Mar 172012
 

From the Old Erotic Art Tumblr:

Half-naked women being threatened with head-shaving

This image, presumably the cover of an old men’s adventure magazine from the ’50s or ’60s, is puzzling initially. Why the shaving brush and scissors? Guerilla barbers? This is almost certainly a reference to les femmes tondues. In post-liberation France, women who allegedly collaborated with occupying fascists (especially “horizontal collaboration”) were publicly shaved bald. Like the “Nazi dominatrix” trope, this is the conflation of deviant politics (collaboration) with deviant female sexuality (“slut shaming”). Women are used as ritual scapegoats for a community’s problems (in this case, the legacy of occupation and collaboration in France) and symbolically “killed.” See Frost’s book Sex Drives

Interesting to see women-in-danger in the context of anti-fascist, “good guy” forces like the French resistance. This can be applied to just about any conflict, or to put it another way, any conflict or social anxiety can provide a framing narrative for the scene of woman-in-distress.

Mar 112012
 

House of Self-Indulgence has a summary of another Nazi-exploitation film, The Gestapo’s Last Orgy, which by its description sounds like a take on The Night Porter. The framing story is two people walking around an abandoned concentration camp, years after the war.

Of course, I’m not saying it should be taken seriously as an accurate account of daily life at your average concentration camp during World War II. However, it’s way more honest and straightforward than the majority of the pro-war propaganda Hollywood has been warping minds with over the past seventy years. Your typical war film, especially the ones that are set during the post-war era, seem to glamourize armed combat, which I find tasteless and obscene. On the other hand, the films that make up the Naziploitation genre have a purity about them. The sole purpose of these films is to shock and offend all those who lack the common sense to stir clear of their wicked glow, and the good ones do so with no apologies.

The driving force of this film seems to be frustrated sadism.

Even though he was eyeballing her while she was being examined by the camp’s doctor and during the slideshow/rape orgy, it’s at the end of the cannibal dinner party that Conrad, and his trusty Luger P08 pistol, finally become acquainted with Lise Cohen and her dogged brand of spiritual fortitude. Frustrated by the fact Lise won’t flinch after repeated attempts to unnerve her (he does everything his drunken Nazi mind can think of to scare her), Conrad decides right then and there that his new mission in life is to make her scream for mercy.

This reminds of earlier discussions about the difference between genuine sadists and “bureaucrats of torture” in totalitarian societies. A bureaucrat just doesn’t care about the other person’s subjective experience. A sadist needs to know he or she is having an impact.

Nazi fashion in East Asia

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Sep 112011
 

For a while, I’ve been aware that Nazi imagery pops up in Japanese and Chinese culture every now and then, such as this set of pictures in the Daily Dot. I attribute this not to fascistic tendencies or even ignorance, but a historical and geographical distance so great that swastika armbands and black SS uniforms carry no real semiotic meaning, and signify nothing in particular. They’re just another fashion note, like the Chobits-style ear horns the “bride” wears in the above picture.

Contrary to what you might thing, people in Asia don’t just shrug this off. From the comments to the Chinasmack blog post:

To say you are mentally retarded doesn’t seem appropriate for your age . . . So, in the end I won’t be describing you both but instead wish for you: That the guy will forever remain a virgin, that the girl also forever remain a virgin, that you will be hit by a car when leaving your house, that you will be electrocuted when you bathe, and that for all of your offspring, the boys will from generation to generation forever be slaves, and the girls will from generation to generation forever be whores.

What’s the difference between this and someone wearing a [Imperialist] Japanese military uniform to take photos?

Asshole, your ancestors just rolled over in their graves.

I also wonder if there is some kind of “beautiful loser” thing going on here. We view these signifiers in the context of the defeat of fascism decades ago, so we can see them as signifying tragedy, of good people in bad situations. For example, here’s the Wikipedia plot summary of the “Slipstream” segment of The Cockpit anime:

A disgraced German fighter pilot is assigned to escort a captured American B-17 bomber carrying his childhood sweetheart, her scientist father and a fearsome secret cargo – a Nazi atom bomb. The night before the mission the pilot’s sweetheart begs him to let enemy planes destroy the bomber before the cargo can be used, even though she and her father will die with it. On the next day, After shooting down two of three RAF attackers by using the brand new Ta 152, the pilot allows the third Spitfire to destroy the bomber.

