Welcome to the first installment of Rob Gawks at the 80’s, a new series in which I uh, gawk at something from the 80’s I wasn’t aware of previously. I trust that we’ve all seen at least one reaction post somewhere along the line and I have no interest in explaining myself on this one so here goes.
Today’s Subject: The video for Juice Newton’s Love’s Been a Little Bit Hard on Me
Excessively Specific Categorization: Entirely too on the nose music video
Originally Released: May 1982
0:00-0:06: A convertible pulls up to the front of a house. Previously, I had believed that all convertibles are inherently cool-looking, but this particular convertible appears to have shades attached to the windshield, and I now find that belief is being severely tested.
0:07-0:12: Juice Newton, singer of the song in question and intrepid music video protagonist, peeks through the blinds of the house to wave at the car’s driver, whose shitty mustache and overall demeanor paint a portrait of man who is fundamentally unconcerned with the potential consequences of drunk driving.
0:13-0:26: What appears to be a straightfoward stretch of Juice and her band miming the song on a sound stage (truly, the most normcore music video trope) is subverted in two ways. First, any time the title of the song is sung, half of the screen is given over to a soft-focus close up of Juice’s face. The song’s call-and-response structure makes this a frequent occurrence, but it remains jarring. Also, the last second or so of this bit is in that weird uh…someone who knows more about film techniques surely knows what the term for this is, but it’s that thing where instead of just showing Juice in motion, there’s a couple of freeze frames with like, an actual metric shit ton of gradient. I have no idea what this technique called, and I have no idea why whoever is responsible for it thought it was necessary. Surely, after making this decision, she/he tied an onion to her/his belt, since it was the style at the time and all.
0:27-0:39: Ok. So to this point, nothing in this video has been particularly outlandish. This changes in this sequence, when Juice runs out to the car, gives the guy (who is, naturally, outside by the passenger door to be a gentleman and all that) a peck on the cheek, then gets in the car, and then the dude fucking slams the door right on her fucking shin. This door, mind you, is thick and boxy in the grand style of old cars, and upon seeing this it takes every ounce of restraint within me to not scream a whole bunch of fuck words at the very top of my lungs as a purely sympathetic reaction, and then she keeps miming along with lyrics like absolutely nothing fucking happened before peering down at her leg completely unphased, and with the calm but vaguely concerned demeanor a normal person would use to poke their head out the front door to see if it’s raining. Either our protagonist is whacked all the way the fuck out on PCP, or the force of the door slamming turned every single nerve ending in her leg into the color and consistency (and, oddly enough, flavor) of pistachio ice cream.
0:40-0:46: The same car drives up to the same house again, and this time our protagonist comes to the door on crutches, with her leg in a full cast. You know, to preserve verisimilitude and all that.
0:46-0:59: Another sound stage section exactly like the one before it, save for two changes. First, Juice seems to have changed clothes at some point in the intervening 13 seconds, and the face close-ups on the responses are mirrored. When you watch this at full speed, you don’t notice this sort of thing, but when you keep scanning and pausing and marking time stamps so you can drag the video on the internet for the potential amusement of maybe seven people, you ask yourself why either change was necessary before deciding to move on.
1:00-1:12: Listen, I don’t know how people conducted business back in those days, but here we see our protagonist getting picked up for another date with the same. fucking. dude. You would think an act of gross negligence (and here I am assuming that it was mere negligence and not something more sinister) sufficient to shatter a shin bone would be considered a dealbreaker at any point past 1957 or so, but that shows what I know. Anyway, this time around the asshole (that’s his name now) is holding the crutch, forcing Juice to hop up and down on one leg so he can present her with a bouquet so decrepit even I notice how much it sucks, and I’m not one to track on this sort of thing. When he turns to present said wad of indistinct yellow sadness, he smacks Juice in the face with the crutch (but like, only in theory, because as a veteran pro wrestling enthusiast it’s immediately clear that the crutch misses her face by at least a foot or two, and listen, I’m not asking that people take actual shots to the face for the benefit of an already extremely, deeply stupid music video, but surely they could’ve gotten a more convincing shot than that), and she falls over backwards and bashes her head on the concrete ground, and naturally, she reacts with lip syncing. Meanwhile, the dude gazes at the flowers in an apparent fugue state.
1:13-1:28: Another sound stage bit. Can’t tell if she changed clothes entirely or if she merely reverted to her original outfit, but this is already taking forever and I can’t be bothered so yeah. Also this is the bridge so instead a couple of interjected closeups, there’s just one big on at the end that fades to white for the transition. I’m trying my level best to avoid making lazy cocaine jokes in this series but what the hell else am I supposed to do with that?
1:30-1:51: The very same car drives up to the very same house, and man, those fucking shades on the windshield are only looking more and more stupid. Juice, now wheelchair bound, is pushed out front. The asshole tries to carry her and place her down gently in the car, but fails. Again, the fact that this courtship is continuing simply baffles me. However, no traumatic injury is incurred, it’s just awkward; partially on purpose and partially in a way that suggests less than judicious editing.
1:52-2:07: Just Juice standing and miming to the song; I suspect that this is panned down from the close ups from earlier, but I cannot confirm this.
2:08-2:11: Back to the sound stage. And yes, everyone has changed clothes again, and no, I still have no idea why.
2:12-2:31: Behold! A break in the formula! This time, instead of pulling up to the house, the convertible pulls up to a cliff side restaurant, and while the asshole is apparently haggling with the valet (was that a thing? I’ve never been well enough to do to indulge in valet parking but I’ve seen signs for it, all of which lead me to believe it costs a flat rate plus tip), our protagonist, still in a wheelchair, rolls backwards all the way off the side of the cliff, not expressing any emotion stronger than mild dismay and still finding time to lip sync in all this. She tumbles all the way down the cliff, which, again, fucking ouch. The asshole shows the most concern he’s bothered to muster this whole time by running to the side of the cliff with the valet, and then throwing….something indistinct from his coat pocket – the car keys, maybe? – over the side of the cliff, and seemingly with a hint malice, like he had a bad day at the track.
2:32-2:38: A close up of Juice’s unbothered, lip syncing face pans away to reveal her in a hospital bed, in a full body cast.
2:39-3:11: The video concludes with a montage of the various injuries our protagonist has suffered, cut with more clips from the sound stage. For the record, the Almost Certainly Fatal Injury Count is 1, the Quite Possibly Fatal Injury Count is 2, and the Unconscionably Painful Injury Count is 3. We get another shot of her in the body cast for good measure, and then a final close up of her looking sad, or maybe she just kind of needs to poop? It’s unclear.
Final Analysis: While the song itself isn’t all that great (I often find chipper call and response structures a little grating), this is precisely the sort of doofy nonsense that could only have been made before anybody had any idea how music videos are supposed to work. I’m still wincing at the car door bit, yeesh. I gotta peace out and get some ice on my shin all of a sudden, despite the fact nothing has happened to them.