Did Massachusetts Miss the Point While Watching Ylvis’s ‘Massachusetts’?

International readers tell us we didn’t understand the Norwegian band’s critique.

Most of us locals greeted the new Ylvis song “Massachusetts” with confusion. Certainly my first reaction to the follow-up from the Norwegian brothers behind this year’s surprise hit “What Does the Fox Say” involved head-scratching and mild suspicion. Are they mocking us? Are they calling us gay? Are they just making jokes that are funny because they don’t make sense?

Whatever concerns I had, they were outweighed by the scathing review in Thursday’s Boston Globe from music critic James Reed:

The whole song is completely tone-deaf, random enough that it doesn’t register with people from here or, for that matter, who live elsewhere. It has the feel of outsiders trying to make a statement about a place they’ve never visited.

Reed calls the homoerotic references “borderline homophobic.” He adds, “It’s been fun to watch fervent criticism of the song spread over Facebook and Twitter, especially among locals.”

But it isn’t just Reed who’s been watching Americans write off the video. The two Norwegian comedians are hugely successful back home with their TV shows and videos similar in tone to “The Fox” and “Massachusetts.” Over the past couple days, I’ve heard from several Ylvis defenders, mostly Scandinavians who found me via Google. They were confused—if not hostile—toward the negative reaction.

“It strikes me that our cultural background may cause us to see things very, very differently, regardless of educational level or social awareness,” wrote one of my more polite email correspondents.

“The more interesting story is on the profound ethnocentrism of Americans who assume everything on YouTube is for them … Americans NEVER CONSIDER that there might be another context or culture worth knowing about,” wrote one of the more irate. (America apparently doesn’t hold a monopoly on stereotyping.)

From these conversations and from having spent more time watching a slim selection of Ylvis’s older material (which has millions of views on YouTube even if it never made it to Gawker and Reddit) a more considered reading of the strange ode to the Bay State takes form. The good news: there’s a way to interpret this where they aren’t just making unevolved gay jokes. Ylvis’s work regularly traffics in a kind of social commentary that forces people to examine popularly accepted but byzantine attitudes. My favorite example (which is in no way safe for work) is “Work It.” It’s a parody of the way rappers objectify females and their sexuality. These aren’t the kind of comedians from whom you’d expect a simple “Massachusetts is gay!” joke.

The bad news: they are mocking us. At least as I now read it, the song is a send-up of a specific kind of American exceptionalism—not the jingoistic exceptionalism of Sarah Palin and the like, but, to quote an email I received, a suggestion that “the U.S. tends to take credit for most of the progressive achievements in the world.” It’s the kind of critique that only smug Scandinavians (or maybe smug Canadians?) could put forth.

There’s still an element of randomness to their humor. But seen in this context—the song is aimed at their longtime fans, not their new American bandwagoners—the song might be better read as a sarcastic commentary on the idea that Massachusetts is a progressive paradise. They highlight fairly pedestrian advantages to our state. “Only four hours from New York!” “Read local books for free at the Boston Library! Or try the local brie!” Smug Europeans, with their cheeses and their stratospheric literacy rates, can only look at this and laugh. “It’s a melting pot my friend. So many cultures hand in hand!” (Of that line, a correspondent writes, “Even as a Norwegian, it is well known that [Massachusetts] may not be the stereotypical melting pot.”) Meet enough Europeans, and you start to hear this kind of criticism of America’s self-regard all the time.

And then there’s the creeping homophobia that starts to insert itself as the song continues. That was the chief concern of most (non-homophobic) American viewers who didn’t quite get where it was going but saw echoes of a sort of odious middle school “you’re gay!” humor we come to expect from our own bro-ier, late-night comedians. (I’m looking at you, Tosh.O.) This, I’m told, is where America most misinterpreted Ylvis’s intention. They apparently regularly confront their own audiences with discomfort about homosexuality. In a recent episode of their talk show, Bård “buddy-kissed” their sidekick Calle, causing much commentary among viewers. The line “just because you’re kissing a man doesn’t make you gay” would thus read pretty differently to regular viewers of their show than it does here. They’re saying, “Get over it,” to those who were uncomfortable with their recent public display of affection. The rest of the video’s homophobia might be read as parody, though I’m not entirely convinced or clear on the intent behind some of it. But it seems meant to point out that while we’re a state that lauds our achievements on gay rights, we’re also a place where you can still regularly hear the kind of “cocksucker” jokes these guys are making as they champion our state’s “melting pot” of cultures.

