This is a disucssion thread that has been moved forward. It was on Alf Hornborg’s “Power of the Machine,” but morphed into a lively discussion of film and cultural criticism.
I’ll paste in come commentary here, to recapture the thread, and we can use it to continue this here.
I canâ€™t comment on GWTWâ€“never seen it and â€œfrankly mâ€™dear, I donâ€™t give a damnâ€ to
But I know more than a few lay feministsâ€“those who are vehemently for womensâ€™ equal rights and social status but arenâ€™t hip to the latest debates in feminist discourseâ€“who just thought V was a good movie. I know they arenâ€™t sheep in wolf clothing, because they are sharply keen to little things such as male vs female interruptions in conversation, etc (â€equal opportunity interruptorsâ€ which I think is better than no interruptions at allâ€¦conversations get so stale that way)
Given that plot, if Eveyâ€™s role had been male and Vâ€™s female, I could easily see the same dynamic going, and it points to a question that doesnâ€™t have to do with gender identity, but with sacrifice and large-scale social vs personal committments: at some point, they do conflict, and when they do, where will you be? Our â€œsociety of entitlementâ€ I would argue teaches us to go down the â€œpersonal roadâ€ where both Evey and V â€œideallyâ€ would forget about this whole â€œrevolution thingâ€ and live happily ever after etc etc. Even going beyond that, V instead teaches us that we can use our personal committments to help fuel large-scale social efforts, but effectively destroying the former to acheive the latter. This is a common theme even in politics (e.g. US presidential races). The West Wing did a good job of portraying that dynamic: if you want to work on that level, expect your personal life to take on a radically different dynamic. Hell, even X-Men 2 had that theme, albeit w/genders reversed (Jean Gray willingly sacrificing herself and her relationship w/Scott in order to save the team w/Scott in opposition but effectively powerless to prevent it). I didnâ€™t think of that as â€œanti-maleâ€ even though the general dynamic closely mirrored that of V and Evey.
In V, an underlying theme was that everyone had been pushed too far, and everyone made sacrifices (to varying degrees) to commit to the revolution. Those sacrifices also differed qualitatively. There were plenty of â€œworking womenâ€ although the regime in question was more than overtly patriarchal (reaching its epitome in the priest who â€œliked little girlsâ€), and its overthrow is therefore anti-patriarchy. Moreover, the fact that the â€œperp in questionâ€ (V) is a) portrayed as a special case (genetic engineering) and b) self destructs is further evidence that this film neither intended to reflect an archetype nor reproduce anti-feminist sentiment.
Not liking comic book movies is a different matter altogether
I also think you were rather serruptitious about framing the question regarding â€œDick Lit,â€ presuming again that V is an extension of and attempt to reproduce patriarchy simply because the plot and female lead do not fit a narrowly defined but chauvinistic feminist ideal. Moreover, the concern w/the movie also presumes that the movie is otherwise effective in doing so. I have yet to hear a case for either of these, and one would need to exist before the question about â€œDick Litâ€ could be asked and discussed in relation to V unless we were to frame it differentlyâ€¦and it is an interesting question, one that was running through my mind in my last (big) postâ€¦
I personally think some men are capable of feeling just as offended by anti-feminist acts, etc as any female.
Let me give an example: During his undergraduate career a few years ago, my brother learned some rape statistics and became sufficiently outraged just knowing those those numbers (talk about empathetic capability!) that he became president of the campus Men Against Rape, started giving lectures to frat houses, etc.
For me personally I knew about the statistics, was outraged, but what kicked me over the cliff was a series of friendships where perhaps the only consistent narrative was one of abuse at the hands of boyfriends (psychological, sexual, physicalâ€¦).
We both liked V, thoughâ€¦a lot, and we donâ€™t consider liking it to be a â€œcompromiseâ€ of our feminist bents. I know I may be risking the legitimacy of my â€œfeministâ€ labeling by the above because much of any cliquish identity is embodied by collective, largely unquestioned feelings of â€œoffense.â€ I believe I belong because I am personally offended by much that goes on in our culture and society that I believe is truly anti-woman, let alone anti-feminist. V isnâ€™t one of them, nor do I think it worthy of offense.
Equal opportunity critical theoryâ€¦
Comment by Ethan â€” 8/20/2006 @ 1:52 pm
I have come to the conclusion that I use this emoticon waaay too much, and I apologize (whoopsâ€¦ )
well I just let another key element of my personality out of the bag, I guess (:-P)
Comment by Ethan â€” 8/20/2006 @ 1:54 pm
Ethan, this simply supports exactly what De was saying. Some forms of myopia reside in social power.
