My Chemical Romance — “Teenagers”

Released: 7.9.07

Peak: #67

As the ideal consumer, the teenager is the sole mass-produced entity that is absolutely essential to capitalism as we know it. As a human being, though, the teenager is irreducible surplus, and our essential economic problem is how to keep teenagers consuming as much as possible without letting them enter the job market too soon. Every honest adult knows that teenagers have every valid reason to hate him, and that he has good reason to hate them himself.

Sitcoms exist to reassure us that the confrontational relationship between adults and teenagers is mildly comic if not outright banal. But the perpetual war between generations refuses to be laugh-tracked into domestic submission. Taking an opposite tack, Gerard Way blows up this cross-generational hysteria to a comic sing-along, with a video that translates the garbled angst of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” into a full-scale assault. It ups the stakes further, envisioning adolescence as a war of all against all–the second verse doesn’t exactly argue that the bullies at Columbine had it coming, but to paraphrase Chris Rock, MCR understands.

My Chemical Romance’s idea of theatrical rock comes from consummate ham Alice Cooper rather than fussy humbug Pete Townsend; as glossed up by Rob Cavallo, “Teenagers” is the kind of showstopper that neither Green Day’s punk operas even approach. The big joke of “Teenagers” is the admission that they scare the living shit out of Gerard too. But the final punch line is the best of all: The video’s PSA conclusion that “VIOLENCE IS NEVER THE ANSWER.” What was the question again?

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