Sheena Is a Punk Rocker

I'm a guitarist. And as a guitar player living in this modern age, I can't even begin to tell you the number of hours I've lost watching guitar videos on YouTube.
I'm starting to think it's physically impossible to watch just one clip on that site and then stop.
Part of the reason is that the clips are usually short, so it's easy to turn watching one into watching three -- and then the "related videos" section somehow includes a video that's not really related at all but still looks fascinating -- and the next thing you know you're off on some sort of tangent where there are 10 videos listed that say they're "Stairway to Heaven" -- but the first nine you saw were made by people who clearly had no idea how to play the song at all, and now you can't stop until you've heard at least one decent version of the thing lest the entire song find itself ruined forever.
But the real problem has to do with the pathology of the guitar player.
I could easily spend 10-20 pages discussing all of the things that turn a normal person with an interest in music into the unique sort of a-hole that is the modern "guitar guy" -- but luckily I don’t have to, because everything you need to know about this particular species of human can be summed up using this old joke:
How many guitar players does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Ten -- One to do it, and nine others to stand around watching him like this:
Guitar, especially rock guitar -- is a very "look at me" sort of activity. And when you get a whole population of people who all want you to look at them, they tend to get really bitchy when people look at someone else. So within the community of guitar players on YouTube there's an awful lot of backbiting and nit-picking going on at any given moment.
Essentially, if you're not Jimi Hendrix and post a video where you try to play something by Jimi Hendrix -- you'll always suck.
No matter how good it is, no matter how close (or better) your version might be than the original, you're still not doing it right. Your vibrato is too erratic, the notes are too choppy, your sound is all wrong -- there's really no way to win at all.

There are tons of videos by kids who clearly haven't been playing that long hacking their way through some Metallica song saying, "Hey, look what I can do" --followed by comments from guys with screen names like StringDemon, Shredder8946, and GuitarRoKKer telling him how much they stink.

The other side of this equation is that if someone posts a video where they do a decent job playing something, 10 other guys will post the exact same thing to show just how much better they are at it.
It was this particular YouTube trend that first turned me on to my latest obsession
-- a guitarist known to the world only by their chosen screenname -- 17586063:
One minute I'm browsing videos featuring longtime personal fave Paul Gilbert (who absolutely shreds) when I notice a link to what looks to be Japanese kanji script wrapped around the title of a particularly difficult Paul Gilbert track next to a picture of two very sexy legs wrapped up in thigh-high stockings and a vintage Gibson SG -- and the next I've watched like 15 videos of this girl ripping her way through all sorts of classic heavy metal standards all filmed from the same low angle that not only shows off her skill on the guitar but also features a variety of short cropped schoolgirl and geisha-styled dresses that tend to give you just enough of a look to start to enjoy the clips on an entirely different level.
It's live, it's raw, it's damn good -- and did I mention that I've always had a thing for Asian women in fishnet stockings?
But here's the thing -- no matter how much you want to be distracted by the garter belts and the gams -- as a guitarist it's impossible for me to ignore just how much girl flat out rips some old-school metal.

Seriously, she's covering tracks by Steve Vai, Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, and Joe Satriani -- all heavy hitters in the guitar universe, and she handles each one as if it's no big deal at all.

What's more -- There are enough flubs and added-on improv licks to let the casual listener know that what you're seeing on the screen is actually what happened, and not the result of camera trickery, air-guitar, or anything like that -- Which is important, because in the dog-eat-dog world of guitar videos on YouTube -- few things bring more calls of fakeness or cheating than when you actually do a really good job of playing a song.
Especially if you're a woman.
Regardless of the strides we've made as a society towards gender equity, there's still something unexpected about seeing a girl who can really shred. It shouldn't be this way, but even with the rise of things like the Lilith Fair/Riot Girl movements and even the popularity of video games like Guitar Hero -- playing lead guitar is still largely (and incorrectly, btw) considered a man's domain.

So any girl who shows any level of proficiency at it is a) Initially revered as some sort of weird yet totally awesome mutation of the female species and celebrated in the same way that animal lovers get all excited about white tigers and albino snakes -- and then b) feared as an imminent threat to our all-dude treehouse of guitar superiority, which leads to widespread doubting of her abilities and questioning of even the most infinitesimal flaws.

It's like that in a lot of realms that are thought of as all-guy worlds, whether it be surfing, race car driving, or whatever -- where the idea that a girl could actually be good at something is so foreign that it's hard for some men not to question it.

The truth of the matter is that there is a long list of fantastic female rock and roll guitar players -- ranging in the modern era from Nancy Wilson, Joan Jett, and Lita Ford all the way up to Jennifer Batten, who continues to be one of the most in-demand session players happening today.

Which is fine if you're famous -- but isn't really any help if you're just some anonymous shredder.
Which is where the twist comes in.
Perhaps it was in part fueled by the fear of a woman being a better guitar player than a guy. Perhaps a big part of it comes from the fact that she's Asian, or that her screenname and profile (clearly by design) offers little to no insight into what her personality might be. But when all of this is added to her habit of never showing her face in any of her videos and an observation made by many commenters regarding the relative size of her hands -- a suspicion began to surface.

And before you knew it, a lot of people began speculating that the sexy Asian girl in the videos, Miss 17586063 herself
Was actually a dude.
Discussions shifted immediately from "Wow, you play pretty good for a girl," to "You homos are all drooling over a guy!" and much, much worse. The comment threads for each video posted suddenly turned into a veritable Maury Povich episode filled with cross-dressers, discussions about man-hands, and out and out gay-bashing.

The problem with all of this is that as a reader I can see the hateful attitudes for what they are and be outraged by them -- but I couldn't help but at least consider the question for a moment or two myself.

And even though I have come to my own conclusion that it really is a girl who can play circles around me when it comes to old-school Ozzy songs -- a girl that I still find really hot;
I can't seem to shake that little seed of uncertaintly that got planted there along the way.
Not so much that I would lose respect her/him as a guitar player if it really did turn out to be a dude, but that I would suddenly feel a little weirder about my own attraction to the videos, especially when it came to the less-than musical aspects of the thing.
The world is strange that way.
I mean, so what if it's a guy in a dress? I used to be a huge Kiss fan -- is there really any difference there? Hell, lets not even get started about the fact that I grew up in the 80's being a huge fan of several hair bands that I still have lingering questions about -- including Heavy Metal's worst kept secret, Rob Halford -- who spent 20 years prancing around stages in leather chaps as the lead singer of Judas Priest before coming out of the closet in the mid 90's.

I guess the real issue in the end isn't so much what gender 17586063 turns out to be (assuming we ever find out, or that it really matters in the first place) -- but that if it does turn out to be a man,
Why the deception?
I mean, it's not a situation where a homosexual makes the uncomfortable choice to conceal their lifestyle in order to avoid discrimination at a particular workplace or social situation, a choice made out of a desire to lessen certain kinds of conflict -- this was a conscious choice to not only appear as a woman, but to use that appearance as part of the appeal, which is a theatrical idea as old as Dionysus -- but somehow feels different here.

I mean, I still look at it and feel pretty confident that 17586063 is a girl. But is it because I honestly think that's what I'm seeing --
Or is it because I'm not so sure how I feel about the alternative?

[Listening to:  The Cure"Burn" ]

Comments

Werdna said…
It is a guy. That is my speculation. Cosplay/cross dressing radar is a talent of mine. And I've been to Yoyogi Koen and seen the guys that dress up a bit like that.

But either way, boy or girl, they rip. And I'd seen the videos too and found them fascinating in the way they bring out the madding crowd (sic).
Werdna said…
Oh and I think the answer in why some one does that: They crave the attention, want to know if they can pass, are interested in ambiguity, and perhaps are excited by the social experiment.

Or maybe they want a great disguise (male or female) or don't want to blow their cover...

I also like the horribly disfigured / acid burns tragic story angle...heheh. The comments are just gravy.

It makes me want to troll the comments, although the video might be a bit of a visual troll as well.
Narm said…
I hate watching this stuff - I am proud of myself for being able to play a few chords and these videos make me feel like a failure.
Dan~ Your man Paul Gilbert is awesome. Warren and I saw him live with Satriani in May at the Hammersmith Apollo, London! What a show of serious guitar muscle. Loved it! Between Satriani and Gilbert whats not to love. We also went to see Ace Frehley at the Astoria in London. Miserable show ... standing for the loudest concert I have ever been to in my life. So loud it was hard to enjoy as I was waiting for blood to drip from my ears! Frehley's damn good but Satriani was better. I would gladly see Satriani and/or Gilbert again!
Satorical said…
"You're not gay. You're lame."

--Dan Savage
whatigotsofar said…
I think the reason guys don't like it when a woman picks up a guitar is because most guys pick up a guitar initially as a good method to meet chicks and get laid.

Here's the situation. Some teenage dirtbag guy is playing his Fender knock-off in some lame attempt to meet girls. Then a girl walks by playing her daddy's real Fender and gets all the attention. It matters not that she's a better player (she's better because she's playing for love of the music, not to get laid), the teenage dirtbag guy wants to get laid.
Why do you think Green Day is so damn popular? Because little idiot teenage guys can pick up a guitar, play the 3 Green Day chords, mumble along to "Time of your Life" and then make-out in the backseat of a burnt-out Chevy Cavalier. Homemade Green Day is like Barry White for teenage psuedo-punks from the 'burbs.