It’s on that point and others, though, where I think the video remains unfair. Perhaps they’re telling Scandinavians what they think they know about the United States, Massachusetts, and our narcissism. But even with context, to this defensive life-long Massachusetts citizen, the parody seems to miss its mark. Sure, Massachusetts may engage in some of the same knee-jerk assumptions that the American ways of doing things are the best ways, no matter what. But we’re also more immune to that than other political climates. When we embrace advances like gay marriage and health care reform, we do so while pointing to the examples set in other societies that have implemented similar changes. It just doesn’t feel true to say that everyone here thinks we are the world’s first to every progressive achievement. We know we’re not.

Perhaps Americans were guilty of a certain exceptionalism wherein we saw something on YouTube about us and assumed we were its intended audience. But intended or not, we are an audience, entitled to an opinion on the effort. And this video feels like a cartoonish portrait of the dumb, self-important Americans that Europeans often think they see from afar, rather than a cutting parody that strikes in places where we’re actually vulnerable. On the other hand, if we’re going to be parodied, it’s just refreshing to have it focus on something other than accents, sports fanatics, or South Boston gangsters for a change.

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  • maureen

    I am
    American and I love the song and video, here are a few reasons why.. I
    love when they are sitting in an abandon factory, then when they are
    misspelling Massachusetts Calle says ” Mass-achoose like the
    “mass” in mass-produce but without produce”. I feel a reference
    to the lack of production in the factory. The other thing I love is the over
    dramatic way they say “that tragically was shot” when talking about
    JFK, because we (Americans) are so sensitive about that, yes It was a tragedy but it was 50 years ago, no one can say JFK without mentioning how sad it was that he was shot. These guys are super smart and super funny, and super talented. Sometimes I am embarrassed to be an American we are so damn self obsessed and arrogant.

    • jannloch

      But they make fun of all kind of self obsession. Like The Cabin – this video is making fun of Norwegians self obsession and pride. Diffiicult for other to understand – I see that. But look, all their videos – maybe except for The Fox – are about self obsession.

      • AsamiSato

        I lived in Minnesota for awhile and so I can understand the Cabin. There are lots of Scandinavian types there who inexplicably (to me) are obsessed with going to their cabins ‘up north.’

      • maureen

        I don’t think it is difficult to understand. I live in Pennsylvania and “The Cabin” hit home with us because many, many people here have cabins that are exactly the same as, I see from the video, they are in Norway. In fact we talked about how funny it was that people everywhere do the same silly stuff. And we don’t have many, if any, Norwegians or Scandinavians living here but we do the same things with our cabins and our “15 different pieces of cutlery…and a joker from another deck Impossible to spot!”

  • Hege S. Borgersen

    Nice, interesting review. It’s not easy to understand all of what Ylvis really Say, but there is always hidden satire or irony in all of their videos. And, in some cases they make you think. What’s the meaning of Stonehenge or What does the fox Say. I never thought of these things before their videos, but afterwards… Well, that’s there unique talent. Comedy combined with their extremely good voices and talent for writing all types of music. However, they are never mean to anybody. As a Norwegian I really enjoy that the “rest of the world” get to know these talented guys. And remember, they are comedians….

  • Full_Name

    I’m not sure anyone should take this as criticism against America or Massachusetts.. At most, it is poking a bit of fun, but it is not mean-spirited. Ylvis has a tendency to use wording that may seem crass to foreigners, but their style of comedy is not mean (or meant to be at least). Scandinvians are very comfortable with their own sexuality, and they are very liberal on gay issues. It is very normal to joke about one self as being gay even if you are not. (Again, this is not poking fun gay people either)

  • mike

    I am Norwegian and I think the song and video is mostly about Ylvis trying to tell them self and others that they are really on a normal vacation. While in truth they are gay and in denial. Massachusetts is mostly just used as a prop or backdrop of the story. At the end of the video they are clearly leaning more and more towards being gay but still in denial.
    The backdrop is what does the Ylvis brothers and Calle usually do on their off time. So in the song/video they are making fun of them self by questioning their marriages back in Norway. All the talk about how great the state of Massachusetts is, is just there to “cover” their tracks, by putting the attention somewhere else… completly overdoing it… it’s comedy… that’s all

    • Frode Barth Winslow

      Agreed. The humor is like the Tobias character from Arrested Development (making
      fun of guys who are so sexually repressed and homophobic that they don’t realize they’re gay). Massachusetts is just a random background.

