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Rant #264
(published February 2, 2006)
In Praise of Bruce Springsteen
by Sarah Erdreich
I've never seen Jerry Maguire in its entirety, but thanks to TBS's relentless airings of this film, I've seen enough to know the plot, and I've probably witnessed Tom Cruise smarming "you complete me" a dozen times. Despite the smarm, there's something about this movie — when it's on, I watch at least until the commercial break, even though I think it's one of Cameron Crowe's weakest films and, in general, a pretty crap movie.

But there's one scene that speaks to the romantic buried in me, and that's when Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger are going out on their date, and as they leave her house and walk to his car parked in the street, a soft melody begins to play and continues through the beginning of the next scene, and there's something about the two of them glowing under the street lamps and grinning at each other with first-date anticipation that makes me go "aww" and then want to kick myself for being so easy. Crowe always uses kick-ass music that underscores the emotion of the scene, or the characters, so perfectly, and this pretty little melody that soon gives way to Bruce Springsteen's gentle growl is no exception.

The song, "Secret Garden," hooked me from the first notes. It's not classic Springsteen in the arena-pumping sense, but from what little I know of his music it's not much of a departure, or a sell-out. It's just a few minutes describing a woman who has bewitched the narrator. I'd listen to that song when I was in the kind of mood where you know certain songs are going to make you remember past loves but you want the wistfulness so you listen anyway. Then one day I actually listened closely to the lyrics and realized that one of the lines was "She'll let you in her mouth."

Hmmm. Interesting. Could just be talking about a kiss. Could even be talking about a kiss with tongue. Or could be talking about a blowjob. It's open to interpretation, and after an initial "what the fuck?" reaction, I think that line has made me love the song even more. It sounds all sweet and romantic, perhaps a prom or wedding tune; but listen closer and you might end up wondering if the woman finds it easier to give a blowjob then let a guy get close to her, and why.

In a way, the song reminds me of 10,000 Maniacs' "Like the Weather." Over a poppy, happy beat, Natalie Merchant matter-of-factly sings about being so depressed it's hard to get out of bed. You're humming along and all of a sudden realize "damn, this is fucking depressing." I don't think that "Secret Garden" is as depressing, but maybe that's because I can identify with a woman reluctant to become romantically close to someone. Either way, just the possibility that an outwardly swoon-worthy song may have more layers than you'd expect, is kind of fantastic.

And then there's the matter of the title, which bears a striking resemblance to Nancy Friday's My Secret Garden. This book is something of a classic in the realm of — well, actually, it spans several realms: non-fiction, human sexuality, feminism literature, even — or especially? — self-help. While I don't think that giving guys blowjobs makes the list of most women's fantasies, the titles' similarity is interesting nonetheless.

Maybe that line really is just about good ol' fashioned kissing; maybe I'm reading too much into the title. But just the fact that it's on the soundtrack of a hit movie and played repeatedly on basic cable warms the cockles of my jaded heart.

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