Until recently, mainstream culture was unaware -- or at least not wildly enthused -- about Lana Del Rey’s existence, but now the maybe-hipster's name is on everyone's lips. Drawing on an old-school vocal aesthetic, Del Rey has delighted a lot of listeners tired of the same old pop, but she's also drawn harsh criticism for the heavy manufacturing behind her persona and an abysmal performance on SNL, during which she flatly mumbled and tinkle-danced through the two songs that catapulted her into America's collective consciousness. Love her or hate her, she seems to be the controversy of the moment.
In late 2011, Del Rey released a video for "Video Games," a track off her now-newly released album Born to Die. The most popular interpretation of the lyrics is quite literal: The singer is a neglected woman, all because her man loves video games. While the woman heaps praise and little favors, like donning his "favorite sundress," on her man, he seems to be more concerned with his virtual world. "I say you the bestest/lean in for a big kiss/put your favorite perfume on," Del Rey sings, and then, sadly, suggests that her boyfriend's response is to "go play a video game.”
By singing about video games as an all-consuming boyfriend-stealer, Del Rey is playing into a complaint that gamers hear all too often. The longing woman in "Video Games" seems to be a lot like the kind of girl that many of us have seen in viral videos breaking her boyfriend's Xbox or erasing his WoW characters because he ignores her in favor of games. This kind of girl is missing the point and being pathetic for all the wrong reasons.
Being passionate about video games and being passionate in your personal relationships are not mutually exclusive. So many people seem to think that men who game are helpless saps: Madden has trapped him on the couch, and he’d love to snuggle and whisper sweet nothings if only he could get rid of that surgically attached controller without too much pain! But the video game isn’t the culprit; that idea is patronizing. If an adult wants to game, let him game -- and if an outside party with cart blanche to leave doesn't like it, that's her problem.
Gamers or not, people should take issue with the idea that one-sided relationships are something to be sadly muddled through rather than ended. If a woman like the one in Del Rey's song finds herself madly in love and trying to make it work without reciprocation, it's time to pack it up and go. Everyone is worth a partner who at least respects her hobbies and tries to understand her; life should not be a sad indie ballad.
What Del Rey is trying to make sound oh-so-romantic is the idea of hanging on for a guy that's just not that into you because you love the idea of him rather than who he is, and when faced with commentary like that, we should feel bad for the neglected party for an entirely different reason. If, in her naiveté, a woman actually believes games are the problem and not, say, a lack of chemistry, she deserves a bit of a sad glance in her general direction.
If someone likes you, he will make time for you. Likewise, if you like someone enough, you’ll make time to attempt to care about the things he likes instead of smashing his property in a vain attempt to turn him into your Prince Charming. People don't love you just because you want them to, and making someone feel awful about how they spend their free time isn't exactly the way to the heart.
'Gaming for N00bs' is TNGG Boston's bi-weekly Sunday gaming column, written by Vanessa Formato.
Photo by Chad Batka for The New York Times via Boston.com
About Vanessa -- Vanessa Formato is a 22-year-old Clark University graduate, freelance journalist, vegan cupcake enthusiast and video game aficionado. She blogs about body image and tweets about puppies. So awesome, even John Stamos is impressed.
The author is solely responsible for the content.