The Canon Silhouette

The Teton Range is usually represented by a standard set of peaks — the Famous Teton Mountain Lineup as it appears on the Grand Teton National Park sign, which is officially called The Cathedral Group: South Teton, Nez Perce, Middle Teton, Grand Teton, Mount Owen, Teewinot. They’re the canon peaks — the silhouette that ends up on the postcards and the t-shirts and the seven thousand logos for seven thousand businesses in Teton County that use the mountains as their main source of identification.

June 2023: The Canon Silhouette

  • “93 ’Til Infinity” — Souls of Mischief
  • “FALL OUT BOY” — Mato Wayuhi
  • “Kick Drum Heart” — The Avett Brothers
  • ”Happy Phantom” — Tori Amos
  • “Neutron Dance” — The Pointer Sisters
  • “Self Love” — Metro Boomin (w/ Coi Leray)
  • “Virus” — Deltron 3030
  • “The Crystal Cat” — Dan Deacon
  • “A Change is Gonna Come” — T-Pain
  • “Porno for Pyros” — Porno for Pyros
  • “Be Nice to Me” — The Front Bottoms
  • “Brontosaurus” — They Might Be Giants
  • “I Get Lonesome” — Beck
  • “Bear Claw” — La Fine Equipe (w/ Madwreck)
  • “Tomorrow Never Knows” — Quasimodo
  • “Reality Check” — Noname (w/ Eryn Allen Kane & Akenya)
  • “Profit in Peace” — Ocean Colour Scene
  • “September in the Rain” — The Wedgwood
  • “Gravel” — Ani Difranco

Listen on Spotify. Listen on Apple Music.

There are a few angles that get used a lot. There’s the Snake River angle, which you might know from Ansel Adams’ photo. There’s the Teton Point Turnout, which is the one I like the most and the one used for that Kanye album. And there’s the shot from the T. A. Moulton Barn, which is the one people use when they want to evoke the power of Old Western Buildings.

And … that’s kind of it, for the most part. Those three angles make up the bulk of the Teton Range in popular culture. You don’t get to hear about how the Tetons include 84 named mountains, or that Mount Moran is actually great but very lonely being left off of all the pictures. Just three degrees, at three specific distances.

But as you know, the world is more than three degrees and three distances. You know the Tetons from that silhouette, because they are the most accessible, the most striking, and the most iconic. Not because they represent the entire range.

So, how can I shoehorn this into a metaphor for being a fan of Tori Amos?

Several years ago, I posted a picture of a Tori Amos album on Instagram — the wonderful Little Earthquakes, naturally. A good friend commented on it with a bit of surprise. “Experience has taught me that dudes tend to dismiss her,” she said as an apology, but there was no apology needed. She’s right. Tori Amos — who, like Ani Difranco, never played a Lilith Fair yet, like Ani Difranco, still got dismissed by dudes in the same dumb way that all Lilith Fair artists got dismissed — seemed to belong to a certain type of fan.

The fanbase gets swallowed beneath an archetype. The fanbase is boiled down to one degree, one angle. The fanbase is that canon silhouette.

I feel this, because I grew up in a small but vibrant punk scene, and though the people in that scene grew to be some of the most accepting and multi-faceted people I’ve ever known, there was a definite moment back in 1995 or 1996 where I saw that same canon silhouette. I saw the styles, and heard the music, and felt the movement itself — and struggled to understand where I fit in. I found power and freedom in the weird mix of punk and ska and straight-edged hardcore that wandered through Sioux Falls, but also felt self-conscious enough to fight for that bit of recognition. To not just be a part of the scene but to be seen as someone who is part of that scene.

It’s really dumb! I know this now because I see it with the eyes of an old person with kids. And, more than that, I see it through the eyes of those kids. All we want — at any age, but especially in our teens — is to be accepted by other people who like the things we like. Which means we bend and twist to fit into that canon silhouette because we think that’s the way to get it done. It’s a wild and mature mind that allows themselves to just like whatever and be who they are.

More than that, we embrace those single-character fandom models because they help signify safety. They help us find the people who like the things we like. They give us a space for comfort. It allows us to still be surprised when someone outside of the mold falls into your group. It allows us to identify the richness in our community as a contrast to the expected.

After spending some time in Grand Teton National Park this week, we rode our bikes along one of the most beautiful bike paths in the world. We were as close to the Teton Range as most people will ever get, at the point where the range starts to shift and change with every movement. You see more of the cracks, and you see more of the angles. You watch as Grand Teton moves into the background as Mount Moran takes the stage. You watch as the silhouette is completely obliterated, all in the space of an hour. Every angle changes what we expect the Tetons to be.

I don’t look like a Tori Amos fan, and of course I don’t. A bit closer, though? From another angle? Those silhouettes don’t matter anymore. They were barely there to begin with.

This was lovingly handwritten on June 30th, 2023