‘Otherness’ in Friends, or Why Ross’ Girlfriends Had To Be Ethnic, Different or Weird

Hello. Happy 2015.

Ross

So, it’s the dying embers of the Christmas holidays and I’m sat with my wife, watching a string of ‘Friends’ episodes (recently purchased box-set, second-hand). We’re currently in the midst of season 2, and Ross has just kissed Rachel. Naturally, we chose this moment to turn the commentary on and, of course, the writers are discussing the difficulties in setting up the Ross/ Rachel relationship that underpins the entire series, at an emotional level.

Now, over the past 72 hours or so, I’ve come to appreciate the subtle craft at work in ‘Friends’. And I’ve also been scrutinising the series from a 21st century perspective, thinking carefully about the social isms at play in late 90s white mainstream America. In ‘The One With the List’, one episode after Ross and Rachel kiss for the first time, Julie, Ross’ non-Rachel girlfriend, has been unceremoniously dumped. Which, as it turns out, doesn’t really matter.

Julie and Ross

This got me thinking. Why doesn’t Julie matter? Should she matter? Why would her part be difficult to write? And most importantly, why isn’t she white? Then a lightbulb flashed above my head and I explained to my wife, what I’m about to explain to you. (Cue thunder)

Julie is ‘Asian’ (as the Americans put it) and this is a fact that goes unannounced by the ‘Friends’ friends. The relevance of this is simple: Julie had to be different. She had to be ‘other’. Think about it: if Julie was as white and mainstream as Rachel, she couldn’t survive as a character, conceptually. She would be too normal to be anything other than a viable competitor for Ross’ affections, which would, therefore, make her a figure of pure hatred for loyal viewers. This unfiltered hatred for the hypothetical white non-Rachel would sour the viewer’s experience of the show to such a warped extent, that it would be unwatchable.

See, on one level, ‘Friends’ exploits modern liberal ideals in order to allow emotionally devastating interactions to take place, affecting its core characters. Julie, is just about different enough to not really matter as a character, but we are fond of her because liberal sensibilities demand that of us. I have no idea if this is a deliberate move on the part of the writers, but I can see the logic in casting someone racially different in a role that could garner spite if she was ‘equal’ to Rachel.

Charlie and Ross

The same thing can be said of Charlie, the Afro-American paleontologist who eventually becomes Ross’ love interest in season whatever. She is absolutely normal and attuned to the social rules of the ‘Friends’ friends, but, crucially, she is not-white. So, again, the viewer’s liberal sensibilities act as a buffer to any accidental hatred that might tea stain the purity of the ‘Friends’ experience.

Carol

Going back a season to the very beginning of the series, let’s examine Ross’ first love interest – Carol. She really should be a figure of pure disdain. Her decision to abandon marriage with Ross kick-starts the whole will-they-won’t-they saga with Rachel, but, of course, she is ‘different’ too, inasfar as being gay is being different. The ‘otherness’ of her character, forces us to soften our feelings towards her. In fact, the writers inadvertently invite us to self-congratulate ourselves on how accepting we are, because we, (like Rachel) welcome Carol into the fold in her role of Ben’s mom.

Emily and Ross

There’s more. Season something or other sees the introduction of Emily, a love interest that pushes Ross so far away from Rachel that he (very nearly) gets married – potentially levelling the will-they-won’t-they seesaw for good. Now, Emily is indeed white and she is also straight, but she just happens to be… non-American. Accidental? Perhaps, but her otherness is in keeping with the theory I’m outlining in this essay. Emily, to avoid being a figure of derision, cannot be from the same socio-cultural universe as Rachel.

Interestingly, Ross’ various girlfriends also do a lot to endear him to us. His insistence on pairing up with all creeds, colours and sexualities of woman paint him as not so much forward-thinking as socially naive. Much is made of his inexperience with women (Carol was the only woman he had slept with before Julie). It is almost as though he doesn’t realise that he should be with the Rachels of this world. He almost demotes himself away from Alpha male status through his choice of weird women; gay, Asian, British, Black…

Anyway, happy 2015. More on the socio-political undertones of ‘Friends’ as I crawl through the boxset.

-Jeffrey

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846 words on: Independence Day (1996)

Independence Day

Squeaky clean and militarily innocent.

You can dismiss Independence Day on various levels: audience-baiting ‘Armageddon porn’, meaningless pageant of  ‘holy shit’ set pieces or painfully transparent slice of ‘fuck yeah’ U.S. nationalism, to name three. I already knew this, before my wife and I channel surfed our way into the summer of 1996 last Friday night . What I hadn’t realised, until said Friday night, was the real issue at hand: that Independence Day is the biggest piece of pro-U.S. military propaganda in the history of all cinema. Let me explain.

First of all, the US military is painted as being way, way, way too squeaky clean. Will Smith, with all his abs, ears and charm, is a manifestation of the American Dream’s perfect soldier. Committed, human, loyal, brave, witty and so on, and he inhabits a world of similarly plucky soldiers (including the slightly simple loveable best mate destined to die tragically – thanks Harry Connick Jr).

This much is normal. Hollywood readily presents rank and file military personnel in such light and I’m not suggesting for a moment that a summer blockbuster should explore the sinister subtexts of military policy. But isn’t just a little bit strange that everyone linked to the military in this film is Good? The bald-headed General guy that flanks President Bill Paxton is unwaveringly loyal and almost physically built out of integrity – he doesn’t even know that Area 51 existed, whereas the snivelling CIA intelligence weasel is fired for his moral ambiguity. As an audience, we are asked to question Intelligence and trust Military Might.

Then there’s the President himself. Why on earth is he a fighter pilot? The film forces us to equate military action with moral fortitude. It isn’t enough for the president to lean upon military action; he literally has to hop in the hot seat and fire the missile that initiates Mankind’s victory.

And what about that drunk, shambling crop dusting pilot? The one who saves the day in an inspiring moment of kamikaze gusto? His back-story states that he served as a pilot in Vietnam, a conflict notorious for leaving many US soldiers in a state of significant psychological damage. He can’t piece his life together at all, until called upon to get back into action. Military service rejuvenates him completely, simultaneously giving him a purpose in life and the means out of his depression into History Book Heroism.

Still unconvinced? Ok, why is it that so much is made of Drunk Crop Duster Hero’s having been abducted by aliens? It’s because we, the audience, are supposed to see this as the causation of his mental instability, not the years of service fighting in dodgy wars for a country that has abandoned him.

Then there’s the alien enemy: instinctively malevolent, insidiously evil, and icky. The film doesn’t give us a single chance to empathise with them, hammering home the point with the croaky “We… want.. you… to… die…” sequence that ends in a hail of gunfire. Basically, the military response is shown to be the only logical one, which implicitly blinkers an audience to the subtle politics of the situation. It becomes a very simple case of ‘Kill The Foreign Element Because They Are Evil End Of’.

Now I wouldn’t mind so much (I mean, it is only Independence Day for crying out loud), but the U.S. military sort of thrives on this type of over-simplification. We saw it in the 1960s with President Johnson’s escalation of the Vietnam War, in which faceless ‘Communists’ were an enemy in need of annihilation. We saw it in Iraq, where supposed weapons of mass destruction were justification for a sustained military conflict. And we continue to see it in the War in Afghanistan, in which the lines have been blurred between the al-Quaeda organisation, the Taliban government that harboured them, insurgents and, sadly, civilians.

Or maybe I’m overreaching.  The following extract from 2005 World Socialist Website article ‘Military interference in American film production’ suggests that the film is far from a successful endorsement of the military:

Producers of the mindless blockbuster Independence Day (1996) bent over backwards to gain access to Department of Defense heavy equipment. The Pentagon rejected these overtures, claiming that the movie did not contain any “true military heroes” and that Captain Steve Hiller (Will Smith) was too irresponsible to be cast as a Marine leader (he dates a stripper). Moreover, the invading aliens were thwarted not by the Marines, but by civilians. While Dean Devlin, the scriptwriter, agreed to rectify these “flaws”, Independence Day was given no assistance.

