To celebrate Hall & Oates’ election to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Philly Mag writers are sharing their memories and thoughts about the Philly duo.
God, there is so much to say about the music video for Hall & Oates’s 1983 song “Family Man.” Cheesy graphics, horrible acting, dozens of random children, a TV dinner, and at least one baseball bat.
But first, a few words about the song*. It’s about a guy who resists a beautiful prostitute because… he’s a family man. If the ’70s gave us Taxi Driver, with its depiction of a seedy, exploitative sex trade, the ’80s gave us the glamorous, empowered hooker. “Family Man” was released in the same year as Risky Business, the year after Ron Howard’s Night Shift, and three years after Paul Schrader’s American Gigolo. Pretty Woman, which came out in 1990, marked the end of the era, and the end of the reversed power dynamic that defined its films.
“Family Man,” equally, portrays the man as the hapless victim, and the prostitute as the manipulative vixen. In the video, Family Man himself is technically played by a little pixelated avatar of a man in a blue suit, who spends a lot of time looking up the dress of his temptress, a pixelated avatar of a blonde prostitute in a red dress. Daryl Hall is our narrator.
Here, our pixelated hero begins to understand that he can have her “for a price.”
Here, our pixelated hero imagines her without clothes on. (Also, John and Daryl stare at the camera, expressionless, for no discernible reason. Side note: based on his striking resemblance and similarly vacant expressions, is it possible that Daryl is Chloe Sevigny’s father??)
A minute in, the viewer realizes that Daryl Hall is also a protagonist — also a Family Man struggling to inhibit his animal instincts. Here he is, contemplating his choices.
Here he is, getting fondled by a gloved hand coming out of a wall.
Here he is, trying to resist the charms of an imaginary prostitute.
Here he is, successfully resisting temptation with a bunch of extras from The Bad News Bears and The Karate Kid.
Next, a creepy shredding interlude, during which the soloist is surrounded by a bunch of adoring children as he flaunts his guitar phallically.
Halfway through the video, it becomes clear that there is yet another protagonist in this music video. There are many, many “Family Men” out there, Hall & Oates seem to be telling us, and they deserve more credit for resisting prostitutes. Here is happily married husband, after being fed TV dinner by homely wife, as they watch the “Family Man” music video on their TV set.
Ultimately, everything ends well, and Daryl is surrounded by his (?) kids on the couch, while some technological genius finds pixelated avatars of little children to flash across the screen.
“Family Man” is an ode to a domesticated, suburban lifestyle that simultaneously glamorizes the dated ideal of the smoky, sultry hooker. It is, in other words, the most perfectly ’80s video you could ever ask for.
*Hall and Oates don’t get writer credit, even though this is so up their alley. It was written by British prog-rocker Mike Oldfield, who released it in 1982. But every time he plays it at concerts, you can be sure the audience thinks he’s covering H&O.