Feb 142014
 

Brown, Carolyn E. “Erotic Religious Flagellation and Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure”, English Literary Renaissance, Vol.16, Iss. 1, Dec 1986

Shakespeare’s play Measure for Measure (first performed in 1604) links religious asceticism and flagellation with deviant sexuality and political tyranny. The Duke of Vienna, the judge Angelo and the novice nun Isabella claim to be pious and chaste, while their sexuality is repressed in such a way that it emerges as indifferent voyeurism, aggressive sadism or masochism, respectively. “…by drawing parallels to historical or topical events, Shakespeare suggests that the protagonists’ very asceticism, ironically, causes this deviant desire and that they associate their austere religious practices with pleasurable feelings.”

Woman in nun's habit kneels facing away from man in suit, sitting on couh

Isabella and Angelo

The plot revolves around a couple, Claudio and Juliet, who have not properly observed all the rules of engagement and marriage. While the Duke travels through Vienna in disguise as a friar, he hands power over to the judge Angelo, who decides to make an example of Claudio and condemn him to death for fornication. Claudio’s friend Lucia asks Isabella, the novice nun and Claudio’s sister, for help. Angelo offers to free Claudio in exchange for sex with Isabella.
The trio of the Duke, Angelo and Isabella are all ascetics (though none are actually clergy), and are hostile to sexual desires, believing that “pain kills the libido and thus subjecting themselves and others to physical abuse.”

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May 062013
 

Baatz, Simon. For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder that Shocked Chicago. HarperCollins, 2008 Amazon

I wish there were more case studies to examine in this field. It’s rare to find a documented sadomasochistic relationship in the pre-modern era; I shudder to think how easily the Munby-Cullwick papers could have been lost. Sometimes one must make do with what one can find. In this case, there’s the case of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb who probably would have been remembered as eccentrics if they hadn’t kidnapped and murdered a teenage boy, basically just to prove they could.

After their capture for the murder, the two men were thoroughly examined by physicians, neurologists and psychiatrists, who couldn’t agree on a diagnosis. Eventually they were found competent to stand trial. Their examinations and testimonies revealed both had vivid fantasy lives.

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Sep 242012
 

Closeup between woman and wolf

Spoilers ahead

…the function of the priests is to prevent the first, highest, level of cosmic eating, the eating of human mortals by gods. How? By way of performing sacrificial rituals. Gods must be appeased, their hunger for blood must be satisfied, and the trick of the priests is to offer the gods a substitute (symbolic) sacrifice: an animal or other prescribed food instead of human life. The sacrifice is needed not to secure any special favors from the gods, but to make sure that the wheel of life goes on turning. Priests perform a function which concerns the balance of the entire universe: if the gods remain hungry, the whole cycle of cosmic life is disturbed.

Slavoy Zizek, Living in the End Times

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Jun 062012
 

Lord Buckley was an eccentric American performer of the early and mid 20th century. He’d perform monologues, in hip dialect, that were about the lives of Ghandi (“the Hip Ghan”) or Jesus Christ (“the Nazz”), or transcriptions of famous documents like the Gettysburg Address into hip. One of his monologues was on “a hero in evil”, the Marquis de Sade.

Now, you take the case of Ella Louise Louise Louise, that little chamber maid chick. It’s in the history. Now, he knew this chick didn’t have no gold. So, he pressed a fin into her palm and said, “Baby, let’s split up to my pad and suck up a little juice and hear a little wax and go a little crazy.” She said, “Coo coo.” So, she took his wing and vrrrpppt, they split toward the pad. And got halfway there and just happened to pass the Birch and Rod Store. So, the Marq said, “‘Cuse me a minute, Sugar.” Vrrrpppt, he swung in and picked up on twelve miniature style, three colored, silk-tasseled, circus day, children’s pony, buggy whips put them under his wing, vrrrppppt, and made the pad and they BAD RAPPED THE POOR CAT EVERY STEP OF THE WAY.

