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Does Crispin Glover’s film It is Fine! Everything is Fine romanticize the rape and torture of women?

In the wake of the screening of Crispin Glover’s film, “It is Fine! Everything is Fine,” as part of the Duluth/Superior Film Festival last weekend — a film that romanticizes a man’s explicit sexual fantasies of the rape and torture of women — I have some questions for progressive Duluthians who were there and for our community as a whole.

Does one man’s pain with cerebral palsy and his being trapped in the prison of his own body eclipse the pain of female identity trapped in the misogynist-sadist fantasy of a romanticized snuff film? Is this an implicit argument the film is making? In the end, isn’t the handicapped man’s subjective experience of sexuality not so different from the increasing demand for glamorized rape and torture of women shown in social media: that of women as soulless mannequins used for sexual exploitation and the destruction of women for pleasure?

Men who were in the audience: how often can you watch rape and torture of women before it alters the way you think about women? The way you look at them? The way you fantasize about them? The way you touch them?

Women in the audience: who among you has experienced sexualized hate crimes or know a woman who has? And did you think of yourself and of these women during the film?

Fathers of daughters in the audience: how do you justify to your daughter supporting a film that fantasizes the same kind of rape and exploitation she has a one-in-three chance of experiencing herself?

And why was none of this discussed at the talk-back after the film? Yes, Glover only screens the film where he can answer questions in person, but how effective is that if the audience is too star-struck and approval-seeking to ask controversial questions?

If Malcolm X or Dr. Martin Luther King were female, what would they think of Glover’s film and the progressive members of Duluth who lined up to support it? Or of the connection between films like Glover’s and the Steubenville high school rape case, in which boys dragged around an intoxicated, unconscious peer, stripped her and sexually assaulted her for the viewing pleasure of social media? Is our nation so desensitized to rape and torture that half of us are unclear how we should react? Would Malcolm X and Dr. King see Duluth celebrating a film like Glover’s as a community engaged in cannibalism? Would they be outraged?

Then why aren’t we?

In the talk-back, Glover remarked that films using propaganda upset him. Why was it not pointed out that 70 minutes of torture and rape romanticized in his fantasy was, indeed, propaganda? Was it so obvious it could be dismissed with the common sentiment of, “Yes, exploiting women is wrong; now move over a little, you’re blocking my view of it”? Or was it because propaganda works and our esteem for women has sunk so low that when it’s depicted on the big screen we don’t see women oppressed by hatred; we see a singular man oppressed by pain?

Do we realize how similar this is to the unconscious hate-propaganda used throughout history to perpetuate hatred of Jews, blacks, and homosexuals? That oppression and exploitation of women is among the most epic struggles, and that progress is sabotaged when a community that should know better takes part in the entertainment of rape and torture? Do we realize how normalized rape and torture has become that we can watch 70 minutes of it being romanticized without impulse to object or critique?

And where was I, you ask? Upon hearing the film’s description, I walked out before it started. Later I listened to a replay of the talk-back.

But I’m still guilty, like those who attended and didn’t speak up. I’m guilty of tolerating what shouldn’t be tolerated. I should’ve said something in the theater before I left, something like, “What are we celebrating by watching a film like this? What does this mean about the culture we’re willing to become?” Instead I simply left. And for that I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed of Duluth and the naïveté that filled the Zinema seats last Saturday night. And I’m ashamed of the hypocrisy that applauded afterward.

Duluth, how do you answer?

Kat Mandeville of Duluth graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh with an undergraduate degree in theater. She has worked in television and film in Los Angeles, where she witnessed the exploitation of women firsthand. In the summers she studies philosophy and psychoanalysis at the European Graduate School in Switzerland. This commentary originally appeared in the Duluth News Tribune.

48 Comment(s)

  1. Well, he was born on the same day as Hitler, and his middle name is Hellion. He lives in L.A? Can you imagine what 360 days of sun will do to a guy who shares the same astrological propensities of the biggest asshole in history? At least this guy is making art!

    The sheer amount of folks who pander to crap if there is a brand name attached to it is endless. Your film about flies on someone’s johnson can end up in the National Museum of Modern Art if the critics say it’s brilliant because you slapped some pablum social commentary onto it.

