I'm Stephanie.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

post vii: Food is still Food and Sex is still Sex - The Meaning of Bacon

Our culture has been doing some pretty cool / confusing / paradoxical / profitable / fucked up things lately with food. For a much longer time, our culture has been doing very similar things with sex. I'll explain more deeply in a moment, but first I should say, I think that this is entirely natural.

Food and sex are our most intrinsic desires, and yet we are a species governed by extrinsic constructions. Sex and sustenance guarantee the survival and the perpetuation of the species and are the motivators of our most urgent and primal desires. It is no wonder that there should thusly be a limitless array of interesting cultural phenomena surrounding both of these mandatory components of life. (I could also talk about defecation and the weird shit - hehehe...shit - that we do with that, but I probably won't. Shit's complicated).

I could start with food advertising, and how tactics of the porn and sex industry are used for food. In an image-dependent consumer culture, this is totally understandable.
Food, like sex, is messy. It doesn't always cooperate. That supposedly beautiful avocado turkey burger from Carls Jr might topple over while being photographed, the fries may become flaccid, the bun might not be as taut and tan and shiny as it needs to be able to make you abandon all other thoughts, and to suddenly feel like, I need that fucking burger, now. Forget my husband. Forget my kids. BURGER.
Things may not drip when they need to be dripping, and things may be dripping when they shouldn't. Food photography and porn (the really shiny kind) have a lot in common.

What happens is that we abandon reality in favor of idealistic images of our most necessary and innate urges. I feel like we likely do this to make these potent urges more manageable in a society whose functionality would be disrupted by these images. In doing so we create taboos that allow us to endlessly dance around the fact that SEX is SEX and FOOD is FOOD.

Suddenly biting down on a messy burger becomes a transgression, and becomes thusly exciting. I've often wondered if some vegetarians are unconsciously vegetarian because they need to create their own food taboos so that the potential for violating said taboos provides an erotic realm of possibility that would not have existed were they not vegetarian. This is something that I thought about a lot while reading Erotism, by Georges Bataille.

The idea is that we are very much still animals, and always will be. Rather than feeling like calling myself an animal is a degradation, I feel like it is an honor. Non-human animals have a lot of their shit way more together than we do. But anyhow, there are so many of us, and we are all so individually urgent beings, as well as self-absorbed and paradoxical. We are physically weak, and have been creating similar system upon similar system to remain governed, alive, fed, and fucked over millennia since as individuals, we may not be able to fend for ourselves without external means.

Shit. This is so much more complicated than I wanted it to be. Back to the weirdness happening in Food. An easy place to look at this is our recent preoccupation with BACON.

This is an image (I don't mean body image, I mean image-image) and diet-obsessed culture where food is often no longer just food, used as sustenance, as life, but is rather used as a dieting tool, a dieting enemy, an acceptable means of pornographic and transgressive enjoyment (see foodgawkers.com or food porn sites), a drug, or even a purse or pillow or wallet.

Bacon, then is an ultimate transgression in a variety of ways. It represents slaughter, filth, fat, grease, and even old-school values in a nation preoccupied with progress. Its plentiful leavings of fat can be used for a variety of almost-equally taboo creations, it sizzles, it drips, it's hard, it's soft, and most of all, it misbehaves. It makes its way to sexy burger billboards, and atop maple bars in Portland. Bacon is on the rise.

Bacon is the anecdote to a society simultaneously obsessed with dieting and foodie-culture, and yet plagued by obesity and an untrustworthy FDA.

Although this may all sound disparaging, I am not really mourning any of this. Yeah, the diet-obsessed culture, the obesity, etc...those are downers (I sound like a real tool glossing over this, but my main point is the formulation of taboos and how they function). Without these created taboos, the pleasures surrounding both food and sex would be limited. I likely would not get the deep, physical and psychological almost painful satisfaction that I do from masticating a rare steak were it not for the current taboos and paradoxes set in place around food. And around sex. My Catholic childhood and largely vegetarian and vegan adolescence set me up with some pretty sweet restrictions to violate.

