a song analysis of Melanie Martinez's 'Orange Juice' by Maahi Saiyed
trigger warning: this article discusses eating disorders.
Foreword: This song is a part of a movie called K-12, which portrays a lot of unspoken issues that our modern youth go through as we come of age. While every song in the album/movie addresses very important issues individually, I have picked this song for the sheer amounts of symbolism and interpretations that address a widely stigmatized topic, eating disorders.
"Oh, oh, stick it down your throat
I'm watching from the bathroom
Making sure I don't choke, choke
From the words you spoke
When you're screaming at the mirror"
The song starts off with the image of someone being urged to stick their finger down their own throat. This is often something done by people who have bulimia, as eating is followed by deep regret and then as a result the food is “purged”, and forced outside of their body as quickly as possible.
In K-12, this song is accompanied by a scene in which a girl suffering from bulimia is being talked into forcing herself to vomit by the antagonist, as Melanie, or her character in the movie, Crybaby, watches from the shadows of the school bathroom. Therefore, Iassume that in the next few lines, Crybaby is “Making sure” she doesn't choke or start crying upon the words she hears at the scene. One could also assume these lines are from the girl’s POV as well, and she’s trying to make sure she doesn’t cry as she hears the hurtful things the antagonist has to say about her body as she pushes her into purging further, “screaming at the mirror”.
"Now you're sitting in the cafeteria
Shoving clementines and orange bacteria
Down your throat a dozen times a year, yeah
Fooling those around of your bulimia"
“Shoving clementines and orange bacteria” highlights that the said girl only ever eats oranges when she’s around people, but it’s never mentioned why specifically oranges. The use of strong terms such as “Shoving” and “orange bacteria” indicate fighting a strong repulsion from the food and forcing it down her throat a few times a year to “Fool those around” her of her bulimia. This line also indicates that bulimia, as an ED, is relatively difficult to catch in a person unless one finds them purging red handed, because those who suffer tend to eat in front of others for the sake of eating, but force themselves to vomit immediately afterwards when they’re alone again.
"You turn oranges to orange juice
Into there, then spit it out of you
Your body is imperfectly perfect
Everyone wants what the other one's working
No more orange juice"
Turning “oranges to orange juice” is almost self-explanatory. The fruit enters as a solid and the girl then “spits it out” as a liquid, or as orange juice. “Your body is imperfectly perfect” suggests that Crybaby thinks a body with flaws is what makes someone’s body perfect, and “Everyone wants what the other one’s working” - this is something everyone has experienced with their bodies, no matter how large or trivial the issue is; people with short hair want long hair, people with long hair want short hair. Short people wish they were taller and tall people wish they were shorter. Almost no one is completely secure in the body that they’ve been born in, and wanting features someone else has is quite normal for kids to feel these days, which stops us from realizing that this kind of mentality can be extremely damaging, especially to young minds, and can lead to serious issues such as eating disorders, inferiority complexes, depression and insecurity.
Kids should be taught that everyone is beautiful in their own unique way and that no one’s worth should be measured based on how they look. These issues will not be resolved until every beauty standard is erased from society as we know it, and that is something yet to happen.
I would also like to note that at this point in the music video of this song, Crybaby is dancing. The choreography shows a lot of support from the backup dancers, or other girls, which I interpret as Martinez indicating that everyone struggles with their own body image, regardless of race, age, body type, or gender identity; and that instead of suffering through it on your own, we should support each other and help each other overcome these struggles. The choreography is also strongly focused around an orange Crybaby is holding, which reflects how when someone suffers from an ED their life more or less starts revolving around food, whether it be avoiding it or binging it.
"Oh, oh, I believe you chose
to blow it on the reading carpet
That's what happens when you're starvin'
Please say that you won't continue
Ordering oranges off the menu
Stuffin' up your mouth like t-t-tissue
The way you look is not an issue"
Taking into consideration K-12’s analogy of how modern school works, this “reading carpet” can be assumed to be equivalent to an exam, and similar to how we are graded based on our ability to perform in the exam, in kindergarten we are tested on how well we can read, and children take turns reading one by one. This means that the subject “blew it on the reading carpet” , or failed or did badly on an exam, because as Crybaby rightly says, “that's what happens when you’re starving”. It affects your memory and your concentration and as a result, people who suffer from EDs also suffer academically.
“Stuffin’ up your mouth with t-t-tissue” - eating tissue or cotton soaking in some kind of juice is also a habit people have when they suffer from an extreme ED. the subject does this in order to feel full and prevent themselves from eating actual food without fear of gaining weight. “The way you look is not an issue” is Crybaby telling the subject that looks aren't something the girl should give so much weight to, and that there is so much more to a person than their body type.
"Ooh, I wish I could give you my set of eyes
'Cause I know your eyes ain't working, mmm
I wish I could tell you that you're fine, so fine
But you would find that disconcerting"
These are the final lines Melanie concludes the song with. Crybaby is saying that she wishes she could show you the way that she sees you. Because everyone perceives everyone and everything else differently, and your image of yourself in your head is actually very different compared to the impression you actually leave upon people, and this applies not just to your looks, but to your personality too.
“‘Cause I know your eyes ain’t working” shows that, to Crybaby, someone as beautiful as you shouldn't be struggling to accept themselves, that the idea is so absurd, it must be that your eyes aren't working. Crybaby wishes she could actually convey how beautiful she thinks you are, but as the final line says, “You would find that disconcerting”. Because we’re all so ridiculously used to seeing ourselves as flawed and imperfect, that the idea of someone think we are perfect is genuinely confusing and disconcerting.
This part of the song in the music video is accompanied by a scene where the antagonist is seen reaching into the subject’s head and stuffing an orange there, and the subject opens her mouth with a vacant expression on her face, and orange juice pours out. This, to me, signifies toxic mentality being put into our heads by people and our young, vulnerable minds falling subject to it.