“Stupid Mistake”, the fourth single from Darren Hayes 2011 album: “Secret Codes and Battleships”, would not have been an obvious single candidate in my opinion. While I do adore the track, I expected the perkier sounding “Don’t Give Up” or the stunning “Cruel Cruel World” would be the more likely choices. That being said, any amount of new Darren singles is a wonderful thing in my opinion and once the news set in I realized that the truly confusing question is why this exquisite body of work has yet to receive any promotion in North America (I can’t even find a hard copy of this album in our record stores here in Eastern Canada. Check out my album review!), but I digress.
On Monday, April 9th, 2012 the video for “Stupid Mistake”, directed by Hayes’ husband Richard under the moniker of Pixelfink, debuted on Hayes’ official YouTube channel. The clip takes and transforms a song that seems at first like an admission and acceptance of guilt in retrospect of a betrayal and reveals that sometimes the deeper betrayal may be an internal one.
The clip is shot in high contrast black and white and in my interpretation depicts the emotional unravelling of an individual at the very moment they stop hiding behind a facade of denial and face what they’ve done that’s led them down the path to this moment. One hopes that this “moment of truth” is a turning point that will bring healing but we’re left wondering at the end of the video (more on this later!). While visually simple, this video simply depicts the internal conflict that comes with accepting how your actions can cause a chain reaction which in turn can cause you to lose a bit of yourself.
Much like Darren Aronofsky’s 2010 film “Black Swan” there is a duality represented in the portrayal of two personas that are seemingly trapped within one very conflicted person. Hayes is shot in a few scenarios as these at-odds characters; the first wearing a white suit against a black backdrop and the second a black suit against a barely lit white backdrop, along with some twisted clown makeup. Also following the “Black Swan” reference, many scenes are shot within the frame of a dressing room-style vanity mirror. The scenes within this prop tend to show Darren either applying or removing the makeup that distinguishes these two personas.
Along with the makeup we see a transformation in Darren’s demeanour as well. In the white suit and bare face, Darren is more subdued. He sits before the vanity mirror, seemingly accepting of what he has done and what he has to do as he begins to apply makeup to his face. We see more and more clips of this character in full makeup. He is almost certainly inspired by Heath Ledger’s Joker in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” if outfitted by Michael Jackon’s former stylist. This side of Darren is tortured and he hides behind caked on makeup and a disturbing grin, a tiny heart drawn on his face beneath his eye. After trying to put on a show, this more emotional and agressive character – seemingly uncomfortable in his own skin, realizes that the face staring back at him is a fraud. In this moment of Clarity it seems there is a breakthrough and the makeup is stripped off, perhaps for the last time.
I equate this symbolic scenario, partially as a reflection of self-esteem or moreso insecurities. Much like regret, those things exist only within ourselves, often unwarranted and we fight to rise above them every single day. While it’s possible none of the references I have mentioned were intended, Nina from “Black Swan”, Heath Ledger (The Joker) and Michael Jackson all had personal struggles and internal demons that threatened their emotional and physical well-being much like the character Darren plays in the clip.
As the video ends, the now clean faced Darren stares directly and disdainfully into his own eyes in the mirror as he sings: “You don’t want love. You don’t want, anybody else to either”, perhaps singing to that dark part inside of him that he tries to surpress.
While extremely brief (and consequently, extremely hard to freeze-frame via YouTube, there is a flash of an encrypted message using the secret code Darren used to hype the album last year on the last frame of the video. Being that I’m obsessive and always up for a challenge, after about 10 minutes of trying, I managed to get the following screencap!
I immediately set out to “crack the code” and within about 5 minutes I came to believe it reads the rather appropriate:
“Some battles can’t be won, but we fight them anyway“.
“Secret Mistake” (like everything Darren touches) is…