Posts Tagged society

Mad Max: Fury Road – a burning world

After watching the movie, I can say the trailer does it justice, while at the same time leaving out one of the best side stories. Most important, it works. The images got stuck in my mind since seeing it before Fast and Furious 7, and I knew I have to watch it.

You’ve got in this trailer the beautifully mastered start of the movie, with the broken rhythm of reality for a mind lost in madness. You’ve got the oppressive ruler who aims to bend life to his own will. You’ve got the action pumping crazily like the flames exploding in a city set alight by a dozen of arsonists at the same time. And you’ve got the deep, dark and broken voice of the guy whose eyes see it all: Max. The mad one. No madder than the rest of the world.
And there is something else, which charmed me at first sight: the images worked with surrealist refinement. I know, this is some quite pretentious language I am using right now, but please believe I cannot help it.
I’m also pondering on how much to reveal as not to spoil it all for you, but to say enough of what I really want to express.

After debating with myself, I have decided I will not reveal anything about the very first image on screen, which made me whisper to my friend, Ana: “Wow, it looks amazing!” (and it wasn’t a flowing summer dress, a pair of gorgeous shoes or a picturesque landscape – well, a landscape it was, burning your retina rather than soothing it)
What I will tell you is how impressed I was with the start of the movie in itself. It has all it needs: good timing, good rhythm, great vision over the jerked movements of the outside seen by a mind gone mad, over the haunting fears and regrets lurking inside.
A small gem in its own, it sets high expectations for the rest of the movie, while it gives you just enough to be satisfied from the very first steps into the story. I would say it was a clever strategy from an experienced director, in line with basic entertainment (and not only) principles: give them enough to keep them interested, but not too much as to overwhelm them. Or put it this way: meet people’s expectations as much as needed not to frustrate them, but go one step further and surprise them as well. This makes the best scaffold for any good entertainment product for the large audience, after all.

In this respect, George Miller marks point after point with Mad Max: Fury Road . I must confess that I have seen the first series a good while ago, probably as a young teenager, and I am not that young any longer (by biological age, at least). So besides Mel Gibson’s charisma, some good action and a misty, faint image of the post-apocalyptic world in that series I cannot remember much. Of course I have always loved Mel Gibson and I can confess that the beautiful madness in his passionate eyes cannot be equalled, at least by my (emotional or not) standards. But then Mad Max: Fury Road  gives you more than one great charismatic actor burning from inside out on the screen. The new movie brings a truly memorable world, the madness spreading through and along, in such a way in which it becomes almost touchable. It imprints its setting into the viewers’ minds with powerful and haunting images not soon to be forgotten. And it does this while pumping crazy action scenes one after another.
Apparently, it has been reported (according to that this was the director’s intention: beautiful settings and breath-taking action to speak for itself.

I have mentioned the images so many times now that I need to give you a few examples, without spoiling the story. See the trailer: the War Rig (huge oil truck), escorted by a few other vehicles, rolling down in a dessert landscape, under a bright sky. Then watch the chasing party catching their tail, the radioactive sand storm, the young woman in bride like attire walking from the oil tank to the truck’s cabin, the beauty and sadness in Furiosa’s eyes. See the water flowing from a burnt huge rock to the people waiting for a drop to keep them going.
And then what you don’t see in the trailer is even better: the night scenes, engulfed in a surreal hue of blue, almost glowing but still heavy like the shadows of death, of all the lost souls who roam a wasted land not entirely alive, but not dead yet.

The way this post-apocalyptic world has been designed and set into motion looks most compelling. No one is spared pain or disease, not even the rulers and their packs of War Lords. Tumours, blisters, poisoned lungs, weakened limbs are the most common things. Never mind the masses waiting at the foot of the high rocks: they seem to exist out of inertia, only due to this self-preservation instinct that all forms of life, but even more human beings, with their sense of self, posses.
Immortan Joe, one of the three dictatorial rules of this world, decides who gets what around his Citadel. He gives the masses speeches and a little water every day, with a voice tone and tactic reminiscent of Hitler. He keeps the right to breeding to himself and his own, he decides for all the rest.

