Tag Archives: Sexuality

Disney Revisited: Bambi

Some thoughts after rewatching Bambi (1942)…

  •  It opens with a nativity scene. Like Pinocchio and Dumbo, Bambi begins with its title character’s birth and introduction to the world. Here, however, it’s an epoch-defining event, signified by much fanfare and an elaborate woodland tableau around the messianic “young prince.” Bambi is the center of the film’s universe, and the film revolves around his subjectivity and growth.
  • The depiction of nature is a continuation of Fantasia. Like the earlier film, Bambi not only relies heavily on Mickey Mousing, but also envisions its ecosystem as a dance—whether lyrical (as in the “Little April Shower” sequence) or primal, as when Bambi locks antlers with a rival to win Faline. In both films, animals’ interactions with the landscape and each other play out in sync with the music. The motion itself is just as important as who’s doing the moving.
  • Thumper provides unobtrusive comic relief. At least to the extent that he’s more demonstrative than Bambi and engages in mildly funny verbal tics, visual gags, etc. However, these jokes and the “sidekick” role do not define Thumper; instead, they’re subsumed into his identity as the newborn Bambi’s guide and, later, a rabbit patriarch-to-be.
  • The film is bisected by the death of Bambi’s mother. This wintry tragedy demarcates the end of Bambi’s childhood as well as his entrée into adolescence and adulthood. Furthermore, it ushers the film from loose, episodic fun to the life-or-death priorities that accompany Bambi’s maturation. It’s a sharp divide that structures Bambi’s bildungsroman narrative.
  • The Great Prince presides over the film. He’s the father figure as deity, always appearing majestically and only speaking a handful of authoritative lines. He passes his crown to Bambi, but has no real personality beyond being a signifier of masculinity and fatherhood. “He’s very brave and very wise,” as Bambi’s mother says, but his importance is less intrinsic and more as a gendered role model for the young prince.
  • “Twitterpated” is a euphemism for burgeoning, hormonal sexuality. As Flower, Thumper, and Bambi succumb to twitterpation, they seem to be merely following their biological clocks, their free will replaced by hyperactive sex drives. Especially with Thumper, the film is surprisingly overt in its visual representation of horny teenagers.
  • The climax is fixated on death and rebirth. Toward the end, Bambi turns grisly as the forest is consumed by gunshots and wildfire. But instead of ending the movie, the conflagration segues into yet another springtime nativity scene, with Bambi gazing down on Faline and her fawns just as the Great Prince had gazed down on his mother. The parallelism asserts that forest life is cyclical—it will always recover. But this cycle has dark implications: Bambi will live apart from Faline, Man will always Return, and Faline will die.
  • Man only exists through destruction. Writing about Pinocchio, I claimed that “Monstro is Cthulhu”; similarly, Man is the forest’s eldritch terror, unseen but experienced indirectly or instantiated through the hunting dogs. Ironically, everything in Bambi is anthropomorphized except for Man.

(This is part of “Disney Revisited,” my chronological film-by-film exploration of the Disney animated canon.)

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Race and Power in Madonnna’s “Human Nature”

This is a cross-post from mah Tumblr (which you should be following if you want to get bite-size feminsty, social justicey goodness from me on the regular).

Andreas and I watched Madonna’s “Human Nature” video together last night because we wanted to listen to the song. I’ve seen this video a bunch of times, but this time around I noticed some interesting stuff going on with race.

Background: Human Nature is a song all about how sex, sexual urges, fantasies, etc. all that sexy stuff is natural and you shouldn’t be ashamed of it, yada yada. The video has lots of leather and BDSM imagery. On to the analysis:

First of all, Madge has dark cornrows, a traditionally African hairstyle, throughout the video:

Rockin the white-girl braids

The intent is obviously to make her look more severe and aggressive (because POC are totally aggressive, amirite?). Another thing going on in this video is the “artistic choice” to have her extremely pale skin and the white background contrast with both the black leather and the skin tones of the people around her (be they POC or just tanner-than-her white people; everyone in this video is a shade or two darker than Madonna):

Madonna as the blazing white center of everything

But then things get even more weirdly, racially suggestive. At one point, Madonna is tied to a chair, being ravished by two men. Their physical placement is below her, but she still isn’t a place of sexual aggression or power, which is made especially obvious when one of the men pushes the shit out of her head and she looks pretty pissed about it.

Aggressive women get their shit tied up and dominated

The issue here isn’t about how consensual the act is. Everything in this video is implied to be consensual because the song is about fantasies and sexual kinks. But here’s where it gets… fishy. In the very next scene Madonna is the sexual aggressor. Her cornrows are now less “aggressive”-looking and poof out in the back in sort of a faux-Fro, still a less “ethnic” looking hairstyle than the previous one. She’s dominating the one clearly Black woman in the video. There are two women in the video other than Madonna, and both are darker than her, but with the one who gets tied up and dominated by Madonna, it’s immediately obvious that she’s a Black woman.

