Monday, December 13, 2010

Knocked Up: An Unconventional Romance Masquerading as Radical

Judd Apatow’s 2007 film Knocked Up tells the story of the trials and tribulations that befall two young people who have an unexpected pregnancy (using comedy, of course.) It follows the characters of Alison and Ben (Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen, respectively) that, after they are both thoroughly intoxicated, end up having a one night stand. Realizing that they have nothing in common, Alison being an entertainment anchor at E! and Ben being a habitual marijuana smoker with aspirations of starting a website with his slacker roommates, they part ways until two months later when Alison realizes she is pregnant. However “radical” the film may present itself to be, Knocked Up, while different and modern, still reinforces compulsory heterosexuality, but recognizes that heteronormativity is circumstantial. We can see this with the help of Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Butler, a series of characters’ contradictions, and a comparison to Woody Allen’s 1977 classic Annie Hall.
Simone de Beauvoir, in an excerpt from her 1949 book ‘The Second Sex’, notes that women are, “defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her.” (3) In an analysis on Knocked Up, perhaps this notion can be questioned.
Alison is not defined by her relationship to Ben, and, of anything, he is defined in regards to her. Perhaps whichever sex defines the other is a matter of power, not anatomy. In de Beauvoir’s time, and, though progress has been made, still today, it was men who defined women’s existence. In Knocked Up, we can see that Alison is a successful woman who did not depend on a man to achieve her success. She is also not looking for someone to be dependent on noting that, had she not gotten pregnant, she would not have wanted to have a baby (and presumably have gotten married) for at least another 10 years. While Ben is not looking for someone to be dependent upon either, he is the one, of the two, that does become dependent on the other. Apatow asserts that the, “key to the movie was that [Ben] loves her first.”
Where female characters in other films may feel that they have to settle for the person that has impregnated them for the sake of the baby, Alison does not want this baby to determine the rest of their lives, telling Ben that, “Me not wanting to do this alone is not enough of a reason to drag you into a relationship with me.” She acknowledges that she and Ben are not right for each other and that, if they were to pursue a relationship in an attempt to create a stable environment for their child, that it would be forced and that that would not be fair to either of them.
While the viewer can note that Alison may have a sense of loss about her failed relationship, Ben seems to be the one with an overwhelming sense of loss. Having invested so much in Alison and their unborn child, having changed everything about himself for her, becoming “defined in reference to her”, without her he no longer has a sense of self.
In Annie Hall, we see that as the relationship between Annie (Diane Keaton) and Alvy (Woody Allen) blossoms they learn from each other, Annie perhaps in a more literal, academic way. Similar to Ben finding employment and doing fewer drugs in efforts to win Alison back, Annie betters herself by reading more and taking college courses in an attempt to “keep up” with Alvy. When Annie and Alvy’s relationship ends their break-up is civilized and mature, both characters acknowledge their mutual love and respect for one another but know that it is time to move on. It is not long afterward that Alvy realizes that he had become dependent on Annie’s presence, defining himself in relation to her, whereas Alvy’s presence in Annie’s life made her a more independent person.
de Beauvoir also argues that, “master and slave are united by a reciprocal need, in this case economic, which does not liberate the slave.”(5) As far as Alison and Ben’s relationship, though Alison has a job and Ben does not, neither of them are economically dependent on one another.
Alison’s sister, Debbie (Leslie Mann), however, is a housewife and is economically dependent on her husband, Pete (Paul Rudd). He, with his elusive music-oriented job, is the family’s provider. Though Debbie is financially dependent on her husband, it does not give her less power in their marriage. When Pete is caught in a lie he told in order to have some alone time, an upset Debbie still asserts her authority and tells him that she does not want him at their house anymore. The “slave,” though still reliant on the “master” is liberated enough to assert said authority.
“To decline to be the Other, to refuse to be a party to the deal,” says de Beauvoir, “this would be for women to renounce all the advantages conferred upon them by their alliance with their superior caste.”(5) The burden of being female is that, once she is with child, she has a biological obligation to forfeit her autonomy. Because she had to sacrifice her autonomy to rear her children, Debbie has earned the right to that amount of power in their relationship. She can decline to be the Other without renouncing her advantages because they each have separate but equal responsibilities in their marriage. Even though Pete is the reason they own a home in the high-rent district of Brentwood, California, they can call it even.
In Annie Hall, Annie becomes financially dependent on her Alvy. Annie, new to New York City, probably one of the worst places you could be alone in, clings to Alvy. Though Annie has her own place, when she and Alvy decide to move in together he pays for her recently vacated apartment for her so they can use it as a, “free-floating life raft.” When the two can both feel that their relationship has come to an end, Annie, recognizing Alvy’s potential dependence on her, is hesitant to say anything so as not to hurt his feelings. Alvy feels the same way and acknowledges that his relationship with Annie is a “dead shark,” but he says that he would feel guilty asking Annie to move out. There is room to interpret that he feels she has some sort of economic dependence on him.

