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|Friday, August 22nd, 2014|
|Horrorman Act II
11 EXT DAY. SUNRISE OVER AN UP-MARKET SUBURBAN HOUSING ESTATE.
A milk van is seen coming along the road.
12 INT DAY. THE GABYS' BATHROOM.
Mr Gaby is washing and talking to his wife, who is out of shot.
GABY: He actually wanted me to have him certified. As bold as brass.
WIFE: Are you going to ?
GABY: I've been had once before. He had me certify the previous head of the history department... and now HE'S the head... that seems a bit fishy doesn't it?
WIFE: Well surely you're not a complete dummy... do you just do everything Hopper tells you? How come YOU'RE the headmaster and not him?
GABY: That's what I'm worried about my dear. If I keep giving in to him it could be my head next. I told him I wasn't going to do it.
WIFE: Goitre has been acting bloody odd just lately though.
GABY: That's no reason to have him carted away. It's half a dozen of one and six of the other... Goitre and Hopper, the two of them together... sometimes I wonder if they're doing it deliberately... plotting against me. I’ve got to put my foot down... there'll be no more certification without ratification from the school governors. Oh my WIFE: What is it?
GABY: The school governors, they're coming today at two. I'll have to shave.
WIFE: I should think so too... you've got a face like a door-mat.
GABY: (sotto voce) At least mine doesn't have "WELCOME" written all over it.
With soap in his eyes, Gaby looks for his watch.
GABY: MY GOD! the time. I've got to go but...
He feels his chin.
He then notices an aerosol can on the shelf.
GABY; I wonder.
The can reads "INSTANT LEG HAIR REMOVER".
GABY: Could try.
He shuts his eyes and sprays the aerosol over his face.
13 INT DAY: THE BEDROOM AJOINING THE BATHROOM.
We see the door of the bathroom ajar.
We see the back of Mr Gaby, standing by the washbasin, in his pyjama trousers.
GABY: Can I borrow your mascara for a moment please ?
WIFE: What do you want that for ?
GABY: I think my eyebrows have just fallen off.
14 INT DAY. MR GOITRE'S CLASSROOM.
It is later in the morning.
Goitre's room is decorated variously
with maps of the Holy Land,
and displays of canes.
Goitre is sitting on the edge of his desk, swinging his little legs.
His style of dress is somewhat haphazard.
His jacket is dirty and ill-fitting.
His trousers are far too big for him,
as is his jumper, and, unbelievably, his tie.
GOITRE: You! Over there: Yes, you boy. Well, you can stand up can't you.
The boy does so.
GOITRE: You seem to find something rather amusing don't you ? I'm sure we'd all like to hear the joke. Well ? What's the matter ? Cheshire Cat got your tongue ?
BOY: No sir.
GOITRE: Well then. you can wipe that silly grin off your face and open your mouth.
The boy is not ‘posh', or indeed all that well spoken.
He is wearing jeans and a leather-jacket and looks a bit or a ‘tough’.
He is however, bright.
BOY: Yes... sir.
GOITRE: Well then what was the little joke all about ? I believe we were discussing the Bible's opinion of the immortality of the human soul were we not ?
BOY: Yea sir.
GOITRE: Were you and your little pals able to find something to giggle about in that ? Eh ? Does the younger generation find the subject of life after death a bit of a rib-tickler eh ?
BOY: Yes sir.
GOITRE: What the hell do you mean ‘Yes sir‘
BOY: Well, it's all a bit of a joke, sir.
GOITRE: Is it really? You want a tight ?
BOY: No sir, it's just that...
GOITRE: Yes. Come on, out with it, what the hell are you rattling on about?
BOY: Well sir, the Big Bang theory of the universe is now a proven fact, and therefore we know that the universe had a define beginning and by the lava for Physics it must have a finite end, either collapsing in on itself if its point of origin lies entirely within its own gravitational radius, or expanding for ever until the atoms themselves decay into a uniform energy sink. Either way the universe must have an end, and we know it had a beginning, therefore everything in it is finite. Since we did not exist at the time of the Big Bang, if we did have souls, they would be just like us. a product or a finite universe... and if our souls did not exist inside the universe there wouldn't be any point in considering them anyway. do how can a finite cosmos have infinite articles inside it... how can the sum of the parts be GREATER than the whole, I mean, it's absurd... sir.
GOITRE: (white hot) Are you taking the Mickey ? ARE YOU TAKING THE MICKEY ?
BOY: No sir... I'm just saying that Gestalt doesn't work in reverse, as a deductive process it's a one-way system only.
GOITRE: Mr Hopper's put you up to this... don't think I don't know.
BOY: No, honest sir.
GOITRE: Who d'you think you are boy ? God Almighty ?
The bell for the end of the lesson rings.
GOITRE: If I didn't have a staff meeting now I'd give you a fight round the bike-sheds... I'd, I'd... (SCREAMS).
The class leave very fast.
15 INT DAY. CORRIDOR OUTSIDE THE HEADMASTER'S STUDY
Some members of staff are going in.
Mr Hopper makes his way down the corridor, groping the girls.
He bumps into Mr Goitre.
GOITRE: Mind where you’re going
HOPPER: Hello there Mr Goitre. Tell me, you little tub of lard, is that a mole on your face or is it your nose ?
GOITRE: Why don’t you go and shave... you look like a rat peering through a lavatory brush.
HOPPER: We are a great wit today I must say.
GOITRE: Must you ? If I said that of you, I'd only be half right.
They jostle each other on the way in,
both trying to be first through the door.
16. NT DAY. THE HEADMASTER'S STUDY.
A small circle of chairs have been
drawn up, with Gaby complete with
greasepaint eyebrows, sitting at the head.
Some of the teachers have been getting
plastic cups of coffee from a trolley
and return to their seats, passing in front
of the camera.
A pall of smoke rises from pipes, cigarettes
GABY: Everyone all right ? Now, I think we might begin by starting with the... er, starting at the, with the, er...
Shuffles wildly through his agenda.
GOITRE: (Voice only) Headmaster.
GABY: (To secretary) This agenda seems to start on page five...
We see a brief shot or Hopper stirring his coffee with a plastic spoon.
He takes the spoon out of the cup and shakes the excess coffee from it.
GOITRE: (Angrily dabbing his face with a handkerchief) Headmaster !
GABY: Has anyone got another, er...
GOITRE: (Shouting) Headmaster!
GABY: Yes Mr Goitre ?
GOITRE: Headmaster, this is too much. Mr Hopper is flicking spoonfuls of tea in my face.
HOPPER: I am not...
HOPPER: (Sotto Voce to Goitre) You little creep.
GABY: Just settle down please Mr Hopper.
HOPPER: I wasn't doing anything... and anyway, I’m drinking coffee, not tea.
GABY: I hardly think that matters
HOPPER: And even if I were flicking tea or coffee, I don't see why Mr Goitre should be worried about a few more stains when there’s enough of his breakfast on that jumper to feed the five thousand.
GOITRE: Do I really have to suffer this schoolboy wit, Headmaster ?
GABY: Indeed not Mr Goitre. If you please Mr Hopper. Now then...
Hopper pokes his tongue out at Goitre.
GABY: Please Mr Goitre, we have started, if you have any further points can you save them until the end of the meeting. Thank you. Now then, Miss Jones, could you read the minutes of the last meeting?
Miss Jones: Minute one, Mr Goitre complained that Mr Hopper was flicking spoonfuls of sugar at him.
GOITRE: Yes and if I might say...
Gaby: (foreseeing trouble) Yes, quite, well, I think we can skip the minutes and go to me main business, which is the school extension. Now, as you may know, the school needs a new wing, but there is not sufficient money available for major building work. The council have come up with a compromise offer, and they have very generously agreed to give us the use of the multi-storey car park in the town. Apparently it's underused and losing money so rather than close it they've decided to convert it into a class-room complex... Has anyone got any comments to add ?
17. INT DAY. THE PSYCHIATRIST'S OFFICE.
PSY: I would like you to oust your mind back to the first time you were arrested...
PSY: It was in Nineteen Seventy-seven I believe...
GOITRE: You've got it...
PSY: The charges were brought by the manager of your local branch of Roscoe's Supermarket.
GOITRE: I remember.
PSY: You had been biting the heads off the chickens on the Christmas food counter.
GOITRE: They were ropey old birds too. I wouldn't have bought any.
PSY: Why were you biting the heads off at Goitre, sir
GOITRE: I had to ... to keep my hand in... you understand...
PSY: Yes ...
GOITRE: I bid to practice, . . for the classroom I mean...
GOITRE: When I was in Roscoe's. I wasn't ‘In Loco Parentheses'.
PSY: You mean you could come unhinged between the brackets
GOITRE: Are you trying to be funny '?
PSY: No, I...
GOITRE: It wasn't a joke... those birds had seen in the freezer room... I could have got frost-bite I had to decapitate forty-seven before my jaw was supple enough... before I had the technique.
PSY: Did you use the technique ?
GOITRE: Not at that time, no... . I was saving it for--~ someone.
PSY: Who ?
GOITRE: I'd rather not say thank you.
PSY: Fair enough. There's something important I want to ask you, and I want you to think very carefully about this... have you ever had any fantasies about murder ?
GOITRE: Oh yes!
PSY: You have...
GOITRE: Many times! When I think of some of my pupils...
PS1’: that form did your thoughts towards them take
GOITRE: Well, I must say, they were pretty brutal.
PS4: They were brutal to you '?
GOITRE: No... I was brutal to them.
PSY: That figures. I believe I am right in saying that at one time you said that the way you wished to teach your pupils was to instil a feeling of terror into them, is that not true?
GOITRE: That is correct.
PSY: That is the way you wished to teach
GOITRE: If I might say…
GOITRE: As far as my methods of teaching were concerned…
PSY: Ah yes…
GOITRE: As you know…
PSY: I do know very well indeed…
GOITRE: I am a very strict disciplinarian...
PSY: Absolutely right... .
GOITRE: ... it's the only way... that they can learn.
PSY: I know his methods were very different from yours, Mr Goitre, sir, but wouldn’t you agree that Mr Hopper’s end was the same, that he wanted his pupils to fear him, and thereby respect him?
GOITRE: He wasn't so tough.
PSY: But his aims were
PSY: Is it not true that Mr Hopper's pupils were more terrified of him than yours mere of you ?
GOITRE: Well, I don't know about that.
PSY: Maybe you don't know now, maybe you thought you knew then. Might it not be true to say that you were JEALOUS of Mr Hopper ?
GOITRE: I was NOT!
18 INT DAY. GOITRE'S CLASSROOM.
Goitre returns after the staff meeting to find the same class he had before the break. He spots the boy who was a nuisance before
GOITRE: What ? You again boy ? What's your game?
BOY: It's a double lesson sir, we always come back after the break.
GOITRE: Oh, do you indeed. Well, well, Well. We'll soon who's the toughest now won't we... we'll see, we’ll see who's right.
He points to a boy sitting by the window
GOITRE: You boy... shut these window up ... and you, come on, give him a hand... let's have all these windows shut up... that's right, now, you, lock the door...here's the key.
Goitre goes over to his cupboard and opens the door.
GOITRE: (To The BOY) We’ll see now won’t we ? Still think you haven't got a soul do you boy ? Is that door locked?
The child comes back with the key.
GOITRE: Right... let's have some fun.
Goitre takes a car tyre out of his cupboard and lifts it onto his desk.
He then takes a blow-torch out of a
drawer in his desk and starts pumping
GOITRE: Oh yes, there’s only one way to deal with an unruly class. You’ve got to take firm action... fight fire with fire.
Goitre lights the blow-torch and tries to set the tyre on fire.
GOITRE: (To the boy) You... This’ll make you feel a bit more mortal won't it ?
The tyre begins to smoulder.
The class looks on horror-stricken.
Goitre opens out a New Testament and fans the fumes wildly, trying to set the tyre alight. He is grinning like a madman.
This is not difficult for him. He IS a madman.
GOITRE: (To the boy) You... Wittgenstein over there... let’s hear you explain this away in terms of abstracts.
The blow-torch fizzles and dies on him.
Goitre shakes it angrily.
GOITRE: Run out of paraffin eh ? Well. I'll be back, don’t you worry.
He goes out of the room, not forgetting to lock the door behind him.
He goes downstairs.
19 INT DAY. OUTSIDE THE SCHOOL CARETAKER’S ROOM
Goitre knocks at the door.
Mr Squid, the curator comes past.
SQUID: There's no bleedin’ point in you knockin'. I'm not in there.
Mr Squid is a short, stocky man.
