After the wedding scenes that 3005 soundtracks in the screenplay, the script cuts to The Boy playing piano at his mansion as people start to arrive for yet another party, prompting the beginning of Act 3, the aptly-titled “Playing Around Before the Party Starts.”
The mansion is starting to get messier and messier, and apparently the cleaners have stopped showing up because they weren’t being paid. There’s trash everywhere, surfaces are sticky, and you can’t slide around on the floor. The script mourns this: “Now, dried alcohol stops you before you even get to the kitchen door. The Boy really loved sliding into the kitchen when he was a kid. It was the closest you could get to having powers.“
The “slide” metaphor here is that The Boy is stuck. But we also recall that we’ve seen this word “slide” during “Dial Up”, where brown spiders said to The Boy lying in bed, “……where are you? …………….who is this? …don’t slide.” This latter command of “don’t slide” seemed a response to the existential questions they posed — encouraging The Boy not to run from them.
The shots above are to be played in tandem with the pre-party scene, where rack focus fades in and out in a series of close-ups. Pay particular attention to The Boy’s outfit: different shades of white, brown, and black, as the walls and piano maintain the same color scheme. As a contemplative moment, Glover uses The Boy’s outfit to craft The Boy as a universal figure.
We’ve previously noted Gambino’s commitment to The Boy’s outfit – the same clothing items worn by The Boy in the film were worn publicly by Gambino and Glover for more than a calendar year.
The colors in The Boy’s outfits are the same color palette used in the clip for “Playing Around…”: a mixture of whites, browns, and blacks. These seem to serve as symbolism for the different colors of human skin. There are a few other symbols throughout BTI that feature this color palette as well. Most notably, s’mores and cows.
Given this perspective, it seems that the outfit functions as an indicator of universal application: The Boy is a figure that represents all of us, a symbol we can all find ourselves in, something we can use to project our own perspective and experiences upon. This is the reason he is referred to only as “The Boy” in the script, and when other characters use his real name, it’s edited out. The Boy is the internet generation’s Everyman.
“You don’t remember me though, that’s fine. I was gone before we really got to know each other…”
“Playing around…” often opened live performances, preceded by a voiceover from actress Gabrielle Union, as heard above. The Boy longs for exactly the sort of connection it appears his mother is trying to make with him from beyond the grave.
…I wish I had something important to say but how you’re feeling I know you probably can’t even hear me...
Playing around on the piano, thinking about everything, it seems The Boy is looking for a connection with himself, or his memories. We can only hope that he hears her before it’s too late.
…Can you hear me?”
Act 3 of BTI continues with “The Party,” produced by Childish Gambino, Ludwig Göransson, and Pop Levi. We first hear people chattering as the party begins, and the track warps into a grimy synthesizer accompanied by light shuffling percussion. Above, The Boy hits a vape.
“Infinity pool, and statue that’s Buddhist. / Got bottles and bottles and bottles of Grino”
We have reference to the infinity pool, a fridge full of Pellegrino, and a Buddhist statue at the mansion. Recall that the mansion represents The Boy himself — high on top of a hill, a symbol of status and wealth, referenced in Sweatpants as his “AKA,” or “also known as.”
Don’t forget, in Clapping for the Wrong Reasons (at the timestamps above), the pool and Buddha were emphatic images. And it was here that Gambino rapped another lyric about Pellegrino: “Mouth to a Pellegrino, bottle color of envy / I hand the waitress a Benji to act like she never met me.“
“10K for the drinks, now they say I’m insane.”
After Gambino goes off on the people around him, he pivots off skepticism of his sanity, pointing out “it’s been that for a minute now, Hedi Slimane.” This references Kanye West’s oft-quoted 2013 interview with Zane Lowe (above), where West perceived a slight from the fashion designer Hedi Slimane and exclaimed in rebuttal that rap ran culture, and that he, Kanye West, ran culture.
