Thursday, April 7, 2016

nonexistent destroyers of morals

Watching Howl again. Feeling preachy. Feeling political. Tired of so many news stories about refugees, about terrorists, about transgender men and women using the "wrong" bathrooms and scaring all the nice, upstanding, good Christian folk.

How dare anyone want to flee a warzone for somewhere safer. How dare anyone lash out at power when they feel impotent. How dare... Actually, those two cover the transgender thing, too. It's all some bullshit war. Christianity being persecuted, of course, because the rest of us (and some of them) don't want them to be allowed to discriminate and hate and hurt and destroy just because "God" says it's okay.

And, I'm watching a film. A film about a poem. A poem about a world destroying those who dare to be different, about those who dare to be different trying to destroy the world, or at least to reshape it into something new, something less demanding and restrictive.

A film that couldn't exist at the time of its story. It would be an obscenity like its titular poem tried to be...

Was tried for being.

The film deliberately breaks from the "form, diction, fluidity and clarity" that would give it "style" so it would have "literary merit" according to this quite proper lady (played by Mary-Louise Parker) on the stand right now.

Offer up a homosexual unwilling to hide and of course, there's a trial, there are new laws, $2500 bounties on bathrooms and no, we won't make your wedding cake, you perversion of nature, because when Jesus said "turn the other cheek" 1) he was talking about the face and 2) he clearly meant you turn your face as you wind back your arm to strike, because that's what you do when the wrong person is in the wrong place and you're scared because you're too damn stupid to know better, and too damn angry to be better. Because anything different is worth fearing, and you should never think twice before expressing such fear, never worry about being a bigot because you're right and we're wrong and nothing else matters but your own conviction about the perversion or danger inherent in the faceless alien before you.

Fuck you.

Get out of your house. Get out of your church. Read a book. Watch a film that isn't a jingoistic fairy tale. Embrace someone different from you, and start with someone fictional because it's safer that way. If your violence boils over, you can throw a book and do far less damage than if you threw your fellow man or woman or other.

One thing this film doesn't manage to include is any semblance of popularity for its titular poem. Aside from the hangover text before the end credits, if you didn't already know, you wouldn't know that "Howl" is important, not some obscure poem for some obscure film. The footage of Ginsberg (James Franco) reciting the poem is in a tiny little club, filled with smoke, a few people, and the nightmares of conservative America. When Ginsberg speaks to the camera as if in a documentary, it's simple one-shots, Ginsberg alone. This is Ginsberg before the beard, before the pseudo-spiritualism, Ginsberg before the crowds. This is a movie for a small crowd, about a small crowd, tucked away in the warmth of a small crowd. And the larger population didn't see it, can't see it, won't see it. And wouldn't want to. The easiest way to get by is to never let your worldview be challenged, and if it is, to assume the challenger is either mad or evil or both.

Echo me back to Fiske (2002)--

People typically seek other people who are similar to themselves being comfortable with others they perceive as members of their own in-group. Form comfort follows, at best, neglect of people from out-groups and, at worst, murderous hostility toward out-groups perceived as threatening the in-group. (p. 123)

And of course every out-group is a threat these days. What better way to be sure of your self than to assume as much about the other?

Echo me back to Daughton (1996)--

The transcendence toward which Groundhog Day leads its main character, and its audience, involves an acceptance and embracing of the world rather than a rejection of it as "profane" ...and an acceptance of oneself as a whole and wholly participatory and responsible member of a loving community. (p. 140)

Groundhog Day and every story worth telling, every story worth hearing/watching/experiencing. But you must know yourself before you accept yourself, must know how horrible you are before you change, before you take advantage of the loop of time to make your self a better self and get the fuck over your hangups and let people be people, unless they're hurting someone else. And, no, they are not hurting you because you think what they're doing is wrong, because you think what they're doing is perverse, because you think who they are is disgusting, despicable, profane and unnatural.

Refugee.

Terrorist.

Pervert.

Unnatural.

Christian.

Throw a label on it and it cannot change, cannot be anything but that you imagine it to be. Throw a label on it and destroy it. And be happy in a world without variety. Be content in a world bored with and by itself because nothing interesting happens anymore except for the occasional jackboot stomping down on the neck of any uppity citizen who dares to think for himself.

References

Daughton, S. (1996). The spiritual power of repetitive form: Steps toward transcendence in Groundhog Day. Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 13, 138-154.

Fiske, S.T. (2002). What we know now about bias and intergroup conflict, the problem of the century. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11(4), 123-128.

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