The reason critique is called critique is because it it critical. The reason ideology â€” a frame of reference shared across a culture that both reproduces and conceals power â€” is that it is NOT critical. I have no clue what the difference is between â€œlay feministsâ€ and other â€œfeministsâ€ so for the sake of argument, letâ€™s drop that term for the time being. Camille Paglia calls herslf a feminist, which is like me calling myself a capitalist. Someone calling him- or herself feminist does not constitute a critical analysis or deconstruction. Someone BEING a woman does not add or subtract anything to a critical argument about male power, unless the experience of being a woman is combined with a critical consciousness.
Ideology is about putting the master inside the servantâ€™s headâ€¦ about the servant internalizing the masterâ€™s point of view. The dominant ideology in this society is male-supremacist, and it exiusts in a recursive and inseparable relation with male material power (economic, political, etc).
MOST WOMEN have internalized a phallocentric ideology. It becomes part of getting by in a male dominated society. That women feel an attraction to V or to bodice-rippers or to fashion manipulations or to the fantasy of the perfect wedding does not serve as a counter-critque to what critical theorists have to say about the reproduciton of male power. That includes reproduction in the form of patriarchal cultural conventionsâ€¦ like those represented in V.
Those of us who have taken up the cudgel on gender hereabouts are not talking about â€œequality.â€ That is a liberal and legalistic notion. We are talking about actually-existing, structural powerâ€¦. the kind that makes notions like female chauvinism and reverse racism (very similar, in that these are both assignments of equal-signs bewtween two classes of people who are anything BUT equal) possible.
Critical theory and cultural crit associated with it has to look further than this. One of the difficulties that several of us here (Elaina, De, Audrey, Yolanda, et al) have pointed to is that there are plenty of women out there who are involved in resistance politics, and will even call it like they see it when men interrupt in a meetingâ€¦ but who still lose their bearings on gender because they havenâ€™t connected the dots on the construction of sexuality and even desire.
Citing these women (hypothetical or real) is not an argument, but an appeal to a kind of phenotypic authority.
V does not have to â€œattemptâ€ to reproduce patriarchy. It simply has to follow existing conventions that appeal to male writers, producers, and directors. The invisibility of systemic patriarchy inscribed on those conventions, and the commonly held (media-reproduced, white, petit-bougeoise) notion of feminism being synonymous with some semblance of abstract legal â€œequality,â€ is the reason even some putative feminists can see, for example, a film like â€œSleeping with the Enemyâ€ as â€œfeminist,â€ when in fact it is distributing a deeply patriarchal message between the lines.
You say. â€œGiven that plot, if Eveyâ€™s role had been male and Vâ€™s female, I could easily see the same dynamic going, and it points to a question that doesnâ€™t have to do with gender identityâ€¦â€
But that is precisely the point. These are not reversable roles, given the reality of male power, and to have reversed them would have been so self-conscious it would be ludicrousâ€¦ as â€œGI Janeâ€ was, wherein the achievement of equality by the protagonist required her to say to a vanquished foe, â€œSuck my dick!â€ and then send her abroad to kill Arabs as proof of her â€œequality.â€
You say that â€œV instead teaches us that we can use our personal committments to help fuel large-scale social efforts, but effectively destroying the former to acheive the latter.â€ No, what V â€œteachesâ€ us is that even the notion of social revolution has been so utterly trivialized that we can still only stomache it as an individual male hero who has the maqsculine will and supreme intelligence to â€œcatalyzeâ€ it. His torture of Evie as part of her training is not even the tiniest bit original. This kind of male sado-masochistic bullshit can be found anywhere.A real revolutionary like Vanadana Shiva, who spends her time not hectoring people to kill and die, but to reclaim land and acquire food self-suffiiency is so alien to our public imaginary that no one would htink of making a film about it.
This is a boyâ€™s fantasy. And the hero is not only archetypical, he is a character based on another characterâ€¦ a male who engaged in â€œrevolutionary violence.â€
It IS Dick Lit. Consummately.
You say: â€œI personally think some men are capable of feeling just as offended by anti-feminist acts, etc as any female.â€ While that may be truein come cases, I find it hard to believe that men can understand what it is to fear (outside of prison) the daily possibility of rape in a plethora of common social situations.
The characterization of some detailed positions on gender here, that have been explicated with patience and rigor, as â€œcliquishâ€ is an attempt to dismiss that wonâ€™t stand. No one is trying to form a clique.
â€œI know,â€ you say, â€œI may be risking the legitimacy of my â€˜feministâ€™ labeling by the above because much of any cliquish identity is embodied by collective, largely unquestioned feelings of â€˜offense.â€™â€
Provide one example of this collective, largely unquestioned feeling of offense.
