Dido, Give You Up: Women love men. Part 2 (3300 words)
Edit: This article was for the fun of analyzing. It's slightly less serious than my articles about movies. Also because the core material is a lot more vague and restricted. As a consequence, I can explore hypothesis that are a bit contradictory without truly wanting to give a final reading that I consider to be the most coherent one.
Now, and following an interesting comment from the comment section (of the first part), I’m going to consider another idea that I had not thought of when I wrote this interpretation:
The girl murdered her boyfriend.
My interpretation was very focussed on love/psychological dependence but in the video clip of the song, the point of focus is clearly on sexual frustration.
Now, let’s just lay out the idea simply:
A man is cheating on and neglecting his girlfriend to the point where she loses her mind. She copes with being mistreated because it’s easier for her than to leave him, but slowly the sexual frustration and misery overwhelms her and she eventually murders him when she discovers masturbation because the activity gives her the hope that she can do without him.
The beginning of the video shows Dido* sitting and laying on a bed. She is sexually frustrated; she wants to be acknowledged sexually. She is in pain because her man isn’t there.
(*I'll both use "Dido" and "Dido's character" to designate the character she impersonates.)
It’s funny how Dido is often represented like that. It’s also the case in the music video for Here with me. She rolls over on a bed impatiently and walks across the city to join a random man in his bed… while he is asleep.
Here, what’s funny is that there are “several” Didos. One is waiting in an entirely white room, a sexless angel in heaven, another finds herself in a more reddish, tackier one, with bars on the bed’s structure. She seems to be wearing a different make up too. So, she can easily be identified as the morally fallen one, the slut, the prostitute, the one who’s trapped inside her shameful sex drive, in hell.
Finally, the third Dido walks around in the ruins of a house which represents the state of degradation of her Self; her psychological misery.
Dido utters her first line which can be associated with masturbation:
I'm not sitting with my head in my hands right now.
She cannot repress a cute impish smile while saying it.
Then, the “I don't care where you've been” shows her in a nightclub:
Dance being often used as a metaphore for the sex act, it’s legitimate to think that the guy cheated on her. He went to nightclubs/cheated on her while she was waiting for him.
Finally, shots of Dido getting arrested, suggest the murder:
Now, beyond the telling of a story, these shots also describe a dynamic. It’s not obvious that a cheating boyfriend should inspire murder. Dido’s character could simply have left the guy after forgiving him, or coldly moving on thanks to a potent survival instinct, or after a slap in the face or insults and arguments, or she could have even undergone depression, attempted suicide etc… murder is really not that obvious and an explanation for this outcome should be given in the video.
First, there is a clear moral aspect to all this. The angel-like/whore-like Didos underline this split between good and evil, or innocence and guilt or shame. The red lights blue lights are an echo to this and what’s interesting here is that the two moral positions that are described in the story have no obvious logical relation to one another.
Sexual frustration (her desire for sexual intercourse) makes Dido’s character feel ashamed and guilty. Suppressing her sexuality makes her feel like an angel. She’s wondering whether masturbation, an in-between, is fine or not.
Murdering her boyfriend makes her evil. Obviously, not murdering him makes her good. Or is she wondering whether murdering him was acceptable or not ?
These two moral questionings are not clearly related to one another. I’ll come back to this*** but first here are a few other shots which are all interesting:
Being sexually frustrated makes Dido’s character feel entrapped in her body, entirely controlled by it. Her body is a prison and it makes her lose her sense of individuality. In the first shot it looks like she’s got blood on her hand = both guilts are superimposed; masturbation and murder. (also, the reddish lighting makes her sleeves look red). Her bloody hand erases her face.
This is mental collapse, mental misery. Fractured ego. Dissociation. The phenomena is described in the deteriorated house:
Now, there’s an element I’m not sure of. It seems that the deteriorated house is actually the same as the red lighted one. Dido is showed exploring both:
Scavenger hunting is commonly used as a metaphor for masturbation for female characters or at least the exploration of their libido (Batgirl in the Killing Joke, Rey in Star Wars VII).
Dido’s exploring her house is her discovery of masturbation. The peculiar aspect of it in this story, is that she does so out of misery and in shame. She isn’t feeling fine, happy and innocent. She feels bad, sad and guilty.
So, making the red lighted house and the one in ruins the same works fine. This exploration is done under very polarized feelings. The torchlight opens a door, a split, and the room changes from red to blue.
