Interpretations:Call You Mom

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Rolling a hoop[edit]

My first impression of the song is that its based on the idea that men tend to be attracted to women who are similar to their mothers (something I've heard before but have no idea if there's any truth to).
The only part of the song that seems really ambiguous is the part where he says:
"As I dream of the game
Where I'm rolling a hoop
And I turn around to find that you are gone
Which was exactly like my mom
And I will go hang up my sailor suit
And lie face-down on the lawn."
I'm guessing that the part about the game of "rolling a hoop" symbolizes some kind of falling out or getting caught up in life, after which he realizes that the relationship with his spouse/mother is ruined. This prompts the response of "hanging up his sailor suit," or giving up on happiness and wasting away by lying "face-down on the lawn." The typical metaphorical sadness that has become a motif in TMBG lyrics.
But, those are only my thoughts, I could be way way off. Just thought I'd share. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Damos23 (talkcontribs) 18:43, 12 December 2012

The speaker in the song appears to be a child of divorce, or at least his mom left him, so this part of the song is recounting the time that happened.
"Rolling a hoop" refers to hoop rolling or hoop trundling, the old-fashioned children's game. Though it also probably has some metaphorical meaning, since the progression of the song is very cyclical (the speaker aspires to deflect his pain by leaving someone else at the end of the song, thus making them miss THEIR mom. He's so attached to his mom that mommy issues are the only way he can imagine someone being hurt, which is hilarious and awful).--Particle 00:46, 14 December 2012 (EST)

Arrested Development[edit]

I don't know if the Johns are proclaimed AD fans, but the lyrics indicate a relationship similar to the one that Buster has with his mother and also his girlfriend Lucille 2... specifically flashing back to the episodes "Motherboy XXX" and "Charity Drive."

Definitely has an Oedipal quality. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 00:20, December 13, 2012

Thought the same thing the first time I heard the song, sailor suit and everything. -CapitalQtalk ♪ 20:55, 13 December 2012 (EST)
Well I thought arrested development, just not like that. But of course it's a perfect fit. There's something great about the intersection of extremely immature romantic blunders and ... whatever sugary band-y swing-y music style that is. (What is it?) (And what is that so great something?!) ~ magbatz 21:08, 13 December 2012 (EST)
That's really funny. I specifically came here to add this same interpretation. It reminds me so much of Buster and Lucille Bluth / Lucille Austero. Especially the sailor suit! Keepin' it fresh! --Duke33 15:35, 23 January 2013 (EST)
someone edited together a little music video with clips from Arrested Development playing with this theme! Apollo (colloquia!) 20:18, 1 October 2013 (EDT)

Popped in to say someone just asked Flans today on Tumblr if Call You Mom was inspired by Arrested Development, and Flans's response, it sounds like it was a crazy coincidence:

JF: "I have actually never watched Arrested Development, although I believe my wife Robin loves it. I have no idea if JL is into it, but somehow I really can’t see him watching any contemporary show and thinking “That would be a great idea for a song!”.

Does Genius have any sources or is made up stuff just as good as real stuff?"

--Kaylum (talk) 16:31, 5 October 2022 (EDT)

Oedipus or Stepmom[edit]

idk but it could also be about a kid and ther stepmom —Preceding unsigned comment added by Mc Frown (talkcontribs) 18:24, 13 December 2012

Interpretation 4[edit]

Pretty much what it says on the tin, our narrator is of course unhinged, just like so many late Linnell songs. This time the delusion is a mother fixation. Interestingly the unconventional subject matter is rather underwelmingly set with a rather repetitive riff and a middle of the road arrangement/production that sounds like almost like a contemporary Paul McCartney song. (Mr Tuck) 17:28, December 26, 2012

Not About The Mother[edit]

I think the song is broader than most people seem to be pegging it for. It definitely has Oedipal qualities but I think the song is actually mostly about obsession ("You will feel someone staring at you") probably bordering on mental illness. Clearly the character makes people uncomfortable, anyway (I see you moving towards the door / 'Cause you don't trust me anymore) It's kind of sad, but in TMBG style fun and accessible.

I don't think it's actually about his mother at all (as a character), but about a guy who lost his mom when he was young ("As I dream of the game / Where I'm rolling a hoop" - an old children's game) and spends his life trying to replace her with other women one after another.

The sailor suit could be an icon of children's clothing, probably something the character remembers his mother dressing him in.

The end bit with one of the girls having the same problem is just playing with irony.

--Ipalindromi 12:07, 5 March 2013 (EST)

Abandonment issues breed abandonment issues[edit]

The cyclical nature of the lyrics do a good job of illustrating the cycle in the protagonist's life.

Wearing a sailor suit and rolling a hoop are visual shorthand for a innocent and carefree (and specifically, idealised) childhood, once that is shattered when his mother leaves (for unknown reasons).

This unresolved abandonment leads him to attach to partners that remind him of his mother. Being unable to trust that they won't also abandon him, his paranoia only ends up pushing them away and reinforcing the cycle. Eventually, the protagonist is unable to trust anyone and abandons partners before they can get close, ending up just like his mother.

