The Fat Girl by Lyle Lovett.
Any thinking person must realize there is no simple answer to the nature/nurture debate, but rather an inextricable combination of the two. I hold there is also a third piece, how one’s nature responds to the respective environment, which may vary depending on circumstances and available resources for support as well.
I’ve been known to say that violent child abuse is preferable to sexual abuse in some ways, since the latter confuses ideas of love and affection. But I possibly spoke out of line having never been violently assaulted (I don’t pretend to begin to fathom the effects of abuse that was both violent and sexual). What I can say with certainty is that childhood sexual abuse has absolutely given me cause to mistrust my loving and affectionate feelings, never being convinced they wouldn’t result in more strife, grief, estrangement, loss and chaos. And so they have, over and over and over again. It has made me ashamed of my not-inconsiderable desireability, in much the same way Oprah has claimed her eating disorder stemmed from her sexual abuse, in order to make herself undesireable to her victimizer and to protect her. And we aren’t exactly the only ones; the stats on childhood sexual abuse are shocking- about 25%. If anyone who knew me ever reads this, they might recall my mentioning that it seems I’ve known more people who were victims of it, than not.
The following full-length movie starring Joseph Gordon Levitt is horrifying in its realism, and is as incredibly sad as it is touching. I felt it was important to share with those who are ignorant of the long-term effects of sexual abuse and who would misjudge its victims. As ugly and unpalatable as this subject is, I do believe the more it is discussed and exposed, the less it shames and stigmatizes us. Roger Ebert astutely notes in his review for the Chicago-Sun Times of Mysterious Skin: “It is not a message picture, doesn’t push its agenda, is about discovery, not accusation. Above all, it shows how young people interpret experiences in the terms they have available to them.”
“Where normal people have a heart, Neil McCormick has a bottomless black hole.” – Neil’s soul-mate Wendy
“There are some among us who live in rooms of experience we can never enter.” – John Steinbeck
Edit: This movie is no longer available at the youtube link above but is available at Netflix and Hulu. .
Many, many thanks to my oldest and dearest friend Phoenix Dreamfyre, AKA PrimePrineFan over on his youtube channel, for creating this charming video of Your Silence I Will Always Admire by Michael McDermott, a major anthem on the soundtrack of our misspent youths. The video is just packed full of meaningful images and quotes from all the wonderful ideas we used to share, along with some timely references to current events. Your Silence I Will Always Admire remains an example of some of the strongest songwriting I’ve ever heard, every syllable and beat positioned for maximum impact, featuring my beloved jangly power chords, a rousing organ/harmonica blend, and always-inspiring female gospel backing vocals. I never get tired of those..
Phoenix learned while making this video that McDermott had recently read Hesse’s Siddartha and that was on his mind while composing it. While not exactly shocking, that seems to partly explain how McDermott expressed so many sophisticated, complex ideas with such disarming eloquence. For so many words, none are wasted!
Norma Jean & Marilyn was a 1996 semi-biographical HBO film starring Ashley Judd as Norma Jean and Mira Sorvino after she transforms into Marilyn Monroe. As she becomes successful, the character of Norma Jean comes back to haunt her as the personification of her madness. This surreal device with the two characters interacting with each other was highly effective, and surprisingly accurate I realized, after comparing it to an actual Monroe biography I read later.
A lot of people don’t realize how bright and creative Monroe was, buried under the ‘dumb blonde’ facade, the glamour, scandal, tragedy and mythology that has arisen around her persona. Hers’ is one of the grimmer stories, and it is in context of her challenges that her accomplishments are even more remarkable. Both her mother and grandmother were as hard-core paranoid schizophrenics as there ever was, and she herself was probably borderline schizophrenic along with being a major depressive. Also, her drug use apparently equalled that of the heaviest hitters I can think of; Belushi, Joplin, etc…The scene below depicts her final moments as she tries to drown out Norma Jean’s voice with chemicals. Both actresses were nominated for Golden Globes.
I can only presume these scriptwriters were familiar with the song Hurt by Nine Inch Nails, but performed here by Johnny Cash on what I consider to be *the* greatest cover ever, of all time. Written by NIN about heroin addiction, in Cash’s world-weary hands recorded not long before his death, the voice of the Hurt has come to represent anything that would separate us from our ‘true selves’.
Some things might look an awfully lot like one thing and be vastly different from it, and it would be exceedingly easy to confuse Marilyn’s experience and behavior with an addiction to her unhappiness and the resulting drama that ensued. But this is not the same thing as histrionic type of attention seeking, drama-whoring, or projection of anger. It’s hard to imagine anyone would willingly choose to feel pain over having a sense of ‘self’, as indicated here in the song’s final stanza (I would keep myself, I would find a way).
