Sunday, June 05, 2005

Vain

Glen Whitman at Agoraphilia writes here on the debate that ensnares my mind every time I hear Carly Simon. Will Wilkinson is on it too, although I don't think his post is nearly as enlightening as Glen's.

Whitman is right, the phrase is obviously paradoxical, as if the target of the song does, in fact, think the song is about him, than he isn't actually vain, as the song is really just about him. Glen's solution is that the you is a broader "you," the plural "you" (note: if the song were in most other languages, French for instance, we wouldn't have to question what "you" really means). It is true that Simon has indicated that it doesn't have to be about one person in particular,
although she has been appropriately vague in any situation.

Of course, Dick Ebersol paid 50,000 dollars to hear who it was that the song was about, and I'm sure he would be very unhappy with his purchase if she were to tell him "it is about a lot of people." Not only that, but Simon has told her fans that the name of the person has an E, A and an R, which of course isn't much help, but at least implies that it is a single person. All of this invalidates Glen's theory.

If the song is, in fact, about a single person then Simon is either a paradoxical person (say it ain't so!) or she is using a definition of vain that we've not recognized yet. My mother, for instance, seems untroubled by the contradiction in the song, as she says that the target of the song is vain regardless of if the song is about him or not. Vanity, as she sees it, is an objective quality that the subject of the song embodies, and the song is simply describing this attribute.

Given this interpretation, the subject of the song is not so vain because he thinks the song is about him; rather because he is vain, and due to his vanity there is a high probability that he thinks the song is about him. Then again, my mother is convinced that the song is about Warren Beatty, so maybe her theory isn't totally water-tight.

The bigger question at hand here is this: why on earth is the libertarian blogsphere so concerned with a 30 year old song?

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