Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception... for a better now

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

You Don't Need a Man, You Need a Champion

... like a hole in the head, to let the air in. That way you don't have to go farther than your own backyard to find God, by which I mean ass. Forget it, Julia Roberts, it's ELIZABETHTOWN (2005)... Ladies, don't get me started.

The image all across the bus stops of the city this month is Julia, perky as ever, her artificially-smoothened face resolute, determined to eat by herself or with a rich, gorgeous male, or not at all. She's a one-woman Sex in the City minus sex, city, or clue, smiling across an exotic table-cloth at herself. Look at her looking off at left. Oh if her friends back home could see her now! They wouldn't even recognize her, she's thinking. A smile forms at a distant corner of her mouth, pink spoon to the right, imagining their jealous eyes widening.

Javier Bardem is in the cast, presumably playing the same smoldering artisan from Woody Allen's VICKI, CHRISTINA, BARCELONA (another three word conjunction free title). And there's nothing wrong with that except that Woody's film was full of subversive critiques of the bourgeois mindset, while EAT PRAY--in its advertising at least--is a championing of that mindset, a pro-bourgeois message to the spirituality-seeking single women who ride subways and walk past bus stops, a message that the pathetically 'human' and self-absorbed men in your immediate environment are a waste of time, and you deserve better--a 'champion' in white linen slacks and rosewood necklace, a bronzed statue in lands where the dollar stretches and every man exists only to give you flowers and keys to their private piazzas. And it's only a plane ticket and a Xanax away. Go girl! Find the courage to quit your job and drain your savings in holy pursuit of the housewife pipe dream.

Hey, you know what paradise is? It's a lie
a fantasy we create about people and places
as we'd like them to be.
You know what truth is? 
It's that little baby you're holding 
and it's that man that you fought with this morning
the same one you're going to make love to tonight, 
that's truth, that's love!  ---Charlene
("I've been to Paradise 
[but I've never been to Me])

I haven't read the book or seen the movie, so what gives me the right to criticize? Exactly! Yet I can't avoid Eat Pray Love anymore than I can avoid seeing taxi cabs, bus and park bench placards, or subway walls. This week the media barrage that entombs NYC is all about Eating, Praying and Loving, and selling same. So I can write about it because I've been force-fed it, maybe even wrote some of it. I'm new age enough that I hope the movie or book is different than the ad campaign, truly I do. I bought the book for a girl I once loved, kinda; I'm also feminist enough that I listen to the Charlene song quoted above and I think, "Hey Charlene you know what truth isn't? It's that conservative anti-feminist agenda you're shilling and that man who bought you $500 shoes this morning is the same man you're going to accuse of sexism tonight. That's shallow, that's so 1980s!"

Me, my formative years were the 70s. Cracker Factory! Goodbar! Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs! It stretched all through my Knapp Elementary School experience. So if single middle-aged women want to seek paradise without first having been to me, well, I'm 100% for it, as would Gandhi be, or Red Foxx, or Fox News. But the ad campaign of EAT PRAY stresses the opposite of spiritual paradise, i.e. the Pray portion of the trifecta. Instead of simple and true grace--as seen in the humility of Bresson, Ozu, McCarey, and Rohmer--the spirituality is really just a carny attraction, an obscene promotion of all things Eat Pray and Love-ish. Paradise deferred! When you're through shopping for prayer beads, ladies, step over this next tent, the truer enlightenment is waiting behind the curtain, and it's only a hundred dollaahz!

It's a cagey kind of trap, the spiritual shell game, and antithetical to feminism's and spirituality's original purpose of being 'free.' Instead of experiencing love and prayer in this moment (the only one there is --and you just missed it) and endeavoring to love everyone unconditionally, you're reminded that if you don't lose ten pounds, get your teeth fixed, and find a rich Barcelona artist to pay for dinner and another one who knows all the best hang-out spots in Goa after dark, then you will be a loser no matter where you are. Pray only in a very clean Indian ashram that's got lots of white flowers or you might catch Hep-C from the incense.

