Sunday, January 29, 2012

Archetype #2: The Anima


Jung described the anima--the ego of the feminine unconscious to the male conscious mind--as like the sphynx or the Mona Lisa - enigmatic, cryptic, mostly silent - neither alive nor dead nor undead, but a dweller in the space beyond such trivialities. Her refusal to be known fully by her outer male / consciousness is perhaps an underlying cause of so much patriarchal oppression in our world. We can't silence her midnight reproaches so we try to silence her outer projections. But it never works.

In order to placate her we must make an effort to 'find out what she wants' through much patient sitting in asanas and art. She is the ultimate 'unknown' that the male ego spends its life trying to seduce, make contact with, capture on canvas, harness, destroy, embrace... but she can never be fully known or possessed, only accepted as the enigma she is.  And thank god, because if she was ever understood fully, the world would open up into the pure white light of the infinite. And then what do you do with your time? Where do you find your inspiration?

Here's one of my attempts to show that, it's a Dorian Gray deconstruction of a scene from Nightmare Alley (1947). 

Erich Kuersten "Nightmare Alley" 2003

Man projects the anima into his girlfriends, wives, daughters, and then is crushed when she disappears from their faces. The girls of the movies and of his dreams are ageless and enigmatic, so they take over the job. So there's the ghostly obsession of Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo for the 'nonexistent' Madeline, Twin Peaks for Laura Palmer, the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute, or the ghost vengeance of a Jess Franco nymphomaniacal heroine like Maria Rohm in Venus in Furs. Or there's her inescapable nurturing, her madonna-like perfection mocking your violent failings even as she consoles you, as with  Jessica Chastain in Tree of Life (below).


Eye's dark pupil, mirrored
Some feminist critics might decry these characters as unreal or male fantasies, but they miss the point - they are male fantasies but who is doing the fantasizing? The conscious man tries to understand his unconscious woman through fantasizing about her. Perhaps it is also the other way around, our inner anima fantasizing life as a man looking at herself in his mirror. Madeline is obsessed with the painting of her past life, like Jimmy is with her present.

Men can't control their unconscious mind (by definition) any more than we can (most of us) decide what we want to dream about when we sleep. If a man can make peace with his anima, either through art, meditation, astral voyaging, lucid dreaming, good deeds or just accumulated wisdom, he is en route to becoming a 'whole' soul. When he writes it is more like dictation. When he paints he just sits back and lets his inner woman guide his hand. The anima steps out of the shadows of the unconscious, halfway during dreams and art (and sometimes really good sex), and he steps into it, halfway, he lets go of the wheel and lets the wife drive for awhile --and then they are married in the Jungian reunification alchemical ritual.  But he will never understand her, never know her except that which she wants to reveal.
=====================

 The animas speaks in dreams, a woman you love more than any living woman,
but you can't understand her language...
one day you learn that the language she speaks to you is French,
It takes years to even recognize as French, but once you realize it's French it takes you years but you learn French and finally you get to understand her, finally she is yours for that one conversation.

But the next time you get a chance to talk to her she pretends to only know German.

So no you have to learn German,
and then she only speaks Japanese,
and so it goes, she runs through every language known to man, back into ancient Greek and Sumerian, Mayan, and lost Atlantean; you dog her heels every step of the way, even though decades may be spent learning each..

Finally all out of languages, she refuses to speak, she merely smiles the enigmatic sphinx and Mona Lisa smile.

When you finally match her even then, even learn this new language, the hardest to learn, the silence,
then the only thing left for her to hide in is what lies beyond silence, and you go there too, she surrenders at last, and
you are finally married.

But to get her undressed
you have to learn poker.
 
1. Kate Hepburn - Bringing up Baby (1938)

In comedy there is the Shakespearian / Hawksian elemental aspect - the sprite who raises mischief and chaos to fluster the male ego, to reduce its prominence in the constellation of consciousness by exposing it  to the chthonic forces of nature. Rather than civilizing herself like the old west, she wildernesses the civilized; she forces the westward expansion to, at last, contract. She is the inhale after the land grabbing exhale.  No one is better at this than Kate Hepburn in Bringing up Baby, Carole Lombard in anything, and Paula Prentiss in Man's Favorite Sport?

