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hi all. I've been in a posting rut. okay let’s bring things up maybe I’ll keep a record of what pop culture-y things I do/did and people can read it and love me more

or less or the same whatever people can do what they like

THIS WEEK:

read:

Batman: Hush. it had its moments, but it was disappointing overall.

Feynman: graphic novel by Ottaviani & Myrick, it’s a comic book biography of physicist and oddball Richard Feynman based on various of his works, including Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman (which I’ve read) and other stuff I haven’t. Feynman, while I’m sure he has a lot of flaws (he was quite the skirt-chaser, and while he seems like he may have been somewhat ahead of his time in some ways in terms of gender stuff — there are sections in the book about his sister’s difficulty breaking into science and his frustration with the idea that women are inferior scientists — he was not exactly one to *not* objectify women, and there are definitely some passages of SYJ,MF which make him sound pretty skeezy in that area), he’s also witty, antiauthoritarian, brilliant, resourceful, a polymath, and, oh yeah — he also goes through long periods of being unable to do any useful research, followed up by coming alive (so to speak) when he is working on a problem that interests him. It’s really relatable to me in a big way, and while I’m obviously not a genius in his league, he’s a much better figure to look up to and maybe even want to emulate a bit than a right bastard like (say) Newton.

TV:

uh, so I’ve been watching The Dick Van Dyke Show on Netflix because it’s something I can comfortably watch while also doing other things, so it’s relaxing. I feel like I should apologize for watching something that’s so gender-regressive and so white-dominated. but, you know, it is also such a template for the American sitcom, and Laura Petrie really *is* a step forward for women (wearing pants!) and, look, I do like it. It’s actually an interesting contrast to something like Mad Men, in that the Petries do seem very much to be on the threshold of social change in some subtle ways — where Rob is *almost* hip but is, well, too nice to get involved in anything too radical, in the sense that he does care what other people think of him a little too much. I am not explaining this well.

I also have been watching a lot of Alfred Hitchcock Presents; my mom and I tend to watch that at dinner (living with mother right now). I do like old American shows. I think that’s cool, but, you know, you might not, certainly there’s lots of reasons to have differences of opinion. Anyway, AHP, in contrast to TDVDS which is all about people at their most functional, is all about people basically all being one step away from murdering each other for, usually, monetary gain (though sometimes for other reasons), and there’s a refreshing lack of pretense in the stories. Hitchcock’s films have this similar sense of playfulness with murder that comes down, I think, to the suspension of moral codes for the duration of the show, which goes a little bit beyond standard cops & robbers stuff and into an acknowledgment that the dark side of human nature really *is* just being barely held into check, but, radically, doing so only barely bothering to affix a warning about it. it’s useful as a release valve in some ways, not so much because people are *actually* this close from murdering each other, but because people are this close from *thinking* about hurting others or doing bad things or whatever, if nothing else, and it’s hard to work that through directly, which is why we have art. haha I’m explaining what art is! I clearly shouldn’t post this, I’m so condescending, but you should know I mean well.

my friend Marc has been showing me Trailer Parks Boys, and we’re into season six. it is nice to actually watch a Canadian show — I should do it more often, but I never get around to it. there is a weird anti-patriotism that a lot of Canadians share, where we love our country but, like, kind of the way some people love their grandparents, which is to say, we don’t want to hang out with them all the time. okay I’m sorry if that was ageist. I don’t think it was, but I’m not really sure. I should erase that. I’m going to keep going though. if I start erasing I won’t stop. anyway, also a release valve, people behaving badly, etc. Lahey, the show’s antagonist, is pretty much my favourite though — so over-the-top, and yet his vendetta against the boys is well justified.

movies:

I rewatched Rebel Without a Cause on Wednesday because it was playing at a local theatre. so many daddy issues that those kids should have been on the Island in LOST. but anyway, I really liked it. I mean, I really liked it the first time, but it was good to see again and I think it’s easier to understand when older. I never actually had a rebellious teenager phase, so, I don’t relate to that part exactly, but the longing for a substitute family and the way such a substitute family will almost necessarily be a bizarre parody of a real one plays right. I forget if the implication of Judy’s Elektra complex was that obvious to younger-me. probably.

that planetarium though. what a great set.

