Monday, November 10, 2014

Woman: Antichrist


Much has been made recently of Rose McGowan's comment in an interview with Bret Easton Ellis that gay men are misogynists.  Liberal faggots wrung their hands and attempted to deflect criticism of themselves by accusing McGowan of homophobia, a tactic that continues to look sillier and more censorious with each passing year as homosexuality is now pretty much universally  tolerated in America. Ellis himself is the subject of continual moral panics from liberals as he frequently says commonsense things that everyone thinks but has been trained out of saying out loud, so it is appropriate that McGowan felt she could be honest with him.

I'd imagine McGowan anticipated the ensuing kerfuffle, but then maybe she didnt; the media has been overwhelmingly preoccupied with the nebulous concept of "misogyny" for the entire year, and movie actresses are dubiously looked to as great minds, political leaders, dispersers of socially responsible leftist propaganda. Female celebrities that dare to publicly  refuse the feminist label are weeded out and subjected to intense criticism until they relent. The authors of apologist think pieces will attribute their mistake to an ignorance of the true nature of feminism and the unjust stigma attached to the word, listing ways that the woman in question is actually a feminist, against her will. If they are speaking of an outsider, a polarizing weirdo like Lana Del Rey who makes liberals bristle with her discomfiting visions of fetishistic, welcomed abuse that directly contradict the values of the Jezebel hive mind, they make fewer apologies.

What people are failing to realize is that feminism, in its earlier stages, did not differentiate between homosexual and heterosexual men when it came to discussing the male oppressor. Gay men were in fact a large and particularly devilish part of the threat, gravitating as they did to careers that trafficked in the aesthetics-obsessed bondage, enslavement, and critiquing of women, such as fashion and dance. This was the de facto feminist view of male homosexuality that lasted until the 1980s and the emergence of a militant, organized queer activist movement that took most of its cues from feminism and in doing so united women, people of color, and gays in the collective fight against a sole enemy: the straight white male. Millennials seem largely unaware that gays were ever historically considered part of the looming patriarchal male threat, barring the "check your privilege" meme of 2013, where liberals in comment feeds would attack the alleged "privilege" of those with opinions other than their own when they grew tired of articulating coherent arguments. This bit of acidic Uncle Tommery materialized on Jezebel earlier this year and hinted at what was inevitably to come.

McGowan was absolutely right: gay men are shockingly misogynistic. This is because homosexual men follow a markedly different life path than heterosexual men. Male homosexuals exist in the world of women in their developmental years. Typically second or third in a succession of more conventionally turned out siblings, they stick close to their mothers, who adore and coddle them and give them their first exposure to the glamorous accountrements of femininity that they will continue to fetishize as adults: high heels, dresses, makeup, perfume. In school the homosexual surrounds himself with female friends, who tend to be more intellectually driven and understanding of his nonconformity.

Before the pubescent kick-in of testosterone, straight boys seem dull, opaque, ill-mannered, unpleasantly associated with the systemic torture of sports. After puberty, the straight man cements himself as the eternal unattainable sexual ideal. The homosexual both wants to be the straight man and wants to sexually possess him. He will spend his life coping with this desire in a variety of ways: the fetish of  masculine "working man" signifiers and clothing, the pursuit of older men that resemble his  probably disapproving father, the masturbatory casting of himself in an Internet-driven drama of "masc" versus "femme." After he has accepted his deviant status, he will develop pride in it. In an important way, he is more masculine than all straight men combined: once he enters an actual gay community, he can isolate himself in a decadent brotherhood of men, untouched by the stabilizing, maturing influence of women. He can indulge himself in the aspects of women he finds interesting via transvestism and diva worship. These things are inherently misogynistic because they involve the worship of nonexistent women too perfect for this world, divorced of ugly physicality and murky reproductive function. This article from satirical site Christwire has a ring of uncomfortable truth. If this seems shocking, consider the way that lesbians tend to similarly branch off into an all-female world founded on physical disgust of men.

Are we in need of correction? I don't think so. The concept of "misogyny" is largely pointless to me, as behind it is an implication that there is something wrong with art that expresses the artist's hostilities towards women. The critiquing of art in this way is fine as long as it does not devolve into calls for censorship. Strangely, while critics are highly attuned to smaller surface signifiers of "misogyny" in film and literature--sexualized nudity, shrew archetypes, femme fatales--sometimes a film with an explicitly misogynist thesis evades criticism, perhaps out of disbelief that that's what a popular film could actually be about.  I'm thinking of Lars Von Trier's Antichrist.

