critically analyzing sk8er boi by avril lavigne


i work at a hardware store and on the speakers they often play sk8er boi by avril lavigne. being a department store, and working in a department that isn't busy often, i have a lot of time stuck in my head making entertainment for myself. and whenever sk8er boi plays, i find myself doing critical analysis of the song almost against my will. i'm hoping by sitting down and writing a diary entry all about that, maybe i will be freed when the song plays.

to start, lets go through the song line by line!

He was a boy, she was a girl

Can I make it any more obvious?

okay, we learn a lot here. we have not only a boy, but a girl also. and it's obvious. obviously what? under the heteronormative laws governing society, particularly in 2002 pop music, we can make an educated guess that this is a love story.

He was a punk, she did ballet

What more can I say?

here's where things get INTERESTING. lavigne gives us two stereotypes to define this pair under: a punk and a ballerina respectively. what more can she say? now, being the great age of 4 years old in 2002, i can't say i'm an expert on the matter. but if consuming popular culture of the time has taught me anything, it's that people in different cliques simply don't mix. further, those in "preppier," more conformist cliques would never consort with the non-conformist punks. but maybe i'm wrong.

He wanted her, she'd never tell

Secretly she wanted him as well

perhaps so! despite their differences we see the pair crush on each other. young love blossoming in surprising circumstances. it's beautiful. it confirms my previous guesses.

But all of her friends stuck up their nose

They had a problem with his baggy clothes

perhaps not! i'm right after all. her friends scorn him. tale as old as time. it's romeo and juliet. two teenagers both alike in dignity, in fair hot topic where we lay our scene,

He was a skater boy, she said, "See you later, boy"

He wasn't good enough for her

alas, unlike the star-crossed lovers of olde, she turns away from the skater boy. though it's interesting the language lavigne uses here- stating "he wasn't good enough for her" makes it sound as though that is something she believes, though as previously stated, it's the belief her friends hold despite her affection for the skater boy.

She had a pretty face, but her head was up in space

She needed to come back down to earth

lavigne does a lot of interesting stuff using language here. she states that the girls head is "up in space," word choice that inspires ideas of a spacey, day-dreamy, almost ditzy girl. maybe she's not thinking clearly. maybe she's thinking too much. but lavigne goes on to say "she needed to come back down to earth," turning the statement on its head. she's up in space, on a high-horse maybe, she's above it all. she needs to come back down and see things for how it is. again, this idea of the girl being pretentious is nurtured.

Five years from now, she sits at home

Feedin' the baby, she's all alone

this is the part where the song becomes truly tragic for the girl. we know that she turned the skater boy down, so the father of her child must not be him (unless lavigne has some crazy plot twist in store for us). worse, she's at home alone, there's the implication that whoever the father is, he's neglecting her as she raises their child.

She turns on TV, guess who she sees?

Skater boy rockin' up MTV

in a twist of fate, the non-conformist skater boy has made it, literally "rockin' up" music television, while the conformist sits at home seemingly unhappy.

She calls up her friends, they already know

And they've all got tickets to see his show

worse still, the same friends that pushed her to dump the skater boy are fans of him now. you can imagine what the girl must have felt in that moment, realizing she had given up an opportunity for romantic happiness to avoid disrupting her social life, only to have it proven for naught.

skipping lines from the chorus discussed previously, the chorus changes to say:

Now he's a superstar slammin' on his guitar

Does your pretty face see what he's worth?

this is the first time in the song we see the narrator address the girl directly, placing the song in direct conversation with the girl.

as these lines repeat again, let's jump to the bridge.

Sorry, girl, but you missed out

Well, tough luck, that boy's mine now

We are more than just good friends

This is how the story ends

the narrator reveals herself (it's stated she is a girl later in the song) to be the skater boys current lover. further, she's gloating to the girl about this accomplishment, and reminds the girl that there is no way to reverse her mistake of dumping the skater boy. not the crazy plot twist i was alluding too earlier, but a crazy one none-the-less.

Too bad that you couldn't see

I see the man that boy could be

There is more than meets the eye

I see the soul that is inside

these lines further taunt the girl for her misstep in ignoring the boy, though i would argue the narrator is incorrect here. while the girl didn't follow through, we do know that she did desire the skater boy, and thus must have seen worth in him, some semblance of his soul. we, as well as the narrator, know it was her friends who were the problem, so this line of taunting seems misplaced. perhaps the narrator placing more importance on herself in comparison to the girl?

He's just a boy, and I'm just a girl

Can I make it any more obvious?

here, lavigne flips the chorus on its head by changing the girl in question to the narrator, further allowing the narrator to taunt the girl.

We are in love, haven't you heard

How we rock each other's world?

interesting how this line aligns the idea of "rocking" with the narrator also- this isn't another ballerina girl who stepped out of conformity for love, but perhaps another non-conformist finding love in their own circle? if so, the song doesn't question the idea of a social hierarchy's existence, but just implies that the punks should be on top. it can be read as not saying anything about doing away with conformity, but just that punks should be the new form.

I'm with the skater boy, I said "see you later, boy"

I'll be backstage after the show

I'll be at our studio singin' the song we wrote

About a girl you used to know

then these lines repeat. interesting how these lines repeat when they reveal so much about the relationship between the narrator, the skater boy, and the girl. the narrator is a fellow rocker, a fellow non-conformist, and she co-wrote the song with the skater boy. but it begs the question, if so much time has passed, why is the skater boy still thinking about he girl? why is he writing a song about her? worse, why is the narrator so eager to go along, so eager to taunt the girl that snubbed her lover?

the most obvious answer is that the skater boy still harbours some level of feeling for the girl. maybe he's still angry or hurt over being rejected based on societal expectations. maybe, despite being punk himself, he liked her preppy aesthetic and her ballet hobby. maybe his heart hasn't let go of the bittersweet love of youth. maybe it's just good fodder to rehash on to write a song with.

i'm more curious in the narrator though. if it were me, and my lover suggested writing a song together based on someone who rejected him in youth, i'd be pretty miffed. i can't see myself being really interested in spending time thinking on their old crush long enough to write a song about it, and i'd definitely feel uncomfortable and jealous if they wanted to. and the way the narrator gloats and taunts to the girl almost makes me think she feels the same. like she feels she needs to prove something to the girl by showing off her and the skater boys love.

the song, then, is a tragedy in two parts: the heartbroken girl mourning a love that could have been, and another anxious to boast her love to a ghost.

maybe they should meet up.

sk8er boi- avril lavigne