This is an untitled prose-type poem written by Marilyn Monroe *herself*, recounting a nightmare in 1955.
(People like this don’t need to be reminded repeatedly about the ultimate futility and meaninglessness of their fragile egos’s hopes and dreams, and it is unfair, as well as inaccurate, to judge them as being adept at keeping themselves unhappy, or playing the victim, if they protest often reminders of ‘no-self’. All it means is they don’t feel like they are even ‘here’ in the first place, and to focus on that to excess is personally destructive. Evidence of this can be seen in Monroe’s own downfall, as intensive psycho-analysis and the study of method acting sent her descending even further into her lack of identity and her own darkness.)
I recently watched all 4 seasons of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica TV series starring James Elmos and Mary McConn as the Commander and President of a fugitive fleet of humans from a genocidal war brought on by the revolt of their artificial intelligence creations, the Cylons. I’d been told on good authority that I’d love it while it was airing, but wanted to watch it from the beginning so I never saw it before. Its storyline included powerful references to extremes of the human condition as illustrated with religion, mythology, moral relativism/authority, the philosophical implications of creating Artificial Intelligence, and the politics of war (these writers were not pulling any punches when the human insurgency on Caprica 2 used a suicide bomber against the Cylon occupiers during the height of the real life War on Terror).
The Cylons themselves experience the paradox of existence paralleling the human experience, and struggle to reconcile their harsh reactions to their harsh reality with what they consider their true values. But beyond the immediate relevancy of religion, on both the Human and Cylon side, there is the running theme of Eternal Return (This has all happened before:This will all happen many times again). The theme is illustrated literally in the Battlestar Galactica narrative, as there have been cycles of generations of humans and their revolting Cylon creations before. The story’s arc explores a psycho-spiritual maturity on both sides in an effort to break the endless cycle of humans creating Cylons, mistreating them as slaves, then suffering destruction when they organize and revolt.
As with humans, not all Cylons were redeemable, and the worst Cylon and leader of the war against the humans, known as Brother Cavil or John, offs himself in the final shootout, shown here.
There was something familiar about that scene, and when I looked at the Battlestar Galactica wiki notes I saw they claimed it to be ‘shot and framed’ in a way that seemed to mimick the 1987 live press conference suicide of R.Budd Dwyer, PA State Treasurer, after being convicted of accepting a bribe.
I’d seen this on the news the day it happened and although they stopped showing the scene right before he aimed the gun, it made a big impression on me, and enough to recognize it somehow all these years later. So then I got curious as to his motive, wondering if it was actually safe to assume Dwyer was just another greedy, corrupt politician acting out of guilt and rage at getting caught, like I’d always thought. I was curious about the details of his conviction, and how I could understand why he made such a public spectacle of his death. Maybe in the back of my mind I thought that if he’d really felt guilty, he might not have wanted to humiliate himself and upset his family further in this grotesque manner, unless he was a psychopath.
I discovered this documentary, released in 2010. Honest Man: The Life of R.Budd Dwyer is the work of a young filmmaker who’d seen poor Dwyer’s demise on one of any infinite number of snuff websites and felt a similar curiosity. Although the film is biased, the portrait of Dwyer as a naive, ‘loveable bear of a man’ couldn’t have been drawn so convincingly if there hadn’t been a good bit of truth in it. There were three facts that stood out to me when researching R.Budd Dwyer: 1) Offering campaign contributions for delivering big contracts is Standard Operating Procedure in a world where political corruption has mostly been the rule, 2) R.Budd Dwyer never received any cash payout, and 3) The man whose testimony convicted him is not credible.
I think this young filmmaker has done a great thing by telling this story, and highlighting what appears to be his motive – Protest in hopes of reform. Reform has not happened, but I believe R.Budd Dwyer actually hoped it could in a violent, desperate attempt to ascribe meaning to his experience.
But, if Dwyer’s suicide was NOT the immature behavior of a sleazey, greedy, bloated ego, then I really don’t understand why the creators of Battlestar Galactica referenced it when bad ol’ Brother Cavil finally goes down for good!
Written by Bob Dylan, of course, the song All Along the Watchtower plays a pivotal role in Battlestar Galactica’s respective human and Cylon redemption and self-rescue. I like these words as a more fitting tribute to Budd.
“WHO are we supposed to love? Humans???” – doomed Cylon No. 8, aka Sharon