Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Conundrum of Yoko

Even after having read several different books on the topic, I find it almost impossible to have a balanced perspective on Yoko Ono. To do so, I think I would have to take several steps. Step 1 would be to divorce my affection for the Beatles and John Lennon from my opinion of Yoko. As you can see, Step 1 is virtually impossible. For better or for worse, Yoko really threw herself into the public eye as someone who wished to be associated strongly with John Lennon, and since the public always strongly associated John Lennon with the Beatles, Yoko apparently owes most of her fame to a group of artists that she didn't really have anything to do with. This doesn't make her a terrible person, exactly, but it doesn't make her someone that I particularly admire.

However, a lot of people have blamed her for something that wasn't really her fault anyway: the break-up of the Beatles. John was getting restless no matter what. He had a rebellious streak a mile wide, and I think when he started sensing that the public wanted him to stay in the Beatles and keep writing songs with cheerful Paul, he wanted to tell them to fuck off. So along comes Yoko, who's completely disinterested in the Beatles, and she starts encouraging John's rebelliousness, and he's feeling straitjacketed and defensive, so he just goes for it. My point is that there were a lot of stupid Beatles fans who ignored the individual Beatles as people and just wanted them to stay together and be great, at whatever personal cost. These people hated Yoko because she "broke up the Beatles" and, by extension, made their lives worse. These people are annoying. They are the "unrealistic" Beatles fans.

The "unrealistic" Beatles fans have been so annoying that they've created another group of people, the "Beatles De-mythifiers." Pitchfork.com would be the perfect nest for Beatles De-mythifiers. The "Beatles De-mythifiers" are tired of hearing people talk about how great the Beatles were, they downplay the Beatles' importance in rock, and, as a strange byproduct of the de-mythification, they hold up Yoko as a sort of misunderstood hero. The "Beatles De-mythifiers" are just as annoying as the "Unrealistics." They base their opinions on irritation rather than honest evaluation.

Finally, we must keep in mind that for most people, "Unrealistics" and De-mythifiers" included, one single event has given Yoko essentially a free pass for the rest of her life: the murder of her husband. Everyone felt so bad about hating her guts before, that once John got shot, they decided to leave her alone, or even try to like her, no matter how weird she was. It's been 26 years, but still I think people hesitate to rip on Yoko because they feel like it's somehow "insulting the aggrieved". Again, it's an instance of people having sympathy for Yoko not because of anything positive she actually did. Does that make her a bad person? Not really. But it doesn't make her all that great either.

I think the real Yoko is just someone who's very confused and not particularly eager to be honest. The one thing that's really annoying is that people keep approaching her as some sort of authority on John (and even as some sort of authority on the Beatles) when, from what I've read, she really isn't. But she keeps on playing the role as if nothing's wrong with it. Then she complains that people always criticize her! We're not criticizing her, we're just calling her out on perpetuating an image that simply isn't true. She can keep trying to perpetuate it, and every time, we'll keep calling her on it. It's not even good for her, probably. She's 70 years old and she's still confused as hell.

Bottom line: Yoko's not evil. She's just puzzling.

4 comments:

yoggoth said...

I would put it like this: Yoko's not evil, she's just a talentless jerk.

Little Earl said...

Well, those who have a taste for such things say that she is a talented conceptual artist. Indeed she was relatively well-known in that field before she even met John.

The jerk part, of course, is up for debate.

yoggoth said...

Where pop music is concerned, she has little talent.

Little Earl said...

Since I have heard very little of her music, and since I like to keep an open mind before I judge the work of an artist who has garnered a reputation among stupid people as "automatically sucking," I will refrain from giving my opinion at this time. However, it seems fair to say that if her husband were not John Lennon, she never would have had a musical career. You certainly don't hear anyone calling Linda McCartney a neglected musical genius.

However, I do like Elvis Costello's cover of "Walking On Thin Ice."