Not to mention the way that the WOC is tied up is much more uncomfortable and exposed

WOC as furniture for Madonna to lean on

This part really does seem to go on and on

LOL, I love representing white superiority! Having a black sex servant is AWESOME and HILARIOUS

So now I’m sitting here thinking about the implications of these “artistic” choices. It’s hard to believe that they chose the Black woman to be tied up and dominated by the lily-white Madonna by accident or coincidence. Even if the thought process was “it goes along with the choice to contrast skin tones and scenery,” that’s still problematic. And the more I think about it, the weirder and ickier it seems: when Madonna is ethnic and aggressive with her white-girl cornrows, she’s dominated by men. But when she looks less aggressive and threatening, when she’s smiling and laughing, she gets to dominate another woman, a WOC.

There’s fucked-up power shit going on here: men who are darker than Madonna, but not Black or extremely dark men, dominate women—even aggressive women. And white women—even non-aggressive, cutesy women who carry little dogs with their whips—dominate Black women.

Also, it’s fundamentally problematic to have a room full of darker-skinned people and have the center of all of their sexual desire be a blindingly pale white woman.

Bish needs some vitamin D, in a motherfucking hurry.

WTF, Madonna. You got some weird racial shit going on in this video.

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Things That Confuse and Anger Me About The Harry Potter Series: Order of the Phoenix Part 3

So, here it is, finally. The end of my massive criticism of OotP! Enjoy!

1. “Young people are so infernally convinced that they are absolutely right about everything. Has it not occurred to you, my poor puffed-up popinjay, that there might be an excellent reason why the headmaster of Hogwarts is not confiding every tiny detail of his plans to you? Have you never paused, while feeling hard-done-by, to note that following Dumbledore’s orders has never yet led you into harm? No. No, like all young people, you are quite sure that you alone feel and think, you alone recognize danger, you alone are the only one clever enough to realize what the Dark Lord may be planning…” BOOM. Phineas Nigellus, much like Severus Snape, is spot on about this kid. Why does J.K. Rowling make these absolute truths come out of the mouths of characters we’re supposed to dislike? What the fuck? And because Harry is exactly like what Phineas said, his immediate response is “He is planning something to do with me, then?” Like…wow, did you not just hear that entire paragraph worth of character analysis? Jesus Christ. Also, I’m gonna call people “poor puffed-up popinjays” from now on because that’s a sick burn.

2. Snape and Sirius are both such assholes who need to get over their old bullshit, like yesterday. But I expect Snape to be a doucher; there’s never been any evidence to suggest otherwise in any of the other books. Sirius’s behavior is just so much more annoying, mostly because he wasn’t like this in the previous book, but also because he is, once again, affirming Harry’s own distrustful attitude against Snape and Dumbledore. And anyone who’s read the fifth book knows where that attitude leads them.

Hit the jump to finally conclude this epic bitchfest…!

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American Narcississt

By Andreas

More than any of the countless grisly murders, this is the moment in American Psycho (2000) that really creeps me out. Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is having wild sex with two prostitutes in assorted positions, all while a camera runs and Phil Collins’ “Sussudio” plays in the background. But the sex and the women aren’t the focal points of this scene: no, it’s the self-absorbed Patrick, who ogles himself over and over again in the mirror, flexing and pointing and winking.

Earlier in the film, Patrick details his morning routine, making it clear that’s obsessed with his physical appearance. He has no internal life, he has no meaningful relationships; all he has is his brutal, muscular, exactingly maintained body, which he uses to inspire terror (maybe?) in others. So it makes sense that during an expensive, long-lasting threesome, he doesn’t pay any attention to the women other than to order them around. The only part of sex that really pleasures him is admiring the attractive, powerful body that’s having the sex.

Here, Patrick’s “perfect” body isn’t an object to lust after, because the entire concept of sexual desire has been perverted and rendered wholly icky. It’s really not surprising that David Cronenberg initially had his eyes on adapting Ellis’s novel, because it’s prime body horror material. Bale is undoubtedly sexy, but he’s also physically freakish and monstrous. He’s like Charles Atlas by way of The Fly, gone down the path where self-improvement becomes self-obsession. The sterile white apartment around him just makes it worse: this is an orgy with all the sensuality sucked out of it. Only Patrick’s pathological narcissism is left.