    Herzog | Jun 9, 2013 | New Comment
  2. Herzog -- I know who you are. Let’s have a drink already.

    kat mandeville | Jun 9, 2013 | New Comment
  3. IMHO popular fascination with these topics (fueled and fed upon by media) is a direct result of our dystopic and dysfunctional relationship with our own sexuality. Alternatively repressed and celebrated, sex is the most basic of our natural drives and has been turned into a villain by orthodox “religions” and a cash cow by the 50 shades of media conglomerates.

    We are all complicit and subsequently alienated from bliss by our own participation with the media-o-cracy in which we live. As soon as we embrace sex (profoundly perverse and profanely perfect) as a truly scared activity, the sooner we will begin to repair the deep psychic wounds we all carry. Unfortunately, not gunna happen anytime soon. We’re all addicted to power.

    I didn’t go to the Glover thing because I’m not cool enough and I’m really not interested in continued wallowing in others futility. Sure looked popular though.

    baci | Jun 10, 2013 | New Comment
  4. Not to take anything away from Kat’s commentary, but to add some clarity for those who didn’t see the film, the fantasy played out by the lead character had more to do with murder than rape. His fantasy was to convince women to willfully have sex with him, and then to strangle them to death after sex.

    I mention this with some trepidation, because I’m going off memory here. I think there was as least one act of rape. I can’t recall for sure, but I vaguely recall that, after killing one of the women, the lead character had sex with her again, which obviously was non-consensual.

    It certainly wasn’t a pleasant film to watch, nor was it intended to be.

    Paul Lundgren | Jun 10, 2013 | New Comment
  5. I cannot take seriously critical views by anyone who has not taken the time to consume the very thing that they are being critical of. The use of leading rhetorical questions was wayyyy overboard? Also. I believe the author has mistaken the definition of the word “celebrated” with the word “watched.” Unfortunately I cannot comment on the content of the film because I did not celebra… oops, I meant watched it.

    pbrstreetgang | Jun 10, 2013 | New Comment
  6. Kat, I don’t think you know who I am, as I don’t know who you are, but I’m ready for a drink anyway. Baci, that was spot-on. Sacred, scared? Both? Not that the problem is hard to see, but you put it very well and I like your work with Hipsters. I’m tired of sex being dirty and evil too, yet it is a very strong motivating factor, the strongest maybe, next to greed, and just like with well, Sodom and Gomorrah, problems do arise. Maybe Glover would claim he was making a film about these problems, but I don’t know how much his method is really challenging anyone’s actions or feelings about sex and society like art is supposed to. They watch it, happy for having seen a famous guy, and go home.

    Who really goes in for the distopia thing anyway? It’s depressing, and what good is it doing? Sure I’ll throw in a little distopia over the coming Dylan show and how its going to be a giant geezer sausagefest and rock is dead and all that, but it’s all in good humor. How often do we see someone’s vision/art/whatever, of what is going right or how things could/should be? You think people would feed on that more. Violence, fame, sex… all earmarks of what is wrong in A’Merica.

    Personally, I think Hellion’s career peaked 30 years ago with George McFly, and I don’t know why he’s put his energies down this path, or why there are indeed that many ‘Duluthians’ who are as starstuck as say, deer in headlights? Go do some hill climbers people.

    I used to think meeting Dylan would be the coolest thing, that he would see how cool I was and we would have the best conversation ever. Then I realized everyone else in the world was thinking the same thing, and what that might do to a guy’s head. So now, I’d probably rather just sit and look at some nice DaVinchi clouds over the July lake at dusk. Every time I have a nice nature moment like that, the purity and bliss you feel, even if someone has dumped a whole box of Homegrown flyers in the parking lot, seems to make all these silly man-problems, and a lot of art, especially if it doesn’t have cool colors and weird doodles, seem somewhat trite and meaningless. Nature doesn’t seem to care too much one way or the other if we all get our shit together or not. If we piss her off, she’ll just put us out and start fresh. But she doesn’t seem to mind when we stop to admire her beauty either.

