On Evil Uncles and Power Pumps: Riffing on Johannes Goransson and Joyelle McSweeney’s Presentations at &Now

One of the highlights of this past weekend’s &Now Conference was, for me, the “What’s that Mess? It’s Excess!” panel, where Johannes Goransson spoke about watching Disney’s The Lion King with his children (child? …I forget how many), and made a case for the film’s villain, the effete, swishy, nonsensically-accented “creepy uncle” Scar, as supplying the most compelling parts of the film. Art, he argued, is the “creepy uncle.”

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When I was a kid, Scar was my favorite character in the Lion King. I staged backyard performances with the children of a family friend, where we sang songs from the Lion King. I always insisted (without much resistance) on singing Scar’s song, “Be Prepared.” I loved inhabiting Scar’s persona, his elongated vowels, the revolution of his wrists, the curl of his queeny nails. I loved sulking, stalking, flailing, plotting, preening. Flaring my eyes. I liked to imitate his line delivery when Simba says, “You’re so weird, Uncle Scar,” and he responds, suggestively, “You have no(ooooo) idea.”

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At Face Value: Gaga, Surfaces & The Superficial

I have been thinking this morning about Lady Gaga, and what it is about her that makes many intellectuals and artists reluctant to fully embrace her, and I believe part of what’s up is that many are made uncomfortable by her complete lack of irony. She presents a text that is earnestly flat, earnestly surface, and earnestly pop, rather than self aware or winking. Although many of her texts — particularly her video texts — seem conversant with critical theory, or at least offer an array of images and narratives that can be “read” through critical theory, it is never fully clear that she knows precisely what she is doing. She will invariably follow these moments with statements in the press that are either absurdly pretentious and “meaningless,” or else aggressively shallow, seeming to mimic the well-worn tropes of divadom and celebrity (ie her obsessive love affair with her fans). And so artist-intellectuals, if they are to authorize her work as “art,” first want to know once and for all whether she is self-consciously performative, or just ridiculous. They want some authoritative confirmation that she is something more than another pop star simulacrum, albeit one who is slightly better read, and who wears more outlandish clothing. Continue reading

Tyra Banks, On Art as Affect and the Rejection of Character as Subjective Depth

From Modelland:

“Your goal in CaraCaraCara is not to mirror, but to mask. In other words, make the opposite expression of what you see or feel. You see happy…You make sad…If you are tickled, do not laugh. Frown! Mastering this will get you one step closer to being an Intoxibella. But fail, and you will be relegated to spending your life as, heaven forbid, an actress...Actresses are incapable of ‘opposite performing.’ They must think about sad times in  their lives to project sadness on the silver screen. Nonsense! We mustn’t let that pitiful fate happen to you.”

 

Chiming in on the BlazeVox Situation

There’s already a gazillion posts up around the lit blogosphere about the situation at BlazeVox Books — probably the last thing anyone needs is me chiming in, but there are some things I’m not hearing anybody else say that I would like to put out there. In particular, I’d like to respond to Johannes Goransson’s post at Montevidayo, because I admire Johannes’s support for collective, community-based approaches to sharing great writing with one another, and also his commitment to counter-hegemonic practices and his critique of institutional “legitimacy.” …At the same time, I am troubled by some of the rhetoric I’m seeing used in defense of BlazeVox’s practices that is also slightly present, although to a  lesser and more nuanced degree, in Johannes’s post. Continue reading

Seriously… What About this Book Gives Us the Impression It Has Anything to do With Boredom?????

In Betrayed by Rita Hayworth, film is not an escape from the boredom of small-town life.

Or it is not SOLELY that.

It is a mechanism for coping with patriarchal and heterosexist violence and trauma.

I have been trying to prepare a more thorough post about my reaction(s) to the text and have unfortunately been very busy, but I want to say now that as important as I think discussion of form and aesthetics are — especially in a text with as many different things going on formally as Betrayed by Rita Hayworth – I think there is also always a relationship between form and content, and to not remark upon the content of this novel, when that content involves shit like a little queer boy getting sexually assaulted by his classmates, a little queer boy getting blasted by his verbally abusive and controlling (as in even in his absence, his family manages their behaviors to avoid incurring his wrath, as in he finds ways to prevent his wife visiting her beloved family home, as in he prevents his wife from pursuits which employ her undergraduate degree and full intellect) father for his queer ass tastes and behaviors, a little queer boy being betrayed (word choice deliberate) by his mother, his one ally, when she cows to her husband and trashes her son’s beloved handmade movie postcards… to not remark upon this content, to continue saying, This is a book about people who use film for escapism, without naming what its characters are escaping from, or more accurately, I would argue, what they are coping with, is to miss something that is really fundamental to the novel. …And especially when this conversation about escapism is framed by that Llosa quote and lame-ass Cheuse introduction (I’m sorry, but I think it’s really lame and doesn’t say very much of interest), saying that this novel is of no consequence beyond its entertainment value… then if we ignore the actual gunk and trauma of Toto’s life, and if we also ignore the shit happening in the lives of these various women narrators, then I believe what we are effectively saying is that the lives of boys like Toto don’t matter.

Which pisses me the fuck off.

So when we are contemplating why Puig made the formal choices he made, can we please, please link this with some consideration of the actual events taking place on the page? So for instance, we could ask: Why is the life of a little queer boy like Toto being narrated through the stream-of-consciousness monologues of a group of gossipy women (how does gossip function in this book as both as a site of resistance and resilience as well as a mechanism through which women keep each other in check, are complicit in patriarchal systems?) Women who are themselves experiencing a shit ton of patriarchal bullshit… Catholicism and sexual shaming, male violence and betrayal, etc, etc… I mean, are y’all reading the same book as me? …I guess I’m not really seeing the “boredom” part.