Dying Deer with Stolen Bodies: Industrial Racism and Get Out

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Get Out 8

It must be rape so regular as to be industrial.  There is no uplifting way to say this.

—Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

 

The Fruit Loops are colored and therefore they have to be in a separate container from the milk.  I’m really, really disappointed in myself for not getting that even after my second viewing of Get Out.

It’s important in this life to understand what your strengths are, where your passions are most likely to shine, and how you can use these gifts and talents to help you in this life.  It’s just as important to understand what your weaknesses are.  While I wouldn’tGet Out Poster 2 consider my familiarity with cinema to be one of my weaknesses, and I’m hardly a neophyte to the field given how much I’ve written and studied in the subject, I’m real enough to know when I’m speaking with someone who has a far more nuanced perspective.  Such a person is my friend TJ.  I’ve known TJ for about four years, we were originally introduced when a mutual friend recommended that I join a graphic novel bookclub TJ had started up, and he’s quickly become one of the closest friends I have.  I love having a friend and co-worker who has an educated opinion about comics, but it’s in film that the pair of us tend to have the most extended conversations.

These conversations are always revealing to me, largely because TJ’s comprehension of cinema tends to be more that of a cultured aficionado.  He knows the language, economics, and soul of cinema, and so when he proposed starting up a movie group for the Library it was no surprise that the list of films we started off with included movies such as Pan’s Labyrinth, The Seventh Seal, The Godfather, and of course Get Out.  This last film was probably the one he was the most passionate about, and that passion was so infecting I went out and watched the film, watching it a second time recently for the group.Get Out 13

This experience was illuminating.  There’s a wordless quality to Get Out, because even though I had already watched the film once, I was physically trembling as Chris walked back to the house while the family and “the help” smile at him as he slowly made his way inside.  And it must needs be said that I was yelling at the television, “Motherfucker getout of the GODDAMN HOUSE!” Much to the chagrin of my wife who has had to become used to me talking at movies rather than just silently enjoying them like a normal, sane human being.

Get Out is a film that has no real counter-part largely because there’s never been a film like it.  Jordan Peele of the comedy duo Key & Peele is the director of the movie and often refers to it as a horror-comedy-documentary-thriller, though even this title is somewhat misleading because there’s nothing terribly funny about Get Out.  There are parts that are funny, and scenes that left me literally rolling on the floor desperately trying to breathe, but as a whole the film tackles through hyperbole, and some science fiction, the reality of being black in the United States, and thus before I even begin I really need to address something.

If it hasn’t become apparent, I’m white.Photo on 5-10-18 at 8.44 PM #2

But not only am I white, I am an upper-middle class white man who’s parents bought him a house when he went to graduate school and who sent him to a private Christian school when he was growing up.  I’ve watched literally every episode of Frasier, and I have an educated opinion about the music of Frank Sinatra, the writing of Vladimir Nabakov, and the film career of Gene Kelly.  I am whiter than a Polar Bear fighting Wes Anderson with ice spears during a goddamn blizzard.  I also write essays for a blog entitled “White” Tower Musings, which has, on a few occasions, been mistaken for White Power Musings.

I am white as fucking white, and therefore trying to communicate the complexities inherent of the African American Male experience should be called into question.  The good intentions of those trying to appear and sound “woke” can be a bit of a problem, to the point that people who are white and refer to themselves as social justice warriors can be part of the larger problem of racism that they are supposedly trying to fix.Get Out

For myself, I am not trying to be anything other than what I am, some asshole with a shitty blog.  But, before my mother slaps me upside the head and before my wife can get to me, I’m also a writer, and someone who tries to understand a wide variety of people by actually listening to people’s grievances and perspectives.  Let that define my ethos in this larger conversation in its own way.

Even if I cannot understand having my body fetishized, when I was compiling notes for TJ’s meeting on Get Out I couldn’t shake off this idea of “the body” and how Chris’s entireGet Out 3struggle through the film was entirely centered in this problem.  The very opening scenes of the film involves a black man walking through a neighborhood before he is abducted.  His body is captured before the film opens and one of the first scenes the reader gets of Chris is his body while he’s shaving and he cuts himself.  Chris, as the reader observes in the film, is a young photographer who’s dating a white woman and the film follows the pair of them as they drive up to the country (the region is never specified but it really shouldn’t matter because white people are crazy wherever you go) to see Rose’s parents.  On the way to the house, while Rose is driving and the pair of them are discussing Chris’s friend Rod and Chris’s habit of smoking, a deer collides with the front of their car.

The scene itself is a jump scare, but it passes quickly.  What is important however is that, once the pair of them are out of the car Chris hears the deer and walks into the woods toGet Out 14see it still breathing with a large hole in it’s chest.  The scene is powerful as the reader watches the deer, wondering if it’s supposed to be an omen of what’s to come, whether the deer mirrors Chris, or if the entire scene is just used to create an early scare and build up the tension in the audience.  The sensation of watching Get Out is more or less summarized in this small scene because, as I noted to my friend, virtually every element and component of Get Out is connected to something else.

Looking at Rose’s Father’s reaction to the story of the dead deer this becomes apparent.

Dean Armitage: You know what I say? I say one down, a couple hundred thousand to go. I don’t mean to get on my high horse, but I’m telling you, I do not like the deer. I’m sick of it; they’re taking over. They’re like rats. They’re destroying the ecosystem. I see a dead deer on the side of the road and I think, “That’s a start.”

The phrase “they’re taking over,” is one that is often equated with the sentiment ofGet Out 10“there goes the neighborhood,” which itself is connected to actual expressions by white racists when black families would move in.  What’s taking place in this scene however is a double play because while Dean Armitage is saying this about deer, and mimicking racists, he’s trying to present himself as a man who is open minded but clumsily being racist.  Throughout Get Out Peele has the family portrayed as Northern Progressive Liberals, the kind of people who enjoy their white privilege but who also profess dedication to helping African Americans who are “disadvantaged.”  This is probably best exemplified when Dean is talking to Chris one on one:

Dean Armitage: If I could, I would have voted for Obama for a third term.Get Out 15

This is a difficult issue because racism is something most people assume manifests in the form of hoods, burning crosses, and, of course, southern dialects.  But the problem with this perception that racism is only racism when it is obvious and violent distracts from the more subtler racism that actually manifests in day-to-day reality.  Racism is often a chameleon that changes it’s shape shifting into little things like microagressions.  When Dean tells Chris that he would have voted for Obama for a third term it’s implying that he thinks that Chris thinks that Obama was a great President when he knows absolutely nothing of Chris’s political opinions or persuasions.  Peele isn’t just using this to make an empty statement about racism, he’s trying to demonstrate that this simple act of subtle racism distracts Chris from the real reality.  Dean Armitage, like the rest of his family, are trapping Black People and taking their bodies from them, but because Chris is always shown the smaller little acts of racism he eventually falls for the trap.Get Out 7

Get Out does an incredible job of showing then how Social Justice Warriors, or people who claim to be woke, can cause just as much problems as the actual racists themselves.

But the dying deer and it’s destroyed body is what keeps me centered in Get Out because I’ve written about this mess before.  My most popular essay to date is the one I wrote about the Mandingo Myth, the bullshit racist philosophy that states that black men are inherently more physically powerful and sexually salacious as white men.  This is an idea which is partly the key to the success of my essay, as everyday reveals someone typing in “Gay Black Cock” or “Monster Black Dick Worship” and thus finding an essay about Imperialism and racism.  As is always the case, the success only proves the point.

Looking at the book A Mind of it’s Own: A Cultural History of the Penis, David M. Friedman laid out to me the real racism of this idea.

Whether the black penis really is larger than the white one is an unanswered, and maybe unanswerable, question. (It is highly unlikely any reputable scientific organization will fund a definitive study anytime soon.) What is a fact that manyGet Out 6people, white and black, believe is larger. What is also true, and probably more important, is that many of those white people believe that “larger” black penis has a major—read: “dangerous”—cultural meaning. (125).

This is best put just a couple of pages later when Friedman says it simply:

To really kill a black man, you had to kill his penis. (128).

This isn’t an entirely unfounded idea.  The idea of slavery, specifically sex slavery is a element that keeps returning throughout the entire film.  Rod, Chris’s friend, regularly references this idea as Chris describes Rose’s family and their behavior, and as the plot unfolds Rod eventually discovers the Armitage family out vicariously through Chris.  When his suspicions are confirmed he tries to report his conclusions to the police providing one of the funniest scenes in the film:

Rod Williams: [to Detective Latoya and two other detectives] Then he sent me some weird pictures. I’m like, “Ah man, that’s Andre Hayworth.” This dude’s been missing for 6 months, right? So I do allGet Out 5 my research, you know, ’cause as a TSA agent. You know, you guys are detectives. You know, I got the same training. We might know more than y’all sometimes, you know, ’cause we are dealing with some terrorist shit, so… but that’s a totally different story. So look, I-I go do my… my detective work, right? And I start putting pieces together. And see, this is what I came up with. They’re probably abducting black people, brainwashing them and making them slaves… or sex slaves. Not just regular slaves, but sex slaves and shit. See? I don’t know if it’s the hypnosis that’s making ’em slaves or what not, but all I know is they already got two brothas we know and there could be a whole bunch of brothas they got already. What’s the next move?

[after a few seconds, the three detectives look at each other and burst out hysterically in laughter]Get Out 9

Detective Latoya: Don’t ever, ever say that I don’t do nothing anymore.

[still laughing]

Detective Latoya: Oh, white girls. They get you every time.

Despite the humor of the film Peele has noted numerous times in interviews and face-to-face Q&A sessions that there is nothing remotely funny about the subject matter of Get Out, calling the film a documentary rather than an outright comedy.  This is a fair point given the recent events which have taken place in the United States over the last four years.  Despite the public face of the Obama Presidency there are still significant race problems in the United States, all stemming from the fact that there is a fear of the Black man’s body.  Young black men are being desired, feared, worshiped, fetishized, and often butchered all because the United States cannot seemingly have a real and nuanced conversation about the difficulties of racism.  There is this unfortunate notion that because the United States has had a black President that racism is somehow over.  Apparently nobody informed the Klan, or that guy on Facebook who always responds to racism comments with “I’m not racist, but…”. Racism is not something that will end, it 5102013194389merely changes.  Peele’s film allows the reader to see then how the racism has changed, yet ultimately remained the same.

