Singled Out: Dead Fame's Joan Crawford
The concept of identity construction and performance as related to Joan held significant interest for me. Why Joan, I'm not sure; it must have been the birthday card I received that year that features a portrait of Joan on the cover with a note underneath, "Don't make me go all Joan Crawford on your ass!" The inside message reads, "No wire hangers! Only happy birthdays!" Needless to say, the card was a great choice for someone like me, since I have a great appreciation for camp, icons, and saucy language.
What gets me excited is the way the idea and image of Joan Crawford has, from the beginning of her career, really, and definitely since the publication of Mommie Dearest and the now classic (in my humble opinion) film of the same name, been used in the formulation of cultural concepts. Joan went from Hollywood poster child of womanhood, success, and later became labeled as "box office poison," and finally, after somewhat starting on her way toward cult-ish status in 1970's Trog, Joan's image underwent the pinnacle of transformation with the release of Mommie Dearest, staring Faye Dunaway. With Mommie Dearest, and Dunaway's over-the-top performance, Joan Crawford became hyperreal, and the image of Joan Crawford became ripe for transgression, subversion, camp, and tongue-in-cheek performances/uses.
Considering how the cultural identity of "Joan Crawford" had already been moved so far beyond the woman herself, I wanted in on the game, and that's what happened when I was writing the lyrics to our own version of "Joan Crawford." I wanted to bring together the madness, abuse-No wire hangers!-and crazed identity attributed to Joan in Mommie Dearest with the woman herself; the hyperreal and transgressive idea of Joan is instructive, particularly in regards to the notion of discipline, which is both punative and revelatory-it can move you forward, even if via pain or challenge. The verse and chorus in the song is somewhat of a mix between feelings being noted by someone experiencing conflict related to the pursuit of desires that might be painful yet pleasurable, enlightening even, and receiving advice from Joan, fan mail style: "Show your love some discipline. Yours, Joan."
"Cross the line, and keep on moving:" I think that's a message Joan herself would stand behind.