His face is yellow and wrinkled, through excessive sunbathing and the up-draught of nicotine from endless high-tar cigarettes.
He sports a skin-head hair-cut which since his hair is naturally blond (or rather mousy) hides the fact that his hair-line is receding.
He has circular, rimless glasses, with half-inch thick lenses.
GOITRE: Ah., Mr Squid.
SQUID: What's your trouble ?
GOITRE: This blowtorch has left me in a rather embarrassing Matthew Twenty-five, one to thirteen situation. I need some more paraffin.
SQUID: Ain't got none. Could give you some methylated spirit though.
GOITRE: That'll do.
Squid takes a meths bottle out of his overall pocket, unscrews the top,
wipes it on his sleeve and offers it to Goitre.
Goitre tops up his torch with it.
By coincidence they happen to be standing outside Mr Hopper’s room.
Hopper emerges and sees Genre at once.
HOPPER: Why, Mr Goitre, I'd like to have a word with you.
GOITRE: Yes, well I'm busy, you’re going to have to wait, aren’t you ?
HOPPER: Oh no I'm not.
Hooper drags Goitre into his room.
Squid stares after.
HOPPER: (Disappearing) (To Squid) Get lost!
Squid tugs his forelock and stumbles off
20 INT DAY. MR HOPPER'S ROOM
Needless to say Hopper’s room is spotlessly neat.
Hopper drags Goitre in under his arm.
GOITRE: Don't you grope me.
Hopper drops him.
HOPPER: Now see here. What's the big idea of trying to make me look a fool in front of the H.M. all the time. What are you up to ?
GOITRE: I wouldn't have said anyone needed to try to make you look a fool... it couldn't be more obvious.
HOPPER: You think you're bloody clever don’t you ?
GOITRE: Well, I know you're not.
HOPPER: Oh yes. Well at least. I’m not a religious nut like you. I don't go around like a chicken with its head cut off, squawking about the Lord God All-bleeding-Mighty
GOITRE: You should watch what you're saying.
HOPPER: In case the bogey-man gets me for not saying my prayers ?
You really believe all that garbage don’t you? When you’re not actually trying to kick me in the ribs you’re always on some evangelical toot... Praise the Lord and Pass the ammo...
Points at blow-torch.
HOPPER: What’s this ? Going to make things hot for me ?
GOITRE: Well, I don’t think it’s any of your business how I spread the word.
HOPPER: Oh, I beg to differ… I think it IS. I’m beginning to think your attitude to me and your religious mania are very closely linked indeed. What's the idea ? You think I’m some sort of a little red devil ? Religious Education! You're living in the past, man.
GOITRE: And you're bang up to date with history I suppose.
HOPPER: Do you think that every back-bite you inflict on me brings you a step nearer your God ? A little closer to plucking a harp on a candy-floss cloud in dream-land ? Eh ? That what you think ? Saving up for a halo are you ? Putting down a deposit for a plot of real estate in dry-ice and sunshine country? God, you must be naïve. You know I'd really like to meet your God Goitre... I really would. I've heard he's a really snappy dresser... has a with-it line in Gold Lamé Kaftans, open toed sandals... and doesn't he have a Million Kilowatt light-bulb in place of a head ? Sounds a really big character.
Can't wait to meet him.
GOITRE: Well, you're going to meet him sooner then you were bargaining on!
Hopper has been laughing but the smile freezes on his face.
We see him from Goitre‘s point of view.
He shuffles back as Goitre advances on him.
Very fast cut, less than a second, to the Christmas food counter at Roscoe's Supermarket all those chickens dangling in a row...
Then back to Hopper.
Hopper backs away.
The picture turns a lurid red.
21 INT DAY. THE CORRIDOR OUTSIDE HOPPER'S ROOM
Horrible scream is heard... then silence.
|Tuesday, July 29th, 2014|
|Horrorman: Mr Goitre (1980) Part One
HORRORMAN - MR GOITRE
by Daniel Love Peacock, January 1980.
JAMES THYROID GOITRE.
BOY IN GOITRE'S CLASS.
THE ARCH-ANGEL GABRIEL.
SIR HAMMOND WILTON.
DOORMAN AT THE ARCHDUKE FERDINAND
1. INT DAY. A LONG WHITE CORRIDOR.
Apart from evenly spaced doors, the
corridor is completely featureless.
At first we see only two pairs of feet
striding down the corridor.
We view them from an oblique angle, as though
they are moving from right to left.
Cut to the heads and shoulders of three
men, in profile, who appear to be coming
the other way.
Back to the feet which are marching a little
faster, striking the floor and setting it ringing.
The three men go faster as well.
They appear to be coming for a confrontation.
Now we see the feet from the front,
slightly faster again.
Cut to the three men's faces, again from
the front. The middle man glances angrily
at the other two.
The feet are almost running now.
The three men are running too. The middle
man is wriggling and breathing heavily.
The feet come to a sudden halt.
There is silence.
We cut to the three men, also standing
still, facing us.
Cut back to the feet and then pull back
slowly until we see a third pair of
feet dangling in mid-air, just below the
knees of the other two.
Pull back completely and we see that the
feet and heads belong to the same people
the middle-man's feet are clear of the
ground altogether and he is held up, wedged
between the other two.
The middle-man is Mr Goitre.
He is wearing a white straitjacket
The two men drop him to the ground and
knock at a door marked "Police Psychiatrist".
Voice inside calls "Come in. "
2 INT DAY. THE POLICE PSYCHIATRIST'S OFFICE
The psychiatrist is sitting down.
PSY: Well, well, I hope I've got your name right. You're, James Thyroid Goitre, yes ?
GOITRE: Don't call be James... call me "Sir".
Goitre's accent contains elements
drawn from a line joining Southampton,
Bristol and Dublin.
In speaking, his teeth hardly seem to
move at all, but seem to be welded
PSY: I'm very sorry, 'sir'. Please, sit down,
GOITRE: You don't mind if I sit down do you ?
PSY: Not at all. Would you prefer to lie down, on the couch ?
GOITRE: I'd rather sit thank you.
PSY: As you wish.
Goitre sits down.
PSY: That's better, now we can have a nice, cosy chat, eh ?
GOITRE: What about ?
PSY: I was rather hoping we could talk about you.
GOITRE: There's not much to say I'm afraid.
PSY: I wouldn't say that. The police find you a very
GOITRE: Well, they're very nosy little blighters aren't
PSY: Why don't you talk about it ?
GOITRE: (Angry) Talk about what ? Are you having me on? Talk about what, eh ? I ell, speak up.
PSY: Whatever you like, I'm here to listen.
GOITRE: If you think I'm going to go over the lesson again just for your benefit and hold up the whole class you've got another thing coming my lad... that's all I can say.
Where were you last week ?
PSY: I'm not quite sure I follow you. .
GOITRE: And where’s your homework ? Eh ? Was the dog sick over it ? Fell in the washing machine did it ? Your baby brother chewed it up did he ? Oh yes, I’ve heard all those excuses before... You'll have to do a lot better than that.
PSY: Mr Goitre, sir, please calm down...
GOITRE: Yes, sorry about that...
PSY: You’re not in the class-room, you're quite safe.
GOITRE: Got a bit carried away.
PSY: It's quite understandable.
GOITRE: I've been under a lot of pressure... from my pupils.
PSY: Why don't you tell me more about your pupils...
how well did you get along with them ?
GOITRE: You could say that the entente was not particularly Cordiale.
PSY: I see...
GOITRE: Most of the time you understand...
GOITRE: People... would take the Mickey of me...
GOITRE: And that's one thing I don't like.
PSY: Why do you think they do this ?
GOITRE: (Jumping the gun and mis-hearing the question)
Oh, I... I know they do it.
PSY: You KNOW they do this ?
GOITRE: I've caught them at it.
PSY: And what have you done ?
GOITRE: When ?
PSY: When you caught them, what did you do ?
GOITRE: Well, one little blighter... I knew
GOITRE: I remember the last time he did that … very clearly as a matter of fact.
PSY: Ah ha ...
GOITRE: Because he was in hospital...
PSY: Ah yes...
GOITRE: As a result.
PSY: Of course, I remember I saw the doctor’s report.
GOITRE: That's right.
PSY: Apart from breaking the kid’s nose in several places and causing severe lacerations...
GOITRE: Oh yes...
PSY: You also forced him to march, am I right ? "
PSY: Forced him to march up and down...
GOITRE: That's right...
PSY: Until he dropped with exhaustion.
GOITRE: I'm too soft on them.
PSY: Would I be right in saying that you felt threatened, Mr Goitre, sir?
GOITRE: You would.
PSY: You felt the world was out to yet you ?
GOITRE: That as well, yes.
PSY: Would you say that this was a major contributing factor to the stress you felt at the time of the... er...
GOITRE: Well, it wasn’t only stress from my pupils —
oh no... from the headmaster as well.
PSY: (Looking at his notes) Ah yes, Mr Reg Gaby.
3 EXT DAY. THE SCHOOL CAR PARK.
We see Gaby locking his car.
He is a somewhat pudgy man,
He is slightly balding.
As he fumbles with the lock of the
car he drops papers, briefcase, etc.
PSY: (Voice over) Was he an easy man to get along with ?
GOITRE: (Voice over) He was... reasonable.
4 INT DAY. THE PSYCHIATRIST'S OFFICE.
PSY: You have known worse I take it.
GOITRE: Ah, now then, if I may...
Might I mention one person ?
PSY: Go ahead.
GOITRE: The History master...
PSY: How that would be...
GOITRE: Mr Hopper.
PSY: Eric Hopper, ah yes... (excited)
5 EXT DAY. THE MAIN ENTRANCE TO THE SCHOOL
We see Eric Hopper.
He is young, with long hair and
a beard and moustache.
He wears a suede jacket which is
cut into little tassels along the
seams like a lino-strip doorway
in a chip-shop.
He has a sweat-shirt which beers a
coat of arms and the words
"KING'S COLLEGE CAMBRIDGE".
He wears a badge which reads
"Legalise Cannabis. "
His personal habits include picking his
nose, scratching his backside and yawning
loudly in mixed company.
The young girls in his history class often
find him leering down their
blouses and pinching their bottoms.
We see him approaching the front door
of the school at the same time as Gaby.
They collide and Gaby gets elbowed out of
PSY: (Voice over) I believe you had some trouble with him.
GOITRE: (VOICE over) Well, quite a bit as a matter of fact.
6 INT DAY. THE PSYCHIATRIST’S OFFICE.
PSY: What kind of trouble ?
GOITRE: If you must know, he was a bit cheeky... fancied
himself as a great wit... the lowest form of wit.
PSY: He was sarcastic ?
GOITRE: He liked to think so... yes.
PSY: He was a strict disciplinarian, wasn't he ?
GOITRE: Not as much as me.
PSY: Hmmm. Was there any conflict between you ?
GOITRE: How do you mean?
GOITRE: PHYSICAL conflict you mean?
PSY: Yes, if you like.
GOITRE: Well, not at first.
PSY: What about the mental conflict - then ?
GOITBE: He was plotting against me, you know.
PSY: I didn't know...
GOITRE: Oh yes... him and that milksop of a headmaster,
the two or them together.
PSY: Do you know why they were plotting against you?
GOITRE: Well, you may find this a bit hard to credit,
but, to be perfectly frank with you, they'd got it into their heads that I was a bit barmy.
PSY: The two of them together ?
GOITRE: Oh yes! They were as thick as thieves... and, if I might say, as thick as two short planks. Thought they could put one over on me... yes, they soon got a bit of a surprise.
PSY: They certainly did. But what brought matters to a head ?
GOITRE: Well, I remember he gave me a phone call at home.
PSY: Who ? Not Mr Hopper ?
GOITRE: No. Well, he DID ring up from time to time... but he never actually, said who he was... said a lot of other things though... I knew it was him.
PSY: But this particular call... ?
GOITRE: Came from the headmaster.
PSY: I see.
7 INT DAY. THE HEADMASTER'S STUDY.
We see Eric Hopper just leaving the room.
Gaby is dialling a number on the telephone.
8 INT DAY. MR GOITRE'S PRIVATE STUDY AT HOME.
Goitre's house looks like a tip.
Mr Goitre is seen indulging in his favourite leisure-time activity which involves putting his head into a crudely adapted printer's hand press, which resembles a Mediaeval head-vice, and tightening it up.
Experience has taught him to keep the telephone within arm's reach.
He answers, in the throes of self-inflicted agony.
GOITRE: Mr Goitre here. Yes I'm perfectly all right thank you head master.
9 INT DAY. HEADMASTER'S STUDY.
GABY: (Into mouthpiece) Fine. You weren't available after classes, so I thought I'd ring you at home. There’s going to be an important staff meeting tomorrow, about the extensions to the school. You will be there ?
