Axel (Over)Analyzes #1: Eat Your Young
The cover art for the EP Eat Your Young (Photo Credit: Genius Lyrics)
War. Great way to start off an article, I know, but that’s what this essay is about. My first article in the series. Off to a great start! But first, let me introduce myself.
I’m Axel P, English major and comic book aficionado. When I’m not doing assigned literature reading or unassigned comic book reading, I’m doing what my professors have been training me to do: analyzing things. Everything that comes across my path, really. My loved ones are sick of me pausing songs to tell them what the lyrics mean, so here I am, making you – and my editor. Mostly my editor. Hi Kurt – listen to it. Welcome to Axel (Over)Analyzes.
Back to war. What makes you think of war? Seriously, take a second to think about it before you read the next sentence.
If you thought of “Eat Your Young” by Hozier I’ll Venmo you a dollar. I know you didn’t, though, so don’t even try. (Editor's Note: We are also not paying people anyways, so sorry. If you got it right, you can pat yourself on the back.)
War is one of three motifs that Hozier uses in “Eat Your Young” to discuss his core idea of gluttony. This song, like many others in his newest album Unreal Unearth, has to do with Dante’s Inferno. In this specific song, he focuses on the fourth circle of hell and bla bla bla this isn’t Catholic school and you’ve probably never read Dante’s Inferno. All you need to know is what gluttony is.
(Also, I’m sorry for lying and saying the article is about war. Just imagine what you would have thought if you clicked open the article and the first word was gluttony. You would have x-ed out of the article and went to do something that doesn’t look like I’m about to try to Evangelize you.)
Gluttony is – and this is my own definition, don’t yell at me for not citing my sources – gluttony is taking more than you could ever use from the people who do need it (Me, 2023). Food is one of, if not the, example for gluttony. You’ve probably seen some piece of media depict a royal feast where there’s an unfathomable amount of food for the few people at the table. Now imagine that there’s a famine going on in the country and that all of the leftover food from the feast is going to be thrown away, completely wasted. That’s gluttony, baby!
Food is the second motif Hozier uses in the song. The third motif is killing children. (Imagine I’d started the essay with that. I think Kurt [my editor] would have killed me). Overall, the song depicts the gluttonous, war-mongering upper class, not caring about the consequences of their actions, even aware of what their actions are doing and deciding that it’s worth it so that they can live more luxurious lives. Everything the singer (the fictional warmonger singer, not Hozier himself) does and mentions goes back to feeding himself and his group, no matter what it may do to others – by “putting food on the table selling bombs and guns” – and choosing to harm others – “skinning the children for the war drums”.
It’s a searing commentary of a political climate like ours – late-stage capitalism where our upper class will do anything to the people below them for power. People who want to “wrap [their] teeth around the world,” and leave nothing behind for others, assuming that those under them will just figure it out. Once they’ve taken everything from other people, they act as if they’re doing them a favor by giving them any of what should be rightfully theirs. “It’s a kindness, highness / crumbs enough for everyone.”
If you haven’t been paying attention to Hollywood right now, there’s a strike going on for both the actors (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, aka SAG-AFTRA) and the writers (The Writers Guild of America, aka WGA) for being underpaid and overworked. Show writers are supposed to get “residuals” whenever their work gets reused (like it getting moved to a streaming site). They’re supposed to be making money that can be compared to how much money the reuse of the work is making, but they’ve been making pennies. Some writers will get sent checks for $0.00 when their works are doing incredibly well. The writers decided to strike and it has completely shut Hollywood down.
The idea of eating one’s young reminds me of Greek mythology and the habit of the prophecies within them to be that the son was going to overthrow his father and take his power. The very beginning of their mythology, the creation of the gods, the titan Kronos (or Cronus, depending on your spelling) devours his children the moment they were born so that they would not be able to take his power. “It’s quicker and easier to eat your young”. Of course, in Kronos’ case as well as all of the other fathers who tried to stop their sons from taking over, those actions are the reason that their sons decided to defeat their fathers. But they think they can defeat the prophecy each time (classic Greek self-fulfilling prophecies), when if they hadn’t done that there never would have been an issue.
The studios are losing hundreds of millions of dollars because of the strike. If they’d given the writers what they asked for in the first place they would have lost significantly less money and the actors never would have gone on strike in the first place (SAG-AFTRA started their strike in solidarity with the WGA). But because they feel this need for power, want all of the money they can get, want to control everyone below them, they’ve doomed themselves.
“Eat Your Young” came out before the strike started, but it explains the strike perfectly, because the strike is another example of how late-stage capitalism tries to consume everything in its path and sets itself up for failure. Let’s hope that the WGA and SAG-AFTRA get their demands met and that, eventually, “Eat Your Young” will go back to just reminding people of Dante’s Inferno and not politics.
Editor's Note: In a quick update, the WGA strike ended a few days after this essay was written. Also, if you enjoyed it please like and comment and let us know what you thought! This will become a weekly thing, and I will post them most likely on Wednesday nights from now on.
Kurt the Editor