song is a portrayal of the pretenses and restrictions of people
in the modern world. We are raised in this world and shown
all sorts of precedents for life: how to act, what to create,
what to become. And these molds that are set for us are not
always the ones we would pick, yet we try to fill them anyway.
The first half of the first verse is an image of a woman growing
a plant; essentially, trying to create something. Yet, it
is not a sincere thing she creates, as noted by key words "fake"
and "plastic". This could be a metaphor for many things.
Perhaps she is trying to create an image of herself that she feels
is the ideal, but in actuality it is a false representation of her
true being. The second half of the verse shows that all those
who surround her are equally superficial, and are systematically
destroying their true selves.
The chorus: "It wears her out." This suggests
that the people's attempts at filling this mold is very stressful.
A common theme in Radiohead lyrics, especially those about society's
obsession with changing oneself to others' standards, is that people
in the modern world should be more efficient. If someone is
"worn out", they are not being very efficient. The chorus
almost dismisses her troubles as an inefficiency in her person.
The second verse introduces another character,
the man that the woman lives with. He is a "broken" man.
Simple enough: broken spirit, broken will, whatever. Polystyrene
is a type of foam that was used at some point to make hamburger
boxes at McDonald's. Similar enough to plastic, at least for
the song's purposes. The man tried to fill the mold, but failed.
Hence, "cracked polystyrene" = "shattered mold". In the second
half, the lyrics show that "he used to do surgery for girls in the
There can be no denying that the eighties were
a very glam-oriented period of music. Glamour = facade = fake.
But there is also a certain naivete to the period. In a naive
period, the man tried to "do surgery". Surgery may represent trying
to change someone for the better, or simply trying to help them.
And since they are "girls", from a heterosexual standpoint, this
was probably attempted through a romantic relationship.
However, he is unsuccessful (he used to try to
help people, back when he was naive), because fate undermines his
efforts. Hence, he is also inefficient.
In the third verse the speaker uses the first
person narrative. However, that does not mean that he has
not spoken of himself before. If we are to assume that "she"
is the same female throughout the song, then "she" is his fake plastic
love. At the same time, "she" also lives with a broken man.
It is not uncommon for partners in a romantic relationship to live
together. One interpretation might be that the speaker is also the
"She looks like the real thing, she tastes like
the real thing, my fake plastic love." The speaker says that
she is proficient at filling this artificial mold. However,
he "can't help but feeling". He realizes that it is just that:
fake. "I could blow through the ceiling, if I just turn and
run." He thinks, "I could break out of this mold, if I just
totally spazz out like I'm not supposed to."
But alas, he does not act on this impulse, and
resigns himself to his restrictions. He even apologizes for
his falling out of line. "If I could be who you wanted all
the time...", while a fragment, suggests, "I wish I could fill this
mold of yours all the time. Sorry, I fucked up for a second
a piss-take/ lament on the pitfalls of surrendering to the attractions
of the superficial values of modern living. The first line sums
the theme up beautifully: you've got a green plastic watering can,
for a fake chinese rubber plant... Now why do you need the watering
can??? Of course you don't. So that thing which for most plants
bears the essence of life (ie water) is, in this case, superfluous
- a purely cosmetic accessory. The watering can represents a 'false
hope' in gaining sustenance, in quenching desire within the environment
in which these 'fake plastic trees' exist - represented by the fake
plastic earth. Again, an illusion - growth cannot take place in
'rubber plans' for the town 'to get rid of itself': The corrupt/
corruptable schemes of the consumerist perpurtraiters are inevitably
self destructive in their nature.
lives with a broken man, a cracked polystyrene man, who just crumbles
and burns' - quite self explanitory: he's decaying, he once was
well moulded but his mould is cracking with the strain. 'Burns'
is perhaps a reference to unquenched desire.
used to do surgery for girls in the '80's, but gravity always wins'.
He's talking about plastic surgery - gravity always wins - eventually
the breast has to do some sagging - and gravity: bringing him back
'down to earth' .
the song contains a lot of humour is a point that is often overlooked,
perhaps because it sounds so full of pain and longing - it is this
juxtaposition (or duopoly) of feeling that, for me, gives the song
a true edge - he's 'taking the piss' as well as being underlyingly
serious. 'She looks like the real thing, tastes like the real thing'...'-
sounds remarkably like a soft drink ad - also from the '80's - a
play on the fact that she's a walking, talking advertisement for
herself. 'I could blow through the cieling if I just turned and
run' - the cieling is perhaps the glass cieling so often refered
to in feminist writing that keeps women within certain constraints.
So if she ran from it all - put it all behind her, then she could
achieve anything. 'It wears her out' is the way she feels in her
quieter moments - all this pretending is a tiring business. 'If
I could be who you wanted all the time' - expresses a longing to
truly BECOME what she's pretending to be which would save her the
great effort of pretending...
