Monday, March 29, 2010

Don't Be "Edgy"

I was originally going to call this post "Don't Be Amanda Palmer," because her recent actions are a primer in How Not To Be, but then I remembered that I actually used to like Amanda Palmer. I enjoyed her old band, the Dresden Dolls. They put on a phenomenal live show, and they're from Boston, which counts for bonus points with me since I'm a big supporter of local music. And I thought she was right on telling her record company to suck it when they objected to the sight of her perfectly normal belly in a video.

But she started to lose me at this year's Golden Globes, where she decided it would be all sorts of daring to show up mostly naked (see above). I don't know. If red carpet nudity is really that punk rock, I guess JLo and Rose McGowen (NSFW) are countercultural icons, right? But whatever, I'm all for people wearing whatever makes them feel good, even though I do think the phrase "showing your ass" should only ever apply in a metaphorical sense.

Unfortunately, a few weeks later she decided to do just that when controversy erupted over her current project, a band called Evelyn Evelyn. Palmer and fellow musician Jason Webley created a fictional duo with a totally "edgy" background: circus-performing, child-porn-surviving conjoined twins who go by the same first name, finish each other's sentences, and are too shy/awkward to promote their music. Palmer and Webley perform as Evelyn Evelyn in a special outfit that makes them look conjoined. So, to summarize: they're portraying disabled characters as unable to speak for themselves and using the characters' disability as an excuse to dress up in a wacky outfits. This, perhaps unsurprisingly, caused a bit of an uproar.

The project itself isn't what made me unfollow Palmer's Twitter though. It was her response to the criticism that was really ugly. You can read it here, but it can be summarized as: a) All my friends thought it was a good idea and b) It's ART. Art should be offensive!

Well, yes, art can be offensive. That doesn't make it any good though. There's plenty of bad, offensive art out there. You can't just say, hey, people are offended, it must be good art! You need to give your audience--and your detractors--reasons for the offense. Otherwise the project is going to look poorly thought out and lazy at best and discriminatory at worst.

Okay, I could write about a thousand more words about that, but sadly, that's not the most bothersome thing Amanda Palmer has done recently. In the middle of a Twitter conversation taking Lady Gaga to task for too much product placement in the Telephone video, Palmer tweeted this:


[@joanarkham ironic product placement is only okay if you take no money & beyond that give all the income to something ironic. like the Klan.]

Holy fuckballs! On what planet is that comment even in the same timezone as okay? The KLAN? As IRONIC? Definitions of irony:


1. the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning: the irony of her reply, “How nice!” when I said I had to work all weekend.
2. Literature.
a. a technique of indicating, as through character or plot development, an intention or attitude opposite to that which is actually or ostensibly stated.
b. (esp. in contemporary writing) a manner of organizing a work so as to give full expression to contradictory or complementary impulses, attitudes, etc., esp. as a means of indicating detachment from a subject, theme, or emotion.
5. an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected.
6. the incongruity of this.
7. an objectively sardonic style of speech or writing.
8. an objectively or humorously sardonic utterance, disposition, quality, etc.

Yeah, I don't see how "financially supporting a group that supports terrorism, brutality, and murder as an appropriate response to using a song to sell Diet Coke" falls under any of those definitions. And I'm not the only one who isn't quite sure how the KKK counts as ironic. (Warning: graphic images of Klan evil that Amanda Palmer should have fucking considered before she hit "Tweet.")

Let's be blunt here: Palmer's comment was both stunningly ignorant and a perfect example of hipster racism. I cannot imagine why else Plamer would think it was okay to joke about supporting the fucking Klan. Is this because Obama is president? Newsflash, people: being able to point to an African-American president does not allow you to say racist shit! "I voted for the black guy" does not equal "now I can joke about the Klan!" That is not what "post-racial" means, assholes.

Look, sorry I'm speaking so crudely, but I can't believe I have to explain this. And you know the worst part? Amanda Palmer has 400,000 Twitter followers who apparently think using a bunch of murderous bastards as the punchline to a shitty, cynical joke is totally okay. To those people I say: I don't care how awesome her music is, or how liberated and independent you think she is. Amanda Palmer is not speaking truth to power. She's stomping on the already downtrodden and calling it humor. No justification for art or honesty is ever going to make that okay.


  1. Oh hells yes. I agree with you on so very many levels.

  2. Wow, that's pretty much the same trajectory as my feelings for Amanda Palmer. I loved the Dresden Dolls and I liked some of her solo stuff, but then the Golden Globes thing happened... Then Evelyn Evelyn exploded... And then I hit "unfollow" during the Lady Gaga discussion.

    Reading this post was pretty cathartic for me. Thanks!

  3. i completely agree with everything in your entry.

    i live in boston and i remember her back from her days of "performing" for loose change in harvard square.

    the dresden dolls also used to solicit fans for t-shirt designs and not pay them a cent.

    i dont think amanda would get away with that these days. i should hope not.

  4. You take things way too seriously.

  5. Better too seriously than not seriously enough, Anon. Refusing to question the way of the world never got anyone anywhere good.

  6. "And you know the worst part? Amanda Palmer has 400,000 Twitter followers who apparently think using a bunch of murderous bastards as the punchline to a shitty, cynical joke is totally okay."

    I am sorry, but this is more offensive then anything she wrote, because with that statement you basically say I am a racist just because I follow her twitter. As a matter of fact, I did not even read the Joke before today, because I usually don't read everything she writes. I like her music, that does not mean I agree with everything she says. So what if she is an asshole as long as she makes good music. Propably most artists (including actors etc) are assholes, I think you have to be a bit of a narcisisst to get on a stage.

    "Well, yes, art can be offensive. That doesn't make it any good though. There's plenty of bad, offensive art out there."

    Yes, so? We should not allow bad offensive art? Then who decides what is bad offensive art? I am pretty convinced that Bill O'Reilly has a very different opinion of what is OK than the creators of Drawn Together. I believe that in art and comedy (as did the late Mr Carlin) there are no limits. You don't have to like it, it does not have to be good, but there is no reason to write her hate-mails or stuff like that because of a bad joke. It is just a joke after all, and we live in a free country. This doesn't mean I "refuse to question the way of the world", whatever that means. But I wont throw away my CD-Collection and condemn a good artist just because she made some bad jokes and appeared naked on her webpage. I know that she does not actually support the Klan, so... who cares? I think one of the greatest gifts we as people living in free nations have is the possibility to legally say whatever we like, no matter who might get offended (of course, this should exclude insults, demagogic speech etc). If you take that right away, we will soon all be living in a world where it is common to get shot for drawing a cartoon about the prophet...

    1. Amanda Palmer is a scientologist... they have purchased Twitter followers for her.

  7. Yes, if you follow Amanda Palmer and think that she's fun and you don't challenge her when you say racist things, you are complicit in that racism. You can be defensive about it all you want, but it's there.

    And please, don't give me the "Don't take our free speech away!" bullshit -- All of us believe fiercely in the right that people can say whatever racist bullshit that they want to anytime. Therefore, we can also call them on their racist bullshit when they say it.

    And...YOU know that she actually doesn't support the Klan, so who cares if she talks about it like that? All of the people who died brutally because of the Klan, and their families, and those people who still live in fear of them. Amanda Palmer can be ironic about the Klan and be ironically racist all that she wants, but that just means that we all know that she doesn't give a damn about what real racism means. You can be a fan of her music and her art without supporting her as a person, but when you do support her and statements like this, you're saying that you don't give a damn either.

  8. So, mentioning the Klan in a joke tweet now = racism? Way to take the Nancy Grace approach to logic, kids!

    I can't be the only one who sees nothing racist about that tweet? Sometimes people mention the Klan in obscure ways like that. But we're grown ups now. We shouldn't have to have the "I AMANDA PALMER DO NOT SUPPORT THE KLAN" disclaimer. To a lot of us, that has been implied from the start. Amanda regularly blogs about her love and respect for people of all different cultures and universal love and peace and whatnot.

    So, can someone tell me exactly how this comment implies or gives off the hint of racism? Because all I see is a woman making a joke involving the KKK. This is the same woman who said "If we can no longer laugh about the darkness in life, that is when the darkness takes over." And for now, I stand with her. So, you know, feel free to judge me too!

  9. Don't worry, I am judging you. Your privilege is glaringly obvious here.

  10. You know nothing about me, shahea. You know NOTHING about me. If you wanted to argue your point, I'm fine with that. But you know nothing about me.

