We were supposed to post about Sade a very long time ago, but I have experienced technical difficulties surrounding this assignment. I was in a group with another person and she made the original post for the both of us. Unfortunately I don't have access to this post, so I cannot post as a response to it. I will do it here.
As a matter of fact today's discussion has somewhat to do with what I am going to say. The question I am supposed to answer is "What does Sade bring to the theatre? How do the arguments he makes in his writings apply to the theatre?" I think that to a large degree the theatre and film offer us a voyeuristic opportunity to experience things we cannot experience or won't allow ourselves to experience. The best example of this would be the recent phenomenon of the torture film (Hostel, Saw, Seven, Audition, etc.) Almost no one is going to torture another human being but the box office for this type of film shows that many people will pay money to see it done. Perhaps watching a film where we see peoples fingers and toes cut off is an outlet for our inner desires. Watching "Saw" means that I don't have to indulge those feelings. I don't think that anyone even subconsciously wants to torture or mame, but I just think that the voyeuristic nature of film lends itself to being an outlet for deviant behavior.
The same rings true for "Dangerous Liaisons" and "Cruel Intentions". Part of us likes watching people ruin others and just be despicable in general. Now that we've seen it, we don't actually have to do it.
That's exactly what I've been thinking about lately! I am amazed at how film and theater offer us that little taste of the real--of someone else's pain--and we can feel it just enough to break the monotony of our lives and come away from the theater (or even literature such as Sade's) feeling... rejuvenated.
I got my wisdom teeth taken out over the weekend after one of them unceremoniously plunged through my gum. Let me tell you, I would much rather have experienced this vicariously through someone else. Holy shit. All of the wincing I've done over the last month while doing my S&M and torture research HAS NOTHING ON GETTING YOUR TOOTH YANKED. I would much rather see someone's privates get stapled to a board on the big screen 80,000 times.
I have a new respect for other peoples' pain, and cinema about pain. I must admit that watching Cruel Intentions and Dangerous Liaisons did make some of MY pain go away.
But Jeff, if cinema and theater are adequate outlets for our unconscioius urges to smash peoples' hands into broken glass, etc., why do you think some of us really do it???
Maitresse, by Barb Schroeder (I think). It's a decent film, other than another annoying appearance by Gerard Depardieu -- whom I am quite convinced is in ALL FRENCH FILMS and would certainly have been in the '80s 'Dangerous Liaisons' if it had been in French. But Depardieu gets tortured a bit in Maitresse, which is kind of fun.
"Saw" and the works of writers like Sade do seem to take things to another dimension...quite a few of the things that show up in Sade are things that I never, ever, even-in-my-darkest-dreams imagined as things that could be done to another human being. This probably just displays a lack of imagination on my part, but what do you think the impact is of introducing these types of "new" ideas? Is it important, or is it only the fact that pain and suffering is being displayed that matters?
I know that when Prof Anne asked why Dangerous Liasons interests so many people one of my first thoughts was that it is because the dialogue/letters are just so "smart". If this is true then "boring" S&M just won't cut it. Perhaps the next time we go to the dentist they should be required to do a dance while they work...
I think that theatre and film is certainly an outlet for crazy ideas we have to be "worked out" by watching, but like Dan says I'm worried about some of the new ideas that are presented. I hope you don't mind if I get very personal for a minute...I have seen documentaries about kids who cut themselves as a way to release the pain they are going through in their lives. Well, I thought that was crazy until one day I got so overwhelmed I cut myself and there was a euphoric release and sense of power I hadn't quite felt before. I would have probably never gottent the idea to do that had I not seen the docs about kids who cut. Now, I know that was a documentary and not a movie, but it still had a huge impact on me. Today while listening to a radio morning show they talked about kis who cut or "cutters". The mother said her daughter got the idea to cut from a teen tv show. Her mother said that she had talked to her daughter and her daughter said she would have never gotten the idea to cut had it not been for that show. Her daughter was watching her parents go through a very difficult and nasty divorce and needed a release and it was a cry for help--the two main reasons kids cut. I don't know if the daughter would have found some other self destructive way to release her pain, but it's certainly food for thought and I wished I had an answer. I do think issues need to be raised in film, but some things like people cutting their own body parts to get away from a psycho (movie "SAW") seem like going a bit too far. Watch some weirdo is gonna watch that movie and then do it to someone-- I hope not, but today film has a very powerful and mesmerizing effect on people.
AS for c_ratcliff's question, I would have to say that I don't know the numbers or percentage or people who practice things like S&M (if that stands for Sado-Masochism, why is there an "and" in the middle?) but I would guess that it is pretty low. I can't imagine that there are a great many people who like being hit or hurt (or hitting and hurting) but perhaps that is me being naive. When I think about it there are some rather sadistic (great word) people out there but I still can't bring myself to believe that there is a lot of faces being burned with oil. For those that do that kind of thing and get pleasure out of it I am sure that the movies only wet their appetite and don't slake their thirst, just making them want more. And that is the danger of this kind of thing. If you look at "Saw" and "Hostel" and that type of film there is a continuing effort to ratchet up the violence, and to show more of it. The camera pans away in "Reservoir Dogs" when the guy cuts the cops ear off, but nowadays you will sit there and watch it and almost be sprayed in the face with the blood. At some point the twisted things shown in "Saw" and "Hostel" will be considered tame and the violence and gore will increase yet again. They are already working on a sequel to "Hostel" and I believe a third part to "Saw". I should say that I never saw either film but I am still aware what went on. Morbid curiosity drove me to read detailed descriptions of the plot of "Saw", but I am very sorry that I read it. There are some things I don't need creeping around in my brain.
