In the mid-1980s, you needed three things to get airplay on MTV:
1) An outlandish/borderline offensive look
2) An eye-popping music video
3) Some semblance of musical talent
Having all three pretty much assured you video superstardom, but two was generally good enough to get you on the air.
Enter exhibit A: Twisted Sister.
One of the first bands to add storylines alongside shots of dancing girls in their videos, Twisted Sister used MTV to cultivate an image as staunch defenders of the right to rock: an image they perfected with 1984’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”.
An over-the-top ode to teenage rebellion, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” is memorable for two things: Dee Snider’s horrific astro-drag (which made him a big hit with the PMRC), and a master class in douchebaggery by Mark Metcalf,
Reprising his role as Douglas C. Niedermeyer from 1978’s Animal House, Metcalf’s spittle-inflected rant against all things rock ‘n roll is the stuff of legend. Culminating in Metcalf being launched out of a second story window by the power of the rock, the video was a smash hit – becoming a rallying cry for disaffected 80’s youth in the process.
So short of dressing like a martian hooker and casting Mark Metcalf, what web video lessons can we learn from Twisted Sister?
#1) Everyone loves an underdog
Though he only has two lines in the entire video (and questionable musical taste), you can’t help but root for the kid in “We’re Not Gonna Take It”: he just wants to rock. Tapping into universal themes is a shortcut to creating characters that your audience will connect with.
#2) Everybody hates The Man
Even if you hate the song, you’ll watch the video until that first chord is struck and Metcalf is launched out the window. Why? Because everybody loves seeing “The Man” getting what he deserves. It doesn’t matter if it’s an overbearing boss, an irritating neighbor, or just a piece of technology that doesn’t work: audiences love seeing everyday annoyances resolved in fantastical ways.
#3) Slapstick takes the edge off
Viewed literally, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” is the harrowing tale of an army veteran who just wants some peace and quiet. Instead, he’s assaulted by a leering gang of transvestites. Why does the story fly? Because it’s handled in an outrageous, cartoonish manner that refuses to be taken seriously.
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