Before you go though, one last thing (here comes my Columbo moment…) A quote from Dean Devlin, Independence Day writer/ producer, in correspondence with the Pentagon:

“If this doesn’t make every boy in the country want to fly a fighter jet, I’ll eat this script.”

And there we have it. A cynical ploy to gain governmental support? Or the core motivation of a film that sees the actual President don flight jacket and save the day from the front line itself? I’ll let you decide.

-Unseen Flirtations

If they're evil, we should kill 'em.

Articles of interest:

Hollywood Propaganda: Nightmares in the Dream Factory?

Military Interference in American film Production

Top Gun versus Sergeant Bilko? No contest, says the Pentagon

Chris Rock’s Sense of Humour

Chris Rock’s sense of humour

Form:

Stand up comic, actor, voice artist, general funny man, political commentator. I’ve been tracking Chris Rock’s career since the early nineties and have listened to his stand up material pretty much on loop for the past decade. Seen him live once in London.  His shows are more or less usual stand up comedy fare: anecdotes and social commentary punctuated with the odd piece of whimsy. Let’s move on.

Language:

Fairly rugged overall. Rock doesn’t hold back in upholding any afro-American stereotypes and is pretty ‘niggerish’ in his idiolect. Lots of profanity, casual use of ‘motherfucker’ and nigger to punctuate his jokes, and lots of shits, fucks and damns thrown in for good measure. That’s only half the story though, so shame on you if you’ve read on already. Rock is well-known for his infamous ‘Niggas vs Black People’ routine from ‘Roll With the New’, in which he details the differences between “ignant ass” niggas and normal, hard-working black people. Rock definitely affiliates himself with the latter, despite language that identifies with the former. He’s a clever man, educated, informed and articulate, using language to at times create a rough and ready persona,  before switching it up into an almost an academic lexis.  That’s why I said he’s partly political commentator, above. Case in point (on the ‘Stripper Myth’- “If strippers are stripping to pay their way through college, how come I ain’t never had a smart lap dance? I never had a stripper sit on my lap and say, ‘you know, I really think you should diversify your portfoliooooo…’ Or ‘Ever since the end of the Cold War, I find NATO obsolete!’ Love it.

Weirdly, as his career has progressed, Chris Rock has let a little poetry sneak into his jokes. Every now and again he throws in a rhyme (“if it’s all white – it’s all right!”), or some repetition (“the government – hates – rap!”) , or some alliteration (“you can have the alimony, but I want some Pussy Payments…!”) All done for capital E Effect.

Imagery

Not much to say here. Chris Rock is quite prosaic in style and keeps the descriptive imagery to a minimum. Let’s move on.

Rhythm

One of the marks of a great comedian is being able to control the audience, something that Chris Rock does with supreme confidence. His stand up shows are seriously measured in pace, never rushed, never too eager to crowd-please. He never has any wild forays into comedic abstraction and moves fairly seamlessly between major topic areas. One thing he does that I bet many less seasoned comics wouldn’t dare attempt is to repeat large chunks of routine with slight tweaks to the specific subject matter. Case in point, his discussion of how “people with the most shit, have to shut the fuck up, around people with the least shit” from ‘Kill the Messenger’. He basically says the same thing about tall people around short people, fat girls around thin girls and rich people around poor people, using the exact same language each time round. Creates a nice rhythm for the audience to lock into and is actually quite relaxing – to know what’s coming next.

That said, (as you’d expect), Rock is no stranger to the Punch-Line, and delivers them with devastation. A great example is his diatribe on OJ Simpson following the hyper-controversial murder charge. He details the circumstances surrounding the case, summarises, then ends with “Now I ain’t saying he should of killed her – but I understand”. Cue wild applause. Then, after another quick summary he hits us with the same punchline again, and the applause is even more rapturous. All in the timing.

Tone

Though belligerent in his early days (listen to ‘Born Suspect’), Chris Rock was a lot softer in his delivery – actually quite quiet. Probably due to apprehension. Nowadays, he comes out shouting. Literally. He bellows jokes at you from the outset, sounding like his own hype man. He does maintain a slight hip hop aesthetic that partly explains it, there being a level of anger and frustration in his overall tone that is born of the socially charged subject matter he tends to deal with. He tells his audience what’s what, not so much inviting us into his perception of things but loud-speaking his grievances with the world, decorated with examples from his own fraught past.

Sometimes though, between the hollers, he gets silly and acts the clown, coming up with ludicrous abstractions. Case in point, when describing how when in love you have strong feelings for your partner – starts with: “if you haven’t considered murder, you ain’t been in love”. Ends with: “if you haven’t stared at that bottle of rat poison for 14 hours straight… you ain’t been in love.”

In all of this he relies quite heavily on exaggeration, blowing things out of all sensible proportion to ridiculous effect. And we all know a bit of exaggeration can be hilarious.

Subject matter

There’s a few subjects comedians always return to that have become something of a staple in the funnyman repertoire. Relationships, money, politics, celebrity, class and (especially for black American comics since Richard Pryor) race. What I’ve noticed about Rock is that he’s moving further into socio-political commentary in his old age, having got most (if not all) of the angsty racial stuff out of his system. Here’s a little video of Rock on love and marriage for the meantime:

That’s about it really. Just a quick post on the man the myth, as I’ve been listening to him a lot recently.  Right. As you were.

-Unseen Flirtations

Top 10: Things a teacher has to be (in addition to being a teacher)

Top 10: Things a teacher has to be (in addition to being a teacher)

1.       Parent

Whether you like it or not, whether you want it happen or not, those kids will look at you and respond to you as some kind of parental figure. For better or for worse. It’s a numbers game I reckon. You see them so much, with so much regularity and spend so long telling them what to do, that the only logical response for these kids is to see you as some kind of surrogate parent. Hence why they can feel justified in moaning/ sighing/ yelling/ ignoring/ sulking/ delete as appropriate at you – it’s just how they treat their parents. Nothing personal.

2.       Referee

Lessons are interesting things. And children are interesting creatures. A lot of my time at school is spent not regaling young scholars with my insights and moulding the minds of the future, but rather mediating between the many and varied spats that flare up in an average school day. You know, over important issues such as Whose Pen That Is, Why Doesn’t He Have To Collect The Books, She Started It, and He Cussed My Mum. My negotiation schools are now so on point that I’m fairly certain I can put ‘hostage situation diffuser’ on my CV. Goes with the territory.

3.       Administrator

No-one even remotely warned me how organised I would have to be if I was to have even the slimmest chance of ‘making it’ as a teacher, and thank god there’s a small part of me that suffers from OCD. I am woefully disorganised and can’t keep a clean desk for love, money or anything else I might want. But I do keep a mean spreadsheet, can make lists, and can count up to a reasonably high number. Phew. Without these skills, my wildly imaginative nature and uber-creative take on life would have long since disintegrated into a steaming mess of optimism and unfinished grade sheets.

4.       Entertainer

Almost diametrically opposed to above, but hey, what can you do? I hate to admit it, but a good teacher these days has to be part children’s entertainer. The good news is I don’t just mean a good juggler and ‘funny’ and all that, because kids are entertained by all sorts. Drunks, manic depressives, wild eyed madmen, hysterical uni graduates: all entertaining in your own way. Take your pick and run with it. Your classes will thank you.

5.       Detective

I can look at a classroom I wasn’t in and within seconds tell you who was sitting where, who was eating what they shouldn’t have, how much of my cover work was/ wasn’t done and the precise moment someone decided to draw a penis on the table. It’s all inference. And when I’ve worked it all out, I can get a confession out of whoever I want to before the bell goes for next period. And I don’t even need a 60 watt light-bulb to shine in their eyes.

