How Amanda Palmer Killed Amanda Palmer

(Or, Amber’s longest post in the history of this blog)

Note:  now updated for 2012!  Newest information and links at the end…

I have to wonder, as I settle in to blog for the last time about an artist whose work I used to enjoy, if her solo album and its accompanying video visualettes and photo book were a reflection of her mission post-The Dresden Dolls:  namely, to destroy the woman and artist she was, and replace her with a new (but not improved) version.  It seems fitting that she does not, per se, ask us who killed Amanda Palmer, but almost states it, as in, “she who killed Amanda Palmer.”

Either way, I come to the same conclusion:  Amanda Palmer, as we knew her (or, as she portrayed herself, perhaps) is officially dead.  And in her place is someone I can no longer respect.

I remember when I first heard Amanda’s work, back in 2004.  My best friend urged me to try a new band, pointing me to several demos available for free on their website.  As she is seldom wrong about music, I strolled over to the site of a band called The Dresden Dolls and downloaded Girl Anachronism and Half JackGirl A. seemed like a cool title, so I spun it first.

On first listen, it was too off the wall, too out there…  and yet, I hit repeat.  By the fifth listen, I was in love with the song.  It was as if someone had managed to capture my own manic rantings about my endless battle with mood disorders and the varied reasons I desperately tried to explain it with to music composed by a deranged circus.  It was awesome.

I purchased their album at their second Toronto concert ever, a copy on their original self-created label, 8 ft.  I was absolutely enthralled by their live show, marvelling at the phenomenal chemistry between Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione.  It was downright frightening, how in sync they were on stage.  The notion of punk cabaret itself was refreshing for my musical palatte, and became a staple in the rotation.

Most of all, I admired Amanda’s frank and unapologetic approach to topics normally considered taboo.  From sex to self-injury, Amanda bared all, unabashedly and earnestly, with her tongue planted firmly in cheek as she playfully knocked even herself down.  It reminded me of my own propensity to self-deprecate to deflect the ongoing struggle to simply exist in my skin and just be.  I also enjoyed the band’s genuine appreciation of their fans.  Both times I met Amanda at Dolls shows, she was sincere, interested and engaged in the experience.  She enjoyed it, and that made that sense of an intimate understanding, a shared world similar to Jungian Psychology, more probable. Her regular blogging and posting on the Shadowbox (a fan forum since the days of old) was also admirable, far beyond the call of duty.

As the band split apart, with Amanda concentrating on her first solo album, I felt a sense of sadness, but ultimately knew that Amanda would continue to wow us with her wit and wordplay.  To support her efforts, well aware that she was going broke in the process of recording due to knowing several musicians, I jumped at the chance to preorder the album, snagging the highest tier of package, $100 US I simply did not have, but found anyway.  The album arrived, and was her strongest work as a whole to date.  I enthused about it to anyone who gave me a moment’s time.  I played it endlessly.  I referenced it as a writing soundtrack for several works posted online, encouraging my readers to check her out.

And then, things began to take a sour turn.

I won’t detail the pre-order fiasco that resulted in my waiting over a year for the complete list of promised items (several not arriving as promised) again; I covered it in a previous blog entry.  But things took a decided downturn at that moment.  Even as Amanda herself confessed in a blog posting that friends had cautioned her about her suddenly prolific webcam auctions and bragging about the money made (in the midst of endless travelling and endlessly disappointing those who supported the album at its start-up, like myself), she justified herself.  You see, anyone with a problem was not a visionary, as she was.   Amanda took to skewing the true issues people had with the scenario (auctioning her fiance, Neil Gaiman’s daughter on a date with two strangers, was just… creepy*); traveling the globe but then seemingly begging for back-owed rent seemed tasteless and irresponsible) and made it a manifesto on how artists were entitled to “put out their hats for donations.”  While I don’t disagree with this concept at all, and firmly prefer to pay artists as directly as possible for their art, if I have to skip travel to see family in Europe to make rent, why should an artist be different?