For someone as interested as I am in society and humanity values, certain scenes have a strong impact. I found myself impressed at showing how a handful of peopl decide who gets to have the basic survival needs met and who doesn’t. Immortan Joe gives them words and a little water, while growing lush gardens and vegetables on the top of the rocks for him and his chosen ones, on whose support his power rests on. Somehow this is not necessarily a post-apocalyptic world of the future, it happens today and most people do not think of it, some probably say it’s just the way things are, we cannot do anything to change them, and some even support this state of facts, as they probably feel they are the chosen and entitled ones.
There was another thread of the story which touched me. The character appears in the trailer, but you would not expect much of him, nor think he actually has an important role whatsoever. Besides the two strong lead characters, Max and Furiosa, this guy grows a personality and his personal development is one of the most delightful parts of the whole movie.

While he is still only chasing targets set for him by a choice deprived society, he embodies the fanatic. However, there is innocence in this character throughout. In a certain scene when he gets blessing from the big guy, and my friend Ana was somehow showing her disapproval, I whispered to her, actually with tears stuck in my throat: “give the faintest string of hope, even in death, to somebody who has nothing to expect in this life, and you’ve turned them fanatic”.
To my delight, this character has kept his innocence and supported my observations.

Without spoiling the action, the twists and turns, the dark humour and how the story grows in between the fighting scenes, I can say that Mad Max: Fury Road  is a movie about hope. It shows what happens to people who do still have hope in a non-egotistic way, as they share it with others (Imperator Furiosa). It shows how one without hope, who lost a lot and who is still haunted by all the losses can go mad (Mad Max). It gives the perfect image for egotistic greedy unscrupulous people, who build all their hopes and expectations on the shoulders of others and of taking whatever fits them from all. It gives a touching delicate image of the ones who have just received hope and now have not only what to fight for, but what to die for fighting.
At some point, Max talks about not having hope, a powerful striking statement, but I will let you discover for yourselves.

What this movie is not is a “feminist propaganda” product. Whoever (sorry I cannot be bothered to check) uttered such non-sense could possibly be a person with nothing else to say or do in order to attract more attention on themselves.
Strong women? So now you have to be a feminist and to spread feminist propaganda (whatever that is) to approve women are strong and can fight for themselves, need be?
Strong women escaping an oppressive regime? Please, just read the newspapers and you will see over and over again examples of women standing for their human rights and against discrimination in regimes where they are mere breeders and sexual objects, as well as servants for the man around them.
Or is it really so far-fetched that, in a post-war world ruled by warrior men, who take all the can take and make the law with no respect to other human beings (who are breeders, blood banks or just cockroaches lurking at the foot of the Citadel), women would be treated as providers of babies and pleasure and nothing more? Is it now?

The two main characters in this movie play their part beautifully and success depends on both of them. Imperator Furiosa chases a dream from her childhood, fights for her own when nobody cares for women other than they themselves, but finds her dream shattered. She cannot give up on her paradise, is ready to carry on running to catch its illusory shapes. Max helps take the right turn, his madness proves to be the needed element to change the world whilst making it collapse inside. While his drive is survival and as such he finds himself alongside the fugitives, at some point his perspective changes as well, the hope he lost stays alive in these women, and he cannot fight its bonding strength.
And, as men are said to tend to, he comes up with a solution, in the end.

Last, but not least, George Miller thinking this movie as standing on its own and not a remake of his earlier works proved brilliant. Not a fan of remakes whatsoever, I appreciate how he used a setting and a character to create something new and to emphasize on society and the way it is still heading today.

As we were getting out of the cinema, Ana told me this was the craziest action movie she’s seen in a while, comparing it only to Kill Bill. Then later on, back home, she expressed she liked this one more than Ex Machina, yet another production that I have to write on as I found it clever, refreshing and haunting at the same time.
Definitely, it is the movie which made me think, debate and analyse the most of all I have recently seen.