6.       Actor

This is a biggie. So much of what we do is insincere. We feign everything, from anger (“I cannot BELIEVE you would DARE to open a window, WITHOUT asking!) to enthusiasm (“Wow! That’s an amazing use of rhyme! Blue and Clue! How clever!) Not to say we lie, per se, but gosh do we lay it on a bit thick. And the kids, bless them, are so trusting that they don’t for a moment think that it could be anything other than 100 per cent sincerity. I could tell my lot I’m really a woman and they wouldn’t flinch.

7.       Graphic designer

Worksheets, powerpoint presentations, lesson resources of all shapes and sizes: If they’re, pardon my French, Shit, the kids won’t use them and they won’t learn anything. So they have to be Good. Simple as that really. And unless your school has money, you’d better get used to doing it on the basic Microsoft suite.

8.       Marathon runner/ endurance athlete

Because, dear friend, when it gets Busy (and it does get Busy) the first thing to go out of the window (before planning decent lessons and after toilet breaks) will be sitting down to eat. You just find yourself getting through long, busy, frantic days with nothing remotely even approaching a pause, operating on a strangely effective combination of adrenalin and stupidity. How it’s done exactly is still a mystery to modern science.

9.       Motivational speaker

Kids, especially kids who have been doing it for a while, have nothing to get out of school other than some qualification they vaguely appreciate that they may need at some point in the blurry future. So to get them through day after day of lesson after lesson is some feat. How do you do it? Good question.  No, being serious for a moment, it’s all down to the (hopefully) infectious nature of optimism and enthusiasm. A teacher is always poised to rally the troops and get a class fired up. If not, dragging yourself and a classful of kids from one finishing line to the next just might become your actual reason for living.

10.   Bouncer

Depending on the specific culture of your school, lessons may very well resemble entry into a nightclub, teacher at the door, scanning over-excited (or dead-eyed) punters for contraband and dress code. Everyone’s counted in and counted out, and if something isn’t right, They’re Not Coming In. Well, they are, but you have to sort of make a show of it. See number 6.

-Unseen Flirtations

What is it? A critical analysis of the Apple iPad

A critical breakdown of the iPad and iPad 2. All your philosophical questions answered. Enjoy.

Form

I don’t own an iPad, and, due largely to financial reasons, I won’t be owning one any time soon. I have, however, had the opportunity to spend some time playing on one, extensively, with two of the devices currently in residence at my sister’s house. And I am the proud owner of an iPod touch, which never leaves my side and is, to all intent and purposes, a mini iPad of sorts.

Now, at this point, it is important to stop and think for moment here about what exactly the iPad is – not simply as a product, but as a franchise or even cultural phenomenon. When it was first talked of, all those updates ago, there was some debate as to a) what it was and b) what it was supposed to be for. We seem to have long since shelved these queries, having embraced the slick piece of gadgetry on its own terms. I had a quick look on the Apple website to try to satisfy these concerns, but it doesn’t actually say what an iPad is. Apart from all the specifications, the closest I could find was:

‘There’s more to it. And even less of it.’

Ok whatever. Now, on a technical level (and no, I don’t know what I’m talking about) the iPad is some sort of high-powered web browsing-cum-portable computer device, that you can do ‘stuff’ on. Beyond that (and this is where it gets interesting) the iPad is a powerful symbol of modernity, a sleek and tactile piece of human development that acts as a referent or our species’ advancement. It’s also an executive toy of the highest order. And obviously, because it’s so bloody expensive, it’s also an aspirational status symbol. These are my main conclusions. If you don’t agree, please contact Apple and let them know so they can put that info on their website.

Sounds ok so far? I’m not so sure. See, right about now, the iPad 2 is in full launch, and naturally, queues of people formed overnight in feverish expectation of the slicker, faster version of the already slick and fast iPad 1. What is going on? I mean, what is this thing? Whatever it is, we really, really want it, and it seems our relationship with it seems closer to celebrity worship than anything else. Very strange for a product that had dubious uses to begin with.

Language

At face value the language of the iPad – and apple as a brand – is geared towards simplicity and ease. You only have to look at the marketing; a list of adjectives that tell you what the iPad can be – creative… musical… scientific… artistic… et cetera… et cetera…ie: anything you want it to be. We’re supposed to look at this thing and simply get it with absolutely no need for explanation. This appeals to some instinctive, innate ability to use the product, again reinforcing its identity as the latest step in human evolution. Instructions not necessary.

But. Behind this veneer of ease I bet you 20p that the language of the iPad is incomprehensibly complicated. It has to be. This is an advanced computing device. As end users we aren’t really sup[posed to understand or even enquire into the specifics of how these things work. We’re asked to just pick it up and prod away, making things happen on the screen as easily as making marks on paper or drawing shapes in sand. Behind the glossy exterior, I imagine that frightfully complex algorithms are taking place. Ironic no?

In this, there is a level of deceit that we shouldn’t ignore, because if we do, we turn into blind consumers – appreciating the product not so much for its inherent qualities but on face value alone. To be fair, this happens all the time, with everything from fine dining, to film, to music to computer games and any type of art, but at least in these cases we are invited to realise the skill and craft beyond the superficial. With the iPad, and its tendency to create brand worship, you have a situation where consumer is slave to product. We desire the iPad, but we don’t really get what it is. Hm…

Imagery

Back to the marketing. People lounging, casually browsing, breezing through applications in naturally-lit, modern homes, wearing understatedly expensive casual clothing, a range of urban humans of all shades and both genders. Ah. The overall picture is one of the fully evolved human, at one with technology. Seems innocuous, but a statement is being made. This imagery is not reflective of life as it really is (not for most of us anyway), but more depicting life as it ‘should’ be – deeply aspirational as a result. In this sense the iPad is almost a statement of modernity. And the imagery Apple presents is do far removed from the reality facing most people on this planet that it makes the product (and suggested lifestyle) quite elitist.

Rhythm

All that needs to be said here is that any technological product comes with built-in obsolescence, and the iPad is no exception. In fact, Apple relies on this very fact for its sales projections, releasing new and improved versions of its product stable with bank balance quiveringly regularity. As you read, the iPad 2 sits on shelves, its existence rendering the iPad 1 a relic of modern antiquity, and you can bet that the iPad 3 is lurking in wait.

But, that said, all of this is irrelevant. Simply because once you subscribe to the iPad at all, you’re sort of committed to it for good. Humans are weird like that – we incorporate something new into our lives and can’t really go back to life before said thing existed. This is all well and good for usefull additions such as, I dunno, fire, electricity, indoor plumbing, refrigerators and so on, but what about trivial luxury items that don’t really add anything other than status or idle diversion to our existences? Like, I dunno, the iPad, or television? Suddenly, we’re locked into a process of desiring and obtaining a product that, at one stage, we agreed had no clear purpose. Interesting, no?

 

Tone

I’m not sure. On the one hand the iPad is simply an innocent leisure and lifestyle device, a bit of expensive fun that makes us all feel a bit more cool and luxurious and cutting edge, and lets us do stuff online in a slightly more exciting way than sitting in front of a qwerty keyboard. Fair enough. But on the other hand, I can’t help but cast a cynical eye on the whole thing and start asking some serious questions – of the iPad as a cultural phenomenon and of Apple as a creator of lifestyle.

Ok, so it’s trendy to Apple-bash, but there is something disconcerting about the way their products go beyond functionality into the realm of the poseur. I happily admit that many Apple products are indeed fantastic, combining functionality and style (macbooks and ipods especially), but the iPad? Expensive toy we just might be able to do without.

 

Subject matter

I very nearly left this section out, as I couldn’t quite figure out what the iPad is really about. Then it hit me: The Internet. Of course.