Get Out is a film about the body of black men and how they are being destroyed and stolen by people who cannot, or will not, recognize them as human beings.  The secret society that the Armitage’s are a part of are bent on taking the bodies of black people and “unlocking their potential.”  The idea, ultimately, is that black people should not be allowed whatever gifts they possess because they are clearly being wasted pushing and advancing the lives of black, rather than white, bodies.  And while I was doing all this thinking and mental pontificating I couldn’t help but think back to another landmark book which has garnered recent accolades for discussing the very same issue.

download1Ta-Nehisi Coates in his landmark book, Between the World and Me, reflects on the death of a friend who was shot by a policeman and the entire book is written as a series of letters to his son.  Coates addresses his son directly noting the position of his body in the culture:

Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage.  Enslavement was not merely the antiseptic borrowing of labor—it is not so easy to get a human being to commit their body against its own elemental interest.  And so enslavement must be casual wrath and random mangling, the gashing of heads and brains blown out over the river as the body seeks to escape.  It must be rape so regular as to be industrial.  There is no uplifting way to say this.  I have no pride anthems, nor old Negro Spirituals.  The spirit and soul are the body and the brain, which are destructible—that is precisely why they are so precious.  And the soul did not escape.  The spirit did not steal away on gospel wings.  The soul and body that fed originalthe tobacco, and the spirit was the blood that watered the cotton, and these created the first fruits of the American garden.  And the fruits were secured through the bashing of children with stove wood, through hot iron peeling skin away like husk from corn.

It had to be blood.  (103-4).

The body and the brain are what makes a man, and the most horrific idea of Get Out is not that the body can be stolen, but that the body is stolen while the brain is maintained.  Ultimately the Black men, and women, who are captured by Rose and her family are not just destroyed, they are stolen.  Coates is able to show his son that the black body is one that has been consistently abused and turned often into some kind of industrial product,Get Out 12and while the Marxists would latch onto this in order to explain deeper notions of hegemony and economic domination, what is at heart in all of this is the idea that people are not allowed the agency of their own bodies.

The Coagula, the organization or the secret society that the Armitage’s are a part of, are built on the idea that blacks do not have the right to make their own destiny.  Their bodies are, ultimately, just tools for white people to advance their own interests, and by the end of the film Chris is lucky to escape with his life.  It should be noted that the original ending of the film ended with Chris being arrested and locked up for the murder of Rose’s family, and, while this ending would be accurate to the life of many black men in the United States, Peele was far more effective in giving the audience a catharsis.

Get Out is a film about how the black body is caught in a system in which it often cannotGet Out 4win.  While there is some Victory in Chris escaping, and killing the entire Armitage family as he fights his way out, there is still the deeper implication that even if he escapes there the lingering question of the victims.  Upon finishing Get Out again recently I asked my friend this question: what happens to the people who were stolen?  There was no answer to this question and in fact I don’t have one.

Being a white man I cannot process the reality of having my body fetishized, feared, desired, or appropriated by others.  My flesh and bones are just that, meat and hard foundation.  They are not wrapped up in discourses of alienation and power-imbalance, which is all a fancy-pants way of saying, as I did before, I’m white as fucking white.  And so processing a film like Get Out is difficult because I can understand the fear only from the perspective of an observer.  But if I can make the case for Peele’s film, Get Out is vital and important because of the constant attention to the body.  A Black man can’t seem to Get Out 16win in this society, and even if he does it comes at a great cost.  Chris will never be the same after this experience, the reader is able to see that as the car drives away and he stares detached out into the forrest.

Rather than just accept the ending as a victory, it’s important to remember that it’s also a defeat.  The systems of racism that divide people continue in spite of the apparent surface where white people can praise the first black President and suggest that they are woke and accepting and understanding of the complexities inherent of the African American experience in America.  Black bodies are still being commodified and worshipped and fetishized and feeding a system that profits from their exploitation.  Yet in the face of this Get Out succeeds in actually addressing the problem in a way that doesn’t feel patronizing or self-righteous, and it offers it’s audience some catharsis in the face of the history and tragedy.

The deer may lie on the side of the rode, it’s body burst by the unfeeling car, dying with no one to seemingly care, but if Get Out offers anything to the reader it promises that someone is seeing the violence and is willing to say something about it.

Get Out 2

 

 

 

*Writer’s Note*

All quotes from Get Out were cited from IMDb.com.  All quotes from Between the World and Me were cited from the Hardback Spiegel & Grau edition.  All quotes from A Mind of it’s Own: A Cultural History of the Penis were cited from the hardback The Free Press edition.

 

**Writer’s Note**

Get Out is a film that, I might be biased about, but I legitimately think is incredible, and fortunately I’m not the only one.  As always I like giving my reader extra reading to build up the experience and so here are several reviews of the film for them to enjoy:

http://variety.com/2017/film/reviews/get-out-review-jordan-peele-1201968635/

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/get-out

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/review-the-giant-leap-forward-of-jordan-peeles-get-out

https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2017/nov/17/get-out-golden-globes-race-horror-comedy-documentary-jordan-peele

http://junkee.com/get-out-white-woke/102624

And here is an article published in The Atlantic focusing on the use of eyes and cameras in the film, something I’m ashamed of myself for not writing more about.  Enjoy:

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/03/in-get-out-the-eyes-have-it/518370/

 

***Writer’s Note***

Because I’m a Key and Peele Fan so I just had to share this one.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldMb_TZtq0c

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Further Experiments with Masturbation

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755C12F4-F993-4A0C-ABE7-8A6F2F0ABA96

Further Experiments in Masturbation

12 April 2018

 

If you’d like to read it please feel free to order a copy by following the link below:

If You Can’t Be the One You Want, Love the One You Are: Gollum’s Undiagnosed Depression and The Two Towers Part II 

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44f5952d299452d13804b8331275a017

Try to save myself, but my self keeps slipping away.

Into the Void, Trent Reznor

 

Clint Eastwood made a square out of the dust on the windshield of his golf-cart.  He framed Rango and said one of the best quotes I’ve ever heard in terms of narrative theory:

Spirit of the West: No man can walk out of his own story.

It may be a platitude, but this line still felt powerful when I was watching it, even after Clint Eastwood drove away in his golf-cart disappearing into the desert of Nevada.  The line stuck with me, and as I was listening to Michael D.C. Drout’s lecture series Of Sorcerers and Men I was reminded again of the line as the man asked an important question: Is Gollum the hero of his own story?MV5BOGMzOGNkMjAtYjFhNy00MWI2LWExZTUtMDNkZGE5M2FlYWE2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzQ3Nzk5MTU@._V1_

Every reader I suspect has one friend, co-worker, or casual acquaintance who believes that they can do impressions.  These will usually be, in order, Borat, Bane from The Dark Knight Rises, Bill Murray from Caddy Shack, and of course Andy Serkis’s now defining portrayal of Gollum.  Imitation is the most sincerest form of flattery, but Jeff really needs to find a better hobby now that his divorce is finalized.

My usual, dismal humor aside, the character of Gollum is something that has lasted past the flair and hoopla of the Lord of the Rings film franchise, and even if there are people who no longer recognize words like Nazgul, Hobbits, Gandalf, and Aragorn, most people probably recognize the character of Gollum, in due large part to Serkis’s incredible performance, and maybe unfortunately that one episode of Big Bang Theory.  Gollum as a figure and a character is something most people can latch onto easily in the Lord of the Rings trilogy because the character is so often recognized as an addictive personality, and his passion for the ring is popularly understood as an extended metaphor for drugs.  At least that’s what mygollum_in_the_cave_by_lucastrati-d4txawzteachers and gym coaches use to tell us.  And, I’m pretty sure, the reader probably has taken this interpretive route as well.

Having finished The Two Towers however, and looking at the larger character arc of the character Gollum, I kept returning to Drout’s question, and the Spirit of the West’s advice.  No one can walk out of their own story, but is it possible for someone to break themselves down so much so that they can no longer see themselves as the hero or at least maker of their own story?

This is a difficult question and one that I struggle with because I suffer from depression.  I drive my wife, friends, and coworkers nuts with this because I am often putting myself down, I rarely receive compliments with much comfort, and if anyone attempts to praise me I’m often to say that I’m really not worth it, or else that there are better people than me.  This is usually my facade for my real feelings which often amount to the conviction that my life is worthless, I have no real importance to anyone around me, and that everyone would be better off if I was dead.Photo on 3-17-18 at 11.06 PM #3

I have no rational explanation for this conviction.  It’s all just a regular feeling I’m held by.    Birthdays tend to be the worst, and I often find excuses not to accept any sort of praise.  And I can honestly say that I’ve told myself regularly that I am worth less than dog-shit.

Taking all of this in, and reflecting on which part of the Book 4 of The Two Towers to write about there really doesn’t seem to be any conflict.  I knew I was going to write about Gollum, but rather than look upon his disorder as a form of dependence or addiction, I feel that there stands a real argument that the man is really a beautiful metaphor for depression, specifically the way people can self-denigrate to the point oblivion. 230f755addecc2e349899e12b61d6759

It’s not simply that Gollum as a character is so far gone that he’s completely abandoned his previous name and identity of Smeagol, one of the river-folk from a good family, it’s the fact that he barely retains any sort of semblance of his previous existence.  Though while reading the book I was struck by a passage, largely because Drout had pointed it out to me.  I’ll admit that I was on my way to work, listening to the lecture about Gollum and becoming more and more sympathetic to the character, but I wasn’t prepared for what came next.  Drout read the passage, and I had to drive through tears.

