Interpretations:Someone Keeps Moving My Chair
Linnell once described the song as being about "personal discomfort". I have always viewed the annoying things that are done to Mr Horrible by the Ugliness Men as representative of our own (or the writers) personal bugbears; Mr Horrible as the person who has to deal with it all (ourselves) and the Ugliness Men as the people who force such situations upon us. - astralbee
This song is from Linnell's personal experience, I'm fairly sure. Constant gaslighting when you're already struggling with reality and staying calm. Pretty horrible :-(
Hm. Does anyone else get the impression Mr. Horrible is a harried office worker whose boss/bosses is constantly annoying him and making his situation worse, and Mr. Horrible is ignoring the major problem of his overbearing boss/bosses and is instead focusing on trivia[someone keeps moving my chair] to keep his mind off it?
I feel like this song is about the oppression of the lower classes. Mr. Horrible represents the working class/proletariat type of person. His name represents the perception that middle- and upper-class people have of his lifestyle. Fsome odd reason, the horribleness of his miserable lifestyle has spilled over into something personal and hateful against him, even though he had no control of what class he was born into (this definitely happens in real life, too.) The Ugliness Men represent the ugly side of us all, the part of us that likes to affirm ourselves by picking on those weaker than us. The fact that Mr. Horrible is so upset about people moving his chair and remains somewhat oblivious to the tortures of the Ugliness Men is representative of the tragic shallowness of the lower orders of society, who are not educated enough to understand the injustice of their caste and so instead focus on things of very little importance. (Although to be fair, the Ugliness Men are equally shallow, probabaly unaware of the highly villanous role they play in the big picture of things)
When I was first listening to Flood in high school, my mom heard this song and really liked it because she thought it said "someone keeps moving my-y I-Ching". The "I-Ching" is the Chinese "Book of Changes", I guess a sort of Taoist/astrology book. I don't think that was Johns' intention, but I still think of it when I hear the song.
- "I Ching" is pronounced "ee ching", though.
I always thought of Mr. Horrible as a sweet elderly (perhaps somewhat senile) man and the Ugliness Men are the teenage neighborhood punks, prank calling him, writing on his head, making him wear really ugly pants, moving his chair. He doesn't mind most of this, but it's his favorite Lazyboy recliner, could you boys please stop moving it?
When someone moves your chair right as you're about to sit, you fall down. I think it's about a man who tolerates just about everything, but doing so can wear a person out, so he tries to rest (sit). When he sits, though, he falls to the floor (so to speak), adding another annoyance to the pile. -Chuckie
I get the impression that the humor value of the song is designed to lie in the disparity between the terrible things that the Ugliness Men are doing, and the relatively trivial thing that Mr. Horrible is actually concerned about. The Ugliness Men are doing degrading things to him, and are also offering disrespect to the memory of his friend--but he doesn't care. All that concerns him is the minor matter of his chair, thus earning his name.
Ok, here's a creepy interp for you. "Mr. Horrible" is a criminally insane murderer on death row. The Ugliness Men are prison psychiatrists, trying to cure his insanity so they can execute him. The unpleasant thing spilled on his brain is drugs. Alternatively, the Ugliness Men might be abusive prison guards. The chair is not literally being moved. Rather, it's Mr. Horrible's date with the (electric) chair that is.
Is it just me or I hear "armchair" instead of chair? If so why don't they include the world "arm" into the lyrics?-- byakugan
I think that's just you, byakugan. The lyrics go "...my-yi-yi chair", but "my" is pronounced "mah", resulting in "mah-ha-hah chair". Definitely not an "arm" in there. -Some Other Anonymite
All right, so Mr. Horrible is the kind of nerdy, bottom of the hierarchy, shy, gets picked on office guy. And the Ugliness Men are the bosses or coworkers that keep doing things to see how far they can push him. He allows them to subject him to all of these embarrassing methods of torture, but he --Lemita 19:53, 15 Apr 2006 (CDT)only speaks up and admits that he is bothered when they move his chair. (my 2 cents) -mattyB
I think one of the main messages is that despite the horrible things that happen to Mr. Horrible the worst of it all is depriving him of a place of rest. Kind of how anything can be borne as long as you have a place to return to. Like Hemingway's 'A Clean, Well-lighted Place' everyone needs a sanctuary to be able to return to. -Hitako47
Mr. Horrible's chair problem reminds me a lot of myself. I get really and I mean really annoyed when something is out of place. So annoyed, I will interrupt a serious conversation to fix that moved, out of place item. To tell you the truth, I have a pretty good interpretation for this.
