Ziggy Stardust died and we’re still here. So I guess I should type this fucking thing out and let you know what’s going on with local music over the next few weeks. I’m not sure I feel so much like it. But life continues. On Mars or anywhere else – so I’m told.
Or maybe we should chat first. There’s an uncomfortable elephant in the room that every fiber of my rational thought process screams “NO JEFF. DON’T GO NEAR IT” while every instinct demands I poke and prod at the gears moving around some of the uglier notions this man’s life and death set in motion.
David Bowie was a transcendent, nearly luminescent being. Unconventional. Fearless. Wicked with wit and humor and seemingly predisposed towards a scathing critique of injustice, disparity, and abuse of privilege. For many, many people, he was an transformative figure. But he was also fashioned of mortal, venal clay. Maybe guilty of making some pretty ugly decisions at points in his life. Possibly prone towards exercising his own unwarranted power in some less than admirable ways. This dichotomy is nowhere more apparent than on my newsfeed, where tribute after tribute scrolling by is occasionally interrupted by a sentiment to the effect of “No. Fuck that guy.”
David Bowie was also, by some accounts, a rapist.
. . .
If you don’t know the story, essentially: the Thin White Duke, early in his career, pursued and engaged in sexual congress with a group of teenagers that included a fourteen year old girl in the early 70s. If you aren’t familiar with the details, you can catch up with them here:
Trigger Warning: If you are a victim of sexual abuse, these may not be safe for you.“I lost my virginity to David Bowie.” This includes a first hand account of the events taking place in the 70s between Bowie and a group of teenage girls sometimes referred to as “The Band Aides.”Bowie Won’t Face A Rape Indictment Details surrounding a 1987 Rape Allegation against Bowie.
. . .
All of this has raised some disturbing questions and or discussions throughout my various external thought-feeds. Some of what I’m seeing?
By grieving over his passing we’re excusing his abusive, criminal behavior. Aiding and abetting similar abuse that goes on in this country daily.
The celebration of Bowie’s life despite horrific allegations while black artists such as R. Kelly, Chris Brown, and Bill Cosby are excoriated daily is a racist double standard.
Teenagers are incapable of consenting to sex with people a decade older than them. That the resultant power imbalance makes informed consent impossible (no matter how the alleged victims feel about it,) and that defending Bowie is aiding and abetting a culture of rape that infests the social fabric of our nation.
Celebrating Bowie further traumatizes survivors of Ephebophilia.
David Bowie was scum, and a liar, and nothing he accomplished while alive is worth anything. Mourning Bowie is celebrating rape culture. Defending Bowie is defending rape culture.
I’ve watched the commentary on this over the past few days and kept my mouth, for the most part, slammed shut. Mostly because I’m still learning about the boundaries of my own privilege and how to more effectively listen. At the same time, I am possessed of a certain kind of brain and am as much a slave to it as a beneficent. It’s all too easy to fall into ‘middle aged white man explains it all to you” syndrome. And I’d like to avoid marginalizing anyone with this if at all possible. Whole paragraphs of thoughts on this have been typed and then deleted. But ultimately, here’s where I am:
-- While I think there are vast differences in Cosby’s circumstances as well as the nature of what he’s accused of, he is still relevant to many people of color. Arguing as to those differences is nearly pointless. If their experiences make them feel as though Cosby’s achievements, particularly in the arena of civil rights, are being attacked and unfairly erased due to the crimes he allegedly committed? We should pay attention to what they’re saying. To wit, it is entirely inescapable that minorities in this country are punished more harshly for their crimes than whites. We have a responsibility to shut up and listen when those concerns are aired. To pay attention, and to try to change the structure of equal treatment under the law to a point where no one questions the fairness of punishment for a crime due to the color of a person’s skin. None of this is to say he should be excused, but those of us empowered by class and race should maybe stay in listen-only mode and let his community handle the public condemnations.
-- There should be no room for arguing that what Bowie did then could be acceptable in any way shape or form were it done today.
-- There will never be any shortage of people with questionable moral structures willing to explain why someone wasn’t actually raped. They don’t need us contributing to that in defense of a man who’s left the world.
. . .
Ziggy Stardust is dead. He doesn’t need my voice in his defense. While he very likely did not give all that much of a damn what anyone thought of him during his life, he almost certainly no longer does now. The living, breathing people who feel marginalized by the defense of his actions are more important than his legacy. The public personas of artists are almost always at odds with their private realities. Art is a reflection of the human condition, but not always a reflection of the actual human making the art. The genius and contradiction of great works is that they can be absolutely false yet absolutely true at the same time. And while I feel that every possible bit of room needs to be made for the people who cannot forgive this man for whatever mistakes or evil he might have done in his days on earth, at the same time some consideration might be spared for those of us who are in mourning.
For those of us who found his art vital in reconciling our awkwardness with the rest of the world? We’ve lost the elder statesman of weird. If you don’t understand, that’s okay. But please be nice to us for the next little bit. It got really very cold outside, really very quickly. And we’re deeply in grief.
It’s entirely possible that Bowie was, at times, a villain. At other times, a hero. If we’re each and every one of us honest with ourselves? That statement probably applies to each and every one of us as well.. Either way. On any given number of days.
Or even just for one day.
. . .
I just learned that Alan Rickman passed away this morning. I have no words. This, is of course, the entrance ticket to middle age. The people you admire disappear, one by one, until you no longer recognize anyone or anything. And then suddenly, far sooner than you wish it, it’s your turn. He was far too young to leave us, and it’s hard not to mourn the great work he still had ahead.
“And then he greeted Death as an old friend, and went with him gladly, and, equals, they departed this life.”
Take care of yourselves, my friends. It’s a rough old world out there.