 Katharine Hepburn doesn't normally embody the anima; she's too independent, her own woman, too conscious and wily. But with an animal familiar, especially if it happens to a be leopard, she nails it. Cary Grant's absent-minded paleontologist has been keeping his right-brained feminine unconscious on such a tight leash it finally snaps in the form of the leopard but also golf balls, car theft, sock burning, crazy phone calls, clothes theft, bone-burying dogs, and finally a vicious leopard shadow twin to her trained leopard Baby, singing all the while.

2.  Laura Palmer - Twin Peaks / Fire Walk with Me

Bobby
Hey! Where were you for the last hour. I've been looking all over for you.
Laura:
I was standing right behind you, but you're too dumb to turn around. 

"Women who are of 'fairy-like' character especially attract such anima projections, because men can attribute almost anything to a creature who is so fascinatingly vague, and can thus proceed to weave fantasies around her." - Maria Von Franz

3. Maila Nurmi as Vampira
"I once loaned Maila a copy of Carl Jung’s Man and His Symbols. In particular, I wanted her to read the chapter on the “anima,” Jung’s term for female archetypes – witches, goddesses, vampires, saints, etc. – that are actually fantasy projections of the inner male psyche, i.e., of the male’s unacknowledged feminine aspects. (When a woman does it, the projection is known as an “animus.”) After returning the book Maila declared, “I am an anima.” - C. Jerry Kutner (BLAD 1/11/08)
4. Brigitte Bardot
"It is better to be unfaithful than faithful without wanting to be." -bb
Bardot is a hero of mine for her decisison to use her money and fame to bring attention to animal cruelty, The Brigitte Bardot foundation. She understands her mythic anima resonance--her remote silence covers men in repfroachful invitation. We will never measure up to her staggeringly hot body, never quench the simple fire of discontentedness in her warm pout. She evades us as effortlessly as a swan evades a pool of sullen sharks. 

 
5. Marlene Dietrich 

"Mystery is a woman's greatest charm," Dietrich famously said. Like Bardot and Garbo she became reclusive once her looks could no longer be maintained. They are artists of the persona, sacrificing a normal middle-aged life so their anima cachet can resonate forever. They are the true vampires of our century, never growing old, siphoning the energy of our desire until we fall back, weakened by masochistic reverie. Our romantic memories, dredged up from our dating history and absorbed into the celluloid of the vampire anima, light up her skin through sleep's Von Sternberg latticework shadow. In withholding herself from her image, our inner projection of the anima finds its focus for the first time, like a dead ship igniting into windswept sails and mizzenmast hoisting. 

 6. Kim Novak in Vertigo (1958)
 "The movie turns on the slightly malicious question, "Who is Kim Novak?" a question which becomes more frightening, and unanswerable, once the secret of her dual identity within the film is revealed. The initial sequences, for all their beauty in summoning up the enchantment of the anima archetype, belong to a familiar-enough theme in psychology and art--the man as victim of seduction. The fall of James Stewart's character Scottie into "acute melancholia complicated by a guilt complex" is what he deserves from biting into this familiar apple. Indeed, the cumulative kitsch elements of the romance--the staginess of the exposition of the preposterous plot; the tourist's view of San Francisco's prettiness in the long, languishing silent sequence; the poor quality of the "museum painting" of the nineteenth-century woman Kim Novak is supposed to be obsessed by; the monotonous unreality Novak brings to the reading of her lines; and the ponderous earnestness of James Stewart as he becomes her victim--all have a wearying effect, much like the depression of coaddiction." - John  Beebe (The Anima in Film
7. Lana Del Rey