10 INT DAY. GOITRE'S ROOM.
GOITRE: Have you been talking to Mr Hopper?
GABY: (Voice on telephone) Why do you ask ?
GOITRE: You been having a crafty word with him ?
GABY: (Voice) As a matter of fact he's just left. How did you know ?
GOITRE: Is he going to be there tomorrow ?
GABY: (Voice) Yes.
GOITRE: Yes, I'll have a wander over then. What time ?
GABY: (Voice) Mid-morning break... there will be coffee.
GOITRE: I'll be there. Bye-bye.
He puts the telephone down.
He then give the vice another turn of the screw.
|Wednesday, April 17th, 2013|
|The Ultimate Wind-Up
Reassessing Anthony Burgess and his Clockwork Oranges
THE ULTIMATE WIND-UP:
Reassessing Anthony Burgess and his Clockwork Oranges
There is a powerful mythic element in the novel. The story of A Clockwork Orange essentially stems from a mediæval Nordic legend, the basis of Ingmar Bergman’s film The Virgin Spring in 1960, two years before Burgess’s novel. In both A Clockwork Orange and Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, a man rapes and murders a young woman and then, later, inadvertentlyseeks shelter in the woman’s very own home, to become himself the victim of the husband/father’s revenge. Wes (Nightmare on Elm Street) Craven also used this very same plot in his notorious 1972 film Last House on the Left. Kubrick’s even more notorious film of A Clockwork Orange appeared the previous year, in 1971, and in view of Kubrick and Burgess’s respective silences on their Clock works (in K’s case banning his own film, in B’s case disowning his own novel), it is interesting to look at Craven’s comments on his version:
‘Last House was really a reaction on my part to the violence around us, specifically the Vietnam war. I spent a lot of time on the streets protesting the war, and I wanted to show how violence affects people. It blew away all the clichés of handling violence. Before that violence had been neat and tidy: I made it painful and protracted and shocking and very human. And I made the people who were doing the killing very human.’
The Aurum Film Encyclopedia,
A Clockwork Orange
certainly makes ‘the people doing the killing very human’ and this is a vital part of its power as fiction, but it also shows us the obverse side of this, the dehumanising effect that occurs when society’s victims take their revenge, and in so doing become more bestial than the criminals themselves. In Craven’s film, the quiet, suburban mom and dad dispatch the murderers by electrocution, genital mutilation, and ultimately lop their limbs off one by one with a chainsaw.
A Clockwork Orange,
thus, has to be seen in its context. On the one hand it is Science Fiction, in that we have ‘men on the moon’ (still a distant fantasy in 1962) and Ludovico’s treatment, but on the other hand we can just as easily see it as crime fiction written from the point of view of the criminal rather than that of the detective, a style favoured by such writers as, for example, Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr Ripley, Strangers on a Train), Donald E. Westlake (The Busy Body, Bank Shot), Chester Himes (Cotton Comes to Harlem), or Derek Raymond.
Derek Raymond’s 1962 thriller The Crust On Its Uppers stands very close comparison to A Clockwork Orange. The ‘hero’ also speaks in a complex argot which requires a glossary in order to be decoded. The ‘deviators’ in the book are either ‘Morries’, young aristos down on their luck who have turned to crime, or ‘the slag’, working class criminals. Our hero wanders from fight to fight, muscles in on fixed gambling dens, and takes ‘snap’ (amyl nitrate) to get him ready for his night’s work just as Alex takes his ‘milk with knives in it’. Alex and his ‘droogs’ would unquestionably be the very same ‘slag’ the ‘morries’ loathe and despise in Raymond’s world. Although the plot diverges from A Clockwork Orange at the end of the book, the criminal world described in the two novels is very similar indeed. The foremost point of contact is the ingratiating way in which the lead villain addresses us, the readers, personally, and makes us sympathetic to him, even when he is doing very questionable things indeed.
That sympathy is vital to the issue that sets A Clockwork Orange apart, namely whether it is right to suppress a part of a person’s humanity even when their way of expressing that humanity is violent and anti-social. A lot of this is bound up with the view that without free-will man cannot ever fulfil God’s plans:
‘...The question is whether such a technique can really make a man good. Goodness comes from within, 6655321. Goodness is something chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man.’ (Pt. 2, Chpt. 1)
There are many grim little jokes along the way. For a start, in tearing up his namesake F. Alexander’s book, A Clockwork Orange, Alex is destroying a work which argues (albeit in very pretentious language) this very same point. Alex is himself a very determined (and literary) critic of the way that other people live, and presents himself as a pillar of the right, interpreting prurience everywhere, destroying books that offend his surprisingly bourgeois sensibilities. ‘What is this filthy slovo, I blush to look at this word,’ he says to the old man whose books are torn up in chapter one. ‘I didn’t like the look of Dim,’ he tells us. ‘He looked dirty and untidy, like a veck who’d been in a fight, which he had been, of course, but you should never look as though you have been.’ Alex is one of the slag, but clearly sees himself as a morrie manqué.
His keen interpretive eye turns against him, hilariously, at the end when he interprets the words of a political pamphlet to be a command to kill himself:
‘Open the window to fresh air, fresh ideas, a new way of living.’ And so I knew that was like telling me to finish it all off by jumping out. (Pt. 3, Chpt. 5)
Of course, the Ludovico treatment was not entirely Science-Fiction, but can be seen to have been based on many different types of systems employed in prisons and mental institutions in Britain and the United States at that time. The ‘Quickie Lobotomy’ had been perfected in the USA during the 1950s such that every year, many thousands of people could have their frontal lobes severed under local anaesthetic in minutes. Proponents of the technique often stated that in their view it was preferable to have an individual in society with impaired mental abilities than with anti-social patterns of behaviour. Another wide-spread technique which produced similar effects was Electro-Convulsive ‘Therapy’, (Useful background reading on this topic: Breggin, Peter Roger. Electroshock: Its Brain-Disabling Effects. New York: Springer Publishing Co., 1979, and Chorover, Stephen L. From Genesis to Genocide: The Meaning of Human Nature and the Power of Behavior Control. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1980). Ken Kesey’s famous novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest deals with a petty criminal who admits himself to a mental hospital thinking it to be an easy option over prison, but is finally lobotomised and reduced to a vegetable.
Another, more intriguing, possibility is that A Clockwork Orange may have a homosexual subtext. Alex and his ‘droogs’ are easy to recognize as criminals, since they do overtly violent things which are in no way ‘victimless’. They are, however, led to do these things by the very nature of their humanities, as though they were in some way, unstoppable. Alex is given an option to have the remainder of his sentence ‘commuted to submission to what is called here, ridiculous expression, Reclamation Treatment.’(Pt. 2, Chpt. 3). Very much the same option was open to homosexual men, imprisoned at a time when homosexuality was still a full, criminal offence:
One type of hormone treatment that has been used most on men imprisoned for homosexual offenses is the administration of a hormone that diminishes the sex drive... These drugs are anti-androgens, which work by counteracting the effects of a man’s own testes’ hormones (androgens). The hormone treatment, in fact, does nothing at all to alter his basic sexual orientation: all it does is to suppress the sex drive. Because of this, it has limited use for social control of homosexuals. Perhaps the most important ethical question it raises is the possibility of drug use being a condition for getting parole - ‘you’ll get out earlier if you take these tablets’.
Birke, Lynda, 1980, ‘From Zero to Infinity: Scientific Views of Lesbians.’ in Birke, L., Faulkner, W., Best, S., Janson-Smith, D., Overfield, K., (ed.) Alice Through the Microscope: The Power of Science over Women’s Lives, London, Virago, p.120.
A report on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme (28th November 1997) revealed that in the 1950s, about forty homosexuals, prisoners and borstal boys, were given a form of aversion therapy very like the Ludovico Treatment. Shown slides of men and women which they were free to click forward themselves, they were given a small electric shock if they lingered over the male pictures for too long. Reporter Martin Shankleman noted that ‘Psychologists like Cedric Hart acknowledge the impact of films like A Clockwork Orange...’ in having had the practice of aversion therapy stopped in Britain’s prisons.
Re-reading A Clockwork Orange as a homosexual allegory would certainly no longer make it seem uncharacteristic of Burgess’s usual subject matter but place it at the centre of his literary concerns. In many of his books, he deals with the theme of male homosexuals agonising over their role in a heterosexual world, doubting their own sexualities but eventually reconfirming them. We find this at the heart of each novel in the Enderby trilogy, as well as in Burgess’s other most well-known work, Earthly Powers.
Another point of contact is the use of the imaginary patois spoken by Alex. Criminals (or ‘deviators’ as Raymond significantly called them) were not the only ones with their own private language. Burgess uses ‘Nadsat’ (a Slavic root meaning ‘-teen’), forming slang words from the Russian language. His stated aim in so doing was to avoid the dated effect that old slang produces (although Raymond’s is a fascinating historical document, and provides a key). The homosexual community, in as much danger from the police as the criminal fraternity, had their own slang, but this was not like the morries’ peculiar version of rhyming slang, but very much more like Nadsat in that it was based on an actual foreign language. Polari was cod Italian, in which ‘varder well, bona catso’ would mean ‘Look at [his] nice cock!’ Compare and contrast: bona catso and horrorshow groodies.
In this light, I might propose an answer to a very small throwaway line in A Clockwork Orange that may have more to it than meets the eye, and brings together all these speculations. Why should the sign reading ‘HOME’, which Alex sees outside the Alexander home, be such a ‘gloomy sort of a name’? On one level, this is joke of a very Joycean type, and don’t let’s forget that Burgess was not the least enthusiastic of Joyce’s fans. The English word ‘gloomy’ is matched with the Russian word glumit’s’a meaning ‘to mock,’ ‘to jeer (at)’ or ‘to commit an outrage (upon)’. The mocking is manifold. The HOME mocks Alex’s own conceptions of home life, its relative wealth mocking his relative poverty. The other side of the meaning is that it is Alex who is about to commit an outrage upon it himself. But none of these give us an application of the English sense of gloomy, meaning dark, or foreboding, unless there is here a premonition of the coming revenge. Homosexuality simply mean the sexuality of ‘the same’ and it is ‘the same’ that he is about to face in the form of the man, Alexander, with ‘the same’ name, and views, as his own. Could it be that another reason that the name is gloomy for Alex is that HOME looks so much like HOMO?
|Friday, September 21st, 2012|
|Trouble in Mind
Met up with a very good friend after work to see The Trouble with Harry.
We concluded this was an odd addition to the Hitchcock season at the BFI. I’d never seen it before. It doesn’t get shown that much. Hitch fans don’t rate it, I learned. It is unlike most of his other films.
I’d sort of known vaguely that it was about a body, but had always imagined it as a creepy, disappearing corpse drama. Or even, a creepy ‘corpse-won’t-disappear’ thriller. In fact, it was both of these things, but not creepy. It was meant to be a comedy, which is a lot more disturbing. The biggest surprise for me came at the beginning, when the opening titles revealed that it was based on a story by Jack Trevor Story. I remembered him from my teenage, when he used to contribute strange and disturbing shorts to Punch magazine, and was often referred to as the ‘bard of Milton Keynes’. I think he’d been invited to be the writer in residence to the new city when it was completed, but had then decided to stay there. Like name, like nature, I’d thought then. A number of his stories involved men with serious drinking problems and I had often wondered if these were autobiographical.
Anyway, in this strange tale there are lots of misadventures when a small boy discovers a dead body in the woods. Next, a retired sea-captain, out for a day’s hunting, thinks he has shot the man in question by mistake. There then follow a number of ‘comic’ interludes in which the body is repeatedly hidden, buried and then dug up again.
This might give the impression that it resembles the ‘hide-the-stiff’ high-jinx of a Whitehall farce, or the dead guest episode in Fawlty Towers,
but it is like neither of these. There is a peculiar jokiness among the villagers about Harry’s death. All of them knew him, yet none mourn his passing. Most seem to think they will be suspected of killing him, although it is never really clear why he was so disliked. His widow is the most pleased to hear he is dead, although his only crime appears to be that he walked out on her on her wedding night.
The BFI’s free handout for the film quoted from an article by David Kehr in Film Comment
(May/June 1984). He made a very nice point in saying that in “most Hitchcock films, guilt destroys; in The Trouble with Harry,
it brings people together... The ending finds the harmony of a Shakespearean comedy... As if in a fairy tale, the magic day - the day of Harry’s death and the unification of the couples - it is a day out of time. It has disappeared from the calendar.”
