Labels: Free Comic Book Day
Rockabilly, Country and a lot of fun with music – that is Tennessee Menace in a nutshell.
The four cowboys from Southern Germany interpret their own songs as well as select cover songs in a wide variety of styles: thumping and aching like an old train, with cool swing rhythms, and almost universally their speed rivals gun shots in the Old West.
Tennessee Menace met – more or less by chance – at a few jam sessions in spring 2006, and not even three months later they had their first concert together. In the following two years Tennessee Menace played 40 gigs at home and in several European countries. They were the support group for Restless, Frantic Flintstones, Meteors, and Rockabilly Mafia, to name but a few.
"...and never forget: every sin's alright!"... Tennessee Menace's words to live by!
Go to their page to listen to their randy track, "Shake the Bacon", which they say is inspired by Bettie's "stag reels".
Two irreducible truths inform Bettie’s enduring popularity as a “good bad girl”:
Bettie is a devout Christian.
Bettie sees encouraging the erotic imaginations of strangers through very provocative photos as absolutely consistent with her beliefs as a Christian.
Hugh Hefner dubbed her, “The girl next door with a little touch of kink.” Bettie never played at being a “bad” girl. She was happy to be a good girl who loved to pose.
In our current politically and ideologically polarized society, the idea of combining faith with sexuality in such a free, joyous way seems strangely more dangerous and more outlandish than it did in the 1950’s.
Just such thoughts came to the fore on a compelling website, ADULT CHRISTIANITY, the brainchild of MISS POPPY DIXON. The site is a politically charged, bitingly sarcastic and intellectually disciplined critique of (in Miss Dixon’s words) “socially conservative and politically aggressive Christianity”. Unlike left-wing screeds, Miss Dixon charges that contemporary, politicized Christianity is, first and foremost, a betrayal of the Christian message. Although she doesn’t pull punches, Miss Dixon clearly understands religion and takes it seriously. As such, when it comes to the Religious Right’s stances on sexuality, sexual identity, eroticism, feminism and reproductive rights, Miss Dixon is able to make her arguments in a way that is powerful and logically consistent with the Religious Right’s own belief system.
Here’s a link to Miss Poppy Dixon’s article on Bettie Page. It’s a good read!
Following up on this article, Miss Dixon was kind enough to elaborate on her thoughts about Bettie Page, Christianity and her own personal experiences with faith…
How did Adult Christianity begin?
In 1993 I was a student in the Conceptual Arts program at San Francisco State University. I used Hypercard, a precursor to the web, to create an art project based on my own non-linear relationship to Christianity. A couple of years later I reworked the project and put it online. At the time I felt that popular Christianity pandered to the smallest and meanest in Americans. Popular Christianity infantilized us. It depicted Jesus as little more than a harmless imaginary friend. Adult Christianity, in contrast, demonstrated a brainy, lusty, gin-soaked, risible model of faith.
What is your feeling about religion's role in your own life?
Religion played different roles during different periods of my life. I had a difficult childhood and religion made a big difference, both positive and negative. In the early 70s, as a young teenager, I was involved in Shiloh (Youth Revival Center) – a communal network of Jesus freaks.
It took me years and years, decades really, to undo the negative fear-based teachings I learned from Shiloh and the fundamentalist community churches I attended. As an adult my relationship to religion evolved through more benign forms.
Currently I would say that I am a practicing non-theist, though I dabble in antitheism. There is an amazing force of life that churns through the universe. I am part of it and always will be. But I, as this particular personality, will not survive. I do not believe in God as a being, with personality.
In America, there seems to be a fear of sexuality, especially from a female-empowered, feminist perspective. Americans at large -- male and female -- seem uncomfortable with women genuinely expressing or exploring their sexuality, yet America seems to have little problem exploiting male lust and women's desire to be beautiful in any number of ways... from burger ads to, perversely, diet ads. Why, in your considered opinion, will America accept a woman being crassly objectified to sell Doritos, but is outraged by legitimate erotic art?
There is an expectation, for everyone - male and female and those in between, to be the subject of their world, yet all the while we know we are the world’s object – we are dust, star stuff. We long to resolve this truth, either by being objectified ourselves, or by exploring that idea vicariously through seeing the other – women, children, gays, the poor - objectified. By seeing others objectified our role as subject is affirmed - I have the power to buy the Doritos that some other used her body to sell.