The passage takes place later in Book 4, as Sam and Frodo are asleep and Gollum has returned finding them in this state:

Gollum looked at them.  A strange expression passed over his lean hungry face.  The gleam faded from his eyes, and they went dim and grey, old and tired.  A spasm of pain seemed to twist in him, and he turned away, peering back up towards the pass, shaking his head, as if engaged in some interior debate.  Then he came back, and slowly putting out a trembling hand, very cautiously he touched Frodo’s knee—but almost the touch was a caress.  For a fleeting moment, could one of the sleepersgollumhave seen him, they would have thought that they beheld an old weary hobbit, shrunken by the years that had carried him far beyond his time, beyond friends and kin, and the fields and streams of youth, an old starved pitiable thing.  (699).

I was crying for Gollum, something I never really thought that I would say or write.  It feels hammy or ridiculous, but at the same time I recognize it isn’t because I cry every time I read Harry Potter and read Dobby’s death, I weep every time Simba tries to wake up Mufassa after he’s fallen into the stampede, and to this day I know that I will never watch Old Yeller because…No, just no.  Fuck, no.  This sympathy for a fictional character who I often despise was an incredible sensation, and was partly what confirmed my re-interest in Tolkien and my conviction to finish his trilogy this time.

The passage was incredible for the way it helped me recognize the physicality of depression, and the tole it takes on the body.

5908a2f185d53210113731Depression is as much a physical ailment as it is an emotional burden, not enough people really seem to recognize that.  There’s the sadness, and morbid-as-fuck thoughts in which you try to rationalize why your existence is flawed, pointless, and a waste of other people’s time, but these sensations are only part of the larger show.  I’ve begun to recognize more and more that my depression tends to manifest in physical ailments such as twitching, headaches, panic attacks where it feels like I can’t breath.  And the most depressing thing about all of this crap is that I’ve begun to realize how ephemeral my body is, which is another way of saying I’ve become more and more aware of the aging process and so I’m realizing this clap-trap of a form is the only body I’m going to get.

My concern for my physical well-being is a sign that my depression has not completely taken my spirit over and so I’ve taken the time to invest in self-repair.gollum-lord-of-the-rings-31401514-395-315

The physical symptoms of depression are real and present in this small scene, but even more so is the disconnect.  Depression as an illness is not just about feeling sad and impotent coupled with a few physical ailments.  Tolkien is really great at showing how the lingering pain of depression is this real sense of waste.  Gollum/Smeagol in passage isn’t just some random cretin, he’s a real being who once had a life with passion and purpose.  Seeing Sam and Frodo in their “youth” (Frodo is supposed to be in his fifties so I place that word in quotations) Gollum is really able, and thus the reader is able as well, to see how the man has wasted his life immersing himself in the ring.  And this leads to the most pernicious aspect of depression that Tolkien is able to convey which is that, over time, people can become so comfortable in their pain that they don’t want to change their life because they don’t know anything else.Gollum5

Long before this passage Gollum leads Frodo and Sam to Morannon just outside of the Black Gates of Cirith Gorgor.  That’s all jargon for the entrance to Mordor, I’m a nerd remember.

Before the actual attempt to enter Mordor takes place Gollum confronts Frodo in a moment of desperation:

‘No, no, master!” Wailed Gollum, pawing at him, and seeming in great distress.  ‘No use that way!  No use! Don’t take the Precious to Him!  He’ll eat us all, if He gets it, eat all the world.  Keep it, nice master, and be kind to Smeagol.  Don’t let him have it.  Or ho away, go to nice places, and give it back to little Smeagol.  Yes, yes master give it back, eh?  Smeagol will keep it safe; he will do lots of good, especially to nice hobbits.”  (623-4).

I’ve recently become aware of the fact that I can be something of a vampire to my friends, because I have a tendency to be a bit of a drama queen.  Whenever my depression hits in force I’m unable to really contain it and so my friends wind up having to expend emotional energy to help me out, and this usually makes me feel even worse.  Seeing myself in Gollum is not a pleasant sensation I can assure the reader, but looking at this passage his desire for the Precious is not just selfishness, it’s a sign of his deeper weakness.  Because Gollum has spent close to 500 years just being in the pain of the Ring, he hasn’t allowed himself to develop any kind of personal significance; he has nothing but pain and the ring.  Depression mimics this kind of lifestyle because when one suffers from depression for extensive amounts of time, one becomes comfortable with thatMV5BODZjNmEwNmMtZjc1Yi00YWVkLWJlMjEtYjA0ODZiOTU4Y2QzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzQ3Nzk5MTU@._V1_pain.  I’ve said to my friends who have suggested therapy that, “I just enjoy being broken.”  And as Gollum suggests to Frodo that he taker back the ring, it’s clear Gollum wants it back not because he wants to help others, he just wants to go back to a space and place where he could be comfortable being broken.

I recognize this isn’t a terrible novel observation, because if the reader has as an eclectic taste in music as I do, they might have listened to Nine Inch Nails.  The entire collected recordings of Trent Reznor might as well be one long dedication to depression, and one of my favorite songs sprung to mind as I began this essay.  Everyday is Exactly the Same is a song I’ve played almost everyday for the last few months and I’ve realized more and more how relevant the song feels to my life.  Looking at just a few lyrics my own depression, and Gollum’s, takes on a new dimension:

I believe I can see the future

‘Cause I repeat the same routine

I think I used to have a purpose

But then again, that might have been a dream

I think I used to have a voiceTrent Reznor Young

Now I never make a sound

I just do what I’ve been told

I really don’t want them to come around, oh no

Every day is exactly the same

Every day is exactly the same

There is no love here and there is no pain

Every day is exactly the same

Human beings, and by extension I suppose Hobbits, are creatures of habit.  It’s a cliche I repeat often, but that’s only because there’s a great level of truth to it: habit dies harder than love.  Gollum’s existence is one defined by a past tragedy that, over time, disappears into the obsession of the Ring, and while many writers and fans have gravitated to the ring as an explanation for Gollum’s psychological state, I would argue that there230d12e37ce5f7ff7cea6294c4693632really can be a case made for the reality that Gollum is suffering from a real form of depression.  I’m not ignoring the supernatural power of the Ring, but the pattern of behavior suggests a deeper struggle.

Gollum is a man who who used to live in his pain, and being separated from the “comfort” of the daily pain is a great burden to bear that steadily forces him to confront the realities of the past, not to mention the psychological and physical damage he’s done to his body and mind.

Peter Jackson, to his credit, managed to convey this reality in the second of the three films as Gollum is talking to himself one night while the Hobbits are asleep.

Gollum: We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious. They stole it from us. Sneaky little hobbitses. Wicked, tricksy, false!

Smeagol: [shaking his head] No. Not master!

Gollum: [snarling malevolently] Yes, precious, false! They will cheat you, hurt you, LIE.I Hate You 2

Smeagol: Master is my friend.

Gollum: You don’t have any friends; nobody likes you!

Smeagol: [closes his ears with his hands] I’m not listening… I’m not listening…

Gollum: You’re a liar and a thief.

Smeagol: No.x

Gollum: [sinister whisper] *Murderer*.

Smeagol: [voice breaking; hurt by Gollum’s remark] Go away!

Gollum: “Go away?”

[Gollum laughs mockingly as Smeagol begins to cry]

Smeagol: [weeping] I hate you. I *hate* you.

As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve had conversations like this with myself.  Conversations that end with me crying, holding my head, and saying the word “I hate you” over and over again.  And I hope that this means I’m not too far gone into this shit.I Hate You

But I began this essay with a real question: Is Gollum the hero of his own story?  To which Tolkien seems to provide a not so subtle answer to this question.  Near the end of Book 4 Sam and Frodo are making their way to the pass of Cirith Ungol and the realm of Shelob the giant spider and Sam begins to talk aloud about the “stories of old.”  It’s a bit of meta-reflection that was used beautifully in the Second Lord of the Rings film,9780760785232_p0_v2_s1200x630however something was left out that begs this initial question.

‘Maybe,’ said Sam, “but I wouldn’t be one to say that.  Things done and over and made into part of the great tales are different.  Why even Gollum might be good in a tale, better than he us to have by you, anyway.  And he used to like takes himself once, by his own account.  I wonder if he thinks he’s the hero of the villain?

‘Gollum!’ He called.  ‘Would you like to be the hero—now where’s he got to again?’

There was no sign of him at the mouth of their shelter nor in the shadows near.  (697).

At the opportunity to join the conversation, and perhaps give himself a moment to be full, and be the hero of his own story, Gollum is conspicuously absent, returning in just a few moments to find the Hobbits asleep and thus create the earlier quote that originally left me in tears as I drove to work.  The question is answered by that absence, and Gollum’s real tragedy is thus revealed: he is a man living a life where is isn’t the hero.image

Such a state of being may not seem terribly important in this contemporary times.
Heroes are the stuff of comic books or really bad action movies True Lies, or terrible action films like Commando.  Yet despite this the idea of a person being their own hero is an important one, because if one is a claims adjustor, or a civil servant, or a reference access at a library the idea that your life is your own and that you are living your own narrative is important.  It gives one a sense of purpose and direction, and one is able to build a life from such a narrative.Two Towers

The problem with something like depression is that it numbs one from that purpose and drive.  Life becomes about being, but more importantly about questioning the relevance of that being.  Depression is a state where one regularly questions, or really believes that life would be better off without them.  Gollum’s pain is that he has wasted his life living in that pain, and the worst part is he just wants to return to it because it’s better than facing the truth which is that he has wasted his life pursuing something that isn’t real.

There’s so much material in The Two Towers, but because Gollum has become a bit of a rock-star I wanted to dig into his character and find something that isn’t just imitations or caricatures.  And in the real character I guess I found a bit of myself, or, as tragedy may be, a lot of myself.  Tolkien deserves credit then for crafting a real vision of theNkRyCEOreality of depression.  My condition is not necessarily improving dramatically, but writing about it like this, finding connections to it in real life and fiction, and telling my story like this has helped me moving forward.  It’s helped me claim my position in my own narrative as the, if not hero, at least the man of his own making.

Gollum is a man who has walked out of his own story, and allowed his desire for comfort in pain to become his defining trait, and ultimately his undoing.  I suppose though that, in that tragedy, there’s still an opportunity for other people to find a bit of themselves, and reevaluate whether going to see a therapist every now and then is really such a bad thing.  Just make sure not to see one for seventeen years because then you’re in Woody Allen territory.

