Tag Archives: psychology

Bettie Page (Innocence courting the Dark)

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I have been a fan of Bettie Page since her resurgence in the eighties. She died in 2008, and was a sweet Christian little old lady. Bettie had an innocence even when posing completely nude and in suggestive ways. It is hard to get to the bottom of her appeal. There were many pinups in the fifties, but Bettie stood out. I think it is because when men looked at her nude photos it was as if they had violated Bettie herself. She seemed sweet and innocent, unaware of the lustful intents of her fans, and would have been shocked if she knew what men did as they viewed her photos. At least this is what men wanted to imagine. Women who no longer felt the slightest shame and viewed sex completely as a necessary commodity in order for them to live, in other words, whores, were not much of a turn on to men who wanted to dominate their women. Bettie seemed to invite such domination.

But of course all of this is nonsense. Bettie knew what she was doing, but it is true that she might have developed a split personality isolating the naughty Bettie from the God-fearing Bettie. She claimed to see nothing wrong with what she did, but I am not sure I believe her. She took her Christianity very seriously, perhaps too seriously. I don’t know any of the particulars of why she spent time in a mental hospital, but I suspect it may have been the conflict between her religious values and her livelihood may have sent her around the bend.

Bettie was sexy in a kind of effortless way. She seemed to keep a bit of herself hidden from view, pure and unsullied. We could lust over her lovely body but not her soul. Sex should never become ordinary and unremarkable. There should be a dark thrill at the sight of a woman’s pubic hair. It brings forth the desire to possess, to conquer, to rape and pillage. Pure naked lust married to aggression is the driving force behind the appeal of Bettie Page’s fetishistic work. It is disguised as playful, but this stuff is dark. It involves degradation and humiliation. Sexual pleasure becomes confused with these things, and with physical pain itself. It is curious that Bettie appeared to embrace this lifestyle, given her near obsession with Christianity. I am sure she claimed she didn’t really understand what all the bondage stuff was about, but I think that is disingenuous. She knew. She liked it. Then she could no longer accept this courting of the Dark, and reinterpreted her life to preserve her innocence. At least this is how it seems to me.

This still doesn’t get to the bottom of her appeal. She is naughty in a non-naughty way. She was a way of satisfying one’s prurient desire while pretending to have only an ‘artistic’ interest in Bettie Page. This is true even of this post. Is she really the icon of hip female sexuality? or is she the icon of the rape of the innocent and the subjugation and humiliation of women? Perhaps both. Bettie was the beginning of the metrosexual. A culture in which it is cool to find pleasure in pain, and that your body should be a banquet for all your admirers to feed upon. Having said all that I am still a fan of Bettie Page although I admit to having mixed feelings about it, as I have mixed feelings about any pornography. But this isn’t pornography, I can hear some of you saying. Sure it is. If you are getting a boner looking at it, it has excited your prurient interest. Not necessarily a bad thing. Do I feel some of you squirming as you contemplate your values. Good. I have achieved my purpose.

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Sex Death

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Just look at her and think, I mean really think. This is the face of death, not the face of pleasure, or of sex, just Sex Death.

This is a difficult piece to write. I noticed that stellamarr was following stockphotogirl, one of my other blogs. If you haven’t checked out that blog you should do so before finishing this piece so you will know what I am going on about. And so I checked out her blog, and in turn I checked out the secret diary of a Dublin call girl. This is not easy reading, especially for a man. Stella Marr is an ex-call girl, now a writer. I know next to nothing about the sex industry to be honest, although I have very liberal views about sex, and about women. I am dead set against the exploitation of women in any form, and yet am I exploiting stock photo woman? When she posed for those photos she understood that her image would be used for advertising, but not to illustrate a work of fiction. I wonder how she would feel about my whole series. Would she feel abused? But more about that later, my focus for this post is on the horror of prostitution, and the world of call girls. The photo above says it all as far as street prostitution is concerned. She is anorexic either due to drug use or just because she thinks she needs to be super thin to be a suitable commodity. Whatever is the case, I am literally sickened by the fact that sex has become a means for demeaning and destroying the lives of millions of women, and actually, to a lesser extent, the men who prey on them. When I read blogs like the secret diary of a Dublin call girl I want my penis to shrivel up to the size of a pea and then fall off. It makes me ashamed of my sexuality. Young women are perceived as sex objects every minute of their lives, usually in more subtle ways than what is involved in outright prostitution. I think it comes as a shocking discovery to many young men that women are in fact human like themselves, and exist for reasons other than sexually satisfying men. A lot of young and older men never make this discovery. I have a very hard time of it, because I have unwittingly used women. I try to redeem it with the writing itself, transforming stock photo girl into an actual human being. At least, I hope I have succeeded in doing this. But that whole thing is based on an infatuation I had with that model, so sex is it’s underpinning. I would not want to demean or embarrass that model. But am I anyway? Am I being demeaning in ways I don’t understand or detect? This is the problem for many men. We can’t always tell when we are being thoughtless towards women. Or am I being unduly harsh on myself? In the one sexual scene I wrote with stock photo girl, she was not used or abused in any way. He didn’t pay for sex, the fantasy was consensual, in fact it had been her idea. Plus I deliberately stood on it’s head the usual expectations of a male reader regarding sexual encounters. Women being in awe of a man’s sexual prowess just isn’t my bag, I can’t write that crap.

