"Passive" as written by and Maynard James/reznor Keenan....
Dead as dead can be
The doctor tells me
But I just can't believe him
Ever the optimistic one
I'm sure of your ability to become
My perfect enemy

Wake up (why can't you)
And face me (come on now)
Don't play dead (don't play dead)
'cause maybe (because maybe)
Someday I'll walk away and say
You disappoint me
Maybe you're better off this way

Leaning over you here
Cold and catatonic
I catch a brief reflection
What you could and might have been
It's your right and your ability
To become my perfect enemy

Wake up (why can't you)
And face me (come on now)
Don't play dead (don't play dead)
'cause maybe (because maybe)
Someday I'll walk away and say
You disappoint me
Maybe you're better off this way

Maybe you're better off this way [Repeat: x3]

You're better off this
You're better off this
Maybe you're better off

Wake up (why can't you)
And face me (come on now)
Don't play dead (don't play dead)
'cause maybe (because maybe)
Someday I'll walk away and say
You fucking disappoint me
Maybe you're better off this way

Go ahead and play dead
I know that you can hear this
Go ahead and play dead

Why can't you turn and face me [Repeat: x4]

You fucking disappoint me

Passive-aggressive bullshit [Repeat: x12]


Lyrics submitted by ab0ve, edited by stringray, fallenwarrior

"Passive" as written by Danny Lohner Billy Howerdel

Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Passive song meanings
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  • +6
    General Commentwhen i first heard the lines "Wake up and face me don't play dead, cause maybe someday I'll walk away and say 'you dissapoint me, maybe you're better off this way'" i thought of people who sulk, who refuse to talk to you when they don't get their own way in order to try and manipulate you. it's like apc is saying to this person, 'don't turn your back on me and pretend i'm not here until i agree with you, because maybe when you turn back around i'll be gone, after deciding you're better off alone anyway'. yeah i thought of that in terms of a relationship as well, and although i don't think it fits with the rest of the song it was an interesting way of talking about a very annoying tactic i thought
    sharzayon November 18, 2004   Link
  • +6
    My InterpretationI believe this is a more personal song, contrary to the meaning of the whole album.
    I believe it is about his mother who has been in a coma for 27 years before she died. However at the time this was written (which was before APC was created) she was still alive. I find this song highly emotional and moving.

    "Dead as dead can be the doctor tells me" refers to the actual doctor who watched over his mother and the coma she was in. Maynard constantly refers to the coma by telling his mother to "wake up", she "plays dead". He wishes to have a normal relationship with his mother, and he also expresses his feelings about his mothers faith in christianity by saying "you dissapoint me." It may be harsh but it is a common relationship between parant and child to have explosive fights that contain words not really meant such as "you dissapoint me." This is also relevant in many other Maynards songs.

    This may or may not be the true meaning but i believe it is.
    jamesquayon February 23, 2009   Link
  • +4
    General CommentIn my opinion...
    this song is written about Maynards mom Judith who was in a comma for a long time. After suffering from a brain anuerysm she became paralyzed an then fell into a comma. Maynard is describing his experience of seeing her in a coma after trying to convince her to give up her religion. He talks about the docter saying she is dead but really he is "ever the optimistic one" that she will "wake up" and continue the argument on whether God is real or not, becoming his "perfect enemy". But the problem is that Judith probably never argued with him about God but rather used what seemed to be "Passive aggressive" tactics as in she probably just prayed for his salvation and never became his enemy, which is not what he wanted. This disappoints him so he yells "wake up and face me, don't play dead" and later says "you fucking disappoint me".
    It seems to fit and makes the most sense to me since his mother is a central theme in his music.
    Maynard is a fucking genius.
    johnnyblueyeon January 03, 2010   Link
  • +4
    Song MeaningI think this song is about him fighting with himself. Schizophrenia. The doctor is not a doctor in the plain sense, but a psychiatrist. The point of view is the personality on the inside that is now being suppressed. Imagine being the voice in your own head but the other 'you' is blocking you out.


    Let's call the one in control of his body TOM and the supressed conciousness TODD.
    TODD's begging TOM to not believe what the doctor is saying or he'll walk away, when you need him.
    But he's hurt, and self aware, maybe TOM is better off without him...But that means he'll disappear.
    DeathByGrenadeon April 05, 2011   Link
  • +4
    Song MeaningPeople here are taking the first verse too literally. The "passive" person acts almost "dead" because of how he has become due to something. I don't know what, probably insecurity. The person avoids confrontation, and Maynard is wondering if the person is "better off this way", or better off alone.

    The first verse is about maybe a friend (the "doctor") saying that the person is "dead" or useless and depressed, and that Maynard should give up on the person. However, Maynard is "ever the optimistic one" and knows what the person "could and might have been". He still believes in the person at this point and wants to continue to help him even though the person won't "wake up and face [him]".

    He continues to contemplate whether or not to leave the person when he repeats "maybe you're better off this way". Then Maynard says "you fuckin' disappoint me". I think that he is saying that he has given up on the person. At first, Maynard says the in explicate "you disappoint me" softly like he can still forgive the person and keep trying to help, but this time he yells it and is clearly upset to leave the person because he loves them and wants them to do well.

    -The song is so powerful, and the climax after all the build up is truly amazing. I think the song is somewhat overlooked because of the arguably terrible album that it was released on. Passive will always be one of my favorite songs in the world.
    shnoogumson July 28, 2012   Link
  • +3
    General Commentthis song reminds me of trying to reason with an angry drunk person.
    axxelette829on February 24, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentA Song can be intrepretted by what the artist meant, but its how u apply a song to ur situation. i LOVE this song, and im not quite sure on the meaning maynard has in mind, but if everybody had to listen to music without being able to choose their own meaning, shit would get boring. this song can be political, love based, whatever the hell u want it to be, like most songs. u have to have words with different meanings, write criptically, so more and more people can understand and intrepret this in their own way.
    southofheaven_666on November 24, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General Commentthis song reminds me of being with a retarded trendy emo girlfriend who won't tell you anything about the way she feels and when the relationship is bad it just goes to hell because no one says anything and you end up hating/not even knowing each other.
    Tuggingarhythmon February 14, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentIn my opinion the Person talking is talking to himself, in a way. He's saying he's turned into some whos more dead than alive. "i'm sure of your ability to become my perfect enemy" means that he knows he's destroying himself on the inside. "I catch your brief reflection" could mean that he for a brief moment of feeling like himself again and then went back to being depressed. Overall I think this song is about criticizing yourself for not being able to get out of this funk you're in and knowing it's stupid but you just can't stop.
    erinleigh3on February 03, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI feel like this is pretty straightforward. His mother had a brain aneurysm when he was eleven, and was crippled for the rest of her life, a shell of what she was before.

    The doctor is literally just a doctor. He is straightforward telling him communication is out of her control, and this being his mom, of course he doesn't want to believe it. The part about being his perfect enemy is pretty well documented if you listen to either APC or tool, His mothers faith renewed through her aneurysm is the fire that forged his philosophical views on religion and humanity.

    The real emotion in this song is him just letting out all the frustration he feels toward her that she's plagued by this permanent disability, and his anger seeping out, despite the fact that this is his own mother, at her "high road" "passive aggressive bullshit" that she refuses to communicate these things with him.
    Tunes24on September 21, 2012   Link

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