And Gollum in a Woody Allen movie is a reality I don’t think any of us are ready for just yet.

smeagol1

 

AFTERWARD

This essay was written months ago.  I have a tendency to sit on my work and so what was true during the original composition has, not changed, but altered dramatically.  In the time since I wrote this essay my friend Savannah Blair killed herself.  So what has not changed is my conviction and understanding that I laid bare in this essay.  Depression is a disease, and those that suffer from it should seek counseling and medication if need be.  Life is too short, and our connections to others is mortal and tenuous.  The friend, sister, brother, father, mother, lover, partner that is here today can be gone tomorrow as quickly as it takes to squease a trigger.

Please, for the people you love, seek help.  It’s worth it to stave off a great deal of pain and not just your own.  Miss you Sav.

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*Writer’s Note*

All quotes taken from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers were cited from the paperback Mariner edition.  All quotes from Rango were provided by IMDb.  And The Lyrics for Everyday is Exactly the same were quoted from AZLyrics.com.

Two Towers

 

**Writer’s Note**

If the reader happens to be someone who suffers from depression, or knows someone who suffers from the disease, I’ve provided a link below to a few resources for people who would like help, or at least would like to start researching the condition.  Trust me as somebody who’s been dealing with the crap for almost 30 years, being happy and healthy is way, way, WAY better than being comfortable and broken.

https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/depression/resources.htm

http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=clinicians_resources_for_your_patients

https://nndc.org/initiatives/task-groups/college-mental-health/resources/

https://www.rtor.org/depression/

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/find-support-groups

https://www.columbusrecoverycenter.com/depression-resource-guide/

 

***Writer’s Note***

Please remember, nothing is an original thought and just as I think I’ve contributed something unique to the culture, I find dozens or articles that more or less express the same thought.  So, please enjoy these articles about Depression and Lord of the Rings:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/maria-senise/how-the-lord-of-the-rings_b_5534013.html

https://www.thefourohfive.com/film/article/mental-health-awareness-month-why-living-with-depression-is-pretty-much-the-plot-of-the-lord-of-the-rings-146

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-331155/Gollum-diagnosed-mental-illness.html

 

 

****Writer’s Note****

Just for the record, since I wrote this essay I’ve begun to see a therapist.  A friend of mine sees her regularly, and another friend found her number for me and hounded me until I called her up and made the appointment. Self-repair is a strange sensation, but it is worth it.

#43-Boobs

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Nicki-Minaj-Pound-The-Alarm-Explicit-019

Thought experiment, file #43: consideration of the prominences located on the upper ventral region of the torso of homo sapiens sapiens, specifically of the female sex.  Thought Experiment shall concern itself with the following: What’s the deal with breasts and boobs yo?

 

[000.0001__initial concerns]

Boobs are not the same thing as breasts.  Breasts are parts of women’s bodies responsible for feeding babies, and babies are pure, and innocent, and sexless.  When was the last time you saw a sexy baby?  Case and point.  Boobs are different from breasts then giphy-2because when I think of boobs I think of pornography.  I think of beer commercials.  I think of skinny women with their boobs packed into bras which are designed to press the flesh and blood of their bodies up close to the base of their chin so that we can see that flesh flex and ripple and flex while the women smile and entice.

Boobs to me is sex, but is this an empty observation?

Plenty of writers, commentators, academics, and cultural theorists who need tenure and so they write about something sexy to sell a book and help the review board forget about that incident last spring with the tennis star that left him divorced and looking for cash, RjhPSgGhave all written about the sexualization, and in many cases over-sexualization, of human breasts.  It’s important to note that these theorists have almost entirely centered their attention on the female breast because that tends to be where this sexualization takes place.

Meditating on or observing the rhetoric of noticing sexy-boobs is really just an empty gesture.  Unless one can add something to the argument a writer is really just masturbating on the page.  I have tried at least twenty times to write about breasts on the internet.  Doing my best to scrape together boob-puns and picture after picture of clever and terrible innuendos that rely on breasts for the joke to work.  In the end all I’ve done is observe a lot of boobs, and I’m not sure whether I’ve really learned anything from the experience.

1601054_358349127640820_715769883_n

 

[004.7884t____first observation]

Buzzfeed has dedicated an entire “article,” if you can call the collection of photo series they do articles at all, over what Katy Perry has used to cover her breasts during DEzPFyvEghslperformances and music videos.  This includes, but is not limited to the following: whipped cream dispensers, candy, muffins, cupcakes, shells, pockets, a banana, film reels and even Elmo’s face.  This last was purposefully salacious because she had recently appeared on Sesame Street performing her song Holt/Cold with Elmo and many mothers of children who viewed the program complained that her outfit was “unnecessarily sexual,” specifically, her boobs were bouncing around through the whole thing.

For my own part, if I have to pick a favorite it would be none of these because while the woman is certainly curvaceous, it’s her thighs that often leave me a puddle on the floor.  I have no reasonable explanation for this.  There’s just something about Katy Perry’s thighs.

Katy Perry "California Dreams Tour 2011" - Atlanta

This leaves me in the minority however because the mountain of discourse around Katy giphyPerry’s body has to do with the big bouncing mountains of writing and blogging material on her chest: her boobs.

It seems those mounds of flesh are an endless fertile crescent for creeps on the internet who write up manifestos using creepy and fucking fuck expressions like “mounds of flesh.”  It’s just that every time Katy Perry appears somewhere in culture somebody somewhere has to comment about her breasts.  This is nothing new, because for close to two decades society decided to talk about Madonna’s vagina and who or what was visiting it regularly.  Katy Perry is not Madonna, but like Madonna Katy Perry has used her body in her visual art as a means of establishing some sort of aesthetic.  Her imagery tends to be sexual in nature, but unlike Madonna who tended to fuck on screen for attention, Katy Perry has often used her breasts to be both sexual, and funny.  Her boobs aren’t pornographic, they’re something to look at but also to laugh at, and so while the rhetoric tends to be “look at Katy Perry’s boobs” the aesthetic is usually to the effect of, “Well, duh, she’s pointing right to them.”

http---prod.static9.net.au-_-media-Network-The-Fix-Celebs-Katy-Perry-boobs-Katy14-2

 

[#0111.54__second Considerations]alison-bechdel-fun-home-cover1

My favorite book of all time is Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic and I’ve written somewhere around four or five essays about the book.  In fact having finished it again recently I’ve considered returning to it and writing yet another in a long line of kiss-
assery.  The power of the graphic novel to me is the combination of honesty, attention to detail, and the near constant literary references that make me feel special because I have a fucking Masters degree.  The book is always an inspiration though, and I’m better for having it in my life because it helped me realize that I’m just as attracted to men as I am to women.

There’s plenty of frames in the book that make me pause and consider Bechdel’s aesthetic, but one frame always stops me.  Allison is in college reading, devouring really, numerous books about feminism and lesbian identity and in one scene she is reading a novel while eating and Bechdel provides the quote:

Fun Home Mrs. Stevens

This frame has the impact on me that it does because when I was young, and just starting to write reguarly, I would often compare a woman’s breasts and boobs to fruits like melons, peaches, or…yeah that’s pretty much it.  I mean, what monster or hack would compare a woman’s breast to a dragon fruit?  I suspect part of being a young writer, a young male writer, I should specify, is comparing body parts to food.  I suspect this is a habit because when you’re young you’re still in high school and every high school teacher has to bombard their students with relentless symbolism because that’s all Wearing-bras-after-breast-augmentation-experts-adviceyou’re going to do in college level English classes, apparently.  Discuss how boobs feel like peaches, or jelly, or pillows, or sponges.  Why can’t men write about a woman’s breast without using something else to describe them?  Why do boobs have to be anything apart from boobs?

Being honest here, I think it’s because men don’t have boobs, we just have cocks and balls, and cocks are just these hard poles we rub until goo shoots out and balls are too tender to squeeze.  When a man feels a breast however it is very much like the rest of a Female Breast Anatomywoman’s body: soft and alien.  There isn’t any real frame of reference because there’s nothing a man can feel on himself that compares to a woman’s breast, and because fruits tend to be soft and “fleshy”  and sweet it stands to reason that they’re the first thing a man is likely to think about when he’s trying to give his reader an erection.

This leaves a male writer’s female reader in a bit of an awkward position because it’s highly unlikely she’s ever compared her knockers to ripe figs or honeydew melons.  She’ll probably just refer to them as breasts, and leave the word “knockers” to male writers like Mel Brooks.

tumblr_mhmff4WZ5O1qb3ns3o2_500

 

[04041.0009__third anomaly]

I have many books in my library that deal with men, specifically, how and why men fuck, with each other.  I have very few books about lesbian sexuality, and this often leaves me, 4383075763to quote the great French philosopher Michel Foucault, pretty fuckin bummed in myself.  Still there are a few books about women in my library, more than a few, and between my considerations of Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj (she’s next you see) I found a few books that deal with women and their anatomy.

A History of the Breast by Marilyn Yalom has been sitting in my “to-read” pile for close to
a year, though in fact calling this now functioning shelf full of books a “pile” is an exercise in self-delusion.  I have a problem and I intend to handle it, that’s what retirement is for.  The book is unique however, not just because the cover is adorned with Jean Fouquet’s Virgin and Child Surrounded by Angels which shows Mary as a European aristocratic woman bearing a single orb-resembling breast to her child, but also because it is part of a niche collection of books that center their attention on a single body part.  Someone was able to fill an entire book with concepts and ideas that people Breast_anatomy_normal_schemehave formulated about breasts, and while I haven’t read the book in it’s entirety I’ll open it from time to time and read a passage, and this one struck me at this reading:

Husbands often favored the use of a wet nurse, since it was believed that couples should refrain from sexual intercourse while the mother was nursing.  It was widely thought that a mother’s milk was a form of vaginal blood, transformed from blood to milk as it passed from the womb to the breasts.  The agitation of intercourse would have the consequences of corrupting the milk supply, curdling the milk, and might even kill off any fetuses that managed to be conceived.  As for the aesthetics of breast feeding, many husbands did not like the appearance of their wives with a child at the breast.  Nursing, a praise-worthy occupation for ancient goddesses and the Virgin Mary, was not considered attractive when practiced by highborn ladies.  Many upper-class women, subservient to the eroticized ideal of a youthful bosom, were thus obliged to entrust their babies to wet nurses.  (70).gettyimages-530682505-shifting-monashee-alonso

I’m honestly not sure which part is more surprising here, the fact that husbands didn’t think breast-feeding was sexy or that breast milk is apparently menstrual blood.  I should probably go with the blood though since men being stupid will hardly be much of a revelation.

