Toxic Lovesong Watch: Runaround Sue Edition

This is a classic song from the 1960s with a great beat and a fun chorus. But it’s incredibly sexist.

Here’s my story, it’s sad but true
About a girl that I once knew
She took my love, then ran around
With every single guy in town
Here’s what I think actually happened. I think Sue was just really popular. She was a hot, smart girl who lived in a small town with lots of boring small town guys (and it must have been a pretty small town if one woman could go out with all the guys in it). She wasn’t going to settle down with the first guy who was interested. She had lots of options. So she played the field.

Unfortunately, every guy she went on a date with was boring. So she thought, “Well, this guy’s just like all the others. Maybe if I make out with him, there’ll be some kind of spark there”. Nothing.

So she said thanks, but no thanks, and moved on to the next small town guy. Good for her.

Now instead of being mature about this and saying “Well, I guess Sue and I didn’t have any chemistry. I’ll pursue someone else”, Dion turned around and wrote a slut-shaming song about how Sue “stole his heart” and then ran around with everybody else. Kind of a dick move, don’t you think?

But here’s the real kicker: the same guy who wrote Runaround Sue also came out with The Wanderer less than a year later, an upbeat pseudo-blues about how no woman can tie him down. Can you believe the hypocrisy?! The very thing he was so upset at Sue for doing!

Sample lyric:

Oh well, I’m the type of guy who will never settle down
Where pretty girls are, well you know that I’m around
I kiss ’em and I love ’em cause to me they’re all the same
I hug ’em and I squeeze ’em they don’t even know my name 

They call me the wanderer
Yeah, the wanderer
I roam around, around, around
It’s almost eerie how that last line parallels the bridge from Runaround Sue (“she likes to travel around…”). I can’t believe no one in the band or at the label noticed this and said “Hey isn’t it a little hypocritical that we’re putting out a song that celebrates a man doing the same thing a woman was shamed for in the last single we put out?”

Thankfully, not all the songs from the 1960s were this bad. Take a look at the first line of “Something stupid”:
I know I stand in line until you think you have the time to spend an evening with me
And if we go someplace to dance, I know that there’s a chance you won’t be leaving with me
Ouch, that line kind of hurts. But he’s not angry about it. He doesn’t use it to slut-shame the woman. He still tells her he loves her in the chorus, though he realizes this is “something stupid” to say. He knows she’s got other options, and he doesn’t begrudge her for it. He respects her for being smart enough to know that when most guys talk to her about romance, it’s just a line that she’s heard many times before.

I like this song so much, I recorded a cover of it: