who killed Amanda Palmer? Soon, maybe it will be me.

I never really paid a whole lot of attention to the Dresden Dolls/Amanda Palmer. I liked a couple of their/her songs OK, but the self-consciously kooky facade that accompanied them was so grating to me I never bothered to explore any further. (In terms of pseudo-cabaret stuff, I greatly prefer the excellent World/Inferno Friendship Society, who are also a little self-consciously kooky but accompany that with the most fun party tunes you will ever hear.) I also was greatly put off by the Who Killed Amanda Palmer? book, for the same reason I don’t like listening to Cannibal Corpse. That is: I don’t care how amazingly it’s presented, eroticized violence against women creeps me the fuck out. Yeah, Amanda, I know you’re wacky and morbid, but shots of you in your underpants with your legs splayed and your throat slit leave me cold, and a little annoyed.

So anyway, the only reason she’s come back into my consciousness is that Facebook knows I’m a Neil Gaiman fan, and he and Palmer are engaged, which means he posts updates about her projects which I sometimes make the mistake of not skimming over. Which means I now know that she and this fellow Jason Webley have a new project where they pose as conjoined multi-instrumentalist twins Evelyn and Evelyn Neville. And look, she wrote a whole backstory and everything! Here’s a couple selections from that:

…their childhood was immensely strange. they were raised by a farmer and they had almost no social contact until the age of 6, when they wound up moving to manitoba, canada.
up in manitoba, it’s pretty certain that they were being exploited by the child porn industry.
(with my support they’re looking into possibly pressing charges. life is crazy.)

when they were around 12 they joined a traveling circus called “dillard and fullerton’s”, who were based out of southern california…they’ve long since gone out of business after the law took them out (they got hit with charges of human slave trafficking and for exploiting minors, amongst other terrible accusations). they don’t talk much about that time in their life, either, but they’ve written a few songs about it on the record.

from what we can gather, it was pretty fucking awful.

Oh wow! How wacky. I don’t mind tasteless – I mean, I watch Dead Alive on a regular basis, for crying out loud. But treating child sexual abuse and slavery as just quirky, colorful background elements to your performance personas? That’s just bizarrely awful on a whole new level, and very “LOOK AT ME MOM, I AM SHOCKING.”

The entire backstory, which you can read here, could pretty much be a point-by-point presentation on what I hate about people writing about “outsider art”/disabled folks. Awww, look at these naive, sheltered little things, who we rescued through a record deal! Be careful – like certain small animals, they’re spooked by cameras! Their talent was raw, and they needed us worldly folks to help them along! I lost count of the number of times Palmer tested my gag reflex with this tale.

The worst part, however, is Palmer’s rabid fans jumping to her defense, and accusing people of Not Understanding Art, Being PC (sigh), Crushing The Delicate Flower Of Artistic Freedom with the Anvil of Judgment, and so on. Seriously? Y’all are worse than Ani DiFranco fans. I’m perfectly capable of understanding how this project fits into Palmer’s “I’m a wacky 1920s cabaret artist with a thing for circuses” schtick, and far be it from me to keep her from expressing herself. I just find this particular mode of expression to be obnoxious and stereotypical. Besides, she’s a big girl. If she can’t handle criticism of her projects, maybe she should remove herself from the public eye. I, for one, wouldn’t find that to be such a horrible thing.

(PS – come on, Neil, you can do better.)

~ by Smellen on February 16, 2010.

17 Responses to “who killed Amanda Palmer? Soon, maybe it will be me.”

  1. You regularly articulate sentiments that have never made it past a frothing rage on my own lips. The case of Amanda Palmer being a prime example.