      When you see it in the context of the show, this is obviously the joke — the music video is supposed to be in response to a viewer question about what the three guys do in their spare time. The guys mention that they go to Massachusetts to get away from “home life” which can be so “hectic.” (All regular I Kveld Med Ylvis viewers will know they’re all married to women and have children.) And then the video slowly evolves into a romp in which they’re talking about how they like to go to Massachusetts to get it on with other men — but aren’t gay! Never, no!

      Basically, they’re making fun of themselves. Ylvis make themselves the punchline of almost all their jokes, which is again the case here. They’re really not mean-spirited enough to mount a sustained satire of American self-importance.

      (Disclosure: I’m an American married to a Norwegian. We love Ylvis and watch their shows religiously.)

  • Kevin Kempf

    Somehow Family Guy had a more subtle comedic tribute to Massachusetts. Maybe it takes a Rhode Island perspective to get it right.

    • KafirFar

      I enjoyed that song! Did they make it only for Family Guy?

  • Bruce G

    Great article. I can’t stand the arrogance many Europeans (clearly including Ylvis) have about Americans being arrogant.

    • Full_Name

      I can’t stand the indignation of many Americans that can’t stand the arrogance of many Europeans have about Americans being arrogant. (Especially when the American in question is missing the point completely and automatically assumes that someone from another country would really bother criticizing them, when they are actually just having some harmless fun)

    • jannloch

      This video is not about Americans being arrogant. Not at all. Look at Stonehenge and the Cabin. In Stonehenge Vegard Ylvisåker makes fun of his own obsession with Stonehenge, and in the Cabin, Ylvis makes fun of what Norwegians regard as the most Norwegian thing to do, go to their cabin.

  • jannloch

    The article misses the point. For American liberals it is clear that you can make fun of rednecks, but never of liberal America. If Ylvis has a message it is this: you can make fun of everything, and it helps you to not take yourself too seriously.
    Look at Stonehenge, there Vegard Ylvis makes fun of himself.

  • Anne Grete Larssen

    I’m norwegian and to me this is just a harmless joke that includes portraying some american stereotypes and fooling around with the typical pomous music genre (It’s all a bit exotic to us Scandinavians), random silly stuff like the spelling, (which is a great contrast to the music b.t.w.), and a big dose of self irony. Ylvis have actually spent some time in Massa… oh what ever ;).. because of their third brother living there, so that’s probably what inspired them. If you wanna interpret it further, you might find a message in there that says that US people might have a problem being so patriotic and so overwhelmingly positive and optimistic in spirit that they may seem in denial on certain issues. I’m talking about racism and homophobia in this case. I don’t know. All I can say for certain after being a fan for many years is that the Ylvis brothers are anything but homophobes and racists. And I’m pretty sure they appreciate the US as most norwegians do. Bård even got married in NY. American culture is BIG in norway, so americans should be able to take a little harmless teasing. Have a laugh!

  • jannloch

    What does Ylvis say? Don’t take yourself too seriously.

  • joebrenden

    Here is Ylvis in a more… bizarre act: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46fH6u5BOd4

  • omt1

    Many of their videos have a deeper meaning. Such as this that show the contrast between the loving words of grace in religion and violence.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46fH6u5BOd4

    I guess people will find their own meaning in Massachusetts-video too, but it is not mocking the beautiful state of Massachusetts.

  • salveradix

    Another perspective, and I very much feel this is closer to the truth:

    The song is only partly a pisstake, and definitely one out of love anyway. Politically and culturally, it’s pretty well-known over here that MA is by far the US state that resembles Ylvis’ (and my own) home country the most (a Norwegian neocon would probably be labelled a communist in the US Senate, and nothing short of the values of a classic Massachusetts liberal would ever be concidered electable for any higher office in Norway).

    In fact, Scandinavia aside, MA is arguably the easiest cultural transition for a Norwegian anywhere in the world, even more so than Britain.

    It’s highly unlikely that Ylvis are unaware of this. The point? Like with their «Jan Egeland» tribute (look it up, it’ll be worth it), just because it’s overstated doesn’t mean it’s all sarcastic (their admiration of Jan Egeland is quite sincere). So, Massachusetts residents, will you please stop overanalyzing and just take the compliment already: You ARE Ylvis’ favorite place on earth. Now own up to it..!

    • kIsS tHe PaNdA

      Never thought about that. I mean, Britain has socialism and the European vibe that Norway has, but otherwise seems bleak and doesn’t have the perfect quality of life found in Scandinavia. That’s why so many British people move to Spain nowadays.