Without the internet the iPad is a pretty expensive  paperweight. Its appeal, which I’ve debated over the last 1,237 words or so, is that it allows us to access the Wild Wild Web in a more advanced way than ever before. They say you can use the iPad to create things. I say: Really? I’ve used one and all I’ve done is go on twitter, run Google searches, watch videos of cats on YouTube and play games.

This in itself is no bad thing, as long as we understand it for what it is. I think we should embrace the iPad, and play with it to our hearts’ consent, but actually taking it to heart as anything more important could be opening a door to mindless brand worship – for an expensive object that could very realistically be worth very little.

-Unseen Flirtations

Top 10: Underrated entities

Top 10: Underrated entities

 

1.       Canned laughter

For reasons I refuse to go into right now, I’ve been watching a lot of ‘Friends’ recently. It comes on TV every day, and there are about 48,000 episodes to choose from. I’ve always liked, actually, tolerated, Friends quite a lot, not because I particularly enjoy the saccharine misadventures of Manhattan’s fakest circle of mates, but because of the rigid jokes per page formula it sticks to. I find it fascinating. Like all good sitcoms, Friends works on a pulse of ‘humour’ with regular little groundswells of laughter that have almost nothing to do with jokes. Every few beats, we get a cue to laugh, and the canned laughter pushes us over the hump and on to the next ascent to the next funny bit.

Now, I dislike the artificiality of canned laughter as much as the next cynic, but I caps lock LOVE the fact that rational humans can be jostled along a narrative by such clonky cues of merriment. We should probably be ashamed/ cringe/ vomit each time some ripple of guffaws punctuates our lovingly crafted gags, but for some reason, we just go along with out. I think that’s marvellous.

2.       The word ‘but’

I recently very nearly did a post called ‘Top 10: Most powerful words in the English language’, and ‘but’ was going to headline. See, the thing about the word ‘but’ is that it is so unrepentantly violent, and its merciless power should never be overlooked. Iit may sound like hyperbole, but I’m serious. See, when you say something, you assert it, and your listener, to some extent accepts whatever meaning you have offered. To then follow it up with the word ‘but’ is to basically say ‘now ignore everything I’ve just said – I’m about to contradict it and offer an almost exactly opposite position’. It’s volatile – like a little conversational frag grenade that completely decimates what came before. Use with caution.

 

3.       Half rhyme

As a self-certified poetry aficionado, I can safely say that full rhyme is the preserve of the happy thinker. When you get two words that resonate aurally, like I dunno, ‘blue’ and ‘moo’, you automatically have happiness and playfulness. A kind of ‘ahh’ situation that sits nicely in the soul. But, half-rhyme: That’s a different story. Quick definition – half-rhyme: where two words sort of rhyme a bit but don’t really sound alike. Sounds innocuous right? Wrong. In the hands of a skilled poet, half-rhyme can be a devastatingly subtle means of creating unease and unrest in the heart of a reader, sometimes on a subconscious level. Where full rhyme announces its arrival with a wave and bounds through your mind ringing bells of joy, half-rhyme is the serpent beneath, sneaking into your psyche with the stealth of an assassin. A great example is the disturbingly self-conscious Dylan Thomas, who put down the bottle long enough to write ‘Especially When the October Wind’. Have a look at the first two stanzas…

Especially when the October wind

With frosty fingers punishes my hair,

Caught by the crabbing sun I walk on fire

And cast a shadow crab upon the land,

By the sea’s side, hearing the noise of birds,

Hearing the raven cough in winter sticks,

My busy heart who shudders as she talks

Sheds the syllabic blood and drains her words.

 

Shut, too, in a tower of words, I mark

On the horizon walking like the trees

The wordy shapes of women, and the rows

Of the star-gestured children in the park.

Some let me make you of the vowelled beeches,

Some of the oaken voices, from the roots

Of many a thorny shire tell you notes,

Some let me make you of the water’s speeches.

Doesn’t seem like much? In between the full rhyming quatrains (wind/land, birds/words, mark/park, beeches/ speeches) you get an incredibly sinister half rhyme. Hair/ fire, sticks/ talks, trees/ rows, roots/ notes… and this continues throughout the poem. It’s surreptitious, sly and slightly jarring and just as disturbing as any of the poem’s more obvious imagery and morose language. Chilling, if you ask me.

 

4.       Babies

Just because they don’t talk, can’t dress themselves and shit themselves all day, it doesn’t mean that babies are any more stupid than any other person. They’re just young. I’m fairly certain that humans are born with all the emotional intelligence they will ever have, and their intelligent intelligence/ reasoning/ whatever just has to catch up. Babies know what’s up, and if they could talk, I bet they’d tell us what was what.

 

5.       Eye contact

It never ceases to amaze me how soul-shakingingly powerful a bit of eye-contact can be. Just meeting the gaze of another human being. It’s something to do with the innate intimacy of meeting someone eye-to-eye, and the direct, unspoken communication this comes with, that makes eye contact one of the single most powerful forms of communication going. It could be a flirtatious smoulder, a knowing sharing of an in-joke, staring someone down in rage or even the wide-eyed invitation of friendship in greeting. Either way, a single look can say it all.

 

6.       Human cruelty

Apologies for getting all serious all of a sudden. I’ve read my way through a fair slice of human history and I simply cannot believe some of the atrocities that we, as a species, have inflicted upon each other across the ages. Considering that there are only a few billion of us on the planet at any given time, it’s unsurprising that we get the odd disagreement and skirmish, but the extent to which we can subjugate eachother is beyond belief. Humanity, for all its development, can be base, and the atrocities of which we are capable of should never be underestimated. To do so is to forget potential for trauma inherent in all societies, usually orchestrated by manic individuals, fascist governments or a combination of the two. The scariest/ saddest truth in all of this is that it can happen anywhere, at any time. It doesn’t seem to take much for us to turn on ourselves and commit acts of violence that can only be described as deplorable. Is it in our nature? Perhaps, but I’d like to think empathy can win out. Time will tell.

 

7.       Trends

Right, time to face facts. You’re a whore to trend. A slave to zeitgeist. A minion of mode. You have no opinion. None of us do. Deal. Ok, I admit I’m being slightly hyperbolic here, but only slightly. As original as we’d like to think we are, we ultimately end up reflecting everyone around us and conforming to whatever context we live in. How else could it be that we all sort of speak the same, wear the same clothes, do the same things at any given time? If we were truly original I might be walking around dressed in, I dunno, Elizabethan robes or the skins of my slaughtered enemies, but instead, I wear suits. We’re almost as powerless to break trend as we are to start it, so largely speaking, we don’t. It’s far easier to be born into the world and copy everyone around us. To ignore the of trend is to ignore the very DNA of society itself and once a trend starts, no matter how ridiculous, you can bet that We as a collective will follow. Distressed denim, ear-lobe plugs, calling your kids ‘Poppy’, eating humous, whatever.

Ironically, the people with the biggest immunity to trend are in fact babies (see above). They don’t care thing one about whatever everyone else is doing and couldn’t give a shit about fitting in, but out of sheer convenience (and defeatism), they grow up into ‘free-thinking’ individuals who pretty much just do the same as everybody else.

 

8.       Triple LETTER score

Everyone always bangs on about the triple word scores and how many points they can get you especially with an X or a Q blah blah blah, but my Scrabble mind goes beyond this. If you’re careful, and you know what you’re doing, you can pillage an opponent with a shrewd use of the triple LETTER score. Throw a J on there and link it up to a word in the other direction and bosh, you’re suddenly looking at 50 plus points. Anyway, let’s not get into a Scrabble conversation – it’ll just end in me personally challenging you to a match and you never reading my blog again.

