Interpretations:Whistling In The Dark

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"The Clouds" by Aristophanes[edit]

I found a (translated to English) passage in "The Clouds" by Aristophanes:

That's a fine advice to offer me,
The state I'm in right now!
No cash, no tan, no shoes, no blood,
Just whistling in the dark and mud,
And all but done for - yoww!

The context is that Strepsiades, who is a victim of his spoiled son's appetites and his poor managerial skills, is seeking the aid of nonsensical and heretical sophists so he can reason a way out of his debts. Seems comparable to, "A woman came up to me and said I'd like to poison your mind, with wrong ideas that appeal to you though I am not unkind."

Any thoughts? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:34, November 7, 2004

Interpretation 2[edit]

I took this song to be about ways of dealing with propagandists, evangelicals, fundamentalists, etc. The zealous woman who wanted to poison his mind is not unkind--she believes she is helping him. But the lyrics express a desire not to enter a way of light that anyone shows them. By remaining uninfluenced the singer stays blissfully ignorant--"whistling in the dark"--Benthorot 19:44, January 22, 2005

I agree with Benthorot's take. I might add that, while the woman seems to have fairly peaceful methods, the man wants to use force to change the narrator's mind. To continue with the religion analogy, it's sort of the difference between "Convert, because it'll make you happier!" and "Convert or I'll kill you!" It's interesting that the narrator and the man end up in the same jail. Did the man succeed in changing the narrator's mind, or is the jail something unavoidable, regardless of your thoughts? -VoVat 21:29, February 6, 2005

Interpretation 3[edit]

My take on this is a bit different, since I've always thought of "whistling in the dark" as a way to prevent oneself from being afraid of the dark. I think that the narrator is a decidedly unhappy person, and that he sees the woman's attempt to provide him with "ideas that appeal to you" as a poisoning of his mind. Perhaps the only thing that our narrator can do well is be unhappy? Anyway, it seems to me that although he's "having a wonderful time" with whatever is happening to him, he'd much rather be on the border of unhappiness: whistling in the dark to keep himself from being afraid, but doing nothing to promote happiness. --Chuckie 12:33, February 25, 2005


I don't think the Johns meant it this way, but the phrase "whistling in the dark" is a crude slang term for cunnilingus. John Waters even uses it in his movie "A Dirty Shame". -[[acm 00:12, August 9, 2005

Hmmm... If that's true, then we can make a strong case for the woman being a prostitute, and the man being a pimp, given the implied violence, the imprisonment, and the fact that these words were on the woman's scalp. --[[gryffinp 18:46, November 22, 2005
Everything I've been taught about English revolves around your trust in the author making every choice for a reason. I don't think we can say the "Johns didn't mean it that way," because really, acm's got the commonly accepted definition. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Oldmanpanda (talkcontribs) 02:52, December 15, 2005
I am going to agree with john waters and go with the other guys who have seen a dirty shame; cunnilingus. the.subcon 23:42, December 12, 2007
Whistling in the dark is codeword for Cunnilingus. its seems like they want to fool you into thinking he wants to just be an individual but actually they are referencing cunnilingus. the man is obsessed with vagina's and that's all he wants to do! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:25, August 30, 2009

Interpretation 5[edit]

My take on this song is a little simpler. It is about a man who is tring to shun himself from dirty thoughts and the evil in the world. He'd rather be Whistling in the Dark...

Whistling in the dark is an expression that I beleive means pretty much just like "being in the dark" about somthing, not knowing. --R3D 23:30, November 28, 2005

Interpretation 6[edit]

I know someones or some people have already said this, but this song is about being happy and not caring about the bad things that are going on in life.

On a personal note, I love the vocals in this song. How does Linnell do that??

