The novelist Steve Erickson, in a 1992 review of Fire Walk With Me, is one of the few critics who gave any indication of even trying to understand what the movie was trying to do: “We always knew Laura was a wild girl, the homecoming femme fatale who was crazy for cocaine and fucked roadhouse drunks less for the money than the sheer depravity of it, but the movie is finally not so much interested in the titillation of that depravity as [in] her torment, depicted in a performance by Sheryl Lee so vixenish and demonic it’s hard to know whether it’s terrible or a tour de force. [But not trying too terribly hard because now watch:] Her fit of giggles over the body of a man whose head has just been blown off might be an act of innocence of damnation [get ready:] or both.” *Or* both? Of *course* both. This is what Lynch is *about* in this movie: *both* innocence and damnation; *both* sinned-against and sinning. Laura Palmer in Fire Walk With Me is *both* “good” and “bad,” and yet also neither; she’s complex, contradictory, real. And we hate this possibility in movies; we hate this “*both*” shit. “*Both*” comes off as sloppy characterization, muddy filmmaking, lack of focus. At that rate that’s what we criticized Fire Walk With Me’s Laura for. But I submit that the real reason we criticized and disliked Lynch’s Laura’s muddy *both*ness is that it requires of us an empathetic confrontation with the exact same muddy *both*ness in ourselves and our intimates that makes the real world of moral selves so tense and uncomfortable, a *both*ness we go to the movies to get a couple hours’ fucking relief from. A movie that requires that these features of ourselves and the world not be dreamed away or judged away or massaged away but *acknowledged*, and not just acknowledged but *drawn upon* in our emotional relationship with the heroine herself — this movie is going to make us feel uncomfortable, pissed off; we’re going to feel, in Premiere magazine’s own head editor’s word, “Betrayed.” — David Lynch in his essay on David Lynch, as published in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, and stolen from here so I didn’t have to write it all out myself
One of the things I learned during the recent Film Society of Lincoln Center Godard retrospective is that condemnations of late Godard running run across lines of “we prefer your earlier cooler films” are, while perhaps tenable on the ultimately utterly banal grounds of individual taste, built on an essential fallacy. There is no divisible Godard. The idea that you can have A bout de souffle and shrug off Le vent d’est is convenient and comfortable but ultimately impossible. If you are talking about the fashion-industry approved version of Godard you’re not really talking about Godard at all, but of an aspect of Godard that’s been removed from the host organism, so to speak. Glenn Kenny at his blog



Take a look inside the crossover, because, why not?

the future is now

BDL has a Tumblr now. You should probably follow it because it will be fun and I am a good friend.

Justice? — You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law. — William Gaddis, A Frolic of His Own

Today’s Double Feature

A naked man terrorizing citizens at the 16th St. BART stop (um, he is naked, so consider that):

Leos Carax’s Merde (2008):

To rule forever,” continues the Chinaman, later, “it is necessary only to create, among the people one would rule, what we call…Bad History. Nothing will produce Bad History more directly nor brutally, than drawing a Line, in particular a Right Line, the very Shape of Contempt, through the midst of a People,— to create thus a Distinction betwixt ‘em,— ‘tis the first stroke.— All else will follow as if predestin’d, unto War and Devastation. — Thomas Pynchon, Mason & Dixon
Rain drips, soaking into the floor, and Slothrop perceives that he is losing his mind. If there is something comforting—religious, if you want—about paranoia, there is also anti-paranoia, where nothing is connected to anything, a condition not many of us can bear for long. Well right now Slothrop feels himself sliding onto the anti-paranoid part of his cycle, feels the whole city around him going back roofless, vulnerable, uncentered as he is, and only pasteboard images of the Listening Enemy left between him and the wet sky. — Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow




As you may have heard, The Onion called Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis a cunt on Twitter Sunday night:

RT @TheOnion Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a cunt, right? #Oscars2013

They deleted it about an hour after posting, but by that point they were in deep shit. The story has been picked up by many news outlets, including the Associated Press, and it’s probably not going to die within the next 24 hours, which in internet time is quite long. As of this writing (just after midnight on Sunday), various Twitter users are very upset about it, and not in the meaningless, irony-swaddled ways I’m used to.

My Twitter feed is predominantly white and caustic, so I didn’t notice the tweet until roughly thirty minutes after it went up. Frankly, when I did, I didn’t understand the fuss. To me, it was a not particularly funny attempt to create a shadow world in which someone no one openly dislikes is actually a giant asshole. The Onion relies on that gimmick fairly often — I remember a years-old interview in which one of the publication’s main writers argued that it was easier to write about President Clinton than President Bush because the former suggested an untold life, whereas Bush was always more up front about his opinions and beliefs. I didn’t really understand how anyone could take a comment from The Onion fully seriously, and I rejected any statement that simply chastised them for hurling an awful slur at a young girl. Because, in my mind, there was more to it than that.