 

9.       Brands

When you think about it, we under-estimate and under-rate the power of branding all the time. The modern world, or at least the modern Western world, pivots on consumerism, and consumerism (bear with me – I know nothing about economics) is based on product, right? Wrong. We seek brands that allude to a product and represent it, but don’t actually constitute that product itself. This is important. A brand, once established, is so powerful that it can paper over any cracks in the product itself, metaphorically speaking of course. Look at Nike. Reasonably decent shoes, nothing special, huge reputation for quality, massively overpriced. McDonald’s: disgusting plastic food, massively overpriced, hugely popular on the basis that we recognise the brand. Dyson: big gimmicky plastic unwieldy vacuum cleaners that are somehow synonymous with ingenious design. Father Christmas: creator of Christmas cheer and the maker of all gifts, who doesn’t even actually exist. And so on.

The brand is like shorthand for the product it represents, which is kind of a distorted, dangerous way to look at things. But hey, it’s easier than actually assessing every single product on its own merit…

 

10. Poetry

As remarkable and inventive as it is, I still get the impression, at times, that poetry’s incredible capacity to create subtle meaning out of words, create narrative and constrain languge into beautiful ambiguity sometimes goes less than appreciated. Easily up there among man’s most remarkable achievements.

 

11.   Unseen Flirtations

Because I’m a shameless self-publicist with an irrationally stout sense of self-worth, I have to say that this blog is one of the most underrated criticism journals in existence. I’m sure you agree.

-Unseen Flirtations

The Lord’s Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, Who art in heaven
Hallowed be Thy Name;
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

A little known fact about me: I am Catholic. Or, I was raised Catholic. The extent to which I still am is open to debate, seeing that I don’t really attend church all that much anymore, and when I do, it tends to be to catch up with people and get a free tea.

Anyway, as a Catholic, I’ve been raised with a few things programmed into the very fibre of my being:  superstition, faith, a clear moral compass, guilt, et cetera. And, of course, prayer. Probably before I knew what the words really meant, I could recite, from memory, a whole selection of ancient prayers. Then, as I grew up, I got so used to them that I never really stopped to think about what they really mean. And I mean really really, like objectively, without dogma getting in the way.

So that brings us here. One of the cornerstone prayers of Catholicism is the ‘Our Father’, also known as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, or the prayer that Jesus personally taught to his disciples. Below is a detailed, poetic analysis of the ‘Our Father’. Enjoy.

Form:

One of the first things I notice about this text is the fact that it has 10 lines. Innocuous, yes, but important inasfar as 10 is a pretty round number to finish up on. I don’t want to get all Da Vinci Code on you, so I won’t, but the point is that whoever wrote this thing made sure it felt settled and complete. Allegedly, these are words from God Himself, delivered directly to followers of Christ through J man himself. As such, it would be a bad idea to make it a)too long-winded or b)so short that a would be disciple would miss the point. 10 lines is a happy medium – and just long enough for a bewildered child to remember.

It’s worth noting that the lines of this prayer are irregular, but follow a discernable pattern. The first five lines make up one complete sentence, with diminishing line lengths until ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’ This gives the prayer a definite sense of movement that rests at the half-way point, which is very easy on the ear and easy to digest. Following this, the remaining five lines are more or less even in length, save the third line: ‘as we forgive those who trespass against us’. Now maybe it’s the superstition talking but it can’t be an accident that this longer line, (which sits prominently in the middle of the prayer’s second half) contains the prayer’s central message – that we should forgive those who do us wrong. Visually, the line is prominent, and when recited, the speaker is forced to linger on it. Subsequently, we linger on the idea of forgiving our enemies, a key tenet of Christian beliefs.

Language:

First up, the 1st person collective. By which I mean ‘our’, ‘we’, ‘us’. This prayer is all about a collective identity and our relationship with god, as a group of people. It’s engineered to foster a sense of community and togetherness, with frequent repetitions of 1st person collective pronouns. Useful when you’re trying to establish a dedicated following, or build a church or whatever.

On the flip side, god is referred to in strictly intimate terms. Modern versions of the prayer opt for the more recognisable 2nd person pronouns ‘you’ and ‘your’, but in the original, we get ‘thee’ and ‘thy’. No accident. To use thee/ thy/ thou is simultaneously reverent and intimate, striking an ideal tone for a personal conversation with the Big Man. Whoever wrote this thing, they knew exactly what they were doing in inviting, or encouraging (or forcing?) the speaker to be respectful and close to ‘our father’.

Poetically, there are some devices at play that work towards a calming effect. The rhyming of ‘come’ and ‘done’ is aurally satisfying, reinforced by the repetition of ‘Thy blah blah blah/ Thy blah blah blah’. Elsewhere, we are presented with a soft alliteration in ‘and forgive us our trespasses/
as we forgive those who trespass against us’. The sibilance inherent in this is whispering and soft, contrasting with the harsher consonants and more assertive syllables of the opening four lines.

In all of this, the language is fairly basic. Simple point on that – to appeal to as wide as possible an audience. Let’s move on.

Imagery:

The words of this poem/ prayer are so straightforward that it’s easy to miss the imagery thrown forward, which admittedly is quite subtle. Oppositions are set up by references to ‘earth’ and ‘heaven’, which are described blankly with no superfluous detailing. Some words do create imagery in their connotations however, namely ‘kingdom’, which instantly depicts heaven as some kind of opulent… well, kingdom. Very suggestive, and almost subliminal in that it implies that ‘heaven’, the opposite of ‘earth’, is actually a ‘kingdom’. And who doesn’t want to live in a kingdom?

Rhythm:

Returning to ‘form’ for a second (see above), ‘Our Father’ is structurally geared up to create a measured rhythm. The diminishing first five lines allow us to pause after each statement and build up an overall position. The prayer itself read like a manifesto, pledge or promise – one which gradually builds up towards key assertions (thy will be done… daily bread… forgive us our trespasses… deliver us from evil…). The second half of the poem exemplifies this particularly well, with clauses piled atop one another in a way that almost creates fervour/ excitement. Look at the opening words of those lines: ‘and, as, and, but’. Read it and you sound like you’re getting carried away, which, possibly, is the whole point. Religion works best when you throw sense and reason out the window and allow yourself to get lost in rapture, and this prayer –after a very secure opening- allows itself to spiral. The final assertion, ‘but deliver us from evil’ kind of feels like it has been cut short. And somebody at some point evidently thought the same thing, because there’s an extra bit that Catholics usually leave out:

For thine is the kingdom,

and the power, and the glory,

for ever and ever.

Amen.

Tone:

Now, anything with ‘amen’ in it is almost necessarily serious, and the Lord’s Prayer is no exception. Even as a child I knew that these words were supposed to be serious. There is much gravitas in the even-handed delivery of huge, huge statements (Our Father, Who art in heaven…), the emphatic placing of the adjective ‘Hallowed’ at the start of the second line (which emphasises just how ‘hallowed’ He is) and repetition of key words (‘thy’, ‘forgive’, ‘trespass’).

Subject matter:

When you look into it, the Lord’s prayer is a detailing of requests from ‘us’ to ‘Our Father’. It very respectfully acknowledges the position of this deity in the ‘kingdom’ of heaven, before asking for daily bread, forgiveness, and delivery from evil. Fair enough. Beyond this though, the prayer is really about faith. It smacks of a fervent, perhaps even desperate belief in a ‘hallowed’ father who has the power to give us everything we need, forgive us our trespasses and ultimately protect us from evil.

In this the prayer acts as both a plea and a reaffirmation of faith. Reciting it is confirmation that Our Father is a) in heaven b) hallowed and c) able to do all those things we require of him. Kind of needy to be honest, but maybe that’s just the cynic in me. Don’t tell my mum.

-Unseen Flirtations


The ‘Dance Movie’

The ‘Dance Movie’

A poetic analysis of that lesser-appreciated cinematic genre: the Dance Movie.

