Wednesday, December 30, 2009

About books again. Do you feel that certain books are dangerous for some people to read? I guess this applies to anything really, not just reading, it could be film, music, the newspaper, etc..

Often when I watch a film or read a book that compromises and reflects negatively on my position in the world (misogyny, antisemitism, etc..) I become very defensive and afraid. It's probably paranoia, I'm worried that a friend or an acquaintance will read the same text and suddenly realize something about me or others like me, and this something will be under the umbrella of any given negative stereotype.

That is not to say that I don't trust my friends and their judgments, but I've experienced this weird phenomenon myself, where I defended a piece of work that essentially expressed some sort of aggression towards "me", because it did so in a way that was ambiguous and thoughtful.

There's a difference between "ambigous" passive violence, that exists in certain ideas, and the brutal/incredibly tangible, active violence. For example, compare the implications of LVT's "Antichrist" VS Roman Polanski raping a 13 yr old girl. While Antichrist is hostile towards females (actually, I find that most LVT films are and if I had gone to see Antichrist with a male friend or a boyfriend it's possible that I would have left the theatre, no joke), I still felt very strongly about it, not all negative emotions. I even defended it in conversation numerous times, despite the fact that it presented ideas and imagery that made me feel uncomfortable and "in danger". I defended it because those kinds of ideas can put one in a contemplative state under the right circumstances, we're given the space to reach our own conclusion if we wish. Buuuuut, I think that Roman Polanski is a piece of shit rapist and should rot in jail.

Back to the original subject, I totally understand that the "Antichrist"s could potentially breed more rapists (by "potentially" I mean like 1% of the population who are already prone to bouts of violence) because not everyone uses critical thinking when going to the movies and if Lars Von Trier tells you that the psychotic female next door needs to be subdued and everyone in the theatre agrees you may as well just go for it. Is that right? Am I over-dramatizing?

I'm reading a book right now in which the character defends and encourages sex tourism and child prostitution, probably ironically. At least I think so? In fact, at this moment in my book, they are constructing an entire new line of retreat centres that economically rely solely on 3rd world sex tourism. He gives some reasons - I can elaborate upon request. His descriptions of sex with young SE Asian prostitutes are seductive and exotic and make you feel fuzzy inside, like it's the right thing to do. Holy shit! You forget that in reality it's actually a really screwed up situation. I don't want to say anything yet because I'm only 50 pages away from the end, but it's hard for me to separate the writer from his creation and the whole thing is deeply disturbing for me, because as much as I hate the character, I still feel a perverse, weird compassion and sympathy towards him.


Anonymous said...

i think anyone who calls Antichrist misogynistic is oversimplifying things. i agree with you on polanski.

the books that are dangerous for me to read... ones where children are abused physically and sexually.. i once identified with a protagonist so much that as she was sitting a the tub- i stopped and poured my own bath and rejoined her and thought about bleeding out with her just a bit. eeek. oh dramatic painful hormonal teenage years.

the sex tourism one sounds interesting and potentially angering. im curious.. what is it called?

benivulka said...

The book is "Platform" by Michel Houellebecq. It's pretty good, albeit depressing.

But where do these feelings of compassion/identification come from? It's kind of disturbing, right?

I don't know how I feel about him, that's why I am going to read all his books and then make up my mind.