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Showing posts from June, 2020

Castration anxiety in 'White Famous' (2017)

The actress Laverne Cox, in the 2020 documentary film "Disclosure" (see 12:35-14:15 in the Netflix version) says: "There is a history of emasculating Black men in this country, like, a literal history during slavery and during Jim Crow when Black men were lynched. Often, their genitalia was cut off. And so a Black men donning a dress is this emasculating thing. And I do feel like the relationship that a lot of Black people had to me [as a transgender woman] is about that legacy of trauma around the historic emasculation of Black men in America."The documentary shows a clip from the 2017 TV series "White Famous."Screenshot from 'White Famous,' as reproduced within the "Disclosure" documentary

The eunuch in the film 'Judith of Bethulia' (1914)

The historian Susan Stryker, in the 2020 documentary film "Disclosure" (see 8:30-10:00 in the Netflix version) discusses the 1914 film "Judith of Bethulia." She says it is "one of the films that is often credited with inventing what's called 'the dynamic montage'." In the film, Judith sneaks into General Holofernes' tent. He dismisses his eunuch, after which Judith decapitates Holofernes with a sword. Judith leaves. The eunuch reenters the tent, discovers the general's body, and picks up the murder weapon."There's a claim," Stryker says, "that this is one of the first films that we know of where a [director's] cut in the film is used to advance the story. And there's a kind of, like, trans, or, you know, gender nonbinary character who is kind of circulating around the cut in the narrative. It's almost like the figure of the 'cut trans body,' the eunuch who's been castrated or emasculated, who …

'Unholy': White American evangelicals' reverence for Trump

A summary of ideas from
Unholy: Why White Evangelicals Worship at the Altar of Donald Trump by Sarah Posner (Random House, 26 May 2020)Why Trump? And why, of all possible followers, white evangelical Christians? Trump's appeal is not just a "personality cult," Sarah Posner says. His movement has historical roots. Posner highlights the historical “racist grievances of the American right, beginning with Brown v. Board of Education and persisting through the 1960s and ’70s in opposition to school desegregation.” Today’s popular notion “that an imperious, secular government was bent on stripping Christians of their rights”—in response to which Christians are making laws dedicated to protecting “religious freedom”—originated in that time. Paul Weyrich cofounded the Heritage Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Republican Study Committee, and the Moral Majority which conveyed the message that “an ‘elite’ secular political culture…had foisted unwelcome soc…

'Cruel Optimism': Wanting something that isn't really good for you

Lauren Berlant's Cruel Optimism (2011)The author doesn't use the term "Stockholm syndrome," but that's how I could most succinctly phrase her thesis in Cruel Optimism. Instead of having a love/hate relationship with a person who is your captor, however, you have a love/hate relationship with an idea to which you are captive. Somehow, remaining in the dynamic has come to seem better than the alternative.Optimism — Berlant says in her Introduction — may be described as “the force that moves you out of yourself and into the world in order to bring closer the satisfying something that you cannot generate on your own but sense in the wake of a person, a way of life, an object, project, concept, or scene.” (What this force feels like is individual and variable.) “Even those whom you would think of as defeated are living beings figuring out how to stay attached to life from within it, and to protect what optimism they have for that, at least.” The term “cruel optimism” …

'Surviving Autocracy': one rejected myth, one persistent myth

Throughout U.S. history, Masha Gessen (they/them) begins their new book Surviving Autocracy, there has been a national myth of a "fundamental structural state of exception that asserts the power of white men over all others," i.e. a narrative that we'd immediately be plunged into chaos if we didn't let white men have all the control. (A "state of exception" is the use of an apparent crisis as a pretext for overriding existing legal constraints on the ruler's power.)At the end of their book, they cite the historian Greg Grandin. Grandin, pointing out the United States' colonialist "myth of a goodness it embodied," observes that Trumpism "rejects even the myths that were used to justify expansionism." Trump is committed to isolationism and to narrowing the in-group of who counts within American democracy. Indeed, when he lies to justify a military attack, he embraces "the sense of inhabiting a contracting space rather than an …

More quotes on solitude

"Loneliness is not death. Yet we might as well be dead when our only possibility is to be alone, because the worst aspect of loneliness is that it ends the possibility of meaningful experience by translating the inner dialogue of solitude into a monologue of desolation. As the quintessential condition of singularity, loneliness is unlike the condition of solitude, although, unless the world becomes so bleak as to be irremediable to us, we hold out the hope that we may emerge from loneliness into solitude. In solitude, we are each of us by our self, but not yet alone, because we are more or less happily occupied with our self, beside our self in a positive way, or in Arendt’s term, two-in-one. To move from loneliness to solitude is to recover the world we have lost."
— Thomas Dumm. Loneliness as a Way of Life. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2008. pp. 40-41....beyond strategic / activist self preservation, there’s something else to be gained here: Doing nothing te…