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Hollywood goes stupid on BDSM


It has been a while since the whole internet (and not only) was buzzing with “Fifty Shades of Grey” frenzy. Unlike many, I did not run to the cinema to watch it, although I knew I would eventually have to. As somebody interested in alternative erotica and how it makes it into mainstream, watching it was a must.
Despite reading a couple of reviews and personal opinions on it, I went to the cinema with an open mind. Therefore, I can say there are some good scenes, which could have given the watcher a good sense of domination in sex and everything connected with BDSM eroticism. However, the sensuality of these scenes is suppressed and even shattered by all the unnecessary and abusive elements brought into the picture without any real consideration. After paying to see this movie, some of us may feel that it was nothing but a shallow use of controversy for the sake of box office success only and no further considerations.

(Photo: from wikipedia, featured picture of Lady Byron)

Yes, very Hollywood-like indeed, if we are to be very critical of the American movie industry. And as A., my partner, put it, those intimate moments between Dominant and Submissive which are not messed up in the movie might have actually been copied from whatever material available in the sex and porn movies industry. They somehow managed to give a glimpse on the erotic pact which is part of the BDSM game, but only to later aggravate everything and turn eroticism into abuse.

And this is the reason why I am writing now about “Fifty Shades of Grey” in English, after I have done it in Romanian. Not to talk extensively about the movie itself and to mainly criticise how they portrayed the Dominant as an abuser, exactly what alternative sexuality needed, but to debate how harmful it actually is.
To do this, I will present you the following plot: a very successful business man, who is also gay, gets very passionate about a young student, who is not very certain he really likes men or not. The successful guy does everything he can to seduce and convince the subject of his desires, but only to abuse his younger lover when he finally gives in. At the same time, you actually find out that the seducer has been raped himself by an older man when he was 15, which made him become gay, and now he just somehow propagates unto the others what happened to him, saying “this is how I am”. Nice, isn’t it?

I want to believe not many would accept today such a plot on homosexual eroticism, and for good reasons. Bringing into the mainstream the idea that somehow people with other ways of expressing their sexuality than the majority are deranged, have a problem, were traumatised and therefore became little monsters in their intimate lives does not seem clever at all. Society today is still tarred with misconceptions, fears and very judgemental views on the different, and yet another media product reinforcing such things is not what we miss.  

Speaking of homosexuality, I wonder how many people know that it used to be scientifically classed as a paraphilia, which meant a sexual deviation with not very favourable psychological implications. Doing a little research, we can read that homosexuality, although it was no longer considered a crime even in the interwar period (Poland 1932, Denmark 1933), was still officially seen a “disease” or “mental disorder” until 1973. That year, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), due to sustained civil protests and lobby from the gay community in the 70s.
Think of it: how intelligent can it be to judge a person as suffering of a disorder on the basis of his/her sexuality only, if it causes no harm to anybody, if it is consensual and a source of contentment and joy?

It is true that, despite the antidiscrimination laws being clear in most of the Western world today, they cannot make each and every person think. Nothing can really make people use their brain capacity if they prefer not to. But at least stigmatising others on grounds of their personal preferences cannot be tolerated in a society which respects human rights.

Going back to “Fifty Shades of Grey”, the main message it conveys is that whoever might call themselves a sexual Dominant is actually an abuser, while whoever sees themselves as sexually Submissive are actually victims. Is this really needed?
Back in Bucharest, in 2008 I have met a guy over the internet whom I became friends with. We never dated, it was instant friendship. We talked about photography, books and also about sexuality. When I came back from the hospital, after I had my appendix removed and nearly got peritonitis in the process, he brought me a big photography album by a renowned Japanese artist. He was, to my knowledge, the first Dominant I have ever met in real life. Had he not told me, I would have never known. This guy was very polite, very intelligent, loved paragliding and other challenging sports, he loved photography and apparently he liked tying women up when he had sex with them. One day I actually met an ex of his, they stayed friends, and they were both very relaxed in each other’s presence, joked a lot and laughed a lot.