The quality is terrible, but it's the audio that is important.
The master-slave dynamic that de Beauvoir mentions appears earlier in the film when Annie feels guilty that, as result of the progress she has made in the therapy sessions that Alvy is paying for, she comes to the realization that she does not want to sleep with him.
Though Knocked Up is not an example of de Beauvoir’s theory that women are supplements to men, it does not mean that they are completely dependent from the identities of “woman” and “man.” Judith Butler’s “Imitation and Gender Insubordination” argues that there is no true gender, that all gender is an imitation of itself. Knocked Up contributes to the perpetuation of gender norms and gender imitation.
“…if repetition is the way in which power works to construct the illusion of a seamless heterosexual identity, if heterosexuality is compelled to repeat itself in order to establish the illusion of its own uniformity and identity,”(725) says Butler, “then this is an identity permanently at risk, for what if it fails to repeat?” In Knocked Up we see a disintegration (or perhaps an evolution) of the heteronormative gender identity. We can see it just in the difference between Debbie’s performance as a heterosexual woman compared to Alison’s interpretation of the performance and we can say that it is threatened. Debbie is a housewife that stays at home and watches her children while her husband, whose machismo has left him emotionally detached from his family, works to provide for them. They each fulfill their duties as their gender roles, but each vary from what has come to be known as the original. Debbie is not the same house wife that June Cleaver was, yet they imitate the same gender role.
Alison is performing the role of the working woman. While it may be “tradition” for men to go to work and make money, her performance can still be considered “feminine.” We can also define Ben’s performance by his relationship to Alison. He is the one that proposes to her. He is the one that is criticized for not having a job to support Alison and the baby (if it were the other way around, Alison would receive significantly less ridicule). They also still end up together at the end of the movie. The question is whether or not they are meant for one another or whether they have fallen to the compulsory heterosexuality by, despite how happy they may seem at the end of the film, forcing themselves to be together in order to make performing their new roles as mother and father easier.
When it comes to gender performativity, Woody Allen, as someone who usually calls attention to how un-masculine he is, still acts as the man in his relationship. In the beginning of his relationship with Annie, for instance, Alvy is always the one talking. Whether he is conscious of it or not, he is always trying to make Annie more of an intellectual, he is always the one telling jokes, and he is always the one insisting that she is attractive as though it were his duty to reassure her. During a good portion of this time Annie stays silent. Do not be fooled by her androgynous sense of style; she still acts like the long-idealized woman.
Annie does not get nearly enough credit for how much she changes from the beginning to the end of the movie. She becomes very independent and strong, the attributes typically associated with men. After his break up with Annie, Alvy realizes that he needed someone to need him, someone for him to nurture, which is typically seen as a maternal instinct. These changes are variations on heteronormative gender roles. But just because the way the players perform changes, it is not to say that they are performing different roles.
In repeating this compulsory heterosexuality, the labels of “man” and “woman” are still used interchangeably with “male” and “female.” Though Annie and Alvy essentially switch genders, the heterosexual identity is perpetuated because terms used to describe gender are used to describe sex. The performance, the imitation of gender, may fracture or fluctuate over time, but the “seamless heterosexual identity” will still exist because it is still performed under the terms “man” and “woman,” regardless of sex. As long as there is a linguistic distinction there will be a performative one.
This performativity of gender has a strong reliance on the performer’s use of language. Throughout Knocked Up, several characters say one thing and then later on say something else. This is not necessarily an example of how they are fickle or bigoted, but perhaps proof that heteronormative gender roles are always in flux.
For example, when Ben tells Debbie and Pete’s daughters that he and Alison are going to have a baby together, Debbie assures her eldest daughter that, although Ben and Alison are not married, that they should be because, “they love each other. And people who love each other get married and have a baby.” Later, Debbie tells Alison, after she rejects Ben’s proposal, that she cannot marry him because, even though she is pregnant with his child, she does not know him.
