January 2018 archive

MeToo#

I watched ‘The Irrational Man’ on Netflix last night, for something to do and not knowing anything about the film, but as the credits rolled I saw that Woody Allen wrote and directed it.

I had the impulse then not to watch but made myself do so with particular attention to the script. It intrigued me.

A typical plot: an older eccentric and seemingly troubled professor of philosophy draws in the attraction and desire of a young bright student who in time breaks up with her loving boyfriend over her beloved professor.

The professor resists his student’s overtures at first, while simultaneously conducting an affair with an older married colleague who is also completely smitten with the professor and would run away with him in a heart beat.

This man is so much the object of desire, despite his appalling behaviour. He drinks whiskey from a hip flask regularly and is rude and abrupt with people.

He has a rugged look and what appears to be a scar on his lip – congenital perhaps – and a small pot belly – as if he’s given up caring about his appearance, while the women are both so perfect in their bodies and beauty, both the older women and the younger one.

Eventually the professor succumbs to his desire for his young student, succumbs and in the process decides to murder a judge whom he and his student believe is corrupt after they overhear a woman and friends in conversation about him.

It seems this judge is matey with the woman’s ex and is making it impossible for her to keep her children.

The professor is fired up by this story of unfairness and finds himself alive again, energised, no longer in the grip of the ennui that had engulfed him earlier, given his plot to kill the judge, unbeknown to any one, including the student.

The symbolism is obvious, as if the professor loses his capacity to ‘judge’ in face of his desire to right what he considers a wrong, notwithstanding his own wrongdoing.

I won’t go into how it all unfolds. To me the plot is somewhat implausible and high drama but I listened for the usual lines. One short sentence in particular jumps out when the professor takes the young student out for dinner and she says to: “I love how you order for me”.

I wanted to puke.

It’s all part of the seduction I suppose, part of the drama but thinking more about these things and I feel like Carly Findlay, who among other things writes about how disabled people are misrepresented in film.

I’m struck yet again by the way women are represented in films and the artist, in this case the genius professor, is seen as a flawed hero who begs for our understanding.

I wonder whether some of Woody Allen’s work is his attempt to make sense of his own troubled self.

Nothing wrong with that I suppose – I do the same in my writing, but there’s something about how the women fare in all of this that bothers me.

I resent women simply being portrayed as the adoring, somewhat innocent and more often than not extremely beautiful underdog to the tortured and flawed genius hero/man, who is looking for salvation – or a mother, with whom he can have a sexual union that reassures him he’s not getting too old and past it.

Enough of this rant, which seems to me to be connected to the MeToo# campaign, if only at a tangent.

Long may it live.

Accidents, war and jigsaw puzzles

It’s time I invested in a separate table for my jigsaw puzzle pieces.

The other day, one of my grandsons knocked over his water glass at dinner and water cascaded the length of the table down to my incomplete jigsaw puzzle where it enveloped several pieces.

This is an excellent puzzle with thick cardboard pieces, a few of which have now come unstuck from their base, like a wedge heel coming off a platform shoe. The pieces are intact but split down the middle.

My husband reckons we can glue them back together once dry but somehow their unstuckness represents so much more than a few unstuck jigsaw puzzle pieces.

The dog just joined me at my desk and is now there at my feet eager for company in the way of dogs.

It amazes me how little he needs by way of comfort, just the simple proximity of a human will do. Whereas we humans seem to need and want so much more, so much more that life can become a grind of satisfying our own and one another’s expectations.

I feel this strongly during holidays when my own expectations of getting a rest don’t necessarily match the events that life throws up and I’d prefer not to have the added burden of expecting to a rest on top of the usual stresses.

The other day, I heard Robert Dessaix on the radio talking to David Mann about Dessaix’s book The Pleasure of Leisure and the whole time I listened I found myself annoyed.

There was something cosy about the two men chattering to one another with their various definitions of laziness and indolence versus idleness. And they were talking from an historical perspective as well.

I only caught the opening of the talk, which was just as well. By the time, I pulled into the driveway of our house I had had enough of what I heard as the privilege of two older white guys going on about the need to take things easy.

These days I hear everything from this perspective.

Who is the privileged one – including myself at times – and who gets to do the work?

I’ve got it in for male writers at the moment, with apologies to any of my male readers here.

Yesterday, I went to the en suite bathroom and noticed my husband’s book, one of several he has on the go. Chris Masters’ book, No Front Line.

Could this be the same Chris Masters, journalist, whose mother, Olga Masters, I first heard about and read when I began on my writing journey forty years ago? She who had something like six children and who did not start her own writing career until later in life when her children were more or less grown and then she became a brief sensation in the literary world before dying young, or at least young in relative terms.

It saddened me then and it saddens me now. Her life cut short, her life split in half, between her obligations as a parent and her life as a writer.

How would it have been had it occurred to her she could have started earlier? And she might well have started writing earlier but it took till mid to later age before she could venture into seeking publication. And it all takes so long.

So there is Chris Masters’ book on the en suite vanity and I dip into it and read about war. I recoil at the language and at the pictures. Not a woman in sight except perhaps some poor peasant woman from Afghanistan caught up in the fighting and I despise war and the stuff that brings it about.

This violent approach to life polarises us and I know full well women can get into it too but women are not the drivers of war.

I helped my younger grandson make a gun yesterday out of an offcut of wood and a Texta, one of those Textas with a cap out of which a section protrudes onto which you can attach the caps of other like Textas so that they join in a row.

He used this section on the cap as his trigger and needed my help to fit the Texta and wood tight together with sticky tape so that he had his gun ready for firing then walked around the house shooting at imaginary targets.

I know these ways of operating are learned, constructed not hard wired and that he picked up such ideas from his online experience and from his older brother and peers, and it’s not a tragedy, it is what it is.

No matter we don’t run around with guns in Australia, my grandson is still drawn to them for all the complex reasons available to our understanding.

But it too feels spilt to me, between the need to develop some understanding of the dangers of guns and not idealise them as little boys do and the need to tolerate his aggressive impulses and learn to tame them as we girls are taught from earliest days to tame ours.

I was annoyed with my grandson when he spilled the water not that I carried on too much about it.

It was, after all, an accident, but it still rankles to see my jig saw pieces  damaged just as I was beginning to get into this new bright and cheerful experience.

Of putting together another world.  A cacophony of cats.

My jig saw on completion with the split pieces no longer visible.

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