A Positive Message In An Unlikely Place (or “The Kinks’ Lola Was Surprisingly Progressive”)

Let’s be honest; I don’t often have nice things to say about my day job. It’s to be expected as custodial life is naturally unrewarding in most cases. But there are some perks. The overnight shift is peacefully quiet for the most part, the few people I meet seem to respect how crappy (no pun intended) the job is, and I could be making far worse money elsewhere doing the same work.

My favorite part of the job though has to be the Classic Rock station that the radio is tuned into all day. I don’t know what station it is – likely a satellite station, but they often play stuff from my favorite artists of yesteryear that I’ve either never heard before or had completely forgotten about along with their more well-known works.

While I was working one night, I noticed how the station seems to favor certain artists. I noted that The Kinks played oddly often specifically. This got me to thinking about one of my then guilty pleasures in music – their hit single Lola.

You can probably guess why it was a guilty pleasure for me. As someone who is staunchly Pro-LGBT, it makes me look like a hypocrite to be listening to and enjoying a song that plays the romance of a transgender woman for laughs. But the more I thought about it, the more I started to realize that I shouldn’t be feeling bad for liking this song.

Let’s break down the events of the story in the song. Our protagonist, a virginal man that just left home a week prior to the events of the song, is eager to start playing the field and find the woman of his dreams – common behavior for a hormonal youth sans parental supervision.

While in a nightclub in Soho, a district of London, England known for it’s active sex industry, he comes across the titular Lola and becomes attracted to her; his youthful ignorance causing him to miss signs that she is transgender such as her deeper voice (“I asked her name and in a dark brown voice she said, ‘Lola’.”), typically masculine strength (“Well, I’m not the world’s most physical guy, / But when she squeezed me tight she nearly broke my spine.”), and odd mannerisms (“Well, I’m not dumb but I can’t understand / Why she walk like a woman and talk like a man.”).

At this point, it seems like this is going to be a groaner of a bad and insensitive joke from people that clearly don’t get transgender culture or politics. However, it’s near the end of the song that things change drastically.

After a night of drinking and dancing, the two agree to cap off the night at Lola’s place. It’s there that our storyteller learns the truth, panics, and trips as he makes a run for the door. But, as he looks up from the floor and has a moment to process everything, he realizes that he still has feelings for her and can’t bring himself to ditch her (“Well that’s the way that I want it to stay. / And I always want it to be that way for my Lola.”).

He then understands the irony of his situation – in a chaotic world where so many of us are trying to discover or rediscover ourselves, a woman whose identity would bewilder most others is the only one who’s sure of what they are and want to be (“Girls will be boys, and boys will be girls. / It’s a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world, / Except for Lola.”)

That’s right; by the end of the night, our hero stays with Lola, finds new respect for the girl he just met, and discovers himself in the process (“Well I’m not the world’s most masculine man, / But I know what I am and I’m glad I’m a man, / And so is Lola.”)

I put it to you, Field Operatives, that The Kinks’ Lola should not be viewed as a guilty pleasure, but as a shockingly forward-thinking and progressive story about love, enlightenment, and treating your fellow men, women, and those of unspecified genders with respect.

Now then, what’s YOUR excuse, Aerosmith?

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