I would recommend that men read secretlifeofamanhattancallgirl.wordpress, which is Stella Marr’s blog, as well as the secret diary of a Dublin callgirl. Because we need that perspective. When we get caught up in our sexual fantasies this provides a bit of realism. Women do not exist for our sexual pleasure. They have lives which have nothing to do with us, which we should familarize ourselves with. Some guys get really pissed off by these women, if you are the sort of man who can’t handle ‘uppity’ women, you should steer clear. Now, as I have made clear on several occasions, I am a bit of a pervert, I have a perverse imagination to be sure, so don’t think from what I have written here that I am some kind of holy saint. Or that I am a feminist. No. My misogynist roots are deep, and it takes blogs like Stella Marr’s blog or Margaret Cho’s blog to help dig those roots out. In a word, dear reader, you have no idea, really no idea just how degrading prostitution is for all concerned, but especially for the prostitute. It is Sex Death as far as I am concerned. It kills all the pleasure anyone might obtain from sex. Now I recognize that there may be exceptions to this, but they are exceptions that prove the rule. I’m talking about the scummy underbelly of the sex industry. The part that industry prefers you not know about. Now I am not a psychologist and I can’t examine what causes women to take that road, sometimes they really have no choice in the matter. They may be literal sex slaves, prostitutes because they would be killed otherwise, or it may be because they see no other option. Sex is the most powerful drug on Earth, when you harness sex to other needs it is damn near impossible to deal with. It takes over your life, It ceases to be a source of pleasure, and empowerment, and becomes an agony, a sex death. It makes me want to be celibate, and never write pieces like “An Indecent Proposal” again. But after a bit, I gain some perspective.

I should not be ashamed of my love of sex. But I should keep a good eye (my one good eye), on my intention. What am I trying to achieve with sex? Is a woman’s body a commodity? Am I redeeming myself when I take an obvious commodity such as a Stock Photo Woman and attempt to make her a real character? While I definitely have the hots for that model, I also wonder about what she is like as a person. Am I exploiting her? I would like to think I’m not by virtue of how I have used her image. To be honest, the entire fashion industry is founded upon women as sex objects, and very particular sex objects at that. If a woman doesn’t look like the beautiful, perfectly crafted stock photo women they see everywhere, then a man is sorely disappointed. Guys????? Hello????? These women are pure product, as far as the image is concerned. They don’t exist in real life. Take a look at the actual women you see every day, in the flesh. My intention with Stock Photo Woman was to repurpose all of that nonsense. Far from making her an empty shell, I have endeavored to sabotage male expectations. But I am a flawed man. I do not pretend to be free of male chauvinism. I am not a champion for women’s rights necessarily, although I do support that. I am just an older man with a crush on a stock photo woman. Does this make me a punter?, I wonder. A punter is a john in case you were wondering. And if you don’t know what a john is, then you are too young to be reading this material, go back to bed young man!

It is hard to have a sense of humor about these matters. I have to admit, I wonder at why Stella Marr would want to follow my stockphotogirl blog. Does she genuinely enjoy it? or does she want to see how this punter exploits an innocent model who didn’t ask to be in his story. If ever I get a complaint from this model, believe you me, the posts disappear just like that. I have no desire to hurt anyone. Or am I just full of shit, as usual? Let me know. Especially you, Stella Marr.