Form:

I have a confession to make. I’m quite partial to dance movies. Movies about dancing. Those faintly ridiculous films in which dancing not only features, but is a key ingredient in the very fibre of the main characters’ lives. Films like Dirty Dancing, Footloose, Step Up, Step Up 2, Step Up 3D, Save the Last Dance, Breakin’, Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo, You Got Served, Strictly Ballroom et cetera.

It’s one of my many guilty pleasures. Anyway, these films, it has to be said, are something of a different animal to the conventional Hollywood movie. Yes, they have plot and narrative and pathos and all that good stuff, but they exist to do more than simply tell a tale. They exist to celebrate dance. See, the dance movie’s hook is the whole dancing thing – we know even before the opening credits that we’re going to see some hot moves, regardless of any subtextual social commentary/ politics/ comment on the human condition/ whatever.

The titles allude to this. Dirty Dancing would probably be better called ‘The Abortion Scandal’ or ‘The Summer I Lost My Virginity’. Footloose might be titled ‘Overcoming Christian Dogma’. And what about all those dance movies that tackle the theme of interracial relationships? (eg: Save the Last Dance, Breakin’). ‘He’s Black and She’s White’ perhaps?

Structurally, the dance movie pretty much goes from Dance to Dance, via Dance. A big dance at the beginning, lots of little dances along the way as the narrative works through its complications, and a big celebratory dance at the end, when all is well. There is literally no deviation from this format, and if there is, it isn’t a dance movie.

Language and Imagery:

With such a clear emphasis on dancing, the dance movie is largely preoccupied with capturing what we can call ‘hot moves’. All these films feature key set pieces sprinkled evenly throughout the narrative, in which great pains are taken to make dancing seem as exciting as is humanly possible. These sequences are always frenetic and busy – lots of bodies throwing lots of shapes and fast editing to make it all that more kinetic. Then there’s the montage…

The Montage (yes, it deserves its own subheading)

A key feature of the dance movie is that bit, somewhere in the middle, where someone needs to get better at dancing in order for the plot to reach resolution. This is where a montage comes in – a little cut up of dance sequences set to energetic, motvational music, by the end of which the protagonists are significantly better dancers than they were, three minutes hence. I love it. Below is a little rundown of some classic dance movie montages:

Dirty Dancing: Johnny and Penny teaching Baby to Rhumba. Song – ‘Hungry Eyes’ by Eric Carman

Footloose: Kevin Bacon teaching his shitkicking hick buddy to barn dance. Song – ‘Let’s Hear It For the Boy’ by Deniece Williams

Breakin’: Turbo, Ozone and Kelly training to form a new breakdancing crew. Song – ‘Ain’t Nobody’ by Chaka Khan

Step Up 2: The misfit dancing  form a super dance group to compete in the upcoming underground street battle. Song – ‘Shake Your Pom Pom’ by Missy Elliot

Save the Last Dance: The black guy teaching the white girl how to dance ‘street’. Song – ‘You Know What’s up’ by Donnell Jones

Imagery:

Needless to say, some of the dance movie’s most memorable images are taken directly from the montage sequences. The beauty of the montage is that it’s got almost no purpose other than to show off some dancing, make the protagonists look sexy, and include a few comedic bloopers – perfect to create memorable snapshots.

Rhythm:

The beauty of the dance movie is that it has no delusions as to what it is and as a result, a dance is never far away. These films, as you might expect, have a definite rhythm, with regular peaks of dance-fuelled excitement, culminating in a mind-blowing explosion of dance insanity. The narrative is constantly leaning forward towards this culminating moment, be it Dirty Dancing’s swan lift, Footloose’s barn dance or Strictly Ballroom’s rule-defying competition win.

Any quiet moments exist purely to allow the characters to ‘develop’ and/ or reveal poignant facts about their troubled pasts, which makes the subsequent dances all the more important. We care a lot more about Johnny’s ability to cha cha cha after we find out about his subjugated life as an exploited dancer, for example. These moments of pathos tend to come after the montage, setting up a melancholic penultimate act before the victorious ending. Dramatic stuff.

Tone:

Dancing aside, the dance movie is almost uniformly melodramatic. There’s always some troubling context surrounding all the dance action that drives the narrative forward, and it always leaves the protagonists in some kind of dramatic flux: Love triangles, social pressures, mysterious pasts, lost dreams, racial conflict, et cetera. Further to this, there is always a point reached where things get so screwed up that not even dancing can save the day, until, of course, dancing saves the day. You know when these bits arrive because a)no-one is dancing and b)the soundtrack gets all minor key.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom. These films always, and I do mean ALWAYS, end in celebration, a huge triumph where dance has enabled the protagonists to overcome their problems. Yay.

Subject matter:

The central message behind every dance movie is as follows:

“No matter who you are, no matter what you do, all of life’s problems can be overcome through dance.”

And when I say ‘problems’ I mean everything up to and including racial injustice, class prejudice, gang warfare, bereavement, parental conflict, religious oppression and poverty. At this point, I ‘m tempted to make some overblown statement about how these films are fundamentally about the resilience of the human spirit and flight of the soul in the face of oppression etc etc, blah blah blah, but I won’t. I’ll leave you to make those conclusions – here’s the ‘Hungry Eyes’ montage from Dirty Dancing, for inspiration. Enjoy.

-Unseen Flirtations

Naïve Prostitute Twitter feed

Naïve Prostitute Twitter feed

A poetic analysis of the @NaiveProstitute Twitter feed. WARNING: Contains profanity and language of an extreme sexual nature that some readers may find exciting and others may find offensive

Form:

At the time of writing this, the @NaiveProstitute twitter feed is hovering at 372 tweets in total, which is relatively few updates in the Twitterverse. As usual, the feed supplies a continuous stream of tweets/ mini essays/ thoughts/ updates/ poems/ whatever you wish to call them, consistently delivered to reveal insight into the mind of the writer. What the feed doesn’t do, however, is provide a narrative. It begins with a philosophical, anonymous question as to the nature of prostitution and goes from there, neglecting to provide any kind of introduction, context or setting. As it continues the writer makes no effort to clarify a sense of time or place and subsequently, the whole thing feels like a small slice of eternity. We can dip into the feed at any given time without risking any loss of clarity.

I sell orgasmic happiness to the men who still believe in the orgasm.

I sell experiences to men starving for experiences.

I sell my time, I sell my flesh, I sell my well conditioned thoughts.

That said, it’s worth mentioning the slightly episodic nature of the feed, whereby a theme is explored over a number of individual tweets. A good example is the first few updates, in which the writer questions her existence and discusses the specifics of what she ‘sells’. Later, she tells little self-contained mini-stories that detail specific experiences in prostitution, here related to what ‘A man offered her’:

A man offered me his soul if I can give him my cunt for free.

A man offered me $600 to call his wife and tell her that he has been faithful.

A man offered me a thousand dollars if I would tell him while he orgasms that his life worthless.

A man offered me $700 if I allow him to shave the hair on my cunt.

Language:

One of the things that made me sit up and take notice of the @NaiveProstitute feed was its deep intensity of language. In her ongoing discourse on prostitution, gender politics, sex and morality, @NaiveProstitute makes absolutely no effort to dilute her thoughts. The language employed is almost confrontational, replete with profanity and direct references to sex, direct almost to the point of being sensational. She opts for the crudest euphemisms for sex, referring to ‘fucking’, ‘cock’, ‘cum’, ‘pussy’ and, the greatest taboo, ‘cunt’, never with any sense of  apprehension. The use of this taboo vocabulary is fearless and bold, lending the feed a sense of dominance and power.

I give them the image of the fallen whore who sucks cock for a living, who makes erections rise and fall.

A man offered me $700 if I allow him to shave the hair on my cunt.

I am lonely, the voice is lonely, the sex is lonely, when my pussy is not getting fucked I feel empty.