But they are different, in Amanda’s eyes, increasingly so as of late.  Artists are above the basic rules of taste, tact and decorum, so long as the artist feels they are being expressive and bold. Amanda’s ranting on why she wasn’t afraid to take money from people, simply for being, well, Amanda Fucking Palmer, was tweeted, with Amanda enthusiastically pushing for retweets.  Amanda wanted the whole world to pat her on the back for her ‘original’ and ‘genius’ notions… which many punk indie artists have been employing for years before her.

Amanda became the attention-seeker, screaming, “Look at me!  Look at me!”  And it worked.  Except I, and several other fans I know, unfollowed her, bored with her antics and wanting to avoid tarnishing the music’s beauty.

Even in person, something shifted with Amanda:  my last meeting with her felt more like a chance for her to indoctrinate me with her philosophy on record labels, rather than allowing me to thank her for the music during a difficult time in my life.  She was too busy espousing her clever views with the Danger Ensemble to actually pause and truly greet anyone.

Another preorder began, this time for album-inspired fragrances from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab.  You can take a guess at how backed up and screwed that became.  Fool me once…  Needless to say, I didn’t bother, and am glad for it.

In the last year, however, the most disturbing trend has been Amanda’s propensity to say or do things to garner attention – any attention, even if it involves piggy-backing off of others.  Whether it’s constantly reminding us of her relationship with renowned author Neil Gaiman, conveniently tweeting about love as Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor was leaving Twitter over his short engagement with his now-wife (of course noting that she’d been talking about it with him at a show right at the peak of the media and blogging frenzy), or bashing Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber right when both were trending topics, just to garner focus on her…  Well, you do the math.  I cannot count the number of cycles lately where:

  • Amanda says something or does something that goes way too far
  • Media frenzy ensues, with rabid fans defending her every move, while more critical ones start to back away
  • Amanda declares that she, “didn’t mean it like that” or “people are too sensitive and I’m sorry they are sensitive” and resumes regularly scheduled @-replies to Neil.
  • Amanda laughs off negative attention and criticism with poorly supported arguments or the equivalent of an internet troll’s casual flip-off posting when he’s lost, and pats herself on the back for being innovative, as usual.

Unlike Amanda, I will defend my thesis (that she has become addicted to attention).  Here are but a few of the recent cases:

The Golden Globes Red Carpet (And Subsequent Auction Of Program)

Coraline, a fantastic movie based on a fantastic book by Neil Gaiman, was up for Golden Globe action this year.  Neil, not unexpectedly, brought his girlfriend to the red carpet.  Not unexpectedly, Amanda took the chance to have herself photographed ‘dead’ upon it.  Also not shocking was her choice of a flapper-style dress; it’s well within her character and was actually sorta pretty, armpit hair and all (I’ve always given Amanda kudos for sticking to her guns and not shaving, and the backlash fans dished to Roadrunner Records when they implied she was fat was epic).

Where things begin to get fame-whorish (contrary to Amanda’s ‘protesting too much’) is when she decided to:

a) try and promote her Australian tour via force to media types who are being paid to get photos of the stars at the event, lest their bosses bitchslap them for missing a great shot;
b) strip off her knickers and also change dresses on the carpet (um, wtf?);
c) pat herself on the back for not having seen anything nominated aside from Coraline, nor recognizing any celebrities there; and
d) blatantly auctioning off their program, in which they began crossing out categories out of boredom to see how many were left, because no award aside from Neil’s potential one mattered, of course.

It all just screamed of being above them all, being superior, which is a shame, since she essentially paints every actor and talent there with the same brush, ignoring people like Corey Monteith of Glee, who’s come from a life of juvenile delinquency and dropping out of school to stardom (he’s extremely humble and funny).

If this was her attempt at upstaging Courtney Love’s make-up throwing antics and their ilk, it backfired, as far as I’m concerned.  At least Doctors Without Borders saw $500 from the sale of the program.