Taboos keep it hot. And delicious. So much Bataille in my thoughts. I've definitely mentioned him in an earlier entry as well, but I feel like his writings surrounding human transgressions are so perpetually relevant, and keep getting manifested in numerous fascinating ways. I hope he wouldn't mind this blog.

I leave you now with Paula Deen riding things.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

post vi: What to do about film? Objectify vs. not Objectify

This past week, I went to go see Snow White and the Huntsman. In it, Charlize Theron succumbs to tremendously sexy lunacy, Kristen Stewart moves her mouth while speaking, and a couple of really hot hairy guys in armor fight for Snow White and her kingdom with their hearts on their chainmail sleeves.

After both myself and the boy I saw the film with recently finished a course called the Rhetoric of Women Writers, it was difficult to not see certain female conventions unfolding in the film in ways that are predictable, adhering firmly to a (white) patriarchal structure of how film is made, as well as adhering to potentially harmful representations of women. It was also difficult to not notice how women in film do not even have a voice at all without being really hot. The hot woman ends up having to speak over the other hot woman with the voices of the thousands of other women who go unseen because of their lacking in hotness (this was Snow White in a nutshell for me). What seemed to make the film worse, however (despite how fucking visually stimulating it was) was that the film itself seemed to be aware of this dilemma of the representation of the sexes, but still used it to its own advantage as a film.

I have really mixed feelings about aestheticism in film as a whole. Sometimes I see film as a product to be sold, devoured by the eyes, and then tossed back into the macrocosm of popular culture’s images simmering in our minds. Therefore, I believe that the people in film should be tremendously attractive, as it is to be these faces we have to swallow for two hours at a time, and we are paying to swallow them. We rarely even exclusively look at who we’re having dinner with, sleeping with, or pouring out our souls to for that much uninterrupted time, and yet we find ourselves eye-to-gigantic eye with beautiful strangers when we go to a theatre to see a film. BUT. I have a problem with it when the film itself seems to be attempting to expose this very focus on aestheticism as a problem, but ultimately uses it as the answer - a.k.a. Snow White. Even though I was like, totally transfixed by the ridiculously pretty forest scenes, and anything involving chainmail. Basically, I just want to see film be smart when it can be. This one could have been, but wasn't. Super fucking pretty to watch though.

I feel like it is the consumer’s responsibility to be aware that the beauty on film is a product, and it is placed there, not to make the consumer miserable and feel that his or her own beauty is not enough, but that it is there to provide an element of resplendence that film may as well be channeling if it is going to be expecting you to be engaged in the entire thing. I honestly, have a harder time being really engaged in mediocre films in which no one is ridiculously attractive – male or female. And most films are mediocre. It takes some badass screenwriting, directing, or concept construction to make my eyes not grow tired without contact with constant aestheticism. It’s the aestheticism that as American filmgoers, we cannot be blamed to expect. Or if we can be, then at least we can burn at the stake of shallowness with the millions of others who expect it as well.

This makes me think too of the film version of Marie Antoinette with Kirsten Dunst. The film on its own would have meant nothing to me, but shit. There are too many scenes with silk high heels AND cake to possibly be able to divert my eyes. Throw in a couple of Strokes and Radio Dept. songs, and I’m only able to briefly ask myself, “what the…?” before I too, am going along with it because it’s really fucking enjoyable. At least it is to me. A good movie? No. Is there a point? Not really. But Kirsten Dunst’s skin was glowing throughout the entire thing, and the recreational drug-use depicted, the promise of extra-marital sex, and the pastels of the cakes, shoes, and dresses kept me and my eyes aching for more more more.

Whoa, so what am I talking about? Oh. Aestheticism in film. What I’m proposing is NOT more realistic standards for human attractiveness for film to go by. Rather, what I want, is that if women in nearly all films, in nearly all major roles, must be devastatingly attractive, I think that the same should hold true for men. Snow White, I think, pulled this off well. The men were beefcakes, without a doubt. The entire audience was free to objectify equally and brutally (and objectify they certainly did). But many other movies don’t really hold men to extremes of attractiveness. Some do, yes, but I still feel like men can get away with more and still be considered sexy-enough-for-film. They can have visible pores, a less-perfect body, crows’ feet around the eyes and still be the guy to look you in the eye for two hours while he both kicks ass and gets ass.

