Thursday, February 12, 2009

Amanda Palmer Single/Video Controversy

“Censorship, like charity, should begin at home. Unlike charity, it should stay there.” - Dorothy Parker

So the new song by Amanda Palmer has been refused air play by every TV and radio network in the UK.

It’s been described as “making light of rape, religion and abortion”. Here it is:

[NOTE: Content/lyrics of the below video are probably NOT work safe and I would take caution if there are children present. - R.]

Understandably, Ms. Palmer had a few things to say about this…

She says, in part:

“i’d be HAPPY to know that the song out there is going to offend some people….not because i have any interest in making people upset, but because i think it’s better
to talk about these things, argue about them, be upset about them, push them out into the open air, stir the pot around. better that, always, than to sweep them under the rug.“

These days that’s a pretty controversial position to take. There’s a real trend towards people declaring their being offended by another’s point of view and using this as justification for censorship.

It makes me wonder, as so many things do, just where the line is drawn - and who decides that. Where is the distinction - if there is one - between humour and cruelty, being genuinely hurt by something said or written and just being annoyed. Why someone can be truly hurt by something they perceive as an insult to their beliefs, and how they react to this. And the difference, if there is one, between doing this and deliberate racism, sexism, homophobic speech and so on.

Remainder of article here.

From Amanda Palmer's Blog:

"i sat down one day in or around 2002 and wrote a tongue-in-cheek, ironic up-tempo pop song.
a song about a girl who got drunk, was date raped, and had an abortion.
she sings about these things lightly and joyfully and says that she doesn’t care that these things have happened to her because oasis, (her favorite band) has sent her an autographed photo in the mail. and to make things even better (!!), her bitchy friend melissa, who told the whole school about the abortion, is really jealous...

can i simply state:



the song is not a lecture.
the song is a SONG.
it’s a reflection, a character sketch...

as i was walking over to the bbc the other day and my label rep mentioned that they might not let me play “oasis” on the air, i suggested that i might be allowed to play it if i just slowed it way down and played it in a minor key.
think about it. if they heard the same lyrics against the backdrop of a very sad and liliting piano, maybe with some tear-jerking strings thrown in for good measure, would they take issue?

maybe. it would be within a context they could rely on, feel safe in, write off.
“she’s sad! of course she’s sad! she had an abortion! abortion is sad! abortion is personal and emotional! look, she is expressing directly the way she should feel about this! and we don’t joke about things that are personal and emotional and sad!”

wait, what?

don’t we?

i do.

i have to.

you’re damn right this shit makes people uncomfortable.
it makes people uncomfortable to hear ANYONE talking about abortion and rape bluntly, much less talking about it LIKE THIS….

and i think it makes people uncomfortable to hear the truth about a very real and sick situation:
if you don’t know - or have never encountered - a teenager who is going through intense heavy experiences (like rape, abortion, eating disorders, abuse, fill-in-the-blank)
and is laughing these things off like THEY DON’T MATTER, then you are not ALIVE and AWAKE and living on this planet.
IT’S HAPPENING EVERYWHERE. i see it all the time. it’s called being a confused teenager. it’s real. it SUCKS.

abortion is serious. rape is serious. lots of things are serious. do they think i’m blind?

the song isn’t even so much ABOUT those topics, it’s about denial, it’s about a girl who can’t find it in herself to take her situation seriously.
that girl exists, everywhere. you probably know her. you’ve probably met her. you might be her.

you might not even like this song.

it doesn’t matter.

our COLLECTIVE freedom to approach situations with humor, with irony, with anger, with sadness, with darkness, with an edge, from a different perspective, from within the situation…it’s ESSENTIAL.
we have to agree about this or we ALL get in trouble.

the minute you discount humor, you give evil things POWER. you fuel them. you let them rule you."


What are your thoughts? I was a bit taken aback when I first heard it, but I got it. I thought - Damn - one hell of a way to illustrate the state of affairs with today's youth... I was not really offended. I actually thought it was funny in it's own context - but as amusing as it might have been, it was all that much more heartbreaking...

How did (does) it affect you? What do you think?