I barely slept last night because my brain was full of images of wire hanger back-alley abortions and Mexican drug cartel torture tactics. Since I conduct anthropological research in a Mexican border city, the latter images haunt me fairly regularly. However, the images of rusty hanger abortions were completely my fault for watching Amanda Palmer's Oasis video before bedtime. Bad idea.
I find this video incredibly disturbing, as I imagine most people do for very diverse reasons. Oasis disturbs in a unique, and, I would argue, productive way, which speaks to Amanda Palmer's genius. In the video, a teenage girl gets drunk at a party, is raped, gets pregnant, and has an abortion. But, despite the dark content, the form is comedic, upbeat, and poppy. This tension between heavy, dark content and silly, happy form is part of what makes the video disturbing for many viewers. But for me, the most disturbing part is that this girl is really stupid. It's hard to identify with her. She doesn't even seem to care about all that is happening around her, because she's much more concerned with sending a letter to and receiving an autographed photograph from her favorite band, Oasis.
On my first few viewings of the video, I the ambivalence the video provoked left me in a lose-lose situation, morally speaking. If I identified with the main character as woman who has been raped or had an abortion, then I would run the risk of also identifying with her stupidity and feeling foolish. If I cast her off as an idiot and didn't feel any kind of sympathy with her, that might also leave me unsympathetic to her rape and wire-hanger abortion. And that would put me in the uncomfortable place of almost, for a brief second, having something in common with the protesters with the "Jesus Hates You" signs outside of the abortion clinic.
And then I remembered, "Oh yeah. Some people are really silly and vapid. But they don't deserve to be raped. And they deserve access to safe abortions. Wait, DUH."
I'd like to thank Amanda Palmer for totally f**king with my head and then allowing me to remember what's really important.
The video has been criticized for “mak[ing] light of rape, religion and abortion." Amanda Palmer's response: "WHEN YOU CANNOT JOKE ABOUT THE DARKNESS OF LIFE, THAT’S WHEN THE DARKNESS TAKES OVER."
Amen, sister. Amen.
You can read Amanda Palmer's blog post about the song and its censorship here.