If you do all the right things up front however, and fly first class all the way, then you merely have to pretend to silence your monkey mind a scene or two and I'm sure the cute yoga instructor with perfect teeth will duly fall.

Most of all you must love yourself: see always in your mind's eye the vision of how cute you must look with a sky blue spoon hanging out of your mouth and your eyes alight with mischief.  Instead of cultivating awareness of these kinds of traps the EAT PRAY LOVE behemoth assures us that this new trap is guaranteed to be the real thing, step right up! The ticket booth is closed but the 'machines' are working.

Want to know if you're already enlightened? Ask yourself if you've ever ignored or blown off someone who wanted your assistance or friendship; ask yourself if you've ever not stopped to help a needy traveler just because they were poor, ugly, depressed or annoying and you were late for a lunch with someone literate and attractive.

The true saint turns away no one who asks for help, and in that sense they are like a prostitute. Julia Roberts rose to fame playing a prostitute and whatever lesson there is that irony (I looked for it here), Roberts assumes her character in Eat is more of a spiritual being than that high-steppin' ho. I hope after this film Julia realizes that prostitutes are the true saints of our age. Think about it: they give away their money in the name of love (to Jesus, their sulky pimp) and they accept all comers-- be they ugly, old, deformed, crippled and/or leprous--washing even their feet if the price is right. Whatever kind of love you want baby, how much cash you got? Enough to buy ticket? Enough to buy Julia Roberts cookbook? Soundtrack CD? Ticket to Goa? prayer beads? Cheap cheap! You buy! Hot rock on back mean hot time in town!

That's what stopped me when I was on my own spiritual road to perfect union with the almighty: God told me to befriend this annoying, obnoxious kid in my AA 'home group,' and I just couldn't, I wouldn't! And I knew even as I made that choice, the choice to not befriend a snot-nosed obese, stuttering sociopathic loser, I was already off the path, a fallen angel, a rogue samurai, Lancelot in the rushes --lost and thorny. God was already looking around for another saint to lavish love and orders upon.

That's why I can look at the ads for EAT PRAY LOVE and see in Julia's face a vacant emptiness that I recognize as the budding Kundalini serpent of awareness brought up by mediation class and yoga but then all-too-soon halted in mid-bloom by capitalism's innate sense of carny pitchmanship-- the stopping short from going all the way into full awareness wherein the unconscious is all fully conscious and your head glows like a beacon in the galaxy. Stopping short to gloat over lesser mortals because "this far is good enough!" My buddy Sabrina and I went to yoga every week for over a year together, but then one day we went to Urban Outfitters instead. In some ways, I'm still there, rummaging through the denim sale bins, my homeroom angel waiting for me to get my head out my ass so we can resume the climb. That's why I can spot the entitled 'humbler than thou' yoga chic when I see it: I am it. And I see my own sad consumerist clown cluelessness in every image of Roberts in EAT PRAY LOVE.

So Julia, as I creep broken and bloody past your smug and beaming poster on my way to and from my unholy job on this wheel of woe, I can only sigh and wish you'd awaken for real and stop trying to be this blandly petit-bourgeois everywoman that exists only in the minds of overly cautious Hollywood producers and Vogue editors. I wish you would become instead and forever the vengeful Kali you played so well in various parts of ERIN BROCKOVICH and MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING... I want you to play the role of the Magdalene, of Grace in the third Lars Von Trier DOGVILLE movie. Isn't it time you put down the fork and picked up the butcher knife? Have no mercy, Kali Sister Jesus! Instead of Eat Pray Love say what it's really all about: Consume, Breed, Buy...Kill! Kill! (Go, baby!) Now! There's never been a meal but the one in front of you, never a land more exotic than your own front yard, never a love but that which you have, and self-aggrandizing prayer is cosmologically uncool, mere narcissism in a kaftan, mere oblivion... sans beautiful eyes... straight white teeth, sans cosmetically altered face, sans... everything. So break thy inner bonds and rampage loose upon the land, as your colonialist forefathers did and be not so unaware of your contradictions and tourist coarseness as you shop and eat in the lands they once exploited and taxed unmercifully. Celebrate thy age, get thy whiplash mascara groove back on, and bring home thy hand-crafted Siddhartha! Six Dollars! Two for ten! Eat! Buy! Now!


