"Fake Plastic Trees" criticizes how modern society stifles individuality and forces people to swallow idealized conceptions of how life should be. The whole song centers on the idea that humans, either through their own fallibility or through society's relentlessness, easily and obliviously mold their lives according to the unspoken standards they set on themselves. The result is a shallow, artificial, "fake plastic" living that perpetuates itself and destroys uniqueness.
The first two verses, which reveal the tragic consequences of pretense, evoke feelings of despair and pointlessness. The image of a woman watering a plastic money tree is heavily shadowed by shades of existentialism. The act of nurturing is the woman's attempt to create something genuine, something reflecting her identity. The bleak, futile reality lies in the fact that her "creation" thrives unto itself, surviving as the product of society's goals and inhibitions and outlooks, not hers. The plastic tree is a misconstrued representation of her true self. Helpless and beguiled, she falls victim to the ruthless nature of society and its indifference to the individual experience.
Her green plastic watering can
For her fake Chinese rubber plant
In the fake plastic earth
That she bought from a rubber man
In a town full of rubber plans
To get rid of itself
This artificialness of life is all-encompassing; no one is spared. The people around the woman are just as deceived as she is: the "fake plastic earth", the "rubber man", and the "town full of rubber plans" all point to a self-contained societal body that runs without human contribution. What's sadly ironic is that the people are self-destructive. The nihilist underpinnings of the line "in a town [that] plans to get rid of itself" suggest that many people probably realize the absurdity of the niches they're supposed to fill but lack the willpower or drive to swim against the tides of society.
It wears her out, it...
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