While it is reasonable to assume that she would give her 8-year-old daughter and her 20-something sister different advice, the difference in advice shows that Debbie understands that this heteronormativity is circumstantial. She encourages her daughter to get married before she has a baby because she knows that it will more than likely be easier for her to raise a child in a stable environment, something that she has personal experience with as well. Since Alison is not doing things in this hegemonic order, it does not make sense for her to become the wife of someone she barely knows.
Ben, after Alison tells him that she is keeping the baby, says that he knows that, “his job is to just support her in everything she does.” This can be interpreted as it is his job as a responsible man to support her in whatever decision she made regarding her pregnancy, something that affects both of their lives. When they have an argument in Alison’s car later over whether Pete lying to his wife in order to play fantasy baseball was justified, she says to Ben, “you should just support me…support everything I say.” Ben responds by saying, “so if you’re wrong I have to support it? I can’t tell you you’re acting like a lunatic?” which eventually results in his expulsion from her car.
Ben, at the beginning and again at the end of the film, understands the effect that pregnancy has on the female body. While they are in the car though, it is hard to say whether or not he was doing the right thing by arguing with Alison. She should not get a free pass because she is pregnant, she is still a human being that should be held accountable for her actions, but he should understand that her hormones are speaking for her (instead of sarcastically responding, “you are a crazy bitch, hormones! Not Alison, hormones!”)  Instead of arguing with her, he should remember that it is his job as the baby’s father to support her. “Because,” as Alison puts it, “at this juncture in my life, I’m allowed to be wrong.”
During their second date, Ben refers to the pregnancy as Alison’s situation. She is quick to correct him and let him know that it is their situation. That same night, they agree to give their relationship a real shot because it will be what is best for the baby. After they have attempted to have a relationship, we can recall that Alison tells Ben that it is not fair of her to drag him into a relationship because she does not want to raise the child alone, effectively making it her situation. Perhaps this is a realization that, while the laws of hegemony say that a child should have two parents (and the heteronormative bi-law specifies that they be a mother and father) that not only does it not always work that way, but it is not always the right way. Alison’s recognition that she does not need Ben to raise a child lends to the film’s radicalism.
            That radicalism is short-lived. Alison changes her convictions yet again right before she is about to go into labor and, after the baby is born, the three of them live happily ever after. Though the montage leading up to this scene will show you that Ben and Alison miss each other, Alison takes him back at what will probably be the most vulnerable moment in her life, begging the question, are they really meant to be together?
            In Annie Hall, Alvy encourages Annie to take college courses because they are intellectually stimulating. Alvy was supportive at first, but he then denounces adult education once he feels threatened by Annie’s relationship with one of her professors. He becomes jealous and feels the need to assert his dominance, the insecurity ultimately leading to their first break-up, and his gender role fluxing from an encouraging partner to an overbearing, paranoid one.
            All of the momentum that Knocked Up needs in order to become a radical romance is there: it goes against de Beauvoir’s argument of women’s dependence on men, it does perpetuate heteronormativity (but subtly) and its characters, through their own contradictions, are realistic. However, it is still an alternative romance masquerading as a radical one. The radicalism of the film, and the reason we can call Annie Hall radical, hinges on whether or not the main characters end up together in the end. In Knocked Up, like so many other romantic comedies, boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back. Despite the circumstance of an unplanned pregnancy and the slew of colorful language, the formula is the same. In Annie Hall, the formula reads more like, “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, girl stays lost.” This is more radical, and perhaps more believable. While Knocked Up has all of the potential to be a radical romance, its fairy tale ending is what keeps it in the category of unconventional.

