The Lonely Island’s Laughable Activism: The Visual Argument of “Spring Break Anthem”

Curator's Note

When I first watched the Lonely Island’s new “Spring Break Anthem” video, I suspected that there was more to the juxtaposition of stereotypical college spring break behaviors and images of same-sex weddings than the former SNL group’s typical parodic music videos. It wasn’t until after watching the video several times and googling audience reactions that I realized the piece was meant as a pro-marriage-equality statement. To paraphrase the Lonely Island’s Reddit interview with fans, the contrasting narratives suggest that there is something laughably wrong when society condones reckless drinking and sexual behaviors on spring break, yet continues to (largely) systematically stigmatize same-sex marriage, and male-male love especially. This is the reasoning embedded in this video necessary to make it a visual argument rather than simply visual rhetoric or persuasion.

Yet, as my and others’ first impressions demonstrate (see youtube comments), viewers may miss this intended argument and its reasons.  And this seems to be the problem with parodic visual arguments as attempts at activism. Since parody relies on twisting the grammar of a discourse or genre to achieve an oppositional end, there is always the risk that viewers will get hung up on the original and miss the oppositional. Since visual arguments are uniquely evocative they do have some advantage over non-visual arguments.  I found the beauty in the images of the wedding surprisingly moving (put differently by another viewer, “The line ‘Two Kings walking hand in hand’ made me want to be gay a bit”).  What’s more, comedy has the power to sugar coat the often bitter pill of social critique. So if attitude is incipient action, then maybe this video is a kind of activism regardless of being produced by otherwise largely a-political (seeming) comedians unaffiliated with any particular organization or cause.

However, while the video clearly argues that our attitude towards same-sex marriage is, literally, laughable when held against more ridiculous but condoned behaviors, I’m left wondering whether laughing is, ultimately, the only action we are called upon to produce with parody, and if so, whether that is enough to constitute activism?




Loney Island’s original song, “Springbreak Anthem”, poses an incredibly unique tactic in showing how same sex marriage should be legalized. The music video expresses the raunchy activities college students and young adults do during spring break such as drinking hard alcohol and wearing revealing clothing with degrading slander written on the clothes. But then within seconds, the song throws a total juxtaposition, with the lyrics, “marry a man” and a shot of two men getting married. At first glance it seems really inappropriate and frankly not communicating a clear message, almost making the audience want to stop listening. But as the music video goes on, it shows patterns about their true message. The pattern is showing the outrageous yet acceptable things “normal” people do and then showing gay marriage in the same component causing a natural comparison. It shows that gay marriage really is not all that outrageous in comparison to the crazy “acceptable” activities shown in previous shots. It was an incredible way to show how gay marriage isn’t a fitting category for what a lot of people put it in; calling the idea insane and ruining life as we know it. Even though, Lonely Island is not communicating an easily comprehendible surface argument, the insane pace and catchiness of the song pulls you in to what they are trying to say about gay marriage. I personally think it’s a genius way of expressing such a controversial argument and they proved themselves successful in executing it.

The video of Lonely Island’s original song, “Spring Break Anthem” creatively argues a juxtaposition of college students during springbreak and the idea of same sex marriage. It honestly took me a couple times to watch the video to connect the juxtaposition standpoint between young adults partying and gay marriage. I found it surprising that the two situations would ever have something in common. Like Aaron was stating, visual arguments have a larger influence over non-visual arguments in a way that viewers interpretations will change. When I saw the opening party scene with students drinking and talking about getting “chicks” during spring break, I thought the author’s intentions would consist of the careless actions young people commit. Then scenes of marriage between two men appeared. I contemplated about what the producer of the video intended his audience to drawback from the video. After watching the video a couple times, I then realized that society views the college partying situation relatively normal and not presented as such a big issue. On the other hand, society can argue about what is right or wrong with people being able to marry those of the same gender, even though under age students consuming alcohol and trashing hotel rooms are seen as acceptable. During spring break the idea of chaos is intended to happen; people do not enforce the consequences of partying as much any more because it has happened so often that it is useless to tell a young adult to do something and expect them to obey. People of the same sex marriage to this day are judged for being together when ultimately this act is not as atrocious as getting drunk and partying like the college students. The fact that these two situations linked together in someway caught my attention to try to comprehend on what the similarities were.

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