"That you may ruminate"

Posts Tagged ‘envy’

…On watching Watchmen.

Posted by Steve on March 6, 2009

I watched the 12:50 showing of Watchmen today. I haven’t ever read the comics (written by Alan Moore and some other guy who actually let his name be put in the credits), so I don’t know how good an adaptation it is.

I just know what sort of a movie it is.

It is an amazing movie. It is a human movie. It is a beautiful movie.

Oh, its world is grimy and dark, its superheros are a mix of the bloodthirsty, the callous, and the apathetic. In its world righteousness and cruelty are inextricable. It insinuates that people’s love for each other is rarely more than just lust’s lee from an Arrakeen storm of isolation and despair. The Pandoran hope it holds out for humanity is based upon lies and slaughter.

Oh, this superhero movie is human!

And watching it played havoc with my emotions. I should have been able to feel the full measure of disgust at its more gruesome and twisted moments. I should have been able to feel the full measure of awe at its more awe-inspiring moments (on an aside, it makes wonderful use of Koyaanisqatsi with a brilliant splicing of “Pruit Igoe” into “Prophecies”. It never hurts to borrow from the single greatest film score ever. Actually, in general this made great use of music, including Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin'” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”). I should have been able to feel the full pathos at its declaration of the one true miracle in the universe. But for the most part, I felt a feeling of failure. A particular, individualized failure, not the ever-present low grade “toothache” sort of failure felt from believing that the characters Rorschach (who is as much an Avatar of idealized justice as he is a man) and Ozymandias are both to significant degree philosophically right. No, this is a feeling of personal failure. The sort of bone-deep sense of inadequacy that comes from answering questions about envy: Who do you envy? What do you envy? Why do you have to envy it?

When Batman Begins came out, I watched it several times in the theaters because it was a spectacular movie. But, much as I loved it, I went home afterwards feeling bad about myself every time. In comparison to Batman, well… Batman is not someone I could compare myself favorably to then, and he isn’t someone I can compare myself favorably to now. Batman is strong. Batman is inspiring. Batman is motivated to push himself successfully in the service of a great purpose. When you get right down to it, Batman is someone I would much, much rather be than be me.

Batman is a far nobler superhero than the superheros of Watchmen. Far more deserving of the “I wish I were that. I should be that.” sort of respectful envy that I feel towards so many fictional characters (and believe me, that sort of embarrassing admission, far more than any concerns over potential professional, legal, or interpersonal consequences, is the reason I avoid personally identifiable information and the use of my last name with this blog). Of course, though the Watchmen are so much less pure than Batman, I’m also less now than I was then. Or at least, that’s how I feel.

Perhaps it’s wrong of me to watch superhuman feats of martial arts and condemn myself for the inability to replicate them. But then, I am morbidly obese, and in the past few weeks where unemployment’s given me far too much time on my hands I haven’t corrected that. Surely, then, my condemnation is deserved.
Perhaps it’s wrong of me to watch suicidally unwavering commitment to a cause & course of action and condemn myself for lacking such dedication. But then, I’ve never finished any of those books I started writing, and in the past few weeks where unemployment’s given me far too much time on my hands I haven’t corrected that. Surely, then, my condemnation is deserved.

Strange thing about it is, these characters I compare myself to so unfavorably, well… unlike several of them, I have never murdered innocents or passively witnessed such. Surely that makes me a better man than they. But what of it? To paraphrase Chris Rock, “Whaddya want? A cookie? You’re not supposed to murder innocents, you low-expectation-having motherfucker!” Or to quote the Confiteor, “I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and what I have failed to do.”

The characters of Watchmen deserve opprobrium for their sins of commission. I, for sins of omission. The absence of power is every bit as unworthy of respect as the misuse of power. These characters intersperse power used for ill with power used for good. I just don’t have any power, for good or ill. I lack will-power, and watching Watchmen required me for a few hours to stop burying that in my mind and trying to avoid it – and its implications – in my consciousness.

Soon enough, that will pass. Like the masses in Watchmen, I will bow my head to the weight of my inadequacy and shoulder on through the life of my own making. For as this movie tells us, to those great enough, the world’s smartest man might as well be the world’s smartest termite – and I am not the world’s smartest man.

I am, however, rambling. So to take away: Watchmen, good movie and accurate portrayal of the essence of humanity. Me, real person – but not one I’m proud of.

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…On Sex Workers.

Posted by Steve on October 16, 2008

I don’t know any sex workers. No dancers, no escorts, no porn stars. None of my friends have ever been paid to sex, to appear naked before an audience, to appear naked on film. Actually, those latter two, I don’t think any of my friends but one or two have done either without remuneration simply out of exhibitionist desire.

But the point is, as far as I’m aware, I don’t know any sex workers. I’m not friends with anyone who’s done sex work of any sort. I don’t have a relationship with any such person.

Which means I can’t talk to them about it. I can’t ask them questions. After all, when you have friends, sometimes you talk about your friends’ jobs. About what they do, and what goes on at work, and how their boss is a jerk or they might get a raise or how the sales people kept putting their sticks in the wrong basket and the printer was down so there was a 30 minute backlog on the tests. Yeah, I don’t know what any of that last bit means either – and I was paraphrasing to boot – but I have a friend who works as a photo lab supervisor, and that’s the sort of thing that happens to her when she’s at work, and it means something to her, so when I talk to her, sometimes she talks about that.

But, like I said, I don’t know anyone who’s involved in sex work, and truth is, I wish I did. Because here’s the thing: I’m naive, and I’m ignorant, and put together that means I’m curious. Sex work, for me, is very exotic. As in, very foreign. As in, so completely outside my realm of experience and the world that I’m familiar with that I can’t begin to imagine it. Not at all.

I know full well some portion of sex work was and remains involuntary, dangerous, violent, involuntary (that bears repeating), and wrong. Child sex tourism is real, my gut is Linda Boreman wasn’t lying, and I don’t think anyone doubts that this sort of organization does a mitzvah for streetwalkers.

On the other hand, Nina Hartley, Annie Sprinkle, and Tila Nguyen serve proof that there are other experiences to be had.

Those, of course, are the experiences and outlook I’m more curious about. Those who have a choice, whose work as dancer or escort or porn star is voluntary, something they enjoy – or at least don’t hate … I know they exist (how numerous, in absolute or percentage terms, I don’t know). I know I’m curious about them.

Like I said, it’s exotic for me – far beyond my experience or ability to imagine. It doesn’t seem real, to strip on a stage or before a camera, to be paid for having sex with someone, whether in private or before an audience or in front of a camera. And so I wonder what it’s like. What it feels like.

See, here’s the thing. Supply and demand, it seems to me, must surely apply to commercialized sex as much as to anything else. In order for a dancer to have an audience, that dancer must be desirable to watch. In order for a star to be cast, that star must likewise be desirable to watch. For a prostitute, they must be desirable to have sex with. This, at least, is what strikes me as obvious.

And that brings us to the crux of my curiosity. See, Johnny Tremain could count on one hand the women I know who don’t regard themselves as being far closer in appearance to Mr. Tremain’s hand than to Alexa Wilding. I empathize with that feeling (wholly inaccurate as it is in their cases) given the combination of gluttony, sloth, and poor hair genetics that have led to me looking as I do. Which is, needless to say, nothing that’s going to get me asked to entertain at any bachelorette parties ever. And so I wonder about those who make their living as objects of desire. Do they feel it? Do they know it, that people gaze upon them with longing? Does it feel good?

Am I right to envy them that?

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