What is a Wonderwall?

This topic contains 17 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  DeanMoriarty 4 years, 6 months ago.

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  • December 3, 2012 at 12:04 pm #27179


    I think the title of this thread says it all.

    My officemate has been asking this of random people for weeks. I thought I’d ask the OTI community.

    December 3, 2012 at 12:12 pm #27180
    December 3, 2012 at 12:15 pm #27181


    So… a Wonderwall is an amalgamation of myriad pieces of religious iconography, from religions both inside and outside the usual perview of Western religiosity?

    Or is it a symbol of adolescent infatuation and the dangers of obsession?

    Or is it a bad use of holiday lights?

    December 3, 2012 at 12:22 pm #27182

    In the realm of Christianity, I think the fact that Jesus was nailed to a cross makes him part of the wall, but how many slabs of wood does it really take to constitute a wall? By this definition, Stanley Kubrick’s monolith in 2001 is a wall. However, who said it was Christianity? It could be the Ewok religion that praises translation droids for all we know

    I think its perhaps adolescent sexual frustration and an adoration of pin-up posters as well.

    December 3, 2012 at 1:06 pm #27184


    I didn’t assert it was just Christianity, did I? No, I didn’t.

    Take the lyric, “All the roads we have to walk are winding.”

    As this was written before Sheryl Crow’s song “Everyday Is a Winding Road” entered the music scene (1995 v. 1996), we can immediately rule out her influencing this choice in words (although a reversal in order is quite possible). I think this lyric favors a religious perspective over one of sexual frustation, though.

    Many stories from religious texts and traditions have to do with the journey of one or more iconic figures within said religion(s). Rama, Moses, the Apostles, Gilgamesh, Xuangzang… They all go on long journeys (usually within this framework: http://www.overthinkingit.com/2010/03/04/heros-journey-friskies/), and if we think about the “you” in the song as a religious deity, the song becomes one of worship and discovery of Truth through faith. Christianity isn’t the only place one can find religious stories that have to do with roads- and one of the curious aspects of a general consideration of religion is that myriad faiths from all across the globe, ones with supposedly no contact with one another, ended up with a lot of the same tropes. Not that I think religion is always an explanation (I often think it’s an easy cop-out), I think “Wonderwall” is much easier to believe as a song about worship before thinking it’s a run-of-the-mill love song.


    A run-of-the-mill love song isn’t necessarily one about sexual frustration. In fact, the two can probably be pretty distinguishable at times.

    If we go with the pinup idea, perhaps, again, it’s related to an unhealthy obsession. If a teenager falls so deeply in love with a picture on a wall that they can’t differentiate between reality and the fantasy they have created in their head about the person in said picture, their adoration has reached a place where it can be potentially harmful. The same can be said when people become so enveloped in their religiosity and/or faith that it leads to health or medical problems (refusing medical treatment, bodily mutilation).

    I have a picture of an angsty teen wallowing in their bedroom and wasting away, pining after a picture of Marilyn Monroe.

    And if we think of it in a less spiritual/emotional sense, and from a more physiological one… Well, then, the teenager may set their expectations too high and never be satisfied with the available people around them. Again, this is sort of a not-being-in-the-immediate-world thing, but on a different level. I don’t want to get too graphic, but a lot of feminist critique of pornography is about how the scenarios, body-types, etc. in a lot of porn set unrealistic expectations of people viewing the imagery.

    But the song is also about external expectations. “…realized what you gotta do… realized what you’re not to do.”

    From the religiosity perspective, we have the expectations and rules set by faith. From the sexual perspective, we have societal norms dictating the realm of “sexual deviance” (the vanilla to kinky scale, if you will). And again, the two can go together: Myriad rules about sexual relations (man+woman, a wife must always submit to her husband, etc.).

    So… all this to say, I think there’s a way to mash the religious thought with the sexual frustration one.

    December 3, 2012 at 1:07 pm #27185


    *I meant “lends itself to a religious perspective as well as a sexual one”… WHOOPS, need to edit.

    December 3, 2012 at 1:18 pm #27186


    As for what constitutes a wall, you’re right, we need to think of the competing definitions of “wall” that are out there.

    This is a song, right? So what about the “Wall of Sound”? This is usually considered the combination of lots of different instruments and layers to create a full, rich sound (one that’s somewhat overwhelming). Intended to create a new experience for listeners, one could think of this new experience as a “wonder.” So… Maybe the song is about the experience of music itself? And the feeling one has when they are looking for a song that speaks to them, and the feeling they have when they find One* that touches them.

    Other definitions, of course, are more… structural, in the physical sense. There are walls intended to keep things in or out, to protect borders, to separate spaces, to divide property… What definition of “wall” are you using to define a cross as a wall, though? Because I think a distinguishing characteristic of a wall is something that is divisive. It encloses/surrounds something. A stick in the middle of a field isn’t a wall, but a row of trees could be.

