ERIK DOES NOT BELIEVE IN TEARS


An exegesis of sexual subtext in “Predator.”
March 25, 2010, 9:46 pm
Filed under: Rants | Tags:

An excerpt from Sir J. Thurgood Snorpington-Pittwickett’s classic “Sexual Tyrannosaurus: ‘Predator’ and the masculine struggle with homosexual self-identity,” first published in the 1988 Journal of Psychosexuality and Cinematical Hermeneutics 6, p. 122-254.*

“Using post-freudian dialectical analysis, it becomes clear that the 1987 action film ‘Predator’ is an allegory for the gay male struggle to accept a differing sexual identity than is appropriate in a dominant hetero-normative cultural system. As we see the character Dutch, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger struggle to understand and accept the existence of the Predator, we are actually witnessing the struggle for dominance in the psyche of a gay man who has not yet understood or accepted his own identity.  The jungle of Dutch’s mind is the setting for the fight between his Super-Ego, manifested in the team of hyper-masculine marines, and the Id of the Predator, who represents a pure homosexual archetype.

Dutch is the leader of his team, but just as society determines what conduct is normatively appropriate and thereby holds a strong control over our actions, Dutch’s team correspondingly operates to influence his choices. For example, Jesse “The Body” Ventura expresses disapproval with homosexuality when, on the chopper, he excoriates his teammates as “Slack-jawed faggots.” This works to maintain the hegemony of dominant heterosexual ideology within Dutch’s mind.  In spite of this, the film introduces the internal conflict raging inside of Dutch early on.  When he first meets his old friend, Dillon, played by Carl Weathers, we see hints of his inner turmoil.  Dillon is the model of a masculine authority figure, dressed in a too-broad tie and incredibly tight work shirt.  When he claps hands with Dutch, we see Dutch’s eyes light up at the touch of another man.  The film adoringly focuses on the masculine form, as we see the two gigantic biceps, veins bulging, arm-wrestle for dominance.  This mimics Dutch’s own internal struggle.  Will he embrace his own way, or will he accept society’s dominant conception of appropriate sexual identity?

Figure 1. The camera intimates the subtextual conflict.

By contrast, the Predator, dressed in obvious S&M gear, is a representative for the pure gay self.  The Predator is a literal “alien.”  It is cloaked in rejecting terms of the Other.  It “hunts” man, and the hint of seduction is a terrifying notion to the heterosexual men in the Marine unit.  The Predator is a perfect mimic, recording and repeating the vocalizations of the Marines.  The fact that a homosexual, like the Predator, can seamlessly blend in with what the Marine’s believe is their own private space, is threatening to their hetero-normative hegemony.  The Predator “skins” Dutch’s heterosexual companions, thereby depriving them of their power and revealing, literally, the irrelevance of their self-identity to Dutch’s experience. The Predator slowly kills off Dutch’s team members, who become weaker and weaker, as Dutch comes to express his own homosexuality more vigorously†. The Predator is invisible to Dutch’s companions and even to Dutch himself, just as Dutch’s homosexual feelings are suppressed by his Superego – neither he, nor his friends, are completely aware of his homosexuality.  Once the Predator, as a representative of Dutch’s long-simmering sexual desires, has completely eliminated all hetero-normative influence from Dutch’s mind, does Dutch begin to understand himself.  Dutch’s transformation takes a pivotal step when he is free from society’s stultifying influence.  He is free to indulge in his long-denied desires, EX: wearing makeup (albeit made of mud).

Figure 2. Bondage gear and outsized physical dimensions represent the gay ideal in the personification of The Predator.

However, it is only when he physically fights the Predator, that Dutch can accept his identity.  Although he admires the strength, and well-built frame, of the Predator, he cannot look at it in the face.  The Predator still wears a mask, a symbolic reflection of Dutch’s own mask of heterosexuality covering a homosexual identity.  In a scene reminiscent of a striptease, the Predator removes his mask, showing his true face.  Dutch cannot look away, but still refuses to fully acknowledge the significance of what he is seeing.  He calls the Predator “ugly,” because it is difficult, after years of indoctrination into the dominant ideology, for him to embrace the beauty of his own individual self-worth as a gay man.  However, Dutch’s self-realization cannot be undone.  The Predator can die, by suicide, because Dutch’s Ego has internalized the homosexual feelings the Superego had long neglected.  The unconscious correcting force of the Predator is no longer needed.   The Predator’s knowing laugh communicates to Dutch that he can now attain happiness as his own self-actualized person.  This revelation is symbolized by the orgiastic giant nuclear explosion in the “jungle” of Dutch’s mind.  Reminiscent of an orgasm, the explosion obliterates the allegorical trees disrupting Dutch’s view of himself.  As he flies away in the helicopter, his solemn face affirms that he now understands and accepts his homosexuality.

