Showing posts with label Christina Crawford. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christina Crawford. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

an American crime, American denial

** NOTE: this post concerns an especially disturbing subject. **

** this themed post includes some mild-to-moderate spoilers **

A few days ago I was sitting in a restaurant, and a woman walked in carrying a tote that read, "Trust Women."  This woman was white, about 60, tall and impressive, a latter-day hippie with long white hair and an air that she was enjoying a good, prosperous time in her life.  She also had what I've come to think of as the religious gleam in her eye. 
The religious gleam doesn't require a belief in traditional religions, only the confidence that one is on the side of God or truth, and that God or truth is by one's side, too.  It is a vaguely fanatical confidence that anyone who disagrees is bad, sad, or sadly confused.
I've seen this gleam on lots of "positive thinkers," such as non-fiction meliorist Malcolm Gladwell, and mystical film-director Terence Malick. 

As you can guess by now, I was not thrilled by the restaurant lady's tote-slogan.  It makes no sense to me: I know from experience that women are no better than men, prone to all the virtues and temptations as the rest of us.  (Men are more violent, but if you think that makes them morally worse, that's your own bias.  Some of the worst crimes and abuses are non-violent.)

Like the rest of us, women should be judged on their behavior, their statements fact-checked with the same rigor as anyone else's.  If the tote was specifically a reference to allegations of rape or other abuse, I disagree there as well.  Unfortunately, some women make false allegations.  If it's an attempt to balance out misogynist messages, it's too direct to do any good since most people dislike being patronized. 

The tote and the gleam go together.  The virtue of the slogan isn't that it's rational, but that it brings pleasure to those who agree, and pain to the rest, and so creates a little bit of heaven and hell right here on Earth.  And this ties in with my belief that modern feminism is a religion. 

An essential part of any religion is mystery.  In less charitable terms, a religion must demand the adherents believe in something that makes no sense, that appears to be nonsense, otherwise it wouldn't require faith, and the supposed religion wouldn't be a religion.  (At least Christianity admits this: 1st Conrinthians 1:17-20).  And so Scientologists don't keep the faith despite the stuff about being possessed by aliens, they keep the faith because of the stuff about being possessed by aliens.

I am not anti-religion, nor do I think that religion should be kept separate from other areas of life, because that's impossible.  Any strong belief wants to become a religion, and this tendency can only be managed, never extinguished.  If it's not managed, it will eventually poison the well and the true believers will do evil, because they're intoxicated. 
Perhaps this is why Hillary Clinton seems to think she's above the law and above the rules: she's a Democrat-woman-feminist-survivor, therefore she should be able to do whatever she considers best.  She'll probably be our next president, swept to office by voters intoxicated on religious feminism.

I believe that modern feminism has gone badly astray, especially in the United States where the culture has always tended toward dogma.  U.S. Americans also tend to profile people, and our profile of women is that they are civilizing-sexy-angels, and in recent years we've added that they are badass-scientist-entrepeneurs.  (If you disagree, try this test: what type of people do you visualize when I say "American women"?)
I indicated that women are as bad as men; this includes child abuse, including physical and sexual abuse.  I'm not talking specifically about all the teachers sleeping with their teen students, although that's bad enough, I'm talking about little kids too.  If you search for information on sexual abuse committed by women, you get articles from Britain and Canada.  Apparently, this isn't a problem in the U.S. 
Like any other social reality, this denial shows up at the movies.  Monster-mothers figure in some older U.S. movies, including Roger Corman's Bloody Mama, the notorious The Baby, and Carrie, but those films came out of the early 1970s when American confidence (hubris) was scraping bottom.  Since then, U.S. films about women who mess with kids are usually ticketed for obscurity: Mother's Boys with Jamie Lee Curtis, Loverboy with Kyra Sedgwick. 

EDIT, 19 July 2015: I should mention two better-known films that tried to sweeten with black humor.  To Die For (1995), with Nicole Kidman and by maverick director Gus Van Sant, was not a hit but did respectably.  Mommie Dearest (1981) arguably sabotaged itself by being so ridiculous it's now enjoyed as camp.  Compare the Casey Anthony protesters, who directed such hatred at the accused that her (indeterminate) failings as a mother seem more unusual than they are.

This is less so in other, less momist territories.  Bad Boy Bubby and Animal Kingdom are Australian films; in the latter, as in Bloody Mama, the matriarch of a crime family has emotional incest, at least, with her sons.  (Things are almost that bad in the current U.S. series Bates Motel.)  Mum and Dad (2008), about a horribly abusive family, is British.  Advocate and the biopic Karla (with Laura Prepon) are Canadian, and the satiric Parents (1989) was a U.S.-Canada production. 

In 1965, 16-year old Sylvia Likens was held captive, tortured, and murdered by an Indiana woman.  This story was finally told in two films that may have cancelled each other out, both debuting 2007: An American Crime with Ellen Page and Catherine Keener, and The Girl Next Door, based on the novel by Jack Ketchum.  Despite high imdb ratings (7.4 and 6.7, respectively), these movies are obscure, but even the titles remind us that such crimes aren't that unusual.   What is unusual is that the facts were established, and the perpetrator brought to justice, especially unusual when the criminal is a female.   
Lately, there have been a few other brave exceptions to U.S. denial, so maybe things are getting better:  Precious, The Killer Inside Me, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  These films are a refreshing change from Hollywood-feminist Oscar-bait, films that use convoluted plots (even if true) to indicate that women don't abuse kids, such as Agnes of God, A Cry in the Dark, and The Good Mother

Despite getting the most attention, I found Precious to be heavyhanded, although its heart is in the right place.  The Killer Inside Me is surely destined for cult-legendary status, if you can stand the extreme violence.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower may be the  best of the three, a bittersweet story of friendship and recovery, including the battle to overcome denial to recover memories, the truth of what happened.  Without turning away from life's oceanic sadness, it's a plea for self-acceptance, its very title defying the American injunction that we're all superheroes.