Here’s an inherently dramatic situation, a character torn between duty and humanitarian concerns, opening up the possibility of masochistic sacrifice and redemption in annihilation.

You could also see this as a way of Japanese people thinking about their nation’s legacy as a defeated, surrendered power by displacing the narrative onto another defeated military power, Nazi Germany.

Jul 272011
 

Nude woman bound to tree, nude man standing nearby, black and white

Back in 2004, German novelist Thor Kunkel claimed that he had discovered a secret chapter in the secrets-filled history of pornography: porn produced in Nazi Germany. From UK newspaper The Guardian:

Before submitting his manuscript to his publisher last summer, Kunkel had researched long and hard into one of the most subterranean aspects of the Nazi era – a series of erotic home movies known as the Sachsenwald films, shot secretly in 1941. Officially, pornography was forbidden under the Nazis; in reality, however, the films were not only screened privately for the amusement of senior Nazi figures, but were also traded in north Africa for insect repellent and other commodities.

Kunkel discovered two of the black and white films – the pastoral Desire in the Woods and The Trapper. In one of them, a man ties a naked woman to a tree. Incredibly, Kunkel tracked down the actress some 60 years after her woodland nude scene, living in an old people’s home outside Hamburg. “I found her via a photographer who had known her since she was 14, when she posed for nude photographs,” Kunkel says.

The 83-year-old was slightly taken aback by the novelist’s visit, but agreed to help. She could recall only two “polite, charming men” who approached her outside a tobacconist’s kiosk in Berlin. The men had driven her and her sister in a black Opel Admiral – the saloon car favoured by the Gestapo – to the woods outside Hamburg. There she had disrobed.

“She told me she and her sister had had a threesome with a man. I found this a bit surprising,” Kunkel says. The novelist never did discover who the director of the film was, but he used the movies as the framework for his 622-page manuscript, which his publisher, Rowohlt, had originally lauded as a “packed, minutely researched portrait of morbid Nazi society … and the demise of the Third Reich.”

Kunkel also interviewed 57 elderly German soldiers who had served with Erwin Rommel in north Africa, where much of the novel is set. They confirmed what he already suspected – that during the second world war, the German military traded Nazi pornography with the locals. The Sachsenwald films even ended up in the hands of the Bey of Tunis, a regent with a legendary collection of pornography. “It was the thing the locals were most interested in. In return, the soldiers got food, water and supplies,” Kunkel says.

There seems to be very little about these films, at least in English, and this whole thing might turn out to be a fabrication or exaggeration.

Jul 272011
 

Book cover. Man wearing officer's cap embracing nude woman, in leather harness, from behind. Title is Captured by the SS

Sylvia Plath wrote that “Every woman loves a fascist” and the Nazi can function as the absolute extreme of the “bad boy”.

A book published by Ellora’s Cave under the Taboo line, Captured by the SS by Gail Starbright, goes deep into this fantasy. From the description:

By the twenty-first century, Germany has all but taken over the world. Only one nation remains untouched…America. Only spies slip in and out of enemy territory. Within this shadowy and dangerous world of cloak and dagger, Isabel Riley is an American spy deep in enemy territory.

Isabel is detained at a German checkpoint by a black-uniformed SS officer. She’s arrested, taken into custody and interrogated.

But she soon learns her enigmatic captor wants more than just her secrets. He enjoys tying her up or teasing her with the tails of his leather flogger. But floggers and video cameras are the least of her concerns. In the eyes of the Third Reich, ownership is real. And a lovely American spy is far too tempting of a war prize to pass up.

Although I haven’t read the book, my response to the description was “Um…”

Continue reading »

Jul 162011
 

Angela Caperton’s blog pointed me towards several Youtube clips from the documentary, Stalags (2008), about the Israeli stalag novels:

The Introduction

A discussion of the standard plot

A professor talks about his schooldays, when Stalag novels were circulated as porn, while the works of Ka Tzetnik 135633 treated the same subject matter but legitimately.