Antichrist is so transparently about the perceived inherent evil of women that it is impossible for me to imagine anyone interpreting it as anything else. This may have something to do with the fact that it's regarded as a shock picture, a famous endurance test, and that it is a horror film that is more Bergman-arty than scary and thus leaves the typical horror viewer disappointed, bored, and distracted from the issue of what it might "mean." Von Trier has been attacked for misogyny because of the religiously tinged noble suffering of his heroines in Breaking the Waves, Dogville, and Dancer in the Dark but Antichrist, which literally classifies all women as Antichrists and biologically determined torturers of men, somehow doesn't enrage the politically correct in a similar way.

The plot of the film is that Charlotte Gainsbourg's character, who has been putting together a dissertation about the persecution of women throughout the ages, begins to believe that what she is reading is true and that women are inherently evil. After the death of her son, whom she is revealed to have deliberately crippled, she and her husband, Willem Dafoe, retreat to the cabin where she went to write. She gradually goes bananas and supernaturally summons the destructive forces of nature; her husband, a psychiatrist, continues to believe that she is grieving normally until she drives a grindstone through his leg, castrates him, and cuts off her clitoris in front of him in guilt. Nature is on her side in the form of some ominous woodland creatures that rat Dafoe out when he tries to hide from his her. Dafoe eventually succeeds in strangling her and seems on the verge of escape, but an army of faceless women are seen descending upon him in the final shot.

It is evident from the interviews and press materials accompanying Antichrist that Von Trier was terrified of bringing something this inflammatory to the screen. He did not seek out actors; the perverts came to him.  Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe are both notorious for their seeming desire to appear in as many sexually depraved, disturbing roles as possible. Von Trier insisted that his actors not ask him about the "meaning" of what they were making. He knew full well the risks of releasing a work that indulged in all the "misogynist" myths, linking woman with a cruel, biologically deterministic vision of nature, having her literally and figuratively cripple the men in her life, and topping the entire thing off with a sensational and ambiguous one-word title that would lead viewers to believe it would be about a more conventional, less politicized kind of Hollywood devil. While the film got a big reaction for its misogyny at Cannes, American reviewers seemed more focus on the gore and shock aspects of it than its message. It became very popular because it was so undeniable.

Von Trier followed Antichrist with two films that were comparatively gentle about women, Melancholia and Nymphomaniac. Both feature sympathetic, unconventional female leads that seem more obviously to be surrogates of Von Trier himself. I view this progression as evidence of his guilt and effort to apologize, in his own way, for the implications of Antichrist.



2 comments:

  1. My friend and I laughed about Antichrist after we watched. We were like "this has to be about exactly what it says it is, right?" My favorite example of feminists failing to recognize apostasy is Cruddy by Lynda Barry which seems to refute half-baked feminist concepts methodically, one by one, rather in the manner that Camille P points out that Sade refuted Voltaire. It's incredible that anybody should have to point out that women and men are exactly the same, each equally capable of evil, and of kindness. Apparently the supremely superficial act of smoking their weed is better than actually being kind or caring for them. I especially loved the part of her mother actually being the Wicked Witch of the West and throwing Toto off a bridge. But wait: I got ahead of myself. I think LB was "correcting" a book that was the ultimate Correction, until the new Star Wars came out: Wicked. That evil queen's (I mean the author's) presumption was too tacky to be called hubris (which would suggest some sort of originality). If it had been an "answer", like Kitty Wells' It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels, that would be great. But he was a pioneer in replacing the answer tradition with the Correction: This is what was wrong with the Wizard of Oz and this is how it Should Have Been. Enchanté. But Lynda answered back with something like a masterpiece. As far as I know she was never criticized, even though her misogyny was only topped by Antichrist, maybe. Of course the father did cut off her finger possibly as symbolic castration as punishment for her daring to be androgynous...which is legitimate except that she resolutely refuses to be either a woman or a man and only wants to be Lynda Barry. (I am purposely conflating author and protagonist). I hope "Cruddy" was her one word word review of Wicked. Considering the Creation Myth angle all of these one word titles seem to go together, along with Begotten. With Wicked murdering the others as Christianity killed Antiquity. Compliance or death.

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  2. I forgot to say that Charlotte G has a bottle of Vetiver Pour Elle in her apartment when it was in World of Interiors.

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