I’ve never fully understood the male reaction to the Menstrual cycle given the fact that, as men, we’re supposed to be doing nothing but thinking about vaginas all the time.  It would seem men like vaginas, but only when they don’t have to actually think about how they work.  At work in this dynamic however is the difficulty of the Breast Vs Boob paradigm.  Men like boobs when they’re these big squishy bags of fun that don’t have babies or reproduction attached to them, but the moment men consider a woman’s actual biology a boob becomes a breast again.

Breasts are reminders that sexuality is not a sterile or artificial construct, but a messy exchange of fluids that results in procreation and new life.  When a Boob starts to leak milk it must be connected to a vagina, and there’s nothing like leaky Boobs then to turn men off.

1004635_609368492457261_1583089276_n

 

[5555.00301__fourth argument]

I want to read Marco Polo’s Travels.  I bought the book at the PeaPicker, a local bookstore in my hometown of Tyler, and I’ve always wanted to sit down and actually read it.  There’s this idea that I would be really touching history by listening to the records of one of those who came before.  This has nothing to do with Boobs, but I feel like it might have something to do with boobs.  Or not.  It’s still a nice thought.

9780307269133

 

[5555.00302__fifth observation]

Nicki Minaj is another one of those women in recent times who has gained a certain prominence in society for being a skilled musician, but also because she has very, very large boobs.  And, to note, a rather large heinie.  I say boobs and not breasts because there is usually not much earthiness to Nicki Minaj, or at least not in the songs and nicki-minaj-pound-the-alarm-official-music-video_6454143-184_640x360videos I’ve watched.

I wrote an entire essay about Nicki Minaj and her boobs, ultimately arriving at the conclusion that the sexuality model she was offering in the video for her song Pound the Alarm was largely artificial given the fact the entire aesthetic was building on carnival.  As a mode of celebration carnival goes back to the Middle Ages where people would celebrate the life and death of the year by celebrating sexuality but also death and with this came many jokes about poop and farting.

Pound the Alarm has no reference to feces, or bodily odors for that matter,  but it does have lots of Boobs.  Nicki herself is always the center of the video and her breasts, her boobs, are always part of the display.

She bounces them.

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She jiggles them.

Nicki_Minaj-Pound_Alarm

She pushes them together with her arms and wiggles her butt.

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And throughout the short film when the music hits a spike she will thrust her shoulders back making her boobs pop out at the reader.  There’s nothing inherently wrong about this, and I don’t want to be the male writer who says Minaj isn’t allowed to advertise her body and sexuality.  But looking at Minaj there is always a sexualization of her body Nicki-Minaj-Pound-The-Alarm-1being displayed or encouraged.  Her breasts are not earthy or biological, they are part of some sterile sexual performance which is at the heart of her entire public persona.  Sex is not about procreation it’s about fun, and her boobs are just part of the fun.  Great big
jiggly bouncing fun at that.

Observing the observation of Nicki Minaj’s boobs is much like the observation of the observation of Katy Perry’s Boobs then.  Whatever merriment and mirth is derived from watching whatever Nicki or Katy decorate their boobs with, at the end of the day they remain boobs rather than breasts, and the understanding is there will never be any babies suckling on them any-time soon.

NM 1

 

 

[0777.091__Seventh Seventh Seventh]

In Desert Hearts Cay seduces Vivian finally by stripping naked and refusing to leave 1986152Q6BHoGmesAbNzbGn4xpaFxyMq18cIJjW9dWA3xM2nJZ1YBpC4LAl0B08KlAs5OoZ3mg1v7zmM6FT4OEYIxHQVivian’s bed despite her protests.  Put aside the fact the scene would flop appallingly if Cay were a man, Cay’s refusal eventually succeeds and the pair of them finally making love and thus providing a sexual denouement to the tension which has been building during the entire film.  The first time I watched this scene however was not when I was twelve and supremely and erotically fixated upon “lesbian” sexuality (and I quote that because “lesbian” porn exists and it definitely wasn’t made for lesbians, or at least not the ones I know, they clip their fingernails).  It was Gay Movie Night and I was hanging out with a group of friends all of whom were queer women.

The sex didn’t show any cunnilingus, it was just Cay and Vivian kissing and eventually suckling on each other’s nipples.  It was shortly after this act that Vivian experienced an orgasm.  None of my friends were entirely sure how this occurred, in fact there was a dubiousness that lasted until we finally shrugged and someone simply suggested, “Well, they were just chillin.”  Chillin, of course, became synonymous with orgasm.

I became convinced rather quickly that lesbians possessed some secret power to bring their partners to orgasm simply by touching each other’s nipples and so I went to my library and looked in my copy of The Lesbian Sex Bible.  Breasts only appear twice in this 9781592336142_lbook, and only one has an entire quote, it reads as follows:

TOUCHING BREASTS AND CHESTS

Everyone loves breasts.  We either want ours touched or we want to touch someone else’s—and often we want both.  Touching her breasts and nipples releases a feel-good hormone called oxytocin that gets her excited and ready for sex.  If your lover is more masculine, she might find that having her breasts cupped feels too girly.  Instead, concentrate on playing with her nipples.  Pull and pinch the nipples, roll them between your fingers, grip her tits girly, or stroke her chest as if it were flat.  (84).

This passage was rather interesting largely because it contained the words “breasts” three times, and the word “tits” once.  Tit is a word I’ve avoided because it honestly sounds too masculine, or else too sharp.  I like the word Boob though because it has a linguistic curvature that’s fun to say.  “Tits” isn’t fun, but neither really is “breasts.”

Whatever the case the passage left me disappointed because it revealed nothing of Lesbians’ secret power to give each other orgasms simply by stimulating each other’s nipples.  Such is life.

U5drVQVKKDgM7WoQNmXQQF1DRBLhMi8

 

[8.08__a return before final assessment]

I could read Marco Polo’s Travels, but I also want to read War & Peace before I die, and I haven’t even touched my hardback Plutarch’s Lives.  There’s so many books I want to read but I don’t have time for.  This thought has some connection to Boobs, I just don’t know what it is yet.

9780307269133

 

[011111111.111111110__another return before final assessment]

Amanda Palmer painted her almost naked body so that one half of her was the outward physical form, but the other half showed her muscles, tendons, nerves, and the child gestating in her uterus.  She was pregnant at the time and so the belly that protruded amanda-palmer-facebook-2outward from her physical form was not just for show, she was actually pregnant.  This was not the first time Amanda Palmer “revealed” her breasts to the public.  The internet abounds with pictures of her either in concert, in videos, or at public events periodically bare chested and simply not giving a fuck.  As she is want to do.  Even beside me while I write is a copy of her book The Art of Asking, which amanda-palmerhas her naked and covering her breasts with her arms while holding a flower.

There’s so much to be impressed about by Amanda Palmer, but I return to her New York performance because the image of an almost naked, pregnant woman standing perfectly still outside a library is something just indescribable.  Her bare breasts are part of a performance, but rather than simply be about showing Boob, her breasts remain breasts because of the baby in her tummy that is clearly up for display.

It was a moment of pure honesty and a reminder of the biological function and purpose of breasts that was both challenging and fascinating.

The last few years have seen a rising of the “free the breast campaign” as women the world over have begun to push back against the sexualization, or over-sexualization of breasts, demanding the same rights as men to bare their chests without fear of social or legal reprisal.  This cannot be attributed solely to Amanda Palmer, but the willingness to show her body as a means of both demonstrating the power of the body, as well as its own naturalness surely was a knock to the supremacy of Boobs.

1

 

[final thoughts]

The cover of Saga Volume 1 and issue #1, shows Alana holding the baby Hazel to her 81+Sf+bNqULchest where the babe is suckling gently.  The cover, and the book itself, garnered widespread condemnation by certain comic book fans who objected that a “family book” had such advanced material. The only problem with this criticism is that Saga was never a “family” book as it contains numerous scenes of violence and sexuality, however the initial charge of corruption due to breastfeeding remains the best example of the final separation between Breasts and Boobs.

Human beings are an ego driven species, and we tend to think about fucking a lot.  And in the Information Age where millions of images of breasts can appear with just a few clicks of a button, the sexualization of breasts appears to be an seemingly unending, unmovable onslaught.  Likewise the conversations about the hyper-sexualization of breasts can become a pedantic affair  because conversations about sexuality can become heated rather quickly.  In an environment where people don’t even like discussing condoms how can one create an atmosphere where nuance about women’s breasts can take place?

My own thoughts here are random, spotty, and really only amount to a collection of quick observations.  In fact upon consideration it seems fair to argue that this “essay” was in fact just an excuse to download a lot of pictures of topless women.  This is not a nuanced discussion at all, and Boobs remain Boobs and Breasts remain Breasts.

It seems the only sane response is to appreciate breasts as sexual protuberances until it’s time for the baby to be nursed.  Because, and this is important, at the end of the day the kid’s gotta eat more than I need to appreciate a great pair of boobs.  And besides, unless Playboy goes bankrupt anytime soon, there’s always gonna be a space for looking at Boobs.

gettyimages-530682505-shifting-monashee-alonso

 

 

 

 

*Writer’s Note*

All Quotes cited from A History of the Breast by Marilyn Yalom were taken from the Hardback Knopf edition.  All Quotes from Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Allison Bechdel were from the Hardback Houghlin Mifflin Edition.  All Quotes taken from The Lesbian Sex Bible by Diana Cage were taken from the Hardback Quiver Press edition.

