Bo Burnham is a comedian and musician who has been open about a lot of the mental health struggles that he has had. In particular, he uses his 2021 Netflix special Inside to speak about these issues. Burnham created the special during the COVID-19 pandemic. It explores themes of isolation, mental health, and the human experience in the digital age. The show All Eyes on Me, resonated especially with audiences.
The special gained a lot of attention and created new discussions around these topics for a lot of people.
One of the songs on the special that was particularly emotive for fans is All Eyes on Me. There have been a lot of interpretations of the songs and, while these interpretations don’t always agree on what the exact meaning of the song is, one thing is clear, the song spoke to many people who suffer from depression.
So why was the song so impactful? And how does it resonate in your own life?
An authentic expression
Throughout the special, Burnham uses a blend of humour, music, and visual storytelling—something he is known for—to express his thoughts and feelings about the challenges of living in a world that is increasingly dominated by technology and social media. He also touches on the isolation and loneliness that many people experienced during the pandemic. As well as the impact that social media can have on mental health.
Not only is he talking about these things but he is doing so from a place of experience. This resonated with audiences.
In 2016, Burnham began experiencing panic attacks when he tried to perform on stage to an audience. This forced him to take a break from performing. It was after this experience that Inside was created.
A critical look at the entertainment industry
The song is a satirical commentary on the entertainment industry. Specifically, it interrogates the pressure that performers face to entertain their audiences, even if they are feeling unhappy or unwell.
Throughout the song, Burnham critiques the way that performers are often expected to put on a happy face for their fans, even when they’re struggling behind the scenes.
The song also touches on the “performative self” concept, where people put on a mask or persona to fit in with societal expectations or gain validation from others. Burnham acknowledges that he too is playing a role as a performer and that the expectations and pressures of his audience can be challenging to navigate.
Overall, All Eyes on Me is a commentary on the complex relationship between performers and their audiences, and the pressures that both sides face in the world of entertainment.
Are we all performers?
So, why did this resonate with so many of his fans and what does this have to do with you? While not everyone is performing to an audience of millions of people, we do live in an age of the internet where social media has made us performers to the world through social media. Combine this with more people than ever reporting experiencing depression and anxiety and it begins to build a picture of a world where we are expected to put on a happy face despite struggling with mental health.
Additionally, we are living through a climate crisis, a cost of living crisis and are still reeling from a once-in-a-lifetime catastrophic pandemic—as the lyrics in All Eyes on Me say, “You say the ocean’s rising like I give a sh**, You say the whole world’s ending, honey, it already did”. Getting through the day can feel like putting on a performance. And the more we perform, the more we create a world where others feel that they too should be performing, too.
It seems that people have connected with the honesty that Burnham displayed in his music allowing his performer’s mask to drop which gave permission to others to do the same.
It can be helpful to think about the masks that you are wearing and how you are presenting yourself to others. Are you able to be yourself and admit to people close to you when things are not going the way you wish they were?
One thing is for certain, you need to take the time to check in with yourself and this is advice that Burnam gives in the song:
“So I, I quit, and I didn’t perform for five years and I spent that time, Trying to improve myself mentally, And you know what?, I did, I got better, I got so much better.”
Maybe that is why so many people connected with All Eyes on Me, because it gives you permission to connect with yourself, take time out from our fast paced lives and figure out what you need.