So, the character is dissociated around her perception of her sexuality. Frustration is driving her crazy but her perception of it as something evil and degrading makes it unacceptable.
One desperate solution would be to… find a scapegoat, to get rid of the guilt by blaming someone else.
If the most accessible reason to give the murder would be bitter revenge (for cheating) there’s also the idea that Dido’s character is just holding the guy responsible for her need to masturbate, an activity that she deems extremely wrong.
***Things do not stop here though, because if her “I’ve found a way to let you go” is her discovery of masturbation and the murder of the guy, there’s no need for a literal murder anymore: The cop car with the bars on the window can also be a metaphor for the character’s perception of herself… that which would explain this other shot of her standing in front of the car as if she was the police. She's not getting truly arrested, she is judging herself.
Her angelic self is the one upholding the law:
And so, the idea would be that the girl discovers masturbation but instead of just practicing it as an autonomous activity, she’s going to perceive it as a replacement for her man and an escape from her hurtful relationship with him that which is also going to make her feel guilty. She feels like she’s cheating on her man and/or getting rid of him by doing so.
The situation develops into more dissociation.
On the one hand, the judgmental angelic woman who deems the man entirely responsible is going to feel happy and aroused:
Notice the waves in super-impression.
On the other hand, the “prostitute” who accepts the responsibility of her sexuality, feels guilty and evil. She closes the cold fridge, chooses warmth and passion and men, but she’s evil and resides underground, in hell.
And so, at the end of this, Dido’s character hasn’t sorted out her split personality which truly finds its roots in her incapacity to feel fine about her sexual drive.
We can go further. The man is totally absent from the song and from the video clip. He’s never to be seen and nothing is told about him. Truly, we know nothing about what he’s done. More, Dido’s character never does accuse him of anything. There’s no allusion to “other girls” or to a “betrayal” or “lies.” There’s nothing concrete, nothing substantial, nothing partial, nothing suggestive... apart from the clear fact that the man is absent when Dido strongly wants him in her bed, and that she’s convinced that “[he] couldn’t wait to live [her] behind.” ...except that there’s no substantial proof of that, and she’s the one who left him. And again, she talks at the past tense, while using the future when saying “I’ll give you up.” There’s a contradiction here.
It really isn’t a reach to consider the idea that the guy has actually done nothing wrong. Or that, if he’s done something wrong, it still truly is Dido’s character who’s at the center of the tragedy. She’s the one who’s making it happen or the one who could make it stop, the guy is just a guy, and everything would happen just the same with another guy.
That’s what anonymity means here, Dido’s character has a problem and the guy is an element of the equation, but not a real variable.
From this point of view, we can imagine that Dido’s character rebuffed her boyfriend’s sexual initiatives because she feels guilty and that, because the guy honestly loves her and takes her seriously, he turned towards other women. He simply gave up on his sex life with her and is now more often absent because he’s found substitutes to this aspect of their couple: prostitutes, playing poker with his friends etc…
Of course, this idea seems like a very biased perception of the dynamic, biased towards the desire to make the guy look entirely blameless.
But I think that the bias lies in the automatic idea that women are harmless, innocent and are never responsible for things going wrong. In many couples, women reject their lovers by taking a moral standpoint. They show a lack of patience or a lack of tenderness. And it does have consequences on their partners who slowly become convinced that even when their girls say “yes” they do so as a concession. Today’s constant blaming of the male libido is not going to make things better.
And so, if you imagine the very neutral situation ( the “conditions of experiment”) in which the guy has no prior experience and is totally in love and entirely respectful of the woman he is dating, she is going to teach him that his attraction to her is unwelcome and morally despicable (except sometimes). His libido is not going to disappear and as a consequence, he is going to deal with it as if it was a disease, an addiction or a moral flaw and he’ll try to satiate it secretly or in a shameful manner => prostitutes, cheating with “worthless women”, drug/game addiction, pornography. At last, he'll try not to bother his beloved girlfriend with it anymore. Men can be influenced.
The temper of Dido’s character is enough to explain the tragic situation. Of course, there are men who are selfish, irresponsible, cowardly and malevolent. The question is why putting the blame for a fictional failed relationship on the man when very little is said about him and when the girl’s temper shows enough flaws to explain the problem ?
Her visit of the nightclub doesn’t look like she’s investigating her boyfriend’s infidelities but more like she’s looking at a world which she envies and from which she feels excluded. The world of people who feel fine about “dancing.”