Evelyn Evelyn and The Child Porn Fiasco, Starring The Oh-So-Histrionic Disabled Feminists

For those unaware of Amanda’s latest musical endeavour, she and collaborator Jason Webley have released an album under the moniker Evelyn Evelyn, who were represented as a pair of conjoined twins, rescued from the socially awkward lives of circus performance and child exploitation and pornography (no, really; that was a very key part of the backstory, including heroic Amanda and Jason saving the day by helping ‘the twins’ seek legal action).  Now, anyone with half a clue can figure out pretty quickly that the twins do not exist, just as surely as Chris Gaines is Garth Brooks, or that the bands Prozzak and The Gorillaz are not really walking/talking/singing cartoons.

That aside, it isn’t the persona aspect of the project that draws criticism, nor the topics of abuse per se.  Amanda has never shied away from topics most avoid, including a discussion of abortion with a dark humour (Oasis), loosely based off her own experiences; in fact, I strongly defended Oasis as a legitimate work of art and satire of today’s teenager.  It’s the creation of the twins, and projecting the worst possible backstory onto them, that left a bad taste in my mouth.  And even this, I could have let slide as art – until Amanda began to respond to the backlash  (Jason Webley, on the other hand, seems reflective and at least understanding of how one might take offense).

You see, Amanda blogged many, many words, but very few say, “I’m sorry,” in any genuine way.  Rather, it begins sounding genuine and quickly segues into how PMSing Amanda is, or how horribly misunderstood she is, or how none of her magic friends in three years have been offended by the backstory, so she really can’t understand why there’s so much drama, or how dissenters made Neil sadfaced at her, which makes Amanda displeased.

What Amanda doesn’t truly do is address the very valid points raised by the author of this blog (a fan of Amanda’s work, and therefore, not slanted against her from moment one).  One key criticism I would have enjoyed an actual response to was this quote:

The stereotypes about disability here are pretty well-worn: according to this (fictional) backstory, the twins were “discovered by” and need “help” from two abled individuals, Palmer and Webley, to realize their musical potential. Add to this their “inspiring” origin story — which is fodder for a graphic novel tie-in — and you’ve got yourself one hell of a three-ring circus of disability stereotypes.

And therein lies a shame, as far as I’m concerned:  Amanda historically has challenged stereotypes, turning them on their heads through the stories of her songs (see:  Runs In The Family, Oasis).  With Evelyn Evelyn, she and Jason have lost an opportunity, copping out essentially to settle for media attention strictly borne of sensationalism.  What’s even better is she goes on to have a laugh about how the big bad disabled feminists crucified her, “oh ho ho!  So be careful what you say, guys! *wink*”.  It also doesn’t help that during this performance, Amanda can’t stop laughing at their own cleverness (skip to 2:10).

(And yes, she tweeted about the mess, and in a way that was dismissive…. Only to backtrack and be like, “Tee hee!  140 characters and all.”)

Lady Gaga’s Product Placement Is Only Ironic If You Donate To The KKK.  Fact!

Wowsa…  This one was where I literally started selling off my Amanda Palmer items, and have not listened to a note of her music since (which is an oddity for me to the nth degree, since she’s pretty fucking staple according to my last.fm statistics).  Let’s see if I can break this down.

Lady Gaga was trending, due to the release of her Telephone video with Beyonce.  For the record, the video is tedious, and the song is a flaming pile of shit compared to Bad Romance, and should never have seen light of day.  Justin Bieber was also trending, because apparently, the twelve year-olds and pervy grannies who used to be Clay-mates (Clay Aiken fans of age, don’tcha know) have taken over Twitter.  It being a day ending in “y”, Amanda was tweeting, offering up her opinion on the product placement in particular within the Telephone video.

