Nuts. Bonkers. Loony. Batty. Insane. We’ve all used these words to describe a person or situation that doesn’t quite conform to what we think of as “normal.” It’s words like these that contribute to the stigmatization of mental illness, but none are used quite as much as the ubiquitous “crazy.” We hear that word so often it barely registers as a negative. Does this mean its stigmatizing power has dissipated? Well, no, I doubt it.
So let’s go a little crazy ourselves and have some fun mocking examining seven specific examples of the word in pop culture.
1. Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne
Released in 1980 (not long before Ozzy gained notoriety for snacking on live birds and flying rodents), Crazy Train remains a staple at sporting events the world over. If you’ve gone to any kind of organized athletic contest in the past 10 years, chances are good you’ve heard at least 30 seconds of this song. It’s got a distinctive opening, some excellent guitar chords and provides tipsy fans the opportunity to scream “Eye eye eye!” in unison with a stadium full of like-minded people. It’s also cropped up in various commercials, so evidently Ozzy sold out to The Man long before he assimilated into the MTV hegemony.
You can tell this is an old song by how lame the video is. It does feature the lead singer wearing a shirt with his name spelled out in glitter and fringe-lined sleeves, though.
But look at the lyrics and you’ll find a singer railing at how out of control the world is and hoping for a gentler future:
Crazy, but that’s how it goes
Millions of people living as foes
Maybe it’s not too late
To learn how to love
And forget how to hate
Clearly, the Prince of Darkness has much to teach us.
2. I Drive Myself Crazy by *N Sync
I’m 33, and if you’re close to me in age, there’s really no ignoring the boy-band thing that happened when we were in college. The best thing to do is meet it head on, sigh, shake our collective heads and admit that it happened. We must do our best to make fun of it so we can act like it never affected us, like we never watched the video for Bye Bye Bye over and over again so we could learn the dance moves or like we never made an appointment to have our hair bleached and permed so we could look just like Justin Timberlake, only to chicken out on the way to the salon. And now I’ve said too much.
So I submit to you this abomination. It’s a good thing the *N Sync boys had a string of hits to their name and a few successful videos under their collective belts before this video dropped because this one…this one’s rough. The video below features all five guys in a mental institution acting like the characters from that episode of House I mentioned not too long ago. They hit themselves, pretend they’re superheroes and generally portray cartoonish versions of mental illness. There are even a few straightjackets! Take a look:
You hate me a little bit for posting that video, don’t you? It’s OK to admit it; only by facing such truly horrendous visual representations of awful mid-90s pop songs can we overcome them. This was *N Sync’s worst-performing video of the era, and for good reason. And hey, whatever happened to that dude with what looks like a pineapple on top of his head?
3. Crazy songs
There have been more than 20 songs titled Crazy. This seems to imply a startling lack of creativity on the part of musicians from across genres. The most famous of these is probably Patsy Cline’s masterpiece of a ballad, but that’s an old song that never played on MTV, so let’s not dwell too long on it. The other two that come to my mind are by Aerosmith and Gnarls Barkley. The video for the former featured the acting debut of Liv Tyler, while the latter was named Rolling Stone magazine’s best song of the 2000s. Obviously, Aerosmith wins that comparison.
Created by the character Strong Bad, CGNU offers a “shady online degree” with courses like “Caps Lock Technician,” “Insider Trading,” “Mousepad Engineer” and “Escrow Understandment.” There is absolutely nothing mental-health related here, but the school’s one athletic team has a game every night at 6 pm in which its members hit things with golf clubs while being cheered on by the school’s mascot, “The Jolly Dumple.” There is no way I couldn’t mention CGNU, a truly inspiring fake school where “The future is you…probably.”
5. Crazy Taxi
One of the most fun arcade games I’ve ever played, Crazy Taxi teaches gamers more than just bad driving. It teaches capitalism; the faster you deliver your passengers, the more money you get. It teaches customer service; your fare can get hop out of the car if your driving is too erratic. And it teaches the idea of realistic consequences; head-on collisions with other drivers severely damage…your chances of delivering your fare on time. And that’s it, really; the car is completely unaffected by your reckless driving. The few taxi cabs I’ve ridden in were driven by men who clearly thought this game represented real life.
6. Crazy Bread
These delicious soft bread sticks are a staple of the Little Caesar’s® menu and might be the most delicious thing on it. For $1.50, you get eight breadsticks coated with garlic butter and sprinkled with a Parmesan and Romano cheese mix. Wikipedia says that a “Stuffed Crazy Bread” iteration exists in which the regular food product is filled with cheese, but there’s no way such wonderful alchemy can exist without me knowing about it; so we’ll assume Wikipedia is wrong on that count.
Why are these bread sticks “crazy?” Who cares? All I care about is finding a Little Caesar’s right now so I’ll stop drooling on my keyboard.
7. Crazy Quilt
What? You don’t recognize this DC Comics® villain? Why, he’s only second to the Joker in terms of his importance to the Batman mythos! He’s clearly one of the most influential villains, and oh man, there’s no way I can pretend this guy actually matters any longer. This character is just plain terrible.
Crazy Quilt was a painter who moonlighted as criminal. He gets blinded by a gunshot, volunteers for Suspicious Experimental Government Procedure #47 and ends up wearing a helmet that can hypnotize people and shoot laser beams and also drives him “crazy” because it amplifies the colors around him. Or something. I don’t really know. I’m pretty sure this is the most anyone’s thought about Crazy Quilt in the past 10 years. The character does appear in Cartoon Network’s “Batman: The Brave and the Bold,” a fantastic cartoon that dares to answer one very important question: “What would the campy Batman TV show from the 60s be like if it were awesome?”
I’m sure there are more “crazy” pop culture references I missed that deserve to be heralded and/or mocked here. Please leave a comment and let me know what should be added to the list.