This is true, and he’s thinking of the Forest of Arden, which is sort of where this takes place, but in a Shakespeare comedy we need to care about the lovers. However, these characters seemed almost heartless in their laughing flippancy towards the body of the deceased. It made me feel uneasy about them, alienated from their mentality. On the surface it is a somewhat sleepy piece, with no Hitchcockian edge to it at all. Emotionally, there was no focus, either.
I began to wonder whether Hitchcock was stitching in a very subtle message, one that could only be seen in what he was showing but not saying. The one person who says nothing is Harry. What was Hitch telling us about him?
Harry’s body is lying prone on the ground, exactly as though laid out for burial. People who die suddenly, whether shot, brained or felled by infarction do not take the trouble to lie down so neatly before dying... yet this is what the film requires us to believe Harry did. He would have toppled like a tree. Rigor Mortis fixes the body in its final posture - it doesn’t automatically straighten someone out. Harry is a ‘stiff’ and, in life, he must have been very stiff indeed - stiff as a board. Hitchcock is giving us a visual pun on ‘stiffness’ - perhaps, then, there are other visual clues to glean.
Harry’s body is immaculately dressed. He is in a stylish, grey city suit and very expensive shoes. We know he has come from Boston, but why should he be so smart just for a walk in the woods, way out in the country? Those shoes were not made for hiking. The other characters are very casually dressed, save when they are on a ‘date’. Clearly Harry was particular about his attire, but would have been conspicuous in such a rural setting. Fastidious, you might even say.
He is also shown wearing a pink shirt and a flamboyant pink and orange tie. Now, in the present day, a pink shirt has no special significance, but back in the 1950s it certainly had. It would not guarantee that the wearer was gay, but it would very strongly suggest it. Combined with a colourful tie, and baby-blue socks with pretty red toe-tips... I think we are intended to read Harry’s dress as (in the parlance of the day) ‘effeminate’.
Harry’s great ‘crime’ was not to consummate his marriage, and to abandon his wife on her wedding night, then flee to the city. Her son, it is revealed, is not Harry’s. There is a suggestion that he attacked a woman in the woods, but this is then shown not to have had a sexual motive, but because he thought it was his wife, who had assaulted him earlier in the day.
Harry’s surname is Worp, which would be an old Dutch name, originally Vander Worp, and so appropriate to New England, but it is worth noting how it would sound like ‘warp’ in English, as in ‘warped’. Hitchcock would recognise this as very similar to the British slang term ‘bent’ - at that time meaning ‘homosexual’.
It bothered me that there was a kind of running joke about Harry being taken for a rabbit. The body of a rabbit appears later, and the camera dwells on it, without comment. It’s a dead stand-in for Harry himself and matches his stretched out posture. Rabbits are proverbially seen as somewhat sex-obsessed creatures, and ‘bunny’ may have been an old slang term for gay prostitute.
When the sheriff comes to call, Harry’s body is hidden, yet the closet keeps opening all by itself. In fact, the body is not in the closet, but something hidden keeps being revealed. Whether the term ‘coming out of the closet’ in a specifically gay sense was in use at that time is possible though doubtful, but the idea of keeping things in the closet, or hiding a skeleton in the closet was well-known. The camera keeps focusing on the opening of the closet, which seems to be for no real reason. It may be for a symbolic rather than plot purpose.
This idle speculation doesn’t exactly redeem the film - it’s still a lesser Hitchcock, but it does seem to be that there is a curious subtext, possibly that of repressed homosexuality (and Boston at that time was renowned for such repression). It cuts deeper than that, though. There may even be a racial element hinted at.
We never see Harry’s face, save in Sam Marlowe’s pastel sketch, in which the predominant colouring seems to be browns and ochres, with a hint of orange and tan. Harry appears to have a somewhat dark complexion from this picture. In all the shots of the body, the soles of Harry’s feet (either shod or in socks) are shown in close-up. They are Harry’s most prominent feature. All we ever see of his naked body is a glimpse of his bare feet poking out from the bath. The soles of his feet are white, right enough, but then so are everybody’s. The soles of the feet, like the palms of the hands, have no pigment cells, so we can draw no firm conclusion about Harry’s race. Perhaps we are not meant to. Perhaps this is another outrageous visual pun. Could Hitchcock be hinting that Harry is a soul (sole) brother? There’s no clear evidence that this term for a black American was current in 1954, but Ray Charles and Milt Jackson released an album called Soul Brothers
in 1958, which suggests it was clearly in use before then, at least.
The gleefulness of the villagers at Harry’s demise is troubling. I wonder if there is a very faint allusion from Hitch about the prejudices of the 1950s, against gay men, against people of other ethnic groups, against the outsider. No matter how they try to bury this body and to hammer down the things they hate, they keep popping up again. No matter how many times they close the closet door, it creaks open once more. Their happy ending may be sweet and nice, but it is not emotionally satisfying. It comes at a price. At the end, all the ‘trouble’ is ready to begin again... Harry will just not go away, and nor will everything he represents.
|Saturday, September 15th, 2012|
I was wondering what to say about this new film that has caused such a rumpus.
I was a little unsure about how wise it might be to talk about it out loud on public transport, and wondered which euphemism to use. It was when I thought of referring to it as "The Entertainment" that it all clicked into place. As a friend of mine put it: "this is a conspiracy that will require at least three rolls of tin foil for the hat..." Wrap cranium tightly, and follow my twisty tale...
Some years ago, fans of my old livejournal blog may recalls that I scribbled down my thoughts after reading David Foster Wallace's very, very long and highly unusual book Infinite Jest in a piece entitled "Is the joke on me?")
Wallace committed suicide on September 12, 2008, in other words four years ago last Wednesday. This week the New Yorker carried an 'in memoriam' piece on him.
Of course it's just a coincidence that this whole thing about the supposed film The Innocence of Muslims
should emerge in the papers here on that day. Wallace's novel does have a plot, even though fairly few pages are devoted to it, but it is one that makes my eyebrows raise high right now. The story is about a film, called Infinite Jest.
This film is so captivating that anyone who sees even a few seconds of it is drawn in, compelled to watch more. By the time they reach the end, they are obsessed. Viewers are unable to think of anything else in the world, except this film. Family, food, drink, bodily functions are all subordinate to the single most important necessity in their lives - watching the film again. Deprived of the film, addicts howl with pain, jibber incomprehensibly, scream only that they must see it. They are willing to suffer the amputation of fingers, toes or limbs if, in return, they can watch Infinite Jest.
No-one who has not seen the film knows what it is about, nor what it contains since, once anyone has
seen it, they can never communicate anything again, save their overwhelming urge to see it. Effectively, once anyone has seen even a glimpse of Infinite Jest,
they are irreversibly insane.
We discover that the film was created by military intelligence for use as a weapon in a possible Third World War. The CIA referred to it as "The Entertainment". The novel deals with attempts to trace the source of bootleg copies of "The Entertainment" which have found their way into the community. The first victims are a Saudi diplomat and his family.
The resemblances between this present situation and Wallace's novel are striking. Like Infinite Jest,
the creator of this film is hard to identify. Again, as in Infinite Jest,
actors who appeared in "The Entertainment" say they were unaware of the true nature of the film, nor that they were involved in anything so strange or dangerous. In Infinite Jest,
it is uncertain whether the lethal edit of the film is the one its director intended.
The Madrid daily, El Pais,
reported yesterday that this new film may not even exist: Un tráiler incendiario para una película que no existe.
Their investigation reveals a history every bit as obscure and misleading as that of Infinite Jest.
They conclude that there is nothing more to Inocencia de los musulmanes
beyond a fourteen minute trailer. Not even the title is real. This appears to have been added later as well. Those ringing up Radio Bloke's phone-in yesterday claiming to have seen it, then, cannot have been telling the whole truth.
If so many are aware of this film around the world, why had we in Britain heard nothing ourselves? Could it be that we, in the West, were not the intended audience?
According to El Pais
some footage in Inocencia de los musulmanes
seems to derive from an abandoned production called Desert Warrior.
This had a producer called Sam Bassiel, from which the bogus name 'Sam Bacile' is clearly derived. Of course, they’ve now found someone who has a name vaguely similar to that, an Egyptian Copt, apparently, but I’d be very surprised if he’s really behind it. The name sounds made-up. It’s like ‘imbecile’ but also ‘bacillus’ or agent of infection. That, I think, is what we are really looking at.
This is Infinite Jest
in reality. A film that immediately obsessed those exposed to it. A film designed as a weapon of war. By the CIA? By Al Qaeda themselves? By someone else? It’s too early to tell, but the signs are ominous. Perhaps it is just a coincidence that buses in San Francisco have lately been carrying large advertisements openly referring to Muslims as ‘savages’ (Anti-Islam ads on San Francisco buses put Muslims at risk
) Perhaps it is, but if that is the message someone wants to sell, the reaction to this film as it has been reported to us
would appear to fit in very nicely with their campaign. Considering that Lebanese commentators believe war between Israel and Iran is now inevitable (Netanyahu pushes for a war the US doesn't want
) I'd say grab your tin-foil while stocks last.
|Saturday, June 23rd, 2012|
Let’s look at what we know. We
have the feeling that this is meant to be a future America, yet the state is
called Panem. Not, you notice, PanAm, or ‘all America’ but Panem - the Latin
word for ‘Bread’ as in Juvenal’s phrase ‘panem et circenses
’ - ‘bread and circuses.’ This tells us where we are,
politically - although Suzanne Collins does make this connection explicit in
the third book, just in case we’d missed it. The state has the bread. The Games
are the Roman Colosseum. The starving population is kept in line by their
participation in the ‘Hunger Games’ and victors can bring rewards of food with
them on their return. Each region where the Games are enacted are referred to
as ‘the arenas’. The ‘tributes’ are the slaves who are made gladiators to fight to the death for the glory of the Emperor.
One boy and one girl are chosen
each year from each of the Districts. This also brings to mind the tributes
King Minos demanded to feed his Minotaur each year. Perseus, the hero who
finally defeats the monster, has to descend into the Labyrinth just as the
sacrifices do - in other words, he has to play the ‘game’ in order to win it.
Unlike Perseus, however, Katniss does not enter the arena intending to defeat
the system. She has no choice but to play the game, yet playing the game sparks
resistance in her.
In the first two books, the
author is mixing up and playing with a profusion of political ideas and
historical connections that readers will have, either consciously or
subliminally. The country at the heart of the drama is an amalgam of many
different types of national systems.
What is Panem? It has a ruling
‘Capitol’ presiding over thirteen defeated subject ‘Districts’. These serve the
Capitol and keep it in luxury at massive cost to themselves. The most obvious
parallel to this idea of thirteen ‘districts’ is the United States in its
colonial years. There was the capital, which would have been Jamestown, and
then there were the thirteen colonies. Here we have the ‘Capitol’ (matching the
spelling of the government building in Washington D.C.) and thirteen
‘districts’. Some of the districts are very large indeed. In this vision they
are oppressed by their political masters, who hold them in servitude, but they
are rebellious and wish to win their freedom.
Of course, in the history of the
USA, the thirteen colonies rebelled successfully and formed a new country. In
this dystopic future, the rebellion was a failure, punished by these
gladiatorial games. It is a very clever twist to set the story not at the time
of the rebellion, but seventy-four years later. We see the entrenched political
system, and the stagnation of the economy.
There was an unsuccessful
rebellion in America, too. The South rose, and failed. It was severely put down
by the victorious Union, with widespread poverty following for the defeated
Confederacy. There were eleven secessionist states in ‘Dixey’ plus another four
territories and states claimed though not officially part of the rebellion. Not
quite the thirteen of Panem, but there is an analogy here. The dates may also
connect. The South rose up eighty-four years after the founding of the USA,
which is close. Seventy-four years after the defeat of the South would bring us
to 1939, seeing the world back at war again, yet this parable alludes to
another model too.
The Soviet Union was founded in
1917 and fell apart in a revolution seventy-four years later, in 1991. The USSR
comprised one vast region (Russia) and fourteen smaller ‘Soviet Socialist
Republics’ ranged around its borders. Not thirteen ‘Districts’, but close. As
in The Hunger Games’ Panem, not all the ‘Republics’ were the same size. Some,
like Moldova, were tiny, while others, like The Ukraine and Kazakhstan, were
huge. The non-Russian states had been variously conquered or coopted by Russia
and incorporated into the territory of the Soviet Union in its early history.
There were civil wars and rebellions, but these were put down and massive
purges, show trials and famines followed. Hunger Games, perhaps. We know that
Panem’s District 13 was left radioactive, and, in the Soviet Union, The Ukraine
famously had a nuclear disaster at Chernobyl which resulted in large tracts of
it also becoming radioactive.
