What was the deal with Oingo Boingo’s ‘Little Girls’, still the creepiest music video of all time?

Christopher Hooton
Tuesday 01 November 2016 13:40
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In these hypersensitive times, even a controversial music video as artful as Sia’s ‘Elastic Heart’, which saw Shia LaBeouf wrestle in a brotherly way with dancer Maddie Ziegler, will lead to a full apology from the artist. But back in 1981, Grammy-winning composer Danny Elfman was manifesting unhinged visions no-one would dare post online in 2016.

At the time, he was part of new wave band Oingo Boingo, whose album Only a Lad and specifically the song ‘Little Girls’ has become a persistent internet oddity, racking up over 6 million YouTube views.

If you’ve never seen it/had it burned into your memory, watch it at your peril now:

Slightly mortified? Sorry. With lines like “They don't care about my one-way mirror / They're not frightened by my cold exterior” and the (hideously catchy) chorus hook, it’s a pretty disturbing song and video, imagining a predator living in a house seemingly designed by M.C. Escher and inhabited by voyeuristic dwarves in smart-casual attire. Several little girls visit, pillow fighting with the character, restraining him, kissing him and floating in some kind of void.

Was it some kind of Nabokovian exploration of paedophilia? Elfman was asked about the video at Comic Con in 2010.

He said:

“What made me write it? At that point I was just grabbing onto things that popped up in my head and taking characters and singing from their point of view. So whether it be the right wing guy talking about capitalism or the feisty little girl or quasi molester - these were just things that I thought were funny or interesting and I would just kind of jump into the skin of. Often things I wrote were motivated by nothing but the newspaper. I’d read an article and be thinking about something and write a song from that perspective. So it didn’t necessarily reflect me…but it was just fun and I knew it was irreverent. I was out to offend everybody when I started out. Any subject matter I could find that would be offensive I was embracing, so that was just one.”

Elfman, who won a Grammy for the Batman score and an Emmy for Desperate Housewives', doubled down on this in 2014 when he told The AV Club it wasn’t so much about writing “from the perspective of a paedophile” but dishing out an “in-your-face facetious jab”.

Only A Lad critiqued capitalism, but he also wanted to provoke the outraged left.

“I just basically make fun of everybody, and I didn’t see anybody as being protected from that,” he added.

“So even if my politics were left, I still would really mock political correctness and kind of organized left-wing politics as frequently as I would the right.

“To me, all organized, political groups have a sense of absurdity to them. It’s open to be mocked or satirized. If anything, I consider myself part of nothing, and any organized group was fair game to mockery.”

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