  11. Here's the deal; I don't have to know everything about you. All I have to know is that you're someone who doesn't see how racist and insensitive that comment of hers was. That's a sign of privilege, and it's leaking all over this blog.

  12. That's a sign of a different viewpoint. You're carrying a way too narrow view of that mindset. Plenty of people weren't offended by that post. Not all of them were "privileged" The world is not as simple as you want it to be. And although it's easy to disregard someone else's opinion by making it automatically invalid, it's still ignorant to shrug someone off because of that opinion based on your own biases. How was the comment racist?

    So, in short. Stop being so damn pretentious and acting like you've got it all figured out. Or don't. But there was a chance at the beginning of this convo-post that I might have valued your opinion and listened to you. Now, all I can think of all your insults. So, Kudos on that.

  13. No one insulted you here. Someone called you privileged -- that's not an insult, it's just a fact. Here's a primer on white privilege, which Amanda Palmer has in spades, but white people aren't the only ones who are privileged. Anyone who defends someone who thinks that it's cool and ironic to make jokes about the Klan is by definition privileged. That you view that as an insult says more about you than we ever could.

  14. I realize that in the heat of the moment I said some insulting and rude things. For that I apologize.I need to work on voicing my opinion without being a prick about it. I am gonna figure this out on my own, so thanks for at the very least giving me a link I can read so I can make these decisions for myself.

  15. Anon from 6/13- We're cool. As someone who has declared "What planet are you people living on?" in the middle of arguments before, I sympathize with having trouble expressing opposing opinions in a civil manner. Thanks for coming back and apologizing. You didn't need to do that, and it was nice of you.

  16. TIFU, Daisy:

    First of all, greetings to a fellow Daisy! Secondly, I am familiar with the definition of "facetious." And I'm only going to explain this one more time, because honestly after making my point over and over in the post and ensuing comments, I'm starting to feel like I'd have better luck explaining quantum physics to my cat than getting across that even if you are being facetious it is NOT OKAY to use the KKK as the punchline to a sarcastic comment.

    That Amanda Palmer was not being serious does not negate her offense. In fact, the fact that she chose an active, violent, racist organization to be facetious about IS the offense.

    White supremacists are still out there preaching hate and scaring the living shit out of our fellow human beings. A recent example: White supremacists bring loaded weapons to immigration rally.

    Minimizing the horror perpetrated by the Klan and its ilk by making it the punchline of an "ironic" joke says "I don't care about all those people they killed, and I don't care that they're still out there being racist fuckheads."

    Amanda Palmer doesn't have to live in fear of the KKK. She's never had family members violently killed. She doesn't have to look around nervously when she is thinking about buying a house in a new neighborhood, or worry about someone calling her uppity if she has the audacity to get a college degree. The Klan is historic to Amanda Palmer, but it is a real life source of fear and terror for many people out there, and her flippancy makes a mockery of their fear.

    That apathy, that disregard for what non-whites consider a real and present danger, is what I am trying to call out as Amanda Palmer's white privilege and racism.

  17. jesus christ, people like you are annoying. you realize Amanda has also written very amusing songs about rape and back-alley abortion? neither of these are funny, and pretty sure Amanda doesn't think they're funny - but that's a bit of the point. if i thought Amanda actually supported racism, or rape, or back-alley abortion, i wouldn't listen to her.. but one has to be pretty reactionary to take a comment like this and serve it up as evidence that Amanda Palmer doesn't care about black people!

    i wouldn't want to live in a world where people can't make jokes about awful things.

  18. In other news, my cat has just mastered Schrodinger's theories of quantum mechanics, with the help of a box, a Geiger counter, and some poison.

  19. I'm sure every one of you has made a comment that might have offended SOME ethnic or religious group. Just because AFP is widely known does not mean her comments are to be magnified and scrutinized, she meant no harm, and haters are blowing this out of proportion. The writer of this blog has a picture calling her a "whore" right at the top.
    I don't think AFP would use words like that to describe someone, because she is not mean, unlike the writer of this blog.

  20. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  21. Get off your high horse.....lady

  22. I find your flagrant disregard for your cats safety offensive and morally reprehensible.

    See what I did there? Sad I missed this discussion by years.