Now, my good friend Suze would likely have a tremendous amount to say on Lady Gaga and her wink-wink approach to post-modernism and pop culture being her subject of critique, so I’ll leave it to her to one day address.  That said, suffice it to say that countless people were arguing, as Suze would, that Lady Gaga’s numerous (and unpaid) product placements were a form of irony, in her continuing mission to hold up a mirror to our society.  Amanda, however, finds both artists to be sell-outs, and apparently has a very different definition of irony than Websters:

ironic product placement is only ok if you take no money & beyond that give all the income to something ironic. like the Klan.

(See here for a deliciously apt and scathing criticism, including a screencap of said Tweet)

I don’t even have words.  Irony is apparently not being paid to pimp Wonderbread, but paying the KKK instead, so that they might continue their spree of hatred and violence.  Whee!  Amanda then went on to create a hash tag for #HausofBieber, encouraging fans to mock him and post outrageous comments regarding the tween with the terrible tunes.

The only irony I know of involving the KKK is detailed in this graphic, photo-laden response to Amanda Palmer, in which the writer notes that after a successful lawsuit, the Southern Poverty Law Centre performs anti-racist work with the money it won from the KKK.  Not being paid for your art, or donating to racists, is not ironic.

(By the way, you can only be paid for your art by webcam auctioning your fiance’s daughter and various items, often double-selling them by poorly-organized mistake.  In another acclaimed singer’s apartment, where you’re staying for free on another continent.  Lady Gaga’s bad.)

Amanda of course then tweets to show we just don’t get her!  Because that’s always the trouble, these days.  We misunderstand her art!  Us simpletons are just not on her level anymore.  In fact, in releasing a free song in celebration of finally being dropped by Roadrunner Records (entitled ‘Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help your black ass?’ – no, REALLY), she comments:

before any of you get up in arms about the title (peoples gettin’ mighty sensitive lately) please know:
the title is a reference to a lyric in a song called “fuck tha police” by a band called Niggaz With Attitude. look it up.

Or maybe you’re just crossing ridiculous lines lately?

The saddest thing is, as I conclude this reflection on why I am no longer a supporter of Amanda Palmer, is that Amanda is blatantly Bipolar.  As in, Bipolar I with possibly rapid cycling and mixed episodes.  She obviously needs support and help, but of course, no one in her circle of praise will make her seek it out.  In reading this recent blog, I am struck by how painfully similar it is to the highs and lows documented by Marya Hornbacher in Madness: A Bipolar Life (amazing memoir, by the way, and as unapologetically honest as her previous book, Wasted).  But even if she is stark-raving manic and delusional, I can’t excuse her persistent narcissism and refusal to own her actions, contrary to her insistence that she does, indeed, take responsibility.  I look at my punk manifesto t-shirt from the long-lost Dolls days, and realize that Amanda is becoming exactly what the shirt condemns.

Now that is ironic.

I finally know who killed Amanda Palmer:  Amanda did it, with the Twitter, on the internets.  Can we open the Clue envelope now please, and move on to other artists?

Update September 2012:  I have a bit more to say about Amanda’s more recent actions, including links to further misbehaviour that has been found anti-woman, transphobic and just plain ridiculous (suicide is a funny thing to fake to torment an individual struggling with addiction…. who later committed suicide… and you then used a recording of him on your album?).  Clickety-clack here and scroll to the last bulleted item, or check out the latest links below, recounting more recent failings. I also stand by my bipolarity musings, not as a means of celebrity diagnosis due to pop culture understanding, but as a bipolar woman who has a degree in Psychology.  For what it’s worth.  

More Links To Blogs I Can Sympathize With *Dead Links Removed September 2012*

*Gaiman claims (August 2012) that the funds acquired for Holly were not, as blogged, profits Amanda enjoyed but were donated to a charity of Holly’s choosing.  I truly hope that is the case

11 thoughts on “How Amanda Palmer Killed Amanda Palmer

  1. I was mostly with you, up until you started armchair-diagnosing her bigoted behaviour as symptomatic of a mental illness.

    If you’ve read any of the rest of our FWD blog, you’d know just why that’s problematic. If you haven’t, kaninchenzero has just written a pretty good starting point on why equating the two is bad in comments on Racialicious. The celeb-distance-diagnosis side of things – well, I would have thought the problematic nature of that was obvious. If you stop and think a moment, I hope you will see it too.