I don't read this *pop* fixation on pain and the infliction of it as the satiation of any subconscious bloodlust (if you will). I think viewers are attempting to confront reality--an alternate reality. A reality that exists insofar as it is absolutely possible. ANY ONE OF US could do something horrible like what we see in those films (read in those books), likewise anyone one of us could be cruelly tortured. But none of us (at least not many) want to engage with that king of horror directly, but because it is 'out there' we wish to have some 'experience' of it. Hollywood plus(?) exploit potentials.
Speaking of torture films and oral surgery, has anyone seen "The Dentist"?
...in your short list of high-grossing torture films at the box office. It's the highest-grossing torture/exploitation film of all time. And it has family values!
Anyway, I read an interesting article in Newspeak (booing, throwing things) hey, shut up, I'm serious (gets hit with a tomato) okay, okay, so it wasn't *that* interesting but it raised an issue about horror movies that most people don't pick up on, which is that they can be used as mediums for understanding not only the "far-out" extremes of human cruelty, but maybe just the cruelty going on in the world around them. For instance, the release of Hostel coincided with a heated debate about the ethics of using torture to interrogate criminals. Most people don't really have a conception of what physical torture could even look like, so a film like Hostel really stirs the public imagination. Since its release I've heard in passing and directly comments from several people who have seen that movie, been horrified and disgusted, and as a result actually know where they stand on the torture question.
(steps up on to box of Tide)
We're confronted every day with stories about people strapping bombs to their chests and detonating themselves, little kids being blown to pieces in public, innocent people gunned down, reporters beheaded, and imprisoned radicals being physically tortured. Representations of extreme violence in cruelty in horror/exploitation films are actually not very far-out at all, in fact worse shit happens every single day in some parts of this world, just not our part. Part of this morbid curiosity most likely comes from the fact that we know that there is a very concrete reality out there full of unimaginable violence, and that somehow it is connected to us, maybe even directly if we know somebody in those parts of the world, and we want on some level to understand it. But not a direct level. Movies are for pretend and we know that.
And by the way, S&M is way, way, way, way more common than you think. The reason we all know what S&M is isn't because it's the weirdest extreme of behavior, it's because it is a really common sexual practice. Go into any sex store. Any one anywhere. I bet you they will have bondage gear and whips. It's also really hard to define. People who are into that sort of thing don't necessarily do what Sade describes. In fact, a lot of people consider such things as tickling, love-bits and spaking as S&M activities. But think about it. With billions of people on the planet, why would you think that there wouldn't be an incredibly wide array of sexual taste?
PS: Foucault was into S&M. It's true.
PPS: In "Saw" they don't show the guy cutting off his own foot. At all. Happens totally off camera. Waste of my time.
PPPS: And now your moment of zen.
No, I haven't seen "The Dentist", but it is now on my netflix queue, as is its sequel, "Dentist 2: Brace Yourself", which has, wow, one of the best titles ever. Up there with "Gut Pile" (tagline: Watch where you step!) and the upcoming "Snakes on a Plane", which is my opinion is a candidate for the greatest movie title EVER.
On April 28th, 2006 03:21 am (UTC), (Anonymous) replied:
It is one of the great mysteries (for me) that the same people who get really upset about fake (fictional, filmic) torture do not get *more* upset, or even *as* upset, about *real* torture. I can totally understand getting upset about fake torture, BTW, and I have mixed feelings about the representation of extreme violence (but think it's important to look at it anyway). I just think real violence should be more upsetting, and yet, I'm aware that it often isn't.
Real violence disturbs me VERY much-- that's why I don't watch the news very often-- I hate hearing and seeing all the awful things in the world. I do think your right that some violence does need to be seen through the filmakers eyes. Films can do a lot of good and raise a lot of issues that's why I said in my earlier post there is no easy answer. Watching the film "Crash"-- which isn't like extreme violence, but it had some very disturbing scenes-- wasn't easy for me, but I learned some things about myself and it benefitted me. "Schindler's List" shows violence on a differnet leveland it had a purpose. I don't like seeing violence that is just there to sell movie tickets and has no point and there are alot of pointless and violent films and there are people who get off on them and they sell tickets and so they are here to stay. That's why I want my own production company-- to create amazing films that leave something positive with you when you leave the theatre and if I don't get the production company off the ground I will be involved with indie film makers who are creating awesome movies with real stories (now I'm off my Tide box). Thank You...it's been an "enlightening" semester!!!
Maybe it is because fake violence is so much more real to most of us than real violence is. It is too easy to view atrocities in Darfur (and lots of other places) as abstract because of the way it is reported as "facts", while seeing something in a movie somehow becomes more real because of the level of detail. I think that the construction of reality in a movie matters too. It has been suggested to me by a friend that perhaps the way to combat this would be to show as much detail as possible in news footage, but I'm not sure that this would help. I think that the viewers would turn themselves "off" because it would be too much to handle.