A publisher talks about the premise of the books, in which a “pinnacle of manhood”, American pilots, are dominated by women.

An interview with present-day Israeli who talks about his fantasies when having sex with a gentile German woman.

Interview with filmmaker Ari Libsker

I think this is an example of fantasy as a reparative/redemptive rewriting of an earlier experience, either first hand or indirect. Definitely gotta see this one.

More on Ka Tzetnik 135633 in a future post.

Nov 192010
 

Julia… worked, as he had guessed, on the novel-writing machines in the Fiction Department [of the Ministry of Truth]. She enjoyed her work, which consisted chiefly in running and servicing a powerful but tricky electric motor. She was ‘not clever’, but was fond of using her hands and felt at home with machinery. She could describe the whole process of composing a novel, from the general directive issued by the Planning Committee down to the final touching-up by the Rewrite Squad. But she was not interested in the finished product. She ‘didn’t much care for reading’, she said. Books were just a commodity that had to be produced, like jam or bootlaces.

[…]

She had even (an infallible mark of good reputation) been picked out to work in Pornosec, the sub-section of the Fiction Department which turned out cheap pornography for distribution among the proles. It was nicknamed Muck House by the people who worked in it, she remarked. There she had remained for a year, helping to produce booklets in sealed packets with titles like Spanking Stories or One Night in a Girls’ School, to be bought furtively by proletarian youths who were under the impression that they were buying something illegal.

‘What are these books like?’ said Winston curiously.

‘Oh, ghastly rubbish. They’re boring, really. They only have six plots, but they swap them round a bit. Of course I was only on the kaleidoscopes [that composed the text]. I was never in the Rewrite Squad. I’m not literary, dear — not even enough for that.’

He learned with astonishment that all the workers in Pornosec, except the head of the department, were girls. The theory was that men, whose sex instincts were less controllable than those of women, were in greater danger of being corrupted by the filth they handled.

‘They don’t even like having married women there,’ she added. ‘Girls are always supposed to be so pure. Here’s one who isn’t, anyway.’

[George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Everyman’s Library edition, Page 136-137]

In Orwell’s dystopia, sex is strongly regulated.

For the Proles, the working class, sex seems to be completely uninhibited, or at least it is from Winston’s perspective. Likewise, Proles are given free reign to indulge in liquor and gambling, and pornography.

For the Outer Party, roughly the middle class, sex is extremely regulated and disregarded. The Party attempts to channel the libido into endless activity, hard work followed by play that is as organized, compulsory and endless as work. No individual attachments or contemplation. Sex itself is reduced to something akin to an unpleasant medical procedure, a “duty to the party,” as Winston’s sexually dysfunctional wife called it.

Whereas Julia is an apolitical hedonist, Winston rhapsodizes about the liberatory potential of his affair with her, describing the way she takes off her dress as “a single, splendid movement” that could bring down the corrupt society.

I saw a book on sexual history in Germany that showed an interesting poster from the early Nazi regime. One half of the poster showed a number of fair-haired nudes in natural settings (walking in meadows or wading in streams), while the other showed dark-haired (Jewish?) women, dressed like showgirls, in indoor, urban settings. The captions read something like, “Bad beauty vs. good beauty.” The problem wasn’t with porn, just right and wrong kinds of porn.

It seems axiomatic that repressive politics leads to repressive sexuality. After all, the Nazis burned the Magnus Hirschfeld archives and gassed homosexuals alongside Jews. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Orwell’s Oceania is not universally sexually repressive, but it appears that sexuality of the Outer Party (i.e. the middle class) is tightly repressed, so as not to interfere with work or encourage dissent, but encouraged the opposite way for the largely expendable Proles, as an opiate of the mostly non-productive masses.

The other side of this issue is violence in Oceania. There a lot of public violence, both the mass execution of internal and external enemies, and the display of propaganda films with graphic violence. There’s also a lot of “private violence,” in the Ministry of Love, with torture and executions. Note that there is a significant disconnect between the two realms of violence, that the public executions are purely for show while the real work of suppressing resistance is done in secret, its victims completely disappeared.