It is not clear from the first
two books that the nuclear weapons were used other than by the Capitol in
suppressing the rebellion. The third book, however, changes direction and
suggests that Panem originally came about as a result of a global nuclear
holocaust, which places the series in the category of Fiction of Last Things,
along with works like A Canticle for Leibowitz and Riddley Walker.
What kind of political system
does Panem represent? In the second book, Catching Fire, we read (on page 300) that when people in District
12 marry, they apply to the Justice Building and they are ‘assigned a home,’
which tells us that there is a kind of Communistic system in which people’s
housing and work placements are decided for them by the state - as in the USSR.
A brutal police force, very like that of the Soviet Union, keeps the slaves
under control, punishing lack of productivity with physical pain or death.
We are told, in the first book,
that the ‘arenas’ are all preserved permanently as tourist attractions, yet we
learn from the story that these spaces are of enormous size and cover hundreds
of square miles. How could all these seventy-three regions be segregated and
kept uninhabited in this way without taking up a giant chunk of the Capitol’s
territory? If the Capitol is meant to be the District (!) of Columbia, this
would be impossible. On the other hand, if the allusion to the USSR is right,
then this would be no problem. Russia has long exiled its troublesome citizens
to Siberia, and there would be more than enough ‘empty’ land in the north and
east of Russia for any number of Hunger Games arenas.
Snow - just like a Soviet leader
- is president for life. We see that he was in office at the previous ‘Quarter
Quell’ twenty-five years before. His name brings to mind age (white hair),
coldness and death. He smells of blood, and Katniss wonders if he drinks it,
thus connecting him with a vampire.
Of course, the brutal nature of
the government in Panem could just as easily suggest a parallel to the Nazis,
and the thirteen districts might be analogous to the states conquered by the
Germans in World War Two, which is debatable in terms of numbers, but would be
somewhere around thirteen (if we discount the territories claimed by Italy).
So, Panem is not meant to be Russia, nor America, nor Nazi Germany, nor yet
Ancient Rome or the British Empire. It alludes strongly to all these places -
perhaps most strongly of all to the USSR - but it remains ambiguous as to what
or where it really is. Could this be not merely a future world but a far future
fantasy, in which present-day borders are long forgotten? In any case, it plays
on memories, half-memories, vague notions and partial understandings that readers
may have about a wide variety of historical and political entities, blending
everything they think they know or might once have been taught, and making it
The next most interesting thing
is to ask why such a story should emerge now? What does it tell us about the
world we are living in that children are reading it in such numbers?
On one level, Panem’s politics do
have some points of contact with those of the futuristic Britain portrayed in
the film V for Vendetta. These proved
popular with younger audiences, were heavily promoted and the latter has had a
striking visual influence on the anti-capitalist movements in North America and
Panem is a savage, repressive
surveillance state, which can watch all its citizens at all times, and casually
execute any of its critics, just like the British government in V for
Vendetta. As in V for Vendetta, Katniss is a young woman who has a mentor, a veteran
of past bloody conflict (Haymitch) but who is placed in the position of having
to fight not of her own volition. Both book and film pre-dated the ‘Occupy’
movements by some years.
The choice of bow and arrow as
Katniss’ favoured weapon is interesting. It is motivated in the story because
hunting is illegal and she must be silent, but has to bring in the game.
However, it also recalls Robin Hood and William Tell, both freedom fighters
against a repressive occupying government. The image of a woman archer also
suggests Diana the Huntress and the Amazons. The arrow was also the traditional
weapon (both for hunting and fighting) of the First Nation Americans against
their invaders, another symbol of resistance.
The Hunger Games themselves
resemble the gladiatorial games of Ancient Rome - that much is clear. ‘Slaves’
are forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of their rulers. The
differences are also significant, though. They fight until there is only one
victor and every detail of their struggle is shown live on television. The
early years of the twenty-first century saw an upsurge of television
elimination games and quizzes. The shortlived Survivor and the worldwide phenomenon of Big
Brother saw audiences watching housemates
live, day and night, and voting for their favourites. The Weakest
Link was an elimination general knowledge
quiz that had one contestant knocked out at each round. We saw alliances form
and then turn against one another. There were a number of music and variety
shows on both sides of the Atlantic with a similar elimination theme, such as The
X-Factor, Pop Idol, American Idol, Britain’s Got Talent... So, on this level The Hunger Games fits in with a new model of competitive TV games in
the new century.
It may even be worth mentioning
the influence on shows like Big Brother
of a bizarre but popular game which aired in Japan in the 1980s. Famously much
mocked by popular culture commentator Clive James in his weekly round-up of
weird TV, The Endurance Game put
contestants through actual physical tortures to eliminate the least doughty.
After having to run away from live lions and suffer imprisonment and
near-drowning, the last two were presented with a feast. They had been starved
for days in the previous trials and so this looked at first like a reward until
they were told that the first one to eat anything would lose. This agonising
torment lasted for a very long time. It was a Hunger Game for certain!
Another television show/cultural
phenomenon with an elimination-contest theme in these years was the Japanese
card-collecting game, Pokémon and its
spin-off TV series and films. In order to ‘get them all’ would-be Pokémon
‘trainers’ had to battle, one on one, with other trainers who controlled the
creatures they needed. Rival alliances, like Team Rocket (‘Career tributes’ if
ever I saw them!) would pool their resources to make the plucky amateurs’ lives
more difficult. Like the contestants in The Hunger Games, the Pokémon each have special, unique fighting
skills and also distinct vulnerabilities. BeyBlades (a weaker cash-in/rip-off of Pokémon on the theme of battling spinning tops) also
featured arenas with ‘sudden-death’ play offs and elimination rounds to reach
the prize. In turn, a lot of these stories look back to the computer games of
the late 1980s and early 1990s, such as Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat in which only one champion can survive arena-based
fights to the death. Worth mentioning here, perhaps, might be other, earlier
quest-based films, such as Conan the Barbarian and Highlander (‘There can be only one!’) in which most combatants would expect to
die along the way.
There is also a strong similarity
between the idea of The Hunger Games and
the plot of the fourth of the Harry Potter novels, Harry Potter and
the Chalice of Fire. In this, the young
wizard is chosen by lottery to compete in a trial of magical powers. He and the
other competitors face a series of perilous and potentially fatal challenges in
a huge arena. Although there is no supernatural element in The Hunger
Games, there are science-fiction
equivalents. Harry Potter confronts wild dragons: Katniss finds herself
attacked by genetically altered ‘zombie/werewolves’. Although Harry survives
his contest, a close friend does not, and the real victor is the undead-wizard,
Lord Voldemort. The real champion in The Hunger Games is the ‘vampire’ President Snow, who bears no small
resemblance to Voldemort, especially in his political organisation, with
networks of spies and a deadly, soul-sucking police force secretly working for
In fact, one of the other clever
things about the Harry Potter series is that instead of dealing with the story
of the great battle, it places its big defining political action in the past.
When the stories start, the war against Lord Voldemort is long over and he
lost. Likewise, in The Hunger Games, the
rebellion of the districts is history but by contrast it shows the world after
its own ‘Voldemort’ has won. An important point to remember here is that
history is very partial in this world. We know nothing about it except what
Katniss or her friends know, or are prepared to tell us. They know only what
the Capitol has chosen to teach them. A lot of Panem’s history may be false, or
concealed - which leads us back to the parallel to the USSR again, really.
Much has been said (not least -
though with serious reservations - by critic Mark Kermode) about the closeness
between The Hunger Games and Battle
Royale, but the differences between them
are more marked than the similarities. In Battle Royale, a school class is picked at random, so all the
‘contestants’ know one another already. It is meant as a means of defusing
mayhem in Japanese schools, rather than any wider national political purpose. The
Hunger Games resembles Enter the
Dragon more than it does Battle
Royale, in the form of selected fighters
commanded to a tournament in which the defeated will die.
It owes much more to Ridley
Scott’s Gladiator (2000), which has a
strong political subtext, and had a disturbing prescience, focusing as it did
on the succession of Marcus Aurelius and coming out in the very same year that
the USA saw the son of a president become president himself. It was also a much
disputed vote. Commodus is portrayed in the film as an unworthy winner,
misrepresenting his father’s wishes (however absurd this may have been in the
The character of Buffy Summers in
Buffy the Vampire Slayer presents a clear
prototype of Katniss Everdeen in the form of the heroic teenage fighter.
Although she has supernatural strength, Buffy could die at any time in her
unending battle with the blood suckers. The mayor of Sunnydale in Season Three
of Buffy has a very different
personality to President Snow, but is like him in many other ways: long-lived
and attracted to evil and vampirism.
What is happening politically
here? These stories come out of a changing time. It might be argued that some
of the back-story in the Harry Potter series harks back to the cultural and
political upheavals in Britain between the hard left and the hard right in the
1980s. Indeed, the original battle against Lord Voldemort is supposed to have
taken place at that time. The Cold War dominated discourse then, but after its
end, old certainties were over and new insecurities took over. The early
two-thousands saw a revival of the focus on world poverty, especially in 2004
with the movement to cancel the debt burden on the poorer countries and a
pledge to ‘make poverty history’. In some ways, this may have been sewing a
mindset of ‘social justice’ in many that might later be brought closer to home.
Poverty and hunger are the prevailing concerns of the districts in The
Hunger Games as they are kept poor by the
luxury-loving Capitol-dwellers. This has a vague resemblance to the way in
which the ‘rich world’ of North America and Western Europe were portrayed in
contrast to the starving African nations by the Make Poverty History movement.
Why would the ‘Occupy’ Movement
and The Hunger Games - with their twin
themes of rebellion against the Capitol / Capital - appear in tandem? There are
deep trends in recent cultural history. In the western world there had been a
clear enemy for fifty years. This had fostered paranoia and fear of the rival
empire. The end of the Cold War brought less anxiety but more uncertainty. The
mass visual culture reacted first with more free-floating paranoia with fascination
for conspiracy theories (reassessing the past/revising history) and an
overwhelming sense of helplessness. This emerged first, perhaps in Richard
Linklater’s Slacker, progressing
to The X-Files, Dark Skies and Millennium. As the 1990s progressed, the search for a new enemy
became evident, with the Chinese appearing in US Marshals, the Japanese in Rising Sun (1993) and more extraterrestrials in Independence
Day. At the end of the decade, existential
angst took over, with films doubting the very reality of the world (Dark
City, The Matrix, Being John Malkovich, The Thirteenth Floor) or expecting its immediate destruction (Deep
Impact, Armageddon and the Independence
Day parody Mars Attacks!) In this sense, the idea of a conflict against the
state itself, in the absence of a tangible enemy, would be the natural
progression. V for Vendetta
(2006) was directed by the same team as The Matrix and is a credible next step in the idea of turning
inwards in the search for the new conflict arena.
What makes Katniss different, and
what makes her an ideal heroine for the new generation? I would say it is
because she is a hero who is also a victim. The classic Stan Lee superheroes
had greatness thrust upon them, but learned to integrate their new identity
into their fraught lives. Even the Incredible Hulk. Banner is helpless as to
whether he becomes the Hulk or not, but, like HG Wells’ Invisible Man, he is
the victim only on his own back-firing scientific experiment. Buffy is chosen
to be the Slayer, but, like Spiderman or the X-Men she finds a community into
which she now fits.
Katniss is chosen to take part in
a murderous game by an evil government and has no control over her fate, save
her own cunning. Were she merely to play the game for survival, she would be no
different to any other murdering victor, yet half by intent and half by
default, she becomes aware and rebellious to the system. She has an extra layer
of heroism in that she sacrifices herself to save her own sister from the
games, but given the circumstances she has as little choice as had she been
V in V for Vendetta is also a victim of state violence who turns against
it. V is for Victim. He and Katniss represent the new figure of the
‘victim-hero’, the put-upon resister... more proactive and decisive than Andy
from Little Britain, but
essentially kin to him. I’m reminded of a news item a while ago about a school
that had a special dressing up day for the children the theme of which wasstyle="mso-spacerun: yes">
to come as the person you wanted to be
when you grew up. Five of them came, in wheelchairs, as Andy. The question as
to how he could possibly be an aspirational figure may be answered here.
