Thursday, September 10, 2015

Winehouse got shunted into one of two boxes: Whore or infant, filthy degenerate or misbehaving little girl, sometimes both in the same article. She was sick, yes. But her greater crime was to be unladylike—blunt, risk-taking, rule-breaking, openly and unapologetically sexual. When a man sneers in the face of convention, he’s a rock star. When a woman does it, she’s a dirty joke. The feeding frenzy around Winehouse was a way to shove her back into a more stereotypical femininity: To make her a Slut, or a Crazy Bitch, something we already knew how to talk about. It was a way to avoid dealing with her on her own terms, and to demonstrate that girls who colored outside the lines got punished.
Now, she’s a Dead Girl—the most helpless, passive feminine stereotype of all. She's been punished for her sins with death, and can sin no more. And now, we love her. Or we love the tragedy of her. Or we love being right about her. It’s hard to say. It’s not just NME that did an about-face; the Daily Mail, the same outlet that told us to deplore Amy Winehouse without pity, ran the headline after her death, “Don’t judge Amy Winehouse by her demons.” That dichotomy—the awful, stupid, ugly woman, and the beloved, brilliant, beautiful corpse—defines how we talk about Winehouse to this day.