Foucault talked about how, over the past few centuries in the West, the process of correcting social deviance has been hidden away from public view in institutions like prisons, hospitals, asylums, etc. In Orwell’s book, the state’s real work of violence is done in private, while the public work of executions, confessions and so on are just for show. Yet, Winston seems to have an instinctive knowledge of the “technology” of the Thought Police and the Ministry of Love, their instruments and techniques. Presumably there are rumors floating around. The separation can’t be perfect.

So, is Julia busy turning out porn that draws on the imagery of eroticized power from their own society?

Oct 172010
 

Fussell, Paul. Uniforms: Why we are what we wear Houghton Mifflin, 2002.

Fussel is a snob, a crank and a square (he refers to “skate-board enthusiasts and other pseudo-degenerates”), and he would probably agree with all those adjectives assessments. He fully admits that his book is about surface impressions, but that’s what a uniform is: a surface, a membrane between the world and the self. It covers up the flawed individual and makes the wearer represent an ideal. Fussell contends that, despite the status accorded to individualism, people like wearing uniforms, even lowly ones. However, one of the first thing people do when given uniforms is to customize them for comfort, utility or style. In extreme cases, this produces the paradox of the unique uniform; WWII-era leaders, like MacArthur, Patton, Montgomery, Hitler and Eisenhower, had distinctive uniforms made for them.

Continue reading »

Jun 162010
 

“Alejandro” is the second time Lady Gaga has visually referenced The Night Porter (dir. Liliana Cavani, 1974) in her videos.

The first time was in the “Love Game” video, in which she wore the dark pants, suspenders and officer’s cap look Lucia wore in that iconic scene. This seemed to be gesturing towards the early 70s, post-Stonewall/pre-AIDS downtown New York City scene as an image of sexual freedom and adventure. However, the video doesn’t engage with the implications of the source image. It’s just a bit of early 70s nostalgia, bereft of any particular meaning for Gaga’s primary audience who wasn’t even born when The Night Porter came out.

The video for “Alejandro” does address the themes of the source material: the militarism, the eroticism, etc. There’s a problematic connection drawn between fascism/militarism and homoeroticism. The nun imagery at the end seems to suggest that the only way Gaga’s character can be acceptable to a fascist man is to become an asexual image of virtue, nun-like.

There’s something a bit paint-by-numbers in this, particularly considering the similarities to Madonna’s videos. Homoeroticism? Check. Fascism? Check. Bra with gun barrels? Check. Swallowing rosary? Check. Latex nun uniform? Check. It’s pretty easy to generate 15-minutes of controversy with this kind of material, without sparking any particular debate or getting people to change their minds about anything. There’s certainly a long (if not always noble) history of anti-clerical agitprop, but whether that has actually made any difference is another question.

It put me in mind of MIA’s notorious “Born free” video. (Not currently on Youtube.com) Mia’s video employs the simple strategy of depicting pogroms and ethnic cleansing, but targeting red haired men. It’s a simple inversion strategy, one that generates shock, but doesn’t necessarily spark any deeper understanding or change attitudes. This is what the philosophers and poets in the late 1700s/early 1800s did when they tried to imagine themselves into slave bodies. I don’t know if this had any direct impact on the debate over slavery, but it did eventually contribute to the evolving form of BDSM porn.

Jun 232008
 

night porter rampling

The Night Porter, 1974, dir. Liliana Cavini IMDB, Wikipedia

If there’s an image that epitomizes 1970s kink, it’s Charlotte Rampling in the Nazi-exploitation classic The Night Porter: topless, wearing an SS officer’s cap, trousers, boots and suspenders, singing something in German to soldiers. It’s an iconic image, perhaps echoing Marlene Dietrich’s equally memorable turns in male and military drag. It’s also rather disturbing, suggesting a kind of fascist chic that no doubt had people making crude theories about the link between deviant sexuality (i.e. fetishism) and deviant politics (i.e. fascism).

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