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    • You’re misinterpreting, unfortunately. I’m actually interpreting her own description of highs and “being in love with the whole world” and go-go-going, followed by deep lows, coupled with the confessional lyrics she writes (and admits are autobiographical) about mental illness and depression, as a bad sign. I’m Bipolar II myself and have a Psychology degree, so I’m not guessing. I’m basing it on years of reading her blogs.

      Her bigoted behaviour is just…. bigoted. And attention-seeking. Two separate issues. Hopefully that’s more clear!

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  2. Well said. Completely. (Though I think Telephone is amaizng & AP is jealous she didn’t make it.)

    I made a LJ post a couple months ago washing my hands of her. I’m just done. I stopped following her on twitter a year ago. To be honest, even back then, when I found her obnoxious, (which to be honest, she always was, to a degree) I could still listen to her music. I haven’t in months. I just.. can’t. (And this is from a girl who still listens to Howie Day.)

    Its a bummer too, because I started listening to Dresden Dolls way way back in 2004. And I hipped everybody and their mother (and my mother!) to them like they were the second coming or some shit. Well, now she seems to really believe she is the second coming & I want no part of it.

    I just loathe her. Completely loathe her. She’s simply an asshole. An asshole who blew her wad talentwise a long, long time ago. I’m done.

    Uh-oh. We better be careful, you know. She’s going to google her name & find this. Then tell us we’re conformists or phonies or something.

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    • Oh noes! And Neil will post mean Twitter comments about us, too! Devastation!

      That’s hilarious that you mention Howie Day, since I was thinking while writing this, “Up until this last bit, she was like Howie Day: I won’t give her my money but I can still listen.” Now… Well… I have lots of shit to sell! I’m a collector, you know me. I better sell now before she makes people mad again.

      I love (loved?) WKAP, but I couldn’t be arsed to even download Evelyn Evelyn, and I can’t listen to anything of hers anyway now. I literally just go *skip*. I gave it a few days to see if I cooled down, but it’s so much deeper than reflex. I’m just thoroughly disgusted. My boyfriend’s half white. His grandmother was mistreated like a slave back in her home country by white people, and is so damaged by it, she’s cold to me just because I’m white. It hurts, but I can grasp why. KKK is never funny. Fact!

      (I just find Telephone so tedious. Gaga can do better. I’m definitely not a big fan of Gaga – I pretty much only like BR and Paparazzi a LOT, and the rest is good for the background music.)

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  3. Also? The attacks on the Beiber kid seems tacky, because well, he is a KID. 15 year olds are still considered children. So basically, she’s trying to look cool by attacking a kid. Good job.

    (I mean, yeah, I find his music creepy & bad, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to openly harass him or get other people to do so. Its tacky.)

    And P.S- You forgot to mention that she posted her own engagement announcement to OhNoTheyDidnt. Yup. She posted “celebrity gossip” about herself. I guess because nobody else cared enough to do so?

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    • Bieber’s music is uber-creepy. Have you seen barelypolitical on YouTube and the Key of Awesome vids? His Justin Bieber fake song is SO perfect in showing the creepy. Plus, he just isn’t that great of a singer TBH.

      That said, saying pervy things about him with your own magic hashtag is lame and on par with the scene in Glee where they lock poor Artie in a porta-potty and plan to roll it.

      Also: BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! She posted her own engagement?! MY THESIS IS PROVEN!

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  4. Hi, I’m the author of one of the FWD posts (the “Evelyn Evelyn: Ableism Ableism?” one). This is a really interesting and well-written post, and though I’m not a fan of picking apart people’s mental health status, I agree with a lot of what you’ve said here. The way things have turned out is just very…sad, particularly for those of us who have followed Amanda’s work for a long time (I’ve been following her work since 2004 or so, but have stopped due to recent events). And what’s also sad is that she is now actively alienating the people who have supported her in the past and who have put a lot of time and energy into calling out the problems with EE and her recent behavior–under the guise of “Whatever, I’ll do what I want because I CAN!” and (as far as I can tell) getting more publicity or attention or something. Which, I suppose, is great for her, but not so great for those of us who want to be treated with anything resembling basic respect, tact or engagement from either her *or* her hardcore fans.

