‘I am a Man’ is a painful video to watch – a visual representation of a mental breakdown. We asked Benjamin from The Battery Farm to get us through symbolism and subtext of this abrasive, and we suspect somehow personal, performance.
The song is about living with a mental illness as a male-identifying Human in this rotten auld world, and how the external pressures and expectations of that perceived role lock you into the disease and make you feel alone. This, in turn, amplifies and exacerbates the whole thing in the extreme.
The video starts with the protagonist edging towards a mental breakdown, kicking and flailing against the oncoming plummet into blackness and being utterly alone in doing so. We wanted the video to reflect the increasing sense of panic, desperation and helplessness that develops and intensifies at that point in a breakdown: that hot, searing, stabbing, animal feeling of fear, loneliness and empty resignation. The quick cuts and shaky camera in the video reflect that. The ‘I am’ sentences that the video cuts also to reveal this franticness.
This represents ever-intensifying cacophony of self-lacerating thoughts that break down your psyche while you desperately try to counteract them with something hopeful. They build like a dam leak, and when the dam bursts, you’re done. The song is about the cage that masculinity builds for you from birth. The ‘I am a Man’ line isn’t a shallow, petty statement of manhood – it’s a cry for help, a cry to be set free, an absolute lashing out at the role that has been made for you that you’ve had to adhere to. It says “I am a man and I’ve fucking had enough of it”.
At points in the video, I wear a gag on which is scrawled the phrase ‘help me’. When you’re on the edge of the abyss, you feel like you can’t talk for fear of being dismissed or patronised. You gag yourself inside your little cage, which keeps getting smaller by the day. And all you want is a help. You can’t ask for it because it’s too scary to acknowledge and you don’t want to worry anyone. You tell yourself you can’t ask for help because no one will believe you or they’ll unwittingly say something that makes it worse. The point it makes is that it is hard to talk as an individual.
People say ‘it’s ok to talk’ without acknowledging just how difficult that can be for someone. When you’re at that point in mental illness, talking about it can be your worst nightmare. The gag is about keeping an eye out for the signs in your friends and family if you can, because they won’t always tell you how they feel even though they’ve been told they can. The use of the little modelling doll thing reflects the condition of the song’s protagonist. Fragile, empty, numb, at the mercy of something out of their control. Coated in something that appears hard to break. The last shot where the doll plummets off the screen is the representation of something final, from which you cannot come back.