I also think that the man in the second verse is Satan and the “jail cell” is Hell. --GiantMidget 07:42, January 16, 2006

Interpretation 7[edit]

  • If the song is about religion, perhaps the jail is the afterlife(or the ground where they rot), and the lyrics are saying that, despite their different beliefs, the narrator and the man he meets both end up in the same place. By saying he "hit my head on the wall of the jail", perhaps the narrator had a near-death experience shortly after walking away from the other guy(I say "near-death" instead of a definite death because he just "hit his head" on the jail; he didn't actually get inside the jail until later). Maybe the guy he met was serious, but the narrator thought he was joking and started to walk away, so the guy got mad and threw the rock at the narrator's head, thus giving him said near-death experience. --Guest 20:34, March 27, 2006

Peer pressure[edit]

I find this song to be about peer pressure. Hence the lyrics about being yourself. It's also about uniformity. Ok, that's my absolutely lame interpretation. Yay! Listen to the song with that in mind. --Lemita 08:45, 14 Apr 2006 (CDT)

Personally, I believe something similar to it being about peer pressure: a group of geeks, a jock (the "rock" man), and a prep (the "scalp" woman). The Preps believe they're SO cool, even though, when left to be themselves, they act like scalpers & slavedrives. The Jocks beat up people who refuse to conform when left to their own intentions, & the geeks learn to cope and just not care. The majestic music signifies the geek's skills at RPGs, and the tuba signifies their social troubles. It all works so well. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:42, November 6, 2006

Interpretation 9[edit]

When I hear the phrase "whistling in the dark" I think it means you're happy because you don't know what's going on. If you're standing around in the dark, you might be perfectly content because you can't see any danger. --Alice 20:52, April 19, 2006

Interpretation 10[edit]

Anyway, I am not even close to figuring what it is about, but everyone above me said the man is meaner than the woman. I disagree. The woman is really creepy, having a message written on her scalp. Anyway, what I think happened was the woman poisoned the narrators mind with wrong ideas which made him cry for help because you don't want wrong ideas. Then since he had wrong ideas he had bad things which landed him in jail. Then the man, who got in jail the same way, was making a spoof of the woman's saying. I mean, think about it, what the man said was silly compared to the woman. Anyway, then they laughed and he walked away because he hit his head and he was whistling in the dark.

And has anyone noticed the connection between the message on the woman's scalp and the ppl that want to write a message on Mr. Horrible's forehead with a green magic marker? --AgentChronon 14:19, August 21, 2006

Interpretation 11[edit]

I was just listening to this song, where i've been pondering over it's inner meaning for a few days now, and it struck me that the song could quite possibly be about peer pressure, especially negative peer pressure. I took it from the perspective of an unpopular kind've fellow, and he want's to fit in with the popular crowd.
1st Verse "I'd like to poison your mind With wrong ideas that appeal to you Though I am not unkind" is the kind've jock approach, where they befriend unpopular people by making them fit in by making them do rebelious things.
The chorus "There's only one thing that I know how to do well And I've often been told that you only can do What you know how to do well And that's be you, Be what you're like, Be like yourself" is the person contemplating what the women tells him and how he tells himself that he should just be himself and not act like someone they want him to be. "Whistling in the dark" infers that he's just wants to be happy (whistling is associated with glad/happy) with being unpopular (in the dark, away from the jocks).
2nd Verse ""I'd like to change your mind By hitting it with a rock," he said, "Though I am not unkind."" Is about the aftermath, the unpopular guy succumbed to the peer pressure and is now suffering for it (is in jail, for whatever reason) and this man is telling him how bad his judgement was.
"And hit my head on the wall of the jail Where the two of us live today." - he's beating himself up for his misjudgement --Ralph 06:29, 7 September 2006 (UTC)

Interpretation 12[edit]

FIrst off, Whistling in the dark is the name of a 1941 movie.[1]

ALso, the phrase is defined in several online sources as:

"be whistling in the dark to be confident that something good will happen when it is not at all likely"

So I think this song may have a different meaning all together. Perhaps it is more about life in general and people who despite being presented with an obviously hazardous situation still prefer to be confident that something good will happen despite the fact that it won't. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:06, October 27, 2006

Interpretation 13[edit]

I interpret "the dark" to mean ignorance as R3D suggested, and "Whistling in the dark" as "blissfully ignorant" as many suggested. This works well with the rest of the song content. I differ once we try to draw in zealotry or religious conversion. The woman is bring idea which she herself describes as "wrong." Whatever it is that the song narrator wants to be blissfully ignorant of was some sort of temptation that was somehow immoral or deviant. He winds up in jail, maybe from following said wrong ideas. As for the 1941 movie of the same title, I think they had the same meaning in mind for the isolated phrase. The Aristophanes quote is very cool, but the usage doesn't match well. --mhnicholson 16:56, October 31, 2006

