In this series, writers share their favorite music videos.
Suicidal Tendencies — “Institutionalized”
If you were a suburban teen in the 1980s, you were one of the following: a nerd, a preppie, a goody-goody, a hessian/rocker/stoner, or, like me, you were a punk. MTV knew we existed but they were too busy shoving Madonna and The Police and Dexy’s Midnight Runners down our throats to throw us a bone with a little punk grit and attitude in the marrow. Punk bands were making videos from the beginning, but the only place they received any airplay or love was on local access shows or—if we got lucky—sandwiched between clips from the midnight movie classic Heavy Metal on USA’s Night Flight show.
My friends in that time period were all really good skaters. I was not. Almost any time I got on a board, I broke a bone. I was, however, very good at getting high and listening to punk bands. I was also very good at getting high and watching television for hours at a time. We were all wearing down VHS copies of Suburbia and Decline of Western Civilization while sitting around filling up someone’s living room with pot smoke while parental units were out of town. This is what we did.
I remember a bunch of us sitting around at this girl’s house while her parents were skiing and someone said there was a Suicidal Tendencies video they had seen. None of us believed this could possibly be true. How could they have a video? Where in the world had this kid seen such a thing? The girl who lived there said she’d seen the video too, and switched her television to MTV, which, as usual, was flooding screens with Madonna and Prince. We all got high and stopped talking about Suicidal Tendencies and started making fun of each other for believing there was a video. Then it happened.
Coming right on the heels of a Judas Priest video, the familiar sloppy drum fill happened and then there they were—Mike Muir in his cholo regalia, the rest of the band rolling up in a beater convertible—Suicidal Tendencies had made a video for “Institutionalized,” and we were witnessing it, together. I remember everyone kind of looking stunned and smiling. The arc of the video was hilarious—Mike living out the lyrics of the song with a TV-made mom and dad who put him in a straightjacket and put bars on his window—just like the song. We were all so fucking happy. I don’t know how anyone else felt [we were so fucking high and nobody talked about feelings in the 1980s], but I felt like maybe things might change.