Tuesday, May 29, 2007

My Liberal Male Guilt Complex

Earlier, tonight, which is to say, late yesterday, I talked to my sister Mary, on the phone. (Hi, Mary!) It went very well. We have a wide ranging discussion where I got to air out a lot of my problems without having to directly come out and whine about them. We kind of more shifted from casual conversation into discussing them, without explicitly stating that we were going to discuss them, like a dance, except hard to know who was leading.

I got to air many of the problems, that have been vexing me, and Mary suggested a reason for it that seemed to described exactly one of my pocket theories for my lack of direction, which I think about be called the Liberal Male Guilt Complex, or in my specific case, the Liberal White-Middle-Class-Male Guilt Complex. In brief, the basic idea behind it is that certain men in this day and age, aware of the injustices done against other groups throughout human history, feel bad about those things, do not desire to be part of the problem, and thus are going about sabotaging their ambitions. It's not that they don't want to succeed, it's that they don't feel they deserve to succeed, so they go about making sure they don't. At the same time, the revolutions in the structure of modern society that have been going on for the last couple of decades haven't come up with a new role for men in society that conforms to those changing values, which really only leaves the traditional model in place, or no model at all. Which means, of course, that men who agree with the values that have come about in the last couple of decades are left not really knowing what to do with themselves, hence the need for sabotage. Who can you succeed in society if your success hurts society? I mean, if (white) men are disproportionately and unfairly filling the job ranks, then isn't your success, if you seek it, a way of keeping the disadvantaged down? Never mind that it makes your the capitalist oppressor of the lower classes. The result is mindbending identity crisis issues. Mary's advice is to just get over it and try to succeed anyways, I think.

Women, in this New Era, are faced with a slightly different problem. It's not so much a question of not having any role to fill, its not knowing which role to fill, that of stereotypical housewife/mother, or that of go-getter. That is the "typical" male and female roles, which are impossible to perform at once which driving yourself to the point of exhaustion. Short of completely changing the way labor is performed in this country, and I think it will take a socialist revolution to change our labor paradigm this much, women are stuck making a choice that is going to cut off one of those things that society is pushing them to be. Now, they have the option of just going completely in one direction, but there will be blowback for this from some circles, no matter what they do. Of course some people manage to find jobs that allow them to fulfill all their desires, but that's usually circumstantial to the requirements of the job, and not applicable to wider society.

Oh, also, Mary was quite and constant to point out, and I agree with here, that all this is bullshit and hearsay, and I agree with her. This could be totally wrong and just based on anecdotal evidence. But still, it felt nice to hear someone else say this, someone who wasn't me. Usually, arguments of this nature come from the right, and are basically made to argue that everyone should just go back to the way things were. The left, or liberals, especially those of the identity politics crowd, tend to dismiss such arguments on the ground of there point of origin. Hearing Mary say such things gives me confidence such concerns aren't just my Inner Conservative piping up, but are, maybe, actual concerns. In fact, I think liberals ignore these things at their peril, since i think it is the fact that these problems exist might account for a certain amount of the traction that that conservative values hold in our society. It social liberalism doesn't offer people a new way to live, they won't even bother to consider that arguments about how it it is more just and stuff like that.

Anyways, another thing Mary said is that I probably need to start journaling my thoughts, to try to work through these issues that are hanging me up. Once I get them aired out, shaped into written form, it will be easier for me to observe them, put some distance between me and them. This is as good a place for that as any, I guess. So expect more complaining in the future.

Such complaints are, of course, actually related to the whole Blogging About Writing Thing, which is the actual purpose of this job, since my various mental hangups, which have gotten me stuck in my shit job, living at home, and basically feeling miserable and directionless, are also the reasons for my Not Writing, so getting over all that crap is actually instrumental to the actual purpose of this blog. What a circumlocutory path this is.

Ahoy, Mateys!

This weekend I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, twice. All through the week, I had been watching, nigh continuously, the first two movies, getting ready for the third one, and making sure that all the in-jokes, subplots, mysteries and motivations were fresh in my mind. Nevertheless, it took me two viewings to feel like I had a proper grasp on it, and I feel sure that I will go to see it again, soon.