I feel that the song representst is the songwriters attempt to find
compassion in a place where he is perhaps more used to feeling contempt.
It concerns values which he deplores but which seem almost beyond
the control of the 'victims'. They are merely products of their
environment, rather than actual perpurtrators
I think this song is actually fairly simple but poignant: It is draining
to nurture something that is not real, and conversely, it is draining
to expect that same thing to nurture you. This fake thing, whether
it be a relationship, a job, a lifestyle, or whatever, "wears him
out". For some people, it is easier just to adapt to the safety of
something fake than to try to change the situation.
fake plastic trees represents what a stereotype some of us have become.
the song begins in the story of a random person. the beautiful thing
about this song is that there's a resolution. the line 'it wears me
out' indicates that some of the stereotype do stop to think about
their life and where it's going. the song definitely shows the enlightenment
of radiohead. they have been lucky enough to see the world as it is.
this song is a sliver of the life they see.
I can't listen to the song enough. the album has changed my life.
everything by radiohead has changed my life.
"Fake Plastic Trees" is to me about fake love.
A man and a woman have been in a relationship for some time now. She
bought her "green plastic watering can" from "a rubber man in a town
full of rubber plans." She is "watering" their fake plastic love,
barely keeping the relationship together. The "rubber man" is the
man she pretends to be in love with, and the "town full of rubber
plans" is all the falsities the two have built up to create what on
the surface appears to be a true love-based relationship. This wears
her out, because it is hard to admit to yourself that you don't truly
love the person you've been with for so long.
The man she lives with is "broken," a "craked polysterene man." "He
used to do surgery for girls in the eighties, but gravity always wins."
He is completely worn out, and he's getting tired of trying to keep
their relationship together. Years ago, "in the eighties", he used
to do plastic "surgery" on girls (i.e. his lover). He used to be able
to mold and change his image of his lover in his mind until she looked
like someone he could love, but he can't pretend that he does not
love the real her any longer. Gravity wins. He can't pretend to be
in love much longer, and knowing this "wears him out."
So, they have a "fake plastic love". Neither of them can be what the
other person wants. They feel like they're going to explode and "blow
through the ceiling." What would happen if they just turned and ran?
This struggle wears them out.
Fake plastic trees is a portrait of the modern world, it's superficiality,
and a fervent desire to escape it. The persons described in the song
are caricatures from our disposable culture, all of whom are deconstructing
or are awakening to their own humanities disintegration, both physical
and spiritual, as a consequence of their lives investments in materialism
Watering a "fake chinese rubber plant" is existential. It is an exercise
in futility. Further, "to get rid of itself" is an nihilistic absurd
statement. It indicates a sort of breakdown on the part of our narrator
who "can't help the feeling" that he could "blow through the ceiling
(not the literal ceiling but the ceiling of his stagnation) "if i
(he) just turn and run".
Our narrator is worn out by his dilemma. He rejects the mold. A plastic
love is just that.. plastic. He can't be who she wants all the time.
He can't live in a fake plastic world.
To me this excellent song (the best on the album) is about a woman
the singer (Thom) fancies and has had a relationship with.
All the references to "fake" relate to the fact that this woman is
living a fake life, pretending she is someone who she thinks she should
be, living in a higher class circle of friends. She is married to
the "broken man" who used to be a plastic surgeon ("used to do surgery
in the 80's"). She is unhappy with the marriage now that he is "broken"
and "it wears her out" pretending to be someone who she is not.
"She looks like the real thing, she tastes like the real thing" suggests
Thom has had a relationship with her but she does not want to drop
the pretence of being this false high living wife. Thom "can't help
this feeling" and not being with he makes him frustrated "I could
blow through the ceiling". However, he cannot be the person she wants
him to be although he wishes he could "If I could be who you wanted"
I believe that the true meaning is when two people meet and they know
nothing about each other and she is just hoping that everyone could
be real for a while. The fake plastic is the outer shell that we all
put on. " she looks like the real thing" but she's not "I can't help
the feeling" he realizes that she isn't real and he is worn out by
this. Tired of trying to put on a fake smile and personality. " If
I could be who you wanted" he wants to be real and her to like him
for his real self, but she doesn't even know the real him and she
will never know.
thom's lyrical ideas are always best left alone b/c when you try to
articulate them, they lose their beauty but...
to me, it's just a story - there are some references to modern day
superficiality, sure, but i don't think that's the point.
we see a woman. plastic. fake.
we see a man she lives with - also invested in this fake, imaginary
world. he loves her.
"she tastes like the real thing"... but she is not. the woman is a
fantasy, literally, and the man must now wake up from his dreams and
deal with real life. and "the man" is the singer himself.