The critics who attack Del Rey for her 'makeover' from Lizzie Grant show in their hostility just how effective this adopted persona is as an anima. She is the Marlene Dietrich of her time and we should remember that Marlene too had a makeover upon coming to Hollywood -- losing thirty pounds and four back molars, among other modifications. There's not a single Hollywood star, I'm fairly sure, who is 100% 'real' according to Del Rey's detractors' definition. So it speaks to the raw archetypal sore spot Rey's poked that so many critics feel they must attack her, while others, like me, feel they need to defend her. When you become something to fight over, it's not even 'about' whether you're 'real' or not. If someone tells you they had a dream about a witch would you say, "Bro, that witch is totally fake"? Of course not. What's important is that Del Rey is the anima of 2012; she is the amnesiac succubus; she is the Diane Selwyn of Mulholland Dr. and singing over in Blue Velvet. Her seemingly augmented visage is like if Madeline / Novak had plastic surgery to resemble the portrait of Carlotta Veldez.... or


8. Rita Hayworth as Gilda (1946)

"They go to bed with Gilda but wake up with me." 

Del Rey's weird lips make her a kind of anime comic book version of Rita Hayworth, who showed she understood her persona's hypnotic effect when she famously said the above line. But Hayworth never bowed to the pressures of being an anima, of trying to be a living archetypal image. Rather, the anima rather bowed to her insistence that she was indeed a woman and not a phantom projection. Her image is strong enough it can thrive even in such a self-imposed prison--one literally imposed almost by force of her animus onto her in Gilda--thus Stephen King's novella "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" is about prison. That's why I always get a little sickly claustrophobic watching Gilda - the feeling of suffocation caused by her seedy choice of men, nameley the very square-headed and seemingly shorter than her Glenn Ford, who tries to rope her off the way those icky brothers all tried to rope BB in ... and God Created Woman (1957), by cockblocking her, stifling her libidinal-elemental archetypal freedom. I've hated him ever since, regardless of his role (he's pretty great in this, tho).

9. Ava Gardner as Pandora in Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951)

Di Chirico "The Profit," 1915

No one was going to cockblock or stifle Ava Gardner's libidinal-elemental archetypal freedom, not a possessive homicidal bullfighter, a racing car driver, or any of the would-be suitors who dash themselves upon her rocks in the haunting and underrated Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. Only James Mason, the original flying dutchman who promises her deathless timeless love aboard his slick craft, knows what to do with all her aching archetypal beauty. And he embraces her enigmatic grace first by painting her before he even meets her (top), and then after she angrily blots out her face with white he incorporates the white into a De Chirico type mask, restoring and enhancing her unknowable elemental mystery rather than trying to reign it in like the other men orbiting her. An archetype himself, the Dutchman whisks her from the time-bound concerns of mortal men and into the constellations where she belongs.

 10. 3-Way Tie: a. Gene Tierney as Laura (1944)

Falling in love with a painting is easy; your anima projects right onto it like a silver screen. But if the painting comes to life (as you so devoutly and ill-advisedly wish) all of a sudden it's not a projection screen but a dark, swirling muddy mess of paint that never dries and thinks you're beneath her social class... or at any rate you think she thinks that. Detective Dana Andrews falls in love with her image while investigating her murder, but when his unconscious feminine ego is suddenly off the canvas and replaced by a real woman in a boxy raincoat and sour wet expression she's no longer an anima, and he's disappointed as well as intimidated. Naturally his anima is going to have to pick more reliable projection screens if he wants to develop an unhealthy obsession - hence his preference for dead celebrities like Marilyn Monroe (or Poe for his Lost Lenore), who will hopefully not suddenly return from the grave and demand you get a job or take out the trash. 

b. Rebecca (1940)


The painting / initialed sundries, and sumptuous bedroom of truly dead Rebecca on the other hand is so fogged up in anima-projection that her still living and ever-brooding Laurence Olivier all but ignores his real life new young wife, played by Joan Fontaine. He loves young Fontaine at least in part because she seems pliable, young and as anti-anima as possible. Meanwhile Rebecca's ghost overflows all screens and no real woman can compete, lest she become more ruthless and wicked than Rebecca herself. 

