finding interpretation and meaning as though it’s a poem.  Yep. That is literally all this is. This is the sort of thing I enjoy doing.

Okay so I’ve seen a lot of interpretations about this song. Most argue that it’s about love, and being lost in a fairy tale world whereby love is the main objective, and the realisation comes from the protagonist being heartbroken but learning from the experience. This is great, but not what it feels like for me. Perhaps I’m just somebody with mental health issues looking for representation wherever I look. Probably. But that’s the beauty of music, right? Different interpretations being equally valid?

 

She lives in a fairy tale
Somewhere too far for us to find
Forgotten the taste and smell
Of a world that she’s left behind

This sounds a lot like dissociation. Under high-pressure situations, the brain is capable of disconnecting from real sensory stimuli and inhabiting a constructed reality, separate from the pressure. My brain does this to varying degrees. Anything from feeling a bit hazy, like I’m not really in the room, or like I’m looking through water, to the full-blown disappearance of my conscious mind. Blackout spells. Pockets of time with no memory, just fog and static. This verse reminds me of the in-between phase. Too far into the fog to be reached; separate; in a perceived bubble of isolation that teeters on the edge of a chasm where sensory input and attempted human contact no longer break through.
It’s all about the exposure the lens I told her
The angles are all wrong now
She’s ripping wings off of butterflies

An over-exposed photo may be of a subject, and the subject is noticeable in the photo, but it’s barely visible because of the surrounding white-out. This is similar to sensory overload. The world around looks the same to everybody else, but in the mind of the protagonist in this song, her eyes – her ‘lens’ – are overwhelmed and unable to cope with the information they are receiving and white-out, supporting the dissociation idea. The ‘angles’ are about perspective; how photographing the same thing from different angles will give widely different images. Perhaps this reflects the protagonist’s despair and confusion – unable to find the correct angle, the angle that everybody else seems naturally engaged with, the protagonist becomes frustrated. The frustration blows everything else out of proportion – it’s ‘all wrong’, an example of black-and-white thinking – leading to aggression, ‘ripping wings off of butterflies’.

Butterflies typically represent innocence and freedom, and sometimes endurance, hope and resurrection. The protagonist ripping the wings off these feelings is a bold metaphor and seems to be an indication of the self-sabotaging nature of the mental health condition. It’s doubtful that the protagonist wants to eradicate those positive feelings, but in the middle of such an insidious disease, the sufferer doubts their self-worth. Feeling unworthy of positivity sometimes causes destructive behaviour to anything that might be considered positive. I’ve ripped up poems, stories, paintings; these are my butterflies, my creative outlets that are generally positive. But in the anger, in the frustration, they are ‘all wrong’, because they remind me of me, and thus should be destroyed.

Perhaps too, (and this one is a little more tangential), it is the protagonist seeking company in their perceived isolation. Ripping off a butterfly’s wings will (well, kill them) but for the purposes of this, it will ground them. The protagonist cannot fly. Now, neither can the butterflies. They are thus forced to stay with the protagonist; the protagonist is a) in control, and b) no longer alone. This mirrors the toxic relationships that can be distorted by a person’s mental health condition. Sometimes without being aware, a mentally ill person may act out, be violent to themselves or others, or make threats of extreme behaviour if they are afraid of being alone.
Keep your feet on the ground
When your head’s in the clouds

(pretty self-explanatory)

Well go get your shovel
And we’ll dig a deep hole
To bury the castle, bury the castle
Go get your shovel
And we’ll dig a deep hole
To bury the castle, bury the castle

For me, the fundamental concept in the chorus is ‘we’. The singer has shown that they have a degree of empathy and understanding for the protagonist and their struggles by the comprehensive way the singer introduced the protagonist in verse 1. Also, the calming, sonorous mantra – ‘keep your feet on the ground when your head’s in the clouds’ – sounds like the singer’s attempt to soothe the protagonist during an episode. This establishes a bond between the singer and the protagonist in which the singer sees and accepts the protagonist’s condition but is willing to help work on it. ‘We’ll dig a deep hole.’ The protagonist is not alone because the singer is able to help, and has ideas about how help can happen. It must, however, be the protagonist’s decision – it is ‘your shovel’, the protagonist has the tool and the responsibility to make that choice.

