Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.
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My name: Brian Martin
What I was about to do was write a review of Brian De Palma’s movie Passion. I like De Palma – a lot more than I liked this movie – so I got sidetracked and found myself on the trail of a quotation I found on his Wikipedia page. The quotation was from Femicide: The Politics of Woman Killing, in which the title essay is included.
This is how it begins (it’s a PDF and I wasn’t about to re-type all this, hence the skewed image):
Now, I’m a feminist (though I have my own way of going about it that doesn’t always coincide with the views of other feminists), but this bothered me. For a number of reasons. Caputi acts as though she was powerless, for one, when all she and her sister had to do was stop hanging out with psychopaths. I’m a guy and I wouldn’t have wanted to hang around these creeps. And her comment that the pictures “prepared me…for my assigned role” in our patriarchal system is like a child from an abusive home telling us that it prepared her for American family life. A bit of a stretch, don’t you think? And finally, why the hell didn’t she tell an adult – like, maybe, I don’t know, her parents – what was going on? If it affected her at all, I would think her parents might have noticed it, thus easing her into an explanation. Okay, kids often don’t tell their parents things like this…but, in my experience, things like this (things like this that occur “regularly”) are pretty damn rare and just might tip the balance. One of my sons got bullied at school for a time, and both from his behavior and things we managed to get out of him, my wife and I figured out what was going on. I’m not that many years behind Caputi, so I won’t buy any “it was the times” argument. Nor can I accept that this level of passivity can be blamed entirely on the “patriarchy.” It was bad what happened to Caputi, but I honestly feel a great deal more sympathy for a girl I knew in high school who, because she was shy and not traditionally attractive, was ostracized and made fun of – and that’s because, unlike Caputi, she really had no escape, except into books and writing.
Anyway, back to De Palma. I almost hesitate to include these quotations; people might, as Caputi does, use them against him, and as an excuse to avoid his work, which (I think) would be a shame. After all, De Palma has directed Carrie, Dressed to Kill, Blow Out, Scarface, The Untouchables, and Causalities of War, among others. Still, I thought they were funny, so what the hell.
De Palma’s diabolical genius is in reducing man-on-woman attacks to the level of string music and then equating the same with romance. Of course, it sounds extremely callous, but everyone knows it’s true (that it is a genre convention). Yes, I could go into feminist mode and get all blustery about it, but Caputi has that aspect covered, so that leaves me free to enjoy the humor.
And anyway, I’m going to give Caputi her due with this next quotation, in which it is she who gets the zinger.
This is the extent of Brian De Palma’s involvement in Caputi’s essay (which is very interesting, by the way), but I can’t end this little blog entry without one more terrific quotation, this one from Catharine MacKinnon.
So telling an observation, so succinctly and cleverly put, deserves the awe and admiration of anyone even remotely interested in the written word.