...Not the kind of wheel you fall asleep at...

Random question of the day:
Apparently, the ever-so-important question of the week (unbeknownst to yours truly) concerns whether or not Eleven and I are shagging.
Gotta love the rumor mill and the diligent folks who keep it well-oiled and running!

Anyways, here's to you, humble gossipers! Today we honor you in the form of my random question of the day. And make sure to vote--your life could depend upon it!

Voting Poll

Are Eleven and I shagging?

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Now, on to more interesting topics...

A random series of slightly unfocused and not-too-carefully thought-out ramblings on two damn good films: The Secretary and The Piano Teacher

Let me first preface this with the following—there are WAY too many close-minded people in the world. And this is evidenced by the ridiculous responses I've heard spouted off by those who've sat through (or half sat through) the movie, The Secretary (you know who you are, Ms. Mayfield Hts. librarian!). I can easily understand a person who says, "Well, I just don't really get the whole attraction of S&M and whatnot, so the movie wasn't really my cup of tea." Understood. But I have heard one too many people offer up the following blanket statement with regard to The Secretary: "It was stupid. It was just so stupid. I mean, who CARES about that kinda subject matter." These are the same idjits who sit through lit classes and say things like, "Well, who cares about some guy who's stuck in a funhouse? What's interesting about THAT?" And to them, I say BAH. By being so caught up solely in the subject matter of the movie, they are just missing out on the various other things that make the movie so damn good.
Bah, I say!
And with that said:


When it comes right down to it, The Secretary is at its core a fairly traditional Hollywood love story and fairy tale (though god knows, if Disney'd gotten their hands on it, the female lead would probably been much bustier than the nonetheless damn foxy Maggie Gyllenhaal). And the fact that the movie's structure is one we HAVE seen a billion times in Disney movies and shitty romantic comedies IS quite possibly the reason it makes so many of us so uncomfortable when we watch it.

Throughout the movie, we encounter several common fairy tale/generic love story themes—the prince who swoops down to save the princess from her miserable life, a trial that the hero/heroine is subjected to before he/she is rewarded, a transformation in character from humble, lowly beginnings of lacking self-assuredness to a radiant, strong sense of self at the end, etc etc. The movie ALSO adopts the generic formula of the standard Hollywood love story at the moment (guy/girl falls in love with guy/girl, obstacle stands in the way, just when it seems like guy & girl will never end up together, the obstacle is overcome and they run off into the sunset holding hands).
Let us first focus on the fairy tale aspects of the movie--the adherence to a "fairy tale-like" structuring makes it all the more interesting in lieu of the "function" of a fairy tale. Bruno Bettelheim argues in Uses of Enchantment that "[t]his is exactly the message that fairy tales get across to the child in manifold form:
that a struggle against severe difficulties in life is unavoidable, is an intrinsic part of human existence." He also discusses with regard to specific fairy tales how these fairy tales are attempts at "normalizing" certain things for the child, (i.e. menstruation for the little girl through stories like Sleeping Beauty) in such a way that the child will no longer see them as threats. Despite the fact that there are a GREAT many people out there who are turned off by Bettelheim because they are uncomfortable with his Freudian readings, it would be hard to contest that fairy tales do seem to have some sort of moralistic purpose to them, that they provide a way to normalize many states of being for the child so that they can understand them while offering the child guidance in his/her OWN life as well (and so they do not feel "deviant" themselves)... (Think Beauty and the Beast, for example—"one shouldn't judge a person just by their outer appearance or the true beauty that lies within them will never be revealed.")

And The Secretary does the exact same thing—it takes a controversial subject (that of S&M, dominance/submission) and attempts to normalize it for the audience by placing it within the context of a fairy tale (which most of us have been exposed to at some point or another) as well as the modern Hollywood love story. It seems to be telling us that perhaps the ugly duckling isn't in fact different than the beautiful swans. That is what makes it such a damn lovely movie. And that is ALSO perhaps one of the reasons that it bothers so many close-minded viewers so much—it takes a standard Hollywood-acceptable love story/fairy tale and adapts it to "deviant" themes, which becomes both an attack on "normalcy" (a deviation made to the "normal") while at the same time attempting to normalize this deviancy; both major crimes in the close-minded world.

And because the movie sticks to a fairly traditional love story motif and fairy-tale structure, the final shot of the film is even more jarring. We have scenes that would fit right in to an ending in any romantic comedy—the guy gets the girl, they marry, she sees him off in the morning, standing and waving at him from the porch... And THEN, in the very final shot, she turns ever so slowly and looks into the camera with a smile. And the smile and the shot linger for a good 30 seconds until finally the credits role. This moment startles us so completely because it it acknowledges us as viewers. She is looking directly at us, the members of the audience who are watching this film. And with the sudden reminder that, yes, we are the viewer, it also positions us as voyeur, having sat through nearly 2 hours worth of "deviancy" and "sex." And by doing so, we are implicated into the realm of "deviancy" as well--we become "one of them," no better and no worse.

And on that note, I've rambled on long enough.

Stay tuned to this week's web blogs for a follow-up on The Piano Teacher...

©2003 Lauren
("Borrow" these ideas and expect an ass-whoopin')



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