The Safety Dance – An Elizabethan Riddle

The fascinating riddle that is the video for “The Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats.

As the video begins we are seemingly transported back to medieval England. One man and his minstrel dwarf are a-wandering gaily across the field raising the first of many serious questions in this analysis. Where have they come from? Have they left their friends behind because they “don’t dance” as the lyrics suggest? Was minstrelsy a common occupation for dwarves in medieval times? Does he ever stop playing the mandolin? Have they been cast out from their home village for excessive mandolin-and-dancing based jollity?

Putting these mysteries aside for the moment, we move on to see them spot a village over yonder, something which at 0.19 seems to send the dwarf in to a frenzy of mandolin playing and a-leaping and a-jumping up at his companion. This suggests maybe one of two things: either this is the first village they have seen in a while on their long travels OR that this is the most annoying troubadour dwarf in the history of the whole world. All of which lead us to 0.29 and the appearance of RANDOM DANCING BLONDE LADY. And why not?

Safety Dance - Men Without Hats


As they dance through ye olde village (which appears to be attached to ye olde nationale electricity grid(e), as evidenced by the pylons at 0.58) a-skipping and a-laughing as they go it becomes clear that this is, of course, May-day and much merriment doth then occur with our protagonists happy and jolly and partying on until suddenly the singer looks to the sky. Lo and behold! What is this I see before thine eyes???

All of which brings me to the nub of the video. The key to its real meaning resides in six black & white stills shown in quick succession at the very end. In order, they are:

  1. A fighter plane firing a missile
  2. 3 country people
  3. A missile, potentially atomic
  4. Lots of country people and a big pile of hay
  5. A big bomber plane with an open bomb-bay
  6. Yet more country people and a horse

It is my considered opinion that in these final seconds the supposed historical realism of the video is shown to be illusory and the video’s true meaning is plainly revealed. This is the 20th century. These are the most backwards people in the whole of England, quite possibly heavily interbred (is the dwarf the singers father? Brother? Both?) and for the good of humanity they are about to be bombed out of existence by a NATO task-force. It’s genocide, basically, which is maybe what you get for spending your time hanging out with an irritating non-stop minstrel dwarf. Doing the Safety Dance isn’t really very safe it would seem. And therein we find a valuable lesson for us all. To find out what the band are up to, go to their official website.

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