To what extent do the 99% see
themselves as ‘victim-heroes’? That is for you to judge, but the French
cultural analysts Caroline Eliacheff and Daniel Soulez Larivière in their 2006
book Le temps des victimes have already
addressed this question of the victim-hero. As their abstract puts it: “Even as
our society preaches the cult of the winner, the figure of the victim has come
to occupy the role of the hero. Media coverage of disasters has revealed that
unanimity of compassion is in the process of becoming the ultimate expression
of social ties. while requests for redress from psychiatrists and lawyers are
endless. Where are we going with this generalised “victimisation”? Caroline
Eliacheff and Daniel Soulez Larivière ... explore and dismantle this trend that
emerged in the ’80s on all fronts and which feeds the egalitarian ideal of
democratic individualism. They denounce the dangers that make us maintain this
primacy of the compassionate and the emotional, which is sometimes already
affecting the interests of victims and could turn against the whole of
society...” [my translation].
As Eliacheff and Soulez Larivière
see it, there is an underlying trend in western culture that arose in the 1980s
and which now celebrates the victim, indeed sees the victim as the ‘hero’ of
modern society. Without the victim, our contemporary concept of compassion
would not even be possible. The victim informs the very values that hold our
social threads together. This contention would certainly chime in very well
with the progress and development of visual culture since the 1980s and the
present triumph of the victim-hero. Indeed, ‘the egalitarian ideal of
democratic individualism’ which they see as being ‘fed’ by the victim-hero
concept stands at the forefront of the present-day political opposition
[Amusingly, I came up with the
term ‘victim-hero’ in the morning of 22nd June, and read the very same phrase
for the first time - in French - in the publisher’s abstract for this book in
the evening that same day - having seen it referenced by Libération’s sex-blogger, Agnès Giard!]
Saturday, June 23, 2012
Talked to a friend about the
ending of the Hunger Games. Totally
agreed with her. I had seen all the twists coming a mile off and wasn’t
surprised by anything in it at all. In a way, there was nowhere left for her to
go other than to try and plunge her created world into its own civil war, but
in the end it unbalanced the whole thing, making this a totally different kind
of book to the first. It was hard to care about the people involved. I even
lost the will to care about Katniss herself... she wasn’t the victim any more
but now the victimiser. The war made her an active participant in the
destruction of the oppressive state, and so more responsible.
I secretly think this is what the
anti-capitalist movement of the present age really wants - protest without
responsibility. In the 1960s, it was clear what the Paris protesters wanted -
basically they wanted France to be like the USSR - their agenda was hard-line
Marxist and they were all signed up for that. In the wake of 1968, the French
Communist Party was a major force in their politics through the 1970s and into
the 1980s. What sort of system do the new protesters want? Well.... um... er,
it’s hard to say. In The Hunger Games,
Katniss takes responsibility for her beliefs, but in the end she shows that
what she wants is not President
Snow and not President Coin
either.* A plague on both your houses. Let’s just settle down and play nice and
forget about politics altogether. She’s about what she doesn’t want, not what she does want... again in step with the present day
Kate’s point was a very sharp
observation - the mother just disappears out of the narrative. Katniss doesn’t
talk to her any more and there’s no reason for that, she just doesn’t. The
little sister stops being a character and then, ultimate tragedy, gets killed
off - and she was the very reason this all happened in the first place. Without
her Katniss wouldn’t have become involved. and what would the rebels have done
then? It’s meant to be a terrible irony, but in the book it just comes across as
another piece of laziness, just adding one more twist without thinking it
through. The emotional reactions of the characters just don’t engage here.
Peeta and Katniss swip-swap love/hate all the way and it becomes confusing at
first and then just boring. I didn’t care whether these were his true feelings
or the ones Snow had implanted... Get over it!
The weakness of this last book
was the sheer scale of the conflict it tries to describe. The Hunger Games
themselves are like war in miniature, and are superbly depicted. One of the
strengths of the first novel was how little exposition Katniss provides. She
assumes her readers are familiar with the Games, have seen many of them already
on television. We are surprised by new turns in the plot, but we understand,
without pages of explanation. This is not the case in Mockingjay, where massive screeds of print are needed to fill
in back story and explain the progress of the war. The scale overwhelms the
storytelling. The second half is stronger, but the ending is a let-down.
There’s a Harry Potter coda, of course, which basically tells the audience just
what J K Rowling wanted hers to hear - there’ll be no more books. But in this
case there is not the satisfaction of that end. It’s just too pat, too
simplistic. It reads almost as though she’d become tired of explaining and
wanted it to end.
The one area where she scores is
in how eerily her imagined scenarios have come to look almost like predictions
of real life events. The ‘Hunger Games’ arenas with their ‘career tributes’
hunting down and killing the innocent children - how closely does the killing
spree on an island haven by the Norwegian murderer Anders Breivik resemble this
situation? He even used the same trickery to lure the hiding out into the open
that the Gamesmakers and ‘Careers’ employ - making fake police safety
announcements. He relished the pleas of the dying, just as Cato would have
done. The very setting, in this countryside park on an island in a lake could
so easily be a Games arena... Breivik, like President Snow, even tried to paste
a ludicrous ‘political’ justification across his atrocities, as though he were
‘saving’ Norway through his actions, and maintaining its peace. In the same
way, the spectacle of the Games is pure, grisly entertainment for the Capitol’s
TV viewers. They are encouraged to believe that they are somehow preventing
another war. Ironically, they end up starting one.
And... and then there is the Arab
Spring. How do the Hunger Games begin? With ‘the girl on fire’. How did the Arab
Spring begin? With a man on fire - an unemployed Tunisian who immolated himself
as a protest against his government. This desperate blaze ignited first his
whole country, then Egypt, then Libya, then Yemen and Bahrain, and now Syria.
How closely does the conflict in The Hunger Games look like the Libya war? Very closely, is the answer, with the
‘districts’ fighting against one another, getting closer to the Capital, with
Gaddafi trying to obliterate entire regions, just like President Snow. Compare
Snow’s destruction of District 12 with Gaddafi’s plan to obliterate Benghazi.
Compare Snow’s bombardment of 13 with Gaddafi’s onslaught against Misurata and
then that city’s heroic defiance... And finally...
How very similar was Gaddafi’s
final hour to that of Snow? Superficially different, but in both cases the
assassins track down the leader in the firm belief that killing him will end
the war. In both cases the death of the leader is shown live on TV as his
executioners parade him in front of the cameras. In both cases the body is surrounded by a maddened, chaotic
crowd. In both cases, uncertainty surrounds what really happened. In the final Hunger
Games book, President Snow is tied to a
stake, fully expecting Katniss to shoot him. Yet when she doesn’t, he strangely
dies anyway, perhaps from some kind of poison... Wonder who gave that to him?
In the real war in Libya, an
intensive search of the capital, Tripoli, ended when rebel fighters found
Colonel Gaddafi hiding in a sewer pipe. They dragged him out of the drain,
where he had been cowering like a rat. He sobbed and begged for help, saying he
was hurt. Later, when Gaddafi’s bloody dead body was displayed to the world on
a stretcher, the rebels swore to NATO that they hadn’t shot him. They claimed
instead that he died before they had a chance to kill him, from wounds
apparently inflicted earlier, by his own men... Did we believe them? Probably
not. Did we care? Certainly not. Gaddafi was a mass murderer and, as in the
case of Saddam, a trial would have been highly inconvenient to the West. Many
of the same desires to avoid awkward questions and cover up disquiet over the
evils of the rebels are strongly suggested in Mockingjay.
And in Syria - see how closely
President Assad follows the same pattern of attack against his own districts as
President Snow does in the final book. The turning point in this story is the
killing of the children and the most recent massacre of children in Syria by
the government’s forces may finally have turned the tide of opinion in the
outside world towards arming the rebels and overthrowing the regime. The
shelling of unarmed civilians, the desperate measures taken by the ruling elite
to stay in power all are strange echoes of the events in the last book.
These things don’t really make me
care much more or even at all about the characters in the book, though, but
there is a sense in which these novels have caught a remarkable scent on the
air of history, have tuned into a real underlying theme in modern politics.
No-one in the west saw the Arab Spring coming, but perhaps Suzanne Collins, in
a subliminal way, had a foretaste of it.
that masked man?”
there are many political and thematic differences between The Hunger Games and Battle Royale, if they are stripped back to their most basic
level, that of a fight to the death televised for a watching audience, then
they are part of a curious genre.
The idea of
life-or-death games as popular television entertainment in a future, dystopian
world crops up a number of times in science-fiction. There are many (perhaps
too many… no, forget that word ‘perhaps’) episodes of the 1960s US television
series Star Trek in which gladiatorial
games feature. In two of them, Captain Kirk is teleported off the bridge of his
ship to fight on some alien planet, the results of the combat being shown to
his crew on their TV-like monitor (‘Arena’, Season One, 1967, Writers Gene L.
Coon and Fredric Brown, and ‘The Gamesters of Triskelion,’ Season Two, 1968,
Writer Margaret Armen) In another, they encounter a world exactly resembling
Ancient Rome, in which the Arena is televised for a blood-thirsty public
(‘Bread and Circuses’, Season Two, 1968, writers Gene Roddenberry and Gene L.
Coon). In yet another (‘Amok Time’, Season Two, 1967, writer Theodore
Sturgeon), Kirk and Spock must fight each other in a Vulcan marriage ritual,
once again, to the death in another Roman-style arena. This plot surfaced yet
again in Season Three in ‘The Savage Curtain’ (1969, Writers Arthur Heinemann
and Gene Roddenberry).
possible that the emphasis Star Trek
placed on this type of story, and the regularity with which it returned to it,
was not entirely coincidental. For American television viewers of that time,
coverage of the Vietnam War was itself a real-life version of this idea and
would have provided immediate inspiration. Conscripts into the US army were
chosen at random by lottery (just as in The Hunger Games). The state-run ‘Draft Lottery’ converted dates of
birth into numbers. These were then entered in the draw. The ‘winning’ numbers
were published in the newspapers. As in the fantasy gladiator games, these
‘contestants’ were sent to fight to the death in an alien environment,
monitored by photographers with stills and film cameras. The footage was relayed
to nightly TV news broadcasts to audiences back home. Vietnam was the first
televised war, and this concept almost certainly influenced the science-fiction
dealing with gladiator-style TV gaming. This was history, not fantasy, however.
Harrison’s short story, ‘The Rollerball Murders’ (first published in Esquire, September 1973) was made into the hit film, Rollerball (1975), but also inspired Paul Bartel and the Roger
Corman studios to produce an arguably superior ‘rip-off’, Death Race
2000 (1975). In both of these films, the
population of the future is kept pacified by watching an excessively violent
game-show on television, featuring gladiatorial contest and real murder. In Death
Race 2000 there is an explicit link made
between the celebrity of the racers and the political power of the president.
It also shows how vulnerable this political system is, as even the highest can
be legitimate ‘kills’ in the Death Race.
Star Trek was probably the most influential of the
‘games’-based science-fiction, but it was not the first. The BBC TV series, Doctor
Who, featured this concept well before
Vietnam had come to dominate public consciousness. In his very earliest
incarnations, Doctor Who battled malevolent, game-playing creatures from Outer
Space, most notably the Celestial Toymaker (played by Michael Gough, faced by
the First Doctor), the Mind Robber and the Krotons (enemies of the Second
Doctor), all of whom set evil puzzles and games that must be solved, or death
would result. Another point of comparison from this period would be the deadly
jokes and games of The Riddler in the TV show, Batman.
of evil games seems to erupt in the early 1960s, but does not feature too much
before this, at least not in film. Philip K. Dick wrote many stories of
macabre, lethal games, however. In Solar Lottery (1955), an officially random, but actually rigged game selects
presidential candidates. In a second twist, an assassination game takes place,
in which ‘contestants’ are randomly picked to have telepathic control of a
robot gunman. In Time Out of Joint
(1957), Ragel Gumm solves newspaper quizzes for a living in an artificial
‘arena’, not knowing the life-or-death consequences of his play. In The
Game-Players of Titan (1963), the alien
Vugs maintain control over a conquered Earth by means of an elaborate board
game, in which all surviving humans compete.
stories all have the gladiatorial element and devilish tricks, but lack the
televised factor. No-one follows the game-playing as an entertainment in its
own right. However, the (unofficial) film version of Dick’s Time Out of
Joint, The Truman Show, does include this.
The world is hooked on a soap-opera/reality television series featuring the
actual life of Truman Burbank. The life-or-death element extends to only one
player, Truman himself, who is unaware that he is playing a game, but its
deadly implications are made clear to him, and the watching audience, when he
tries to quit.
of relevance or related interest here would include:
of the Sex Olympics (1968)
to Blood City (1977)
Running Man (1987)
anything that links the idea of gladiatorial games and the vendetta of V? Why
should these two images mesh at this time? What connects them?