Ayn Rand[edit]

The 1st Verse is about Ayn Rand. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:18, January 11, 2007

Interpretation 15[edit]

I think its about someone retreating into a fantasy world in their head when they have to do something tehy dont want to, such as going into a dark room when they are afraid of the dark, so to overcome this fear they whistle and retreat into their head. Just a thought though. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:26, March 11, 2007

Interpretation 16[edit]

I've always found it interesting that the man starts to panic and cry for help when someone offers to change his mind with "Appealing, wrong ideas" but takes it as a joke when someone threatens to change his mind by hitting it with a rock. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:57, July 12, 2007

Interpretation 17[edit]

I was listening to this song and I came up with a decent meaning, to at least the first verse/chorus. The narrator wants to learn how to be a musician. Sadly, over his lifetime he has been told the only thing he is allowed to do in life is be himself, not being able to further his knowledge of music. So he is having a wonderful time, but he would rather whistle (or create music in the most simple way) in the dark. --Juttman 19:32, July 27, 2007

Interpretation 18[edit]

This is an extremely long interpretation, I know, but for a song as cryptically complex as this one, I think it's necessary. While it may strike you as contrived when you glance at its length, reading it should reveal very few big logical leaps. It's just that I'm a very, very verbose person, and I want to include all the details of how I arrived at the interpretation. If you really don't want to read all this, skip down to the TL, DR Summary (it's in bold).

First, we must remember that it is the narrator saying what the woman and the man said. It's not coming straight from the mouths of the man and the woman, it's the narrator relating to you what he believes they said to him, and he may not be a totally reliable narrator. In fact, this interpretation of the lyrics which I am about to relate holds him to be unreliable, as he is "blissfully ignorant" as has been put forward by others.

Second, some definitions.

Merriam-Webster defines "whistle in the dark" as "to keep up one's courage by or as if by whistling", and (based on Random House Unabridged Dictionary) defines it as "to attempt to summon up one's courage or optimism in a difficult situation". also adds a second definition of "To speak of something despite having little knowledge of it", but it cites no source for either definition. I see no references to the cunnilingus meaning anywhere, and A Dirty Shame was released fourteen years after Flood anyway.

I agree with the statement about assuming they know what they're putting in the songs (intentions really don't matter if it's not conveyed through the work of art), but assuming they're putting meanings into the lyrics that not only don't actually derive in any way from the lyrics without serious bending and twisting of the language, but also were completely unprecedented at the time they were written, is a different matter.

So I'll go with the generally accepted one (to make a show of bravery in a difficult situation). However, it is also worth remembering that TMBG loves puns, so it's important to analyze things from different angles simultaneously. I do remember reading somewhere (although I'm not sure where and a search of the Internet revealed nothing. Is there an FAQ on the shooting gallery site where they answer questions about specific songs such as what missing lyrics are? I remember seeing something like that once and vaguely remember a question about Whistling In The Dark, but I can never find it on the site. Anyway...) that they used "whistling in the dark" in an unconventional way in this song, and if you analyze the chorus in which it appears, especially in relation to the first verse, it becomes apparent that both the standard dictionary definition and the more literally-derived "remaining happy in one's ignorance" definition are being used.

Another word that needs to be defined is "wonderful". Merriam-Webster lists two definitions. Many people primarily use the second definition, "unusually good". However, its primary definition, and that which is evident if you look at the word in parts, is "exciting wonder", "-ful" being a suffix that denotes that the object of the adjective is full of whatever precedes the suffix, in this case "wonder". This is easy to misinterpret here, because usually when someone says "a wonderful time" they refer to an "unusually good time". However, we know that TMBG enjoys their clever wordplay, so this is nevertheless plausible.

There's one more word that needs definition: "appeal". We'll disregard the definitions regarding legal proceedings, since they aren't grammatically relevant here. It's easy to assume that he refers to the Merriam-Webster definition "to arouse a sympathetic response", however, this is only a popularized subset of the primary definition, "to make an earnest request". While "to arouse a sympathetic response" would fit with the quote if the woman was actually saying it herself, we must remember that it is the narrator saying it, and the rest of the verse and the chorus reveal his unreliability. Only "to make an earnest request" fits into the song as a whole.

