Amanda Palmer Controversy: Amanda Palmer is an easy person to dislike. She makes a lot of commotion. She’s demanding, and her rise to notoriety has been fueled mostly by her desire to treat the globe as a part piggy bank, part personal assistant. She remained stubborn in the face of criticism. She has a huge, loud, and fervently evangelical following; she’s one of those divisive public figures that are tough to admire or despise casually.
Palmer has been on the rise in recent years. Palmer, half of the Dresden Dolls’ iconic punk-cabaret duo, recently parted ways with her label and launched a crowdfunded solo career. It’s no surprise that she’s a big fan of Kickstarter: her first campaign garnered $1.2 million, and she’s been touting crowdsourcing as a new populist paradigm for art ever since, most recently in a hugely lauded TED presentation called “The Art of Asking.”
Amanda Palmer Controversy: On the internet
Amanda Palmer Controversy: On the internet, Amanda Palmer’s detractors are plenty. Some of it arises from her surprising ignorance of the social dynamics and backdrop surrounding her ostensibly revolutionary crowdfunding campaign. Her excessive volume, public outbursts, and obvious attention-seeking make detractors uncomfortable as well. They keep criticizing her for claiming attention, a platform, funds, and favors.
Because of Palmer’s propensity for accessibility and connection with her audience, as well as the fact that her public image is aggressively personal, it quickly becomes intimate. This is not an excuse for Amanda Palmer to be a public figure, for her latest TED talk’s willful class and context blindness, or for her habit of swinging one fist at an oppressive record industry while asking musicians to work for “hugs and alcohol.”
This is not a plea to free her of guilt or let her off the hook. However, when we criticize Amanda Palmer, I believe we should take a long, hard look at what we’re reacting to – and why. Palmer is a self-proclaimed anti-hero, from her record business feuds to her Wicked Queen eyebrows, in a media environment that frequently reduces women to paragons or villains with astonishingly little between ground.
It’s also worth noting that the activities for which Palmer is most frequently and harshly punished are those that contradict what public femininity is supposed to seem like – behaviors and characteristics that would sit differently on the shoulders of a male performer.
Amanda Palmer Controversy: After all, women are meant to be kind. They’re meant to accept what they’re given with a smile, and if they ask for more, they’ll get a swift and severe scolding. Or it’s only okay if they’re sufficiently feminine and apologetic about it, as if their achievements can only be measured in terms of personal passivity.
It’s a terrible catch-22 for women because any achievement achieved openly and forcefully is perceived as intrinsically unjustified. We criticize a performer for wanting attention, but if it’s one of the best predictors of her professional success, why shouldn’t she go all in?
Few reviewers overlook Palmer’s marriage to Neil Gaiman, pointing out that she’s married into a far greater fandom than she has on her own, with the extra sting of inference that she’s earned her share of their combined popularity at best by the cunning partnership — or, at worst, on her back.
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It’s only marginally significant
Amanda Palmer Controversy: It’s only marginally significant that the same critics forget that Gaiman and Palmer’s relationship began and continues to be a creative partnership; what’s more troubling is how easily they fall into the habit of attributing a woman’s professional success to the nearest well-connected guy.
If we’re going to bring Gaiman into this, let it be to demonstrate our double standard regarding Palmer. Consider the intensity and volume of Palmer’s vitriol: how regularly and, to some extent, fairly she has been reprimanded for her crimes, particularly those involving the solicitation of free labor from artists and entertainers.
Contrast this with the enthusiastic reception to Gaiman’s most recent crowdsourced project, a BlackBerry commercial campaign. The website Bleeding Cool applauds Gaiman’s creative use of “teamwork,” as well as the fact that he’s likely being paid “the GDP of a small Eastern European nation,” as well as the incredible opportunity he and BlackBerry have provided for the author’s legion of fans to produce work in nominal collaboration with their favorite storyteller — for free.
Other news sites have also emphasized Gaiman’s chance for his fans. Ownership issues with the art generated by those fans for free surfaced momentarily before quickly dissipating.