“Mad World” — Gary Jules
“Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?”
I was dismayed the other day when the TV ate my VHS copy of Donnie Darko. I’ll admit that I quoted the movie far more than was necessary in my college days. I even found the above quote in a magazine and included it in my profile collage for arts and cultures. I doubt, though, that I’d have made such a strong connection to the movie without its use of Gary Jules’s song “Mad World.”
“All around me are familiar faces, worn-out places, worn-out faces.
Bright and early for the daily races, going nowhere, going nowhere.
The tears are filling up their glasses, no expression, no expression.
Hide my head, I wanna drown my sorrow, no tomorrow, no tomorrow.”
The words evoke everyday-tragic images which fit neatly with the haunting melody. Everyday-tragic, you may ask? First, I’m an English teacher, so I’m allowed to make up words. Shakespeare did it. But also, what I mean is that these words are like the line from Black Guayaba’s “Ayer:” “Una lágrima suelto al suelo—un acto criminal” (a tear falls to the floor—a criminal act). Small, meaningful, sorrowful occurrences lead to haunting images that reflect the tragedy that can be found in everyday life. They’re smaller, more subtle tragic images . . . but they still resonate within you. Tears coursing over expressionless, worn-out faces to fill empty glasses. People racing about their daily routines, unaware that they accomplish very little.
In Donnie Darko, the montage of characters at night is an apt pairing for this tune. Then, this summer, I saw the tune paired with another montage of characters that seemed, if possible, even more perfect. The cast of The Glee Project turned “Mad World” into a music video for their week on vulnerability. Each of the aspiring stars had to walk through a mall with a signboard listing what made him or her most vulnerable—words like “fat,” “used,” “anorexic,” “numb,” and “gay.” Even though the video was only a few minutes long, I wept when I watched it because it felt so real.
“And I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad.
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had.
I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take.
When people run in circles, It’s a very, very mad world.”
I’ll admit to a certain fatalism when I listen to the line “The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had.” I’ll also admit to listening to this song when those fatalistic thoughts run rampant; somehow, expressing them (because of course I have to sing) makes those thoughts easier to bear.
“Went to school and I was very nervous.
No one knew me, no one knew me.
Hello, teacher, tell me, what’s my lesson?
Look right through me, look right through me.”
For the most part, I was happy in school; even if I wasn’t super-popular, I had my group of friends. Still, I felt at times like I was completely invisible. To be honest, I still do. This song allows me to explore those feelings of alienation and everyday tragedy but still come out unscathed at the end.
So, yes, I know it is a mad world, but in a strange way, this song reminds me that maybe I’m not alone.