Now, the lyrics themselves.

This first verse details an encounter with a woman, who appeals to him to change his ideas, claiming that it would be in his benefit ("I am not unkind"). However, the ideas she is trying to get him to accept conflict with his own, so he sees her as trying to "poison his mind" (the listener remembering that it's the narrator's recollection).

I'll return to the first verse after a detour to the chorus, which establishes a few things: 1. The narrator is quite comfortable his own outlook. He only knows how to be himself. This outlook has been reinforced by those around him. ("There's only... yourself") 2. He does not wish to know about other outlooks. There's only one thing that he likes, and that is "whistling in the dark", or being happy in his ignorance.

Back in the first verse, we know that the woman is trying to change his outlook, and we know that the narrator absolutely does not want to change his outlook. What he specifically does here is not clear from the lyrics. However, we know it results in his outlook being on her scalp, in a sense (the chorus is, after all, the words that it faintly said on her scalp, as should be clear enough from the lyrics). We can infer from this that he has, as most stubborn, ignorant ideologues like him tend to, become very angry. Since he now has to call for help, we can also infer that he probably struck her head with some object (a fist, a bullet, it's not clear) and caused some serious injury.

Now that this is occurred, we are informed via the chorus that he is "having a wonderful time", which, as was established previously, means "having a time full of wonder". He's thinking about what she's said, and perhaps is also trying to figure out what to do now. However, he'd "rather be whistling in the dark". This has two meanings, of course: He would rather have remained ignorant, and he'd rather defend his outlook (bravely so, in his mind) than consider changing it.

So here we have our narrator, standing next to an unconscious woman with evident trauma to the head. He has been calling for help, and a man comes up to him and says "I'd like to change your mind by hitting it with a rock" and who emphasizes, like the woman did, that he is "not unkind". He laughs and walks away, happy to avoid being hit on the head with a rock. However, as he walks away, he hits his head anyway on the wall of the jail (made, presumably, of rock), and now finds himself in the jail with the man.

This takes a bit of logical connection making, but it should be evident that the man is a police officer, who is "not unkind" because he is trying to enforce the law for the good of the people (we can't have people attacking other people for expressing their opinions). He came up to the narrator and tried to arrest him for assault (perhaps murder, it's not clear). One of the ideas behind imprisoning people is rehabilitation, or changing the minds of the criminals so they will hopefully not commit crimes anymore, and this is done through punishment ("hitting it with a rock"). The narrator did not want to go to jail, so he fled. However, due either to sheer stupidity or dumb luck, he ended up running into the prison anyway, and got arrested. He is now in jail with the police officer; however, the officer happens to be on the other side of the bars.

So now he's in jail, being forced to have a "wonderful time" thinking about what the woman said and what he did for lack of anything else to do, but he'd still rather remain ignorant, or "bravely" (others might say "stubbornly") stand by his outlook.

TL, DR Summary: A woman comes up and says something that offends him, so he hits her in the head, injuring her. He then calls for help, and when the police officer comes to arrest him, he laughs (perhaps saying "You'll never catch me, copper!" and tries to flee, but he accidentally runs into the jail and gets arrested anyway. --The Almighty Doer of Stuff 22:11, 8 January 2008 (UTC)

I edited my interpretation to add a bit about the police officer. --The Almighty Doer of Stuff 05:46, 10 January 2008 (UTC)
Too long, Clanky, too long! Can't we just say this is a song about Whistling in the dark? Whistling in the dark? Whistling in the dark? Whistling in the dark? Ahh ahh ahh ah? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Salio-Shally (talkcontribs) 21:40, June 18, 2008
Sure anon, you could do that, but that would mean you're whistling in the dark, in the nonstandard TMBG sense. The point of having an "Interpretations" page is to actually interpret the song, rather than just not think about it and assume they're all meaningless. Anyway, there's still the TL, DR Summary that's only a few lines. --The Almighty Doer of Stuff 12:40, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

Interpretation 19[edit]

I see it as a much more simple interpretation. If you have ever wondered what is meant by "Satellite of Love" by Lou Reed is, well, it is simply our moon often referred to in many love songs. Lou was simply being original in song-writing and a little ironic and contemptuous. "Whistling In The Dark" By TMBG is, if you listen to the lyrics, simply an enigmatic way of stating "Ignorance is bliss". —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:53, July 10, 2008

