Melanie Martinez has written and directed a 90 minute visual album called K-12 and even though the story takes place at school, there’s plenty of adult themes.
The story follows two young girls, Crybaby and Angelita, who have supernatural powers and seem to be keenly aware that they are not of this world.
As such, they are able to see clearly through the systematic brainwashing of children.
Throughout the video, Crybaby begs to be taken off the earth, but is reassured by her mystical mentor , Lilith with wise lessons like: “The only way that we can truly learn is through experience” and, “The greatest power you hold is acceptance”.
Throughout the film, adults are observed neglecting children…as is seen from the first sequence, where Melanie says – “I wish my mom wasn’t passed out right now and could at least take me to the bus stop.”
This sets up Theme #1: Gross Neglect
In Track 1, “Wheels on the Bus”, Crybaby observes the bus driver consuming alcohol and spying on kids getting frisky. As Crybaby and her friend Angelita leave the bus, the driver eyes them lustfully, and as the wind lifts up their skirts, they give the driver a message.
As they enter their first class, we see their teacher, Ms. Daphne, snorting chalk, which is clearly a representation of snorting cocaine.
This sets up Theme #2: Sedatives
While most of the adults consume alcohol or drugs, they also push medication onto the kids.
Melanie has a conversation with one of her classmates, where she asks –
“Why is he forcing medication on us” to which her classmate replies… “To control us”
This theme is observed throughout the film, especially in the songs Detention, Nurses’ Office, and Teacher’s Pet.
This idea of control easily leads into Theme #3: Mind Control
Drama club, Show and Tell and Teacher’s Pet all play off of the idea of being controlled by someone more powerful than you.
Even one student, Henry, declines to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, alluding to Collin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem, – and muscle is brought in to punish Henry for doing so.
During Show and Tell, Melanie seems to be alluding to the pressures of fame
with lyrics like:
I’m on display for all you to see
Harsh words if you don’t get a pic with me
Buy and sell
Like I’m a product to society
Art don’t sell
Unless you —- every authority
In the song, it seems like all of the students want a piece of Crybaby her until she’s broken .
Even the teachers deal with suppression – with one teacher, (19:10) Ms. Harper getting fired for being trans, despite having a great rapport with her students
At the end of Act 1, Crybaby commands the students to wake up from this manipulation, causing the students to retaliate and take over the school.
But, the students aren’t just fighting the authorities, they are also dealing with their changing bodies and appetite for sexuality, which leads to Theme #4, Female Sexuality
In Strawberry Shortcake, Crybaby sings “it’s my fault ’cause I put icing on top
Now, the boys want a taste of the strawberry shortcake
that’s my bad, no one taught them not to grab” as the boys in the class stuff their faces with Crybaby’s shortcake body.
It’s also worth noting how Melanie ironically removed the nipples from this imagery, alluding to the #FreetheNipple movement on social media platforms like instagram.
Angelita also has a rocky go at sexual maturity, with a chemistry teacher taking advantage of her. Crybaby sings-
She said, “It’s for all the right reasons
Baby, don’t care ’bout grades, just call me your lady
If I pass this quiz, will you give me your babies?
You got a wife and kids, you see them daily
Don’t know why you even need me
If I’m so special, why am I secret?
Do you regret the things we shared that I’ll never forget?
I know I’m young, but my mind is well beyond my years
With bodies changing and sexual desire budding, the girls in Crybaby’s school also deal with eating disorders and competition for male attention.
After Crybaby and Kelly fight during Recess, Crybaby tells the teacher…
“She’s not even a bad person, she’s just projecting her insecurities onto me.”
This murky soup of female objectification for the sake of male pleasure leads to the last theme, FEMALE REPRESENTATION IN THE MEDIA.
In the song, Drama Club, Crybaby is given an assigned role for the school play.
She asks the teacher, “Is it possible to be assigned a different role? Maybe one that’s not so domestic? Like a film director or President.
The teacher laughs, A harlot perhaps?
The class laughs and a male classmate says, “President? What a joke.”
Melanie also observes this theme in Detention, where she is stuck performing in a glass box for an audience that freely throws bugs at her.
And in The Principal, where she sings “claiming you’re the good guy
All you want is cash and hype”
So even though this film may take place in a childhood wonderland, there are plenty of adult themes that Melanie is tackling without holding back.
So what do you think about what she had to say? Let us know in the comments section.