Monday, October 27, 2008

Are You Kidding Me With That Hand/Saw Thing

How horrifying.  

Not the gore, although I had my issues with that as well.  I'm talking about the acting.  Why is it a prerequisite for any Hollywood horror film that the actors are lifeless and unconvincing?  My personal favorite was the blonde chick who gets offed first - who happens to be the cousin of a friend of mine.  She was such a perfect, lovely, and useless character.  A throwaway.  In fact - most of the people in this film (with the weak exception of Jigsaw himself) were completely useless, excepting as targets for the violence.  I have a hard time justifying hours of my life to entertainment that is just trash.  Maybe I could have gotten a bit more into the film by seeing the other four, but that was just too daunting a task.  Leaving the theater, I thought, "What was the point of this film?  What do people get out of it?

Gabrielle Murray's article offered a few reasons why people may be attracted to this kind of torture porn - one of which is that this kind of imagery makes us "feel things."  Aside from bored and antsy, I suppose that the movie did make me feel something.  Kinda sick.  The second-to-last ultraviolent scene in the film occurred when two victims were forced to place their hands into a mysteriously-overly-complicated sawing device.  They were to be bled almost to death.  Now - there is no way to know exactly what that kind of thing might look or sound like - but that didn't stop the director from eternally drawing out the scene.  The sound of bones being sliced through was unpleasant, but not scary.  With no genuine tension in the film, I just didn't see the point.

I thought the plot was weak and predictable.  Jigsaw picks "imperfect" people for his schemes.  This is classic horror movie stuff - if you sin, you die.  Sexual deviance, swearing, being a minority - these are all crimes for which one must be punished!  I think the film would have been much scarier if his choices of victims were random.  As it was, I didn't even have nightmares.  How disappointing.  

So - there was a definite effect on my psyche after seeing this film.  Murray discusses a human desire to get in touch with our mortality.  I do that enough on a regular basis (I have been known to be an outrageous hypochondriac), so I didn't really appreciate coming face to face with such explicitly graphic violence.  It doesn't matter that this is a fictive story.  My reaction is strong and visceral.  The dude who gets cut in half on the rack-like device?  Please.  I will be thinking about a pointed blade slicing through my skin, and then my liver until further notice.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Quest for Narrative

This book, while a bit lofty and abstract for my taste (especially coming from a medical doctor!) made a lot of sense to me.  I think that if I had read it ten years ago, it might have done little for me.  To explain, perhaps I will tell a small narrative of my own.

I lived with my friend M (name withheld) for just under a year, and in that time I learned more about her body than I ever wanted to know.  No, it was not a sexual relationship - we were just friends.  However - when she was between the ages of 10 and 14, she underwent many surgeries and procedures - all dealing with her digestive system.  She nearly died.  One surgeon cut a wrong nerve, and ended up severing all feeling to her bladder, and most of the feeling in her sexual organs.  I could go on for pages with the horror of what she's been through - mostly because she had a great need to share her narrative. 

Her narrative was rather interesting, though, because she often "told" it with her visual art.  I went to a show she did - and I was really blown away.  She had an entire wall installation of illeostemy bags, and some amazing hand-stitched fashion-forward covers for them.  She had an installation of toilet seats, cast of ceramic, with random people's toilet thoughts written right on them.  Again - I could go on - but let's just say that I was impressed.

This book showed me that M's story is a Quest Narrative.  She knows that she will never be back to "perfect health" - she has had permanent damage done to her body.  She is truly amazed by her experiences, and almost grateful for them.  As much as it can get frustrating when a friend obsesses on a topic (or themselves in general) I could not help but be impressed by this positive attitude.

I realize that my narrative here is not my self-story.  I have a self-story about illness, I suppose, but it's just not as good as M's.  I tend to dislike talking about my pain - it makes me feel weak and needy.  Especially when serious things are happening with my body - it is usually something I try to deal with on my own - or I surround myself with people and drugs that can help me forget my predicament.

This book brought up some excellent points about ill people, however, I wish it was a bit easier to read sometimes.  Brian, in his blog, kind of writes about what I mean.  He uses some weird, highfalutin language to describe what seem to be basic concepts - he almost masks them with obscure language.

Monday, October 20, 2008

I ain't afraid of no ghosts.

Torture porn usually doesn't freak me out.  Some video images can make me wince - like that wretched scene in American History X when Ed Norton puts that kid's teeth against the curb - but I usually have a strong stomach.  In fact, I don't think that my sickness while watching "The Ghosts of Abu Graib" had to do so much with the bloody images of torture, but the smiling faces of American soldiers while it was all happening.

Is it just me, or were these service people the dumbest, most bovine, honky-ass, short-bus soldiers ever?  I realize that we need soldiers, but why aren't we doing a better job of spreading the brains around the operation.  These were military police, and most of them sounded like legal morons.  This surprises me, because most of the army/navy/marines I know are bright people.  The idea that America's military leaders ordered torture is scary - but it is even more scary to think about ineptly supervised rogue squadrons, wreaking havoc on villains and civilians alike.

What has happened to this country?  Or - maybe a better question is - where have I been?   Why am I not constantly outraged?  Since watching this film, I haven't written any letters to government officials - I've not made much of a stir, outside of a few conversations with professors and my dad.  The topic drains me, and I am reminded of my friend Patrick, who said to me, "Blind patriotism is always a negative force."  I agree that some patriotism/nationalism can be a destructive force, but I never thought about how much damage it could do.  These soldiers who "softened up" the Iraqis really believed that it was in the best interest of their country.  I cannot imagine how torture could ever be in any one's interest. 

Torture is surely a slippery slope.  When does simple stress or strain become permanent damage?  How much is too much?  These questions are hard to answer.  More importantly, how can one possible ethically defend the use of torture in the year 2008?  

America is now known as a country that allows torture to go unpunished (even when resulting in death).  The worst penalty any of those soldiers got was 10 years.  It's shameful.  The pain that I, myself feel about this unjust war has been amplified by this horrible look into the realities of our government's procedures during said war.