  • kIsS tHe PaNdA

    I like the song and like Ylvis’ parody style. A lot of people from Massachusetts also liked it. No need to write a thesis on it, for an intellectual person it is self-explanatory.

    • Whimsical JM

      As a person from Massachusetts, I can guarantee that I, and lots of other folk, love this song. I don’t think a lot of bands (or comedians, for that matter) have made a song about our state.

  • kIsS tHe PaNdA

    Welcome to the Massachusetts, land of a thousand tribes….Fuck the apartheid….Hahaha my favorite parts tbh

  • realamericanforamerica

    There’s two things I cant stand, people who are intolerant of others and the dutch.

  • Guest

    Yeah…. we Americans really are egotistical though. I mean, for real, why should we think we are at all special, or that YouTube is specifically for us? It truly shows that we don’t have a grasp of other cultures, and that, honestly, we don’t care to do so. I honestly think that Americans really should spend more time looking at European viral video sharing sites that have millions of views a day… oh wait, Norway doesn’t have its own YouTube? YouTube is an American website you say? And wait, what? The Norwegian comedy troupe records these songs in English? Why shouldn’t Americans be expected to learn Norsk to enjoy the depth and breadth of this comedy?

    I enjoy reindeer and fjords as much as the next person, so let’s calm down with the culture bashing, my good Norske venner. Enjoy YouTube, which America has given to the world, and we will enjoy Ylvis, which Norway has given to the world.

    • Dex909808

      Your point being? YouTube was created by an American individual therefore you are capable of understanding this joke, although it was created for a Norwegian audience and the idea explained in Norwegian, a language you don’t understand a word of? Is that it?

      And for the record..2 of the 3 who established YouTube are not Americans. One was born and raised in Taiwan, the other in Germany.

      • LiLy

        I didn’t know that, I love Taiwan

  • Matt Oil

    I find it interesting that people from Massachusetts call it homophobia.

    1. People are upset that Ylvis portrays their inhabitants gay.
    2. Somehow that is disturbing and a nasty form of homophobia.

    But, if people really are upset that their state is portrayed overly gay, (true or not), who are the real homophobes?

    The whole point of the sketch was that a viewer asked them where they like to go on vacation. They answered that it was a place where they could get away from their wives and truly be themselves. A place to unwind and relax. Thus the video are hinting at themselves being gay and that being partly why they chose to go to Massachusetts. Sure, they could have picked San Fransisco, but that wouldn’t be very original, would it?

  • Norwgiana

    I live in Norway, it`s the most ***** awesome place on earth, I`m here right now and it`s hard to explain with words how much this place rocks, but it doesn`t beat Massachusetts man :) lol I`m going over there every chance I get, to relax and recharge. Just grabbing a friend, renting a car and driving all over the magnificent Massachusetts. But never going over the line of course. One thing you should know, norwegians make gay jokes and laugh at the world as it goes nuts over it. Gay jokes is nothing here, few care, it`s been a while since that was an issue, gay people tell gay jokes and we all laugh.

    • KafirFar

      Afterall, we grew up with on tv-channel sending Finnish Tv-dramas through the 70’s and 80’s. All being broadcasted early on the evenings, with sex, blood, gore and advanced cursing. Nothing can shock us after that. At least not Ylvis.

      Btw, all videos are usually shot during the summer. So, The fox, The Cabin and Massachusetts was all made last summer. The video Massachusetts was not made as a follow up to The Fox, but to fill 4-5 minutes in their tv-show.

  • Synarchy

    I think you’re reading way too much into this. In their talk show they went on about how their wives were bitching them at home, and that they needed a trip away from the family to relax and charge their batteries.
    The trigger of the video in the end was an alleged letter from a viewer about what they do in their time off. The video comes on, and show that they actually have boyfriends in Massachusetts, and that is why they go there so often (apparantly the Ylvis brothers are there a lot also in real life, and love it).
    The “gay” truth about the boys is like reluctantly dragged out of them, all through the video. In the beginning (before the beer), they make excuses like books and brie for being there so often.
    That’s all there is to it. They are making fun of themselves.
    Also this video is not a follow up to “the Fox.” It is recorded in July, a month before they made the Fox, and is as such intended for a Norwegian domestic audience. They do all their music videos in the break between seasons, and their talk show airs in September. If there will ever be a follow up, it will not air before September 2014.

