Interpretations:Sally Boy Candy Bar

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Interpretation 1[edit]

It seems to me that this song has something to do with gender roles. I can't really work out a meaning for the whole song, but just looking at a few of the lines, we have:

-The title pairing up "Sally," typically a girl's name, with "boy."
-"I've been told that a boy is a girl"
-Breakfast in bed is stereotypically given by men to women. (This one's a bit of a stretch, I know.)
-"Never mind the clothes you wear"--A lot of clothing is gender-specific.
-"Circle gets the square"--In Hollywood Squares, the circle is always the female contestant.
-"A fish needs a bike" is a play on a feminist slogan.

So I think there's definitely something here, but I can't really work it into anything coherent. Is TMBG saying that gender roles are insignificant? I'm not sure. Any ideas? -VoVat

Interpretation 2[edit]

The song seems to me like a sort of muffled protest against the (many) artificial and ridiculous facets of the feminist ideas that have attempted to deny and destroy modern gender roles. So I think the above idea of the "breakfast in bed" line fitting into this is spot on; this action was once a rare reversal of gender roles as the husband made a meal for the wife. Therefore TMBG could be mentioning it simply to evoke this image of altered gender roles.
I would go even further and say that they're mentioning breakfast in bed as a way of saying: "Hey, a man making a meal for a woman isn't so special anymore because we've stupidly destroyed the gender distinctions that made us men and women. You can't treat a woman like a Queen, even for a day, when that woman thinks that men and women should all be treated the same." It's a similar protest to saying "feminists told us to stop opening doors for women; so now even the last shred of Chivalry has been destroyed."
As for the title, I would assume that "Sally Boy" is supposed to compare and contrast with "Candy Bar" somehow, but I can't think how. I would also suggest that, although it's a stretch, "Candy Bar" could be a phallic symbol; but, again, that wouldn't seem to compare/contrast with "Sally Boy" in any meaningful way (unless there's some parallel anatomical reference there that I'm not getting).

-- My sincere appologies if this is an inapropriate forum for expressing my views on this (if anyone feels it is, please feel free to delete this) but I really don't see that we have to subjugate people so that it means something when we're nice to them. How about we just be good to people (i.e. opening doors for them, making breakfast for them, etc.) regardless of their gender. Just my own feelings on this. -- MasterChivo

I agreee with Master Chivo. I can only hope that The Johns are not as much of a chauvinist as the above poster. I feel sorry, however, for any person who needs social distinctions to tell the difference between the sexes (can't you tell by checking between the legs?) ~k
Linnell stated in an interview that the androgynous outfits worn by the marchers in the "Birdhouse in your Soul" video had to do with their views on gender in general. I don't know what the ultimate "meaning" of the song is, but the pinkos in TMBG certainly aren't trying to attack the above poster's ridiculous misconception of "feminism". —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:15, 23 July 2010
this interp is totally gross and sexist and also incorrect in its perception of feminism. bye. -Apollo (colloquia!) 20:10, 19 July 2013 (EDT)

agreed with the above: these are fucking godawful, and "can't you tell by checking between the legs?", jesus christ.

i agree as well. this interp is just horrid. and hasn't Flans said multiple times that he supports trans rights and (probably) feminism.

Interpretation 3[edit]

I think the narrator fell for a transvestite. A "Sally Boy Candy Bar" is a euphamism for, er, what keeps his girlfriend from being a girl. ~Christina Miller, July 2005

Transvestites refers to cross-dressers, not transgender people. And if she's his girlfriend, her "candy bar" would not prevent her from being a girl at all. —Preceding unsigned comment added by TinyTinyDoctors (talkcontribs) 23:05, 15 November 2013 (UTC)‎

interstate 4[edit]

"i've been told that a boy is a girl/that isn't true anywhere in the world" could be mocking conservative fearmongering that feminism and the existence of transitioning mean that men will be wiped out somehow. however that might be a pretty optimistic interpretation - even considering how tmbg are fairly progressive and they (or flans at least?) support trans rights now, two non-lgbtq men in 1983 writing social satire can only be so forward-thinking --Ncrecc (talk) 08:16, 20 July 2022 (EDT)

I don't know if it was their intention in 1983 to satirise transphobia, but it's practically impossible not to read it that way if you know what a transgender person is given the narrator is absolutely horrified by the thought of gender subversion above all else. So I think you're absolutely right to pick up on this angle even if the Johns of Then wouldn't have.
-Stareadactyl (talk) 06:24, 30 January 2023 (EST)

Interpretation 5 - Unreasonable, unsympathetic narrator oversensitive about gender norms[edit]

I think others have the right idea that this is about gender roles, but the narrator certainly isn't someone TMBG or the listener are supposed to agree with; they are a satirical depiction of a certain kind of person. The narrator is making a gendered judgement about a minor personal choice, and extrapolating it to relate to their broader bone of contention about the rejection of traditional gender norms.

