Angels & Airwaves, the anthemic space pop-rock project fronted by former Blink-182 frontman Tom DeLonge, has released the video for their first new song in three years, “Rebel Girl.” In high school, I loved the band’s seemingly ambitious multimedia approach to conceptual rock music, so I mean this, like, super sincerely when I ask: What the fuck is going on here?
The video depicts a boy impeding on a girl’s privacy while she goes on a date with another dude, and then self-harming in apparent retaliation. Since the release of “Rebel Girl” a few hours ago, publications have clocked the video as “ripped from the most sinister subreddits,” possessing a “tired friendzone plotline.” Popular Blink-182 podcast Blink-155 tweeted that the video is “quite possibly the most incel work of art released in 2019.” When reached by Jezebel, a representative for the band declined to comment on the video treatment.
In the four-and-a-half minute long clip, an unnamed girl and a boy named Tommy, both of whom appear to be in their teens, sit on her bed. Tommy is shown completing her homework while she prepares for a date with another guy. When she departs to go off with the “cool guy” on his motorcycle, Tommy reads her diary, where he learns that she thinks of him as her best friend and nothing more. He proceeds to punch himself in the face with both closed fists and a VHS tape, bloodying himself and everything in her room. When she returns, he stands up, dripping, and tells her that he has finished her work. She utters, “What the fuck?” and the video ends.
It is extremely disappointing, and needlessly violent if meant to be a run-of-the-mill articulation of unrequited love. The video does appear to parallel incel (“involuntarily celibate”) logic, a misogynistic belief system held by disgruntled (usually white and usually young) men, who feel victimized by attractive women who refuse to have sex with them. (Incels have nicknamed these desirable but withholding women “Stacys.”) Incels maintain that society keeps them down, as opposed to their personal behavior—say, something like combing through a woman’s personal artifacts. They believe they are entitled to women of their choosing, and because of that, incels also hold “Chads,” or “good-looking men” in incel-jargon, in contempt. In the “Rebel Girl” video, all of those roles are clearly defined. In 2019, it seems hard not to read a polemic into the video. I don’t blame others for doing so, because I see it, too.