  • AsamiSato

    I am from Cleveland, OH and I know that a lot of people in Boston (and the East Coast and West Coast more generally) refer to my state as a ‘flyover state.’ Basically not worth their time or attention because they’re so awesome and enlightened, being from the ‘big city’. So it makes sense that they would be a bit more sensitive to criticism (or possible criticism) since they place themselves on such a high pedestal to begin with.

    I love Ylvis and this video, and I do admit that some of the gay jokes do read as homophobia to me. But it makes sense to me that it’s just due to cultural difference. I’m just so used to American bros (i.e. Adam Sandler) making similar jokes as a way to make fun of gay people, but it makes sense to me that coming from a different context where homophobia isn’t the cultural norm those jokes would read quite differently. (side note: I would differ from the author of this article and put Tosh.0 in a similar category to Ylvis in this regard, strangely enough).

    • Whimsical JM

      I don’t think you quite understand. Ylvis is mocking america’s homophobic tendencies. They are making fun of our annoying habit of saying “that’s so gay” for something as ordinary as a pencil sharpener. I like this song for that reason. It’s social commentary. (Their other songs are as well. )”Pressure” (as stated before) talks about the criticism and pressure society places upon individuals. “Work It” highlights the sexual objectification of women. “Jeg Heter Finn” (My Name is Finn) talks about consumerism and one’s insignificance in society despite life being “perfect”. I can name other examples, but then this post would be too long. Even the Fox might have something, though that’s up to debate.
      Another reason the song Massachusetts is great is because it praises MA for being a progressive state. It is, after all, the first state to legalize marriage equality. (Way back in 2004).

      So, is this song making fun of the LGBTQ community? No. It actually praises it.
      Is this song criticizing homophobia? I’d say yes.

      • AsamiSato

        I know, I don’t disagree with you, I think you misunderstood my point. I was just saying that as an American watching the video, the jokes do seem homophobic to me. I recognize that that is not the intent of the joke or how it is read in other contexts and I know that my American perspective is not the ‘universal’ perspective. So the fact that the jokes read homophobic to me doesn’t mean they are homophobic it just means in an American context jokes like that often are homophobic. :)

        • Whimsical JM

          ooooh I get your point now. Nice username BTW. :D

      • Anders Stang

        No, they’re not. We use “gay” as an insult here in Norway, even when it has nothing to do with homosexuality. If you’re pissed at a buddy, you call him “jævla homo” which literally translates into “damned homo”, though “fucking faggot” is probably closer to the spirit of the insult. It’s extremely typical among teens.

        They are partially making fun of gays, but so what? People don’t seem to understand that there’s a difference between playfully making fun of something and ridiculing it with malicious intent. The insane people on the far left have gotten it into their minds that equality is about putting certain groups above others, because they’ve been oppressed at some point in history. That’s not equality. Equality is about putting everyone on the same level, which in this case means being able to make fun of everyone.

  • Mandelbrotian

    I think Ylvis likes nothing more than to make people go WTF (like midway through this song), but also make some people feel uncomfortable (by people either too sensitive to people using comedy on subjects like homosexuality, or by people being homophobes etc).

    There is certainly also some social commentary wrapped in comedy. Like the aforementioned “Work It” video, or e.g. the “Pressure” song (like when one girl seems pressured into a foursome).

    Here is a video from their previous show some years back about out-of-the-box people in Norway, called “Norges Herligste”, where they visit a homosexual who runs a hair salon with a gay sex shop in the basement:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzBKIDXzXF0

  • Kimern

    The song is not supposed to say anything about the United States or Massachusetts, but being a liberal place with gay friendly laws makes it a perfect location for the real story. The song is supposed to answer a viewer question on their talk show on what they do in their time off. Before the song was aired they complain about stressful days at home with their wives. Massachusetts is the only place they can be true to themselves and relax. They overstate and make up attractions and reasons they go there, only hints are shown of their real motivation. At the end it becomes more clear, but without that context it just does not make any sense. The main story in the song is about them being gay, living a double life and living in denial. Honestly I feel like you are over analyzing the song in this article. If anything it’s a tribute to Massachusetts and they are making fun of themselves and their personal lives.