But what do I know, I never really played guitar and I never got laid in high school.
Heff said…
I really enjoyed this post. I've seen my share of hilarious guitar hero wanna-be clips on youtube myself, and have noticed they tend to "rip in' to each other over style, technique, etc. Hell, before it's over I may post a few horrible clips my damn self, lol.

WIGSF is right, though. Dudes start out playing metal guitar to get laid. The sad part is - it works.
MsPuddin said…
man do I agree with you. youtube will suck you right in and spit you out four hours later after you've learned all the lyrics to every Whitney Houston/Journey/U2 song...

Yeah Jimi Hendrix is one of a kind. Its kind of like when those little girls youtube themselves singing alicia keys or something. its like please, stop. just stop and finish up with your education...
I'm Frank said…
I own a guitar.

I even know a few chords on it...just enough for someone with an untrained ear to think I have some vague idea of what I'm doing.
Wil said…
Excellent post Hex. I too have seen "her" videos and was amazed at her ability, got a serious chub for her, and then noticed the size of her hands. I then proceeded to go and watch "The Crying Game" while not wearing pants.

The whole guitar phallic thing does hold some water though. Nancy Wilson is a decent player but certainly is no Yngwie. Joan Jett is just a basic rhythm player at best. Jennifer Batten is truly awesome, but how many like her can we name?

Much like me slowly, lovingly dancing with another man, women, at least seriously rocking, never seem to look "right". 9 times out of 10 they seem to look slightly uncomfortable, even awkward. Not that they can't play with the same proficiency of a man but they just don't seem to have the same swagger as a Blackmore, Hendrix, Nugent, etc.

As you can see, I too have thought on this topic a few times my own damn self. Thanks for bringing it up!

The Trailer Of Love
Hex said…
Werdna -- That's what makes this whole thing so intruiging. The hands are a little big, there is a big Cosplay/Cross Dressing thing in Japan, but I still really think it's a girl.

But when you get right down to it, I have no way to be sure at all.

It shouldn't really matter in the first place, but at the same time ..it kinda does.

But yeah, she totally rips.

Werdna II -- if it is a guy calling out sexism and/or hating in the youtube guitar community, that would be an incredible coup.

Narm -- obviously these players have a lot of skill, but there comes a point where all that noodling gets you nothing. Don't get me wrong, I love shred music, but sometimes the best thing you can do with a guitar is just play a few chords that are filled with genuine soul and passion.

Cren -- Gilbert is really underappreciated outside of pure guitar circles, but he's not only an incredible player, but a really fun guy to see live.

Satorical -- Me being lame was never the question. I mean, I think everyone already knew that about me :)

WIGSF -- That's an excellent point. It also plays a lot into the big backlash that's come out of this whole "It's a guy" accusation.

Heff -- Even outside of youtube the guitar community tends to be like a tank full of piranahs. It gets old, you know?

Puddin -- I think youtube should come with a warning. Something like "Before you proceed, do you really have a couple of hours to kill?"

Frank -- A robot with a guitar. This is why you're cool, bro.

Wil -- first off, love the avatar. Dio owns (I spent hours learning all those Vivian Campbell licks when I was a kid)!

But I think you might be onto something when you discuss the "swagger" of many of the guitar heroes that are out there.

Still, it's somewhat dissapointing that something based off attitude and swagger should feel threatened by anything. It's sort of an odd comment on masculinity -- in that it's supposed to be sort of an idea of strength and confidence, yet when you get right down to it seems kinda fragile and easily threatened.

Wonder why that is?
Jonathan Dennis said…
I've only been learning on guitar for a year now and I know that, at my age, I will never ever be as good as any of the videos I watch. Yet sometimes I get the urge to go to Guitar Center on a Saturday when it is full of teenagers in metal shirts trying to impress, grab an Ibanez for a test run, crank up the distortion and play a really fumbling version of Greensleeves just for the reaction.
Richie G said…
Some are saying she is actually: wotakufighter2121
Antikythera said…
Hey guys, "she" has confirmed on her blog that he is male. Sucks for you, rules for me. <3

I am now 100% convinced we are soulmates. The intro to Enter Sandman was all I needed to hear.
Joe said…
I believe it to be Wotakufighters girlfriend or sister, check out link, http://www.youtube.com/user/SupaSupa3 Check the chick out Bottom Right and Wotakufighter is playing there also with the scarf on and in the same room. Compare this chick to the photo of her at 0.38 seconds on her take on Mr. Crowley.
D- said…
From watching a few of the videos I'd have to say it's a guy. He's got pretty large hands and his gait isn't very feminine at all, not even slightly. His posturing and general movements while walking around in the room reveals a very masculine posture. It's pretty creepy on many levels, but he does happen to be a pretty competent player.