I agree with what was said above; both the woman and the man are trying to foist knowledge on the singer, whether by piquing his curiosity ("with wrong ideas that appeal to you") or by forcing the knowledge upon him ("by hitting it with a rock"). The singer, not wanting to offend, states that he's "having a wonderful time" but he'd rather not know about the unfortunate or untrue facts and wants to be blissfully ignorant, "whistling in the dark." After all, it's the only one thing he knows how to do well (not know anything). —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:43, November 3, 2008

Forrest Gump[edit]

This song, to me, has always for some reason reminded me of Forrest Gump, most likely becuase of the straightforward way the singer has of saying his stuff ("Stupid is as stupid does.") The speeches the man and woman give him seem to be evangelical in nature ("Hi, I'm a SuchandSuch Religion person, and I'd like to invite you to join our people, yaddayaddayadda"). I guess if you take it in that context the song is about how Forrest, or somebody with similar mental disabilities would react to being handed a tract from some distasteful religion--reciting a spiel, or covering you ears and shutting your eyes and humming (or whistling, as the case may be.) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:04, November 25, 2008

Interpretation 21[edit]

I think there's no clear interpretation of this song, considering the lack of information provided in the lyrics.

A woman comes up to the speaker and wants to poison his mind, even though she's not "unkind". A man then walks up to him and threatens to change his mind. He ends up in jail at the end of his tale. The speaker wants to just be himself and "whistle in the dark" which I don't think has any significance on its own, google says whistling in the dark is an idiom for "thinking good things will happen when it's likely bad things will" ....

You can try and pin religion here, but if you squint at almost anything, you can claim to say there's some sort of metaphor for god or religion or science. But there just isn't enough information to make that judgment. I think it's simply two people trying to impress their points of view on the speaker. I tend to view the woman as a girlfriend wanting the speaker to think like her on some issue (though she is not "unkind", she wants to change the speaker, and he's not exactly adverse to the idea, if it'll please her), and the man as... well, there's not really enough information to pin the man to anything.

It's best just to view the song simply, than to try and come to some odd conclusion based on the words "dark" and "jail". The song could be about any sort of conflict. --Anoymous 14:01, January 17, 2009

Interpretation 22[edit]

My Interpretation is that this man only likes to whistle in the dark, but others are trying to discourage him from doing so, for good or bad intentions i do not know, but the man has decided that he wants to be individual. --Lachlan W 05:22, January 19, 2009

Interpretation 23[edit]

I looked up the title phrase and got something like "expecting good things to happen when they probably won't." I think the song is about not stretching yourself to make things work for you, but just doing what you're doing and expecting to succeed anyway. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:14, February 8, 2009

This isn't an interpretation, but...[edit]

...Linnell sounds nothing like himself in this song. I saw a movie of a live performance on YouTube, and he's singing in his normal voice. This makes me think that it was a studio technique, in which case this should be in the category of Altered Voice, but I don't know. Can anyone shed some more light on this subject, because I'm "Whistling in the Dark" right now. --Alex H. 14:10, September 13, 2009

I think Linnell was just delving really deep into his range, so his natural baritone/low tenor-ish voice naturally ended up sounding like a full-fledged bass. It was as though he had a falsetto, only the opposite---a new voice that's much deeper than his normal voice. So I don't think he was actually "altering" his voice artificially. Just thought I'd throw that out there.—Preceding unsigned comment added by Tyrannosaurus George (talkcontribs) 08:46, November 8, 2011

Decoder Ring[edit]

Woman = Mary Jane. Joke = stoned. Jail = joint. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:38, March 23, 2010

Interpretation 26[edit]

Personally, I think that the narrator is a believer in something but all these people keep telling him to give up. The chorus is him trying to fend off their attempts to change his mind. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:28, April 18, 2010

Interpretation 27[edit]

Whistling in the dark means to do something without knowing what you are doing.
The song says "you only can do what you know how to do well... I'd rather be whistling in the dark".
He doesn't want to know how to do it well, he just wants to try it and learn as he goes. He doesn't want formalized society to instruct him into conformity, he wants to go through it, learning what he can from the experiences and deciding for himself what he likes. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:17, August 19, 2010

Interpretation 28[edit]

Various people keep trying to fill the singer with their own beliefs, either through well-meaning persuasion (the woman who wants to poison his mind is 'not unkind'--i.e. she's not trying to give him these poisonous ideas out of malice or because she wants to control him), or through force (the man who wants to beat him with a rock is also 'not unkind' even though his act is violent, perhaps because the rock is metaphorical in the pound-an-idea-into-your-skull sense, or perhaps because the fact that the singer will not accept what the man is telling him is, in the man's mind, justifiable cause for hurting him).