Mr. Horrible is the normal, (I'm assuming office guy) with a small case of OCD. His coworkers like to make fun of him, mildly torturing him while he tries to find his beloved, chair. He cannot rest until he has his chair.
Oh the taunts and trauma of coworkers. ^___~; --Lemita 19:53, 15 Apr 2006 (CDT)
"I believe you have my stapler." - Milton in "Office Space" Posted by Tzion, 27 May 2006
He wants everything to stay the same. The unpleasant thing on his brain is new ideas. The chair that's being moved is his ideas being moved. ~AgentChronon
I think that maybe the chair may be the wheelchair of somebody paralysed,(if paralysed is the case, the "spill something on your brain" would make sense, it could refer to a stroke) This could explain the "try on these pants" statement, and the writing on the head. The ugliness men may be a gang of youths, or maybe abusive carers at old people's homes... - Rob
Like the song "Kiss Me, Son of God", I feel this song is about the seemingly Ironic things that so many people do, in this case, its about the tendency for people to complain more often about the small minor problems in their lives rather than the bigger problems. --Sarcasmagasm 08:53, 5 November 2006 (UTC)
I see this song as a reflection of the government using small annoyances on the individuals of a population to mask the effects and use of larger problems and flaws in the government. Mr. Horrible being an individual in a population and the ugliness men being the government. --Dr. Snail <--- You jeally!!! (is this a real word?)
"Mr Horrible" was a super-villain in Herbie #8, March 1965; the first menace he fought in his costumed identity as the Fat Fury. Mr. Horrible is a giant, maybe 15' tall, dressed as a laborer. Some details can be seen at Dial "B" for Blog. It would be interesting to know if he ever appeared again, and whether he had any chair issues. --M. Fudd 15:17, 14 October 2007 (UTC)
Here's an idea: Mr. Horrible is a blind old guy. He lives alone, and therefore is happy when idiots go to his house to bother him because he has company, but when somebody moves his chair, he falls over and is left to wander around his house looking for it.
The song is about all the horrible things that happen, and how we look back and are still annoyed/regretting something really really small --Dunklekuh81
I pictured Mr.Horrible as someone who just has everything go wrong for him and he's used to it, except for his pet peeve, which is moving his chair, and I thought they said "ugliness Man" and I pictured him to be really ugly.
The Ugliness Men can do whatever they want to Mr. Horrible, so long as the don't move his chair, because everyone finds comfort in the familiar. If all the furniture is arranged the way he remembers it, he can deal with any adversity because it's still the same as it always was deep down. The song is about the things people will put up with to avoid change. (I see the flaws in this interpretation, but I think they are flaws in the way I articulated it, not in the concept I presented.) -LFStokols
I've always though this song was about people who distract from the bigger issues by bringing in trivial requests and issues. -Newtown
Does anyone else think that "Using a green magic marker, if it's alright/On the back of your head" is an allusion to the Charlie Brown Halloween special? I think Mr. Horrible and Charlie Brown have similar melancholic outlooks on life. -Cronny
I think Mr. Horrible is a man on death row and the ugliness men are possibly lawyers, prison guards, warden, other inmates, ect. The sponge reference is probably an allusion to the electric chair. Moving his chair just means that they are pushing back the date he is to be executed, and he is bugged by this, because he just wants to die and end it all, because he is obviously suffering in prison. -Matt
I equate this song to situations in my own life - I can come up with the strength to handle the big stuff... stress at work, the deaths of loved ones, health problems, etc... but I need a base to return to, usually my home & husband, to be there when I come home to comfort me. If I had a difficult day and made it though - only to find someone had messed with my comfort at home (like moving my chair), it would be the straw that broke my back, and I don't think I would recover.
It goes back to John saying its about "personal discomfort"... sometimes you need something to comfort you just to make everything else bearable.