  1. "I want you to play the role The Magdalene, Grace in the third Lars Von Trier DOGVILLE movie" - Is this a throwaway nod to Trier (was not grace in the first film precisely Christ?) or a sign that you really do have a thing for Mr.s Roberts?

    As you no doubt understand, it is nonetheless, quite possible for spiritually attuned - for she who lives in the now - to go on living a late global capitalist dream (as in Kierkegaard's knight of faith who can not be recognized from without).

  2. I dont have a thng except that she's a good actress who goes to the highest bidder, so she's seldom bothering to stretch herself, except maybe the cosmetic sense. Von Trier would put her through the ringer! But at the end, if she didn't drill a hole in his leg first, she'd end up a real actress again, plus she's got the strawberry fire in her, just like Nicole had and Bryce hadn't.

    I do understand it's cool to be love money, for it is the poetry of man to be wealthy, at the same time, there's a line between having and wanting... what the media promotes is the sexiness of eternal want, the bait and switch that leads to sexual sublimation through eating, and buying stuff about praying rather than praying oneself, which is fine but again, one should understand it and be aware of its pointlessness, be joyful in the realization that for the goal-pursuer, the happiness is in the pursuing, the true shopper of the spirit walks away without buying anything and so owns the store. That used to be my attitude. I own the world, I just keep it all in the stores so I'm not overwhelmed by clutter. When I buy stuff it's just a long term rental, for eventually time's ancient repo man turns it all to dust.

  3. I think this "pursuing" is the fundamental foundation of the social group i.e. the logic of Marx and the Freudian drive: For someone alone an object of any kind is needed and when used satisfaction is taken, tout court - For someone in a group this need becomes demand (who deserves to have their need met) and thus libidinal drive (striving towards a futural fulfillment that may or may not arrive is begun and it is a so called 'jouissance' (in Lacan) or simply a vexation/pleasure pair. The same thing happens with so called "commodity fetishism" as in the general libidinal realm.

    What I want to say is that the only way out seems to exist in total isolation of some kind - a consciousness that doesn't reach after the future is a non-social one.

    Or totally physically isolated like feudalistic subjects (or as Marx says Robinson Crusoe) who are not engaged in economic social relations in Market.

  4. It seems that every now and then Hollywood pumps out a movie who's theme is just entirely off to what is going on in the current world.

    When the first Sex and the City came out I remember one publication saying that Sex and the City's blatant and uncontrolled promotion of materialism was just. . .wrong. Similarly, Confessions of a Shopaholic comes out some years later and is 'adapted' to the current age of minimalism (or the need for minimalism) but still, in the end, kind of gave off a bad impression.

    Even the box office juggurnaut of Julia Roberts has appeared to be defeated by older values of visual hedonism as oppossed to personal hedonism (Stallone's Expendables beat out Eat, Pray, Love at the box office, yes). Will Hollywood learn it's lesson. Doubt it. Wall Street 2 is coming out. . .the movie that typified 80s greed is being released into the new world. . .doesn't look like it's holding back on the pursuit of money and power (or, the same thing).

  5. A-fucking-men (or "Amyn"). I've noticed, though, that the movie/book's sharpest critics tend to be women - but maybe that's because most men have avoided watching/reading EPL (guilty as charged). My sister, my mom, and several female friends all loathed the heroine.

    Hey, my word verification was "cutter"! Makes me think - maybe the sequel will be Eat Cut Love in which Julia pokes her wrist ever so gently with a pin so she can "really" feel (they could play a trendy emo song over the scene as a soundtrack tie-in) - on the book cover the word could be written with little razors.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...