some pretty good cultural criticism, for an aside from an interview about Jeopardy!
Look, we all know that there’s a trope in the movies where someone of a minority race is flattened out into just being “good at X” and that the white protagonist is the one we root for because unlike the guy who’s just “good at X” the protagonist has human depth, human relationships, a human point of view—and this somehow makes him more worthy of success than the antagonist who seems to exist just to be good at X.
So we root for Rocky against black guys who, by all appearances, really are better boxers than he is, because unlike them Rocky isn’t JUST a boxer, he has a girlfriend, he has hopes, he has dreams, etc. This comes up over and over again in movies where the athletic black competitor is set up as the “heel”—look at the black chick in Million Dollar Baby and how much we’re pushed to hate her. Look at all this “Great White Hope” stuff, historically, with Joe Louis.
So is it any surprise that this trope comes into play with Asians? That the Asian character in the movie is the robotic, heartless, genius mastermind who is only pure intellect and whom we’re crying out to be defeated by some white guy who may not be as brainy but has more pluck, more heart, more humanity? It’s not just Flash Gordon vs. Ming the Merciless, it’s stuff like how in the pilot episode of Girls Hannah gets fired in favor of an overachieving Asian girl who’s genuinely better at her job than she is (the Asian girl knows Photoshop and she doesn’t) and we’re supposed to sympathize with Hannah.
The animals in children’s books are so humiliated. Capering and gamboling and waving fluffy paws around at your precious child. You get the feeling some of them would prefer to eat your precious child. They would prefer to rend your child’s precious flesh and yell:
Why are you looking at me. Why are you not frightened. Why have you allowed blueberries to be smeared on my face. I would rip your pathetic child in thirds, except someone has made me stand wrong, and move wrong, and blue.
In this way the animals are not unlike the parents who read them
true or false #3
Everyone makes distinctions between which parts of their body are them and which parts of their bodies are tools.
true or false #2
While many assumed male fashion’s pendulum-swing away from Skinny Jeans would lead rapidly toward Pleated Slacks, this spring suggests we may instead spend quite a while exploring the world of Wacky Patterned Sweatpants.
true or false
Over the past twenty-some years the dominant youth-culture reaction to petty oppressive social norms has gone from:
flaunt your indifference to them by not even really trying
execute them at such a high irreproachable faux-casual level that they seem somehow “conquered” by your success
Hounds of Love with Scads of GIFs (and Scads of Gushing Too)
I tweeted back something about the vortex of blue light in the background of her video for “Sat in Your Lap,” which I think might represent Knowledge?
(One of the wonderful things about Kate Bush’s work is that it can be exactly that literal, especially visually. If she is dancing to the words “I’m so cold” she will clasp her arms and shiver. It’s as though the things she’s saying are too rich and precise to spoil them with needless indirection. It’s like: who dips a golden bell in a mud puddle?)
So I wound up thinking for a while about the laser-blue Vortex of Knowledge she rollerskates into, and from there I got to thinking, as one does, about Bush’s whole highly backlit video oeuvre. Then, more specifically: the video for “Hounds of Love.” Then, even more specifically: one shot, one movement, one image in that video that I could just about eat and live on, the thing gets my heart so close to bursting. For many years now it’s been one of the top five things that makes me feel like a live animal.
Never any image in any video any greater than this, I really don’t think:
I would like to convince you to experience the beauty and grandeur and weight of that image there, the swoon and purpose and bravery of it.
Last night I downloaded the least cruddy version of this video I could find, and shuffled back and forth through it frame by frame, heart doing its curious bursting thing. I made various gifs, some of which are below. If I were more of a film person I could maybe tell you about things like the video’s first long shot, its gorgeous timing and choreography and its sly insertion of a Hitchcock lookalike. But I am not a film person, I am a person who is here to make you look at loops of motion while I attempt to describe feelings.
Once a long time ago in a writing workshop the teacher told us that while Write What You Know was terrible advice — cliched and exception-riddled and ultimately not very useful — he nevertheless would encourage us to Write What We Knew, at least in the context of his trying to teach us anything.
So the next week a kid named maybe Doug submitted, for critique, an exceptionally vivid list of things he hated about himself. Like: failings, shames, embarrassments, inadequacies, loathsome tics, unseemly cravings, everything vacuous and pathetic and vile about him. Just this long, digressive, revolting catalog of flaws, every poverty of character that prevented the guy from understanding himself as a worthwhile human being, leave alone the kind of Great Person other Great People would recognize as one of their own and love accordingly.
It was actually pretty well-written and rich with detail, so that by the time you finished reading it you couldn’t help hating Doug’s guts. When he got to class we were all just staring down the table at him in alternating waves of pity and disgust. It was a fiction workshop but still. A lot of the problems he’d written about were flaws we’d noticed or suspected but never been able to articulate quite so well. Some of them you could see right there at the table. You’d look over at him and think wow, yeah, he’s doing that thing from page twenty-four.
There was no good way to critique the thing without getting sucked into a whole discussion of how awful Doug was, so we mostly just hemmed and hawed and rambled. Finally the teacher asked Doug if he had anything to say about why he’d written the thing. Doug said he’d spent a lot of time thinking about what he really Knew, but he kept getting distracted, as usual, by these thoughts about what an insufferable wreck he was, same as when he took showers or drove a car. So eventually he decided that this must be what he really Knew best.
One girl in the class said the piece was like a map of a place no one could ever really go (and, having seen the map, would never want to go), which was sort of useless. Someone else said maybe if you shared these feelings, reading the piece would make you feel understood and less alone. But no, said the first girl, the last thing that makes a solipsist feel less alone is knowing other people are solipsists too.
In the end Doug just kinda laughed and said he’d been curious what would happen if he Wrote What He Knew, but he guessed he needed to Know better things. And the teacher laughed and said, well, he couldn’t help with that part, but he’d do his best to teach us how to write, so when we Knew something worth writing we’d be prepared.
Anyway the moral of the story is that after class a bunch of us were going out together, and we talked about inviting Doug the way we usually did, but the general consensus was no, don’t invite Doug, that guy is the worst, and who wants to get drunk with some judgmental elitist who thinks he’s better than you, or should be?