In an outburst similar to Sweatpants, Gambino builds to a shout: “I didn’t invite all these people to my motherfucking house, get the fuck out of my house!” Like the Sweatpants outburst, Glover aligned this moment across multiple BTI platforms – including in live performances of the track.
Pictured above on the stage set of The Boy’s mansion, a crowd of fans and team members would be on stage, drinking and chatting. When Gambino arrives at this moment, he would turn on them.
The embedded film clip in this section (also embedded in the [internet version] of Clapping for the Wrong Reasons) notably includes a shot of a random man in a scuba mask looking around the infinity pool. Is that…Roscoe? It’s a touch of surrealism that adds another layer to our investigation of the pervasive Roscoe’s wetsuit mystery box.
After The Boy goes berserk and leaves the mansion, the screenplay instructs us to play the album’s next track, the final song of Act 3, No Exit, an allusion to philosopher Jean Paul Sartre’s play of the same name.
“3 a.m., stare at the ceiling, murder the feeling”
The lyrics reflect a frenzied thought pattern, painting an impressionistic scene of The Boy lying awake at 3 a.m., with “murder the feeling” reflecting both his destructiveness at the party as well as an apparent desire for him to rid himself of the feelings he has. “3 AM” is also a reference to a song by Eminem of the same name, wherein Em describes a string of murderous crimes, reinforcing the darkness and mortality present in the track.
“Spider crawl in the corner, brown recluse…so appropriate”
A recognition of the ironic parallel between The Boy and the spider (both brown and recluse), The Brown Recluse is a deadly spider native to the southeastern states of North America – perhaps most notably, Georgia, the home state of Donald Glover, adding a layer of connection between the spider and our protagonist.
“Playing Lil Durk ‘this aint what you want’ / look at my feet I put my sneakers in the trunk”
With the lyric noted above, we hear the noise of The Boy putting his shoes in the trunk and the sounds of Chicago rapper Lil Durk’s track Dis Ain’t What U Want playing from his radio, likely chosen to reflect The Boy’s lack of pleasure from his cornucopia, from his wealth. This literally isn’t what he wants, reflecting the idea that regardless of socioeconomic status, there is still an existential loneliness, a feeling that we can’t be understood, that others wouldn’t want to be in our shoes.
“Park by the bridge, sit on the hood, / look at the cars, stare at my hands, look at the moon”
The Boy is disassociating; his thoughts scatter. Given the suicidal ideation that’s led him to this point, we’re tense to see him on a bridge – but he focuses on the cars passing by (a reminder of other people), and his hands (a reminder of himself). He then looks at the moon, the feminine celestial body in which The Boy’s deceased mother appears in live shows offering guidance. Now looking for this guidance, he discovers: “I can’t find it, it’s gone, what’s wrong?” He’s losing his guiding light, unable to see in the darkness.
We’ve seen The Boy and his crew visit In-N-Out twice in the script, and now he visits Fatburger. Later in the song he’ll visit McDonalds.
Fast food might be a metaphor for the type of instantly gratifying practices that rob The Boy’s life of true sustenance, of true meaning. Juxtaposing the motivic appearances of cows and eating in BTI, we see The Boy throw out his Fatburger, perhaps at the thought of the plight of those cows.
We also recall the diner conversation from Sweatpants, which we viewed to be a discussion about wealth, and the power and opportunity it affords. You could let the cows live i.e. use wealth to uplift lower socioeconomic classes. Or you can kill the cows because accumulating as much wealth for yourself is the goal, and if it means you have to take from others, then so be it. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, every Boy for himself.
In this way, the cows of the slaughterhouse are a metaphor for humanity. Remember their colors are reflected in The Boy’s outfit, a stand-in for their symbolic presence as a universal symbol. The Boy is beginning to see himself in the cows, so to speak. He can no longer live so selfishly, no longer willing to hurt others for his own gain. So he throws the burger out.
“Late at night in a hurry bought a McFlurry / and half of an apple pie”
Reflecting the Fatburger of verse one, Gambino raps about a McFlurry with an apple pie in it, which, turns out, blended or not, is a ‘secret menu’ item at Mickey D’s.
