Bright Lights Film Journal

Set my Polack free!

An apt cinematic analogy of the Polanski brouhaha can be found in Charles Laughton’s NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, namely the hyper-reactive old salt of the general store, Mrs. Icey Spoon (Evelyn Varden). First she practically forces Robert Mitchum’s homicidal preacher on poor Shelley Winters, taking his collar and phony rap at face value, endangering and traumatizing Shelley and her children. Then when she finds she’s been hoodwinked she immediately starts screaming for a vigilante hanging, further traumatizing the children. Thus our friend Icey is a great representation of the American Justice & Media system and its power to fuck up nearly everything it touches by over-reacting, fear-mongering and four day-old fish peddling. If the media is Icey than it’s Icey when she’s not only on her high horse, but drunk as a skunk as well, fighting and apologizing with puppy dog tears and repetitive, maudlin blubbering. Just go to bed! we yell at it. But it’s not leaving until the bottle is empty, all our money’s gone, and all the houselights are broken… and maybe some of our bones.

Few of the pro-Polanski critics have been drawing the Mrs. Spoons in the country quite like Huffington Post journalist Kim Morgan, who received a barrage of seething hate mail for posting an older piece of hers on REPULSION, titled “Polanski Knows Women. Therein she posits something the rabble never like to hear, that women, and that means girls too, are complex and just as screwed-up sexually as men:

Deneuve makes one feel the confusion of a corrupted child: She is an arrested adolescent who, like an anorexic, cannot face her womanliness without visions of perverse opulence and violence. Carol is the personification of sexual mystery — she is what lurks beneath the orgasms of pleasure and pain. What Polanski finds intriguing and revolting is perceptively female, making Repulsion a woman’s picture more than women may want to know, or care to face.

She responded to the ensuing barrage on her own Sunset Gun by reprinting the article and some of the comments with her responses:

Well if I get a prize, I’ll hand a gold statue to The Post News blogger who wrote a bizarre, creepy take on my piece: “Kim Morgan claims she’s setting aside her arguments for the right to rape children, and instead does some film criticism of Repulsion in an effort to suggest that Polanski can’t be a rapist, because he understands women , and their dark desires — hint, hint, his 13-year-old victim was asking for it when she cried and said no and begged to go home. Polanski knows women better than they know themselves, she says. He knows, apparently, that 13-year-olds are dying to be raped, even if they continue to say no after the fact by pressing charges… Morgan’s insinuation that rape is some secret desire of women everywhere, and especially of junior high school girls.”

I’m not sure how to respond to this this Andrea Dworkin-style foaming of the mouth, other than, I’m happy that she actually dug into my piece this deeply and at least saw some of the dual desires of women. Or, rather, what she views what I see. Even if she erroneously believes I’m saying Polanski can’t be a rapist, because he understands women. And even if she thinks I’m a sick fuck.

The hostility towards Morgan’s admittedly provocative piece becomes even more telling when when one takes into account that it originally came out a long time ago. Why wasn’t anyone lashing out and accusing her of championing rape then? Polanski was still a rapist; is it one’s proximity to the top story headline that increases guilt? Now that the Times mentions it, why yes, thank you, I would like a pitchfork and a torch.

All you have to do is go over to the Huffington Post link and see her L.A. cute blonde picture alongside the words “Film and culture writer” and you’ve already got a lot of different people angry, unless she’s writing sob sister “I’m just a girl” recycled PR-puffery, which she certainly isn’t and god bless her. This country is all about opposing fundamentalist Muslim-style restrictions on women, but if you’re blond and young and attractive, don’t you dare be smarter, gutsier and better informed than the patriarchal learning curve allows. Marilyn Monroe had to practically hide the fact she knew how to read.

I’ve written many times over the years now in defense of Kim Morgan’s hot blond right to be radical (picture at left), mainly because I 100% agree with her and am inspired by how she has more balls than most male writers put together, not to mention she looks a bit like Catherine Deneuve in REPULSION and if that character had a blog, maybe she wouldn’t have hallucinated hands coming out of the walls. Morgan makes no excuses for her insane edge-of-the-cliff fascination with sexual pain and feminine risk-taking and danger, the black widow mirror of the dark unconscious ocean where sex and death dissolve into one salty morass, the chthonic!

Originally championed in the feminist scene by Camille Paglia, the chthonic could have and should have been the shit if academia wasn’t so anemic and afraid of genuinely progressive change. This sort of change can only occur on the personal level–through fearless self-examination, mortality-facing and maybe therapy, rather than through staid academic lip service by a bunch of people so desperate to cling to their titles and meager shred of power that they break into a sweat when a truly dangerous female arrives on the scene. Perhaps the clinging of the old guard has made it automatic to judge with suspicion anyone who doesn’t have black hair, wear glasses, smoke a pipe and/or wear tw
eed. The conspicuous “fun” of the blond is intimidating mainly because we feel so much pressure to be un-intimidated by it.

Kim’s crimes against the phallus are less forgivable to the public order, for example, than those of someone more androgynous, like Camille Paglia or older and off the hotness grid like, say, Jane Campion or Agnes Varda. Kim’s “crimes” of youth and beauty daring to overstep its proscribed bounds, are similar to those of Asia Argento, who’s recently won a kind of begrudging respect, but who originally got trashed by critics and the public for brave and crazy SCARLET DIVA and THE HEART IS DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS. Nothing brings up a feeling of powerless faster than sexual desire which is kind of what all these media-initiated lynchings are all about — the repressed southern MANDINGO fantasy leading to lynchings in the south, the repressed infantile sexuality of America leading to our current round of Disney-packaged-princess-run-amok ACE IN THE HOLE cave-in survivors; Lindsay Lohan and the Olsen Twins slowly starving and dying in the public eye while we pruriently slaver over their latest naughtinesses.

Polanski and his victim have moved on, but America can’t let go; we’re greedy gluttons when it comes to clucking our tongues over other people’s morals. We can’t let go of anything, let alone a lurid sex scandal involving a minor. We’re stuck at the anal stage and have been for 100 years. The French are laughing at us. In America, you can’t be a great artist or writer and a freak at the same time, at least not if you get caught. Luckily, like Frankie Pentangeles in GODFATHER 2, there is an honorable out: die and all is forgiven. Those who were about to burn down Neverland turn around and start buying up collector’s plates and genuine imitation silver gloves dabbed in Jackson blood.

Speaking of which, Polanski’s beautiful wife Sharon was murdered by members of the Manson family, as we know, back in 1969, and if he’s sentenced and convicted, in a devastating irony straight out of OLDBOY (but probably too contrived for Polanski’s own ouevre), Polanski and Manson could be cellmates. Maybe Polanski will tattoo a Star of David on his forehead and then have a showdown with the swastika-tattooed Manson in the prison cafeteria… can you see the awesome jailhouse cafeteria tracking shot, with the lunch tray’s eye view of Polanski heading toward’s Manson’s table? Maybe Polanksi will cut off Manson’s nose, CHINATOWN-style, with a shiv, thus closing at least three metatextual narrative circles in one fell slash… Now that would be some overdue justice!