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  5. Pretty much every single reason you listed for not liking Amanda anymore had me thinking, “SO WHAT? What does that have to do with her MUSIC?” There are actors I despise personally but I still watch their movies. What a shame you can’t separate someone’s personal character flaws from their art.

    I’ve been following Amanda for years as well and I fail to see how she’s changed drastically or abandoned any sort of principles. Perhaps if Twitter existed in 2004 you would’ve seen she was just as big an attention whore back then. You’re simply falling into that trap of romanticizing “the way things used to be”, without realizing that things are, in fact, exactly the way they used to be.

    Your perception of how she’s changed probably has more to do with how YOU’VE changed in the last 6 years. The you from 2004 was probably a very different person from the you in 2010, thus you perceive Amanda differently, when in reality she’s still the same person.

    It’s so annoying when people run around bitching that their favorite artists changed too much for their taste. There’s nothing worse than being one of those “I only like their early stuff” people. Boo hoo. It’s your loss.

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    • As you are falling into the trap of excusing an artist taking attention whoredom one step too far with a disgusting comment about Nazis that completely does not support her own thesis, while taking this as some sign that I do not like her current work. With the exception of Evelyn Evelyn (the two songs released eons ago sucked, to be honest), I’ve felt that musically, Amanda has been improving. That’s not what this was about, but thank you for playing.

      I stopped following Amanda on Twitter and her blog for about seven months, because I didn’t want her personality to taint the art she’s made. I did try, you see. But there’s a difference between, for example, thinking Christian Bale is a prick and admiring his acting talent (using one example of my own) and someone completely misfiring with a Holocaust reference and being unapologetic for it. There’s a line, and had it been crossed in 2004, I would have jumped ship then, too.

      Enjoy mindlessly following artists and allowing their art to excuse bad behaviour. Hey, I bet you love Mel Gibson, don’t ya?

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  6. And the fact that Amanda Palmer is marrying the Vitamin Heir to Scientology, a cult that supported prop 8 in CA which persecutes gay people, is her ultimate hypocrisy and a fact she refuses to address.

    Amanda Palmer is mentally ill. She is a raging narcissist and that is obvious.

    Here are the symptoms of narcissism, she has all of them:

    * Feels grandiose and self-important (e.g., exaggerates accomplishments, talents, skills, contacts, and personality traits to the point of lying, demands to be recognised as superior without commensurate achievements);

    * Is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequalled brilliance (the cerebral narcissist), bodily beauty or sexual performance (the somatic narcissist), or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering love or passion;

    * Firmly convinced that he or she is unique and, being special, can only be understood by, should only be treated by, or associate with, other special or unique, or high-status people (or institutions);

    * Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation – or, failing that, wishes to be feared and to be notorious (Narcissistic Supply);

    * Feels entitled. Demands automatic and full compliance with his or her unreasonable expectations for special and favourable priority treatment;

    * Is “interpersonally exploitative”, i.e., uses others to achieve his or her own ends;

    * Devoid of empathy. Is unable or unwilling to identify with, acknowledge, or accept the feelings, needs, preferences, priorities, and choices of others;

    * Constantly envious of others and seeks to hurt or destroy the objects of his or her frustration. Suffers from persecutory (paranoid) delusions as he or she believes that they feel the same about him or her and are likely to act similarly;

    * Behaves arrogantly and haughtily. Feels superior, omnipotent, omniscient, invincible, immune, “above the law”, and omnipresent (magical thinking). Rages when frustrated, contradicted, or confronted by people he or she considers inferior to him or her and unworthy.

    Like

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