Ask Dr. Amy

The noted psychologist/therapist weighs in on Madness.

Amy: Is there wine?

Greg: Amy, now that you’ve gotten your wine, I’ve been wanting to ask you for quite some time now about a music video. Are you familiar with music videos?

Amy: Yes.

Greg: Originally, there’s just the song, but at some point someone involved with the song decided it needed to be embellished with moving images.

Amy: Yes. MTV.

Greg: And then people who like the song end up watching the video instead of just listening to the song.

Amy: Or maybe it adds to it.

Greg: The video itself might be how or why the song is popular, and remembered long after the song would have faded into the cultural landscape.

Amy: True.

Greg: And I think this particular video by a group called Madness is a good example of that. It’s called “One Step Beyond,” and the song itself doesn’t really have a whole lot to it. But the video makes it memorable. See what I mean?

Amy: Yes. Although I don’t really remember that video.

Greg: I think my description will refresh you.

Amy: Okay.

Greg: The images give the viewer added meaning to what would normally be an ordinary song.

Amy: Are you going to show me the video?

Greg: No.

Amy: Okay.

Greg: Anyway, I asked you to sit down with me for a few reasons, one of which is the name of the band itself: Madness. In your field you deal directly with madness — not the band, but the affliction. So I guess I’m seeking your judgment of to what extent and how accurately the video portrays insanity.

Amy: Interesting. Because I don’t necessarily think of my job as involving madness.

Greg: But your clients come to see you because of mental problems.

Amy: Yes —

Greg: Madness would count as a mental problem, right?

Amy: Yes, but I think of that more as psychosis, perhaps? And I don’t generally work with psychosis.

Greg: Well, I don’t want to stray too far from the topic.

Amy: Okay. Sorry.

Greg: So, great. At the outset of the video, you see a crewcutted young man sleeping in a bed. Suddenly he’s awakened by a loud, echoey voice, instructing him not to watch what he had been watching, which I assume is a dream, and instead to watch something else. It’s a guy in a suit and dark glasses, and he’s ordering him to opt instead for a “heavy heavy monster sound.” Do you think it could be damaging to one’s mental health to be woken up this way?

Amy: (Laughs) I think it would be startling.

Greg: But not necessarily any long-lasting effects.

Amy: I guess it depends on your previous experiences with those types of things, like being startled, having a stranger in your room, those kinds of things. If those things had happened to you in the past —

Greg: It could lead to madness.

Amy: — it might be more upsetting.

Greg: Well, it only gets more assaulting. The man announces the video then, and reveals its title: One Step Beyond. What follows is a barrage of short scenes that include a band, presumably Madness, performing on a stage; a stocky man in a black coat dancing in front of a row of red phone booths, a closeup of a man in a red hat playing drums, another man in a red hat in a stairwell playing saxophone; and, periodically, the man in dark glasses we saw earlier, shouting the words, “One step beyond.” Amy, what do make of all this?

Amy: It’s funny, I still don’t remember the video. (Laughs) But I do remember the song.

Greg: But the description is so detailed.

Amy: It is. Thank you. Um, I’m — what do I make of all that?

Greg: Do you think there is any significance to the red hats?

Amy: Is that sort of a trademark of the band?

Greg: Maybe, or of madness itself. I don’t know. Now I want to get to what might be the most striking footage in the video. Seven men are walking down a city sidewalk. But their way of walking seems very strange. They’re all facing the same direction, and they’re very close to each other, almost touching. They’re all squatting down fairly low, and walking with bent knees. They take a long step, then a short one, then a long one. It’s almost as if together they form some kind of caterpillar or centipede. Amy, if you saw men walking like this in public, would you think they needed therapy?

Amy: No, I would think they were imitating Monty Python.

Greg: The funny walks bit. Okay.

Amy: Um, I would think they were having fun, clowning around.

Greg: You could say it’s a dance, but if it is, why aren’t they on a dance floor? Why in public?

Amy: ’cause they’re in a video!

Greg: Oh. But presumably footage in a video is intended to depict life, maybe?

Amy: No.

Greg: Okay.

Amy: (Laughs) Low battery!

Greg: Each time the band is shown performing the song, a man in front, who seems like he might be the frontman, holds a microphone and dances manically, but doesn’t ever actually sing. Do you think he might be insane?

Amy: Maybe he’s meant to depict someone who’s manic.

Greg: Ah! That makes sense, yeah. The only man who sings doesn’t really sing, but just keeps shouting the words “One Step Beyond.” Do you think he might have some sort of Tourette’s syndrome?

Amy: Maybe that’s what he’s representing.

Greg: This whole madness thing is starting to make more sense. Near the end of the song, there’s a five-second clip of a young crewcutted man doing a sort of Irish jig on some concrete in front of a townhouse? When you consider the song he’s dancing to is actually a form of music called ska, which is a sped-up kind of reggae, do you think his actions could point to skizophrenia?

Amy: Is that where the word “ska” comes from?

Greg: Skazophrenia? Maybe — I never thought of that. I’ll have to look that up. Would you recommend that parents let their children watch this video?

Amy: Sure, if you can pull them away from videos of people playing Minecraft.

Greg: Right. That’s for another day. Would you prescribe group therapy for this band, or individual counseling sessions?

Amy: Oh, I think the more people in therapy, the better. Bring ’em all in.

Greg: All right. Well, thank you, Dr. Amy. Next week we’ll be talking about, um, Minecraft videos.

Amy: All right!

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