Comment by Stan â€” 8/20/2006 @ 4:54 pm
And it ainâ€™t just me, is it, that gets all keyed up about men calling themselves â€œfeminists?â€ Cause it bothers me. Stan posted a cute comment one time about how men calling themselves feminists is like white people calling themselves Black Nationalists.
I have never watched â€œVâ€ though I plan to, just for the sake of formulating my own critique of it.
Another example, Iâ€™m not sure if the same super-model-lady stars in it as the one in V or if Iâ€™ve just got my celebrities all jumbled up, of what yâ€™all are talking about is the Resident Evil series- Iâ€™ve heard folks praise and praise it â€™cause the â€œheroâ€ is a female whoâ€™s particularly bad-ass at killing zombies (and yeah. I have a bad-for-me thing for zombie movies). Itâ€™s completely ridiculous. At least the â€œsheroâ€ wears sensible shoes while sheâ€™s kicking zombie asses.
Comment by elaina â€” 8/20/2006 @ 8:46 pm
Oh dear lord. Bless yer hearts. I just randomly scrolled through the discussion, and noticed the pro-buffy speak.
Iâ€™ll have to get back to yâ€™all about that later. I got to go out and hang with some womenfolks.
Comment by elaina â€” 8/20/2006 @ 8:52 pm
V does not have to â€œattemptâ€ to reproduce patriarchy. It simply has to follow existing conventions that appeal to male writers, producers, and directors. The invisibility of systemic patriarchy inscribed on those conventionsâ€¦
Okay, I get this, I think. I can see Stanâ€™s point, and it makes sense. So what do we do, then? Cuz I have to admit, I liked the part where Whitehall explodes and Big Ben falls down. Just as I liked the Matrix, where Neo (male teen hacker-geek superhero) stops the bullets. Yah, I like Trinityâ€™s moves too. But the same logic quoted above makes HER ineligible to save the world. Like Clive Owenâ€™s girlfriend with the handcuffs in Sin City, any strong woman has to be an outsider, tangential to the plot and unable to resolve the central conflict. Even if she is completely self-sufficient, she is always a supporting character. Or a prize, to be won.
This is archetypal, and goes way back, as does patriarchy. So, that being the case, how do we engage with or enjoy any of these stories? Is it like GWTW? But, DAMN! In Hotel Rwanda, itâ€™s Don Cheadleâ€¦ In Syriana, itâ€™s not only two guys who are the good guys, but two white Americans! Geez!! Was that just about making us white guys feel good about our raised consciousnesses??? (Yeah, I guess it was)
Oh, try â€œHopâ€ by Dominique Standaert. Netflix has it. The protagonist is an african kid in Belgium (I think). Thatâ€™s pretty good, and has a nice old anarchist with bomber with a guilty conscience in it. Really, itâ€™s very good.
But seriously. American cinema paints with a very limited pallette. Do we abandon it, as too far gone? Or do we use it to expose our hidden cultural assumptions, and enjoy the cathartic explosions and anti-establishment mayhem along the way? 12 Monkeys, anyone?
Comment by Dan â€” 8/20/2006 @ 10:04 pm
Iâ€™m glad someone brought up zombie movies because Romeros Dead trilogy does everything right for an action movie that V got wrong, IMO. The protagonists are all either womyn or black. The white guys in the movies are either villians(usually racist or misogynist cops or soldiers) or bumbling jackasses who nearly get the whole group killed. I donâ€™t think Romero is a radical but he sure has a kind of east coast Italian-American perspective on class and the issues that accompany it. (Although i do gotta say, Land of the Dead really stunk. Not only did Romero succumb to using Hollywood cliches like scantily clad female leads, but he also added ethnic foil characters. I guess the studio was pandering to the adolescent boy set. Damn shame to see a good filmaker degenerate/sell out like that.)
Comment by R â€” 8/20/2006 @ 10:06 pm
Comment by peggy â€” 8/20/2006 @ 10:38 pm
I tried once in an email to convince Stan to watch Koyaanisqatsi. I canâ€™t help thinking itâ€™s on his list of favorite movies and he just doesnâ€™t know it yet.
Comment by Audrey â€” 8/21/2006 @ 12:19 am
â€œThose of us who have taken up the cudgel on gender hereabouts are not talking about â€œequality.â€ That is a liberal and legalistic notion. We are talking about actually-existing, structural powerâ€¦. the kind that makes notions like female chauvinism and reverse racism (very similar, in that these are both assignments of equal-signs bewtween two classes of people who are anything BUT equal) possible.â€
Where should I look to find writings that explore this differance more thoroughly?
Comment by Ben â€” 8/21/2006 @ 12:41 am