†Some scholars, see S. Boolsbury-Lickworth (1987) If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It: Romantic Tragedy in Predator, Harvard Press, have pointed to the indigenous woman Anna’s presence in the film to discount this psychosexual interpretation of ‘Predator.’ According to my close analysis, it is clear that Anna represents an attempt by Dutch’s Superego to manifest a hetero-normative relational dynamic. However, Dutch rejects this, since women in his regard are weak, helpless, and unworthy. It is demonstrative that Dutch never consummates this relationship or even expresses anything but remote disdain.”

*Idea originally conceived by a friend, and inspired by this piece by J.G. Ballard, and also by this.



Ur-Flannel

Today I purchased the baddest-ass flannel shirt ever.

Allow me to set the scene.  It was a beautiful sunny day in the city.  I was invigorated by my daily run, consisting of an uncoordinated trudge through the Castro. The disproportionately male denizens of the Castro meet my flabby body with a look of reproach and horror.  This gives me an incentive to elevate my effort.  Once my workouts have resulted in a fit, attractive figure, sufficient to warrant a lustful gnashing of teeth, I will have met my benchmark.

That was a digression.  The day was sunny, and I was feeling good, so I went to the Charity Thrift Store on Valencia to go clothes shopping.  I was in need of some cheap shirts.  What I found there quite possibly changed my life: The Most Powerful Flannel Ever.

It is red and black check, manufactured by “Field and Stream,” giving itself an air of absolute legitimacy in terms of outdoor musky masculinity.  “Field and Stream” clothing has a motto commanding us to “wear our passion every day.”  My passion is ultimate power, and in this flannel I have gained the instrument for ultimate domination of the universe.

On the “F&S” website, my flannel is pictured prominently on the front page.  It is named the “Jackson Jackalope” after the mythical beast, legendary for terrorizing the hills of random yokel towns, and also remembered in reference to the regrettable Dave Coulier, who Alanis apparently slept with which is basically an archetypal “lowering yourself” moment no matter what you think about Alanis.  But that is another blog entry entirely.

The weight of the fabric is heavy.  It armors you against the elements.  Your enemies may not harm you.  The Mongol hordes wore silk armor because the silk could not be pierced with arrows.  Generally, when you are shot with an arrow a piece of clothing remains in the wound after the arrow is removed.  This causes an infection that leads to your death.  With silk armor, the Mongols might be wounded by an arrow, but they could easily remove the missile and sew up the hole.  This is how the flannel works against bad vibes and dark magick of every variety.  But, what if instead of magick, my adversary uses arrows?  I knew you would ask that.  This flannel is so aggressive that no one would dare shoot arrows at it.

The Most Powerful Flannel Ever is so powerful that it immediately destroys all other flannels in its immediate vicinity.  This is not an exaggeration.  As I held it on the way to the checkout counter, I passed another flannel shirt.  This flannel was obviously weaker than mine, because all flannel shirts are weak in comparison.  The weaker flannel exploded in a violent eruption of fire and brimstone.  A high pitched scream issued from its expiring ashes.  In fact, by the very virtue of its existence, my flannel has drained the power of other flannels worldwide by a factor of 10.  The state of Washington will never be the same.

Here is haiku I composed in tribute to the flannel:

Powerful flannel,

Bow before red and black cloth!

You are my servant.

The hide of the Nemeon Lion.

The Hide of the Nemean Lion.

 



Over the Top.
March 4, 2010, 2:58 pm
Filed under: bar | Tags: , , ,

EDITOR’S NOTE:  I expected, a month ago, to post more frequently.  This did not happen.  Instead, I studied for the California State Bar Exam and neglected this blog.  I apologize to my devoted readership (all three of you).  I also apologize for the length of this post.  I will attempt brevity next time.

You must expect, if you intend to enter the membership of a malevolent secret society that exerts clandestine power over all aspects of life, that you will be forced to undergo a self-negating, but ultimately meaningless, initiation rite.  Law is such a society.  A state bar has a lawfully sanctioned monopoly over the practice of law in that particular state.  Why is this monopoly legal when all others that do not involve baseball or health insurance are not?  Because lawyers control everything, and have exempted themselves from laws.  To enter the druidic folds of this shadowy fraternity, an aspiring lawyer must undergo whatever torment the state bar has determined appropriate.  Thus, the bar exam.