Now, since I saw it twice, I think it is safe to say that I liked it. I thought the ending was nifty. Besides serving as a rather fitting conclusion to the series, it also leaves almost limitless potential if they decide to make any more. (Spoilers Ahoy!) All of the characters are completely separate, which means that they could be brought back in any combination.

First off, they completely wrapped up the story of a Elizabeth and Will, meaning those actors don't have to return for any possible sequels, since it could be assumed neither character runs into any of the other characters ever again. Though on the other hand, since Elizabeth is still Pirate King, and Will is Davy Jones/Charon, so it's conceivable that Jack could run into either of them at some point, go on an adventure with one, or just bump into one on the way to some other adventure. (Jack gets hauled before the Pirate Court! Jack dies and makes a deal with Will Turner to return to the land of the living!) Still, I doubt this could happen, as Knightley and Bloom are probably the two actors who desire most to move on from the movies.

Meanwhile, the crew of the Black Pearl has deserted Jack, and there seems to possibly be a mutiny dwelling, which means that they could conceivably bring back the Black Pearl, and depending on whether they can get Geoffrey Rush back or not, they can say that there has been a mutiny against him between the movies, and the crew could seek out Jack to resume his command. Or, hunt him down under Barbossa's command to regain the map.

Gibbs is hanging out at Tortuga, which means he can return, whether or not the Pearl and the rest of it's crew does.

And of course, Jack is off in a dingy, searching for the fountain of youth. Now, the series at this point basically is Captain Jack Sparrow, and—what fortuitous circumstance be this!—Depp seems to be the actor most interested in possibly returning to this world (minus the character actors, I bet, who would appreciate the work), so I think it is safe to say that any possible sequel will be based around this character's exploits. But because all the other characters are off away from him, it's quite possible for him to run into any of the characters, for any conceivable plotline. And of course, because he is last seen searching for the fountain of youth, he could easily be thrown forward in time—let's say he found it, aye?

One other thing I thought of was, I really have to give the screenwriters credit for the Davy Jones mythology. Jones serves as a pretty apt example of the nature of most devil characters in mythology. He begins as kind of lord of the underworld, ferrying souls lost at sea to the other world. Then, he gives up his role, and takes to terrorizing mankind and forcing them to make deals in exchange for their souls, either making them demons, like himself, or consigning him to the locker, or hell. Historically, most depictions of demons are based on old pagan masters of the underworld, or lords of natural elements—Hades, Pan, Cernunnos—shift and become images of evil as new cultures take over. As the Elemental forces, represented by Kalypso, are debased by Man, they view the things represented by the old Pagan gods and evil. Thus, as Kalypso is bound by Man, that is brought low and debased, her consort, the ferryman, becomes a monster, a skeleton, or an agent of evil. The mythology that the screenwriters have cobbled together is an excellent work of, as Joseph Campbell would say, creative mythology, and pretty accurately mythologizes just what the end period that Pirates movies is set in—a Once Upon the Age of Enlightenment—represents, when, as Cutler Beckett said, the "immaterial is now immaterial."

It was, of course, right after this period, that the Romantic Period set in, which brought about the Gothic Novel, and the Horror Novel. And the screenwriters, on the DVD commentary for the first Pirates movie, said that these stories where intended as a Romance. The Pirate Genre can be understood as a nostalgic genre searching for that time right before modernization, when people could have the freedom to just set out on adventure, of live in their own, idealized worlds, exactly the way Captain Jack Sparrow does. And the movies know this. They are a post-modern work, commenting upon why people like pirate movies, or pirate stories. Because, there is a part of all of us, or at least most of us, that longs for that kind of freedom, the freedom that is represented by the sea, by adventure, and they, in the world of multinational corporations, and governments with social security numbers, and the Internal Revenue Service and industrialization, longs to just Set Out, and Get Away From It All. As Captain Jack says in the first Pirates, while stranded on a beach—a situation that bears a striking resemblance to two wildly popular televisions shows, and accurately encapsulates the drawbacks and pulls of those very desired freedoms—"What a ship really is, what the Black Pearl really is, is freedom."

This is probably why the movies are so wildly popular, and why not matter how often reviewers talk about the confusing plots or muddled characterizations or the loud sense-numbing action sequences, people will still want to see these movies. I still want to see these movies. Because we all want to be Pirates, whether they sailed the Seven Seas or not.