I’m getting really tired of bangs. This indie princess look is becoming a little too predictable. Maybe it’s because I’m secretly jealous and resent my stubbornly curly half-Jewish hair which would render me poodle-like if I attempted to follow suit, but it seems to me that a few too many of my fellow lady musicians (not to mention all my fellow lady indie scenesters) are starting to look exactly the same.
For white people, the haircut-with-bangs is an important symbol that a female has completed her transformation from a nerdy girl to a cool woman. In fact, if you went to high school with a nerdy white girl who moved to a big city, there is a good chance she will show up to your high school reunion with this haircut…for white people, this simple haircut makes a bold declaration by saying that the wearer is artistic, deep, and has probably dated a guy in a band you like.
Maybe it’s not so much the bangs I take issue with as it is the general fetishization of the affected vulnerability and quirkiness that bangs signify. It’s uncomfortable to me that this brand of femininity has become so marketable, a kind of fill-in-the-blanks aesthetic for the indie consumer.
There’s something inherently safe and inoffensive about the indie princess with bangs. These women do not seem dangerous. However, I admire their success and even, in some cases, have a deep respect for their music (Chan Marshall especially). But I can’t bring myself to embrace their example. They come pre-programmed with safe, indie princess problems, like minor identity crises (Jenny Lewis: “God goes where he wants/And who knows where he is not/Not in me”) and boy trouble (“Honey honey out on the sea/In the doldrums waiting for me/Me in my boat searching for he/Honey honey food for the bees”, sings Feist) – caused, undoubtedly, by heartbreakingly beautiful boys in skinny jeans and Sperry top-siders. Fucking tragic.
I prefer to take my cues from a different breed of woman. Here are a few of my favorites:
Kim Gordon totally rocks. I should probably devote a whole post to my love for Sonic Youth – they’ve managed to stay relevant since their inception, and have more influence on modern rock than most people realize. Kim’s lyrics, rarely, if ever, have to do with anything immediately recognizable beyond their visceral existential punch: “To the extent that I wear skirts and cheap nylon slips/I’ve gone native/I wanted to know the exact dimensions of hell/Does this sound simple?/Fuck you! /Are you for sale?” Kim is a well-regarded artist, a clothing designer, a mom, and an active musician. I know I won’t be half as cool as she is when I grow up, but dammit, I can try.
Emily Haines is an interesting choice for me, I think, because she does project a certain vulnerable and fragile quality. But at least with Metric (especially with the album “Live It Out,” which remains an obsession and an influence) she wrote very frankly about her self-awareness of her own objectification, especially in the song “Poster of a Girl”: “Satisfy myself/Avoid beginners/Who long to shut my mouth/Till I take one of them home/’Cause I know how it feels/Filling in the blanks/Looking on the bright side/When there is no bright side/Coming in your pants/For the off chance/With a poster of a girl.” This raw honesty about sex and self-loathing makes her real to me.
Amanda Palmer has crazy awesome energy on stage and a totally badass voice. She is also refreshingly down and dirty with her fans about her personal history (via her blog), almost uncomfortably so. One of her videos was recently banned in the UK because she seems to be “making light” of hot topic issues like rape and abortion, and I thought her response was intelligent and sane:
i could try to win points by talking about how i’ve been date raped [or how] i’ve had an abortion myself, but i actually DON’T believe those experiences should lend me any credibility, any more so than i believe the director of “life is beautiful” had to have been an auschwitz victim in order to direct that film. i should be allowed to write about, sing about, joke about anything that moves me. so should you. so should everyone. an artist’s (and a human being’s) freedom to do that, without fear of retribution, is the cornerstone of what keeps the world moving forward, not backwards, not standing still.
Well said, and true.
And the last woman I’m going to recognize today, though certainly not least:
Tori Amos got me through my painful adolescence with her weird anthems– I owe her for that if nothing else. Her piano chops are amazing, her songwriting is totally bizarre and interesting, and her voice is phenomenal. Her lyrics are completely batty and kind of awesome: “Caught a lite sneeze/Dreamed a little dream/Made my own pretty hate machine/Boys on my left side/Boys on my right side/Boys in the middle and you’re not here/Boys in their dresses and you’re not here/I need a big loan from the girl zone.” I’m not sure what the hell she’s talking about half the time, but she always manages to say something to me. And anyway, what could end this post better than a picture of her – with bangs – subverting the whole indie princess aesthetic with a Bible and menstrual blood? Thanks, Tori! My work here is done.