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Apr 092012
 

The theme of violence against women is front and centre in the Mad Men episode “Mystery Date”, and what leads into that phenomenon is a tangled web of fear, anger and desire.

The episode is haunted by the Richard Speck rape-murders in 1966, an incident which its own Gothic details: sexualized violence, women in danger, etc. The lone survivor of Speck’s massacre of student nurses escaped by hiding under a bed.

At the SCDP office, Joyce, a journalist friend of Peggy, brings in a sheet of photos of the Speck crime scene not fit for publication. Joyce describes the crime in melodramatic detail, as if imagining herself as the sole survivor and de facto hero of the narrative (Cf. the Final Girl of slasher filmes). Peggy and the other creatives are gruesomely fascinated and study the pictures. It’s new copywriter Michael Ginsburg who looks at the pictures but then denounces the others as “sickoes”, and says he wishes he hadn’t looked at them.

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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.

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Jan 212012
 

Eller, Jack David. Cruel Creeds, Virtuous Violence Prometheus Books, 2010.

I’m going back into chapter one of the book (hopefully to get a draft done by the end of the month), and that means going back into religion and violence. Eller’s book is about the relationship between religion and violence, not only that humans incorporate violence into religion, but that we also invest violence with religious meaning.

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Dec 032011
 

This is a joke, right?

Don’t you get the point of this? It’s to turn people on. I get the sexy little schoolgirl. I even get the helpless mental patient, right? That can be hot.

But what is this? Lobotomized vegetable?

How about something a little more commercial, for God’s sake?

Sweet Pea, Sucker Punch, 2011, w./d. Zack Snyder

Searching “‘sucker punch’ snyder misogyny” on Google returns about 225,000 hits. I don’t think any film has been judged so harshly by being misunderstood.

Sucker Punch does present a confusing and at times incoherent story, but I don’t think it is operating on fundamentally bad faith with the audience. (The previously discussed Goodbye Uncle Tom, which likewise mixes exploitation imagery with pro-social messages, is a counter-example of a film in bad faith.)

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Aug 172011
 

Cinema Sewer 34, Danny Hellman, Cmm3C

Well, sooner or later, somebody had to make an image like the one above.

Danny Hellman created this for cover of the 24th issue of the Cinema Sewer zine, published out of Vancouver, BC by Robin Bougie.

It’s not the only Hellman that satirizes the Iraq and Afghanistan war, viewing those conflicts through the lenses of comic books and exploitation magazines (e.g. 1). This is an obvious take on the previously discussed Israeli stalag novels and the later men’s adventure magazines, referencing the notorious Abu Ghraib pictures. The brunette woman in the background represents Lynndie England, for instance.

The Abu Ghraib pictures put Americans in a quandary. The scenario was familiar, but the ones inflicting the suffering were “us”, not “them”. How could this be? This is what Other people do. It’s telling that England, a female soldier, became the most recognizable name and face associated with this scandal, linking political deviance with female sexual deviance.

I feel somewhat disappointed that this image is too knowing, too ironic to be a genuine expression of fantasy. Maybe we need to wait a few years before the psychosocial impact of the War on Terrorism percolates up from the collective subconscious. Or perhaps the torture porn film genre previously discussed is part of that response. Maybe in North America the feared Other is not the Muslim terrorist, but the out-of-control, paranoid police state. That at any second, for no apparent reason, we can find ourselves strapped to something in a windowless room where we are utterly helpless before an unknown person. Network television is already crawling with surveillance and confinement and competition. Somewhere out there, Room 101 is ready for you.

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Aug 162011
 

Continuing my discussion of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and the function of violence, here’s the Room 101 scene from the American 1956 film version.

Note that the story pretty closely follows the book and the other two film versions: the electric shocks, the “How many fingers?” routine, Winston seeing his degraded self in the mirror. You can see how much of a perverse initiator O’Brien is (called O’Connor in this adaptation), guiding Winston room to room, preparing him for each stage of his descent into hell.

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