My male Dominant friend never actually told me a lot on his personal sexual preferences. He was a discrete guy. But he did tell me some stories, and also that there are some idiots out there calling themselves Dominants who treat their Submissive so badly and just push them beyond their limits. He completely condemned those people, and apparently would always encourage and even help the abused submissives to get out of that type of a relation.

So what about Christian Grey? Is he a Dominant or an abuser? Unfortunately, I guess the first and only advice my friend would give to Anastasia would be: get away from him! He will not have a relation with you, he will just abuse you and demand you be happy for being abused. And this is just wrong.
Let’s take it step by step (in big steps, we do not have all day, actually). In the beginning, Christian says he will not touch Ana until she signs the contract. What does he do? Break his own word, right away! Would you trust this man to tie you up and use a whip on you for sexual arousing? I know I wouldn’t.

Next? He presses on, despite the fact he knows Ana does not have any solid sexual experience. Apparently, the movie wants us to believe that the attractive Mr. Grey actually wants Ana so much that he makes one mistake after another. Does he, really? Well, then theory confirmed: this guy is nothing but an idiot with a very well equipped playroom, but with a very poorly equipped brain. After 12 years of experience, all he can do is loose patience, not follow his own terms (having BDSM sex with Ana only after she is fully aware and fully consenting), and at the end truly abuse his new lover? This man does not deserve to be in any kind of a relation.
And what is his actual “excuse” for it? Well, poor thing, he was the son of a heroine prostitute, he was traumatised in early childhood, before ending up as adopted by a very wealthy family. Dare I say that this is the story, up to the being adopted and raised by a high class family, of so many criminals who never ever get out of trouble. But because this guy is attractive, rich and influential we should somehow feel sorry for him and hope that Ana comes back to and tames this wild beast, shouldn’t we?

I hope at this point it is quite clear why such a movie does not do any service to people who prefer to express their sexuality through Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism. While DSM-5, the current American Psychiatric Association manual (which is a benchmark for the whole world in matters of psychiatry and psychology), released in 2015, excludes BDSM practices from any clinical classification as long as they are consensual and do not cause harm or distress, a Hollywood product throws things back to where you might be considered demented if you prefer sexual arousal by means of kink toys (ropes, whips, crops, handcuffs, and other such gadgets which apparently can be fun).

Since I have learnt about the history of how different sexual orientations used to be criminalized and also about discrimination by law on basis of one’s sexuality, I admired the work of Charles Moser, a physician specialised on sexual medicine. Based in San Francisco (what a nice coincidence, isn’t it? the city of the Beat generation), he is very well known and respected in his field, a professor on sexuality studies, and also a specialist who has long advocated against diagnosing different sexual preferences as disorders. I have read some of his work, and one very strong argument he brought against what was stated in DSM-4 was the following: 1. BDSM practices were clinically diagnosed because they pose the risk of causing harm. Therefore, a Dominant or a Submissive suffers of a disorder. 2. Extreme sports such as mountain climbing pose the risk of causing serious harm and even death. Still, no respectable psychiatrist would think of diagnosing a mountain climber who reaches the Everest as suffering of a disorder.

With the changes made in the psychiatry manual, people such as Charles Moser can be finally happy that their life long work brought positive changes for society as a whole. People writing books and making movies such as “Fifty Shades of Grey” cannot. When society as a whole and many uninformed people do not know enough about something, you do not just give them a very negative view of the subject, in terms of “how not to”. You cannot start explaining and enlarging people’s views on something which is not known to them… by telling them what that particular thing is not meant to be. I do not know how it is presented in the book, but I did not hear anybody protesting too much that they have messed the story up with the movie.

So when you want to write on a controversial and very delicate subject such as what people might prefer in their intimacy, what arouses them and can be classified as unusual, you must be socially irresponsible to make it look like abuse, and not even criticize it enough.
Fortunately, in today’s society we have tools to get informed, read and educate ourselves, then write and give others the chance to consider and dismiss products which can only be but called stupid and misleading, and not much else.

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