Enid

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Enid my Eternal Muse

This post is in praise of Enid, a character from Daniel Clowes’ graphic novel Ghost World, which was made into a great cult film starring Thora Birch and Scarlett Johannson. Thora is brilliant in this film. I fell in love with her portrayal of Enid. Enid is me. I am Enid, She is my inner female, without a doubt. If I were a woman, I would be Enid. She is witty, sexy, and kind of otherworldly. You can’t hope to really get to know her, you can only marvel at her existence. Daniel Clowes’ version is a bit darker than the film version. Thora brings a sweetness to the character, hidden beneath her constant stream of sarcasm. This is the Enid I prefer. She wants everyone to think she doesn’t give a damn, but secretly she cares. A lot! Just like me.

Hey! Look! I'm Batgirl!

Enid spots this fetish item in a porn shop and cannot resist putting it on. She sees humor in the sordid, as do I. Hey, look I’m Batgirl! She doesn’t say that in the film, but she should have! Daniel Clowes created an enigma with the Enid character. You want to get inside her head and examine her brain. She is drawn to the rejected, the lonely, the crazy lost souls of Ghost World. Ghost World is clearly her world. She is vibrantly alive, surrounded by ghosts.

I was struck by the scene shown below, in which Enid and her friend talk to the crazy old guy that always sits at an abandoned bustop. They try to explain that the bus doesn’t stop there anymore, but he insists it does. At the end of the film, a bus does arrive at this bustop and Enid boards it. This bus is from ‘another place’, as David Lynch would put it, and now Enid is where she belongs, far far away from the dismal Ghost World the rest of us have to endure. She is dressed in red, which is rich in symbolic meaning which I won’t go into here.

I feel as though I know Enid, as though she is a real person. I can feel her presence, commenting acidly on our current cultural stupidity. She pretends to be shocked, but she never is. Nothing gets past Enid.

Bustop in Limbo

The movie doesn’t give us the pleasure of seeing Enid as a little girl, although Clowes’ did a few Ghost World comics with little Enid. I bought a great Little Enid action figure which I have to share with you, because it is unbearably cute.

Isn't she cute?

It was unfortunate that the film did not include the reason for the film’s name. The name Ghost World came from graffiti the girls saw scrawled on a garage door. I love that image. It could have been at the end of the opening credits or something. If only they could have had me there to advise them!

Finally, I will leave you with a great shot from the film. The genius of this film was in capturing how kids fresh out of high school really look and act. Enid is the essence of cool, but also a confused young woman too wise for her years.

The Dark Knight

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I was listening to Danny Elfman’s opening credits music for the first Tim Burton Batman film, when I came across a story in the San Francisco Chronicle. A man in Oakland had been walking his tiny little eight pound terrier, when he was approached by a couple of thugs. These guys thought the Red Sox cap and red sweater meant this man belonged to a gang, and proceeded to beat the crap out of him. When the little dog, named Shadow, began barking and trying to protect his owner, the thugs stomped the little dog to death. The music swelled in my headphones as a perfect accompaniment to my rage over this gross injustice. A little dog! What threat did he pose? I wanted to kill those thugs with my bare hands. Such is the birth of Batman.

Batman has remained popular since his inception in  1939, on the eve of the Second World War, because he is us. A human being outraged by the outrageous evil in our everyday lives. His parents were gunned down senselessly, and so the young Bruce Wayne devised a way to strike fear into the hearts of such thugs. Batman appeals to the vigilante within us, but he has a code of conduct. He does not carry a gun, and avoids killing if at all possible. The genius of Batman lies in the fact that although he’s quite gothic, at least in the beginning, and today, he is a beacon of hope within the darkness in which he dwells. He has been represented in various ways throughout his career, but the dark knight is probably the most resonant, especially in today’s dark times. Batman was born in the Depression, as was Superman, and he fought for the underdog. Of course, Bruce Wayne is a rich playboy, but unlike Donald Trump, Bruce Wayne could be imagined visiting an Occupy Wall Street demonstration to offer his qualified support. The wealth was a device to enable Bruce Wayne to support himself while being Batman, and to have a very expensive Batcave lair, with an undoubtedly expensive Batmobile, Batplane, and even a Batsubmarine.

