I have a dream
I dream that one day, a person will be free to express their disinclination to watch/read/think about The Lord of the Rings without making reference to their gender. As Sean Collins and Jim Henley have demonstrated–this NYT article is not going to help bring about the kind of world I desire. In fact, it seems to me that we, as a society, are going backward in this regard (I sound like AC Douglas!)
Now, I’m not saying that the phenomenon of “chick flicks” and “guy movies” is anything new, but consider this: back in the thirties, film executives might have taken it for granted that a Bette Davis or Barbara Stanwyck “weeper” would attract a predominantly female audience, and a Cagney movie would more successfully attract men, but the films themselves didn’t harp on this fact! (oh yes–“self-awareness” can be a curse!) Why is it that I love Stella Dallas and hate the Bette Midler remake? (other than the fact that Stanwyck is a genius and Midler is a bum, that is) I think it’s because King Vidor directed the film as if the audience would be “promiscuous”–and let’s just say that when John Erman made Stella in 1990, he clearly envisoned the material as fodder for a sickening “girls’ night out”…
Let’s get one thing straight: The Lord of the Rings is an Epic, not a “guy flick”–a narrative ram battering down obstacle after obstacle in quest of the big orgasmic Telos. Needless to say, I blame essentialist feminists (or “gender tribalists”, as I like to call them)–as opposed to political feminists (who are bascially just human rights activists, and I’m always in on that!)–for creating an intellectual climate in which the link between aesthetic structure and sexual function has come to be seen as a self-evident proposition, obscuring the fact that it is merely a flimsy analogy. Somewhere along the line, critiques of “authoritarianism” became critiques of “patriarchy”, and every consistent liberal lost the ballgame right there!
I despise Epics. I hate anything that moves logically toward closure (even–or maybe especially–pessimistic closure). I like my art messy–anti-teleological, epistemologically at sea, sometimes “emotional”, sometimes not, but always more concerned with testing out human motives and perceptions than documenting human achievement. So! I like soap opera (from Hawthorne to Stanwyck to Spider-Man) and hard-boiled mysteries that substitute accidents and attitude for “ratiocination” (from Hawthorne–again–to Hammett to Auster). I also like comedies that travel in ridiculous orbit around the black hole of “meaning”–with human attractions providing all of the “gravity”… The Lord of the Rings is right up there with Homer, Wagner, and Alex Ross on my list of things to avoid–and it has nothing to do with my sexual organs (or orientation, for that matter–but I’ll scourge “queer theory” another day, hunh?)
Good night friends