Weird Al Is Why I’ve Been So Introspective Lately

Content Warning for non-specific mentions of suicidal ideation and OCD relating to suicidal ideation in latter half of the post.

As the last few days of reflective posts have probably indicated, I’ve been thinking about the past and general course of my life a whole bunch recently. I mean, I do it pretty much constantly, but I’ve felt a bit more directed in my mental meanderings of late, and probably not for any of the reasons someone might guess based on my past posts about domestic labor and grief/loss based revisionist history. Those came up because of my recent birthday and my mother attempting to get into contact with me by once again violating the clear and simple boundaries I’ve set, but they’re not the root cause of the reflective mindset I find myself in. The whole period of reflection actually started because off the recently released Weird Al biopic. Well, “released.” I mean, it was at a film festival and the internet SAYS it was released, but it won’t show anywhere I can watch it until November, and that only if I invest in a ROKU, so who knows if that’ll happen. I’ll probably find a friend who has access and watch it that way. Or hope it shows up on another streaming service. We’ll see what happens over the next two months.

Anyway. The reason this biopic has caused this honestly kinda intense period of introspection is because Weird Al’s music is the reason I’m a creative person. A lot of my childhood love of stories and creative expression got stamped out by the abuse and neglect that dominated my life at that point, and what wasn’t strangled by that was more actively destroyed when my parents made me throw away all my Harry Potter stuff. Not because they had visions of the future and the terrible person the author would reveal herself to be, but because the pretend-play games my younger siblings and I indulged in were “creating a false idol” that we “set before god” in an apparently unquestionable shattering of one of the ten commandments (never mind that it was the summer and we couldn’t play video games or watch TV during the summer). Between that and the resulting restrictions on video games and fantasy media (done, of course, to prevent the creation of more false idols), I didn’t have much left that sparked my imagination or got me interested in anything creative.

At least not until my uncle, who worked part-time as a small event DJ, gave my brother and I a couple burned CDs of Weird Al’s music. I didn’t recognize most of the parodies for what they were at the time, but the music appealed to me because it wasn’t really about anything while also usually being about something incredibly specific. I mean, I could sing every line of Albequerquie on my own when I was a teen and I found immense joy in this dumb story about someone’s life that didn’t really have a point. It was just silly for the sake of fun. As I grew a bit older and listened to more of Weird Al’s music, I learned what a parody was and discovered that you could just take stuff about one thing and then make an altered copy that was about something else entirely. The introduction to this concept is what showed me that I could still tell stories and get around my parents’ restrictions if I made the stories about something similar to something I enjoyed but was far enough away from it that my parents wouldn’t think I was “creating false idols” again.

Setting aside all of the incredibly problematic parts of that (at least for the purposes of this post since this isn’t supposed to be about how shitty my parents are), I can trace a direct line from Weird Al’s music to the first stories I wrote. Until that point in my life, it had literarlly never occurred to me that you could tell a story about one thing that was actually about something else. It took me a few more years to really understand what that meant and that this idea applied to not just my stories but pretty much every story ever told, but I didn’t need to understand it to start writing about a teenaged fantasy hero that lost his entire family (except a younger sibling he managed to shield from danger) after his adopted cousin (who was just a little over a year older than him) had them all killed so he could take control of the kingdom that family ruled. I did eventually realize that the story was about me and how I felt, but that took a few years. A few years where I consciously chose to write about myself and the world through the super-hero adjacent stories my friends and I wrote and shared between us, featuring us as the heroes of a co-authored universe that was a not-so-subtle way of us processing the complexities of our teenaged lives, social cirlces, and what it meant to be a person in the world.

None of which would have happened without Weird Al’s music, the knowledge that you could tell a story without telling the specific story you wanted to tell, and the inspiration to try my hand at making my own musical and poetic parodies. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without this boost of support, confidence, and creativity from a collection of CDs. I imagine I’d have turned into the engineer my parents wanted, assuming I survived my teenage and college years without some form of creative expression and an outlet for all the things I was repressing.

I’m not sure I would have, if I’m being honest. Being able to do something with what I felt and had experienced was my only reason for living for a few years in my teen years, after all the trauma. I might have still pulled through, of course. I have been pretty good at finding ways to get around the suicidal ideation part of my OCD, so I probably would have come up with something. Still, I only imagine what my life would have been like if all I’d had as a tween and teen was Bible Camp Songs, Christian Rock, and Christmas Carols for music (which was literally all I had before Weird Al’s music came into my life). Probably would have been a lot more boring, if nothing else. Heck, the indoctrination might even have worked!

I really can’t emphasize how big an impact the introduction to Weird Al’s music had on my life. It’s one of those pivotal moments where the course of my life was irrevocably altered by something incredibly small. Hopefully it now makes sense why I’ve been reflecting on the way the division of domestic labor can represent power dynamics and equality in domestic relationships and how revisionist history associated with grief and loss creates a warped space that removes us from reality in addition to being incredibly unhealthy for our attempts to process that grief and loss. Turns out Weird Al’s music is the first step along the path to becoming the sort of person who’d think about that stuff and write a blog post about it.

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