Works Cited
Allen, Woody and Diane Keaton, perf. Annie Hall. Dir. Woody Allen. MGM, 1977. Film.

Butler, Judith. "Imitation and Gender Insubordination." Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden: Blackwell, 1998. 722-29. Print.

de Beauvoir, Simone. "The Second Sex."  Penguin, 2005. Web. Sept. 2010.

Heigl, Katherine and Leslie Mann, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, perf. Knocked Up. Dir. Judd Apatow. Universal Pictures, 2007. Film.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Go Fuck Yourself: A Response to the Myth of Female Masturbation

There were two things mentioned during our Seinfeld  discussion that I wanted to go into further.

There was a mention of "friends with benefits," a non-exclusive, non-romantic relationship based on sexual gratification that is known for almost never working out. What usually ends most FWB relationships is one partner developing feelings for the other and those feelings not being reciprocated, making casual sex awkward. In Seinfeld, they show Elaine needing more from Jerry than they had agreed upon while setting the guidelines for their relationship and, "yadda, yadda, yadda" it didn't last. I think using these tired gender roles reinforces the amount of pressure on heterosexual men to be emotionally detached from sex. Whenever we hear about these casual relationships not working out, it's because the woman needed more of a commitment or an emotional attachment (and if she doesn't then she's a slut, right?), but rarely about men acquiring feelings for their partners. A lack of this representation perpetuates the heteronormative ideas of gender.

The Seinfeld group also happened to mention the series' episode titled, "The Contest"  where the four main characters have a competition for who can go the longest without masturbating. Elaine, the only female competing, loses the bet. In our discussion, one of my classmates said something along the lines of, "women are sexual camels"(edit; I should note that this is a line from Seinfeld, but the aforementioned classmate assured us that it was accurate) and implied that women don't masturbate because, well, they're women. I'm here to school you.

To me, this opinion sounds as though it has been formed by a lifetime of watching gross-out comedies and '90s stand-up. Of course women masturbate. Unfortunately, we still live in a world where young girls are told that masturbating is inappropriate. When an actress like Taylor Momsen, 17, says that,  "her vibrator is her best friend" she's still hit with comments from a source to FOX news that says that her actions, "will result in failure in her life."

I do understand that there are a lot of health benefits to masturbation for males, like helping your immune system and maintaining prostate health. That's great. Go masturbate to your heart's content (without depleting your sperm bank). We're lucky enough to live in a time when male masturbation is widely accepted and fewer men are punished for spilling their seed on a Victoria's Secret catalogue. Females haven't been as lucky. People still long very much to control female sexuality, to make them rely on a man for sexual gratification.

To say that females don't masturbate perpetuates this unhealthy idea of female sexuality. Young girls being told that they're not supposed to masturbate while "boys will be boys," is what has lead  generations of females' unfamiliarity with their own anatomy. It's what has lead generations of females to not know how to give themselves an orgasm, and, in many cases, to not know if they've ever had an orgasm. Girls face developing stress disorders and leading unhealthy sex lives when they are told that masturbating is wrong. To say that women don't need to masturbate because they're women contributes to this machine.*

Females are also multi-orgasmic and, as my favorite person ever Dan Savage puts it, "physiologically, sexually insatiable." Frankly, I'm getting a little angry reflecting back on this fairly ignorant comment, so I'm going to let Dan take it from here:

*Also, to say that women don't masturbate doesn't even make sense outside of our Seinfeld discussion: Elaine is the one who lost the bet.

Here's another video from Dan Savage on masturbation. It strays from my original point, but it's educational nonetheless:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Judith Butler: A Person After My Own Heart

When I saw that we got to read Judith Butler's "Imitation and Gender Insubordination" I was beyond excited. I read this piece in my Queer Studies 301 class last year and it had a lasting affect on me. The copy that I printed out for class this week is highlighted to hell and the notes in the margins say things like, "my point exactly!" and "this text is the basis of my identity!"