  • Mie55

    In Jan Egeland they also make fun of stereotypes. Jan Egeland(a UN diplomat) liked it and was NOT offend. They like to make us think by doing unexpected things.

    http://youtu.be/Yn-oemgzlEU

    And here is Pressure. Both songs have generated discussions similar to what we see now.

    http://youtu.be/Y8i1Ddj1Sw8

  • pb123

    As a Norwegian having lived many years in the U.S., I have just recently discovered Ylvis, but have spent a lot of time catching up with their previous work, and I have been watching this season’s talk show as well. I agree with some commenters, they are never mean to anyone. But what I got out of the video was that as the first state to allow equal marriage rights, Massachusetts has had time to turn into a very gay state – not! Allowing same-sex marriage does, in fact, *not* unravel society. I may have been here too long, but I didn’t see any criticism or mocking towards Americans in general, just towards homophobia, which occurs everywhere, even in Norway. In fact, Norway didn’t legalize same-sex marriage until 2009. (That it’s supposed to be a joke about themselves being gay, as some Norwegians insist here, that I don’t see at all.)

  • Progman

    Some more American reference comedy from Ylvis:

    making fun of gangsta rappers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRKJe_INVBU

    humiliating the series mad men: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5F9_7XyaQQ

    finally a fantastic tribute to james brown (just love – no mocking: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jvKp-F8YEY

    • LiLy

      The tribute is awesome!

  • Matt

    I have a feeling that this 10+ paragraph analysis and discussion is also one of types of things they were poking at from across the great sea…

  • Jacob Beck

    As a midwesterner living in a “flyover” state as the Massholes would call it. I find this song completely hilarious. It’s time that someone, even if they are Norwegian, takes a stab at the coastal elites. As far as the implied homophobia, I’m gay and could care less about it. It’s obvious when someone is making a joke and when someone is using it as hate speech. I don’t mind a good joke at my expense now and then.

    • Stangel

      How much less could you care? Even if you’re gay, you shouldn’t rape the English language like that.

      • LiLy

        Rappers do it all the time, so? What’s your point?

  • jannloch

    Homophobia. Haha. It is the opposite. Ylvis is definitly not affraid of homosexuality. Look up “Ylvis – Big Boy [English Subtitles]“on youtube with a hairdresser who sells gayporn.

  • jannloch

    This song hasn’t got anything to do with US – Europe. It is about Massachussets – US.

  • Adrian Henriksen

    “I hate the word homophobia. It’s not a phobia. You are not scared. You are an asshole.”
    – Morgan Freeman

  • Aesop

    I come from the same city as the two brothers, and more importantly, having seen their previous music videos, I think they all sort of fit toghether, in that they parodize various music (video) cliches, in this case secular-pop-gospel and move them into a very mundane setting. So the contrast is between the music which is almost praising and the lyrics, which shows a very, very normal reality, not very different from Europe, I might add.

  • jannloch

    They make fun of the French too:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajop7imecgc

    • Roger Johansen

      This clip I have’nt seen before, hilarious :)

      thx for the link :)

    • LiLy

      They make fun of themselves all the time, they make fun of human race in general, people are just butthurt…

  • Lurvehette

    This was enlightening. But you missed a valid point: These ignorant Norwegians doesn’t even know what a fox say! They obviously think the vulpes vulpes make sounds like “Gering-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding”, even though any zoologist can tell that’s wrong. Just the same way their description of Massachusets is incorrect.

    • http://www.godgab.org Changa

      Foxes are fascinating and complex creatures, most of the fox noises in that video are fairly accurate, if a bit exaggerated. Talk to a real zoologist next time.

  • Full_Name

    It feels like Ylvis is being over-analyzed. This is probably inevitable since american audiences do not have the frame of reference needed. Some background about Ylvis first; They are a comedy group, and have a late-night talkshow in Norway that resembles Fallon, but with even more comedic skits. Their music videos, including the Fox and Massachusetts are simply segments shot for that show. Also, Massachusetts was shot BEFORE the Fox got released.

    Now, the back-story for the Massachusetts video is as follows; They are asked “what do you do to relax and get away”. They explain that they go on a guy-trip to Massachusetts, “The best place on Earth”, to de-stress, away from wives and family. In the beginning of the video, they highlight the “postcard image” of their trip. As the song goes on, you realize they don’t know all that much about the state (like most tourists), and then it becomes a bit gay, which escalates. The whole joke is that their “relaxing” vacations in Massachusetts is really just an excuse to live out their gay fantasies. Honestly, they could have chosen any other city/state for the joke. Possibly they have some positive impression of the state and chose it because of it, or maybe they simply chose it because it is easy to mess with the pronunciation of the name.

    For those that think it is unnecessary with this kind of language, keep in mind it is meant primarily for adults, just like “D!ck in a box” was made for SNL. In Norway there is no censoring of language or nudity, and when done in English it really doesn’t feel that “dirty” either.