On the other hand, when the traditionally objectified woman acts in her own interest, it threatens the subjectivity of those in power. Bettie inadvertently made objects of those who consumed her. That’s where she ran afoul of the law. As long as she was a passive thinglet she was safe. But when she posed in bondage, explicitly spelling out the power roles, she stripped men bare. They, and their raw desires, were exposed.
U.S. Senators did not want impressionable American sons viewing power as dependent on consensus, or worse yet desire, but rather on absolute immutable truths trussed up tightly in gender, race, and class.
How familiar are you with Bettie Page?
I’ve read about her, seen her photographs, and watched her dance videos. I saw Mary Harron’s movie. It was beautifully executed, but the narrative fell flat.
I don’t think anyone really knows enough about Bettie to tell her story. It’s the same way with Jesus – he is this great erotic figure about whom very little is known. Because so little is known about Jesus or Bettie, they become perfect tablets on which to pen our own internal dramas.
If you were familiar with her photos prior to the movie, what were your feelings towards them?
I love the beach photos. The bondage photos are fine, but not my cup of tea - I’m all thumbs. I’m very fond of Bettie’s dance videos. I’m surprised no one has invented a Bettiesize aerobics class.
Have you seen Velvet Hammer Burlesque? It’s a Los Angeles performance group that overtly honors Bettie Page. I’ve seen them perform – they’re absolutely amazing. They’ve picked up where Bettie left off. They exude the same joy, the same energy.
It seems, as well as we can track such things, that Bettie has become more important as a sexual icon to women than as an object of desire for men... that is, Bettie's female fans (at least ardent ones) are increasingly female. What lessons do you think young women can draw from Bettie?
I suspect that Bettie Page had a lot to say. She suffered a lot of abuse over the course of her life. I don’t think that kind of suffering is something Bettie would want her fans to either experience or emulate. Young women need to be audacious, to tell their stories fearlessly and make sure that they are heard. When young women speak for themselves, I believe they’re speaking for a Bettie that few heard.
One of the reasons people are so attracted to Bettie as an icon is that she promotes a very healthy (and oddly un-American) view of sexuality: one that is not based on shame, guilt and secrecy; and a form of sexuality that doesn't view Christianity (in the "love thy neighbor" variety, not in the "world domination" variety) and erotic imagination as mutually exclusive. Why do you think this particular position is still one that provokes so much controversy?
Bettie Page confused the roles of subject and object through joy. She frustrated her own objectification by joyfully embracing it. That same joy made objects of the men who watched her. My sense is that men didn’t so much want her, as they wanted to be her. That was the real perversity.
I don't know that I found so much joy in Bettie's bondage shots - to me those are very technical, so I don't know that I'm the best person to comment on them. I’m speaking more of her photography modeling (for camera clubs) and the fellows who would photograph her. I think they longed for, what must have seemed to them, a freer and more joyful relationship to sexuality and the world - in that sense they'd rather "be" her - without, of course, acknowledging the downsides of being a woman (less pay, discrimination, etc.)
When I think of Bettie I think of Luke 7:36-50, a very saucy story of Jesus anointed by a fallen woman at a dinner party. The hosts of the party protested the woman’s status. Jesus replied,
“Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” Luke 7:47
Loving and sinning (transgressing) and forgiving are all tied together. The sourpusses at the dinner party had little love or forgiveness, because they could not (publicly) trangress.
Bettie Page loved much.
Do you feel her bondage shots are demeaning in any way or encourage male aggression?
Men don't really need bondage to take out their frustrations on women. I've never been so humiliated in my life than when I worked in the corporate world. That's where the truly sick **** plays out. The Senators want to believe (and for others to believe) that power is ordained through a mystical and holy hierarchy. Bondage and kink lay that fallacy bare. Power is not ordained - it's gained either through consensus or through force and fable - like slavery and the Bible.
The conflict between faith and. atheism appears to be heating up . Either you are for Darwin, "San Francisco values" and sexual empowerment, or you are for Jesus, guns and repression. What's your assessment of the culture wars today? Who's winning, who's losing, who's right, who's wrong?
A very successful marketing guru once said, “Being right is the booby prize.”
Let them, whoever they are, be right. Let the babies have their bottles.
Our job is to tell the truth, irrepressibly, joyfully, continually, and if our bone structure supports it, with short bangs.
What role can fans of Bettie Page play in making the world safe for empowered sexual expression without fear of censorship?
There’s always a need for more bad girls in the world (female and male) – girls that can tell the truth, transgress, love the people, and forgive themselves and others. Bad girls needed.