I was disgusted, some days ago, to read a thread on Drowned In Sound about Amy Winehouse. The gist of a number of individuals' more or less eloquently phrased perspectives was: "Amy Winehouse deserves to die".
So ... Drowned in Sound in puerile, attention-seeking fatuousness shock. I admit: no great surprise. I'm sure this kind of hateful commentary is played out hundreds of times every day, all over the internet.
But it had me thinking about the horrendous borderline-mysogyny with which artists such as Amy Winehouse are regarded by certain men.
(Billicatons, for those not privileged by acquaintance, is a man. He has some understanding – albeit often shrinking, reluctant, latex-gloved – of the species.)
Amy Winehouse's Appearance
Would a male artist ever be berated to anything like this degree – and with this degree of bile – for his appearance? For 'letting himself go'? Obviously not. This is hardly new: double standards according to gender.
Winehouse is regarded with hatred on account of her appearance. "Ugly bitch"? Excuse me? Since when did this become ground for criticism?
I find Winehouse's drug-ravaged appearance extremely disturbing. I am repulsed by the sinewy arms, the sunken-eyed, snarling face. I acknowledge these reactions. I am repulsed similarly by photos of famine-starved children: it's a horrible, horrible sight. There's no disapprobation in my repulsion – but I'd be lying if I claimed not to find these things deeply unpleasant aesthetically. These are humans that are looking wrong. As humans are not meant to look.
But it is not Winehouse's responsibility to pander to my aesthetic sensibilities. I'd've thought this were obvious. She is under no obligation whatsoever to give a toss about her appearance on my account, on her fans' account ... and certainly not on the account of the asinine, poseurish majority-stakeholders of Drowned In Fucking Sound.
Okay, so far so obvious. I reserve nothing but contempt for those bestial, hate-filled wretches who make such criticisms. But my sentiment would, I suppose, by echoed by most "reasonable" people.
Slyly Insinuating Pricks
What I find in many ways worse than the open misogyny of the above is the covert, self-deluding misogyny of those who ground their hatred of Winehouse on other factors. Who attempt to advance rational arguments justifying their irrational loathing.
"I don't hate her because of what she does or who she is; I just hate her for her bland music."
Now hold on right there.
Did you say bland?
You smug, ridiculous, hypocritical little prick. Winehouse's music is by no rational criterion – and here I will take no objections – bland. Sure, relative to Mahler. But relative to Vengaboys? Relative to Jessica Simpson? Relative to Chris de Burgh? Relative to that godawful Adiemus shit?
By anyone's criterion of blandness (seriously, I challenge anyone to come up with one for which this is not true), you'd have to get through a hell of a lot before you reached Amy Winehouse.
You may find her music not to your taste. You may find her voice annoying. You may consider it overproduced, derivative, simplistic ... And I may disagree or concur to whatever degree on each point. But her music cannot attract hatred on grounds of blandness.
Any niggardly bastard who tries to construct a rational, musically-founded argument in support of virulent hatred deserves worse than contempt.
(I don't know what's worse than contempt, but that bastard deserves it.)
I quite like Amy Winehouse, actually. Her music is never going to be special to me, to make me consider things in a new light. I do not love any of her songs, and I do not often listen to her albums.
But, sometimes, I put on her music and think: Yes. This is good. She has a good voice. She sings interestingly, about unusual things. The songs are very well produced, and the fusion of retro stylings and ultra-contemporary lyrical references is genuinely challenging and innovative in a mainstream pop context.
I for one would be hugely sorry if she were to die.
But, then again, were she the blandest of the bland, I reckon I'd still be sorry.
Here's her last.fm site, then. Listen to some of it. Bland? Deserving of death?