“When I’m laughing, I’m satisfied.”
The only times we’ve seen The Boy laugh so far are when joking about police brutality or when thinking about cows in the slaughterhouse while eating a burger, so he hasn’t been satisfied much. Laughter seems directly correlated to issues of mortality, of an inability to escape death. Perhaps Glover is embodying the worlds of one of his favorite philosophers (above), Soren Kierkegaard.
Look at the recluse
look at the recluse
look at the recluse
look at the rec-
With the cutoff lyric, Gambino just closes a loop on the first half of the album, here at the suicidal moment. The intent behind this connection is cemented when we notice two more things:
First, the track “No Exit” sees the album’s runtime pass the 50% mark, enclosing the first half of the album in a near perfect, symmetrical loop, linked together by the opening “rec” in “rec league” on Crawl and the closing “rec” of No Exit. Second, the title “Crawl” is exactly what spiders do and what we do on the world wide web, revealing a metaphor about an exploration of identity in the internet age.
Likewise, on a smaller scale, the final fixation on the spider mirrors Gambino’s first lines of No Exit. This completes the parallel structure of verse one and two, and taken in totality, we understand how they are dark reflections of each other. Verse one and two create a loop: a loop within a loop within a loop – and it appears The Boy wants out.
Like Flying Lots said in Clapping: “Patterns”
In the script, verse two corresponds with The Boy’s return home from the bridge. As The Boy ruminates on his dark reflections, he sits directly in front of the Buddha statue, in the same pose as the Buddha. This statue has been a key motivic image throughout Clapping for the Wrong Reasons, the script, and lyrics, and operates as a central figure to understanding Glover’s performance art at the time.
BTI’s album cover is actually a crop of the photo above. Like The Boy, the Buddha, whose original name was Siddhārtha Gautama, was born into a rich family, and his own crisis of faith and existentialism was spurred by the first time he saw death and famine firsthand. The Buddha became a religious model for those experiencing their own crises. Furthermore, the Buddha emphasized in his teachings the presence of loops, specifically in the idea of Samara, or the cycle of reincarnation that binds us to earthly existence.
Looking back at the recluse
Having now reached the end of the third act in both songs and script, we are at a point where we can fully understand the significance of the Recluse.
A powerful, multi-layered symbol, the Brown Recluse spider and Glover are native to Georgia.
Spiders weave webs to catch prey – but these webs are also beautiful tapestries of connection, a home for the spiders themselves.
Metaphorically, this presents the internet, the web, as a place of simultaneous danger and beauty.
And recall the #Donald4Spiderman campaign, where the internet went ablaze trying to cast Glover in the role of the hero. It was his first real bit of national publicity, something he’s commented on frequently (above). In this sense, we understand the brown recluse is a symbol of the existential dangers of the internet. The internet warps our sense of self, increases the frequency of connection with others in a volatile manner, and is something that we don’t really have control of.
Recall the Jean Paul Sartre play of the same name, in which the most famous line is Garcin’s ultimate proclamation that “hell is other people!” Parallel to The Boy circumstances, by the end of No Exit, the three characters are driven mad — Estelle attempts to kill Inez, but since they’re already dead, is unable to do so – which Inez further demonstrates by failing to commit suicide by stabbing herself.
We’re reminded of the multiple loops throughout BTI, including the looping structure of the first half of the album as well as the two verses of “No Exit,” dark reflections of each other that show wherever The Boy runs, he cannot escape his feelings and dilemma. He sees no exit — just inescapable loops.
This connection between Garcin’s and The Boy’s situation is inherent in their names:
Garcin = “Garcon” French for a young man.
You know, like “The Boy.”
The play is an allegory, a depiction of the existential dilemma. Garcin’s ultimate response to this dilemma is enacted in the final moments of the play. After all three characters laugh hysterically at the realization they’re stuck together forever, Garcin famously says, quote “well, let’s get on with it.”
The Boy’s option is the same as Garcin’s.
He must get on with it.