The Annotated Echo, Chapter 1: Let’s talk about the Glass Coffin
Theatre, fairy tales, smartphones, and arrested development in “Nicks’ Mom
My newest music video for my song “Nick’s Mom” is a mash-up of Snow White, Hamlet, and the Lady of Shalott. But the personal source material begins at the end of the second millennium, in my childhood: I was nine when I decided to identify as a fairy instead of a human. Usually you stop believing in fairies when you get into your late childhood, but being me I had to do everything back-ass-wards, and when two new friends of mine suggested that the three of us were actually fairies from another planet inhabiting temporary humanoid avatars as a sort of social experiment, I thought: it all make sense now, that’s the first thing anyone has ever said to me about this ridiculous boring world that makes any sense.
I latched onto the fairy/alien changeling theory and spent the entirety of my pre-teen years studying all things occult and staring intensely at my pencil during math class in the hopes that I would make it levitate a la Matilda. As you can imagine, I was something of a loner and an outcast amongst my elementary school’s expanded student body.
When I was ten, a new musical theatre company came to my neighborhood. They were casting a production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. I remember the day I auditioned, and I remember what I was wearing, and I remember who I hung out with backstage. It was late August, and unseasonably overcast and chilly. I had a cold and it took a lot for my mom to drag me out of bed and open my mouth for strangers when I knew I wasn’t at my best. But I’m glad she did. Things went well, in spite of my runny nose and grumpiness, and after one call-back I was cast in the title role.
It changed my life or at least my self-image. Overnight, I went from being that tall, hairy kid who thinks she has psychic powers to…well, Snow White. Undisputed Beauty of life. True, I was cast on the basis of my voice; my singing abilities at age ten were so advanced that they probably would have cast me even if I resembled a stereotyped Wagnerian, but when I walked into rehearsal on that first day all the other kids knew who I was.
For the remainder of my pre-teen years, I did some more theatre, not knowing how far the roles I played would make their way into my psyche and my behavioral patterns: Like Sarah the Missionary (Guys and Dolls) and Marian the Librarian (The Music Man), I started having sex way after everyone else in my generation did; like Contrary Mary (Babes in Toyland), I have been pursued relentlessly by men three times my age and my solution to most of my problems is self-imposed exile…and as for my first role, Snow White…it’s complicated. Snow White is about a lot of things…Narcissism comes to mind…it’s one thing to be jealous of somebody who’s prettier than you; it’s another thing to try to kill her for that reason…or is that called Psychopathy…? Snow White is a tale of dysfunctional families, domestic abuse, exile, necrophilia…but let’s go Jungian and Campbellic for a minute and propose an idea that it is also about arrested development: let’s focus on one image: the glass coffin and the years that go by inside it.
This image anchored itself in my consciousness only recently, for this reason: during the time that she spends in the glass coffin, Snow White is dead to the world but her body does not decay. Because she is a child when she meets the dwarves but a marriageable woman when she wakes up, it is a reasonable interpretative conclusion that Snow White spent puberty inside the glass coffin.
For the purposes of my video, the “glass coffin” is also a Smartphone. In the video, we see me in my Snow White costume from both sides of the phone: in one scene I am lying in bed flipping through my phone whilst dressed as Snow White and oblivious to the world around me, and in another I am clearly in a selfie video on a phone, as you can see when I tap the screen from within to end the clip. But it can be said that I am both literally and figuratively inside the phone, and both of these scenes could be references to the fact that social media and, for the moment, smartphones especially, seem to in fact embower and encase our individual and collective worlds, containing us like a coffin would, and indeed both a coffin and a phone have a glass screen. I think in a way, social media and the technology associated with it are part of the mythology of our time. The use of Magic Mirrors to look voyeuristically into other people’s lives at things that are none of your business predicted our current culture’s preference for creeping on each other’s Facebook and Instagram profiles. Magic iPhone, Show Me Nick’s Mom.