However, it would be wrong to get caught up on the feed’s propensity for naughty words. On the whole, it is written with a direct, unflinching simplicity, simple language undecorated by superfluous adjectives and adverbs. @NaiveProstitute writes almost entirely in simple sentences with bold main clauses, featuring a refined but not ornate vocabulary. The effect of this is dramatic. We are presented with a strong voice that is talking to us directly with no obvious subtext; she offers statements that disinvite conversation and our only option is to passively listen to whatever she has to say.

Following on from this idea, it is important to note that @NaiveProstitute writes entirely in the first person present tense. This might seem like a minor point, but there is an important immediacy that this narrative perspective creates. Also, the use of the present tense allows the writer to deliver verbs as clear, cold, imperatives, eg: ‘I enjoy’, ‘I call’, ‘I am’, ‘I give’, ‘I let’, ‘I offer’ etc.  The personal pronoun ‘I’ takes on a powerful resonance – we (ironically) feel subservient in her presence. A similar effect is achieved with the use of the word ‘whore’ which – in contrast to the plethora of synonyms she could have chosen (ho, skank, hooker, prozzie, slut, tramp, callgirl, etc) takes on a timeless sense of grandeur.

In all of this @NaiveProstitute also uses a great deal of repetition to develop a theme or idea, turning a series of tweets into something of a manifesto or even mantra. At one point, she details what $20,000 would get you, and the list soon evolves into something more like an hypnotic thought experiment…

For $20,000 I would have sex with an entire village of 50 men, once each, discount rates apply.

For $20,000 I would walk on my knees, naked in the streets, I would appear naked on wheel of fortune.

For $20,000 you can use any hole in my body to achieve your inner, librated child, 50 times over.

For $20,000 you can fuck me 40 times, wholesale, 50 times.

Imagery:

So, @NaiveProstitute is a twitter feed that isn’t afraid to be explicit. The feed is fairly full of sexual imagery, sometimes graphic, that throws us into the world of prostitution, or, perhaps, sheds light on the concept of prostitution by detailing it with such raw openness. We are frequently made aware of the narrator’s sexual activity, be it literally (with plain description)…

A man once paid me $835 dollars if I allow him to fuck my ass ravagely; I did, and half way through he stopped and started crying.

…or figuratively (with metaphors like ‘the palace of my cunt’):

When a man enters the palace of my well-trodden cunt, does he find pleasure? Not at all, he finds death, the frequenter of death.

Despite this, the @NaiveProstitute feed is not defined by sexual imagery. Explicit as these images are, they are by no means the be all and end all of the feed, simply details of the narrator’s experience that she mentions as part of a far wider discourse.

Rhythm:

When I first saw this feed I scanned a few tweets, as you do, and soon realised that I was reading whole sections of text in order, as though I was poring over a poem. The rhythm of the feed has something to do with this. Where many twitter feeds can feel disjointed and sporadic, @NaiveProstitute feels solid and purposeful. Tweets are delivered in batches that focus on a particular theme or idea, mini-essays packaged into 5 or 6 separate updates. As stated above in ‘Language’, this steady build has a largely hypnotic effect. We are drawn into an even rhythm that makes it very easy to continue reading.

$50000 to have me willingly make out with you.

$20000 to take me on a vacation for a month.

$5000 to have me as your girlfriend for a week.

$750 for anal sex.

$500 for a rimjob.

$375 for a vaginal fuck.

$295 for a blowjob.

$200 to lick my pussy

$175 to watch me play with myself until I cum.

$150 to watch me play with myself.

Tone:

Obviously, the whole thing is highly sexually charged, at times just plain filthy and, as a result, pretty exciting if I’m going to be honest. I’m reluctant to say the feed is erotic however, because there are other things going on that prevent it from being a simple discourse on sexuality.

First, it has to be said that @NaiveProstitute is quite seriously philosophical. The writer has taken the persona of a whore, a whore that represents all of whoredom throughout the ages, and through her thoughts and experiences, discusses some pretty deep ideas about the nature of sexuality and humanity. In tone, the feed is extremely reflective and cerebral, dwelling upon the nature of prostitution and asking meaningful questions about sexuality and mankind. The fundamental experience of a prostitute is that of a profoundly subjugated woman, and this sets up a melancholic, sometimes disturbing tone. We may be excited by the taboo nature of her lifestyle and the brash way in which she details it, but we are also saddened by the extent to which she is used for sexual gratification. There are moments of shock and sadness in this feed, sometimes simultaneously. Indeed, the real world details we are presented with often seem designed to provoke an emotional response:

When an ugly, hideous old man is pounding his flesh into mine, what is the discovery? What does he discover?

However, there is also an intellectual response that the writer invites us to explore, which is as potent as the immediate emotional reaction we have. The writer sets up philosophical debates that are very much poetic, inasfar as they present the us with ambiguities. To fully appreciate this feed the reader needs to be as reflective as the narrator and look into the gaps and silences in meaning.

The point is that sexuality is revolutionary until you turn off the lights.

Things are complicated further by a pervading sense of gloom that borders of morbid. References to death, souls, the night, numbness, pickling, ‘the fallen’ and so on combine to establish a dark tone that quickly puts pay to any simple titillation.

It all belongs to the night.

My revenge is the way you tell me that you love me simply because your penis is pickling away in my cunt.

I enjoy swallowing the souls of men.

On this note, moments of genuine sadness also permeate the feed, where the narrator outlines the futility of an existence that is not only commoditised, but bound to the animal pleasures of ‘ugly men’. Deep stuff.

I spend my life waiting for a man to murder my instincts.

I am a prostitute and my voice is narrow, my body is thin, my lips are supple and my dreams are vain.

So, exciting, reflective, philosophical and dark – in many ways a good example of Romanticism. A key difference is that where Romanticism can come across as pensive to the point of insecurity, @NaiveProstitute is almost confident to the point of being triumphant. There is absolutely no self-pity, loathing or doubt in the world of this character, and she often takes delight in her mastery over male sexual urges. Subsequently, we can pity the naïve prostitute if we wish, but she definitely does not ask us to.

A man said that he would leave his wife for me, then he gave me $400 and went away.

My revenge is the way you tell me that you love me simply because your penis is pickling away in my cunt.

I am not some poor hapless girl who fell in the wrong way, I want to be here.

Subject matter:

Tricky. There’s an awful lot going on in this feed – gender politics, sexual potency and its effect upon morality, the commodification of women, the reclaiming of female sexuality in a misogynist world, the conflict between sexuality and spirituality, sin and sexuality, the oppression and sexual subjugation of women and the paradox of female sexual control/ submission, to name a few. The best thing to do is to read for yourself, see how you feel, think about why you feel how you feel, and drop me a comment explaining your findings.

Ultimately, the title of the feed is telling. For all the philosophising, triumph and sexual potency, this is still the narrative of a subjugated woman who is trapped by the very same circumstances that empower her. Perhaps naively so.

A truly fascinating piece of writing.

-Unseen Flirtations

I am the woman that can only find numbness from the overstimulation, through the fucking, the random useless fucking.

What am I then? The filthy fallen woman, I think not.

What am I then, if not the slut that attempts to turn her body against the machine by embodying the machine.

What am I then, but a female revolutionary in my own cowardly, epicurean way?

I am the difference between commodification and commoditization.

I am the future of humanity where sex can only be purchased with U.S. Dollars and gold.

I spend my logic on petroleum jelly, on the lubrication of that fine American dream.

I felt it, when I was young watching the Disney shows, being fucked by my inner Mickey.

I felt it, once when I was in my late teens, society was fucking me, expecting me to be, expecting me to behave like a mall bunny.

I am a prostitute and every day thousands of women are trafficked for the purpose of pleasing the sex starved workers.

I am a prostitute and I spend my days waiting for the perfect night.