It's really tempting to say the song is about religion. Both well-meaning persuasion (the woman) and violence (the man) are ways many religions try to win people to their causes. Beating someone with a rock (stoning them to death) is an iconic punishment for people who do not conform to religious or social norms. But it need not necessarily be about religion as in any particular religion, but the idea of "converting" someone else to one's own beliefs.

The singer seems to be aware of these two people and their potential threat to his self. He sees the message written across the woman's scalp, and he's able to laugh off the man who threatens him with violent coercion. He would rather do the one thing he knows how to do well--be himself--than risk falling prey to people who want to poison or harm his mind.

The "whistling in the dark bit" is a little more difficult. Whistling in the dark is something you do when you aren't aware of the dangers, in order to boost your own spirits and keep any potential dangers at bay (the phrase "whistling past the dark/graveyard" is part of an old superstition that ghosts and death will be kept at bay by singing). The singer knows these two people are dangerous to his state of mind, so he may want to "whistle in the dark" to keep others of their kind from attacking him when he may be more vulnerable to the threats they represent. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:14, August 25, 2010


Many TMBG songs are written from the standpoint of hapless, bewildered characters who are not quite coping. The storyline does not seem meant to be taken all that literally--just a series of images and re-contextualized trite phrases such as "having a wonderful time" all in the service of the general theme. TMBG are influenced by poetry, obviously, although I don't see it pointed out much. --E. A. Poet 01:56, June 13, 2011

Interpretation 30[edit]

Personally, I figured this song was about pursuing one's passion with a disregard for others' advice not to. People have tried to sway him away from his creative pursuits (his whistling), citing religion (surely the woman is from a cult) and old-fashioned ideals (okay, maybe this is a reach - I felt the man was trying to force him into a box through violence, and now they're both in jail - the jail they're in is that of society's expectations). Despite all of it, he'd rather be doing what he loves, and he will continue to do it no matter what. --ungeeky 23:05, February 2, 2016

Interpretation 31[edit]

The narrator is depressed, and he doesn't even care about being happy, since he has never found happiness, and doesn't know what happiness feels like. So he whistles in the dark, keeping himself from being afraid of the dark, and life as well. "posioning your mind" and "changing your mind" are the women and men telling the narrator to try and have some fun, and try something besides whistling in the dark. In fact, he's so depressed, he doesn't know he can do anything else well, besides whistling in the dark.

-Saskia16 6:19 PM 11/30/16

Living in an authoritarian regime[edit]

This is a combination of a few other interpretations plus my own observations. I think the narrator is someone who has been living under some kind of authoritarian rule, which has dictated to him what things are right and wrong. The woman he meets is a prostitute, who asks him if he wants to have sex with her, which to his mindset is like her saying "I'd like to poison your mind With wrong ideas that appeal to you Though I am not unkind." Then he notices either a tattoo or something written on her head with a marker pen which says something like "Whore" or "Slut" but this leads the narrator to have a sudden revelation about her mindset that even though it may be outlawed or considered forbidden to be a prostitute she may enjoy it and it may be what she does best. And so after this revelation, the narrator himself decides to adopt this ideology and just does whatever he wants to do until he ends up in jail. He then meets another man who has been through a similar feeling of freedom, only to now both find themselves in jail where the authoritarian regime is trying to "change their minds by hitting it with a rock" The narrator then reflects on all of this and decides that although he enjoys being himself he'd still rather not be in jail and knowing that there may also be various murderers etc in the jail following a similar ideology he starts to wonder if sticking with the regime may be the better choice and maybe he committed some acts that the regrets. In this sense "Whistling in the dark" means both being willfully ignorant and trying to stay brave against adversity. And so the narrator swaps between being willfully ignorant of the benefits of one side and trying to stay brave against the attacks the other side are doing against that ideology, to being willfully ignorant of the benefits of the other side and trying to stay brave against attacks against that side. Which is why the song turns into the overtones and undertones of "Whistling" and "Dark" "Whistling (whistling), Whistling (whistling) Dark (dark), Dark (dark)"

