Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Michelle Shocked Broke My Heart


You know the folkie country alt-rock singer Michelle Shocked? She was most popular in the late '80s and early '90s with songs like "Anchorage" and "Come A Long Way," songs about shaking up the establishment and growing up a rebel in East Texas. I associate her with my Peace Corps years, because my friend Kevin mailed me mix tapes that became my soundtrack for Morocco, and they included her songs. It was sunny music for a sunny time in my life.

Anyway, you may have seen the news that Shocked went on an anti-gay tirade while performing Sunday at a nightclub in, of all places, San Francisco. Now, this is a woman whose career was propelled by prog-rock stations and who built a largely left-leaning audience. She once reportedly described herself as bisexual or at least sexually ambiguous, and she certainly had a huge gay following.

Apparently, since then, Michelle has found God. She has repudiated her status as a gay icon and now says she fears gay marriage will lead to the destruction of the country.

I can't tell you how heartbreaking I found this news. I'd already read somewhere that she had become religious, but why her newfound faith had to be accompanied by judgmental fire-and-brimstone bullshit I'm not sure. I love some Michelle Shocked songs. I am afraid I'll never be able to listen to them again. Instead of bringing to mind sunny Morocco, they'll conjure a shadow of condemnation.

It may be an overstatement to call her my generation's Anita Bryant, but her gigs are now being cancelled left and right and I suspect she'll have something in common with Anita in terms of a stalled career. (It was kind of stalled already.)

The whole episode got me thinking about why we all can't live with each other's differences. And that got me thinking about Facebook, a huge minefield of a topic. Have you ever been defriended on Facebook? It's happened to me a couple of times, and it can be a surprisingly hurtful experience. I'm not overtly political there, at least not often, partly because I know some of my friends are conservative and/or religious. (Well, OK, I did post that article yesterday about Richard O'Brien believing he's "70 percent man," complete with a photo of him in a dress...but that wasn't typical!) But even my moderate level of political and cultural engagement has proven too much for some people, and I hate that, even when they're people I haven't seen since grade school. Why doesn't friendship trump politics?

Why do I care? I don't know.

I am willing to make room for Jesus-y people. I want to respect their beliefs and maintain a relationship with them. When they fail to show the same ability for me, I take it personally. And I even take it personally when it's a famous person whose songs I enjoy, whose version of Jean Ritchie's "The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore" still haunts me, and who I never met but somehow mistakenly, wrongly, felt that I knew.

(Photo: The Shard, seen from Bermondsey on Saturday afternoon.)

9 comments:

Elizabeth said...

I don't even know what more to say about Michelle Shocked than WTF?

Lynne said...

You could say you were totally SHOCKED!
:)

Ms. Moon said...

Lily and I were talking yesterday about various religions and how ridiculous they are and I told her that I am just plain OVER humans for the most part. That we just believe the most inane things and spend so much time and energy trying to follow arbitrary made-up rules and getting others to follow them too and I am just sick of it.
This is a good example of how nuts people can go.
Either Michelle went crazy or she's coming from some deep place of fear and anger. Whatever. I'm sorry she's ruined her own music for you. That really does suck and I understand how you must feel.

Reya Mellicker said...

She is out of my saga. I don't care why she did it.

Angella said...

i don't get why people cant live and let live either. so disappointing.

The Bug said...

I'm a "Jesus-y" person & I really really don't understand why we can't just let people be either - what the heck?

I have friends of all stripes on FB & mostly I just slide past the stuff that's not my cup of tea. Just because my friend Janet thinks she should be able to own an assault rifle doesn't mean I want to dump her entirely. We just talk about southern food instead of guns.

e said...

I was taken aback by this and like you, I did enjoy her music but anything overshadowed by hate is just a non-starter as far as I'm concerned. This is just another example of extremism gone amok.

Linda Sue said...

The christianity cult will do that to people - take, for instance, Norma McCorvey, of Roe V Wade- a lesbian, a mother, a woman seeking an abortion- converted to christianity and is now loudly anti gay, anti choice !! throw backs- frightened by superstition into brain numbing nonsense.
I have been unfriended by republicans and narrow minded religious wackos who clearly were marginal friends at best- weeds the garden and I really don't mind that they have been offended. I reckon that ( pat on the back) it's a job well done! I have also unfriended bible bangers and tea party leaners- so it works both ways.We are even! I am not offended- I just don't make space for people who choose to be moronic, they are like an unpleasant fester...best to make them go away.

Steve Reed said...

Elizabeth: Yeah, I started with that, too!

Lynne: Someone had to say it. :)

Ms Moon: The thing is, religions don't HAVE to be ridiculous. It's only when people cling so tightly to arbitrary or abstract beliefs that they lose sight of humanity that we get into trouble. As for ruining her music, Janis Ian (who is a lesbian) made an interesting comment on Facebook about not discarding Michelle's earlier work. "You have to separate the artist from the art," she said, or something like that. Made me think maybe I could keep listening, though I probably won't buy anymore.

Reya: I understand that reaction completely. I think a lot of people will feel that way.

Angella: Especially when that's the easy route! You'd think it would appeal to people!

Bug: You may be "Jesus-y" in that you go to church, but I don't think of you as Jesus-y in the way I mean it. Some people are very IN YOUR FACE about Jesus, and very verbal about how He defines everything they do and they are washed in his blood etc etc etc. I grew up with those people and even then it sounded awfully over-the-top to me. Your Facebook tactic is exactly mine, too -- I just skim past the stuff I don't agree with. (Sometimes it's pretty amusing.)

E: I did read somewhere that she has had some mental illness issues in the past. Perversely, that made me feel better! Maybe this really was some kind of episode.

Linda Sue: Yeah, Norma McCorvey is a sad case. I can see why she might feel some guilt, but rather than dealing with it appropriately she's swung to the other extreme. I think a lot of peoples' reactions are defined by the others they spend time with, and she is immersed in that crazy Texas culture. (Which, incidentally, also produced Michelle Shocked.)