    Herzog | Jun 10, 2013 | New Comment
  7. I’m extremely curious to know how the author received access to a recording of the “talk-back” (I can only assume she’s referring to the Q&A that followed the screening). Kat, is this posted online somewhere?
    Oh, and Hi Duluth!!!!!

    gothgimpbadcooking | Jun 10, 2013 | New Comment
  8. Did he do the Q&A afterward? He did when I saw it at the Heights theater in Minneapolis the following Monday.

    I felt like his explanation was sufficient. Those with disabilities in film are always portrayed as happy go lucky, etc. … which he argued actually de-humanizes them far more than acknowledging they can have scumbag traits like the protagonist did.

    I also was able to take the movie better knowing the main character was the one who wrote the screenplay.

    The Prize Is Lobster | Jun 10, 2013 | New Comment
  9. Baci (and this goes for Hezog, too) -- although your points may be thoughtful and relevant, the way you break them down de-politicize a very political issue, that of gender, as would the case with race. De-politicizing a political issue is not helpful to a political struggle.

    pbrtreetgang -- of course I understand your argument that one who has not witnessed something cannot comment. Clearly I disagree with that seeming contradiction — however, the point is: your argument doesn’t address the question of whether the film romanticizes rape and murder. If the answer is yes, it doesn’t matter who has asked the question or where it came from.

    Paul -- The Socratic method of asking a participant enough questions as to destabilize their point of view is a common practice used within complex issues. And since a question at this moment would seem manipulative to you, I’ll put this next observation in the form of a statement. If I hadn’t asked the audience/readers questions -- which may seem like a limited two-option entrapment, I would’ve had to make my observations statements that took for granted the audience/readers answering in one particular direction, which would have sounded like flat out accusations. Although questions seem manipulative to you because they seem to leave only two options -- that of agreement or disagreement -- I think statements of accusation would have shut down the conversation in more immediate, condescending ways. Which is the opposite of what I wanted. But thank you for some of your further description of the film. It demonstrates all my points above: that it does indeed do what I thought it did, and I didn’t have to watch the whole film to discern that.

    (I’ll put these next observations in the form of statements to humor Paul Lundgren) There are other films in the media that are examples of more obvious glorification of rape and torture, watched by a wider audience that gives more passionate support.

    I think this film is ripe for this kind of discussion because of the particular audience it drew in: artists, patrons, the educated, who participated somewhat -- I think -- to stand out as just those things: artists, patrons, educated people who consider themselves liberal and elevated enough to find this kind of film hip and didn’t want to appear as out-of-touch mid-westerners. I suspected that because the film was a focus point of culture in a town desperate to appear cultured, it would make it a more complex discussion which is more helpful, because it’s a complex issue. An issue so potent and political as something like gender or race, doesn’t have to be a front-and-center issue to be propaganda. In fact, it works better in media it isn’t — it’s more of a background; as something taken for granted in a world already established by a set of assumptions.

    I have gotten direct feedback from many women concerned with these issues. I believe many of them did not indeed see the film. What can be done with the minimal feedback at this moment can be a further challenge to the audience and readers. (I apologize Paul, but these next observations are going to have to appear in the form of questions.) How many of those who have defended the film are men? And how many women who saw the film have responded? My guess is this: men defend this film, women who saw it are too conflicted too comment, and women who are scared for their own well-being and the well-being of other women are making the coherent, intelligent defenses of my argument because it’s their own lives that are put in danger by the prevailing indifference of their safety.

    If gender issues could be compared to race issues (which some may think bombastic; I do not) — and the oppression and exploitation of women could be compared to the oppression and exploitation of a persecuted race — this discussion so far looks like this: the whites are defending the racist film, and the minorities are relieved and empowered by my commentary.

    If I’m mistaken about this break-down of demographics, please prove me wrong.

    kat mandeville | Jun 10, 2013 | New Comment
  10. also

    gothgimpbadcooking: yes, this articles appeared in the Duluth News Tribune in the Opinion section Saturday, the 8th.

    the lobster is the prize: In my commentary I think I make the point, and if not: I think it’s irrelevant that the actor and main character of the film is the one who wrote the screenplay.

    prstreetgang: to address your insistence there is a difference between “Watching” and “celebrating” -- I refer to Dr. King: (and by “evil” is the context of our discussion, I would consider evil the romanticizing of rape and torture and defending its ascetic value in art)

    “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it. ”

    Dr. King also said this:

    “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

    and this:

    “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”


    “The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”

    kat mandeville | Jun 10, 2013 | New Comment
  11. Its pretty hard to take everything you typed that seriously being that you didn’t even watch the movie.

