Wednesday, March 20, 2013

When I Grow Up I Want To Be An Old Bigot: The Career Suicide Of Michelle Shocked

Michelle Shocked hates fags.

To be completely honest, before I saw her live last year, I assumed that Michelle Shocked was gay. During the live show, she referenced her ex-husband, but the weirdest thing was how she incorporated her current boyfriend into the performance-via her cell phone.

“She’s straight?” I thought to myself as she spoke of her partners.

But as she continued-which was quite often, as her performances are filled with personal antidotes and lefty dogma-I noticed something more confounding than her sexuality.

Michelle Shocked is a very strange woman.

My review of her performance was complementary, and the wake of her show brought back some very fond memories of her catalog. I will carry the memories of that night in a very positive manner, particularly the part where I didn’t get charged to attend.

One thing the review doesn’t reflect all that well was how weird the show was. It was a rather intimate setting (the performance space at the CSPS hall only holds about 200 seats) and Michelle took full advantage of that intimacy.

She lobbied the audience for discussions on the Occupy movement, particularly in regards to predatory lending and how little has changed since the economic collapse.

She also called her boyfriend.

I can’t help but dwell on it, because it was such a surreal experience. I saw nothing regarding her Christianity (which I did learn about after the show, but before her recent controversy), but what I saw instead was an almost obsessive devotion to the man on the other end of the cell phone.

Shocked incorporated the bit into her material, explaining that it was her boyfriend-artist David Willardson-who created the artwork that hung behind her that evening, which helped inspire her latest material.

Fair enough, but she then continued with the call all the way through the intermission, hanging up, literally, as she walked on stage for the second set.

Who does that?

The second set began with a choppy love letter to the Occupy movement, a spiel that evolved into a losing attempt at engaging the audience in a political dialogue, before realizing that the crowd that remained at the venue for that second set just wanted to hear “Anchorage.”

Yes, a large portion of the audience left after the first set, perhaps due to other obligations or perhaps because they were weirded out by Michelle’s incessant yammering, or the fact that she put a microphone up to her cell phone so that we could listen to her boyfriend talk.

I have no idea if they’re still together, but I do know that a large portion of her audience is no longer with her, particularly since so many of her audience related to her-right or wrong-as an advocate for LGBT causes.

There was certainly no hint of the kind of hatred she dished out this week at a show in San Francisco, but there were hints of some kind of instability. Despite her small frame, Shocked can be an intimidating presence, and some of that is due to the fact that she often doesn’t appear to have that filter that most of us possess, the one that knows when to put on the brakes at certain points, and when to shut the fuck up at others.

That fearlessness is part of her appeal, and her outspokenness certainly provided her with a sense of legitimacy when it came down to the kind of music she’s known for and the audience that coddles her. The sudden outburst is most certainly a characteristic of her persona, but the two points that she brought to the stage-her Christian beliefs and their influence towards her views on homosexuality-were nothing that her San Francisco fans were expecting or wanted to hear.

The shock that she isn’t a lesbian has become a common response immediately before everything turns red and Michelle Shocked is the worst person on the planet. There are those who question-and I’ll confess to being somewhat intrigued by this theory-the legitimacy of her heterosexuality and cite her vitriolic discussion of homosexuality as a self-hating projection of her own suppressed sexual preference.

More than anything, this incident brought me immediately back to the uncomfortable feeling that I had during some moments of the performance I saw last year. It reminded me of that vague suspicion that there is glaring moments of Michelle Shocked personality that suggests something is chemically wrong with her.

This isn’t the misogynist “that bitch is crazy” knee-jerk reaction, but instead it is a reasonable suggestion to why anyone who is smart enough to understand 1.) That you audience features a proportionally large section of homosexuals, 2.) The power of the internet and social media is swift, universal and permanent, 3.) That Jesus Christ was perhaps the most tolerant motherfucker to walk the planet, 4.) Your entire career is dependant on your ability to tour and 5.) The fucking gig is in San Francisco.

Sure, Shocked may think her credibility with her LGBT audience entitles her to milk the free-speech thing all the way to the point of yelling “Fire” in a Hamburger Mary’s, but the reality is that a sane person doesn’t go to their job and start blurting out shit that can be perceived as mean, hateful and offensive.

That’s what I mean by “chemically wrong.”

And that’s where I go to the fact that a large portion of American musicians go without health care, forgoing medical care and preventative treatment. Could it be that we are watching the results of medication being missed or that the power of the Holy Spirit has convinced Ms. Shocked that there’s no need for those pills any more.

So far, Michelle has chosen to almost manically respond to certain Twitter haters individually, promising a full explanation of the event in a scheduled interview this Friday.

A common theme in some of her tweets is the suggestion that a media campaign is underway to throw her under the proverbial bus, but again, Shocked is not stupid. When you encourage your crowd to tweet “Michelle Shocked said God Hates Fags” did you not think there would be repercussions.

If we are witnessing a woman that is experiencing a chemically induced crisis, the upcoming interview will certainly cause more harm than good. There will be a misguided attempt at trying to explain the outburst in biblical terms. By referring to the Bible or her own personal faith will only reinforce the perception that Shocked is yet another crazed Christian, the same kind of crazy that superglues the locks to Planned Parenthood or makes signs that read “God Hates Fags.”

No, unless this interview is a heartfelt confessional, one that acknowledges a tolerance towards the LGBT community and clearly explains the design of such an outburst, we will be witnessing someone rambling on without that aforementioned filter. The same one that is needed more than anything, to stop this attempt at career suicide.

Because make no mistake, this is career ending stuff. If you want your entire musical legacy to be remembered for one ill-advised moment where the letters “STFU” should have been tattooed on to your skin, then here it is.

There’s no defending something like this, and the entire media circus surrounding the incident was Shocked’s own creation. She panicked and clammed up. Then she bit back. And now she is biding for time, something that may suggest a long-winded manifesto is in the making.

Her response should be quick, honest and apologetic. They need to be, if she ever plans on drawing any resemblance of a support group again. Because, while running away from the ghosts of East Texas has provide Michelle Shocked a nice career so far, running from her own redemption will not give her very more places to go.

 Update to include Shocked's most recent statement.


Kiko Jones said...

I have nothing to add, but great post.

Cousin J said...

100% agreed. Foolish. Now she's either trying to cover her ass or, ironically, for someone who makes a living off of her words, she really doesn't know how to express her ideas.

Is any publicity good publicity? She's got more coverage over this than anything in the last 20 years. If these are her true feeling then probably a large portion of conservative Americans agree with her. Sad but true.