Just sort of thinking out loud tonight, and why not share it on the blog?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we sell our primitive impulses to the conscious mind. How we justify sexual desires, petty jealousies–all that kind of stuff–so that we can sleep comfortably at night while remaining animals for the most part.
The artwork that initially got me thinking about this was Cannibal Holocaust. The film features all of these violent acts, but of course these primal, violent acts against other humans are justified by the one-second observation at the end: “I wonder who the real cannibals are”
The violence throughout the film is encapsulated by a “message.” The violence is the conduit through which the message’s relevance and poignancy is conveyed.
Or is it?
Does the means justify the ends?
I see this also with Marquise de Sade’s work. Inherent within his work–or perhaps more accurately, the critics and analysts of his work–is this attempt to intellectualize sexual violence.
The same with Salo: 120 Days of Sodom, Pasolini’s adaptation of de Sade’s most notorious work. While some critics dismiss the film as unnaturally crude, others laud the film for the juxtaposition between beautiful panoramic footage of naturalist landscapes and the violent scenes that are cradled gently by the aesthetic of the environment surrounding the torture compound.
The contrast is certainly unsettling, but it is difficult to engage the film without acknowledging both its artistic merits and its violent detriments.
The same can be said for A Serbian Film. Sure, it features some of the most grotesque scenes in modern film, but by god, the aesthetic . . . the artistic merit of the film . . . the depth with which this political allegory is explored . . .
What a joke.
It all just seems so superficial, the way that we try to sell our primal urges to the conscious mind.
I look at Harlequin romances, the way that infidelity is wrapped in a shroud of true love and unrequited passions.
Or the way murder and abuse is justified in countless narratives.
The way violence is used as a conduit through which violence can be justified.
The way evil is justified by the greater evils committed by victims.
It’s all just mankind trying to sell the animal within to itself, desperately trying to justify our primal urges as intellectual explorations of the depth of humanity and depravity.
There’s really no need though. There’s one 21st-century meme that encapsulates the phenomenon perfectly: