A Deep Dive Into Good Charlotte’s Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous Video
Ah, 2002. Life was so different then. There was no Twitter, no Facebook, no YouTube, no Instagram, no Snapchat. There hadn’t even been MySpace yet. The internet was glacial, phones only did three things and lots of people who are now adults were babies. Plus, a bunch of people who aren’t alive anymore, were! Madness.
And this video, Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous by Good Charlotte, was on telly at least 60 times a day. Shall we… Shall we have a bit of a dive into it and see what we find?
We begin with footage emulating news shot from a helicopter, the kind of thing that filled endless episodes of Cops in the 1990s.
Here is frontman Joel Madden, one of the rock world’s most successful twins.
And here’s his identical twin brother Benji. As well as still being in Good Charlotte, the pair have their own side project, the imaginatively-titled The Madden Brothers. They started Good Charlotte while in high school in Waldorf, Maryland.
Good Charlotte are, in this song, railing against celebrities who use the media to complain about their perfect lives, and the “my agony” kind of staple tabloid stories that were so ubiquitous. The nature of celebrity has changed since it came out, however, with social media meaning everyone complains about their lives, and the kind of supermarket newsstand tabloids that were around at the time are a lot less omnipresent.
Rolling Stone is still going, of course. In fact, a year after this video, Good Charlotte themselves ended up being the subject of a cover feature.
These brief cut-and-paste collage things that keep popping up specifically evoke the late ‘70s punk fanzine aesthetic – an aesthetic that came out of punk breaking at exactly the same time that photocopiers became cheap enough to become more widespread.
This is bassist Paul Thomas, who has been in Good Charlotte since the beginning and went to high school with the Maddens. He met them when Joel took his sister (as in, Thomas’s sister) to the prom.
The TV show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous ran from 1984 to 1995, hosted by British journalist Robin Leach. It was dedicated to celebrating the excesses of celebrity culture, from gold-seated toilets to private airfields, revelling in the opulence of what Leach called “champagne wishes and caviar dreams.”
Full props to Benji Madden for his hair. Liberty spikes like that take fucking ages. There is, obviously, a WikiHow.
There’s something fun about a singalong chorus proposing we all rob a mansion.
These swiftly-seen flyers are the work of animator Tawd Dorenfeld. Dorenfeld now runs an organisation helping people with autism spectrum disorder and neurocognitive disorders learn to animate, Tink Tank Animate.
Those last few lines are about the OJ Simpson trial, in which Nicole Brown and her boyfriend Ron Goldman were murdered. After a lengthy trial, Simpson was acquitted, although he later spent nine years behind bars for armed robbery.
It’s a fair point, and something that seems particularly relevant today, that people in positions of power are forgiven crimes that can ruin the lives of those less fortunate than themselves. While this particular verse is about former Washington DC mayor Marion Barry (who was arrested and imprisoned after smoking crack, then subsequently re-elected), these days it could be about the wealthy blonde women selling the health benefits of cannabis on Instagram while poor black teenagers go to prison for selling a few ounces.
The Madden brothers are fans of the imagery used on American dollar bills – Benji has a full-back tattoo of Benjamin Franklin, as seen on the $100 note.
That’s guitarist Billy Martin in the front. It’s like, how much more goth could he be? None. None more goth. Ledge. Martin joined the band after it had been going for a few years and relocated to Annapolis, Maryland. He did the artwork for third album The Chronicles of Life and Death, and has written and illustrated a children’s book, Damious McDreary: A Boy and His Bat.
MADE Clothing was founded by Benji and Joel Madden. They later teamed up with their older brother Josh and friend Tal Cooperman and expanded it into a bigger company, DCMA Clothing.
In the UK, contempt of court laws prevent cameras from filming within the courtroom. This isn’t the case in the US - Court TV, which is being pastiched here, was extremely successful, thanks in part to the Simpson trial and later sensational scandals like the Louise Woodward case.
That is, of course, Tenacious D’s Kyle Gass playing the lawyer.
You don’t see a lot of stenographers in music videos.
Chadwick Merriweather Hardy III is played by Chris Kirkpatrick, one of the founding members of NSync, the ‘90s boyband now best known for having Justin Timberlake among their members. Kirkpatrick is called out by name in Eminem’s Without Me, along with some K! faves: ‘Chris Kirkpatrick, you can get your ass kicked / Worse than them little Limp Bizkit bastards’.
Billy Martin is wearing a shirt from his own company, Level 27.
This dog belonged to the Madden brothers, and had the delightful name Ca$hdogg. He was initially named Cash, after Muhammad Ali’s original name, Cassius Clay, due to being a boxer. Do you see what they did there? He, er, might be, um… let’s just say there are different dogs on their Instagrams these days.
The foreman of the jury is portrayed by Minutemen bassist Mike Watt. He’s been in about a million different bands, is generally considered one of the greatest bass players ever and happily steps from genre to genre. He has a podcast, the Watt From Pedro Show.
So, a funny thing that happened after this album came out is, Good Charlotte became really famous. The Madden twins in particular – Joel began dating pop star Hilary Duff, and later married tabloid fixture Nicole Richie (who is extremely funny in the sitcom Good News, available in its entirety on Netflix). Both were judges on The Voice Australia. Benji is now married to Cameron Diaz. When this song was written, they were outside that world looking in, but they very quickly became fully-fledged famouses.
You might notice the lack of close-ups of the drummer. The band went through three drummers during the recording of The Young And The Hopeless (including one with the amazing name Dusty Brill), with the great John Freese ending up recording most of it as a session musician. However, between recording the album and making this video, they met Chris Wilson, who subsequently played with them for three years and can occasionally be almost slightly seen in the background.
Director Bill Fishman has also made videos for Lamb Of God (Redneck), Megadeth (The Right To Go Insane) and Eagles Of Death Metal (Speaking in Tongues) as well as, awesomely, the original video for Suicidal Tendencies’ Institutionalized and the Ramones classic I Wanna Be Sedated. He also directed and co-wrote the cult 1988 movie Tapeheads, in which Tim Robbins and John Cusack play inept music video directors.
Joel Madden did end up with a pretty nice house.
“Let us have faith that right makes might,” is a quote by Abraham Lincoln, made in a speech at the Cooper Union in New York in 1860. He was talking about ending slavery. The full text of his speech can be found here.
That’s your lot. Well done, everybody. By complaining about famous people complaining, you can actually become them. That’s pretty flippin’ impressive. Good work, Good Charlotte!
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