    • Progman

      What’s interesting though, is how they manage to create so much discussion among, let’s call them: “intellectuals”…by combining simple, random lyrics with slick music.

    • juarhela

      Hit the nail on the head :-)

      While they could have chosen any city/state, I’m inclined to think Massachusetts was a deliberate choice since it’s one of the legislatively gay-friendly states in the US – it was the first to allow gay marriage. I think these guys are too smart for that to be a coincidence.

    • http://Noneofyourbusiness.com Satan

      It makes more sense now why the video isn’t funny. Maybe their show is actually funny. Sometimes when talk show people make music videos they are real bad like this one. Of course…none this actually makes the video any funnier so I would still like to say that Ylvis sucks.

  • Fred Krueger

    I agree that Ylvis tend to make fun of homophobia a lot in their songs. First Jan Egeland and now Massachussets. Maybe they should try to come up with something new?

  • queeky

    I grew up in Massachusetts and still have family there and I thought the song and video were a riot. It’s a nice state, remarkable in many ways, but nobody is _that_ excited about it. So such an over-the-top passionate anthem to the state is just funny on the face of it. The humor in the song seems to me a light affectionate teasing, not ridicule. The people who are offended probably have trouble laughing at themselves – a problem I remember was common when I lived there for the first 24 years of my life.

    The homosexual bits were unnecessary, but well within what society usually accepts as mainstream humor. That is, playing with the idea that straight guys might have gay urges. In the context of Massachusetts that’s a soft area to poke at because we’ve got such an odd combination of homophobia and some of the most gay-friendly laws in the country.

    In any case, I think people are way overanalyzing it. Not every satire needs to have a deep meaning or be scathing social commentary. The Naked Gun wasn’t saying anything about the police force, or even ridiculing old cop shows. Sometimes you can just goof around. If it’s not your type of humor, fine, but don’t try to turn it into something it’s not.

  • Stangel

    Seriously?

    They’re making the gay jokes as a compliment to the fact that Massachusetts was the first US state to allow gay marriage. It’s a compliment, but it’s also a joke about Massachusetts being gay, because we can actually joke about gays without interpreting it as hate speech in some part of the world. Equality is about treating people the same, not about treating a previously oppressed group as special flowers who can’t be joked with.

    The rest of the song is basically a wild exaggeration and excitement of mundane things or mild curiosities, just like the Stonehenge and The Fox videos.

    • Full_Name

      If you watch the show where the video was aired, and listen to people involved with the production, it is clearly just a joke on the guys in the video about being secretly gay. No need to think there are any deeper meaning than that.

  • unfaithfullyyours

    Are you joking? Oh my goodness, you clearly do not have a sense of humor. This song is hilarious. And spot on!

  • Mr. Link Linkesen

    As norwegian I laugh my bottom off reading this.Ylvis is a comedy act. They joke about things. There, dont make it harder then it is.

  • C8

    So that was confusing.

  • jonathan

    I live in the Boston area, and I found this to be hilarious. Ever heard the line, “It’s funny ‘cuz it’s true!”? Well, Massachusetts, this is funny because it’s oh so true.

    • http://Noneofyourbusiness.com Satan

      I’m from Massachusetts and I don’t get how anything in this video is true. I just think the video is random and maybe they just picked MA because they secretly want to attack Harvard because they wish they could have grown up preppy Harvard boys but never will be. I mean look at them looking all yuppied out and trying to be funny when they aren’t because they aren’t comedians. It’s obvious.

  • LiLy

    As a colombian with so many jokes about my country and culture, I just realized sometimes you just have to get over it…Have a good week…

  • AlexM

    They’re funny, and just because it isn’t a Saturday Night Live clip, doesn’t mean its youtube terrorism. Get your head out of your ass, even though you probably just wrote this article for the recognition that comes with bashing the new “Gangnam Style” as it were.

  • Christian Gschweng

    I agree with many people here that the joke is mostly about the guys of Ylvis trying to cover up their secret gay/guy-love-vacation. What I would also say is that it probably pokes fun at the countless tributes that American musicians have paid to their country, state or city by using the same melodic, soft music and other cliches we find in their songs like dropping the names of some well-known buildings, referring to random, meaningless stuff from everyday life (free library books, boys of Attleboro, Catholic priests) and an exaggerated praise of random human values which can or cannot be found in that particular place as much as in any other. I’d say they chose MA because it has a history of supporting gay rights (supporting the first joke) and because it is in many ways fairly unremarkable (supporting the second one).

