Monday night the Republican Presidential candidate and frequent source/target of Photoshop japery Michele Bachmann appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon in an effort to promote both her autobiography and her appearance at last night’s Presidential debate. As a rebuke to the Minnesota congresswoman’s somewhat slippery relationship with the truth, Fallon’s house band the Roots—who aren’t always into shying from making a “why is this person even here?” counterpoint with their choice of introductory music—decided to dust off an old chestnut by the skacore pioneers Fishbone as she walked onstage. “Aight late night walkon song devotees: you love it when we snark: this next one takes the cake,” ?uestlove tweeted before the show aired Monday. “ask around cause i aint tweeting title.”
The band picked “Lyin’ Ass Bitch” by Fishbone, a 1985 track about a cheating (yet still lovable) lover that’s punctuated by strident las and, of course, a very moshable beat. It’s a fun tune to pogo along with, and those people who got the joke were pretty into it; ?uestlove’s at-replies lit up with giggles from bleary-eyed couch potatoes who recognized the song in the broadcast’s initial wake, although they were later accompanied by rebukes from Bachmann sympathizers. My Facebook news feed was punctuated by clips of the Roots’ version and the original, appended by lols and other virtual noises of approval. Fallon publicly told ?uestlove he was grounded, which seemed to serve as a bit of a wink to his bandleader, although he later apologized to Bachmann via Twitter.
While I appreciate any efforts to get Fishbone back into the public consciousness and punctuate fluffy Entertainment Tonight-style treatment of people who might one day be entrusted with keeping this country in order, and I certainly don’t agree with the way that Bachmann views truthfulness as a minor inconvenience blocking her path to righteousness, the marriage of song and target bugged the hell out of me. Sure, this was an attempt to turn a title/hook into a 15-second punchline (leaving out the lyric about the titular character also being a slut), but the fact that this woman was obliquely being called a “bitch” on national television, and that it’s an insult that would probably not be flung at her competitors, curdled any mirth that I might have felt.
Bachmann is the first 2012 GOP presidential candidate to be on Fallon, although she’s certainly not the only one who’s been caught in her own deceptions. She’s also the lone woman remaining in the field, which makes me wonder if Rick Perry or Rick Santorum would have been greeted by this particular Fishbone track had they been first to Fallon’s couch. The answer, sadly, is “probably not.” Casual sexism in politics and entertainment and, you know, the rest of the world is of course nothing new, and it’s something that as a consumer of the Internet crushes me on a near-hourly basis—even though I’ve aesthetically internalized it enough to enjoy songs like, say, “Lyin’-Ass Bitch.” But it kills me when it’s used by smart people who I respect against someone like Bachmann, who has no shortage of completely legitimate reasons to inspire ire. Calling her a bitch is too easy—it glosses over the actual concrete problems with her as a candidate—and more importantly, the woman-specific use of “bitch” toward people who allegedly “deserve” it only serves to further crack open the door to it being used against any woman who’s trying to make her way in a male-dominated field.
There are tons of songs out there that call out liars in their titles without having to get all gender-specific about who’s doing the lying—why not use one of those? If nothing else, the Roots could really show off their instrumental chops by busting out Megadeth’s “Liar,” which is at least a bit more gender-neutral in its kicking against the pricks.
UPDATE: And now Bachmann is demanding an apology: “The point is, if that had been Michelle Obama who had come out on the stage and that song had been played to Michelle Obama, I have no doubt that NBC would have apologized to her. This is clearly a form of bias on the side of the entertainment elite.” Another bad side effect of this sort of sexism: Victim complexes getting actual reasons for existing. Hooray for everyone!