I should say, I don't see anything Oedipal in the story. -- 13:15, 14 March 2013 (EDT)

This could be a helluva reference.[edit]

"I'm gonna go put on my sailor suit / And we'll go out on the town"

I just realized that there is quite possibly a reference here. Besides the various interps everyone's been contemplating regarding this line, "On The Town" is a well-known musical... about sailors... trying to get dates in New York City. Is it noteworthy enough for trivia or too ambiguous? -- 14:58, 19 March 2013 (EDT)

To me it's more suggestive of the Coney Island boardwalk in general, but I definitely don't deny the possibility. ~ magbatz 15:33, 19 March 2013 (EDT)

sailor suit[edit]

I think that the sailor suit and the hoop rolling are certainly an allusion to childhood. If you go on Google images there are a lot of old pics of kids in sailor suits playing the hoop rolling game. Seems like a song about abandonment in childhood...maybe lost childhood...and then taking it out on someone else later.. I dunno.. just guessing. 07:31, 3 April 2013 (EDT)

i think i'd like to call you Gertrude[edit]

Everyone is very into the Oedipus Rex side of this song, but I think that that interpretation is a little too Freudian and flat. So, yeah, Oedipus is about a guy who loves his mom. But he doesn't actually know that; and he certainly doesn't compare other people to Jocosta. I think a more interesting take would be the similarity between the song and Hamlet.

Brief recap of events in Hamlet:

  • Shit is crazy in Denmark
  • The ghost of the former king tells his angsty son, Hamlet, that Claudius (Ham's uncle) committed regicide and usurped the throne by marrying Queen Gertrude (Ham's mom)
  • Ghost tells Hammy to kill the king immediately but leave his mom alone (she'll get hers in the afterlife)
  • Hamlet spends the rest of the play writing in his diary, staging a play, and antagonising his mother (all while not assassinating Claudius).
  • At the end, everyone dies.

There are strong Oedipal subtexts throughout Hamlet — in many soliloquies, he disturbédly discusses his mother's carnal desires and basically calls her a whore. But he does not only antagonise his mother — he also projects her onto his girlfriend Ophelia. Enraged, he demands "Get thee to a nunnery!" at Ophelia, but the comment (like most of his comments toward Ophelia) is really directed at his mother. Essentially, Hamlet has a strong Sophoclean obsession with his mother. He feels abandoned by her as she gallivants about and parties with Claudius — because he wants to be her lover (not like that, but on an emotional level). This contributes to his creeping, vague sense of madness throughout the play. But, at the same time, Hamlet abandons Ophelia because her father attempted to use her to spy on him. This drives Ophelia insane — ie, she turns around to find Hamlet gone, which was exactly like his mom.

All that said, I don't think this is what Linnell had in mind while writing the song, but I think the connection is there and it's an interesting one. -Apollo (colloquia!) 17:27, 19 September 2013 (EDT)

(fwiw, though, this wouldn't be first Hamlet reference in the TMBG canon.) -Apollo (colloquia!) 17:30, 19 September 2013 (EDT)

Musical influences[edit]

Musically, "Call you Mom" is like a minor key version of "Yakety Yak" by the Coasters [Youtube video]. This is especially apparent when the high harmony comes in over the chorus in the second half of the song.
-- Thread Bomb (talk) 01:31, 25 February 2020 (EST)

Family troubles[edit]

This song is one of several on the album in which Linnell examines problematic family relationships (see also: the suggestion of incest and parricide in Stone Cold Coup D'Etat, the problems of rearing a teenager in Replicant, the fear of a doppelganger replacing oneself in one's marriage, in the song Sleep).

In the case of "Call you Mom", the theme is infantilism of the song's narrator, caused by traumatic rejection by the mother. (See also Paraphilic Infantilism, which is a sexual fetish based on the desire to be treated like a child.)

The last part of the song is a revenge fantasy about rejecting a romantic partner in the same way that the narrator was rejected by his mother, and by the woman who rejected him in the first part of the song. -- Thread Bomb (talk) 23:03, 24 February 2020 (EST)

Bad Boyfriend[edit]

I think this song is about a guy who wants contradictory things out of his relationships. He wants his girlfriend to act like a caretaker for him, but at the same time, he wants to be in control of her. This crappy behavior causes his current partner to leave him. The guy blames her for the relationship not working out, and starts making plans to find someone 'nicer' who'll put up with him.

AngleBlueprint (talk) 19:34, 7 March 2020 (EST)

John Lennon?[edit]

Could this be based on Linnell watching that documentary about John Lennon's childhood, which would have been kind of recent at the time they were coming up with Nanobots, mostly just because the riff sounds like Money plus Day Tripper and the specific description of the Oedipus complex had by the guy in the song sounds awfully like that whole deal? Mostly "I'd like to call you mom cause you remind me of my mom" and "turn around to find that you are gone, which is exactly like my mom". Also "she didn't like it when I called her name, you and her are the same" reminds me of I Call Your Name, a song which John wrote shortly after his mom's death that may or may not be about her.