Monday, 26 December 2005

Holiday Love: A Worthy Meme I'm not big on memes . . . but I'm big on blogs so I'm "starting" one. Kevin first dished the holiday love but I'm the one who memed it. I won't include Kevin on my list since he wrote the post I memed—nor should you feel obliged to include me on yours—but I demand Adam, Miriam B., Michael, Noah, Tim, Dr. B., Luke & Jonathan, Matt, Ben and OtherScott bow before my meme. These are the ten blogs I feel the urge to check most frequently. Some of them don't update regularly . . . some of them I disagree with vehemently but in productive ways . . . some of them I feel like a brother to . . . and some of them make me feel like a fellow traveller. But all of them make me think outside the cooler on a regular basis and for that I bestow upon them the garland of Holiday Love. I should be more specific. I should say things like: "Noah renews my faith in literature." "Dr. B. reminds me that all feminism isn't as shrill as first year graduate student feminism." "Tim says everything I wish I had the smarts to say . . . only better and in a timely fashion." "Adam causes me to pause before I mouth my nonsense to the faithful or the psychoanalytically inclined." "Michael embodies the public intellectual I aspire to be . . . and in doing so stops me from drinking myself into a stupor nightly." "OtherScott reminds me that had Michael or Trilling been booted from academia they would not have been denied the life of the public intellectual." "Matt gives me pause . . . gives me reason to remember what it was like to discover meaning instead of finding it." "Miriam B. provides me the example of responsible but responsive scholarship I hope to emulate." "Luke & Jonathan call to mind the wide eyes and enthusiam which I brought to graduate school and force me to face the mind I was." "Ben reminds me that I'm a lonely blade a grass next to a massive fucking sequoia." While I'm at it I also want to thank my readers, without whom this blog wouldn't be read: Rich, Jonathan, Kevin, Adam R. and (other) Adam R., (Old) Doug Johnson, Laura, Shrike, David, Justin, Steve, Tim, Shannon, (other) Laura, Meg, Walt, Stephen, (other) Stephen, (other) Scott, (other other) Scott, Steve, Mike, (other) Mike, Jenny, Jennifer, (other) Tim, Nichole, Kelly, McKenzie, Beth, Jamie (female), Jamie (male), Christian, Jim, Dan, (other) Jason (Houston), (other other) Jason (Houston), Ray, Ralph, Raymond, Vincent, Patrick, Rachel, S. and Rachel W. and Sarah C. and Sarah K. and Sarah S. and Brian F. and Brian T. and Brian Q. and . . . and anyone else who I've accidently omitted from this list. I didn't forget you . . . I just can't count that high. The fact that I have so many people who read my work...
King Kong: The Sum of Its Ideological Failings or Grist Your Mill Can't Refine? Peter Jackson's King Kong will cause your average academic to explode in hyperventalitory fits about evils like crass capitalism, American imperialism and racialized sexualities. These predictable complaints predate the viewing of the film because they are staples of American academic culture. No left-thinking scholar would dare utter a word in favor of Jackson's film for fear of being shot down by his or her peers as supporting capitalism, imperialism, racism and heteronormative gender roles . . . across species. But can you imagine a more boring reaction to a work which somehow manages to offend so many sensitivities? To assume that it can be no more than the sum of its ideological failings entails another assumption: that Peter Jackson is unaware of the historical context not only of his film but the original. One more thing: to focus on what the film captures about its historical moment and 1) not acknowledge that there is a significant difference between a work produced in a given historical moment and one which reproduces that moment 70 years later and 2) plain lazy thinking. I'll deal with the latter first: LOOK AT EVERYTHING JACKSON CRITIQUES! LOOK HOW DAMNING HIS CONDEMNATION OF COLONIAL EXPLOITATION, CAPITALIST HUBRIS, STEREOTYPICAL MASCULINITY AND HOLLYWOOD VALUES IS! LOOK AT VALORIZATION OF THE CLIFFORD ODETS-LIKE DRAMATIST, THE AFRICAN AMERICAN CREW CHIEF AND THE INDEPENDENT WOMAN IS! LOOK! SEE? The knee-jerk academic criticism of the film would miss the subtle way in which Jackson's film fights the stereotypes of the people populating it. He and his co-writers scripted narrative that invalidates the stereotypes to which an academic who hasn't seen the film but "knows" what it's about would object. No one who left that movie would think the spirit of American ingenuity—valorized in Act One but vilified in Act Three—such a wonderful thing. Unless academics are so hardened that they don't empathize with Kong, there is simply no way that they leave the film thinking anything other than: Racism is bad. Sexism is bad. Capitalism is bad. Hollywood is bad. Platonic love is super. Animal rights are awesome. The means by which those thoughts are achieved are suspect . . . as they should be, given that Jackson remained faithful to the film he had adapted. The only way this strawman would be satisfied would be for Jackson's film to resemble the original in name alone. But isn't what he's done more subversive? Isn't sneaking sound left-thinking morality into an otherwise morally reprehensible film a good thing? Isn't that the sort of counter-propaganda the academic left should support? I think it is . . . . . . but I should add that I have no proof anyone, academic or otherwise, actually thinks these things about the film. I thought them as I watched it because I couldn't deny that some of the representations—esp. of the "race" of "natives" who "worshipped" Kong and looked suspiciously like the Uruk-hai from The Lord of the Rings — had me squirming. Then I asked myself...

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