Basically, if Harrison Ford were a woman, he would not still be considered sexy at his ripe old age of...whatever he is now. But he is. Men are given more room to grow. That is, more room to grow older, than women are.

Film is so freaky because a lot of the time, we live it before we even live our own experiences, so it dictates those experiences before us. Usually the big things, or the things we think are big – losses of virginity, prom, day 1 of college, our wedding day, a divorce, the death of a pet, buying a home, flying a car over the Grand Canyon, getting lost in Europe – we’ve already experienced through film before we’ve experienced them on our own. This means that we pre-assign meaning to these events in our own lives, based off of the representations of them by film, even if those representations have nothing to do with us. Therefore, I think it’s hugely important that film adjusts itself, its characters, its actors, and its accepted scenarios to better prepare us for actual life. I can’t imagine Americans not looking to film to lay out a bit of a ground plan before they dive into their own experiences, so these ground plans need to be a bit more forgiving (or less forgiving), a bit more broad, and much, much more diverse.

There should be a hell of a lot more homosexuality and bisexuality in film because that is without a doubt, the world we live in, and what we are as people. With film acting as such an anchor on how people view their own experiences, to have the gay experience be either completely, or almost completely missing from film (unless the film is placed in a specific “queer” subgenre), is not only short-sighted, but ridiculous. I also think there should be more non-traditional bodies. Individuals with prosthetic limbs, individuals with dwarfism (yay, Game of Thrones), overweight individuals, etcetera, who do not have roles carved out for them that are representative on these physical elements of their identity. Included, yes. But as a focal point for their entire existence as a character? No. The fat girl is never, ever just the fat girl. The gay boy who likes the Misfits is never, ever just the gay boy who likes the Misfits.

So wait. I just totally fucking contradicted myself, didn’t I? I WANT aesthetics, but I also want the REAL (or do I? Maybe I don’t want this at all). I think what I want is for mediocre film to just fucking accept itself as mediocre and not as anything above that so to please, please, keep up with the aesthetics to cover up the fact that the film is horrifically mediocre and therefore acceptable by the American box office, but at least do it equally. But for those films out there aiming to be honest, aiming to do more than just entertain, keep breaking boundaries so that conventions that we eventually live on the other side of that film can be a bit less absurdly contained. I want for people to stop objectifying one-another on a daily basis, but in the realm of mediocre film, I just want people to be able to do it equally. If men can stick their noses right up Katy Perry’s ass, then I’m not about to roll my eyes at a girl wanting to do the same thing to Draco Malfoy in the new Harry Potter movie. As wet, film-soaked Americans, we are going to continue with our own bizarre personal fantasies. Some film will redeem. Most of it won’t. I think that since I see no end to the objectification of women in un-daring film, that I simply want to see men objectified as often as women. Give the men roles in which they do not speak and are only there to fuck and pour coffee while the women give counsel and pass out guns while wearing some kind of super cool furry toga. Um. Wow. I need to not write when I’m on so much prescribed hydrocodone. But if women have to be in this role so many times, men should have to at some point also.

Contemporary film is a whole lot like porn. There are separate spheres of pornography, some of which, I admittedly think could be useful to society and to the self, and some of which I think could be detrimental (if you're dumb about it, which a lot of people tend to be when it comes to visual media). The icky kind of porn (if you can't approach it with a mature mind) enforces negative stereotypes surrounding objectification, human commodification, and even abuse. But a more sophisticated, natural, honest kind of porn can actually open up an audience compassionately and sexually, rather than just give them all a simultaneous boner. If I had to get rid of one kind of porn, I'd definitely get rid of the "icky" kind as I have just called it. But I'd rather not do that either. I'd rather just be surrounded by responsible individuals who can handle their own media. I feel that this is so similar to film in general. Be responsible. Know what you're buying. Know who you are, what you want, and when to separate yourself from the media you choose to swallow. Also, have the nads to respect your fellow human beings, and don't let our created hierarchies represented via film and pornography get in the way.