Wednesday, 13 January 2010




Well, here’s the other really sad song in Disney after When Somebody Loved Me. While the lyric in Toy Story 2 takes a look at private grief, this one turns its attention to public sorrow. As a reflection on the suffering of the oppressed, the video is incredibly touching – all of the prisoners are old people, women, children, or injured individuals, suffering from basic human needs like hunger or cold. Considering that the film is intended for children, this piece does a fantastic job at sensitizing audiences to the deprivations of those below, as opposed to providing a simple escapist fantasy the way that many animation films seem to do today.

The song is less than a minute and a half long, but it’s remarkably well-executed. The second strofa states, ‘I’m inclined to believe, if we weren’t so down we’d up and leave,’ and this is a realistic, albeit melancholy statement. In a surprising rhetorical twist, the song then continues with ‘We’d up and fly if we had wings for flying,’ turning the realism into wishful thinking, and implying that what seems so tangible and accessible is in fact no less unreachable – hence the conclusive misery of the immediately successive line, ‘Can’t you see the tears I’m crying.’

I’ve placed this song higher up than When Somebody Love Me for a reason. Even though WSLM is, in my opinion, more directly poignant, Not in Nottingham is more complex – noteworthy, this, considering it’s a third of the other song’s length. By far the most brilliant touch is the opening, where the narrator is revealed to be in prison with the others. For one thing, this breaks down the barrier between the prisoners and the initially distant audience of their story – the rooster seemed our partner, sharing our separation from the story, on our same plane of diegesis, and the fact that he too can be affected by social oppression brings us to a level where we are no different from those prisoners (or, at least, we subsist in their same world). Furthermore, the rooster in prison opens the way to a wealth of possible interpretations on the impoverishment of myth as the outcome of social repression, or incarcerated singing as a metaphor for unhappiness stemming from a life of deprivation. The spirit does not flourish where the matter of the body is not fertile (or, starved). Admittedly this is a very broad reading, but the song allows it, and this gives us a measure of its richness.

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