At this point in time I think I have made it pretty clear through our class discussions that I have a passion for queer theory and gender politics. Anything having to do with gender non-conformity, binaries and dichotomies just revs my engine.

I guess now would be appropriate to come out to you, fair reader: I'm genderqueer.

The genderqueer identity can mean one of three things. It can mean that you see yourself as neither a man nor woman, as both a man and a woman, or just outside of the gender binary. I happen to see myself as all three. For a long time I did not feel comfortable referring to myself as a woman, but I did not identify as a man. I frequently saw myself as masculine, though from my outward appearance you may not be able to tell. I was also very comfortable being female. I knew I was something, but I didn't think there was a word for it. It was a similar feeling to what Betty Friedan describes in "The Feminine Mystique" as the "problem that has no name," the feeling that women felt before the women's right movement, knowing that there was something else out there than what was presented to them, but not knowing what it was.

Then the identity of genderqueer came into my life and it felt so right. I still use the feminine pronoun (English does not have a widely-accepted gender-neutral pronoun or one that is linguistically appealing) and still relate to the stories of women (trust me- there are so many Bob Dylan songs that I wish were written about me). Many genderqueer people choose to dress like an androgyne and many genderqueer choose to change their names to gender-neutral ones. I've chosen to keep my name because I do not feel that I need to change it in order to be genderqueer (which a lot of people do).

I only came to accept myself as genderqueer fairly recently, and I am slowly learning that being a genderqueer heterosexual makes me invisible. Since most people do not learn about gender politics unless that are LGBTIQQA, heterosexuals are less likely to see themselves as gender non-conforming because, hey, they don't know anything else. When I come out as genderqueer, it is usually assumed that I am a lesbian or pansexual. If I come out as heterosexual, it is assumed that I am a woman.

"First," Butler notes, "it is necessary to consider that sexuality always exceeds any given performance, presentation, or narrative which is why it is not possible to derive or read off a sexuality from any given gender presentation."

Thanks for having my back, Judy. Things we've established:
  • I am genderqueer
  • I am female
  • I am heterosexual
I also typically present femininely, I suppose. At least this is what it seems like to other people. I, however, see myself as androgynous. It's okay, I know no one else sees me this way. But Butler explains my identity better than I could: "There are no direct expressive or causal lines between sex, gender, gender presentation." That is to say that sex, gender identity and presentation are non-exclusive. How fun is this?!

This is a video my friend is in (the "First generation Salvadoran genderqueer macho-femme") about identity politics. It's pretty funny:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Judd Apatow Knows What's [Knocked] Up

During our class discussion on Knocked Up we talked about director Judd Apatow's aversion to the word abortion. An argument was made that Apatow did not use the word abortion in the film because he had some sort of moral objection to abortion and that the film may have some sort of pro-life agenda.

This assertion seemed strange to me. I think anyone that knows Apatow's repertoire knows that he is a remarkably liberal director, even winning a GLAAD award for an episode of 'Freaks and Geeks' that featured an intersexed character. He parodies ignorant opinions of homosexuals and other marginalized groups(that, admittedly, probably goes over the heads of most of his audience). So to say that not saying the word abortion and instead using euphemisms like, "have it taken care of" and "shma-shmortion" seemed like comedic choices, not political ones.

So I did my homework. I watched the commentary for Knocked Up and was able to find the evidence that I needed. In the commentary, Apatow says that, "people always think I'm anti-abortion because [Alison and Ben] don't get an abortion in the movie. But if they did, the movie would be 10 minutes long."

Thank you! I noted this in class and it wasn't well received. I will attribute that to my really outdated reference to the TV series 'Maude', Bea Arthur's show from the '70s. I mentioned that it's easier for a TV series to portray an abortion than it is for a movie because it ends a movie whereas a TV series will continue on. (There have to me more recent examples than 'Maude,' but that was the first one that came to mind.)

Apatow also mentions that he thinks Alison didn't get an abortion because, "She saw the heartbeat and that had an affect on her. And partially because her mom's a bitch."

