In this song, Springsteen sings from the perspective of guy going to visit someone important to him, only to find that this person - Bobby Jean - has left town. Many assumed that Bobby Jean was a girl, which changes the storyline considerably. This interpretation plays out in the 1995 Nick Hornby book High Fidelity, where the main character, a record store clerk, says: "There's this Springsteen song, 'Bobby Jean,' off Born In The U.S.A. About a girl who's left town years before and he's pissed off because he didn't know about it, and he wanted to say goodbye, tell her that he missed her, and wish her good luck. Well, I'd like my life to be like a Springsteen song. Just once."
The book was adapted into a movie in 2000, starring John Cusack. Springsteen appears in the film in a dream sequence; this was his first time acting in a movie. In this scene, he closes by telling Cusack, "Good luck, goodbye," echoing the last line of this song. The song itself is not named in the film though.