This idea just occured to me while listening to the song. It seems like Mr. Horrible is some sort of retired, highly-trained army official, possibly green beret(5), and "The Ugliness Men" are government workers, calling him about his social services(1). However, when he was in Vietnam,he did things that he always, to this day, thinks should have given him a medal of valor(4)(2). His friend was even killed in the war,(3) and this gives him bad memories of the things he had to suffer through(2), like his old, embarrasing dress uniform pants(6). Occasionally he sees through the swirls of emotion in his head(2) and notices his real problem: What is he destined for, now that he lost his old, excellent job(7).
Now, read that over, except when you read a number, check the line beside it down here.
(1) Telephone call for mr. horrible (2) Something unpleasant has spilled on his brain (3) Would you mind if we balance this glass of milk where your visiting friend accidentially was killed? (4) Things we'd forget to do today otherwise, (5) Using a green magic marker, if it's alright on the back of your head? (6) You have to try on these pants so the Ugliness Men can decide if they're just as embarrassing as we think (7) Mr. horrible says I don't mind the thing that bothers me is this: someone keeps moving my chair.
And here I thought it was talking about a baby in a high chair wearing a "Mr. Horrible" bib playing with a toy phone and all the things the parents are doing to him, while the only thing that seems to upset the baby is when someone bumps his high chair.
The irony of this song to me is how he's called Mr Horrible despite all the terrible deeds we hear about being committed by the Ugliness Men. Of course, that's sort of the way of it, right? When someone is enough of a pushover, even the most justified outbursts can be twisted into you being the jerk, because it's so uncharacteristic for you to lash out. Reassessing you to include the capacity for outbursts can balloon the read of you into being the real monstrous one, even if you were okay with continuing to be abused, and all you wanted was for someone to stop making you drag your chair back to your cube from the conference room.
i always thought this song was set in like middle or high school, where Mr. Horrible is some kid trying his best to get through school and the Ugliness Men are the bullies. they probably have him the name Mr. Horrible to tease him.
the telephone call could just be the bullies calling him over with the false Hope's of being his friend but end up betraying him and bugging him to annoy him. the glass of milk and visiting friend might be about how Mr. Horrible used to have friends but the Ugliness Men scared them away or something, leaving him to sit alone with them in the cafeteria, hence the glass of milk. the things they'll forget to do show how the bullies don't care about their education or doing anything inside school academically. the green magic marker is a dry erase marker, scribbled over the back of his head quite literally in this sense. the Ugliness Men give him a pair of very ugly pants to wear around, making him feel embarrassed.
Mr. Horrible tries to push the bullies away from him and act like he doesn't mind the bullying. but one day in the middle of class one of the tormentors is continuously moving his desk into the back of his chair making it move, and he finally snaps at them.
this is probably not what it's about at all but it was fun to think about ar least.
I think this song is actually about a kind of experience we're probably all familiar with.
My guess is that Mr. Horrible is so named not because he himself is horrible but because he's having a horrible time. The Ugliness Men strike me not as actual people but rather as a personification of intrusive thoughts—the sort of "evil voice in your head" that's always reminding you of things you might rather not think about. These might be vague banal anxieties (your unfinished to-do list, criticism of your own clothing) or traumatic memories (the accidental death of a friend) but in any case it's distressing.
Poor Mr. Horrible just wants to relax (i.e. sit in his chair) but he can't get his mind off of things that stress him out. The sad irony is that he doesn't realize that these thoughts themselves are what's keeping him from relaxing—he entertains them sportingly ("I don't mind") and never makes the connection between them and his constant feelings of discomfort. You get the impression he feels obligated to entertain them, as the Ugliness Men are in the position of making constant requests and entreaties to him as if they are his clients or something. This is unsurprising since we often feel that such thoughts are necessary or important despite their unpleasantness.
The most opaque line in this song to me is probably the one about the glass of milk. Since balancing a glass of milk sounds like a tense activity that would require careful attention, this may be meant to capture the kind of laserlike focus we sometimes apply to traumatic memories (i.e. doing the balancing "where" his friend was killed). That still raises the question of why the liquid would be milk specfically; maybe it's because spilled milk is a classic symbol of something gone wrong that you might want to prevent. Along this line of thinking, the accidental death has already happened, so maybe this is meant to represent the kind of "if only I had..." thoughts we sometimes have about past disasters, along the lines of the saying "no use crying over spilled milk".