    The Prize Is Lobster | Jun 10, 2013 | New Comment
  12. Kat, I understand that this article appeared in the DNT, but you indicate in the second to last paragraph that though you did not see the film you did listen to a “replay of the talkback” and earlier in the piece you refer to both a specific comment the filmmaker made in that “talkback” as well as the lack of critical questioning from a star struck audience.

    Where and how might one access this recording to which you are referring?

    gothgimpbadcooking | Jun 10, 2013 | New Comment
  13. the prize is the lobster: again, if my commentary is essentially spot-on, it proves seeing the media doesn’t matter. I might compare this to watching the behavior of someone I have no intimate knowledge of and discerning character traits: the man at the bar talking down to his wife doesn’t see her as an equal. The college kid falling off his bar stool ordering himself more drinks can’t hold his liquor. I don’t have to know the college kids internal struggles with alcohol to know he’s ultimately losing the battle. I don’t have to know about minutia of the marriage between the condescending husband and his wife to discern there is not equity between them.

    We can make discernments like this all the time and everywhere. Although it may seem hypocritical to do so without intimate knowledge, often times the details just don’t matter, and the important content is right there to be experienced by all, but often seen by few -- those who are interested and capable of cultural & political critic, or those who are experienced and wise in their experience.

    kat mandeville | Jun 10, 2013 | New Comment
  14. gotthgimpbadcooking: the article in the DNT does somewhat make it sound like it was a technological recording device I was listening to for the talk-back, which was a concern I had with their edit to my commentary. I looks like their final version of the edit did not adequately address that. I did not listen to an audio device, I listened to the testimony of someone who knew I wanted a playback and who I find to be a credible witness.

    The article (and perhaps this is my own editorial mistake) also made it sound like the quoted sentence was a direct quote from Crispin Glover. If we are both referring to the sentence that has the quotes around it, I tried to make it clear by saying it was “a common sentiment” and not direct dialogue. I think a careful reading of my commentary would revealed that; nonetheless, perhaps that distinction could have been made more blatant for those simply skimming the article.

    kat mandeville | Jun 10, 2013 | New Comment
  15. The tone of that opinion piece gives me the chills because it reminds me of the years I spent vigilantly shining an angry light on rape culture anywhere I saw it. My persona was total woman power, but it was anything but an empowering time of my life. In the end it proved impossible for me to saturate myself with the horrifying messages of the entertainment industry and still be happy about being a woman, let alone bringing a daughter into this world. So, I forfeit that battle and chose to focus my passion on creating the power, freedom, and happiness I desired in my personal reality.

    When you tune into television and film, you are staring into the belly of the beast. What do you expect to find there? It’s like going to McDonald’s and being incensed by the “food” they serve. You will never find anything different there as long as that is what people line up to feed on.

    And there lies the most painful part. It’s not that we just want filmmakers to stop glamorizing violence against women, we want our fellow citizens of this planet to stop having an appetite for it. And that’s one thing you can’t shout out of a culture.

    This old world’s in a hell of a fix, my dear. I hope that you are better able to balance fighting this scourge with finding personal joy than I am.

    yoniohno | Jun 10, 2013 | New Comment
  16. Thank you yoniohno. Your sentiments are important. And might I add, they are important whether or not you saw this particular film. You are critiquing the appetites of culture and the pandering to that appetite, which is the big picture of this discussion. The supply and demand of our race-to-the-bottom sexual economy.

    To those who are going to keep pointing out that I didn’t watch the film and therefore my commentary is irrelevant: please thoughtfully read all the previous comments and responses. Your repeating observation is not progressing the discussion.

    kat mandeville | Jun 10, 2013 | New Comment
  17. “De-politicizing a political issue is not helpful to a political struggle.” IMHO, if it allows for constructive and open discussion then how is not helpful? Does the fact I’m not of the correct gender cancel my opinion? Seems like I was making a set of cultural observations, just like yoniohno.

