Monday, January 23, 2012

Sex, Death, and Videotape

I've been in this weird zone recently of both watching Law and Order Special Victims Unit (SVU) and reading this book on Louise Bourgeois called Fantastic Realities for my book club. So basically I've been in the whirlwind of Bourgeois' death drives and part objects and SVU's dismembered limbs and plausible murder motives. Its like this Duchamp piece to the left, Etant Donnes, is following me around.
I went through a phase a few years ago when I was really stressed out and all my dreams kept turning into slasher films. Only they were all like the original Scream, a meta storyline where I know there is no point in running because that's just what the killer wants. Occasionally the tables would turn and I'd be allowed to just kill the killer and put an end to it.

Reading Fantastic Realities and watching SVU have actually been making me think a lot about this state of violence or expected violence that we live with daily. SVU makes it seem like all of New York is just a playground for serial killers but through Fantastic Realities I've been thinking a lot about how so much of this world of violence is actually ingrained in us from our first realization of self. To be a human is messy, to be a woman is arguably even more so.

Anyhow, I was just watching this old clip of Siskel and Ebert giving a feminist break down of slasher pics. I love Ebert so much.
"The moment a woman begins making decisions for herself in one of these movies, you can bet she's going to be paying with her life" - Ebert

Ebert also makes a good point about how strange it is that slasher pics are so often shot from the view point of the killer. As if you're being asked to identify with him.

So I know a lot of this is just ramblings, but I saw a good movie this weekend that touched on this stuff and also felt empowering at the same time. Its called Haywire and is directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars Mixed Martial Arts superstar Gina Carano.

This is pretty much my favorite kind of movie. I love B movies done by A directors. It also does an interesting job reflecting on some of this business of the female condition. While men in action movies are usually trying to take down a foreign drug cartel or stop some impending national threat.... the mission of the female James Bond is to merely stay alive. They say they want her to play eye candy and it turns out that its just a plot to take her out. This is the kind of movie a lesser director would have given to Angelina Jolie. But I don't think anyone would believe Jolie could strangle a man with her thighs. Gina Carano is built for the job and its because she could actually do it.

A reigning champion of mixed martial arts Carano needs no stunt double and the movie doesn't rely on the special effects that are so expected in today's action movies. In some ways this may be the only way to make a feminist action film - to find a woman who is more than eye candy, who could actually take down trained assassins and all the leading men you can throw at her. Its similar in a way to the dignity that Soderbergh allowed Sasha Grey to claim in The Girlfriend Experience by playing a woman that she knew far more about than any red carpet starlet. At times in Haywire it seemed that so much of the fancy editing and special effects had been removed that I wondered if they honestly did just put Carano on a roof and let her figure out the best way to escape from a swat team.

But, to tie this in to those slasher flicks there were a few scenes that I found to be like a slasher film turned on its head. The quintessential horror movie scene where the girl answers the phone only to find out the call is coming from inside the house.... in this movie its 5 men on the phone and they find out the girl is in the house. I don't want too give to much away, just see the movie.

As I was writing this I started wondering why it was called Haywire. Then I looked up the definition.

1. Mentally confused or erratic; crazy:
2. Not functioning properly; broken.

This ties in so directly to the assumed position of female. Of being the second sex, to be other is to be wrong, to be created mentally ill or crazy, to be unconscious and irrational. Carano in this movie embodies the assumed position that if you are a woman you are going to lose your shit. And so in the most controlled and trained way possible she does go haywire, taking out a fleet of men in a way that only a woman could.

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