On The Value of Story

after following the Evelyn Evelyn controversy for a while, and venting to The Husband about it, he suggested that I write a blog.  my argument was that my blog is pretty much solely about children, culture, politics and general domestic pursuits.  however, after thinking about it, the fact that this controversy has even arisen says something about our culture, and the culture that our children will be growing up in.  so I felt I had to stand up, in defense of story.

I’ve been a Jason Webley ( www.jasonwebley.com ) fan for about 8 years now.  I’ve been a Dresden Dolls ( http://www.dresdendolls.com/main1.htm ) fan since he started touring with them and I checked them out on the theory that anyone that Jason Webley works with is badass (including the Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band {http://www.bigdamnband.com/}).

so, when I heard Jason Webley and Amanda Palmer were involved in a project together, Evelyn Evelyn, I was immediately curious.  after doing some research on myspace ( www.myspace.com/evelynevelyn ) and youtube, I was incredibly entertained.  also, as a long-time Webley fan, I was cynical.  this is, after all, the man who faked his own death annually, and I witnessed it several times.  I was never emotionally distressed, though I did get emotionally involved in those shows.  however, it was always through appreciating the value of story.  he was telling an incredible story.  I never saw it as a mockery of people who had actually died, or even as insensitive.  it’s always been art, and story.

Story: “a narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the hearer or reader; tale.”

is Jason Webley the first person to tell a story without mentioning that it was fictitious?  hell no!  telling stories this way is an age-old tradition.  C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy is a fabulous example.  so is JT LeRoy.  sometimes, that is the way to tell a story.  through a character.

Jason Webley’s tales, as painful as they have ever been, have always been lighthearted, joyful and inspirational.  so when I learned that Evelyn Evelyn had become incredibly controversial, and had offended many people, I was taken aback.  many people had become emotionally invested in Evelyn Evelyn, the tragic story of two conjoined twin girls, who had led a painful, exploited life, and started making music together.  the songs are lighthearted and humorous (in a somewhat dark sense), and The Wizard has been running around yelling “Elephant!  Elephant!” since he first heard it.  if you listen to the songs, you might notice that one of the girls does have a startlingly deep voice (a fact that Jason mentions in his blog http://www.jasonwebley.com/weblog/ , which was made solely for the purpose of confronting the drama surrounding Evelyn Evelyn).  if you watch any of the videos of Webley and Palmer discussing the project, you notice them giggling and exchanging secretive grins.  I will not say here if my opinion is whether or not I believe that Webley and Palmer ARE Evelyn and Evelyn Neville, because I have far too much respect for Story.

I’ve spoken before about the folly of excessive politically correct-ness.

all of us have pretended, as children, to be someone who we were not.  and many of the stories and games that were most empowering were the ones where we were dealing with incredible odds.  I remember after I saw “The Jewel of the Nile”, I told everyone for YEARS that I had consumption, and would be dead before the year was out.  I dare anyone to say that they did not, at some point, climb into a piece of oversized clothing with a friend or sibling and claim to be conjoined.  was this because we were heartless, insensitive children?  NO.  it’s because we knew and respected the value of story, something I feel like we are losing in this culture.

the risk of being excessively PC is the risk that we will feel the desire to compare ourselves to others.  the desire to be “more PC than thou”, is dangerous, because then we start looking for things to judge and criticize.  instead of appreciation, inspiration and awe, we feel the urge to be the critic, and start looking for problems and fallacies in the things that we see and hear.

storytelling is arguably the most ancient form of art, and often becomes the most intricate.  in the form that Webley and Palmer are working, their project involves not just storytelling, but song-writing, character development and performance.  try and find any performer who is not developing a character, or stage presence.  do we criticize them for this, or do we appreciate the entertainment and thought-provocation that they’ve gifted us with?

I told The Wizard the child-appropriate parts of the Evelyn Evelyn story, and watched him become emotionally invested in it.  and then I played a video of an Evelyn Evelyn performance for him, and watched the dawning of realization on his face.  the result?  a smile.  as we age, we must not lose our understanding of the value of story.  Einstein said “The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not, who can no longer wonder, who can no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle.”

We should appreciate that Evelyn Evelyn gives us the gift of the mysterious.  Their story makes us feel and imagine, and, heaven forbid, even makes us laugh.

there are many people who disagree with me.  I’m not trying to accuse them of having a drive to find fallacies in the world around them, or of being a snuffed out candle.  their views are valid, in their own right.  I’m just urging people to try to see things in a different light.  if you like, you can find an opposing view at http://disabledfeminists.com/2010/02/09/evelyn-evelyn-ableism-ableism/  it’s a well-stated blog by a woman who is offended by Evelyn Evelyn.

In closing though, I would like to say, respect story.  respect the artists who continue to give it to us in it’s truest sense.  also, go and listen to Evelyn Evelyn ( www.myspace.com/evelynevelyn ) and, if you are so inclined, buy the album.  it’s coming out March 30th, and I’m all over it, because good lord.  it’s some good shit.

-Domestic Anarchist

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