  • Helen Murphy

    I’m English &, love the USA. This song is brilliant.
    I’m not surprised Americans don’t get this. It will get appreciated by everyone who’s watched the ads from the American tourist board. Ylvis clearly feel affection for Massachuetts and aren’t trying to cause any offense!

  • maria

    I think this video is absolutely amazing! And I am from Boston. I could not stop laughing. People just have too many sticks up their behinds to enjoy humor.

  • k_

    OK, I know this is an old post and I don’t know if you (the author) read even the first comments to the articles you write, let alone the old ones, but still I thought I’d share my own opinion.

    (And yes, I might be over-analyzing Ylvis and their humour, but at the same time I think that there is always a reason why we find things funny, and it’s very interesting to understand it.)

    In short: I think this video is about American narcissism. And no, I’m not saying that it’s only USA that’s narcissistic.

    Long answer: Massachusets is one of the sates that European now nothing or very little about it. Do you know what I think about when I hear “Massachusets”? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Well, thanks to Ylvis I know that Boston lies there. I know Boston — that’s the city where the Tea Party took place, right? Wow, that’s where my knowledge ends.

    And that’s where the knowledge of MS (is this the right acronym? It’s certainly right for at least one another thing…) ends for most of Europeans. We know New York, California, certainly a few other states (oh, Texas — that’s where Chuck Norris’s from, right?), very very little. And still, it’s hard to comprehend for you. It’s so hard to comprehend, that you actually thought that the reason why European find this hilarious is because they know your state, they know what it’s famous for! Because they know that you are “a state that lauds our achievements on gay rights”. You are? Wow, I thought it was California or something… what are the other states called?

    You see? This song could be about any other state — Oklahoma? Sure, why not? I don’t know a single Oklahoma city. None. Nada. (I surely know cities that lie there, I just don’t know they lie there.)

    Why do I think that? Come on, “Massakookoo”? “It’s Mass-achus, like in ‘mass’ in ‘mass produce’ but without ‘produce’!”. Oh, I guess that was another joke, right?

  • claud

    They are comedians of course there gonna make fun of you its their career some people need to get that in there heads

  • Jon

    A lot of times when you see a European country portrayed in American movies or TV, the picture given is completely off. Eastern Europe is pictured like something from the Middle Ages, Holland is all weed and windmills and modern day Denmark is still governed by a king. It’s inaccurate (just like Borat’s portrayal of Kazakhstan) but it’s part of telling a story. Most Americans don’t know where Denmark is or have never been to Eastern Europe – just like many Europeans haven’t been to Massachusetts. So we make up random stuff – just like you guys – in order to have a good ol’ fun time. Don’t take everything literally – not Ylvis, not the Bible and not even your own tv-shows.

  • gv

    The origin of this video is a joke about how nobody in NORWAY knows about one of the smaller American states. All most people in other countries know about the US is New York and LA. Just like most Americans only know Paris France, or London England. How many of us have ever heard of Totterdown England? Wouldn’t it be funny and ridiculous if someone make a whole high-budget music video about it, like they might about a bigger more well-known city? THAT’S the joke… its for NORWEGIANS. Not us.

  • Catherine Bruce

    Applaud the author – shrewd and sharp as a knife. Brilliantly keen perspective and sensitive analysis of issues raised. And yes, Europeans can have misplaced, byzantine attitudes but they humbly acknowledge them and apologize using self-deprecating humor. Hook used in this article is that above criticisms were plucked from a slightly skewed context – using random arguments to push forward a narrowed, ‘negative’ agenda. The ability to affectionately tickle or tease (hence validate) is tricky at times, but considered universal to all tribes of the globe. What a sorrowful and censored regime to blatantly impose – the inability to express our humorous and playful inner-selves ? We all LOVE MASSACHUSETTS and I’m sure Ylvis LOVES MASSACHUSETTS as well. In the words of Shakespeare: “All the worlds a stage and the men and women merely players..”

  • Ollie Juskas

    Have you ever considered the possibility that this song has no point, no meaning, no hidden message, no nothing what so ever. Ylvis writes songs that makes no sense, that’s the only point. If you try to analyze the meaning of the lyrics, you have already lost the point.

  • jackinlondon

    Oh boy, I think this misses the point. THIS IS NOT MEANT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY!! Not even as Serious Parody! That’s the part that made me laugh in reading this, that the writer is assuming there is some serious message to be had underneath the jokes…well then they totally do not get Ylvis. They are just having a good time. No deep political message about it to be had here. They aren’t Lenny Bruce…I loved the song.