I am an attorney in Illinois, but that does me no good in California.  While most states allow attorneys from other jurisdictions to waive in or take an abbreviated bar exam, the California bar is more aggressively monopolistic than other states.  I must take all three days of the bar exam, like a common law student, including the Multi-State Bar Exam (MBE), a multiple choice test that I already passed once before when I became a lawyer in Illinois, which, although it is corrupt and terrible, is still a state in the Union and, in theory, deserves some kind of credit for having standards.  But, apparently not.  In addition to taking the full-bore bar exam, I have to pay more than I would as a fresh-out-of-school pup.  Almost twice as much.  Those incredibly smart lawyers in California can’t handle the competition apparently.

I took the bar in San Mateo, a suburb South of the city.  The night before, I sat in my hotel room, two blocks from the cavernous convention center where I would take the exam.  I attempted to review, but it was useless.  I watched The Devil Wears Prada on basic cable.  The Devil Wears Prada is a particularly irritating movie.  In some respects it follows the conventions of the horror movie.  Every character that is nominally villainous is interesting and funny and portrayed by a good actor, and everyone who is ostensibly good is unlikeable, annoying, and portrayed by a bad actor.  This puts you in the awkward position of rooting for the villain, Meryl Streep taking on the Freddie Kruger role in this case, and hoping that Anne Hathaway fails and dies a horrible gory death, which, in a non-horror context, is kinda strange.

The next morning I rose early, probably too early.  This is a thing I do when I have an important engagement.  I alott too much time for tasks.  This leaves me awkwardly waiting around for an hour before the anticipated event.  In addition, when I am nervous I compulsively yawn.  I remember going on job interviews in Chicago, in the winter, wearing only my worn old blue Brooks Brothers suit.  A shivering figure repeatedly circling an office building, clutching a black leather portfolio with a cover letter and resume inside, yawning inexplicably every five seconds, and ducking into Starbucks to pee every 10 minutes because of the cold.  This is what I do.

When the doors opened, I was in line.  The kid in front of me had glassy, drooped eyes.  Slouching in front of me, I realized he reeked of weed.  I yawn; this guy gets weird.  Whatever you got to do.  Did I mention that the February bar has a lower pass rate than the summer bar?  Part of this has to do with the number of re-takers who failed the first time around.

I sat down in my seat.  I continued to yawn.  The person assigned to the seat next to me never showed up.  After our lunch break they took that persons’s identification material away.  I imagined what terrible events kept that person from taking this, the most important exam of their lives.  Sea monsters?  Ninja assassins?  Alien abduction?  The possibilities were too terrible to contemplate.

The bar exam is proctored by elderly to middle aged women, who selflessly stand around for three days watching people freak out.  It must be very thankless.  The proctor at the front of the room began to read the instructions.

“…all cell phones must be placed in the designated box at the front of the room…”

Indeed, at the front, on a table was a cardboard box.  On it was taped a yellow piece of legal pad paper.  On the yellow paper was written diagonally the word “DESIGNATED” in black sharpie.

The first day is devoted to California-specific essays and a performance test.  The performance test is the most inane part of the bar exam.  It is like hazing.  One of those irrational punitive things older members of a club do to incoming members, for no other reason than the older members had to do it when they first enlisted.  You have three hours to read a set of fake cases and fake factual documents and write a memo or some other kind of legal instrument using the information.  You need no knowledge or skill to pass.  All you have to do is know how to read and follow directions.  A third grader could take a performance test.  But of course a third grader can’t actually take the California bar exam, even if they’ve been admitted to another jurisdiction, because the California lawyers are afraid of the competition.

On the second day, we had to wait to begin the multiple choice MBE.  Sitting there heightened the drama, as the proctors wheeled the tests in on a giant rolling slab.  The tests were in high stacks, guarded by a phallanx of proctors.  It was like the Ark of the Covenant or something.  All that was missing was an ominous John Williams score and face-melting.

The third day is the same as the first day: essays and performance tests.  By this time, I was basically exhausted.  I had been sick throughout the week.  I was hopped up on a cocktail of tylenol cold and ricola.  I thought of the stoner in line in front of me on the first day.  I hand-wrote the exam (many test takers use a laptop) and my right hand was twisted into an arthritic claw, throbbing with pain.  I could barely handle the basic object I would need for the exam, a sword a pen.  As a result, I knew that this third day would be an endurance contest.

AN ACCURATE DEPICTION OF THE THIRD DAY OF THE CALIFORNIA BAR EXAM, THANKS TO YOUTUBES:

Many people ask you how you “feel” when you finish an exam like this.  It is hard to respond to that kind of query.  You don’t want to jinx yourself with overconfidence.  You also don’t want to express weakness, because then people will feel sorry for you.  So how did I feel?  Well, I don’t know if I passed.  I really can’t tell you.   Anyway, there is nothing I can do about it now.  It is all over.  That is what matters to me.  I knew many things and did not know some things.  We will see, on May 14th, whether I knew enough.