Update: In case you haven’t heard, the next iteration of Strumpette is in the works. It’s called Furthermore. The evolution will be interesting.
A few online friends have asked for the “real story” of my no-so-secret love affair with Amanda Chapel, aka, Strumpette. Most of those calling me out are devotees of Web 2.0 – a PR practice niche we’ve all celebrated in our blogs. Since Amanda rejects the use of unmediated communication in PR, many can’t accept my fascination with this anonymous, potty-mouthed vixen — the very one who last week signed off the blogosphere for good.
Here’s my confession – for the record.
Strumpette delivered a critical and seldom-heard take on the PR business. We needed it. But many couldn’t accept the message thanks to Amanda’s, er, unorthodox style. Unlike most bloggers, Amanda didn’t “converse” with us about her views. She spewed them, sometimes in venomous fashion, and she couched them in satire that many found offensive. But if you read Strumpette as the “Theatre of Amanda,” as I did, you chuckled and you moved on. Amanda loved opponents who locked horns with her, and she ate most of them for lunch.
Harassment vs. heckling: There’s a difference. Some of the more sensitive folks in the b-sphere have accused Amanda of harassment and worse. In fact, she was simply a heckler and a bully, precisely the character her creators intended. As I said earlier, it’s theater. She shouted, she jabbed, she provoked. And if you flinched, she owned you. Amanda was always baiting, and many played along. In the end, no blood was spilled, no wounds inflicted — and only a few egos bruised. Let’s not get too melodramatic about it.
Strumpette featured great writing and satire. Yes, it was at times vitriolic, but it broke through the clutter. It created the “buzz” that so many seek in this self-absorbed world of Web 2.0. Perhaps my age helped me understand Amanda better than her younger readers. Amanda’s creators are my contemporaries – 50somethings from an era when National Lampoon and Don Imus shocked and delighted us. Yes, both Don and Amanda offended more than a few folks over the years, but no one forced you to listen.
On the anonymity of Amanda. I know how you feel about pseudonyms. Me, too. You can’t have meaningful conversation while wearing a mask. But Strumpette was never about “the conversation” – it was a circus designed to entertain and to shock us. If you found wisdom along the way, so much the better, but don’t get hung up on the lack of dialog.
Strumpette created heroes. Through her attacks on the mavens of Web 2.0, Amanda enhanced the online celebrity of Steve Rubel, Phil Gomes, Richard Edelman and others. If my contributions to PR were as significant as those three, I, too, might have drawn Amanda’s wrath — and would have reveled in it. Yet I’m told that Amanda “victims” weren’t at all flattered by her attention. I’m puzzled, frankly.
Amanda’s challenge to Web 2.0. Strumpette’s creators didn’t embrace the profession’s rush to Web 2.0. Well, it was more than a rush; it was a stampede. I was part of it, and remain a staunch proponent of social media for symmetrical PR practice, but not for stealth marketing, a tactic Amanda loved to criticize. There’s a lot to be learned from Web 2.0 contrarians like Andrew Keen (“Cult of the Amateur”), a writer I learned about on Strumpette. Thanks to Amanada, I find myself marooned between the “Cult” and “Cluetrain.” camps. And it works for me.
Strumpette’s evolution. It wasn’t until the last few months that I began to communicate with Amanda’s creators. I was emboldened by A-list blogger Shel Holtz, who signed on as Strumpette’s Week In Review writer back in March. His time with Amanda was short, but like it or not, Shel gave Strumpette legitimacy in the Web 2.0 crowd. It was OK to click there to read Shel (wink, wink).
Then came guest posts by Marcia Silverman, Toni Muzi Falconi, and Don Wright, all folks with serious PR creds. I was given the chance to jump in later, to referee the conflict between PRSA and Jack O’Dwyer. As more folks from PR’s mainstream contributed, with comments and posts, Strumpette began its evolution into a legitimate forum for criticism and – dare I say it — conversation — about the profession.
Then she ended it.
No apologies. No regrets. That’s all there is to know about my infatuation with Strumpette. Don’t ask me to apologize. I was good for both of us — and for the PR business, too. I’m sorry that some eschewed the clever and cunning side of Amanda. She was a wonderful little whore who represented the very sleaze her writings worked to expose. Such ironies are often part of satire.
Life goes on without Amanda Chapel, but the PR biz isn’t as much fun anymore. It’s too bad, because we’re a business that tends to take itself way to seriously.