Bullet With Butterfly Wings – An Analysis of a Masterpiece

Sit on this question.

“Does life have meaning?”

Regardless of your answer to this question, let me ask you this follow up question…

How do you know?

It does not matter whether you say – yes, no, or maybe. One can’t provide a completely true answer.

But, if you do say life has meaning – the suffering you bare has less of an opportunity to defeat you.

Pain obviously exists. Life is full of it. The question that arises from this pain is – “What do you do about it?”

This question has stumped philosophers for centuries.

Much like the question “Does life have meaning” – you can’t provide a definitive answer.

Do you believe in a God which gives meaning to your suffering?

Do you deny God and see life as meaningless?

Do you take the easy way out, and end your life?

Is there anther option you’re unaware of?!

There’s no definitive answer.

The deaths and human suffering have people drive to madness, and based on people’s emotional state they scurry between the 4 options listed.

The options become a prison. Like you are trapped in a cage.

The lack of a definitive answer builds up angst. Drives many people to madness.

These concepts are hard to understand, emotionally and literally.

It’s nearly impossible to explain the philosophies of life to the average person.

However, it has been done – and I don’t think it’s been put better than this 13 word phrase…

“Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage”.

(photo credit to Max Derrat)

The Smashing Pumpkins started touring July 12th, playing songs exclusively from their first 5 albums.

In celebration of my favorite band going on tour, I thought I’d analyze what is my personal favorite Pumpkins song.

Anyway, I thought I should analyze the philosophical layers of their rat in a cage masterpiece – Bullet With Butterfly Wings. And change what people say is “just a catchy rock tune”.

Let’s take a look at the lyrics!

The first line is pretty self explanatory, it is Billy Corgan expressing his distaste for the world he has been cast into. As he calls it a “vampire”. Existence is draining him like that, and in particular – those who seem to have his best interest in mind are actually “secret destroyers” who “hold him up to the flames”.

The term “held up to the flames” is used because in ancient times people would sacrifice valuables and burn them.

I’d imagine the “secret destroyers” are a number of things. Maybe businessmen in the music industry using him emotionally, or perhaps family members or girlfriends – exploiting him for their own wicked ends.

Realizing the state of affairs – he asks what he receives from his pain. Which is betrayed desires, but he looks up because he’s also got “a piece of the game”.

Despite all the suffering, he is given enough by the world to continue.

Like a lot of jobs. They pay you less than you’re worth.

But they pay enough so that you’ll come back. Even though the line says “Even though I know” – meaning he knows he deserves more – “I’ll suppose show” – to get him through life of course – “All my cool and cold like old Job”.

Then the chorus starts. Job refers to the biblical figure of Job.

Job was a very wealthy man, he had thousands of animals and lots of land.

On top of this, he was a really good man who worshipped God.

In Heaven, God makes a deal with the devil. The deal being that Satan can torture Job, to test his faith. God allows it.

The Devil then killed his animals and children, drove him to poverty, & inflicted his skin with boils.

God is suppose to be just – so Job’s friends insist that his suffering is on account of something he did. Which is simply not the case.

To quote the famous psychoanalyst, Carl Yung in his book “Answer to Job” – the only thing Job can be blamed for is his extreme optimism and positivity in the worst of situations.

Following Job’s appeal to God, God appears in a thunderstorm and gives him no explanation for his suffering.

Instead, he highlights his omnipotence and omniscience and he blesses Job.

One would think that an all knowing God would have something better to do than shatter Job, even though he knows the outcome. Job is is the archetype for seemingly needles suffering.

But, the story – real or not – has resonated for millennia.

Given Billy Corgan’s history of abuse and depression, as well as being a Christian – it makes sense why the story of Job would resonate.

Just like Job – without any answers of how to move forward he thinks he can appear as cool and cold like old Job. But on the inside – he suffers.

Moving on with the lyrics, now that Billy has recognized he feels pain – where does that leave him? Like Job – he is left naked and brutalized by the world. Like an animal.

However, since he has commitments and responsibilities – he must hide his true suffering for the public. And “fake it” for just one more show. The show is obviously somewhere where he is put on display for the public. Like a concert, or interview on TV.

Critics recommend Corgan should “tone down” his dark tendencies for the sake of continued business. Rather than giving him the emotional support he needs.

Through all of this, there is no time where anybody consults him on what he wants – which is the “desire to change”. Unfortunately he still feels the same.

If a weaker individual struggled with this, it would eventually take it’s toll and evolve in some sort of breakdown.

It is at this point of our analysis, the music breaks down into loud noises and piercing acoustics.

The music video of the song during this breakdown shows mud covered actors. One of them is trying to dig himself a way out, finding a way to keep him sane.

Billy obviously can relate with these rage fueled avatars of Job.

But like we just pointed out, he disguises it for the media.

In a way he is like a bullet, without a gun and must disguise himself with emotional “Butterfly Wings” – to make it seem like he is okay.

It is at this moment where Billy prays to Jesus to save him. Unfortunately, he feels nothing has changed and the song ends with him repeating “I still believe that I cannot be saved.”

Thanks for reading.

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A good percentage of this analysis was reposted from the brilliant Max Derratt. Sub to his YouTube and be supportive of his hard work. His analysis is incredible.

Max Derratt YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCj8orMezFWVcoN-4S545Wtw

2 thoughts on “Bullet With Butterfly Wings – An Analysis of a Masterpiece

  1. Excellent analysis and review. I always loved SP, but as I get to know more about them and Billy C by reading your blog and talking with you, I love the depth of them/him even more. Great article.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Answer to Job. Wow! Some heady stuff there compadre. I was just rediscovering Victor Frankl who survived The Nazi concentration camps and wrote extensively about meaning and its connection to suffering.

    Liked by 1 person

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