Elefant's Lolita: Inspired by Nabokov's Controversial Novel ...
Elefant's Lolita: Inspired by Nabokov's Controversial Novel
Published October 24, 2010 by:Alix Dufresne
Elefant's song "Lolita", released in 2006 off their album "The Black Magic Show" has been a source of controversy and bewilderment from their most loyal fans to the confused poopulace listening to their lyrics for the first time. Any fan of Nabokov knows that the Lolita in question is not only a reference to but directly by his 1955 novel
"Lolita", the entirety of the lyrics drawing allusions from passages and imagery within the book, as well as film adaptations done by Stanley Kubrick and Adrian Lyne.
Elefant's "Lolita" has an opening stanza which appropriately refers to the broad concepts found in the beginning of Nabokov's "Lolita". The lines "Can you tell me what you're thinking? / I just melt inside your eyes" makes note of the secret and unspeakable adoration the male protagonist Mr. Humbert Humbert, a professor and pedophile, feels for the daughter of his land lady (and eventually wife)'s daughter, Lolita. The following lines "Kiss me like they do in movies/ Modern child of the night" stems from Humbert's notice of Lolita's fascination with magazines and theater and the younger generation's poopular culture, a part of which includes girls becoming promiscuous at younger ages, though certainly not by Lolita's age. Alternatively, it is possible the lines concerning movies is also a reference to "Lolita" having been portrayed in two film versions by the time Elefant recorded their song, one by Stanley Kubrick with a screen play written by Nabokov himself in 1962, and one by Adrian Lyne in 1997.
The following stanza in Elefant's "Lolita" begins with the lines "I was watching you for hours/ standing there beside the pool", a reference to the instances in Nabokov's "Lolita" by which Humbert Humbert takes Lolita to several pools owned by the hotels in which they stay as they make their way through a road trip across America. In addition, Lyne's film adaptation of "Lolita" includes several swimming scenes, one of which literally contains Humbert watching Lolita swim and sunbathe.
The following lines in Elefant's second stanza, "When you wear those pretty dresses/ I forget the girl in you" concerns the reason by which Nabokov's Humbert Humbert feels justified in loving Lolita. In Nabokov's novel, Humbert has aged with the torment of his true love's death, which occurred when they were both young teenagers. In Lolita he sees his dead lover Annabel, and in turn, Humbert initially returns to his younger state of mind. To him, Lolita is not merely a young girl, but his long lost girlfriend, equal to Humbert in age and experience.
Elefant chooses to begin the chorus of their song "Lolita" with "run away/ run away" because in Nabokov's novel, following Lolita's mother's sudden death, she and Humbert Humbert travel across the country on a series of road trips. It is also possible Elefant was referencing Humbert's escapism, catalyzed by Lolita's indulgence and his denial that he has lost the girl of his younger days.
It is no coincidence that Elefant begins to refer to Lolita as "Lola". In Nabokov's "Lolita", Humbert has a series of pet names for the girl first clarified on the novel's opening page, including "Lo", "Lola", "Dolly", and "Dolores" as well as "Lolita" and his terms for all lovely young girls, "nymphet". In writing "Lola is on the floor/ She's wanting more, she's wanting more" Elefant has made an allusion to the Lolita in Nabokov's novel having an affinity for sexual activity, first with a boy named Charlie she meets at camp, then with Humbert Humbert, and again with another older man Clarie Quilty, along with a number of boys her own age which Humbert becomes incredibly jealous and controlling about. Furthermore, the Lolita in Nabokov's novel begins using sex as a form of pleasure and manipulation. For example, before Lolita leaves for summer camp she finds Humbert alone in a room and kisses him, and upon her return she again incites him to become intimate, revealing that she would like to play with him the sexual games she had learned from the camp boy Charlie. On another occasion she threatens to withhold favors if Humbert will not double her allowance and allow her to be in a school play, an activity in which he ironically forbade Lolita from participating because he was fearful she would utilize the opportunity to meet boys. Moreover, throughout Lolita and Humbert Humbert's road trip, she begins sneaking around with the playwright Claire Quilty without Humbert's knowledge but growing suspicion.
The following stanza in Elefant's "Lolita" contains the lyrics "Am I wrong for loving Lola? Am I wrong for what I think?" which is an allusion to Nabokov's book in it's entirety. The novel "Lolita" is consistently told from Humbert Humbert's narrative, through which he builds a case for his innocence and pure intentions, both of which the reader is not certain he himself believes. Ultimately, it may be assumed Humbert is preparing a case to be presented to court as he occasionally appeals to a jury amidst his explanations. Moreover, by publishing "Lolita", Nabokov is asking his readers for their interpretation of Humbert's crime. Surely he is wrong for loving Lola, but his perspective is nonetheless confusing and distressing.
Next Elefant says "She is such a wicked child", referring obviously to Lolita's many sexual exploits and use of manipulation not only romantically but to those all around her. In Nabokov's novel, Lolita charms her teachers and peers, Humbert accusing her of exploiting her friends and instructing them on how to behave. Eventually, Nabokov's Lolita also becomes emotionally cold, unresponsive, moody and ignores Humbert's wishes, which becomes problematic because after her mother's death Humbert Humbert doubles as a father figure, albeit deranged.
The lines "Painted lips / Dirty knees" present contradictory imagery illustrating the schism Nabokov's Lolita faces in functioning as a sexual individual and as a young girl. It is possible Elefant is also referencing the trademark red lipped girl presented in Lyne's promotional movie posters.
Lastly, Elefant's "Lolita" holds the lyrics "I hear the devil calling / He's waiting for my soul", a play on Nabokov's Humbert Humbert awaiting his punishment for all the moves he has enacted on Lolita. Furthermore, the line "I shout out loud Lolita" refers to Humbert's exhalation of Lolita's name, which in Nabokov's novel he creates word play full of assonance on the first page, while "You are my heart and soul" is a direct reference to the line on the first page of the book which reads "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul."
In composing their song "Lolita", Elefant not only explores the reality Nabokov first created in his 1950's novel, but demonstrates considerable knowledge of facts throughout. This should stand as clarification as to why they chose to include such a thin and young looking girl in this particular song's music video.
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