C. Ligeia - Tomb of Ligeia  (1964)

All of the Corman-Poe cycle films are filthy with devolved animas but as the morbid end game of the de-evolution of a psyche where the anima projection screen endures even into death, Ligeia takes the metaphor deep. In Laura the woman in the painting was still alive; in Rebecca dead; and in Ligeia undead, alive in cat form and hot corpse-spirit possession form, i.e.  abstracted into necrophilia (this is one of the few films where 'pussy-whipped' is a genuine action).

11. Christine Gordon as Jessica Holland in I Walked with a Zombie (1943)

Jessica is a great example of the unassimilated anima; the one that will not fade all the way back into the shadows nor merge into the male consciousness even in part; thus she is a cross between the madwoman in the attic ala Jane Eyre and the painting of Rebecca. She was evidently Rebecca-esque in life--i.e. manipulative, slutty, and bi-polar--and now she is halfway into becoming as dead as Rebecca, as undead as Ligeia, and as immortal as her own (nonexistent) painting.  And as an anima she serves only to cockblock her nurse and tear a tropical island family apart, all while Calypso singer Sir Lancelot recounts her misdeeds in his honeyed, irresistible voice. 


I'm not the first to question Leo's insistence on dead wives: check out Nathaniel R's awesome Dead Wives Club poster above. The question is, why? An anima has actually more power in her 'dead' state, yet is less of a threat; she is neither bound up in the eternal sleep of zombie Jessica and the sleeping Snow White nor alive like Laura or Bardot. She is free to rule the psyche of the 'male' consciousness without worry of clashing with the 'real' thing. In other words, unlike Dana Andrews in Laura, Leo never has to worry about his obsession suddenly coming to life and doing un-anima things like taking too long in the bathroom or nagging him about his drinking. He can just stay up late and guzzle hooch and stare at her framed photo--eyes welling up with tears. This is the ideal state for all actors afraid of being upstaged- the dead wife allows all the anima interaction to occur deep down in the dream state, so she can't embarrass you in front of your friends. And it's a great excuse for binge drinking... and not stretching. AMen


4 comments:

  1. Interesting commentary.
    Of course, this works vice-versa; masculine aspects of the female (animus) and women see themselves as Anima. Western societies (however machinated, objectified and distanced from nature (and reality!)) invest much time in worshipping female icongraphy. Likewise, women aspire to this imagery/iconography, trying to acheive physical "perfection" and a "feminine mystique" a "je ne sais quoi".

    You are right about feminisms clunky comprehension of such subtleties as anima/animas; feminism would have had defined anima as pro-female and anti-female, unable to comprehend Jung's ideas within their pseudo-political, pseudo-social, one-dimensional framework.

    Intriguingly, feminism's intended masculinasation of females (as a way of adapting to masculine, Western societies) may wish to see (as you mention) the anima as a product of male sexualized fantasy. Yet, the mysterious, beautiful, nurturing and intuitive aspects of women are a powerful part of female identities. This is part of femaleness that women cannot help being and enjoy being!

    To conform to political correctness and/or feminism seems to be a form of "castration" for women and, indeed for men!

    Simon

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  2. Great list.

    It's always interesting in pop culture to watch one of these archetypes take over an actress or singer. They gradually sort of grow into the archetype role, and there's very little they can do about it, because after that, they don't "won" their public persona anymore...

    ...at least for a while. There's always sort of a clock ticking on it.

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  3. Another great list with some food for thought in it. Not sure I agree with all of it, but on the surface it seems pretty spot-on. I've tackled some of these in my fiction (knowingly or not), and I must say they are fun to delve into.

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  4. Have you seen Carl Jung's own anima as portrayed by Keira Knightley (Sabina Spielrein) in Cronenberg's 'Dangerous Method'? Cronenberg is doing absolutely everything to repress her and letting Jung come out as some kind of a self-righteous bastard without any feelings or affections. A highly professional Ego, as compared to the Id (Sabina), that has to die and be replaced over and over again, to grant the Ego the right to dismiss and destroy it.

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