We start out at what might be a farm, with horses, a young couple that enjoys gazing at one another with barely-hidden lust, and an older man who is entertaining himself by eating an apple in a canoe that is parked on the ground and not floating in water. Then we jump to some soldiers in Civil-War era outfits shooting at one another in the middle of the night.
What the hell? Then we start to think about this helpful hint (how can you not notice gunfire and primitive couture?) and we realize that everything in this video seems to be taking place in the past, back in the day when folks were killing each other over the concept of slavery and then writing folk songs about it. Okay, got it.
Then we’re back at the farm, presumably in the barn, based on the hay bales scattered about. Then again, these people might just be really poor and the hay bales double as furniture, since the lusty couple is perched on one of them and pawing at each other like they’re checking for fleas. Another shot of Apple Man, this time in what we’ll assume is his room, smoking in bed (which is a no-no, hand-rolled or not). Then we see the young couple dancing around in the attic of the barn, which is what most people do after they’ve had sex on top of baling wire.
Suddenly, Apple Man sits up in his bed, hauls out one of those old-school rifles with the “I mean business” death dagger on the end of it, and he shoots a soldier way off in a field somewhere. (Pretty good shot, eh? Especially since Apple apparently shot through the wall of his house, presumably some livestock, and possibly the barn, where Gidget and Jacob are still dancing because they’re young and stupid, albeit sexually satisfied. Apple pulls on his uniform, followed by Jacob, so I guess he’s been paying attention after all.
Cut to lead singer Nate as he belts out the opening lyrics of the song, wearing a slightly-military getup that has both blue and grey in it, so at least he’s not taking sides. (Or he’s just confused.) He appears to be singing to a formation of soldiers that includes Jacob, but the video keeps jumping around all over the place so anybody could be doing anything at this point. The confusion does not keep Nate from singing, of course, because there’s nothing like an inspirational song to get groups of men all riled up so they can march in formation and shoot things.
Then we roll into the first round of that controversial chorus, the one that appears to have been directly lifted from Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cecilia”. To distract us from the similarity, the director gives us shots of the soldiers singing along, an American flag being waved, and the band performing on a clever little stage that someone has helpfully constructed in the middle of a field just in case someone wanted to give a concert. None of this part was in the original Simon and Garfunkel video, mainly because they didn’t even make videos back in that day.
Turns out that Nate really likes this little stage, hopping about with enthusiasm as he sings. (Or maybe he’s just avoiding stray bullets, a skill he might have picked up when they toured Compton.) In any case, the perky drumming in the song apparently inspires soldiers on both sides to start shooting the hell out of each other, and they do so for quite some time because this is a really long song and we need lots of things to look at to get through it all.
The song finally calms down a bit, and we cut to Jacob bathing in a metal tub while still wearing his undershirt. (Perhaps he was home-schooled and doesn’t fully understand how to get properly clean.) He’s writing a letter, presumably to his beloved since his scribbling is accompanied by images of Gidget looking mournful but sun-dappled back at the farm, but he could just as easily be applying for the first credit card ever invented.
Then the drums kick in again and we’re back to the killing fields, with the band playing at the first Woodstock while the folks all around them are trying to take lives instead of take acid. Once again, the carnage goes on for a while, with the soldiers alternately satisfying their blood lust and belting out the “Cecelia” chorus, making the whole thing look a bit like a Broadway show that is trying to make a political statement that rhymes.
We get to another slow part in the song, so we kick off a montage of Jacob still in that tub, somebody’s hand running along a wooden fence, Gidget holding Jacob’s letter just like she’s apparently held everything else of his, Apple Man standing in a field and looking for other places to eat fruit, and the soldiers gearing up for the signal to make another charge against the enemy.
That signal turns out to be Nate hitting those incredible high notes during that one bit, a sound that would inspire anyone to start running and shooting. And we’re off again, with drumming and mayhem and a lack of women in the military forces that won’t be rectified for another century or so. This round of fighting gets pretty intense, with all of that confusion where you can’t really tell who is doing what to whom, which is what war is really all about, right?
Slow part of the song again, with Nate getting wistful about his relatives and Apple Man doing something with a horse, then the drums are back because the fighting is still going on, even today, despite the supposed progress of modern society, which I think is the message Fun is trying to send here. Or maybe they just really, really like The History Channel.
No matter, the battles continue and soldiers fall, something that starts to weigh on Jacob and his still-wet undershirt. As the band moves their concert venue to the top of a hill where they can see the spectacle a little better and create a nice visual image against the smoky sky, Jacob watches the insanity around him and slowly stops marching. Or at least he seems to do so, probably because that’s what I would want him to do. Maybe I’ve listened to too many Simon and Garfunkel songs.
The song fades out while we cut to Gidget reading Jacob’s letter, a tear running down her cheek, then we’re back on the battlefield for the last few skirmishes, with Jacob shattering our illusion of his growing pacifism by firing the last shot in the video. Then Scarlet O’Hara runs onto the set and throws herself on the ground, wallering around in the turnips and babbling about how she will not go hungry again and how hard it is to find a good facial scrub when the Yankees have burned down the local Bath and Body Works…
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