I was wrong to look past the criticism, though, because I was ignoring an important racial and social context for the comment. (I do mean “ignoring,” not “ignorant of,” because I know the history and just didn’t come to it first.) The best explanation I’ve seen came in a few tweets from the very upset @prisonculture, an activist attempting to fight the United States’ prison culture and “eradicate youth incarceration.” Here they are in paragraph form:

I’m going to say a few words because they need to be said. Quvenzhané Wallis is a black girl-child living in America and you need to know what this means. Black girls are more likely to be survivors of sexual abuse and assault than ANY OTHER GROUP in AMERICA. Do you hear me? Black girls are the fastest growing group in the juvenile justice system. DO YOU HEAR ME? Black girls have inherited a legacy where they were considered UNRAPABLE by anyone but particularly white men. DO YOU HEAR ME? We were considered UNRAPABLE because we were supposedly so promiscuous that we COULD NOT BE RAPED. Sexualized misogyny is ROTE for us. When you call at 9 year old black child a CUNT, you aren’t doing so in a vacuum. You are doing it as part of a historical legacy of sexual subjugation, violence, and terror. DO YOU HEAR ME? KNOW YOUR GODDAMN HISTORY and its current effects. DO YOU HEAR ME? Enough with this. Enough. I am going 2 say this: if you are a black man (in particular), you have an F’ing responsibility NOT to be on the list of ppl claiming that this is harmless satire. STAND THE F UP for this black CHILD. I can’t believe that there’s a question that you might not. My brothers. Stand with us against this racialized misogyny because it is the right thing but also because we stand with you against racist brutality directed at you. Because we march with you against Stop and Frisk. Because we have stood with you ALWAYS. JEZEBEL, SAPPHIRE, HO, BITCH, JEZEBEL, SAPPHIRE, HO, BITCH, JEZEBEL, SAPPHIRE, HO, BITCH, ANYTHING EXCEPT OUR NAME…

These are experiences that I will never and could never have, and having them explained and reaffirmed is valuable. I do my best to be a thoughtful, respectful citizen of the world, but I’m also a white man who grew up in a very comfortable home and went to private schools his whole life. My best efforts will rarely be enough. I hope I have the humility to listen to people when they tell me I’ve fucked up.

Nevertheless, I think the perspective of The Onion writer — who, let’s face it, is my surrogate in this story — matters here. In the immediate aftermath of the tweet, I exchanged some thoughts with my friend and basketball-writing peer Ethan Strauss, who explained what I had really only gestured to in my thoughts. Quvenzhané Wallis wasn’t the target of the joke, but the easiest way of demonstrating the cognitive dissonance required to rip pretty much every other actress (and especially Anne Hathaway) in contention for an award while lavishing praise upon the child competing against them. As Matt Pearce of the LA Times tweeted, there’s an atmosphere of harassment surrounding all female actresses. The Onion joke could have been meant to note that — to suggest that many zing-minded live-tweeters were one step removed from calling a little girl a cunt. This is the world we know — one where the need to make a joke and express an opinion often bulldozes basic decency. The larger point was about normalized misogyny. And if a joke about demeaning a nine-year-old girl seems offensive and ridiculous and moronic, it’s because the practice is all those things when it’s applied to grown women, or even a not-so-grown one like 22-year-old Jennifer Lawrence.

I don’t think this context excuses any offense that people took from the joke, but it does help explain how it happened in the first place. Malice was not intended; if anything, it was a consciously over-the-top attempt at feminist criticism. (Whether or not feminist criticism can employ the word “cunt” at all is a separate issue — I tend to think that it can when used properly.) In expressing this sentiment, the writer ignorantly ventured into a cruel and unjust history. And now a lot of people are yelling at each other.

I don’t disapprove of that anger — it’s a natural, legitimate reaction. Once we get past that raw emotion, though, both sides deserve to be taken seriously even as one (the side of the offended) carries the more significant moral authority. If we want to have the serious conversation on race (or any divisive topic, really) that our elected leaders only ever seem willing to gesture to — or, conversely, that we continually prove we’re not capable of having — then we need to listen and argue in good faith, rather than assuming the worst of anyone without similar experiences. The goal here should be to trade information, to discuss, to create better habits and routines.

I concede that the onus of effort here is on those who ignore a history of subjugation. I just want to communicate that explaining the perspective of the aggrieving party often has a broader conciliatory purpose. It can even be an invitation to say more.