And here is the superb final tragic dynamic.
By sacrificing the guy, the girl can actually enter a world in which her libido is acceptable.
“Killing” (emasculating) the guy puts her in a position of judgement. She becomes the law. It creates the illusion of a moral superiority. It also creates the idea of two sexualities that are essentially different and nearly incompatible.
Instead of accepting that the man’s libido is normal and innocent and that hers is the same, she hides inside the idea that HER libido is normal and innocent but that the guy’s is immoral and noxious. The trick being that it’s the denunciation of the guy’s libido that is supposed to prove that hers is acceptable. It’s called a sacrifice; destroying something for the purpose of religious, spiritual or moral elevation.
We reach a paradox.
The woman’s sex drive becomes acceptable and accessible only when and if the man’s sex drive is blamed and shamed and deemed unacceptable. Where, how, when can they meet ?
Because she is incredibly attracted to the guy and she cannot seem to be able to accept her own desires, he is going to become the reason why she cannot feel good about sex… because men’s libido is deemed noxious and ugly and selfish and immoral anyway, so this poor guy is not going to help and it’s easy to perceive him as the guilty one, the corrupter.
In order to be able to live her love life with the guy, she is going to have to reject him as much as she is attracted to him, so that her attraction becomes morally acceptable.
That’s when masturbation comes into play. If the reality of the relationship is evil, fantasizing upon it isn’t necessarily. And thus “I’ve found a way to let you go.” Masturbation allows the girl to give up on an actual sex life while remaining partially satisfied sexually and perceive her libido as moral and acceptable because it's not with the evil man. Masturbation is fine as long as its purpose is to remain far away from the object of desire.
Her satanic reddish passionate self closes the door to light and blue and calmer, more controllable feelings, because the girl shuts this genuine part of herself up for good.
And so, our guilt ridden heroin ends up deeply morally confused.
If she judges the man for his sexual behaviours, she is thus the good guy, the angelic Dido, and therefore, her libido is fine… except that if her libido is acceptable, then she wants to have sex with him. But if she has sex with the evil guy, she becomes evil, the satanic Dido who lives underground. But this satanic Dido is imprisoned in her body, her bed, in hell. She lives under a constant symbolic blame, she is worthless. And if she is worthless, the man doesn’t want her. And she is cursed to stay in bed, dissatisfied forever, and sad and lonely and masturbation is shameful as it’s an indicator of her shameful desires. So she needs to reject the guy, and finds herself back in heaven, in this white spotless bed, where she innocently sits and is not waiting for anything, absent minded, except for maybe a bit of acceptable masturbation as it means getting rid of the guy, murdering him. But murdering is also wrong, and so maybe she’s not the righteous lawmaker, but the wrongdoer who should be at the back of the police car etc etc…
This constant mental back and forth goes very well with the destruction of the time dimension that is suggested by Dido’s “I’ll give you up” “You couldn’t wait to leave me behind.” She plans on leaving the guy but it’s already done.
Her whole universe is torn because she cannot find any psychological stability. There’s no accessible balance anymore, just an infinite mental loop fueled by an urge to escape guilt while making sexuality accessible. Feelings and urges are superimposed, guilt and innocence, presence and absence of the guy, being in a couple with him and not being anymore.
Now, I identified the starting point of this mess in the woman’s conviction that her libido is wrong, evil, immoral. The thing is, the concept of “wrong” always is in regard to something.
Guilt easily appears when someone feels worthless.
Making women feel like unworthy individuals can create this situation where they actually do not feel deserving of men’s attention anymore while existentially crave for it. This feeling of being undeserving is a moral one. Honest, serious love can make a woman feel extremely undeserving, evil and wrong for “fooling a man” or lying to him, obtaining his attention when she’s so worthless. This triggers the obsession that there is something incoherent in their relationship. Everything becomes a clue that the guy is cheating on her or is going to leave her. He is a liar, necessarily. “He can’t wait to leave her behind.”
The compulsion to imagine the guy to be less great diminishes the anxiety triggered by the feeling of being worthless/undeserving.
Pushed to the extreme, we thus have a dynamic that can make a woman consider a man to be the most worthless piece of scum to have ever been born on the planet because she truly loves him limitlessly and feels 100% undeserving.
The important idea in all this, is that the extremely strong female sex drive can be turned against the very thing that triggers it: men.