The ‘castle’ is the dissociative world and the unhealthy coping strategies (I’m thinking about self-harm recovery in particular while writing this section) that the protagonist has developed. To ‘bury’ these strategies is the opposite of the generally accepted metaphor for recovery, which involves unearthing subconscious thoughts in an attempt to free them. That takes a long time, a lot of therapy, and a lot of work, and in the intensity of the moment it is sometimes more apt to just find a way to cope for now. Burying the castle is not a permanent measure. Ideally, the castle would disintegrate completely. But for now that isn’t possible, so the pair work together to stop the protagonist from obsessing about the castle; taking the castle out of sight may help it pass out of mind.

Like a squirrel with its nuts, the protagonist may not need these unhealthy strategies for a while, and burying them out of sight is encouragement to focus on the nuts above ground (healthy coping strategies). But it shows how profound the singer’s empathy is; the singer does not condemn these unhealthy strategies, by, say, setting fire to the castle. The singer recognises that, although not ideal, the castle is sometimes necessary to cope. All the singer wants is for the protagonist not to live in the castle any more: the castle is still an option but it’s no longer the first port of call.

Ba da ba ba da ba ba da

So one day he found her crying
Coiled up on the dirty ground
Her prince finally came to save her
And the rest you can figure out

Reminiscent of the manic-pixie-dream-girl trope, this verse has echoes of an entitled, (probably unintentionally) ignorant boy meeting a mentally ill girl and attempting to ‘save her’ from the disease. ‘Coiled up on the dirty ground’ encapsulates how debilitating these conditions can be, and how physically exhausting. It also suggests the protagonist’s deteriorated self-esteem; they are ‘coiled up’, small, trying to be as small as possible.

The ‘prince’ may reflect the boy’s egotism, but seems closer to the protagonist’s perception of the boy. They believe that he is a ‘prince’ because he seems willing to help, so the protagonist idolises him.
But it was a trick
And the clock struck twelve

The protagonist realises that the boy does not have all the answers; the spell, the infatuation, breaks, and the striking of the clock is parallel to the struck, smashing glass of the protagonist’s disillusionment about the capabilities of the ‘prince’. The spell is broken. The prince did not have the answers.
Well make sure to build your home brick by boring brick
Or the wolf’s gonna blow it down

Emphasises the necessity to go through the whole, slow process of therapy in order to construct a stable ‘home’ instead of the fantastical, damaging ‘castle’.
Keep your feet on the ground
When your head’s in the clouds

Well go get your shovel
And we’ll dig a deep hole
To bury the castle, bury the castle
Go get your shovel
And we’ll dig a deep hole
We’ll bury the castle, bury the castle

Woah

Well you built up a world of magic
Because your real life is tragic
Yeah you built up a world of magic

(Again, self-explanatory.)

If it’s not real
You can’t hold it in your hand
You can’t feel it with your heart
And I won’t believe it
But if it’s true
You can see it with your eyes
Oh, even in the dark
And that’s where I want to be, yeah

  The singer, by remaining pragmatic and realistic, defines the parameters of reality vs unreality for the protagonist, for whom that is a challenging task. It also reiterates that the singer is a point of trust for the protagonist: ‘I won’t believe it’ suggests that in times of hazy judgement, the protagonist should turn to the singer for advice, to allow the singer to help distinguish between what is real and what is not. The simplistic wording of this section again mimics the soothing syntax necessary to calm a mentally ill person during an episode.

Sight and vision link back to the overexposure metaphor in the first verse, and to the black-and-white thinking that the protagonist suffers. By thinking and perceiving the world only in black-and-white extremes, the protagonist cannot differentiate ‘dark’ from blackness and emptiness. ‘Dark’ represents the importance of recognising emotional nuance. The singer is trying to teach the protagonist that emotions have shades of grey; that distress, ‘dark’, is natural, and part of being human. ‘Even in the dark’, outlines are still visible. Thus, the singer effectively counterpoints the protagonist’s inclination towards emotional overexposure.

Go get your shovel
We’ll dig a deep hole
To bury the castle, bury the castle
Go get your shovel
We’ll dig a deep hole
To bury the castle, bury the castle

(idk man I just really like this song.)

((nobody will read this haha)) ((post in which bailey is a tragic loser)) ((what am i even doing))

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