Spoilers:


Plato is building up to being genuinely antisocial, but we don't get much evidence that Jim Stark or Judy are particularly out of the ordinary. In fact, I was surprised by how much of a dork Jim is -- which I think makes him endearing. James Dean, coolest of the cool, etc., is both a RL bisexual and plays Jim as basically emotionally overwhelmed wearing kind of goofy clothes. This contrasts with the actual "cool" kids set typified by Buzz, who are wearing leather jackets and the whole deal. Jim seems really interested when he gets a chance to look at the control panel of the planetarium operator. Notably, Jim only gets targeted by the bullies when he tries unsuccessfully to fit in with them (by calling out "moo" in the planetarium when Taurus is shown).

Jim's fundamental problem basically comes down to his inability to establish his manhood, as should be obvious, and Dean's real life bisexuality (and director Nicholas Ray's, and Sal Mineo's etc.) give that undercurrent to why he wants to suppress his obviously overwhelming "sensitive" side in favour of huge displays of dangerous and potentially deadly initiation rights.

I do find masculinity hard to talk about, because, you know, I feel the pressure to Be A Man and I am not sure what to do with that -- because I'm pretty sure that's Wrong and antifeminist, I guess. But it's also not hard to see why the 50's are such a time for Masculinity in Crisis. World War 2 has a generation in which the male's role is defined very strongly by how well he can kill for his country and not die in the process; it's a genuine Existential Threat. And then there are no external threats -- except for the omnipresent commie scare, and the bomb, and death. The planetarium scene emphasizes that the Earth will come to an end just as it began, in fire!!!, and that's where Plato dies (and there's something cavelike about both the secluded mansion and the planetarium, got to think about whether that has meaning), and in the absence of a war to prove that one has earned the right to survive in the adult world, there is only the knowledge that death is out there, SOMEDAY, but it's placed as some frightening, barely-imaginable event, Out There. It's incomprehensible, inscrutible, and so people start knife fights and play chicken in cars because THEY HAVE TO DEFEAT THE FORCES OF DEATH BY CONFRONTING THEM! CONFRONT YOUR FEARS! but fears are no longer represented by some Other (even one of those yes-you-really-really-really-have-to-defeat-that-Other like the Nazis) but, uh, space. It's not *just* about masculinity, of course, because both men and women are going to die, but, you know, men are the ones who were raised to believe they might fight in wars until wars mostly stopped being hot in the West, and lots of male initiation rights are basically about confronting death head-on and ritually conquering it.

Jim's anger that his father won't stand up to his mother has some misogynistic overtones, and whether we lay them at Jim's feat or at the film's (and Nicholas Ray's) is hard to say. Ray is kind of a feminist filmmaker, except when he isn't, from what I can gather. That said, Jim's father's problem isn't fundamentally that he should punch his wife at some point, but that he's indecisive and completely overwhelmed with fear. And I really painfully relate to that indecision, and to Jim's frustration with that indecision. I dunno. I don't think it's a male/female issue, but...well, there is still a society in which these gender roles exist. I dunno where I'm going with this. Jim ultimately is all right because he has parents who do ultimately love him, even as they frustrate and fail him, and even as they give him no guideline for how to exist. Plato dies because his parents don't love him at all and he's ceased to be able to believe in the love of others, though Jim *almost* saves him. The movie is apparently based on Romeo & Juliet in structure (though that might not be true -- I forget where I read that) and it makes some sense that Plato's death is really mostly a comment on the ills of society rather than his own -- he's shot by the authoritarian cops and he's screwed up because his parents abandoned him; like R&J his death is not exactly about his flaws, or, to the extent that they are, it's about how his flaws develop out of the structure that exists behind him.

I should talk more about Judy but I want to move on and talk about the next movie before I run out of energy!

and also: Persona! oh Bergman. first of all, if I were more talented I would try to find a way to write Frozen/Persona meshing fic — because Elisabet and Alma have a few similarities to Elsa and Anna that need to be explored. I was actually a little shocked there was no Persona fic on ao3 — because, like, it obviously begs to have fic written for it, but of course, it’s not exactly something with a large fandom, at least not the fic-writing kind. oh god though. this time I realized how much Elisabet functions as God for Alma — how the early “conversation” about the meaning of the silence of God maps onto the way Elisabet’s silence allows Alma to use her as confessor and to find solace, and how much her anger at Elisabet has angry-at-God overtones — the loss of faith in many ways.

spoilers:


oh my god though. I mean, what even is this movie.