Bandwidth for tedium
I have to admit my interpretation of these lyrics has entirely turned inside-out since I encountered them first in the 90s.
At 14, the irritability of Mr. Horrible, who I believed was aptly named, seemed consistent with the rigid proclivities for superficial order adults might lose their mind over in total oblivious diminishment of all of the other complicated emotional realities at play. E.g. you failed to make your bed while rushing to pack for a weekend at your non-custodial parents house, (and all the projections involved in that mood swing-y tirade).
Decades pass... at 44, I am Mr. Horrible. Co-workers go into tedious detail sharing their primary-processing of obvious tasks, while time slips away and deadlines encroach. I smile, laugh,laugh, a joke. A senile parent needs to explain in excruciating detail the futile search for mustard, but then makes an offhand and inappropriately mean joke about someone I still mourn. I promise I'll bring mustard.
My boyfriend jokes about the Toothpaste on my shirt, and I give him a lecture on triage and suggest he get his head examined.
Nothing is sacrosanct, nothing is proportional. There are no shared situational ethics applied to what is uttered in the same breath with the same monotonous or exaggerated tone. Your dearest memories are someone else's trivia. Traumatizing references are someone else's ice-breaking joke. And Mr. Horrible can manage well enough, until a last straw becomes the focus of all that grief and scattered frustration at everyone else's priorities.
At that point, the breaking point,they are reductively called Mr. Horrible for caring so much about a chair, for reacting unfairly to the immediate context, or not having a "sense of humor".
All sanguine reactions to every insensitive intrusion into their world, their mind, before that... nullified, not factored into the eventual epitaph or label. The final explosion is an amplified charictiture because the speaker fails to see the reaction in proportion to the mounting environmental causes and especially when their own behavior was part of that environment.
Ignoring real problems to concentrate on imaginary ones
When I come up with interpretations, I like to focus on the linguistic contours. In fact, I'm forced to do this considering the seemingly random details (an organization called "the ugliness men," asking permission to write memos on someone's head, forcing someone to wear stupid clothing, missing furniture, etc). This makes identifying a theme much easier so that I can dissect the details later.
So, with some help from Flood's installment in the 33 1/3 series, I've recognized a pattern here. Mr. Horrible is genuinely being harassed, but the only problem he's concerned about is the supposed displacement of his chair. It's like this one Dilbert comic I once read wherein the boss informs his secretary that his car has been stolen, in spite of her assurance that he just forgot where he parked (like he's done before). She feigns casting a spell that will make his car reappear once all the others have left, and lo and behold, it's back.
We aren't sure whether or not somebody is screwing around with Horrible's furniture, but I think most of us can agree that hearing from a team of strangers who want to force you into ill-fitting pants, draw on your head, and blackmail blackmail you (they think he killed somebody and made it look like an accident) is a bigger problem than a missing chair.
And now that I mention blackmail, I've just realized that may be what the song is literally about.
It starts out with a phone call, and Horrible can't get to it yet because he has to clean off "his brain." This is not referring to his own brain, but rather the brain of the person he'd just killed, presumably the person responsible for his missing chair. The reason the possessive pronoun is used is that it is referring to his mess to clean up. The ugliness men are a forensic team, contacting him under false pretenses ("just trying to bug you"). Or they are a mix of forensic team and reporters, who can give him bad PR if they convict him, thus making his image "ugly." The glass of milk they want to balance is likely a metaphor for DNA testing, writing reminders on the back of his head might be a metaphor for going behind his back, or marking him for murder. And the "embarrassing pants" are incriminating evidence that have his DNA and his victim's DNA all over it.
Now, I still think the overarching theme is concentrating on minor problems in lieu of urgent ones, but now that I've taken a closer look, I do think psychopathy is another theme. Horrible just killed someone, but he doesn't feel guilty about it. I have the idea that the chair could be a metaphor for a high-ranking position in a company (a synonym for "throne," if you will). He murdered the man who jeopardized his ascension, and now the press and police are out to convict him.