    I chose NOT to go because I knew what it was about. I knew the sick feeling I’ve had when I’ve seen any film which relies on prurience to attempt to make a point (or just sell tickets). I like bizarre films, I don’t like films that make me feel bad to be a human.

    @Herzog, good catch. I take no credit for my malaprop.

    baci | Jun 10, 2013 | New Comment
  18. I will begin by disclaiming that I, like Kat, did not see this film. I don’t particularly see any reason to, and the fact that Kat has not seen the film does not detract from her argument. She is not criticizing the acting, writing quality, or cinematography of the film. It’s the ideas that are in question. I heard about the plot of the film from a friend that went to see it, but this is the first critical analysis of the ideas I’ve read about the film, and it’s coming from someone that has not even seen it. Am I the only one that finds it problematic?

    If this film was supposed to spark commentary, why didn’t any of the audience members write an opinion piece? And why, if you have not spoken about the ideas in the film, are you criticizing Kat for not watching it? I commend her for speaking up, and don’t blame her a second for not wanting to support something that glorifies the torture, rape, and subjection of women.

    The film puts people in an awkward situation. Its purpose is to supposedly destigmatize disabled people in film, to show they are human and have emotional complexities, just like everyone else. Perhaps that is an important concept to explore in film and art, but is it really necessary to do it by exploiting and subjecting women to sexual violence in the process? Violence against women isn’t art, it’s misogyny, no matter what color mask you put on it. Rape isn’t innovative at all, and a disabled man using physical dominance to gain power and control over his female victim is the same as the rape of a woman by an abled man. It’s not new. It’s not innovative. To justify rape as art is to perpetuate notions of sensationalism, and to feed into the rape culture we all live in.

    beccadeboer | Jun 10, 2013 | New Comment
  19. If the issue is one of subjective experience, and it is -- because that is the nature of social issues -- then why are some of the correspondents here upset about lack of hard evidence backing Kat’s perspective. Because we watch too many court shows? As a woman, she has every right to speak about how she perceives that women are being portrayed in this film, and to make ties that correlate with lived experience. Isn’t art meant to reflect the lived experience?

    On the other hand, I think that perhaps the question posed by the editorial is a philosophical one: and to that end, it is of immense value. Does Glover’s intention matter if its consequences did more harm than good to the greater good?

    Women represent (slightly) more than half of the population in the United States, last I checked. It is probably safe to say that despite the seemingly growing nature of open notions of sexuality, the film still depicts infringements upon what most would call pleasure. I, too, chose not to see the film upon reading it’s description -- and I don’t condemn those who chose to see it anyway.

    I don’t think the question at stake is even remotely about what represents art and what doesn’t. I sense that the question is more closely related to what promotes violence -- and it sounds like many people are at least willing to ask that question with regards to this film, so let’s not be too quick to condemn those who pose a possible answer.

    From a personal standpoint: My very first sexual experience was rape, and you can be damn sure that I have hard time witnessing any medium that portrays sexual violence, no matter how well intended the creator. Logically, I “get” what I’ve read about Glover’s intent for the film. I appreciate the exploration of boundaries, too. It helps us define what and where they are. To that end -- maybe we’re all getting something right here simply by speaking and participating in the discussion.

    mercurywriter | Jun 11, 2013 | New Comment
  20. beccadeboer and mercurywriter: bullseye. Thank you for speaking up.

    baci and Herzog: de-poilticizing a political issue is NOT helpful because it dilutes and even denies the direct impact it has on a targeted group of people who have a particular power struggle that differs from other groups in the power structure. Gender (and race) issues ARE political because they have to do with power and the distribution of power. Sexuality used in and as power is political. To generalize it as an overall cultural problem of sexual repression based on religious influence, etc., although is historically relevant, is not the precise problem at hand and it dilutes the impact sexual power has on a particular group of people who are being OPPressed by power.

    I personally think that sexuality in our post-modern globalized pop-culture is not REpressed in men, but is encouraged (and also encouraged in men to be mechanical, anonymous, and soulless sex) – it’s the direction in which sexuality is encouraged that is OPPressive. It ‘s OPPressive in that it makes sex entirely about power and power-roles. And this is why rape is common, and to the point where it is no longer psycho/sociopaths committing rape, but comparatively average men who are acting out a culturally & politically accepted practice of sexuality as power.