Related post: A breakdown of the excellent @chilean_miner twitter feed.

Romeo and Juliet Act 2, Scene 1: Mercutio taunts Romeo

Romeo and Juliet Act 2, Scene 1: Mercutio taunts Romeo

BENVOLIO
He ran this way, and leap’d this orchard wall:
Call, good Mercutio.
MERCUTIO
Nay, I’ll conjure too.
Romeo! humours! madman! passion! lover!
Appear thou in the likeness of a sigh:
Speak but one rhyme, and I am satisfied;
Cry but ‘Ay me!’ pronounce but ‘love’ and ‘dove;’
Speak to my gossip Venus one fair word,
One nick-name for her purblind son and heir,
Young Adam Cupid, he that shot so trim,
When King Cophetua loved the beggar-maid!
He heareth not, he stirreth not, he moveth not;
The ape is dead, and I must conjure him.
I conjure thee by Rosaline’s bright eyes,
By her high forehead and her scarlet lip,
By her fine foot, straight leg and quivering thigh
And the demesnes that there adjacent lie,
That in thy likeness thou appear to us!
BENVOLIO
And if he hear thee, thou wilt anger him.
MERCUTIO
This cannot anger him: ‘twould anger him
To raise a spirit in his mistress’ circle
Of some strange nature, letting it there stand
Till she had laid it and conjured it down;
That were some spite: my invocation
Is fair and honest, and in his mistress’ name
I conjure only but to raise up him.
BENVOLIO
Come, he hath hid himself among these trees,
To be consorted with the humorous night:
Blind is his love and best befits the dark.
MERCUTIO
If love be blind, love cannot hit the mark.
Now will he sit under a medlar tree,
And wish his mistress were that kind of fruit
As maids call medlars, when they laugh alone.
Romeo, that she were, O, that she were
An open et cetera, thou a poperin pear!
Romeo, good night: I’ll to my truckle-bed;
This field-bed is too cold for me to sleep:
Come, shall we go?
BENVOLIO
Go, then; for ’tis in vain
To seek him here that means not to be found.
Exeunt

Form:

Apart from the odd interjection from everyone’s favourite peace-seeker Benvolio, this entire scene is a Mercutio-launched verbal assault directed squarely at his lovesick best friend, Romeo. The scene is a short interlude that sits between the excitement of Romeo and Juliet’s first meeting and their exchange of love’s true vows in the balcony scene. Fair enough. On a plot level not much happens at all – all we get is Romeo being asked by his mates to leave Juliet alone for the night, which he promptly refuses to do and runs off to breach enemy walls, armed with love’s light wings.

Dramatically, however, the scene is a chance for Mercutio to do what he does best: hog the limelight, say some outrageous things and prance about.

Language and Imagery:

First things first, Mercutio is what we can safely call a Dirty Bastard. His taunting speeches are riddled with what we might nowadays call ‘dick jokes’, sort of semi-disguised in thin puns and double entendres. He starts off fairly tame, goading Romeo with images of Rosaline’s body – her ‘high forehead, scarlet lip, straight leg and quivering thigh’. When that doesn’t work, he takes it to the next level and goes balls out crude with sexual innuendo, starting with a sly reference to the ‘demenses’ (‘land’) that lies adjacent to her quivering thigh. Yes kids, that does mean her vagina.

And it gets worse. When Benvolio diplomatically says ‘and if he hear thee thou wilt anger him’ (translate: ‘man, shut the cuff up, you’re gonna piss him off!’) Mercutio responds with some fairly tasteless references to Romeo’s sexual frustrations:

This cannot anger him: ‘twould anger him
To raise a spirit in his mistress’ circle
Of some strange nature, letting it there stand
Till she had laid it and conjured it down;
That were some spite.

Here, ‘raising a spirit’ is a reference to ‘getting it up’, or having an erection, which Mercutio says Romeo wants to do in his mistress’ ‘circle’. Yes kids, that does mean her vagina. Now, while there is reference here to some mumbo-jumbo folklore about raising spirits from a circle drawn on the ground, Mercutio is actually talking sex. He is saying that Romeo would feel ‘spite’ if some other ‘strange’ guy got the chance to ‘stand’ in Rosaline’s ‘demenses’ before he did. And oh yeah, ‘spirit’ is 16th century slang for ‘semen’. So there you go.

The imagery in all of this is clear enough, but Mercutio ramps it up when he starts to get all fruity. Literally. Have a look at this picture of a medlar fruit:

A small, round fruit with an apricot-like cleft that opens up when ripe and ready to eat. Mercutio equates this with… lady parts, which remain closed until said lady is ready to ‘open up’. Yep, exactly. Now, Mercutio says that a) Romeo wants to be around medlars, (horny) b) Romeo wishes his mistress was like a medlar (ie: ripe and ready to ‘open up’) and c) that maids call their ‘fruit’ medlars when they ‘laugh alone’ (ie: in the privacy of their bedrooms doing what young men fantasise about girls doing alone). Are you getting how rude all of this is? Well it gets worse when he then goes on to state that Romeo wishes he was a ‘poperin pear’, which, to get to the point, is late 16th century slang for penis. Simply because the Poperinghe pear is reminiscent in shape of the male sexual member and looks like it would fit snugly into the medlar’s cleft. It’s worth mentioning that a particularly ribald player could pronounce it “pop her in” pear, for added laffs. Get it?

(also, ‘open et cetera’ is originally ‘open arse’ – the actual slang term used to describe the medlar fruit. I guess modern editors are just squeamish)

Rhythm and Tone:

During this short and undeniably filthy scene, Shakespeare ramps up the innuendo from fairly innocuous references to Rosaline’s body to full blown mental images of sexual organs, represented by bits of fruit. For an audience, little chuckles of acknowledgement could develop into yelps of shock as Mercutio’s puns get increasingly more base. The scene is brief and adds little to the story, but it injects a spike of humour into rapid plot development and makes for a nice contrast to the intensity of the balcony scene that follows.

Obviously, Shakespeare plays it for laughs, but the extremity of Mercutio’s taunts suggests something more complex in tone. We know that Romeo’s adventures in love are going to end in ultimate tragedy and there is a sense of desperation in Mercutio’s efforts to stop him from breaching the house of Capulet. Also, as Juliet later attests to, Romeo is literally risking his life to see her, a fact that Romeo’s mates would also be aware of. Yes, Mercutio is getting a few laughs and trying to get a rise out of his best bud, but he just might also be trying to protect him from danger.

Subject matter:

On the one hand, this scene is about sex and the strength of Romeo’s sexual urges, but it also highlights the conflict between different types of love in the play. Unbeknownst to his friends, Romeo has gotten over the melancholy of his ‘courtly love’ (medieval convention of unrequited love where you act like a moody teenager and write poems about lovesickness etc) and is not even thinking about the high forehead of Rosaline. He has developed a deep and spiritual connection with Juliet, a true love that is leading him towards his tragic fate.

Mercutio may not know that it will all end in death, but he has a deep-seated fraternal love for Romeo. This makes it difficult for him to accept Romeo’s decision to choose a girl over his mates, and it is unsurprising that the strength of his feelings is manifested in wild and outrageous sexual banter. So, as always with old Billy Bard, there are serious undertones at play, even during a seemingly ‘light’ scene. You could even argue that Mercutio’s feelings towards Romeo go beyond fraternal love into something more intimate – feelings that he can’t express openly.

On this note, it is telling that the scene ends not with a crowd-pleasing punchline, but with sober resignation. After all the laughs and energy, Mercutio simply gives up, accepting that any efforts to help Romeo are in vain. From ‘haha’ to ‘eww’ to ‘aww…’, in 40 lines.

-Unseen Flirtations

Click here for a detailed analysis of Romeo and Juliet’s first kiss: Act 1, scene 4.