Rebekah J. Buchanan

Writer, Teacher, Researcher

Thoughts on David Bowie

My first David Bowie album (and it was a cassette) was “Let’s Dance.” I immediately fell in love. There was something about the music that drew me in. I was twelve. I was listening to Duran Duran and Echo and the Bunnymen and starting to decide musically imgreswhere I was headed. Once I heard Bowie, I knew for sure. I had found my music. It was Bowie who brought me to Glam, Britpop, Punk. It was Bowie with his different colored eyes, his gender fluid style and how he brought together acting, theatre, and music that made me realize I had found my people. He was an innovator and he helped those of us who felt like outsiders find our place.

My first reaction when I heard that David Bowie had died was sadness. Bowie was like my gateway drug and there are many strong memories attached to him and who I picture him to be. But we get older, and as we get older how we view life and the people who touch us in life in different ways. We have new experiences, new beliefs, and new ways of seeing the world. That’s why, as the death of David Bowie was complicated with the discussion of charges of rape as well as his statutory rape of young, teenage groupies it is important for me to address how I am starting to think about and address these complexities.

My first thoughts were to sit back and watch things fold out. I am a fan. I have important memories connected to Bowie. But, I today I listened to someone talking about Bowie leading a “life well-lived” and I needed to start to write about what this means. Did Bowie lead a life well-lived? Is Bowie someone to live up to and admire? If so, how do we do this without also addressing those things he did that are problematic?

imagesThe question becomes, how do we remember someone who also has a history of abuse, and for me even more problematic a history that many are choosing to sweep under the rug because “Bowie was a genius” or “it was so long ago” or the woman who talks about her experiences with Bowie (and other stars such as Jimmy Page) said that she was consenting. But, does this make this okay?

I would argue no. I would argue that Bowie allows us to get a deeper understanding into the larger problems with celebrity culture, and in particular the rock-n-roll culture that creates these spaces where older men use their celebrity to influence young girls. We find it easy to forgive Bowie because “who wouldn’t want to lose their virginity to Bowie?” Yet, when we think about those same 14 year-old girls (7th graders) who have been raped by other men Bowie’s age (their mid to late 20s) who are not celebrities or those who are not rock stars (recently there is the case of Warren Jeffs, but there are also many other examples of religious leaders) we do not find it as easy to forgive, or even push to the side.

But, we need to discuss what this means for us us as a culture. How can we start to have discussions around artists such as David Bowie in honest ways that will allow for change in how women and girls are viewed and treated in our culture? As a society we need to make some real changes about not only celebrity but how we talk about celebrities as real people; people who do some terrible and problematic things.

Yes, I will mourn the death of David Bowie. He holds memories of a specific time in my life that are dear to me. He influenced music, fashion, and even discussions of gender and sexuality in some real and important ways, but this does not mean I will forget about the other parts of Bowie. I will not forget that he chose to use his celebrity to seduce and exploit young women. This is problematic. It is something that we need to discuss. And, I write this piece to add to that discussion.

If you are interested in more people writing about Bowie and thinking about Bowie inimages-1 more complex ways, see:

Reconciling David Bowie’s Genius with Rape

Remembering Bowie: The Man, The Legend, The Sexual Abuser

David Bowie was wonderful. He was also an abuser. How do we handle that?

The Complicated Sexual History of David Bowie

The Complexity of Mourning a Celebrity Accused of Sexual Abuse

One comment on “Thoughts on David Bowie

  1. Elke Hassell
    February 15, 2016

    But was it proven beyond reasonable doubt. Was there a court case, was he officially charged or was it just an accusation without follow up. I would like to know please. For there is one thing like yourself I do not tolerate if he like R. Kelly did these despicable things, how is it that they got away with it, that there names were not dragged through the Media 24/7 that everybody kept mum about it and still does, why was it that Michael Jackson that was proven 100 percent to be innocent had to endure such appalling slander in life as still in death, when his cases can be found all over the net under wikipedia etc. for full details, this is what I don’t get at all. When is it o.k. to totally ruin a mans life that did so much for the well being of children as well as adults all over the world and was railroaded by a egomaniac Prosecutor who’s only aim was to “kill” Michael Jackson over a period of 17 years. I was not even aware of Bowies past that’s how little was said about it.

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This entry was posted on January 14, 2016 by in Blog and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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