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November 1997, Week 2


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Joe Lamantia <[log in to unmask]>
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 14 Nov 1997 12:42:01 -0500
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 So another way of formulating the issue, that includes this dimension,
would be: does the anarchistic force released by the repeated
destruction of the human body, the constant creation of "gore-body
energy," collide with and undermine the explicit fascist content, or
does it merely provide the thrust for a fascist propaganda assault?
Jim McFarland
 ST hit me extremely hard, much harder than anything I've seen in years,
inspiring fear, anxiety, vague displacement and unease, and a large dose of
simple queasiness; calling these indicators of ptsd is perhaps stretching
indicative symptoms into a diagnosis, but this last month was very trying
for me in unusual ways.  I haven't brought anyhting personal to the
discussion of ST, in part because I felt it better to let a more regular
member of the community breach the issue -- so here goes.  Bear with my
narrative for the later analaysis.
October 4th: driving on the freeway at 10:30 pm, an individual behaving with
exteme recklessness perpetrates (ah, I do so love to the way that word
criminalizes the absent and silent...) a dramatic example of road-rage by
following me off the freeway and assaulting me by punching out the window of
my car and trying to pull my face off, then threatening me (implied gun).  I
drove home covered in glass and bleeding.
October 7th: My job evaporates, as the internet firm I work for is gutted.
October 11th: A VERY near miss for a severe collision, driver in front of me
suffered some kind of sudden mechanical failure.
October 21st: Another NEAR miss, this time I watch as a large truck comes
careening to a halt behind me in freeway traffic.
November 6th: A minor collision in dense traffic, no-one injured but rightly
shaken by circumstances that could be much worse.
November 7th: Starship Troopers matinee leaves me shaking and unable to
relax. I consider giving up driving in Ohio...
I list these events and my reactions in support of the position advocating
ST as a vehicle for undermining the fascist and pro-militarism bent of its
non-diegetic "news sequences", and the extrememly violent nature of its
imagery and action, at least in my experience. (But if we don't engage with
film personally, as humans, than the medium CANNOT be considered art, and
becomes something with greatly reduced potence and relevance.)  The scope,
pace, context, and method of the inchoate dying Verhoeven and crew put forth
seemed to me a timely rendering of exactly the sort of random, immediate,
physical disruption that my body came extremely close to suffering several
times.  ST was a bit like a nightmare collection of possibility scenarios,
full of dismembered people, bodies, groups, and laden with unfocused psychic
and emotional energies.  Driving home after the collision on a densely
packed expressway bore some relation to the ride John Rico had up and down
to battle-sites, especially in the way that crowding and mechanical
amplification exacerbated my fears of further harm in a situation where I
had little control over direction, speed, or safety.
    Still with me ? (apol for length)  John Rico cannot earn citizenship and
function as a determining and empowered member of political society in the
world-state of ST [novel and film]unless he performs a term of Federal
Service -- in this case, he must risk death by fighting while poorly
organized, lead, equipped, and supported.  Though I cannot recall a
citation, I've seen scholarly comment (a judgement with which I concur) to
the effect that failing to own and operate an autombile is tantamount to a
failure of American citizenship, at least as far as social norms are
concerned: by that standard, if I wish to operate as a viable member of the
existing social structure, I MUST accept this risk of death, physical and
psychic truama, etc.  ST was an exaggerated version of the sort of lottery I
deal with everyday while commuting, and consequently its ability to call
into ironic question the propaganda of a power structure that permits or
encourages such conditions is tremendous.  Ten feet in the wrong direction,
and <b>I<b> could have been holding someone very important to me while she
spat up blood and died.  ST's hierachical, mechanized, depersonalized,
propaganda saturated culture of aggressive expansionsim resonated with my
experiences of citizenship/consumership and consequent trauma.
  Clearly, this account was composed selectively, and does not bring into
play a great many pertinent considerations: however, once again I must
assert that an immediate and personal reaction to a film as visceral as ST
may bring to light or spark important issues and discussions.  As an aside,
I should mention that I read Heinlein's novel in late October in preparation
for ST's opening, and suffered no appreciable ill-effects...
    Joe Lamantia
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