The early Batman comics, which are among my favorites, are spooky. Shadows loom large, and his cape gave Batman a spectral majesty. He was quite operatic, with the cowl and cape, and connects us with antiheroes in literature and film, such as the Phantom of the Opera. He is not an evil figure, and yet he evokes Dracula. His appearance owes a debt to the German expressionists, and stimulates a complex array of emotions, much of it subconscious. But to me, as a snot-nosed kid, he just looked cool.

Unlike Superman, Batman was vulnerable. You could easily imagine him getting killed or hurt. It wasn’t until recently with his ongoing battle with Bain, that Batman actually gets badly hurt. I had to suspend my disbelief, as a child, when Batman managed to escape from harm with bullets flying all around him. His utility belt also stretched my imagination to the breaking point. Just how much stuff is in there? Why does he always have the most improbable thing in his belt just when he needs it? Of course, I realized that comics are not logical.

  Then there is the matter of the eyes. There aren’t any!! I can recall a fairly recent Batman comic which made fun of this fact, with another character commenting on the creepiness of the white space in place of eyes. Actually it just adds to the uncanny quality of Batman. When Bruce dons the costume and cowl, he becomes a magical icon from out of our collective unconscious, and such icons don’t have eyes. All psychologists know this. It was one of the few things that Freud and Jung agreed on.

Because Batman had no special powers, he always represented us. We could put ourselves into the story much  more effectively with Batman than Superman, Green Lantern, Flash, or Wonder Woman. With them there was always a gimmick, which was fun, but with Batman you could really imagine how you would fair in that comic book world. I could learn martial arts just like Bruce did. I could manage to keep my massive cape out of the way as I engaged in fisticuffs with a bunch of loons with very poor aim.

With the Silver Age of Batman (the fifties and early sixties) he lost his original mysterious quality and become a much friendlier, but also goofier hero. The stories became much more outlandish, but as a kid I didn’t really care. The Silver Age was packed with all kinds of great characters. Never mind that you see Batman in outer space with no helmet, somehow avoiding death by suffocation. Never mind that he joined the Justice League and spent a lot of the time standing about, listening to the other superheroes discuss strategy.

  Undoubtedly one of the best things about Batman was his car. I mean, none of the other heroes had cars, didn’t need them, but Batman had the very cool Batmobile. My favorite has to be the Silver Age Batmobile, I mean the bat fin and the cowl on the front is kitsch paradise as far as I am concerned. It has that Buck Rogers 1930’s chic going for it. Seeing that awesome car barreling through the streets of Gotham is great to recreate in your imagination and I did for many years.

Batman created the car himself in 1950, and the panel above shows Robin’s reaction. Ten years ahead? You bet! Fuel-injected overdrive, bullet resistant glass, state of the art intercom, and whitewalls. It was a heavy vehicle and only someone with Batman’s strength could handle a standard transmission. Power steering? That’s for sissies!

There have been other Batmobiles since (see above) but they don’t compare to the original. In fact, what the heck is that last thing? That isn’t the Batmobile, it’s some kind of Humvee from Hell.

  There was a campy mid-sixties Batman tv show, which I didn’t particularly like as a kid. It wasn’t Batman. It was Adam West. I got involved in other things and lost track of Batman until the awesome Batman cartoons of the nineties on Cartoon Network. There had been Batman cartoons before, but Super Friends was not the kind of cartoon I craved. I never watched them. The great film treatment by Tim Burton resparked my interest in the Dark Knight. I did think Michael Keaton was miscast, but Jack Nicholson played a memorable Joker, unmatched until Heath Ledger created an equally memorable Joker. The cartoons of the nineties however managed to capture the hip quality of Batman, and the artwork was superb, matching the look of much of both the Golden and Silver Age. He became a character somewhat removed from the others, unlike the family friendly Batman of the Silver Age. He retained his dark allure, and the voice was perfect.

Batman is still going strong today, although he has become a bit too dark for my taste. I liked the grey outfit with the blue cape and the bat on the chest, both with or without the yellow oval. In the latest movie versions, and even in the comics he is becoming too macho. I don’t like the super buff transformer outfit he wears. I would like to see him become more of a human being once again.

This is not Batman. This is Adam West. This is not Robin. This is Bert Ward.