"if i could be who you wanted all the time". in real life, the woman
the singer fancies and fantasizes about, has no feelings for him,
a fact he just can't accept.
i read thom broke down in tears after recording this song. i think
it's about unrequited love.
quite the song for young girls today who want to look like those teenage
pop stars but in the road of doing it stumble to there knees and break
there faces, in other words JUST BE YOURSELF. I have really gotten
into this song a lot because Clueless is a great movie. Cher the main
character had it all and did it all. But yet she wasn't happy with
herself she wanted to share what she had to offer with the world.
Yes she eventually finds herself and a way to make her feel better
but she was raised on this fake plastic earth. "she could not help
the feeling, she could blow through the ceiling, and then she turned
and ran" ~ to the mall.
I especially like the phrase " If i could be who you wanted all the
time"- I take that a few ways.
one - like someone so much but you are not together and he is with
someone else. you want to be what he wants- so you would be with him
two- many people have high expectations of others and sometimes it
causes people to lug heavy pressure on their shoulders and breakdown
at some point, it coud be ironic, it could be sarcastic
but overall its just a good song- can definately make you think of
what people do to alter their looks and their personalities to suit
others. "Change is good, but dont let go of your values"
now i know what im going to say is going to sound a bit...speculative,
thom yorke, being a libran, like all librans are, all about balance
which also means demanding reciprocation and contempt for ingratitude
of course im not offering some thesis on his psyche or anything, just
a viewpoint for fun
i thought this idea kinda sounds true in some of his songs and librans
are generally living contradictions
outwardly quiet but inwardly expressive creative and fiercely energetic
but seemingly aloof or unbothered oh, for a moment, i thought 'surgery
for girls in the eighties' was about jack the ripper (1888, is it?)
its about this woman who feels like she always has to be perfect for
her man, but she cant fill his expectations, and shes sick of trying
to be someone shes not. i think this is a reflection of how lots of
people feel about the world, the song just a representation of how
everyone is struggling to find themselves in a consumer driven world
Robert Lewis Livingston
A lot of in depth interpretations of a simple song. A man has loved
a woman for long time, since he was a boy and she a girl. The problem
is that this well adjusted, and comprehensive man lowers himself trying
to love and be with this superficial woman. The woman cares only for
intangible, shallow, and unimportant materialistics issues. She ended
up marrying a big shot asshole who now is an aging pretty boy. Although
our protagonist is a successful, sagacious, and respectful individual
he feels the only way he is truly complete and happy is when he is
around this sketchy woman. The lady because of the man's pragmatic
demeanor will and can never love him. He is left tired and unfulfilled
but deep inside he is happy he is not her.
in the song, i think the girl is the only "real" thing. and when thom
says "my fake plastic love", he's talking about his own emotions.
and it frightens him that this real feeling is breaking through the
artificial world he's surrounded with.
The song starts, appropriately enough, with a single guitar and the
lyric 'green plastic watering can'. Instantly, the impression given,
rightly or wrongly, is one of utterly banality and, even more interestingly,
one of impersonality. The 'green plastic watering can' sums us all
up; we are all 'made', 'plastic', and 'fake'; the fact that the 'broken
man' did 'surgery in the 8Os' makes him an accessory to the dehumanizing
process of the 'fake ' life.
Yet the song is also optimistic. The strings on 'I can't help that
feeling' indicate man's essential goodness, and the reference to 'sea
of love' means, whether you like it or not, there is a future beyond
fake plastic. It's a song about redemption and hope.
This song for me is about a guy who loves some girl but is to ugly
to even have a chance (like Creep!) so tries to get plastic surgery.
For me he fails, because the last line writes: "if I could be who
you wanted". I still don't understand the link to Canary Wharf?
ever imagined everything was really
kind of shitty dream we're all in
i like this song because of the music
and the desperate tone in Thom's voice
i don't think it can be explained
the only sense is
hey shit, we're all just pretending.
to be strong and brave
funny and witty
nice and romantic.
it'd be so nice to just be for once
so totally free to be
ourselves and yet fit to anyone else
it is a song written by a man,
i'm afraid, by a man who already
knows he'll never be "all she wanted
all the time".
we never are, although i'm a woman.
One of Thom's best..by far, which pretty much sums up our modern society
in its regard to "beauty" and how everything has become silicone,
the "plastic" in the song. Thom sings from many points of view here,
the woman, the man, his own, but he really is pressing the same issue
and using different perspectives to do it so therefore it's a little
jumbled, but of course if he wrote the path in bright fire then how
would anyone be able to take there own meaning from the piece? Anyway,
the main point of the song is, in society today, if you haven't been
doctored up by some type of surgeon, you won't feel whole, so you
think. But, unfortunately, "gravity always wins", i.e. the breasts
will sag, the face will wrinkle, you will be dissapointed, not feeling
whole, but weighed down by all the plastic additions you have made
to yourself. That's my take on it.