    *Capitalization intended

    December 3, 2012 at 1:23 pm #27187

    I think of a wall as a free standing figure that is intended to impede. But it also can be a comically placed object or some cases “danger” that is easily defeated. You don’t want to get past a cross, because the Romans would beat you up and probably put you up on one too (Life of Brian) [1]. Also you can’t pass a monolith, because you’ll be deafened to death by a sound that comes from it [2]. These two are walls.

    Now walls can be used to look at things on. We put paintings on walls on display so the layman can appreciate the magic and brilliance of art. It also can be used as a bulletin board, however again, how big must a free standing structure be to consider it a wall?

    [1] Escape is possible if you just give someone else in a marketplace your cross. Given you are marching with it.

    [2] Also known to make gorillas rage with bones of their victims as weapons.

    December 3, 2012 at 1:25 pm #27188


    Well, I don’t think what you’re getting at is size, but intent. If it’s intended to impede, it’s a wall.

    December 3, 2012 at 2:20 pm #27189

    Peter Fenzel OTI Staff

    A wall doesn’t have to be free-standing. It can be buttressed, either internally or externally. Or it can be part of a larger structure.

    And a wall can just as easily be used to enclose and define as it can to impede, and by the defining, enlarge.

    Take, for example, Hamlet’s nutshell )”Oh God, I could be bound up in a nutshell and consider myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I had bad dreams,” which is a form of wonderwall (in the sense that it provides a barrier between a knowable and unknowable reality).

    Doesn’t a 12-bedroom mansion feel in some way larger than an open field of the same square footage?

    December 3, 2012 at 5:30 pm #27197


    I agree about the first part, with respect to walls being buttressed and whatnot.

    But could you take the enlargement-by-definition thing further? I’m wary of taking Hamlet for his word, for one thing. And also, with respect to your question at the end, my initial instinct is to say no, as I haven’t been in either kind of space and am just basing this off of my own preconceived notions of spacial interpretation. From my point of view (HAH!), if I can see the walls of the rooms in the mansion, I’d feel the space is smaller than an open field of the same overall square-footage, since any boundaries would be much further off. So I’m having trouble getting what you mean. :(

    December 3, 2012 at 11:15 pm #27199

    Fenzel, I think a 12-room mansion would feel small in comparison to the Mojave desert. That being said, we must change the definition of a wall as also a part of an enclosure.

    December 4, 2012 at 4:16 pm #27212

    Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff

    Guess what this song, based on my favorite elementary school game, is called?

    Today is gonna be the day that I pass a rubber ball to you
    That’s when you pick it up and then realize what you gotta do
    I can’t believe that anyone could pass a ball as fast as you do now

    December 5, 2012 at 9:10 pm #27218

    Ben Adams OTI Staff

    I think Fenzel’s point re: a mansion has to do with “mental distance” – when space is filled with stuff, we perceive it as being larger than when it’s empty. If you live on a farm, walking a mile to get from one building to another is relatively trivial. If you live in Manhattan, the distance is 20 blocks and feels much, much longer because it’s filled with people, cars, skyscrapers, etc.

    December 5, 2012 at 10:20 pm #27219


    Is this a real thing? Or is this just a theory in experimental psychology? Because I’ve done both of those things (ish… I’ve walked around the fields in South Dakota, as well as traversed the streets in Chicago), and it totally didn’t feel that way. It felt the opposite. The emptiness made the distance seem longer than when I had landmarks to give me a sense of how far I’d gone. Time seemed much slower in SD than it did in Chicago.

    Or mayhap my brain is just wrong, or I think about things wrong or obtusely or something. Wouldn’t be the first time. :/

    December 8, 2012 at 9:02 am #27235

    My only non-helpful reaction to this is these lyrics from Travis:
    “Every day I wake up and it’s Sunday
    What evers in my eye won’t go away
    The radio is playing all the usual
    And what’s a wonder wall anyway?”

    December 15, 2012 at 4:27 pm #27284

    We had a wonderwall in one of our previous houses. It was a wall that ended a little above eye level but didn’t reach the ceiling, and didn’t connect to any of the other walls in the room. It was used to semi-separate the dining room from the living room.

    July 20, 2013 at 10:35 pm #29597

    DeanMoriarty Well Actually

    Yesterday I saw this movie at Cinefamily:

    and it made me think of this thread. According to it, one definition of wonderwall seems to be a wall you can look through to spy on your sexy, hippy neighbor. I’m not sure, though, cause the movie is less concerned with the definition of the title than with having plenty of really weird stuff going on.

    (also, if you live in LA and haven’t been to Cinefamily, I highly encourage you to go, that place is great)

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