    I will note here that the world-wide esteemed book (and now film) series “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was originally called “Men Who Hate Women” by the author himself, (Steig Larsson), a journalist who worked closely on cases of rape and crimes of violence and political conspiracies. These writings he originally did not intend to be published as books but were his way of coping with a culture FED on rape and violence and hatred of women, that craves MORE rape and violence and hatred of women. He created a character – a woman, and not a patriarch – who rises up to say STOP THIS NOW OR ELSE, who is without mercy or compromise. Steig Larsson’s revelation should be meditated on as more than a psychological thriller but a psychological symptom of a psychological catastrophe. The American version of the film I find problematic because, as I see it, its emphasis on consensual sex to the point of obsession was to balance out the crimes of rape to comfort the audience, which was not Steig Larsson’s intentions. He intended to make us all feel shocked and ashamed of our prevalent fetish for rape, and the American version was not an act of sexual repression coming out sideways, but an act of cowardice to sell a controversial story to a cowardly American crowd who did not want to look in the mirror. Lisbeth Salander – the female protagonist of the books/films; the girl with the dragon tattoo – is an archetype rarely seen in media today: a woman of high intelligence with both personal and POLITICAL motives to take revenge on a string of men and a complicit culture that seek to discredit her, control her, silence her, and destroy her. This was Steig Larsson’s hope for the revolution: a woman of absolute INTOLERANCE of rape culture who also needs the help, willingness, and conviction of a man – the journalist (who is arguable the author himself). Which brings me to my next point.

    I absolutely think a man’s opinion about such issues as rape and torture of women in a rape-culture is important; nay it is ESSENTIAL. Because it is YOUR opinion that is historically and presently what is dominantly influential. For better or worse, women cannot fight successfully against oppression and win equity without your help, willingness, and conviction. When Steig Larsson witnessed the exploitation, rape, torture, and hatred of women, he knew better than to romanticize, glorify, or support it. He fought against it, everyday. Because he knew he must; not just for his own personal integrity, but in order make progress in the war against hatred, violence, and exploitation. He was not among the men who hate women. What will it take for the average man (let alone the well-educated man) to realize it isn’t enough to like women or to love them – he must fight against the hatred directly, or change will not be possible. And to do this, he (and ALL of us) must learn to recognize our culture’s unconscious hatred of women. And Glover’s film was an opportunity to do so; an opportunity that was squandered. My commentary and your responses are giving us back that opportunity.

    Women’s concern about rape and torture of women is clearly not the prevailing opinion, otherwise there would be much less of it; in media, in homes, in the streets, in our expectations, in our fantasies and in our nightmares. It is men who are mainly in the hot-seat of this type of discussion: those in the power-role of dominance -- physically implied, psychologically implied, culturally implied. And because men are at the top of this power-structure of most power-struggles like sexuality, I would recommend men think very carefully about their reaction to Crispin Glover’s film and their reaction to women who are concerned about women’s safety in the minds of men who often determine it. (“Without the law, a woman is as safe as the men allow her to be.” – Louis L’Amour.) I’m presuming both commentors baci & Herzog are white men, (and that most of the men responding to this commentary are white). I suggest that you consider your demographic among the highest on the food-chain; and that before you go patting each other on the backs for defending a film that exploits women including in the form of rape, torture, and necrophilia, that you use scrupulous analysis (the way women must for the survival of themselves as persons and the survival of themselves as a people) about your arguments before making them, despite the temptation for a quick defense.

    It should be noted at this point that none of the women who watched the film are responding to this commentary. It would be helpful to know their opinion.

    I will also remind the audience and readers that after Crispin Glover’s film showing at the Duluth/Superior film festival, the after-party was held at an old prison: an act of celebration in a place of torture. I wonder if the party acted as an unconscious reinforcement of the romanticized torture in Glover’s film.

    kat mandeville | Jun 11, 2013 | New Comment
  21. Kat,

    Cirspin Glover (and the “cool” people) partied at the Owl’s Club. Too cool for an “official” after party I guess. At the old jail, we were treated to a performance by Total Freedom Rock and transgender performance artist Venus DeMars. If you wanted meaningful social/artistic commentary on gender issues, it doesn’t get more to the point than that. I suggest you check your facts before you get on your soap box.