Seth Rogen, the film's main character, on those who thought that Apatow's characters not having an abortion was some sort of political statement said, "Are the guys who made Ocean's 13 pro-bank robbing? Is Harold Ramis pro-dispensing of ghosts?"

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

'Feminafesto': This isn't equality, ma'am

From our class assignment, October 19, 2010.

On Anne Waldman's "Feminafesto":

"I understand Waldman's frustration with the male population. However, I do not agree with her proposal of a trans literature. I have to argue that, as a huge advocate for gender neutrality, I understand that males and females have different experiences in the world. I understand that men and women should not have separate experiences*, I'm all for that- but we biologically have different experiences because of the difference between a womb and a phallus.

Also, a 'trans literature'- despite it's name- seems to be excluding transgender/sexual people. The experience of a trans person, whether MTF or FTM, is different from that of someone who is born biologically male or female. Even if someone never transitioned or came of age without having the understanding of why they did not feel comfortable in their own body, their experience would still be different and should not be discounted because they are technically a 'man' or technically a 'woman.' Biology does not determine gender, and Waldman seems to write as though sex and gender are synonymous.

We also cannot discredit the experiences of males. Male writers, whose experiences are different from those of female writers regardless of their gender identity, have the right to those experiences and should not pay for what other male authors have done in the past."

*Your choice of gender identity does make a difference in your life experience. What I am trying to say, and I think what Waldman may be trying to say as well, is that it should not affect how you are treated (evaluated?) in the literary world and otherwise.

"Feminafesto." Waldman, Anne. 1994. Print. Penguin Books.

Monday, October 18, 2010

'Lolita': Radical Romance in Three Syllables

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.”

There are plenty of stories about the romantic relations between men and women, but because they are all so similar we tend to forget about them unless they bring something remarkable to the table. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 novel, is not likely to be forgotten any time soon. The story of an older man who becomes infatuated with a young girl, the title character, Lolita was deemed filthy and obscene when first published in Europe (ban in France for two years) and, surprisingly, a major success when published in the United States three years later. The novel explores many taboos, most specifically incest and hebephilia. While these entities are important players in the book, perhaps a deeper analysis of Lolita can show us Simone de Beauvoir’s theory of women as supplements to men, Lolita as both a culprit and a victim of the heart, and the relationship between Lolita and her admirer, Humbert Humbert, as a radical one.

Lolita is told from the perspective of Humbert Humbert, a European man in his late thirties with a penchant for what he refers to as “nymphets,” or girls in their early adolescence, who has come to the United States to teach at a college in the fall. For the summer, he rents a room in a house in New England, occupied by a widowed mother, Charlotte Haze, and her 12-year-old daughter, Dolores “Lolita” Haze. Falling in love with Lolita at first sight, Humbert drives himself mad trying to get close to her. He keeps a diary of every detail about how much he loathes Charlotte and how much he adores the beautiful but childish Lolita. Humbert marries Charlotte to stay in Lolita's life and when she dies shortly afterward he becomes Lolita's guardian and lover. Finally able to possess Lolita, Humbert puts a stranglehold on all of her actions until she runs away.

We can tell from the text that Humbert is very controlling of Lolita and that the line between guardian and infatuate is blurred. While she has such a dizzying affect on him, he still treats her like a typical man before the women’s movement. Although it is clear to us, the reader, that they do not have a father/daughter relationship, they must pretend as though they do to conceal the truth from everyone else. While Humbert is her step-father, Lolita is very clearly a possession to him and it is not his intention to treat her badly, but he simply has to own her. After learning of her mother’s death, Lolita has no other option than to cry in Humbert’s arms. She needs him and he uses this to his advantage. In Simone de Beauvoir’s introduction to The Second Sex titled, “Woman as Other” she explains it best: “To decline to be the Other, to refuse to be a party to the deal- this would be for woman to renounce all the advantages conferred upon them by their alliance with the superior caste.” Lolita falls into this debacle because she needs Humbert and, while he covets her, she needs to be coveted in order to be provided for. While Lolita is still a child during her romance with Humbert, we can see in her relationships with other men that she needs them perhaps just as much as they need her, but in different ways because, “she is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her.” (de Beauvoir)

