Charles Krafft had me asking the question of how far artists can go round the twist before screwing up impressions of their work. Now comes Michelle Shocked. I’d never been a huge fan of her work, which doesn’t mean I didn’t like it if someone put it on a stereo. I just never bought any of it. Still, her public persona as I knew it would have had me put her on the 100 Celebrities Least Likely To Sound Like Fred Phelps list, if I’d ever bothered writing one.
I guess I’m glad I didn’t.
At Yoshi’s San Francisco on Sunday night, singer Michelle Shocked pretty much shocked her audience by saying, among other things, “God hates fags and you can tweet that I said so.” This came about 90 minutes into the show, in the middle of a rant against gay marriage, e-mailed James Patterson, who was there. Something like two-thirds of the crowd walked out.
From the looks of things, Michelle Shocked has successfully alienated most of the music community, including fans, bookers, and her own publicist, which is a considerable achievement in one night. Assuming she can’t put the whole thing down to having recently switched to Ambien, her harangue has wrecked her career. (The only fans she could pick up with her tirade live in Topeka, and I don’t get the impression that they have enough spare cash to keep M.S. in the lifestyle to which she’s accustomed.)
Her case is similar to Charles Krafft’s, with one possible distinction. Krafft’s holocaust denial forces a wholesale reevaluation of not only his character, but also his past work because it incorporates fascist and white supremacist imagery. I’m not sure if any of M.S.’s song catalog depended on “ironic” incorporations of homophobic imagery–I’m guessing none, given how much her rant surprised her fans–so while M.S.’s career might be spoiled and her character stained with bigotry, her past work might be able avoid the taint of her disgrace.
UPDATE 3/20: Apparently Michelle Shocked has issued an apology.
I do not, nor have I ever, said or believed that God hates homosexuals (or anyone else). I said that some of His followers believe that. I believe intolerance comes from fear, and these folks are genuinely scared. When I said “Twitter that Michelle Shocked says “God hates faggots,” I was predicting the absurd way my description of, my apology for, the intolerant would no doubt be misinterpreted. The show was all music, and the audience tweets said they enjoyed it. The commentary came about ten minutes later, in the encore.
And to those fans who are disappointed by what they’ve heard or think I said, I’m very sorry: I don’t always express myself as clearly as I should. But don’t believe everything you read on facebook or twitter. My view of homosexualtiy has changed not one iota. I judge not. And my statement equating repeal of Prop 8 with the coming of the End Times was neither literal nor ironic: it was a description of how some folks – not me – feel about gay marriage.
Umm…okay. I suppose it’s reasonable to take her at her word on this and move on, except to say to M.S. that if she should, in the future, find it tempting to describe or make apologies for intolerant Christians, she might want to run her remarks through a few drafts, and by a few trusted friends (including some outside the believing community), before dropping them on stage.