Welcome to your weekly links roundup, where I distill all of the internet down into a few pieces that I deem worth reading!
Sady Doyle for Tiger Beatdown: LANDMARKS OF LADY-HATE Presents! American Psycho, or, Despite All My Rage I Am Still Just A Rat In A Vagina
The title should be enough, shouldn’t it? Isn’t the title just remarkable?
Sady marks the 20th anniversary of Brett Easton Ellis’s novel American Psycho with a good old-fashioned rundown of how fucked up the whole thing is. Pleased be advised that those who are triggered by violent imagery might want to skip this piece. You also might want to skip the paragraph I’m going to quote below. If you appreciate Sady’s wit and style, then I suggest you read this excerpt:
HUM DE DUM DUM DOOO JUST FLIPPING THROUGH A FEW PAGES HERE OH GOD NOT THE DOG.
So, yes. These scenes are graphic. But, the thing is, once you’ve read one overly detailed description of a popped-open eyeball and/or mutilated puppy, you’ve read them all. And there are no less than three dog mutilations in this book. The same thing goes for sliced-off nipples, slashed-up/burnt/exploded breasts, carved-open mouths, decapitated heads, Patrick Bateman masturbating into said carved-open mouths and decapitated heads, bashed-in faces, eaten brains, eaten intestines, eaten poop inside eaten intestines, vaginas burnt off/carved open/doused with acid/eaten by rats/eaten by Patrick Bateman, vaginas “sliced out” and kept in Patrick Bateman’s gym locker by Patrick Bateman with “a blue ribbon from Hermès tied around my favorite,” vaginas sliced off and tied into decorative snakeskin-style bands around little cowboy hats worn by rats that Patrick Bateman has taught to sing lonesome country ballads and oh, okay, that one doesn’t happen, I’M JUST SO FUCKING BORED.
Yes, as disturbing as all of that is, it tickled me.
More interesting, however, is that at the end of the piece, she compares the book to the film, and argues that while the book was violent, sexist, and self-indulgent, the film was a mighty success – largely thanks to the work of a few women, believe it or not.
Get yourself a puke bucket and go read the full piece!
Anne Helen Peterson for Celebrity Gossip, Academic Style: Some Incredibly Mixed Emotions on The Help
I’ve seen a lot of reactions to The Help in various places around the interwebz. Not having seen the movie or read the book, I don’t feel entirely justified in telling you how wrong it is, but as Peterson says, “this story is a problem.” Her column on the film is balanced, fair, and insightful. From the way I understand it, The Help began as a novel about an altruistic white woman who helps to shed light on the indignities that black women suffer as domestic workers. Or something. Peterson argues that such a scenario just never would have happened. She says:
Racism isn’t something that you just decide you’re not going to acquire, even though all of your friends, family, and townspeople espouse it. It’s not something that goes away just because you love your maid, as evidenced by the vast majority of white women raised by maids who also grew up to be racist. The story is fiction, but it [sic] told in a way — interwoven with real life events of the civil rights movement — that encourages audiences to believe that it could have happened, or maybe even did happen. (Classic Hollywood Cinema, a style in which this film is made, aspires to mimesis, or recreating “real life” conditions as closely as possible — and thus encouraging audiences to “lose themselves” in the reality of the situation. The problem, of course, is that this was not a real life situation, but one imagined and marketed towards 21st century audiences who want to distance themselves from the atrocities of the 1960s).
Which brings me to my overarching issue with the book and film. Both portray the situation in 1960s Mississippi as horrible. Atrocious. Racist. No question. But the book (and, to a slightly lesser extent, the film) also posit this historical period as an “unfortunate” time in our past that we have grown past. And that’s what makes this text a problem: framing racism [as] something that happened in the past, but not today, because events like the (made-up) ones that occurred in this text helped eliminate it.
EXACTLY! You might remember a while ago that I myself wrote something similar when I spotted plans for the fall premiere of Pan-Am. Is it shitty to quote myself? Fuck it, I’mma do it anyway:
I have to wonder if these nostalgia shows don’t allow us to make excuses? What I mean is, I wonder if by highlighting sexism or racism in a television series that takes place 50 years ago, we feel justified in patting ourselves on the backs and saying, “Wow, they were all so sexist/racist/whatever back then! Isn’t it great that we’re not like that now?”
I am so. fucking. brilliant. But as brilliant as I am, Anne Helen Peterson is brilliant-er (shut UP!), so you should go read the full piece.
Paula Whyman for The Rumpus: The Rumpus Interview with Dave Engelhardt, Pro Bono Lawyer for Guantanamo Detainees
Did you forget about Gitmo? I’ll admit – I kind of did, too. Shame on me. But here is an example of a fine, upstanding citizen who has some principles, god damnit, and it’s tragic that that’s so refreshing, isn’t it? On why he decided to represent Guantanamo detainees:
More than politics, or even my obligations to the bar, I had to do it because of my regard for a colleague, who was staying in the hotel at the World Trade Center when the planes hit the towers. The hotel took a lot of collateral damage, and before it collapsed some firemen tied him in a fire hose and lowered him from his window, and at some point, he slammed his head against the wall or the ground or something, and could have died, but got out of the hospital in a few short months, and upon returning to the office – took on the representation of three detainees. When he asked for help, what else could I say? It was one of the finest examples of citizenship I’ve ever encountered.
So not only will you regain your faith in the world by reading about this guy, you’ll also get some really strange insights into the way Gitmo is being handled now that it’s not headline news anymore. Fascinating, important stuff that you should definitely go read.
And I also have some honorable mentions, believe it or not! And they are as follows:
- Sarah McKenney for Sociological Images: Sexualized vs. Sexual: The Case of Thylane Blondeau
- Margaret Hartmann for Jezebel: The Secret Plot to Turn Hitler Into a Lady
- Bubbles for Tits and Sass: What’s Your “Real” Name?
Whew! That was a marathon week! Lots of good shit out there. And this is only a selection of the stuff I’ve been bookmarking all week. You can find the rest if you head over to Delicious and follow me or grab my RSS feed. What have you been reading this week? Leave your links in the comments!!!