Return to Amanda Palmer


September 25, 2009
Amanda F*cking Palmer
I love Amanda Palmer. I do. I love her throaty sexy voice, the wail of desperation in "Coin Operated Boy." I adore her drawn on eyebrows and wish I had the patience to do something like that (if I shaved my eyebrows I would never have the time to draw them back on, and would just walk around looking like a lizard).

I resisted getting sucked into the Dresden Dolls for a long time, since some of the folks who enthused about them to me had kind of questionable taste. However, when the controversy over Roadrunner Records being asshats about her stomach in the video for "Leeds United" cropped up on feminist blogs all over, I clicked on the video. Not only was I stunned that anyone would in any way, shape or form think Ms. Palmer's tummy was anything other than magnificent, but I was also enraptured by her performance. And after listening to both "Girl Anachronism" and "Runs in the Family," I called up a friend and said, "I think I'm related to Amanda Palmer, or at the very least she's met my family.

So, I went out and bought WKAP, and thus it began it's career on high rotation in my mp3 player, my computer at work, the stereo in the bedroom.

That said, I occasionally find some of her songs problematic.

"Missed me"(video here) on The Dresden Dolls album, "The Dresden Dolls," is sung from the point of view of a young girl/woman who sings to the man she's attracted to. In the course of the song, she says if he kisses her she might tell, and apparently he does kiss her, fuck her, and then keeps leaving her, so she tells and he goes to prison, and she sings about how she missed him now, and will they ever let him out.

Now, I think she perfectly captures that adolescent lack of cognizance about the reality of consequences. And I love her voice, the music. But did we really need another addition to the mythology of the scheming Lolita trying to entrap some unsuspecting "Humbert"* into a sexual relationship where she can blackmail him? I'm not trying to come down hard on her here, and Gods only know I'm neither without sin nor casting the first stone. It's just that occasionally when I find myself singing along in the car, I feel a slight twinge of guilt for liking this song so damned much.

Other people have talked about the song on WKAP, "Oasis" (video here). Some find the poppy lyrics dealing with rape and abortion off-putting. Again, I think Ms. Palmer perfectly captures the tempestuous emotional life of adolescent girls. I don't have a problem with the light, poppy music, or the cheeky way in which the lyrics are sung. And I think this song gets less and less problematic for me the more I listen to and think about it. Particularly when I consider how many times I've been accused of not speaking about rape with proper gravity (i.e. I talk about it at all in a normal, non-weepy voice). Also, the way in which accusing women of being flippant when we discuss topics that make people uncomfortable without weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth is used as a tactic to silence us about the hard issues that apply predominantly to women.

If art is supposed to make you think, I think both of these songs definitely qualify.

*Many people misread Lolita. You aren't supposed to sympathize with Humbert Humbert. You're supposed to be disgusted by mental gymnastics he engages in to rationalize raping a child.