 

**Writer’s Note**

Below is a link to the aforementioned article listing the varies garments employed to dress Katy Perry’s now famous breasts.  I hope the reader enjoys and also takes the time to learn a little bit of history about breasts after “reading” this “article”:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/whitneyjefferson/things-katy-perry-has-worn-on-her-breasts?utm_term=.bmKDBV1YY#.si8Z6zBRR

 

***Writer’s Note***

Please find below a link to the wikipedia page for breast.  Why?  Because read the reference section.  Seriously Wikipedia is changing, and even though your high school English teacher told you to never, never, NEVER use Wikipedia the only reason she told you that was because your lazy ass would have just copy/pasted the whole fucking thing and then you wouldn’t have learned anything.  But now that you’re an adult, you can scroll down to the “references” section and see what research ACTUALLY went into producing the material that helped you bullshit your way through twelfth grade Health Class.  Anyway, enjoy the page, and the boobs, and, more importantly, the FACTS about the boobs.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breast

 

****Writer’s Note****

Below I’ve provided a link to the World Health Organization(WHO), specifically a page dealing with breast-feeding that provides general information, links to resources, and general health information.

http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/

I’ve also provided something similar for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/

And finally here also is a link to Planned Parenthood:

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/breastfeeding

 

*****Writer’s Note*****

On one final note I would like to offer my apologies to Katy Perry for my weird, creepy comments about her thighs.  I’m not saying they’re not lovely to look at or that…that…katy-perry-peacock

Ahem, sorry, as I was saying it was wrong of me to…to…

article-2165261-13CE1683000005DC-346_310x644

 

You know what I’ve lost whatever dignity I had here.  I resign myself to being a pervert.  Remember me well friends.  And please don’t look at my browser history.  It is a tale of sadness.

Check Your White Privilege White Tower Musings—DAMN, This is America

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Childish Gamb

It’s not a place

This country is to be a sound of drum and bass

You close your eyes to look around

—XXX, Kendrick Lamar & Bono

 

America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.

America two dollars and twentyseven cents January 17, 1956.   

I can’t stand my own mind.

America when will we end the human war?

-America, Allen Ginsberg

Gambino.America.MAIN_-1920x1080

He guns down the choir with a machine gun and says “This is America.”  It’s a moment that hits me in my gut because it’s stylized violence before I remember that it’s actually happened.

I really do in fact, despite my claims, have several friends.  I know that as a writer and an introvert I’m supposed to say that I have no friends, but I do in fact have people in my life that I care a lot about.  True many of them are coworkers, but they’re also people I have a lot in common with.  Some are queer like me, almost all of them are readers, and almost all of them enjoy music of some sort.  And outside of work I have a gathering of people who, while they no longer live in my home town of Tyler, I’m still close to.  One of these friends is my brother Josh Grijalva.18033223_1945210082376663_8569107665547197131_n

He’s not a biological brother, but this motherfucker and I am joined at the hip.  When you wrap your arms around somebody for dear life at a Slipknot concert that’s fucking family.  I met Josh several years ago as I was just starting college, and I didn’t know his actual first name for close to a year, when I found out he was also called Josh I felt like a dumbass.  It didn’t matter thought because over the next few years the pair of us bonded over Heavy Metal, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Creative Writing (he was the mad-poet genius and I was the cold souls prose-ist).  Josh taught me a lot about life, and after his mother died I tried to be there for him as much as I could, and it’s one of the great fucking tragedies of my life that the guy lives up in Dallas, but we still talk off and on and this relationship has, in it’s way, still been one of the best relationships in my life partly because Josh Introduced me to Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino.

Rap wasn’t a genre of music that was played in my house growing up.  My parents were teenagers of the late seventies and early seventies so I grew up on Aerosmith, Blondie, AC/DC, Boston, Madonna, and the Eurythmics.  Along with this there was plenty of Rat Pack: Louie Prima, Dean Martin, Ella Fitzegerald, and of course Frank Sinatra.  It wasn’t that my parents kept me from Rap growing up, it just wasn’t part of their world, and because parents tend to raise their children according to their own values and interests and aesthetics, I grew up being bottle fed by the Rock-Gods rather than the
Rap pioneers.  I don’t hold my parents at fault foro0800060812932993417this, but this absence of rap also seemed to follow the pattern of “whiteness” that was my upbringing.  

There weren’t many black people around growing up.  I attended a private christian school where there was only one African American student in my class, and by the time I graduated there was only two.  The only black people I ever interacted with were the janitors and custodians of the school or our church that dad worked with (he’s an exterminator so he tended to work with the staff).  My social life was pretty much
nonexistent and I was an introvert who preferred staying home playing video games and reading comics.  This is just a long way of saying that I lived in what some would refer to as a “lily-white” world or privilege and so approaching an essay about two rap songs is a difficult proposition because before I’ve even begun I have to address my whiteness and my privilege.

Josh Grijalva has steadily introduced me, over time, to great rappers like N.W.A., Wu-Tang Clan, Kendrick Lamarr, and Childish Gambino.  Each of these people or groups has opened me to a new world of music and now I know the important truth that Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nuthin’ to fuck with.  And that I need to “fight the powers that be.”  Josh was a great teacher because he offered me suggestions for music, and in my effort to understand my white privilidge and consider the experience of the African American community I’ve discovered a lot of incredible artists I never would have encountered in my childhood.02-Childish-Gambinos-This-Is-America-screenshot-billboard-1548

I never grew up around the threat of gun violence, and so watching Childish Gambino shoot a man through the back of the head and declare that this is America is at first shocking and jarring, but the last few years are a quick counter to this.  

This is America is a song that has become a new discourse largely because of the video, and as I discussed the short film with one of my fellow co-workers, who for the record taught me the word “woke,” we both agreed that the song is great but the video is work of art that manages to convey far more than the lyrics.  If the reader looks at the first start of the song they might not observe too much significance.  Childish Gambino has just shot a man, who at the start of the video was simply playing the guitar, through the back of the head and the song starts:

This is America (skrrt, skrrt, woo)
Don’t catch you slippin’ now (ayy)This is America Gif

Look at how I’m livin’ now
Police be trippin’ now (woo)

Yeah, this is America (woo, ayy)

Guns in my area (word, my area)
I got the strap (ayy, ayy)
I gotta carry ’em

A rapper singing about the need to carry guns for the sake of his own protection in the neighborhood he loves in isn’t anything new.  In fact groups like N.W.A. pretty much made it an industry standard.  What makes the words so powerful is the way in which Childish Gambino presents it.  Throughout the entire video the man is shirtless, wearing just a pair of pants, and while he is not out of shape by any means, as he dances about the man is never presented as a kind of sexual ideal.  In fact throughout the video onethis-is-america gets a sense of the man’s vulnerability.

This is America follows Childish Gambino as he sings and dances through a large warehouse that is populated by him, a group of dancing African American school children, and then humans that are always moving about in the background usually fighting, looting, burning the many parked cars, or else attacking the few clearly African American characters in the background.  Gambino becomes this surreal figure as cars are burning, people are looting and burning, and the man is smiling and dancing about.

And this very act has led some to observe that one of the most striking aspect of the videoBlackface THISare the implications of blackface performance tropes.  Gambino is constantly dancing through the film, making jerking motions and contortion his face randomly.  The bent elbows, the erratic facial twists, and the near cakewalk on top of the car near the end of the video all call back to minstrel shows where white performers would done black face paint and behave in cartoonish representations of African Americans.  I’m not the first person to observe this similarity, in fact many of the people who watched this film have observed how Childish Gambino uses a pseudo-minstrel-show persona throughout the video to distract the viewer from the violence and mayhem taking place in the background behind him.  This reference to a morbid form of entertainment continues the body narrative because ultimately the black man’s body is observedBlackface TIAin objectified ways to the point of being a commodity.  While the world behind him burns Gambino is a mock-minstrel reminding the viewer that black men like himself have been used and destroyed, while a shallow cartoon has distracted people from
seeing the real travesties that plague American society.  Why see the violent conflict that afflicts real people in our society when there is, in Gambino’s own words, a “fitted” and “pretty” person “on Gucci.”  Why bother to see the violence in the haze when there’s a funny cartoon dancing right in front of you?  Isn’t that far more entertaining? 

It’s when the man shoots the quoir with the AK-47 that the video seems to take the turn that it does.  Gambino appears through a door and dances to the quoit singing the lines:

Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh, tell somebody

EverlastingKindheartedGiraffe-max-1mbYou gon’ tell somebody

Grandma told me
Get your money, Black man (get your money)
Get your money, Black man (get your money)
Get your money, Black man (get your—Black man)
Get your money, Black man (get your—Black man)
Black man

And at once Gambino produces the rifle and guns the choir down.  It’s a quick act, not drawn and not dramatized.  In fact if you blink you’ll almost miss it.  The gun fires and the bodies drop and once again Gambino declares This is America.  The dramatic quickness of the act, and the way it changes the tone of the music instantly the reader is left wondering what the fuck just happened.xoFCtzg

I’m not the only blogger who has commented on the dramatic violence of This is America, in fact the internet seems to have become, since the video dropped, just one long discourse about what the violence means, what the popularity of the film suggests, and whether or not Gambino was right to even create it.  In the face of all this discourse I run the risk of becoming just another voice in the white haze, and in fact I probably will.  What more can be said when so much has been said?  As per usual I turn my focus back to myself and see what the video means for me, or what I focus on and that in fact is not the violence but the very end of the film.

Gambino is seen running through the warehouse in the dark and Young Thug, one of the collaborators for the song begins singing gently:

You just a black man in this world
You just a barcode, ayyThis is America
You just a black man in this world
Drivin’ expensive foreigns, ayy

You just a big dawg, yeah
I kenneled him in the backyard
No probably ain’t life to a dog
For a big dog

As throughout the film Gambino reveals a real vulnerability, specifically his body.  He’s a black man being chased through the dark by white shadows as the world declares that he’s just a barcode.

