She disses other girls and probably fucked your boyfriend. So why do we love KATE JACKSON from the Long Blondes?

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girl in beret
Fan art of Kate Jackson
By Sarah Thompson, age 14.


philandering males

Inevitably, in exploring the specifically female experience, these songs paint detailed portraits of the philandering males as well. Brush the cries of ‘hussy’ from your ears (tellingly there’s no equivalent term for the male vamp played by Jarvis in Pulp lyrics) and listen to what the songs are telling us about boys.

The boy in ‘You Could Have Both’ is less innocent victim of a wily seductress, more smug fuck having his cake and eating it too: he’ll ‘always have everything just as [he] wants it’ - both the cosy companionship offered by a girlfriend (‘someone to drive you home’), and the late-night thrills of the acquiescent mistress (‘a phone to ring at three in the morning’).

Similarly, once you get past the shock of the narrator calling another girl a ‘dead-eyed bitch’ in ‘Giddy Stratospheres’, you realise that the drive of the song isn’t really concerned with the seduction of the boy - it’s about trying to force him to realise his potential (in fact all the narrator wants from him is for him to get on the train, a la Billy Liar).

Kate’s scared that the spark she sees in the boy will be killed if he stays in an uninspiring town with an uninspiring girl. Meanwhile, the boy is a coward, afraid to be with someone who might inspire and challenge him (the ‘giddy stratospheres’ he’ll never reach with his current squeeze ‘come from [his] fears’). The portraits of men in these songs are just as unflattering as those the narrator paints of herself: the individuals who populate Long Blondes songs are weak, selfish, cruel - and ineffably human.


 
 

delicate nuances, dappled greys

Donít get me wrong: Iím not defending being a boyfriend-stealer or being mean about other girls or arguing in favour of selfish amorality. A moral code and a shared social contract helps keep a community intact, locking it tight together against the licentiousness seething underneath. And women should band together and support one other in the fight towards equality, &c.

But there are ideals and standards, and then there is reality: all delicate nuances and dappled greys rather than blacks and whites. Thereís so much more to life and love than loveís first flush or heartbreakís dying shudder: than rigid heterosexuality or assumed monogamy. I donít want art or pop that reflects societal ideals and standards, as didactic as bible study.

Our culture teems with double-edged visions of femininity; whether thatís the stereotypes of women carved into culture by millennia of masculine / religious supremacy (the madonna, the whore, the housewife, the hussy), or the prescriptive images with which feminism attempts to fight those stereotypes (sisterhood is powerful, women are essentially peace-loving, collabarative, non-hierarchical, non-violent, non-competitive &c). Thereís no space for reality or ambivalence, yet thatís what you find in the songs of The Long Blondes.


life is varied, life is long

The Kate Jackson of these songs comes across as ‘a bad person’ - bitchy, unfaithful, amoral - yet there’s an instinctive urge to identify with a first-person narrative which makes it difficult to hate her. She does things that are ‘wrong’ but she’s bursting with life, vivacious, on fire. She exists neither within the realm of feminism’s rosy-eyed view of women nor within culture’s negative female archetypes - instead the character explored here presents the reality of human experience from a female perspective, which, in the male-dominated realm of indie rock, is still sadly all too rare.

Like most of us, she is neither one thing nor the other, but many things at once: one day instigator of cruelty and infidelity, another, victim. One day active, decisive, aggessive - another, mute, passive, weak. Life’s like that. You could be so dismissive of a girl that you’d call her a ‘dead-eyed bitch’ and take her boyfriend to bed: you could be so enamoured of another that you’d take her by the hand and run down motorways together. Life is varied. Life is long. And Kate Jackson is a vicious, seductive, amoral enchantress, and I love her for it.



 

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