I mean, um, obviously it comments on itself with the film reels on screen and the burning film and etc. etc., and the way Elisabet's apparent/ostensible quest for true authenticity by remaining silent APPARENTLY (I think I read someone saying something like this after rewatching) has something to do with Bergman's attempt to rediscover the true art of silent cinema. And the fundamental question here is whether it's possible to be authentically oneself while speaking, whether art can possibly be anything more just a lie, whether life is any different from art (and thus not a lie) in that sense, and so on. So, you know, deep, heady stuff, but it's also just so *visceral* and emotional. It's also something like The Shining, a chamber piece where a tiny social unit is cut off from the rest of the world and then gradually dissolves. The separation between Alma and Elisabet blurs and disappears; the separation between dream and reality, art and life, etc. etc. And when something goes wrong, the responses get more and more violent.

I can think of few moments as painful as Alma reading that letter, where her deeply felt confessions and the love story that developed between her and Elisabet is described in words and those words demean it and reveal it to be an experiment. But the deeper issue is that Alma became close to and fell in love with...something. Elisabet's face? Her expressions? Her body? The version of Elisabet's thoughts that Alma believed was there? It reminds me of Joss Whedon's thesis about Hush -- that when we stop talking, we start communicating...the opening period between Alma and Elisabet seems to bring this forth, because it's only through Elisabet's silence that Alma can get close enough to her to bare her soul, and the scene of Elisabet entering Alma's room is as erotic (and erotic specifically because of its silence) as the key silent Willow/Tara sequences (Hush, obviously, though there are many others). And Elisabet's face seems to show real emotion and to show a real connection between souls. Was all that a lie? Was it a "lie" if Elisabet wasn't actually saying anything? Is it actually possible for her face and body to "lie" like that? When people have intimate nonverbal connections (or semiverbal, where Alma forms a one-way verbal relationship with her silent partner), are they all only a matter of projection, or is the non-verbal, "irrational" (but probably very rational, just with a different set of codes and instructions) part of the brain interpreting the "truth"? Do we ever have real relationships, or are they all just something in our head?

And if Elisabet is God, then obviously her son is Ingmar Bergman, because, this is all about God, but God is his parents! See, I'm smart, I know how art movies work, I think I've done all the hard work now EVERYONE CAN GO HOME. But really, oh man. The thing is, the movie being framed by the boy watching the film and putting the women together suggests that he's the powerful one behind all of it, and that's uncomfortable because it reminds us that this is still Bergman's movie, and not Ullman's and Andersson's. I don't actually know whether Bergman had mother issues, and it's not really that relevant for this analysis (though I will probably look it up later anyway); suffice it to say that it makes sense that it makes sense that there is at least some element of doubt in every relationship, and the scariest question at the heart of everything is whether a person is actually loved by one's own parents. And the thing is, from the perspective of the child, if the child's parents don't love them, they are bad parents. There is not much ambiguity -- it is one of the basic requirements. But from the perspective of the parents, what if that love just *isn't there*? What then? Is faking that love and feeding the child a lie and rotting one's own soul the answer? Does the love get made by faking it? Part of the reason, I think, that mothers not loving their children is such a taboo subject to even bring up is that it's actually pretty much irresolvable: the kid *needs* and *deserves* to be loved, in a fundamental way, and it's also a fundamental and obvious right of a person not to be *forced* to love a person that they don't intrinsically love. There is no resolution to this conundrum except the declaration that mothers just automatically, "biologically," axiomatically love their children, which is actually not always going to be true. And that is also disturbing for the beloved, because if *every* child is axiomatically beloved by their parent, does the parent's love actually mean anything special to and about the child? What is it that makes love real?

"What if you are a parent who doesn't love your child?" is one of those questions, like "What if you are really a bad person deep down -- in the sense of, genuinely not having moral feeling" that twists my stomach in knots when I really think about it, because on some level, we can't actually help what we feel, or the kind of person we are, even though we can obviously work at it like at everything else. But if a person really is incapable of love, then...well, what do they do, in a world that basically demands that they love other people in order to be good?

"No, I'm not like you!" Alma storms out and goes back to her conventional life. No more abyss-staring. Well, at least not until the next Bergman movie she watches.

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