It’s not violent like the early scenes.  There’s no cop cars burning.  There’s no acts of random violence.  Instead there is just the vulnerability of the man’s body, and the look of terror in his eyes as he has to flee.  It’s clear if they catch him they’ll destroy his body, and on some level it’s implied that the destruction will take more than that.  Over the course of the video Gambino has tried to make his body into something more.  A black man’s body is something painfully relevant and important because it’s something that’s vulnerable; it’s something than can be destroyed or stolen or appropriated.

Ta-Nehisi Coates speaks about this in his usual magnificent way in his book Between the World and Me when he address his young son:download1

Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage.  Enslavement was not merely the antiseptic borrowing of labor—it is not so easy to get a human being to commit their body against its own elemental interest.  And so enslavement must be casual wrath and random mangling, the gashing of heads and brains blown out over the river as the body seeks to escape.  It must be rape so regular as to be industrial.  There is no uplifting way to say this.  I have no pride anthems, nor old Negro Spirituals.  The spirit and soul are the body and the brain, which are destructible—that is precisely why they are so precious.  And the soul did not escape.  The spirit did not steal away on gospel wings.  The soul and body that fed the tobacco, and the spirit was the blood that watered the cotton, and these created the first fruits of the American garden.  And the fruits were secured through the bashing of children with stove wood, through hot iron peeling skin away like husk from corn.

It had to be blood.  (103-4).

Many people online have pointed out the symbolism of almost every aspect of the video.  Whether it’s the references to Minstrel shows, the implication of viral violence, the ignoring of violence that is all too apparent, the references to actual gin violence in america, of the references to the “sunken-place” from Get Out,  This is America this-is-america-2promises so much opportunity to explore violence and the problems facing the black body in American Society.

I’ve watched This is America at least ten times, and each time I see more and more of this symbolism, but more and more all I can really observe is the vulnerability on display.  The body is something that is exposed to all of this violence, and while Gambino manages to escape this destruction around him, the implication at the end is that no one is truly free from it.

Which of course brings me to XXX and DAMN.

There was an ambition that really was a dream in the early years of my training as a writer.  I wanted to win a Pulitzer.  The writers I admired had won that award:damn-kendrick-lamarHemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner.  And so my young brain interpreted the winning of that award not as something that meant one had really said something with their art but just a real recognition that your art was legitimate and culturally recognized.  I’ve since abandoned the ambition that I will ever win a Pulitzer because I’m a realist and some dude with a blog, but I still follow the award and it’s winners because the books that win it do tend to say something significant about the culture and the zeitgeist.  It was too my great joy when I heard that Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN had won the award because I love the song XXX.

DAMN is an album I downloaded as soon as the library bought a copy and I’ve inhaled it ever since.  It’s not just that it’s unlike any rap album I’ve bought to date, it’s just a truly exceptional album for the way that it feels of it’s time and place while also making something that will last as a true cultural document.  DAMN is the first rap album ever to win the P{ulitzer and listening to XXX it’s not too difficult to understand why.  The song digs into the problems of gun violence in the United States, while also digging into Lamar’s self.

He sets up the story as a friend informs of the death of his son:

Yesterday I got a call like from my dog like 101

Said they killed his only son because of insufficient funds

He was sobbin’, he was mobbin’, way belligerent and drunk

Talkin’ out his head, philosphin’ on what the Lord had done

He said: “K-Dot, can you pray for me?KLamar Live

It’s been a fucked up day for me

I know that you anointed, show me how to overcome.”

He was lookin’ for some closure

Hopin’ I could bring him closer

To the spiritual, my spirit do no better, but I told him

“I can’t sugarcoat the answer for you, this is how I feel:

If somebody kill my son, that mean somebody gettin’ killed.”

Tell me what you do for love, loyalty, and passion of

All the memories collected, moments you could never touch

And after Bono sings his haunting chorus that feels like something out of a Jazz-roomCelly This is Americabar, Kendrick continues reflecting his pain outward and trying to understand it in the larger cultural context:

Hail Mary, Jesus and Joseph

The great American flag

Is wrapped and dragged with explosives

Compulsive disorder, sons and daughters

Barricaded blocks and borders

Look what you taught us!

It’s murder on my street, your street, back streets

Wall Street, corporate offices

Banks, employees, and bosses with

Homicidal thoughts; Donald Trump’s in office

We lost Barack and promised to never doubt him again

K Lamarr Live 2But is America honest, or do we bask in sin?

Pass the gin, I mix it with American blood

Then bash him in, you Crippin’ or you married to blood?

I’ll ask again-oops-accident

It’s nasty when you set us up

Then roll the dice, then bet us up

You overnight the big rifles, then tell Fox to be scared of us

Gang members or terrorists, et cetera, et cetera

America’s reflections of me, that’s what a mirror does
I can never understand fully the realities of being a black man, and the trials and pain and cultural weight that comes with it.  I’ve observed this repeatedly here on this siteCG Danceand in these essays, and while it feels repetitive to keep acknowledging my whiteness I do not believe that the sentiment loses any of its significance.  I am not a black a man, I am a white man who lives in a state of real privilege.  It’s not just that I’ve had economic advantages that have helped me live a comfortable life, I’ve also had educational advantages, and the privilege of living in a world that wasn’t plagued by violence.  I had the privilege to grow up not having to worry about what people thought about my body, or at least in a way where I didn’t have to worry about whether my body was perceived as a threat.  

Privilege as a word has fallen into a precarious position because there is so much debate about what the word actually is.  Privilege is not about absence of pain, misfortune, or absolvence.  Privilege is only and ever the reality in which an individual has some advantage that others do not.  The time and space to write these essays is a privilege, one that many people in this world would love to have.  The ability to not have to worrythe-undefeated-gif-sourceabout how one is going to get to work is a privilege.  The freedom to not have to worry about finding money for a child’s school payments is a privilege.  And now having to worry about whether your body is going to be objectified in positive or negative ways is a privilege.

That reality, living that reality, is a privilege.  This is America and DAMN shook me because they both reveal how much of a privilege that reality is.

Looking at myself in relation to these cultural events is the best way I have to write something that feels relevant about them.  Rather than just observing the symbolism contained therein, these are works of art and therefore it’s vital to understand theirThis-is-America-Donald-Glover-4relevance to the self.  What kind of man am I if I observe that there’s gun violence in my country and leave the observation at that?  What kind of citizen am I if I ignore the very real threat of violence against a portion of the population simply for the sake of my own comfort?  Art, when it is created with a concern for aesthetic and message can impact human beings in incredible ways.  Every time I watch This is America I have to wonder how much I agree?

The death of the choir is so dramatic and spontaneous.  The people didn’t even see it coming because the person who performed the act was someone right by them, dancing along to the music.  And in a moment their lives were gone.  It’s a disturbing, almost absurd reality that’s easy to dismiss as just a video.  But all too quickly the reader can check their phone or laptop and be reminded that such events have unfortunately become rather common.

The man dances on, the world burns behind him, and we all miss the violence for death riding by with a police escort.

childishgambino

 

 

*Writer’s Note*

All quotes cited from This is America came from genius.com.  All quotes cited from XXX were sourced from azlyricks.com.

 

**Writer’s Note**

This video is too important to miss.  If the reader hasn’t seen it yet take the time to watch it.

 

 

***Writer’s Notes***

I’ve also included some links to articles about This is America and Kendrick Lamar’s Pulitzer win.

https://www.buzzworthy.com/references-from-childish-gambino-this-is-america/

It Ain’t All Wishbone and Books Folks

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It Ain’t All Wishbone and Books Folks

25 January 2018

A Woman, Pretending to Be a Man, Pretending to Be a Woman, Being Herself: Julie Andrews’s Queer Feminism

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Julie Andrews in drag.  I mean after that I don’t really need any other reason to watch a movie.  I mean if you said Julie Andrews singing though I’d take that too.

I’ve recently acquired the title of “Queer Fairy Godmother” from a group of friends and this title comes with a bit of a conflict because it seems to be a multifaceted upon closer examination.  There’s the obvious “Queer” which is just another way of saying person who likes dick, vagina, and everything else in between, but then the use of the word 987B1B8A-DFF0-4529-9802-138915BDAB4E“Fairy” is a conflict.  I usually classify myself as “Queer as a $3 bill” because, while I am do not project the world’s most masculine persona, I don’t believe I’m a fairy in way form or fashion.  I prefer working class men, and men who wear leather, and my attire is usually jeans and a Slipknot shirt.  I might very well be a “Fairy,” but your perception is your reality, so I can’t say that I am a “fairy.”  There’s also the troublesome use of the word “Godmother” because this might suggest some sort of gender ambiguity when there really isn’t any.  Granted I like to wear the fingerless lace gloves that my wife originally bought for a costume from time to time, but even then I never question my gender perception.  I suspect then that this final word was meant more to be an indication of my tendency to point my friends in the directions of great queer resources in the form of books, films, and online resources.

I have yet to say “Bippety-Boppity-Boo” and then hand my friends a copy of Sex Between Men, but then again that’s only because I don’t have the magic wand.

Gay Movie Night has quickly become one of my favorite new activities largely because I am apparently this “Queer Fairy Godmother,” and last week I bestowed upon my friends Victor Victoriayet another gift from above, the movie Victor/Victoria.  I realized about halfway through that I had succeeded because my three friends, all of them queer and all of them women, spent most of the film shouting “Yas queen!” And applauding.

It was rather difficult to disagree with so much enthusiasm when Toddy, played by the perfect Robert Preston, has such incredible timing and wit throughout the film offering one of my favorite lines of the entire movie:

Toddy: Oh, god… there’s nothing more inconvenient than an old queen with a head cold.