‘revenge’ should come through to us. One of the key ways in which Ridley
Scott’s Gladiator (2000) differs from
its source film, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1963) is the theme of vengeance. General Maximus
wants his revenge on Emperor Commodus, ‘in this world or the next’ and finally
achieves it. His is a vendetta indeed, fought in blood in the arena, but also
via intrigues in the senate, threats of loyal troops coming to occupy Rome, a
charm offensive to win hearts and minds, and a political whispering campaign to
poison the people against the tyrannical emperor.
series of films in the early 1970s reflected these two themes very acutely. In The
Abominable Dr Phibes, Vincent Price plays
the disfigured anti-hero, tracking down and killing the surgeons he holds
responsible for the death of his wife. Each of them is subjected to a gruesome
death of their own, related to the Biblical Ten Plagues of Egypt. In many
cases, these revenge killings feature bizarre and elaborate contraptions, and
in some cases the possibility of escape is dangled in front of the victims, if
only they have the wit, ingenuity or courage to take the chance. At the end,
the lead surgeon (played by Joseph Cotton) is presented with a surgical puzzle,
a test of skill and nerve and a choice that could mean death to his own son.
Are we meant
to sympathise with Dr Phibes? He is a death-in-life figure who wears a mask (!)
because his true face is destroyed, burned down to the skull in an accident
that everyone assumed had killed him. He is clearly modelled on the figure of
The Phantom of the Opera, who also wore a mask to hide his facial
disfigurement, devised convoluted game-like tortures for his pursuers and
sought revenge! Both are very strong contenders to be the origin of the
character and form of V in V for Vendetta.
Dr Phibes is
a horror, but also is a sympathetic character. We fear him, yet want him to
exercise his anger against these enemies. Our enjoyment is in seeing them die
these intricate, elaborate deaths. In this, the successors to Phibes in the
late 1970s and early 1980s are Michael Myers, the mask-wearing vengeance-killer
in John Carpenter’s Hallowe’en, and
Freddy Kruger, the facially disfigured, highly inventive and very vengeful
ghost in Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).
In the early
years of the twenty-first century, Dr Phibes rose again, this time as Jigsaw,
the terminally-ill revenger in the Saw
series. Like Phibes, devising ever more Heath Robinson devices to torment his
‘contestants’, Jigsaw uses TV and modern forms of communication to force those
trying to save them to watch their fate.
murderous version of Guy Grand from Terry Southern’s The Magic Christian, Jigsaw wants to see his tests fail. He wishes his
victims to defeat his games, to solve the puzzles, prove him wrong and live,
but they have to exhibit the required level of will to survive. Should they
prefer to avoid pain, they embrace death.
There is a
strong sense in which Jigsaw is a
revenger, although not with a single focus, like Phibes. His is a vengeance
against the whole of humanity. He resents their casual acceptance of life and
its pleasures while he has had to struggle to survive. He wants them to
experience life intensely, or prove that they do not deserve it. They must
redeem themselves or die. In Jigsaw’s world-view, everyone is guilty until they
prove themselves innocent. If not, his vengeance continues. He, like Phibes,
wears a mask, or, more accurately hides his identity behind a grisly
ventriloquist’s doll, or (again, like Phibes) by making no physical appearance
at all, but speaking his instructions via audiotape, telephone or video. Like
Phibes, he is rarely if ever present at the kill, leaving his devices to work
in his absence, making his ‘mask’ all the more perfect.
Most of the
classic cartoon superheroes of the mid-twentieth century were masked avengers,
but these, like the Batman, had masks to protect their anonymity. Although it
is rarely explained why this was so important, it is assumed that this was to
protect their private lives and family from the anger of criminals brought to
justice by their vigilanteism. This seems especially pointless in the case of
Superman, however, who doesn’t really need a day-job and, having all the powers
of a god, is invulnerable to anyone who might want to seek retribution anyway.
Nevertheless, he had a ‘mask’: the identity of Clark Kent, his daytime
alter-ego. A long-running series of comic-book heroes from Marvel were even
called ‘The Avengers’, although quite what it was they were avenging was never
link in the masked avenger chain is the closest to home. The Wachowski
brothers’ previous film hero, Neo in The Matrix (1999), has the biggest mask of all: his entire self. Morpheus tells
Neo that his whole identity, life and body are the ‘world that has been pulled
over your eyes’ to blind him to the reality of The Matrix, a computer-generated
illusion, enslaving humanity. Neo’s telephone call to the machine authorities
at the end of the film (spoiler!) gives them an ultimatum. He will show the
masses what the machines do not want them to see: ‘…a world … without you. A
world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries; a world where
anything is possible.’ This is a call to a form of political awakening in the
bulk of humanity, to become conscious of their situation. The way to defeat the
machines is to become able to see them, to recognise their false world for what
it is. Becoming conscious of their presence is enough to free the imprisoned of
They Live! (John Carpenter, 1988) the
donning of a ‘mask’ (the sunglasses) frees the people. Once the special
polaroids are put on, wearers are enabled to see the alien invaders who have
taken over America. The creatures normally appear to humans as young
professionals in suits (‘yuppies’) or smart business people. The glasses delete
their hallucinatory disguise and reveal them in their true form - much like the
skull-faced Martians of Mars Attacks!. Of course, the wearers of the enlightening glasses also become less
identifiable themselves. Classically, terrorists and paramilitaries from the
1960s onwards have worn dark glasses as part of their disguise. Like the
followers of V, the free-thinkers of They Live! also look alike in their glasses ‘masks’ and share a
powerful, political secret. At the end of the film (spoiler!) TV viewers across
America share in the secret knowledge. V in V for Vendetta brings this back down to Earth... Showing the mass
what can be done in rebelling against the repressive authority, he leads them
to adopt his identity and dissolve their own into a collective anonymity.
What is a
revenger? By definition, it is someone who has been a victim. Like the Count of
Monte Cristo, like Vindice in The Revenger’s Tragedy, the dearest wish of a revenger is to get even with
those who have done them wrong. The revenger inevitably fits in very well with
the concept of the ‘victim hero’, although the revenger crosses a moral line
that, for example, the ‘tributes’ in The Hunger Games do not. In making a deliberate, conscious decision
to kill or counter-attack, the revenger becomes a willing participant in the
fight. The ‘gladiators’ in these modern ‘bread and circuses’ stories are forced
into their conflicts, removing any taint of intent.
perhaps, not surprise us so much that revenger stories are popular again now.
The original Jacobean revenge tragedies proved successful at a time of rising
inflation (the early 1600s) and straitened economic times in Britain. High inflation
on both sides of the Atlantic was a feature of the 1970s. People who had made
money in the boom years of the 1960s found themselves losing it in their
aftermath, with falling wages and a rapidly rising cost of living.style="mso-spacerun: yes">
curiously, V for Vendetta and the Saw
series predated the economic crisis, but
their resonance with the present monetary and political situation could not be
more apposite. If V for Vendetta could
be seen as growing out of the ideas latent in The Matrix, there are also reasons why its 1980s storyline
would fit in with the situation in 2006. It deals with rebellion against a
repressive regime, afraid of terrorists in its midst. Fears of curtailment of
civil liberty freedoms in the wake of the War on Terror in America appear in
other films, notably Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. There is fertile ground for these ideas from the
1970s and 1980s to be resurfacing now.
|Saturday, January 10th, 2009|
|We won't be meeting again on the slow train
This is the very last entry on this site from me. From now on I will post only here
. I have resisted all the messing about Livejournal has endured at the hands of its various owners, but, as I warned a while back, it is the childish immaturity of some of my fellow users that finally drives me to quit it.
The majority of people who read this blog leave no trace of their interest. They are all mature, adult people. In the extravagantly unlikely case that they should ever be offended by me, they would take it up with me face to face. That will not happen, however, because they are people with free minds.
The others are on my friends listand most of these Ive known a long time, although, of course, there are some I have never met, and have come to know only through this site. I am very grateful for that in many cases. oycaramba
, for one, is a scholar and a gentleman, and someone I am proud to have come to know.
They are not the ones whove pushed me off Livejournal. I am fed up with pandering to those who make out theyre as hard to break as rough-tough toys for rough-tough boys, but turn out eggshell-skinned china dolls when they get chucked out of the pram.
I write this blog to let off steam and to engage in debate with adults. If you get upset, start blubbing, cry, run off to nanny and cling to her pinny all because Ive said a bad word, well, there are places you can go to really get that sort of thing out of your system, you adult baby, you. And, if that is your kink, Im the go-to man to hook you up with the right playmates - I know the strict nurses you need. But they charge. And if you want me to spoon-feed you, wipe your bottom and tuck you in at night, then give me something back. Otherwise, hit the road. To coin a phrase, there are two Ls in dollar and two Gs in bugger off.
If you have a free mind and an open heart, then you can find me on blogspot, which is a place for grown-ups. Current Mood: triste
|Friday, October 17th, 2008|
|Which side am I on?
Light or Dark? No matter how hard and long the striving to betterment, is there still a deep-seated core of the worse? Am I on Team Clean, or is my entire being but a mask worn by the avatar of evil? The words of a seeress and long-time confidante strike an uneasy chord in my heart. Is she right? Its not about doing, its about being. Are even my very sense of self, my innate identity and qualia of being no more than a cloak that wraps a different drummer?
Its all very English Israelite, I suppose... For the Justified Sinners of old, to be among the elect meant that nothing they did in life could jeopardize their salvation - not even murder. On the other hand, no amount of good deeds could save those who were pre-ordained to damnation by God. Their blameless lives were of no avail. Am I like that? Hell-bound however hard I struggle to free my demons? Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers at night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright...
Or is it simpler? Are there still circuit breakers tripped to the evil position that could be flipped back over? Only time will tell. But do not expect me to be the same again after this one. Be warned. You may well not like what you find. Current Mood: confused
|Friday, September 26th, 2008|
|Ratmen of Rodencia!
Many years ago, when I was learning French at school, a teacher brought in a copy of a French daily newspaper. I cant remember which one it was, but the thing that stuck in my mind was the one thing she urged us to ignore. On the funny pages there was a translation of an old American comic strip. In it, Mandrake the Magician was pondering the dilemma posed by the Rat-men. Of course they wanted to take over the world, as all outer-space bad hats did in those days. Doubtless in the original version there would have been exclamations of shock and horror such as Holy Mackinole!or By Thors mighty hammer or whatever Mandrake magicians were likely to say. Rendered into French, however, it all became a lot more laid back, casual even. It slouched into an I-suppose-wed-better-surrender-now
Gallic fatalism.Vous savais que ces hommes-rats, ils demandent la terre comme rançon?
Oui, je le sais.
Oh, have you heard? Those rat-men, they want the world as a ransom.
Oh, yes, so they do. How tiresome.
There is something a lot more visceral about homme-rat
too, much like referring to Man-Bat instead of Batman. You get a much stronger sense of these rat-men being, well, seriously ratty.
Not having seen any of the earlier episodes, I think another thing that puzzled me was what the hommes-rats
had stolen. If they were demanding a ransom then, presumably, it would be for the return of something or someone valuable. But if the whole world was the ransom, what could it possibly be? And wouldnt it have to have been taken away from the world in the first place? So then it would surely be included in the inventory of Planet Earths fixtures and fittings when the rat-men take possession anyway? Theyd return something only to get it back straight away... along with the whole of the world. A smart trick on their part, I thought, but a pretty dumb piece of bargaining by the Earthlings. It would have been like the Lindbergh kidnapper demanding the entire Lindbergh family, including the baby, as a ransom for the baby.
All the same, when I read in the Financial Times
today about the deal that George W. Bush is trying to push through the US Congress
I was reminded of Mandrake and les hommes-rats
. The bankers are rat-men indeed, and their ransom is nothing less than the Earth.
This isnt a negotiation. This is an unconditional surrender... of everything. All that seems to be at issue is just how fast Bush can give it all away. Current Mood: quixotic
|Monday, August 25th, 2008|
|It couldn't have been anyone else
Your result for The Director Who Films Your Life Test...
We apologize now. Future generations will view your life story by David Lynch and not know what the hell just happened. A lot of events occur around you, but you seem to be involved in all the wrong ways. Even you probably think your life is WEIRD. And if not you, everyone else thnks so and tries to tell you but you won't listen. In your movie: Why does that bald lady insist on sitting on that basketball she carries inside that milk crate? Robert Blake will play your grandfather, and Kyle MacLachlan will play your dad. Go see Wild at Heart, Lost Highway, Mulholland Dr., and, if it's in a town near you, his new film, INLAND EMPIRE with Laura Dern.
Take The Director Who Films Your Life Test at HelloQuizzy Current Mood: amused
|Sunday, August 3rd, 2008|
|How to turn Gordon Round
How can Gordon Brown improve his image?
