Thursday, October 14, 2004

Rope, salt and plastic: the escape artist(s) [for Icarus' perusal...I told you I could do it!]

When the character of Martha in the film "The Children's Hour" (1961) hangs herself after admitting to her friend and moreover to herself the romantic feelings she has harboured for her, the implications of speaking the unspeakable have overwhelmed her. Finding herself outside of the episteme of her identity as constructed previously she is in a new land where the compass and map of her life prior simply do not apply. She looks down, back, perhaps on the lost/found city and ceases to be a "person" in the sense she has Lot's Wife she turns to a pillar of salt. It is the great out, the great escape...the final hoorah and also the final cry that she becomes the apparitional, aborts and voids herself,perhaps as a default mechanism of her social sense to her strange new mental environment, but she also does the great disappearing act, becomes a puff of smoke, a stream of vapour to revisit and reappear as a homosexual martyr or a bit of Genesis in the table condiments. Looking down on Sodom, Lot's wife did the same, looking back on an option closed ostensibly forever she ceased to be human, and instead became a symbol that has a longer life than she would have done as "Wife of Lot".

As we have discussed in class, suicide for sartre is a last site of power. I generally think not. The forcing to die or to live as defined by the episteme at large is surely presenting the life/death struggle in binary terms,, and besides which in reality death will only result in perpetuation of same...there are many valences, many frequencies and paths not explored. But in the cases above mentioned, in instances already within the parameters of the discourse, a fictional death as petite morte, as sublimation must be seen in all its terms...and reclaimed, indeed torn from its simple designation as an instance of victimisation, or a failure to cope. These things will help us make ou new mythology.

Speaking of the petite morte, of orgasm and sex brings me to the final flip of our artists of trapeze and escape...because the gender of Martha, the nature of her person as a woman, as a feminine, as the possibility of a lesbian all speak to the paradoxical relationship between the above mentioned presumed binarism in sexual charge. "Opposites attract" after all, or so we're told. but the whole dis stabilizing potential force of pluralised sexuality is in heir shaking of this concept out of its cookie cutter. For although gay men continue to be defined in terms of the "top" and the "bottom", and the lesbian is still shoehorned into the dichotomies of "butch" and "femme", the nature of desire, the truly anarchic base of desire is to be found in the growing and admixture of various components of all and every group we may say. However, even these ideas of the diametricaly opposed feminine and masculine roles and their conceptualisation in popular culture and pornography can easily be distabilised...after all, Polythene Pam was "so good looking but she looks like a man". What is desired we may posit is drag, a dressing up to a fantasy of the feminine that is in fact the phallus and nothing less. Martha is our heroine here, because she cannot conceive of herself (with all the meaning that entails) inside the person she once was, not simply because she escapes from the person she now feels she is as a consequence of her perceived reorientation of her sexual geography. It is that she will cannot and WILL NOT pretend that nothing has happened, she cannot and WILL NOT continue to live within a libidinal economy which she has seen the working parts of and has stepped outside...she will not dress in drag.

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