Billy Joel or Christie Brinkley -- Who Is The Crazy One?

This is a somewhat misleading headline, but let’s walk down this rabbit hole, shall we?

For fear that I would derail an innocent thread on Jimmy Greenfield’s Facebook wall the other day, I thought I’d come and just explore my train of thought here, instead of turning the question of whether or not Billy Joel was cool ¹ into a feminist discussion about an entirely different matter — ON the Facebook wall, that is. I’m certainly not one to shy away from a feminist discussion.

But, to that end, the instinct to do so wasn’t really my fault, because I wasn’t the one who brought up the issue at hand. Which is the problem. Somewhere in trying to figure out if Billy Joel was cool or not² came people referencing his marriage to Christie Brinkley as evidence of said coolness (or lack thereof). And as soon as her name came up, the question of how “crazy” she is came into play. At first, I thought it was was the guys who were making the judgment calls on Christie’s character, but upon further review, I find that it actually was two women and one man.  To wit:

“I have a sneaking suspicion that Christie Brinkley is a looney tunes. She’s smoking hot, but she stinks of crazy cakes.” — Woman

“…you know the saying about how even the most beautiful woman in the world has someone who’s tired of putting up with her shit…..that’s Christie Brinkley.” — Man

“Cool. I met Christie at a fundraiser in L.A. once, that broad was nuts.” –Woman

My mind was set reeling. First of all, how did we get from discussing the merits of Billy Joel’s potential for coolness to his choice in marriage? How were we now analyzing facets of Christie Brinkley’s personality instead of whether or not “River of Dreams” instantly cancelled out all manner of cool manifested by being the person who created “The Stranger?”

I was unsettled. Not only did the discussion veer into making judgments on Joel by way of Brinkley (I was happy just to ignore the old “he’s cool by virtue of marrying a supermodel” trope) but then it had to get even more out of pocket by people playing armchair psychiatrist and getting into their assessment of Brinkley’s mental stability.

Here’s the deal. There’s two issues at hand here. One, is the use of mental illness as a an adjective, and a pejorative one, at that. “He’s crazy,” “She’s being a psycho.” It’s demeaning to people with mental illness and it’s not even coming close to using the full potential of the words. If you’ve ever seen someone who’s psychotic, you wouldn’t go there. You’d say she’s irritating or offputting or in her own world or that something’s off or something. Not Christie Brinkley specifically, but …

To that end, it’s very often *women* in particular who get labelled “psychos”, “crazy bitches,” “nutcases,” “insane ex-es,” etc. Have there never been ex-es for which we have needed a restraining order? Of course there have. Has there never been a legitimately bipolar lady/guy? Of course there has. But by and large, I feel like men call women “crazy” to demean and dismiss them.

Defining someone as crazy is unsettling — it takes away their worldview and makes them an unreliable narrator. Everything they say becomes suspect. You can no longer trust their point of view. Worse yet, if someone hears they are “crazy” or “bipolar” long enough, they start to believe it. It undermines their confidence, their judgment, their intuition. The things which are so important and the life-saving internal compass by which we navigate the world? We start to second-guess and distrust them because someone has repeatedly told us that we are wrong — that we are consistently living in an alternate reality than everyone else. That our emotions, thought processes and rationales are warped, twisted and nonsensical. THAT is what happens when you are told you are “crazy” on a consistent basis. And … you start to act crazy.

So, it’s a trigger word for me. When I hear guys call women crazy. When I hear people call other people crazy. When I hear it used as a casual adjective or insult. It drives me ….. crazy.

If you want to explore more about how cool/not cool Billy Joel is, a guy I met through blogging ten years or so ago has a whole blog about him. It’s called A Year of Billy Joel.

And because I can’t stop with the Avett Brothers, here’s Seth Avett singing “Anthony’s Song (Movin’ Out):

¹ The desire to “be cool” has dogged me most of my life in some sort of see-saw dichotomy. On one end, is the me that completely does not give a flying fuck what people think of me — wears the clothes I want to wear, stands up for what I believe in, does what I want, says what I want to say, is very much my own unique, individual, weird, freak person. On the other end, is the person who very much cares what people think of me — I want people to like me, I want people to think I’m in the know, I want people to think I am kind, I want people to understand me, I want people to be on the same page as me, I want people to think I’m smart and/or intelligent, I want to be well-read, I want to like good music, I want to be on the cutting edge, I want to know all the right pop culture references, I want to be funny, I want to be pretty, I want to be sexy, above all, I want to be beautiful/attractive.

² For the most part, I have abandoned the idea of the “guilty pleasure.” Either it’s a pleasure or it’s not. You can’t enjoy something and be guilty about it. Having a “guilty pleasure” implies that you like something, but you’re not “supposed to.” I get it — I’ve been laboring under the idea of the guilty pleasure for years — it’s part of wanting to look cool. There are things that “cool” people don’t like. There’s a veneer, a facade, that one must upkeep, and certain things break that code, and so you can’t admit to enjoying them. Sometimes, it’s because too many other people like them — I suspect Billy Joel might fall under this category for some people. Sometimes, it’s because they’re deemed “schmaltzy” or “cheesy.” Billy Joel definitely falls in this category, too. Sometimes, it’s because “they”¹¹ have created a canon or a structure of standards, and said guilty pleasure falls outside said canon or artistic aesthetic. It is to be noted, however, that when “they” find it convenient or necessary or interesting, they will casually or ironically or whimsically deem things outside of said canon or aesthetic okay to be liked, and therefore — “cool.”

¹¹ I’m never quite sure who “they” are. Who have “they” ever been? Selected writers? Critics? People from Rolling Stone (are THEY even “cool” anymore?)? Is it Pitchfork now? High fashion? Celebrities? Gossip columnists? I don’t know. Somehow there’s a buzz, a way we all figure it out — or a way we figure it out within our own circles, depending on what’s important to us — comedy, music, fashion, literature, pop culture, blogging, technology, gaming, or some combination or lack thereof.²²

²² Man, these footnotes have really gone off the rails from the initial topic. But, fuck it. First of all, I have always related to and admired Dave Eggers and Chuck Klosterman for their liberal use of footnotes and self-permission to go off on tangents and down rabbit holes — this is the way my ADD addled brain works, so I have always appreciated them for their willingness to be unafraid to go for it. Not to mention, I’m going to embark on reading “Infinite Jest” with some people in a week, and I hear that’s the pinnacle of footnote insanity.

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