Well, in short, he cant. Hes hopeless. He is so far past the point of no return that the reserve tank is not just empty, its caved in like a Ribena carton after youve sucked out the last drop.
As I was saying to a good friend not long ago, I do not believe I have ever heard the sort of language used about Brown applied to any other Prime Minister in my lifetime. The talk of his overwhelming incompetence and inadequacy as leader have been in every newspaper for months, on the lips of his colleagues at regular intervals. Nothing is asked of him except when will he go? Not even the most spectacularly incapable of Prime Ministers, Jim Callaghan, attracted this level of contempt, although he, too deserved it. For Brown, not only are the gloves off, the knuckledusters they were hiding are proudly on display.
So, what can he do? He cannot win, but he could go out with honour. Given that nothing will improve his chances, he could go for broke - run wild with a terrifying look.
For a start, I would recommend that he ditch his grey suits at once. They make him look insubstantial... or should I say even more insubstantial.
He should immediately start wearing dark glasses, which he should never
take off, not even in bed.
He should begin smoking massive cigars, preferably Cuban, and he should blow the smoke in his opponents faces whenever possible. He should do likewise with George Bush at every meeting.
He should grow a beard and mustache and spike his hair up. He should wear the thickest and blackest of black suits. In short, he should model himself on Orson Welles as Mr Arkadin. There is a superficial resemblance!
To every question from David Cameron in the house he should merely smile... and a Gordon Brown smile is disturbing. He should give no answer, ever, but he should chuckle under his breath, in a really evil way. If tempted to say anything, he should he heard to mutter Yeah... right!
He should take up clay pigeon shooting, using the most powerful handgun in the world that could blow your head clean off.
He should start taking cocaine.
When a rumour starts that he is taking heroin, he should do nothing to dispel it.
He should start taking heroin.He should grow his beard longer yet and adopt a monks habit.
He should begin an affair with Kate Moss.
When, on the eve of the election, a series of horrific murders leave a trail of Polonium 212 radioactivity that brings police straight to No. 10 Downing Street, Gordon Brown should taunt Scotland Yard with his trademark chuckle.
He should say: Youll never take me alive, copper!
|Sunday, July 27th, 2008|
|Friday, July 25th, 2008|
|Miriam Rose gefst aldrei upp
A curious item of Icelandic news that involves mostly British people.
Miriam Rose is, it seems, the Swampy of Iceland, although her protest is being studiously ignored over here. Hun segist aldrei gefst upp.
I could understand that bit at least. It means "she says she will never give up." Except for the bits when she's talking, the rest is tricky for me. I'm now reasonably able to read Icelandic, but understanding it spoken is the new challenge. Hence my interest in the growing phenomenon of Icelandic Vodcasting. Anyway, quite what it is that Miriam Rose and her friends are protesting about is not made clear - the story is about her battles with the immigration department - but I've a sense there's a threat to the Icelandic wilderness from an industrial plant. Persevere with the Icelandic bit because the interviews switch to English quite early on.
Why have we heard nothing? Conspirati will doubtless say the mainstream press are deliberately 'censoring' it, but then again they might not be. One should never forget the very, very parochial nature of Icelandic news reporting, where an incident as vanishingly insignificant as this one
can become their No. 1 most-played vodcast item:
'Dangerous approach' I think it says, and as far as I can gather the horror of it is that a car could have bumped into another one... It didn't - but it could have done!!
It nearly happened!
Careful now! Down with this sort of thing! Current Mood: blah
|Thursday, July 24th, 2008|
|End of Empire
I was sitting out in my garden the other day, enjoying a cup of coffee, when I saw an extraordinary sight. A profusion of ants were swirling around my feet. Every picnic attracts them, of course, but there was a special reason for their being so busy, I soon saw. Among the workers were larger, winged drones. Theyre on their mating flight, I thought. The queen should be around somewhere. No sooner did I wonder where she might be, than she landed on my knee. Six or seven times the size of the other ants
, her wings still in place, there was no question who she was. This was a red letter day for the ants in our garden. They were celebrating the fertilization of their queen for renewal of their colony. Well, I thought. What a thing that she should choose to settle on me. She flitted off again and crawled away, off into the weeds. The other ants were still in their frenzy, tootling to and fro in the round-and-round random way they always do.
I went in for a moment and then came back out. I sat down again and, to my surprise, I saw the massive queen ant once more. Shes putting herself about, I thought. She scuttled down to the row of bricks I had built along the side of the path. What she was looking for, I could not tell, but her search was short lived. Out of a crack between the bricks, a spider pounced. Quick as a flash, it grabbed the queen and dragged her into its lair.
No lion could have taken an antelope with more panache. The minute physical scale did nothing to diminish its drama. A naturalist might have waited months to capture such a powerful moment, but I was the sole witness.
I watched in astonishment. Still waving her mechanical legs, the queen lay on her side as the spider sank its fangs into her neck. I observed only. It was not my business to intervene. Besides, I have a great fondness for spiders. I am a Cancerian, and as spiders and crabs are related they are practically a totem animal for me.
The worker and drone ants bumbled around at random as before. Your empire is over, I thought. You should have taken better care. Your newly pregnant queen is dead, and all your descendants gone with her.
What did it mean that I should see this? I had just been reading a fascinating book malabar
has lent me - The Way of Wyrd
by Brian Bates. In the episode in question, a sceptical envoy is introduced to the sisters - the spinners of the strands of fate. He is pursued by a swarm of bees, but his shamanic guide tells him the true state of things:
Those bees are the Wyrd Sisters... The Wyrd Sisters have come to loosen your fibres... That will make it possible for you to encounter the spirits by travelling along your personal web of power...
What were the ants for me? They were, on one level, merely ants, but my witnessing of their crucial drama put the events on another plane. I understood. The ants and the spider were the Wyrd Sisters - all female and (in the case of the ants) sisters indeed. They were come for me to show how I can move along my own web of power. How could that be made clearer? The spider sat in its web. I have just loosened my blockages, freed my choked and congealed chakras. Now, perhaps, I have a new path to tread through life. The old dynasty is at an end, symbolised by the defeated queen. My past life cannot replenish itself. It is all back into the web and must be rewoven. Current Mood: rejuvenated
|Saturday, July 19th, 2008|
A strange story on World Service tonight directed me to YouTube, and indeed the test is on show there. The first thought-control computer game, so it is claimed... although I agree with the scientist they interviewed on News Hour and think a little scepticism is still called for. And, er, Stonehenge? Where the banshees live (and they do live well)? What's that all about then? Anyway, click this link here and judge for yourselves:
I find it a bit curious that the action on the screen carries on even after the tester has quite clearly stopped thinking about it. It is nonetheless impressive, if it does indeed show anything near what it would have us believe. The headset even looks very like it did in the Trumbull film. That they are planning to market this soon is interesting, though it does look very beta to me so far.
All the same, be ready for the Brainstorm. It's coming! Current Mood: pensive
|Thursday, July 17th, 2008|
On a lighter note, I took this screen-grab of an item for sale on the GMX homepage. A new advance? The power-saving, hand-crank, hurdy-gurdy-type Multimediaplayer? Is that the USB port at the top? I have heard of a wind-up radio - was this using the 'get-out-and-get-under' technology of the Model T?
No, in fact it turns out that their popcorn-popper had acquired the wrong label, but it's still a wonderful thought. It could be that your iPod may look like this one day! Current Mood: amused
|Sunday, July 6th, 2008|
|I Spy the Spider
As I mentioned to a friend the other day, my fall from bad to worse is actually a happy memory of better times now that things have gone from merely bad to I cant believe its this bad! I am like the pessimist in that Russian proverb - the one in which the optimist is the man who says Well, at least things cant possibly get any worse! But, I am still smiling, damn it! There has to be a silver lining somewhere and Ill bloody find it.
It must be your energy, another friend said, when I recounted my latest catalogue of ill-fortune.
Im sure it is, I said, and Im going to meditate on it.
Results as follows:
The blockage is in a part of my soul that still carries deep damage, but it is the only remaining part of me that does. I need to coax it to release what pain it still holds onto, but this release may have a violent physical reaction for me.
So, I did a massive purging. I bought some patchouli oil, which, for some reason, I felt was going to help (it did). I sat out in the garden with a glowing brazier of incense and paper, cleansing my aura (that was the idea, at least) then moved indoors to use the oil (heavily diluted, of course).
I got to work on the base of my skull and the pit between my shoulder blades. I have been aware of a severely sensitive spot in the little well at the top of my spine. If I ever chanced to press down on that area I would always experience agonising pain. I was sure it was a nexus for embedded trauma.
I did better than I expected. I massaged the spot and pressed down. The pain spread out and I was seized with misery. I wept and cried, shook and trembled. I felt abandoned, alone, tortured and in pain. I was a small child again.
It left me retching, sweating, shivering. I curled up in a foetal position and caught my breath.
I found two small spiders on my legs: one black, the other white.
In a dream earlier in the week, I had seen someone kill two spiders. I was furious with him. Spiders are good, I had complained. You disgust me! A lot of your behaviour disgusts me.
So, I guessed the spiders were part of the ceremony, somehow. Of course, I did not kill them. I treated them as kindly as I do all spiders, whom I love.
Today I turn up another playing card - this time in a park, well away from any road. It is the Four of Spades. A positive card, with most interpretations appropriately suggesting tranquility after sorrow, recovery from illness, change for the better, intellectual insight.
Lets hope! Current Mood: calm
|Saturday, July 5th, 2008|
Clearing out my room today I found a carrier-bag full of papers I had forgotten for years. Inside, apart from many long-lost gems, I found a copy of Flipside
magazine from February 2000. Inside I was surprised to find an interview with me
, which I would have done in December 1999. I had no memory of it at all, but the theme of it was the future of television. The predictions were the purest science-fiction at the time, but now... Well, they're scarily spot on.
In ten years time, I had said, people will watch TV on their personal computers, which will also serve as their hi-fi systems and radios. No-one will be tied to TV schedules any more, because all films and programmes will be downloaded directly to their hard-drives and they can watch them at any time they like. The more you pay, the sooner youll see them, I said, accurately anticipating the Sky+ box.
I went on to predict that some of these files would be playable for a day or a week before deleting themselves, while some would be free and available indefinitely. Thus I had correctly foreseen the short-term download .mp3 and the podcast!
People will no longer buy their music from record or video stores, I went on, but download them all from the Internet! Ouch - as many record or video store owners would say!
I was off-track in my prediction that the 3D-DVD would make its appearance (although the reality of the HD-DVD makes it a near-miss) yet my vision of the hologram video did include the prediction that viewers would be able to watch scenes from any angle and even interact with the characters in the drama.
So I was right about that at least, I said tonight, on the phone to the friend who had done the interview (and whose own input must be equal to mine in this).
How come? he asked.
Well, I said, Grand Theft Auto IV! It looks completely 3D. You can view any scene from any angle and you can paste a photo of your own face onto a character so you can take part in it yourself! Direct hit!
Unlike you, I do remember the interview, my friend said. I remember I got a mountain of mail about it complaining it was the daftest load of nonsense theyd ever read.
Well, I said. Whos got the last laugh now? Current Mood: 'Told-ya-so'
|Wednesday, June 18th, 2008|
|Tuesday, June 10th, 2008|
|A turn-up for the book
While the world economy digs itself into an ever ditch, I feel a ray of hope. It may be a little too early to say for sure, but I do feel that I may have turned a corner at last in my own personal recession. I am not sure it is over yet, but there are reasons to be optimistic. I am full of new, daft ideas, and there is even a hint that the last month spent slaving over job applications had not been entirely wasted. Could things be about to turn? Is my dark night moving into the light, my year of pain and lack shifting to brighter times? Well, no surprise to see there is a card in the road to tell me how things are.
It's the Three of Diamonds today, or Three of Pentacles, as they would be in the Tarot. More appropriate it could not be. "It signifies a business proposal or undertaking," one of my many guides says. "Everybody has periods when things go terribly wrong, bad luck, lack of money, disputes and separations... The period of such a run of misfortune is usually three months or three years... So, if you have experienced such a period, take heart if the three of Pentacles turns up... for it can signify that such a period is coming to an end."
Fingers crossed! By the way, while looking for a good image to use, I stumbled on this fabulous new Tarot. It is a magnificent piece of work, I must say, full of dark Victorian fantasies, M.R. Jamesian horrors, Doré-esque fantasies, Fading Away fey, opium dreams and the roots of Ur-Goth, but I shall respect their wishes not to hotlink and instead leave you to discover its delights for yourselves:http://www.bohemiangothic.com Current Mood: optimistic