On the plus side for saving her formerly gay-friendly career, embattled singer Michelle Shocked used her appearance on Piers Morgan Live Monday night to emphatically apologize to the LGBT community and insist that she even supports same-sex marriage. Also, she did not wear a full ski mask.
The minus? Said interview still threatened to go off the rails at times, especially toward the end, when Shocked seemed to want to keep the conversation going and Morgan appeared quite eager to bring it to a close. Some of the critiques were harsh. The conversation was described as “a rambling and confusing interview that at times struggled to remain coherent” -- and that review came in from CNN.com.
Morgan started off the interview by asking what Shocked had meant with her onstage remarks about gays and God in San Francisco March 17, and whether she was, in fact, “homophobic.” Shocked initially ignored that softball and seemed at times to be reading from a script in front of her on the CNN desk.
"I admit I made a mistake, Piers,” she began. “If I had the chance to do it again, I don't think I would have taken the audience up on their choice. I had presented an entire performance, and I framed it as 'truth,' and then I came out back out for an encore, and they requested 'reality.' And what has consequently taken place ever since then is my manifestation of how little I think of reality. I know that it's a stock-in-trade for a lot of the media to just present things like that's how it really is. But I don't think the audience was ready for the consequences of that, and I surely have not been happy with it."
She might have been better off leaving that answer at “made a mistake,” given how little interest Morgan had in hearing more about her ongoing “truth vs. reality” meme. And holding the San Francisco audience culpable for having applauded to hear her “reality” set (after she’d already done the “truth” portion, the only other option that night) didn’t help explain the ultimate purpose of her bizarre speech about homosexuality at that show.
Morgan asked her again if she is homophobic -- a question even Rick Santorum could answer no to with a clear conscience -- yet Shocked again avoided it, instead addressing the unfairness of audience bootlegging. “On the surface it sounds really bad,” she admitted. “It’s not really a point worth making, but the show was supposed to be live, not recorded… When you read it in the transcript which I’ve gone back and created, I can do a couple of things to show you and highlight…”
Morgan interrupted, clearly uninterested in parsing the finer points of her transcript. When for a third time he asked if Shocked was homophobic, she finally took the bait and answered, albeit with an addendum. “If you want to keep this simple for the audience, let me just give you a straight no, I’m not homophobic. But the truth I don’t think lies in the simplicity. It’s in the nuance, and that’s been completely lost in this…”
Her defensiveness was less in evidence here than it has been in her Twitter crusade as she admitted at least one goof in her San Francisco patter. ”The line was ‘Once preachers are held at gunpoint’ [and forced to marry same-sex couples] -- what could I possibly have meant by the idea? And [when] Prop, 8, I say, is instated -- well, I’m sorry, but Prop. 8 already stands. I didn’t know what I was talking about.”
There were some clear statements this time. “I am, for the last 10 years, so deeply in love with a man that the idea of living my life without him is impossible. Knowing how much I love him, and knowing that passion that I have for him, would I ever want to deny that to anyone else? Absolutely not.” Morgan asked if she had any problem with gay marriage. “No, I don’t.”
“What’s been questioned is my support for that [gay] community,” she said. “And they have been a predominant component of my audience over the years. It may seem very calculated and simple on my part that I would disavow them at this stage,” she said -- presumably meaning the part of her life since she announce herself as a born-again Christian -- “but I need to tell them sincerely and directly, in no way do I disavow the LGBT community, in the same way that I don’t disavow my faith community.”
But once Morgan thanked her and moved to wrap up the interview, saying “your fans should be relieved to hear that,” she made it clear she still had other territory to cover -- and some of her supporters might wish she had quit while she was ahead.
Presumably referring back to an earlier part of the interview in which Morgan had noted she’d once been a bisexual, Shocked wanted to explain how, as a straight woman, that supposed misconception had come about. “I was identified as a lesbian, as bisexual, early in my career,” she said. “But the way that that came about was such that I held my peace. I didn’t try to defend, because I didn’t feel like it was anything to defend. I’m not a gay. But to say that my manager that first presented me to the world made a pass at me, and when I spurned his approach -- that was all the encouragement that he needed to then market me as a lesbian.” (The manager in question, with whom Shocked was once engaged in a five-year legal battle, could not be reached for comment Monday night.)
Morgan seemed to have a twinkle in his eye as he again attempted to wrap up by saying that the manager “made a mistake then and you made a mistake on the 17th of March in San Francisco. I think we’d probably agree on that, and I wish you well in making a recovery.”
But she kept on, speaking as if she’d agreed to do the interview under an understanding that Morgan would officially absolve her on the air after she’d apologized, so that she could resume an unnamed project without threat of cancelation.
“Now, you offered that my efforts, my current efforts, aren’t going to be swept under the carpet,” she said, “so I’d like to take you up on that offer if you don’t mind.”
“What do you mean?” Morgan asked, suddenly appearing curious.
“I mean that I have been diligently working for the last five years on a project that, if I have not managed to convince you that I have very much at stake in putting this question to rest, ‘Is Michelle Shocked homophobic?,’ ‘Does Michelle Shocked support the gay community?’…”
“Well, you’ve answered those questions.”
“To your satisfaction?” Shocked inquired.
“Well, you’ve answered them very clearly and people can make their own minds up if you mean them.”
“Well, as I say, in the court of public opinion, putting a poet on a tribunal like this, I just want to say…”
“Michelle,” he interrupted, “I’ve put the questions to you, you’ve answered them emphatically, and I will take you at your word. Thank you.”
Apropos of seemingly nothing, Shocked began to recite some of her song lyrics. This may have been leading toward a key point of attempted reconciliation with her gay fan base, since the song in question, 2002’s “Peachfuzz,” affectionately describes a young homosexual flirtation. “The apple tree’s got some strange fruit that even Adam wouldn’t try, but human nature’s living proof…”
Stepping on the next line of her song (“Beauty’s in the beholder’s eye”), Morgan really, really drew it to a close: “The world is full of strange trees and strange fruit. I agree with you. Michelle Shocked, good to see you.”
She seemed to be starting to utter another word off-camera when her microphone was cut off… shades of San Francisco. But if the goal was to avoid having any further walkouts on her career than she’s already suffered, this glass-half-full of an interview might count as a mission accomplished.