Although Lolita may be an accessory to Humbert in his eyes, she holds an incredible amount of power over him. In Chris Barker’s Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice, Diana Meehan’s analysis of women on U.S. television is mentioned. It is a list of typical female characters which were seen on television, but expands far beyond that medium. The ones that we can define Lolita as may be the “bitch” and the “siren.” (307-308) Lolita is perhaps a bitch because she is “manipulative”, but she has to be in order to make the best of a bad situation (after all, her step-father does constantly solicit her for sex). The siren is perhaps a more accurate description of our heroine, although she probably falls somewhere in between. The siren, like in Homer’s Odyssey, “sexually lures men to a bad end.” While Lolita does sexually lure men, it is not her intention. Once she realizes she can do this, she uses it to her advantage. Lolita drove Humbert into madness. However, we must remember that Lolita was only a child and that she had to grow up very quickly only because she was robbed of her childhood. Even if she broke Humbert’s heart, it can be argued that she is the real victim.

This story has been called many things(the terms “pornographic” and “ground-breaking” come to mind), but it can definitely be argued that this it is a radical romance. Firstly, there is the concept of some sort of incest. Perhaps this is the more minor issue, seeing as Humbert and Lolita’s sexual relations are not technically incestuous because he is her step-father. Although this concept did turn publishers away, the biggest concern is the age disparity in and the hebephilia of the relationship. Hebephilia is a sexual taste for someone in their early adolescence; Lolita is the median of this “philia” at 12-years-old. It is important to note that due to the regulations on motion pictures, in Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 adaptation of this novel, the title character was 15, and therefore more reasonable for a grown man to be attracted to, as it is past the onset of puberty and when young women start to look like grown women. In the book, Humbert muses to himself whether Lolita has, “already been initiated by mother nature to the Mystery of the Menarche” (49), cherishing the youth that she had left. Another reason this could be considered a radical romance is that, although Lolita’s physicality was a major draw for Humbert, he really did love her even if she was childish and tactless most of the time. But Lolita did not love him. She may have enjoyed being pursued by an older man at first, but the restraints that the relationship put on her and the abuse she suffered never let her fall in love with him.

While some have seen it as obscene and some have rendered it genius, there is no doubt that the romance portrayed in Lolita is radical. Lolita is a combination of a victimized female, as profiled by de Beauvoir, and a siren, as analyzed by Meehan, and is part of a relationship where she holds both all of the cards and none of the cards, pursued by a lecherous but tender step-father. In Lolita, the story of a nymphet Venus, normalcy is hard to come by.

Lolita makes my heart go, "Humbert, Humbert."

Works Cited
Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. London: SAGE Publications Ltd, 2008. Print.

de Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex, Woman as Other.1949. Print.

Nabokov, Vladimir. Lolita. Paris: The Olympia Press. 1955. Print.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Annie Hall: La-de-da

Annie Hall  is one of my favorite movies. I appreciate it for its aesthetics as well as its sentiment. Woody Allen is one of my favorite directors and writers and, though he does have other very funny movies, this is usually considered his best work.

I also think it's a very good example of a radical romance. After I had a particularly bad break-up some time ago and was in some obnoxious state of over-sensitivity, I had to turn off the movie right before Annie and Alvy meet Tony Lacey. I convinced myself that the movie ended with Annie singing "Seems Like Old Times" after her and Alvy have gotten back together. For some reason seeing that Annie and Alvy do not end up together in the end was far too painful for me, and that watching it would mean having to admit to myself that not everything had a happy ending.

To me this is radical. I got over my aversion to the end of the movie and in doing so realized that the characters not ending up together does not necessarily means it is not a happy ending. Annie and Alvy are both content and have both moved on. That's what happens in life. Annie Hall  is radical because it shows you what happens in life. In other romantic comedies, the characters always end up together. That doesn't happen in life. My hat's off to Woody Allen for not bullshitting his audience.

The end of the film. Radical in its reality.