  2. her wacky outsider schtick is even more annoying when you consider her fairly privileged real background. she grew up in one of boston’s poshest suburbs. she went to high school with one of my very close friends, who did a lot of the photos in her book. not that growing up comfortable & privileged means that you lose all credibility–i don’t think privilege is the enemy or anything. but it makes her whole goofy outsider artist banging against the walls of conformity thing even harder to swallow.

    i am sometimes torn, because i think amanda has achieved a lot on the basis of being genuinely talented in certain ways, & very, very ambitious. i am reluctant to condemn anyone, especially another woman, for ambition. but something about her whole obnoxious persona really sticks in my craw.

    i read her recent blog post about attending the golden globes after a friend linked it on facebook. one of her commenters made the excellent point that the way amanda wrote about everything, it’s like she was saying, “haha, look at what a bunch of stupid bullshit this is! i am going to mock it because i know i’ll never fit into this world,” even though she was THERE & it’s not like she snuck in or anything. she wrote about being offended when journalists wanted her to get out of the way & stop talking to them, & it’s like, a) no shit, you’re not even a nominee, & b) you can’t have it both ways! you can’t be all, “this is so lame & gross…but why won’t they talk to me?” that kind of shit reminds me of borderline-awkward girls in high school & want to fit in with the popular crowd but don’t want to let on that they want to fit in, you know? it’s like she never grew up beyond age 16.

    but i do feel bad talking smack on ambitious women around my age who have played the game well.

  3. can I link to this? I’m too pissed to write about this more, so I am linkspamming in anger.

    also, what is it that difranco fans go apeshit over criticising her for? or i it just anything at all?

    • Sure, link away!

      There’s not any criticism of Ani in particular that I’ve received flack for, there’s just a certain rabid subset of her fan base who seem to think that me hating her music means I have something against outspoken feminist ladies in the music biz. Kind of like the people commenting on Palmer’s blog who think her critics just hate offbeat artist types in general.

  4. People like you getting worked up like this are one of the reasons art gets talked about. If you really wanted an artist to disappear then the trick would be to ignore it- don’t give them the oxygen of publicity, or whatever it is you’re doing.

    It’d be a win- win — you get to feel you’re making a difference AND you stop being one of the search results when Amanda’s fans search to see what’s upset her.


    • You misunderstand me. I do think it’s good that this is getting talked about – it seems to have a made a lot of people think, at least a little bit, about the issues surrounding two able-bodied people posing as conjoined twin characters, who they have written as eccentric simpletons.

      Anyway, my comment about Palmer disappearing from public view is merely a reflection of my frustration with the way she and her fans seem to be taking what looks like constructive criticism ultra-personally. If you can’t deal with criticism, maybe don’t court controversy like that.

    • The “oh ha ha you’ve just played into her desire for publicity” shtick doesn’t fly. Not all publicity is good publicity.

  5. Ah, this gave me a good laugh. I share your sentiments completely.

  6. Your post has been added to a linkspam round-up.

  7. i don’t really have anything to add other than: good post! spot on! and by the way i’ve been reading you for a bit now and i enjoy the things you have to say, even about metal which is not a thing i know anything about, because you say them in interesting and well-expressed way!

    but the main reason i am commenting on this post of all posts, i admit, is because i get ludicrously excited whenever i find another world/inferno fan because OMG WORLD/INFERNO, they are in fact superior to… like the vast majority of people who have made music ever, in my opinion, but yes definitely to the dresden dolls. so. yeah! woo! all the world is a stage(dive)!

  8. I just really think your PS commentary is out of line.

    • it’s a facetious reference to me finding Gaiman’s work consistently moving and interesting, and Palmer’s to be kind of obnoxious, especially this project. It’s not about her appearance or anything of that nature. I thought the general context of the post made that obvious.

  9. It’s pretty obvious that what you’re actually implying is that you think Neil’s relationship decisions should be based on your opinions of his partner’s art.

    • Wow, never in a million years did I think I would have to spell this out, but…I’m JOKING. I don’t actually give a shit about who Neil Gaiman dates, and I don’t expect him to give a shit about what fan-schlubs like me think of his relationships. I would actually be rather concerned if he did. AGAIN, it’s simply a reference to me finding Palmer’s public/performance persona rather irritating.

      • Forgive me, I was entirely snarky last night, and I should have approached that differently. (That’s sincere – I’m not trying to stir up shit.)

        I totally get that you’re joking. But the comment reads as being full of entitlement and arrogance, which is entirely separate from your otherwise valid commentary on Palmer’s persona. I think once we get into the arena of commenting on the relationships of others, we run the risk of discrediting every other thing we’ve said, because it’s an unnecessarily personal attack.

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