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Link Dump: #22

Crookshanks may be half-Kneazle, but he’s still a KITTY! so voilà, here he is. Look at that cute, flattened face and orange fur! Magic kitty! As you may have noticed, we’ve had something of a posting renaissance here lately, with both Ashley and I adding new content with surprising frequency. In case you’re wondering: yes, I do want a cookie. With that, here’s a wide gallery of entertaining links plus some weird-as-fuck search terms:

  • This NYT article about the new “Disney Baby” line of merchandise reads like satire, but I’m pretty sure it’s real. And terrifying. And deeply fucked-up.
  • According to the Toronto Sun, Jane Fonda was recently visited by physicist Stephen Hawking, who apparently loved her in Barbarella.
  • My friend Jacob hipped me to this very funny but also disturbing essay by sci-fi writer Larry Niven, “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex.” It’s about Superman’s chances of reproducing.
  • The latest feminist Twitter meme sparked by the awesome, hard-working Sady Doyle is #DearJohn, which opposes the recent attempts by certain Republican congressmen (like teary-eyed Speaker John Boehner) to redefine rape as part of their anti-abortion agenda. (Go to Tiger Beatdown for more on the fight and how it’s progressed.)
  • Here’s a catalog of (frequently film-inspired) works by sculptor Andy Wright, many of which are disturbing in their realism.
  • eCards are amusing enough, but ultra-depressing/funny eCards? The fun never stops. They’re bleakly funny, and also very well-written.
  • Robin Hardy of The Wicker Man fame has made a sequel to his masterpiece, entitled The Wicker Tree. Watch the trailer; it’s very cool.
  • The Guardian has two articles of interest: first, a fairy pretentious but occasionally insightful piece by Will Self on True Grit and the Coen Bros., and even better, a look at England’s obsession with dystopian fiction (like Brazil and Children of Men) from Danny Leigh.
  • Cinephiles rejoice! Paul Thomas Anderson is making movies again, and we have a rich young woman named Megan Ellison to thank!

We had our fair share of bizarre, ridiculous, and horrifying search terms this week. Highlights included “fuck cuddle” (awww…) and the also-cute “old fashioned cunt stories,” as opposed to those nontraditional, newfangled cunt stories. We had two peculiar gay-related searches, “irrational gays” and the oddly judgmental “lolcats are proof of gayness.” (What is this, a witch-hunt?) One search term takes the cake for grotesque excess and redundancy, “nude dead raped killed girl murder,” but the most suggestive, baffling term of all was “female sex giant animation movies.”

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Back Up Your Birth Control Day!

I am intensely committed to women having the option/ability to remain non-pregnant for as long as they want. I <3 birth control of all kinds. I <3 birth control so much that using protection makes me super, super horny (I’m not even exaggerating). So I’m always excited to find out about opportunities to educate people about birth control. Back Up Your Birth Control Day is all about raising awareness about emergency contraception; they offer FREE material that you can distribute in your community, campus, etc. This is a really awesome opportunity to spread really vital knowledge.

I’m arranging a Back Up Your Birth Control Day event on my campus; if you go to college or are a community leader of some kind or just want to help people out, this is the perfect opportunity to do so. The day is on March 30th, so there’s still plenty of time to get ready for it; check it out and if you can, set up your own BUYBC event!

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Lust, Duels, and Matadors

Pedro Almodóvar’s Matador (1986) is a film about erotic obsession. It’s about the lusts that lead men and women to fuck, and to murder. But since it’s Almodóvar, you know it’s done with a fairly light touch – a self-consciousness about just how campy and ridiculous this whole affair really is – even as he spreads on the color and sensuality like so much molasses. Matador is a well-crafted Hitchcockian thriller about Ángel, played by a young Antonio Banderas, who is neurotically consumed with mother-instilled Catholic guilt. One night, he attempts to rape his neighbor Eva, who is also the girlfriend of Diego, a retired bullfighter who’s been giving Ángel lessons.

After confessing it to the police, he also assumes the guilt for four unsolved murders – of which two were committed by Diego, and the other two by Ángel’s lawyer María. This creates a roundelay of desire and suspicion worthy of the Master of Suspense, as the two killers smell blood and draw gradually nearer to one another. And just like the finest tales in Hitchcock’s repertoire, it’s all totally preposterous – which couldn’t matter less, because this is Almodóvar, so it’s not about logic. It’s about María’s sinful allure and Diego’s unquenchable thirsts; it’s about melodrama and madness and orgasms at the brink of death.

Diego and María’s dance of death leads to a climax (pun intended) that’s about as extravagantly, disturbingly erotic as anything this side of In the Realm of the Senses (1976). The rest of the characters burst in and gaze, shocked, at the remnants of their two-person orgy. They may have died, but they get the romance and tradition of bullfighting, a pair of beautifully entangled corpses, and the satisfaction of finally fulfilling their passions. It’s excessive, it’s perverse, but that’s Almodóvar for you. His film’s endings are often hard to categorize, a mix of happy and sad, troubling and comforting. Matador follows the same enigmatic, convention-defying pattern in its own weirdly sexy way.

