Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Sam Patlove
There's a b-level animated movie that my kids like watching, on occasion, that's a take on the old fables (or are they fairy tales?) of Tom Thumb and Thumbelina. The six-inch tall Thumbelina, just like Pinocchio and Big Bird before her, got mixed up in a circus racket run by a money-grubbing, evil-doer master of ceremonies forced to perform multiple shows a night and to live a life of a show biz prisoner. The portly scourge, who's after one thing and one thing only, only sees dollar signs when he looks at his collection of "freaks." He calls them all rejects, over and over again, likely reinforcing the thought in all of their cartoon heads, for a while at least. Thumbelina, depressed as shit, finally decides to fight the idea, escapes and insists that she is no reject. We have to remind our kids, every time that word is uttered, that it's not a nice word and that there are no rejects. It's easier to say than to prove and it's still easier to say than to feel, if by chance you might actually feel like you might be one.
The music of The Dresden Dolls, the cabaret duo from Boston - made up of Amanda "Fucking" Palmer and Brian Viglione is the perfect supplementary material for a follow-up discussion about being so ostracized or tossed to the curb, about being made to feel about as small as a turd, trod on or ignored. Every song that the two write is rife with emotions that could only spring from the breast of someone who's been banished - or at least feels banished - to the darkest corridors of existence, where are of the floor dirt, trash and broken insect wings and legs are swept to be forgotten about. They bring about a sense of battling through the isolation, of overcoming any unfair treatment and just living the life that someone was meant and has every right to live. They don't need to conform. They can just continue going about being themselves, even if they look different, even if they feel different and dejected.
Palmer sings, "You'd rather be a bitch than an ordinary broken heart" and you wonder if that's just a blanket statement, one that could be extended or just truncated to the idea that, "You'd rather be a bitch than ordinary." She sings about "watching the vultures count their hours," knowing that they're coming back around for seconds and thirds, the knives sharpened.
Dresden Dolls music is written by the outcasts, for the outcasts, imploring them to tell all the fucks and all those with incorrigible hatred in their hearts to go screw themselves. It's a reminder that something like this, from a recent Robert Downey Jr. interview in Esquire, where he says, "People never change because they're under threat or under duress. They change because they see something that makes their life seem valuable enough to start moving toward a life worth living." It's a demand to just live how you want. Nothing else matters. None of the jag-offs matter.