"Sally boy" is an old pejorative for an effeminate man or a gay man. The "sally boy candy bar" is literally a candy bar -- the narrator is making a gendered judgement about someone's choice of candy bar, an absurd thing to relate to gender norms. The narrator portrays this mundane thing as illustrative of a larger social problem ("it illustrates the way we are"). And it is making our narrator mad, and driving him out of his car.

"Heart for a head, breakfast in bed" is a goofy TMBG spin on terms like "bleeding heart" and other pejoratives people like our narrator often use for those they think are excessively sympathetic, emotional, or permissive in their beliefs.

The "I've been told that a fish needs a bike/boy is a girl" couplets are supposed to reflect the narrator's reductive willful misunderstandings of progressive gender norms and feminist theory, and rejection thereof. The Hollywood Squares reference "circle gets the square" reflects the narrator's paranoia about feminism. tgies (talk) 03:31, 15 December 2022 (EST)

A transgender song? A cross-dresser song?[edit]

I'd countersign Ncrecc's and tgies' interpretations here, but I'm seeing some confusion as to how far this song could relate to transgender politics, as well as some discussion on the difference between a cross-dresser and a trans person. Seeing as this song is so old, I thought we could all benefit from some historical perspective on this issue. So here's a brief word on LGBT community history.

The concept of a "transgender person" certainly existed in America in 1983, but wasn't yet fully popularised. I believe it was only just beginning to penetrate NYC, to the degree that you could forgive even a clued-in member of the community for never having heard of it or not knowing what it meant. The line between "cross-dresser" or "drag queen/king" and "transsexual" (the latter being the preferred term for folks we'd now call fully transitioned transgender people) was blurrier in some sense, more defined in others—you'd hear the words "male transvestite who lived full-time as a woman", which to our ears sounds more like just a trans woman who hasn't undergone medical transition, but made perfect sense to the community of the time. Transsexuals, meanwhile, were people who'd had reassignment surgery and/or hormone therapy. Someone better defined as "transgender" in the contemporary view of things could live for years as a "drag queen" and then spontaneously become "transsexual" once making the decision to transition, which was common enough that it was a recognised pipeline. This is how you could get people like Marsha P. Johnson, who lived as a woman, usually went by she/her pronouns when dolled up, and clearly had some form of dysphoria to the point that she considered GRS, still identifying as a man in her final interview in 1992. Nowadays we'd probably just call her transgender.

Furthermore, the use of the term has narrowed a bit since becoming dominant. Leslie Feinberg, an important transgender theorist who did much to bring the term into vogue, initially defined it as an umbrella term that included not only those we'd call trans but also gender-noncomforming cis people. So while it's certainly true that "cross-dresser" and "transgender" are distict categories now, this was absolutely not the case at the time. The community and its terminology have come a long way since then.

How this all relates to Sally Boy Candy Bar is anyone's guess. If any cis person in 1983 had heard of the word "transgender", it'd be a left-wing rock musician associated with the New York no-wave and weirdo art scenes, but even then I'm not sure how likely it is... not to get too authorial. Anyone hearing the song who did know what it meant and chose to read transgender themes into it would likely figure it'd apply equally to "transsexuals" and "cross-dressers" alike.

On the other hand, as a trans woman it's impossible for me to read this song any other way except as a song about transphobia. The opening line hits far too close to home. If I am going to speculate on Flans' intention here, I'd say he intended to write a satirical song about gender subversion and feminism from the perspective of an unsympathetic narrator that just so happened to directly address a very real struggle he was unlikely to be aware of at the time. And honestly, I think that's kinda cool! -Stareadactyl (talk) 07:32, 30 January 2023 (EST)