Non-binary Acceptance[edit]

This is only a semi serious interpretation. I heard some people say that TMBG should represent non-binary people (get it? *they* might be giants), so I wanted to try my hand at morphing the lyrics into something meant for my non-binary pals :)

To start off, the woman is someone who believes in the gender binary. It’s a bit of a stretch, but perhaps we could say that her views of “and that’s be you, be what you’re like” are actually statements against gender identity - saying that this individual is mislabeling their personality as their gender. Maybe it parallels a statement along the lines of “oh, you’re just a tomboy, don’t confuse it for not being a girl.” I imagine the term “whistling in the dark” to mean living in blissful ignorance. The individual singing the chorus doesn’t want to conform to these views on their identity, so they would rather ignore them and go on to be happy with their life. The man who states he will hit the singer in the head with a rock is mocking those that disagree with the idea of being gender non-binary. He imagines them as being brutes who act before they think or talk. The jail cell where they both reside is the societal confines of the gender binary, which is created by the same people they were mocking. They may be able to joke about their oppressors, but they can never escape them. This final “and that’s be you, be what you’re like” verse is the polar opposite of the first. In this instance, the singer is realizing that they can use the woman’s logic against her by being themselves with their personality and gender identity. And finally we close with some more whistling in the dark, disregarding the twisted opinions of the woman one final time. 06:04, 8 November 2020 (EST)

Same theme as “Where Your Eyes Don’t Go”[edit]

In both Whistling in the Dark and Where Your Eyes Don’t Go, John is rejecting the idea the you (or he himself at any rate) can make sense to/of yourself. The “man” and the “woman” in Whistling are typical of well-intentioned Brooklyn friends who advise you, when you’re having girl troubles, to “just be yourself.” Clearly, to John (and to most people to whom this advice would be given), that’s laughable nonsense—and he righteously mocks it by sarcastically proclaiming it like a motto. But then he takes it one step farther and says, what he wants even more (than to wave a flag and sing a patriotic marching song about the crusade of “being yourself”) is to be “whistling in the dark” —ie embrace a truth that’s even deeper than the sarcastic rejection of false self-knowledge: namely, the truth of self-ignorance. This is Doubly ironic, since when someone is said to be whistling in the dark, it means that they are thinking that they know what they’re doing but are actually mistaken or delusional—technically, therefore, it’s impossible to DELIBERATELY whistle in the dark. But again, he’d rather be logically absurd than drink the poison or bang his head against a rock in jail with the idiotic “be yourself” people. Both this song and Where Your Eyes Don’t Go are sharp manifestos critiquing the limits of personal epistemology—as well as awesome blues tunes lamenting the struggles and troubles of trying to make it with modern Brooklyn girls…

Slightly different interpretation[edit]

I took this song to represent a man in an asylum or the like (in the Wiktionary Noun 3 definition: "A place of protection or restraint for one or more classes of the disadvantaged, especially the mentally ill."). Partly separated from this, my interpretation of the line "And hit my head on the wall of the jail" sounded like a deliberate action - the narrator going up to the wall and banging his head into it. 11:12, 18 January 2022 (EST)

Religious Cult[edit]

"A woman came up to me and said id like to poison your mind. With wrong ideas that appeal to you though I am not unkind." Just like how groups like Jehovas Witnessess go to peoples doors and try to change peoples mind. They fill them with wrong Ideas that appeal, and in saying the woman is not unkind the song is recognising she genuently thinks she is doing good. The cult does not want people to be themselves unlike they say. They want them to only do things they know how to do well. As such, resteicting them from learning and doing new things outside the cult. You should just stick to the cult, and whistle in the dark.

The man joking about beating him with a rock refers to the battle of ideas and guns. They are willing to use violence, and to 'beat the wrong ideas out of them.'

Eventually they both end up in jail, likely for beating someone with a rock.