If the reader is unfamiliar with the film, then you’re most certainly heterosexual, or else you’re still in “that phase.”  Don’t worry sweetheart we all were.  I know you say you just go to the bookstore for the coffee and books, but we all know it’s because Ryan got a full time gig as the barista and you’ve gotten nowhere in that “screenplay” that you’re writing that’s going to be great.  Whenever you’re ready we’re here for you.tumblr_p3rauvHtUS1qgyefyo1_500-2

As for my more seasoned readers who haven’t seen the film because they have lives and jobs and awesome Wild West Table Top games to play (Deadlands, check it out) Victor/Victoria is a film about a young woman named Victoria Grant who is trying to make a living in Paris as a singer.  The story actually begins however with a middle aged gay man named Carol “Toddy” Todd who is having relationship trouble.  The pair meet after Victoria is almost taken advantage of by her landlord, and Toddy has lost his job after he starts a fight with his lover in the nightclub where he works.  The pair have an instant connection, and when Victoria wears one of Toddy’s lover’s suits the pair hatch a plan.  Victoria will become a female impersonator, or, as she so brilliantly puts it, “A woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman.”  The plan works and “Victor” becomes the smash of Paris until a nightclub owner from Chicago arrives with his body-guard and mistress to see her act.  King Marchand falls for her and Victoria falls back, and from that point on the film is a positively gay affair.

I suppose the first real meat of the matter that I need to write about is the constant gender dynamic that takes place in the film.  To be honest dear reader, I really didn’t want to write an essay about the movie.  I’ve actually just wanted to writer about women wearing suits for the last two months.  You see my “Unattainable Crush” happens to be Ellen Page (she’s unattainable because she’s married now and she and her partner are I'm Gayjust too fucking adorable, the fact that she’s a lesbian may also have something to do with it).  Apart from just being an incredibly awesome human being, Page is also one of these incredible women who happen to look fucking amazing in suits.  And ever since I fell in love with Diane Keaton in Annie Hall (there was something about her vest and tie) the image of a woman in a man’s suit has always left me sexually absorbed, and intellectually intrigued.  Better writers than I have tackled the butch quality of this effect, and I’m sure to write about it at some point, but looking at the film there are constant moments of Andrews rocking a white tie tuxedo better than most men.

Blade Edwards the director (who also just happened to be Julie Andrews husband) plays on this dynamic in the film, and when King Marchand confronts Victoria after her first show the reader is able to hear the doctoral theses write themselves:

King Marchand: I just find it hard to believe that you’re a man.

Victoria: Because you found me attractive as a woman?victor-victoria-toddy-and-victoria

King Marchand: Yes, as a matter of fact.

Victoria: That happens frequently.

King Marchand: Not to me.

Victoria: Just proves the old adage: “There’s a first time for everything.”

King Marchand: I don’t think so.

Victoria: But you’re not a hundred per cent sure?

King Marchand: Practically.victor-victoria-julie-andrews_l

Victoria: Ah, but to a man like you, someone who believes he could never, under any circumstances find another man attractive, the margin between “practically” and “for sure” must be as wide as the Grand Canyon.

This brilliant exchange is followed by this beautiful gem:

Victoria: Your problem, Mr. Marchand, is that you’re preoccupied with stereotypes. I think it’s as simple as you’re one kind of man, I’m another.

King Marchand: And what kind are you?

Victoria: One that doesn’t have to prove it. To myself, or anyone.13676_1

Having a library of Queer Theory and queer history and queer literary books that reach up to my eyes, and being surrounded by a small coven of queer women at the time, this line was greeted in the typical fashion, a series of applause followed by yet another round of “yas queen!” There is some merit to the question though I suppose: is this scene somewhat predictable, or does it lack a certain teeth in this contemporary atmosphere?  A conversation between a queer and straight man (though in this case it’s a woman pretending to be a queer man) in which the former questions the latter’s sexual rigidity is a scene I’ve scene played before sometimes to great effect but often it’s a downright bore.  To be completely honest it’s not that the scene in Victor/Victoria isn’t performed well, it’s that often such scenes are accomplished by actors who are really just acting as parrots for the writers attempting to impart some didactic moral lesson about sexuality and it’s fluidity.VV Poster

I might be being a bit harsh here, and the reaction of my friends might also offer me an alternative argument that whether it’s a trope or a cliche, the scene still feels relevant after 36 years.

And as much fun as I had being delightfully gay with my friends, and loving every quip Toddy offers, something rather unusual happened while I was watching the film: I was actually having fun watching King Marchand.

James Garner was an actor that I’ve recently come to appreciate more than I did while he was alive.  It’s a disturbing trend in my life, and my recent fascination with David Bowie doesn’t help that pattern.  Playing a straight man, and, let’s be more accurate, playing the working model of heterosexuality King is a character that has unfortunately fallen on hard times.  If Victor/Victoria has any sort of gay victory it’s ultimately in the fact that Marchand is able to grow intellectually to the notion of gender and sexuality.  While at the start he appears to be the typical straight homophobe who projects masculinity to compensate for any personal shortcomings, the character eventually becomes something more.

I suppose the most obvious instance is when he finds himself alone with Victoria after fleeing from the police following a bar fight, and in an embrace he acts.

King Marchand: I don’t care if you are a man.

[kisses Victoria]Victor gif

Victoria: I’m… not a man.

King Marchand: I still don’t care.

This scene is probably lessened somewhat by Andrews admission, but the first line seems to be everything.  King is a man who has grown comfortable or at least familiar enough with his heterosexuality that before he acts he has to announce it as some kind of confirmation.  There was an awkward period shortly after I was officially out as bisexual that when I had conversations about men and women I would often begin them by saying, “As a straight man…” and of course the ellipsis should hopefully demonstrate what would happen.  I realized I no longer had that particular ethos, and after a while I stopped announcing it as such.  But this behavior hit my after a while because I realized how fragile my straight masculinity and sexuality had been.  This is not to say that King is secretly homosexual, or bisexual, or pansexual, but it should hopefully reveal something about heterosexuality in cisgender men.

There is a need to prove oneself in the face of what is perceived.  Julie Andrews herself more-or-less says it outright in one brief exchange.vv3

King Marchand: If you were a man, I’d knock your block off.

Victoria: And prove that “you’re” a man?

King Marchand: That’s a woman’s argument.

And of course the best example of King’s need to prove his masculinity is one in which he finds himself dressed up in a tuxedo walking into a dive bar

King Marchand: [Looking to start a bar fight; to the bartender:] Milk.

Bartender: [Sarcastically] Would that be cow’s milk, monsieur, or mother’s milk?

King Marchand: How about your sister’s?MV5BN2I0ZTNiZmItOGU5My00OTg0LWFiZTMtZjE1YTU1OTE4MjE0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjAwODA4Mw@@._V1_

[Fight starts]

This is the stuff of cheesy machismo in action movies, but while I was watching the film I became aware of the fact that I was a queer man, watching a straight man, surrounded by queer women, who couldn’t understand his need to prove himself which left me in the awkward position because how was I supposed to explain that need?  My “straight ethos” is long since gone so it feels pointless to try and explain out the straight mentality, but at the same time I am still a man who suffers from lack of confidence in the self, and being cisgender I understood King’s need for a fight, for some kind of physical catharsis.

Victor/Victoria manages to be an incredible film in the way it understand and demonstrates the way men and women act and behave, both in sex and in managing personal failings.  And it also manages to touch on the idea of how importance proving yourself as something can be.

There is one brief exchange between King and Victoria which, unfortunately, IMDB has failed to chronicle and so my reader will have to watch a little video.  The scene in question occurs just after King’s bodyguard “Squash” Bernstein stumbles upon him and Victoria having sex to which Squash responds by coming out to his boss.  King is left completely frazzled and the following exchange takes place:

I hate posting links to videos and not having the words.  It feels somehow less than honest about what I’m trying to do in these essays, still, I blame my own laziness and refusal to transcribe the scene which, if the reader was actually paying attention, could practically be it’s own college level course in feminism and queer theory in a nutshell.

There is a real powerful feminist message to be had in watching and absorbing
Victor/Victoria, not simply because it’s a film that reasserts the difficulty women face giphy-2simply to be recognized for the talents they actually have.  I would argue in fact that it’s in the regular emphasis on “proof” that the real feminism takes place.

The entire film is ultimately one long examination of the idea of proof.  Whether it’s Victoria having to prove that she’s good enough to sing in the dive bar, proofing there was a roach in her salad, proving that she’s really a male impersonator, proofing to King that she’s a man, proving to King later on that she has her own agency, and ultimately proving to the world that her gender has nothing to do with her own abilities.  Victor/Victoria is a chance to observe in the gender argument that people are constantly having to prove themselves as smoothing and to prove their presentations, desires, ambitions, and selves are legitimate.

I think this idea of proof is really what hit me, because as I’ve noted in many essays previously, I’ve always felt like I’ve had to prove something about myself and my masculinity.  As I’ve dug more and more into queerness, queer history, queer theory, and queer literature, there is always this recurring theme, and as long as queer people  exist it seems we’ll always have to remind me people, “we were here and here’s the proof.”Robert Preston Victor Victoria

Victor/Victoria is a gay film that leaves the reader feeling fantastically gay at heart.  It’s a gay time that leaves one feeling gayer and gayer at each viewing, and while there are a significant number of straight actors playing incredibly gay roles, there is still a beautiful message at the heart of Victor/Victoria: one’s personality and merit should never be based on proving to other people who and what you are.  Real strength of character comes from acting as being and living without worrying about proving anything.

It’s also a reminder that if you find yourself in a dive bar never ask for milk unless you’re ready for a fight.

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*Writer’s Note*

All quotes from Victor/Victoria were taken from IMDb.

 

**Writer’s Note**

I’ve included a few official reviews of the film Victor/Victoria if the reader would like a few other voices about the film.  Enjoy.

http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9A05E4DA103BF93AA25750C0A964948260

http://variety.com/1995/legit/reviews/victor-victoria-3-1200443267/

http://variety.com/1997/legit/reviews/victor-victoria-5-1117329644/
http://www.newnownext.com/victor-victoria-25-gay-years-later/03/2007/

http://www.screeningthepast.com/2011/04/“crazy-world-full-of-crazy-contradictions”-blake-edwards’-victorvictoria/

http://queeringthecloset.blogspot.com/2010/11/queer-review-victor-victoria.html

 

***Writer’s Note***

It might be indulgent to end all of this with a photo of Julie Andrews one more time in a suit, so I decided to post a picture of Ellen Page as well.  Seriously don’t hate, I’m just amazed that both of these women look better in a suit than I do, though I suppose that’s not really saying much.

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