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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Thursday, July 24, 2014


In part 1 of this essay-series I said:

Whether anyone believes it or not, I can understand why a female viewer would be experience cognitive dissonance while watching a film like ANGELFIST. Let us suppose that the hypothetical female viewer can fully identify with the basic trope of an action-revenge film like this one, that this viewer can take pleasure in seeing the kickboxing-heroine slam around nasty crooks, mostly if not entirely of the male gender, using the same methods that a male action-hero would. That visual pleasure would probably be disrupted by seeing the heroine fight off those hoods while she's mostly naked.

Now, I should note that for some feminist critics the problem would not just be the fact of the woman's unveiling, but also the circumstances that led to it: that actresses like the star of ANGELFIST, the late Cat Sassoon, were victims of a "boys' club" mentality that put women on display in order to marginalize them.

In Part 3 I critiqued this attitude with respect to Camille Paglia's philosophy:

Camille Paglia famously argued that the ability of women to display themselves often had a profound, empowering aspect. One need not believe that it applies to all situations, as Paglia seemed to credence, but this view does supply a necessary corrective to the ultraliberal/WAPster notion that feminine sexual display can mean nothing but "coming across for The Man."
I still believe this. However, it has occurred to me that there's a smattering of logic in the WAPster association of "female display= control by males." In JUG BOND I hypothesized the evolution of the female breast in hominids as a somatic strategy born in part of the woman's desire to encourage and discourage the male, as needed. Yet as a Bataillean, I must admit that as soon as early Woman created a Taboo, it created the ineluctable potential for Transgression. 

So for Woman, there is no pure state of affairs in which the revelation of the breast is always under her control, signaling either her readiness for sex or her desire to titillate without consequence. The possibility for transgression is quite real, as has been seen in an unlikely site for transgressive activities: the comics convention.

Nevertheless, no fantasy-transgression has the same meaning as a real one. I can't claim that "Monkey See Monkey Do" never takes place, for there are some pretty monkey-minded people out there. Still, there's no dependable correlation between what people watch and what they do. Anyone who claims that adult fantasies must be curtailed to control the real behavior of adults is a bullshit artist.

I find it fascinating that in the earlier cited Heidi McDonald BEAT-essay, Seth MacFarlane is raked over the coals for having made certain actresses into "dehumanized objects" because he sang about the boobs they exposed in their upscale films. Not one word was spoken against the actresses, though.  Even if MacFarlane is a boob for having sung about boobs, he didn't make any of those actresses disrobe, whether for art or commerce.  Said disrobings were the choices of the actresses involved, and by violating the Taboo themselves, they did in a broad sense (heh) invite at least a verbal Transgression.

I suppose that it's probably easier for WAPsters to sneer at the lowbrow monetary motives of a Roger Corman. He would never claim to be Unveiling the Sacred Image of Womankind for Art, and if he was honest he'd probably admit that he was giving male viewers what they were willing to pay for, period. I can see why this might evoke in some feminists' minds the spectre of the Boys' Club. However, this limited perspective overlooks a deeper vein of symbolism that attends all hetero male-female relationships, and that deeper vein cannot be ignored in favor of a puerile political correctness.

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