“Watching the Detectives” by Elvis Costello and the Attractions

“She pulls their eyes out with a face like a magnet”


I don’t know about the rest of you, but this metaphor never quite worked for me. Partially, it’s the obscure identity of the she – there seems to be one watching the detectives (on what we assume is a tv show or movie), and one in the detective show – it’s unclear which one this is. (Come to think of it, later on in the song, Costello is suddenly the I who is watching the show. Which brings up some interesting gender and identity issues, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Anyway, what I want to know is this: what exactly does “a face like a magnet” look like?
Is it kinda U-shaped and painted red at the ends like the magnets in Warner Bros toons always are?
Does it have a polarity, repelling that which is like and attracting that which is different?

Because if so, the face like a magnet presumably lacks eyes of its own, which is, I’m pretty sure, at the far end of the scale from the level of attractiveness that dear old Declan McManus was trying to convey…


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