Juno and the great lie of music sharing

 

when I grow up, I want to be a pitiful, sad ex-rocker like Jason Bateman!

Saw Juno for the second time over the weekend. Wait, you didn’t even know that I saw it for a first time? Well, I did. And it’s really, really good. It was even better the second time, actually, mainly because the movie is drawing a more populist crowd now that tends to have less qualms with a good laugh (ie. not uptight indie film buffs). Plus, Juno is one of those films whose clever editing, superb cast, surprising script and great soundtrack all stand up proudly once you get past its easier laughs.

Speaking of the soundtrack – which is absolutely fantastic – the film does have one scene that absolutely annoys the hell out of me. It’s when Juno heads over to Vanessa and Mark’s place unannounced to show them her sonogram and Mark and Juno start talking music. “This is my favourite song,” Mark says, turning up the stereo as it plays Sonic Youth’s cover of “Superstar” by the Carpenters. Juno nods her head along to the music, showing the audience that the 70s-loving teenager is being won over by the moody melody. A sentimental – if somewhat complicated – moment has been shared.

I’m tired of scenes like this in movies, because they never work in real life. They’re completely fabricated by writers who want to truly believe that their favourite music has a profound transformative power, that it can create bonds in an instant. The truth, unfortunately, that this sort of thing rarely works out.

In part, it’s because our favourite songs are connected to our own personal moments and memories – one can hardly expect awkwardly handing a pair of headphones to someone to rank in the same league. Mostly, though, it’s because they’ve been part of our lives for so long that we delude ourselves into thinking that they’re more universal than they actually are; we get instant gratification from them, so why shouldn’t everyone else?

And then there’s the fact that the person sharing the song can’t help but oversell it: “This is my favourite song!” “This song is soooo brilliant!” “This song will change your life!” How can any track even begin to live up to such hyperbole on first listen?

It can’t. So the other person sits there politely, saying “yeah, this sounds good,” or “I kind of like this.” Cordial, but unconvinced. Polite, but pointless.

Next time…just make a mix tape.

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3 responses to “Juno and the great lie of music sharing

  1. Oh bullocks. The notion here isn’t about the song, it’s about the person sharing the song. If you’re really into the guy/girl passing you the headphones you can fall quickly in love with a new tune. Chances are you’re going to be open to it in the first place, and the fact you have strong feelings of admiration, respect, love, whatever for the person sharing just heightens the experience. And I’m not just talking would-be lovers here… thinking about that cool uncle that plays you Stairway to Heaven when you’re 13 and it blows your mind, or the time when your mom sits you down and plays you real and good pop music from her day. Sure you might not admit it at the time, but you probably eat it up.

    Maybe the Juno scene is a little cliche, but to suggest it doesn’t happen in real life so easily isn’t true. The music, while tied to the sharer’s life experience, has as much power to “transform” as the sharer him/herself.

    The tune is an extension of the self. And that, dear McNutt, can be powerful.

  2. I agree with Ryan, but accept this scene because it sets up the “Oh, and I bought a Sonic Youth album and it was just noise” line later on in the movie.

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