Hitchcock isn’t Matador‘s only inspiration. Almodóvar is a highly allusive filmmaker, and midway into Matador, María sneaks into a movie theater, with Diego in hot pursuit. The theater, naturally, is playing the steamy climax of David O. Selznick and King Vidor’s feverishly epic western Duel in the Sun (1946). Just like Matador, Duel in the Sun ends with its two obsessive, doomed lovers – Pearl (Selznick paramour Jennifer Jones) and Lewt (Gregory Peck) orgiastically destroying one another. It’s a bloody end for a saga of family, betrayal, and industrialization – but one that’s just as ridiculous as any scene in Matador, even if the film never admits it.

Duel in the Sun begins with the hanging of Pearl’s father (Herbert Marshall) for the murder of his wife and her lover. She’s sent off to live with distant relatives – the McCanles family, who live on a vast ranch called Spanish Bit. There’s the ornery, paraplegic Senator (Lionel Barrymore), his more sympathetic wife (Lillian Gish), and their two sons, the lusty Lewt and the more civilized Jesse (Joseph Cotten). As you can tell, this is a giant, expensive, all-star affair – even Walter Huston steps in for a tiny role as an itinerant, fire-and-brimstone preacher who lectures Pearl about her sinful nature: “Under that heathen blanket, there’s a full-blossomed woman built by the devil to drive men crazy!”

By men, of course, he means Lewt, who has a sinful nature of his own. This is an unusual character for Peck, who would go on to fight anti-Semitism shortly thereafter in Elia Kazan’s message movie Gentleman’s Agreement (1947); here, he’s a gun-toting rapist fixated on owning Pearl (and her sexuality) to the extent that he kills her kind-hearted fiancé in cold blood. However, the Senator’s racism makes Lewt refuse to marry her; Pearl, you see, is part-Native American. (As a result, the very white Jones’s skin is crudely slathered in brown makeup, just like Charlton Heston in Touch of Evil.) Through all of her trials, Jesse tries to help her, but he gives up once he believes that she’s actually interested in Lewt. So Pearl grows more and more attached to Lewt… and draws nearer to her own death.

This is not a racially or sexually progressive movie, at all. Its protagonist is essentially martyred from the start just because of her skin color and her mother’s affair, and she’s blamed for every bit of persecution she receives – whether by the Senator, the preacher, or the brothers she alternately loves. It’s none too surprising, either, since Duel in the Sun was basically intended as Selznick’s follow-up to his super-popular but similarly regressive magnum opus Gone with the Wind (1939). While it doesn’t match the earlier film’s romantic heights or historical scope (despite having three times as many uncredited co-directors), it still has plenty to recommend it – especially if you’re a junkie for torrid melodrama like Almodóvar clearly is.

Duel in the Sun‘s delights are more cultish and weird than its southern predecessor, especially as the film approaches its sun-burnt, homicidal finale, which borders on the surreal. The film’s oneiric qualities are aided by the dazzling Technicolor cinematography, shot by the team of Lee Garmes, Ray Rennahan, and Harold Rosson, which make the desert look distinctly unreal. Regardless of Selznick’s intentions, Duel in the Sun is definitely closer to Johnny Guitar than How the West Was Won – and it’s to the film’s credit. Jones isn’t exactly an acting dynamo, but thankfully she’s surrounded by a cast of legends, and Peck makes one hell of a sleazy, unapologetic villain.

Finally, Duel in the Sun is unabashedly erotic, as Jones’s heaving bosom is just as vital to the film’s success as any given line of dialogue. Much of the movie, especially the conflict between Jesse and the Senator, seems geared to make you think this is a movie about nationhood, the death of the west, and the taming of the land. But that’s an afterthought in relation to the film’s real and true subject matter, which is the kinky, violent, death-tinged relationship between Lewt and Pearl. As much as I wish that Jesse could’ve been the main character (ohh, Joseph Cotten…), it just wasn’t to be.

No, Duel in the Sun‘s heart belongs with Lewt, his phallic guns, and his frequent, contentious trysts with Pearl. Their behavior together makes Rhett and Scarlett look like a model of chastity – as well as a model of respectful consent and female self-determination. Gender equity and healthy sexuality are tossed out the window, and the same goes for any conception of subtlety or restraint – Selznick really wanted to paint the landscape with his character’s outsize emotions. So you can see why Pedro Almodóvar (or Martin Scorsese, for that matter) loves this movie. It’s ambitious, audacious, opulent, unhesitatingly melodramatic, and it charts the inevitable path from erotic obsession to stylized death.

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