    Further, if directed to me, your statement “I suggest that you consider your demographic among the highest on the food-chain; and that before you go patting each other on the backs for defending a film that exploits women including in the form of rape, torture, and necrophilia, that you use scrupulous analysis,” you should read the comments in this thread. I decried this film in my first, and subsequent posts. Your diatribe does you (thankfully not your cause) a dis-service. Unfortunately, this is often the case, men who actually engage this issue are the ones who receive the venom of those who fight for the cause. It’s a continuation of the hurt that surrounds violence.

    baci | Jun 11, 2013 | New Comment
  22. Certainly looks like it romanticizes and glamorizes rape and murder from the trailer. I’m not sure I could stomach watching the actual film. Sounds absolutely vile.

    “Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it” doesn’t invalidate Kat’s critique.

    “Humanizing” men with disabilities at the expense of women is certainly one way to do it. It’s nothing new- violence against women has been to “humanize” men for thousands of years.

    rev | Jun 11, 2013 | New Comment
  23. rev: excellently succinct.

    baci: You previously mentioned in your earliest responses that you didn’t go to the screening because you were “not cool enough” and because you’re “not interested in continued wallowing in others futility” -- perhaps you can clarify whatever that meant. In a later response you take things more seriously and say you avoid films “which rely on prurience to attempt to make a point (or just sell tickets).” Prurience means having or encouraging an excessive interest in sex. You didn’t clarify that is wasn’t the general excess of sex that repelled you, but the violence and rape and necrophilia the sex included. I would not consider those two objections the same. Not at all.

    That aside, your point about venom shot into the men trying to be part of the solution is important to note and I’m glad you did. Men who try to be part of the solution are making themselves vulnerable to direct critique because, quite literally, they show up to hear it. I recognize your dilemma. I appreciate you ardently representing the white man’s burden, however I’m all out of gold-stars stickers at the moment. Beyond my nod in your direction, you’ll have to give the pat on your back yourself.

    As for the after-party confusion -- I find it problematic that the “official” after-party was held at the Owl’s Club because my research informs me that the Owl’s Club is not just a membership only club, but a club wherein women cannot become “full” members but only “auxiliary members.”Having a transgender performer is exciting news on the progressive front, however, a transgender performing in a venue that arguably represents the history of the persecution and incarceration of “unfavorable” demographics (transgender having been on that list for… just about ever) -- well, I hope everyone appreciated the irony of that performance, and the irony of feeling proud to humanize one demographic after feeling alright to participate in dehumanizing another.

    So to recap, the “official” after-party was held at a club that refuses to give women the right to become full members (in the year 2013), while a great number of the audience went to an unofficial after-party at a old prison. Got it. Thanks for clarifying.

    Now that we have some of the logistics out of the way, perhaps we can re-focus on critiquing the bigger role and implications of Glover’s film and media like it on the psychology and behavior of cultural identity and politics. Unless of course, we feel we’ve hit all the important talking points and the time now is to reflect.

    This article will appear in the website tomorrow where new and old dialogue can generate or be continued. I hope my commentary and your responses here on Perfect Duluth Day and will remain hubs for this discourse.

    kat mandeville | Jun 11, 2013 | New Comment
  24. And more than that, I hope this discourse goes viral. I hope Duluthians will be cussing and discussing it in the streets, in our cars, with friends and foes and family, while at the bar or watching entertainment or while getting high -- I hope these issues become so relevant to Duluthians that our perspective actually starts to evolve and we begin to walk the talk we are learning to speak.

    kat mandeville | Jun 11, 2013 | New Comment
  25. No, the official, i.e. being sponsored by the film fest organizers, party was at the old jail, Venus played there. The “cool” people partied later at the Owls club. I cast NO aspersions on the members of the Owls club other than I’m not cool enough to have been invited (being sarcastic now, get it? I wanted to see Venus play and had a really cool OTHER party where we all oogled motorcycles in a sexual manner.)

    “Not cool enough,” in all it’s instances, was meant sarcastically. I said “not interested in continued wallowing in others futility” because I find killcore films to be futile attempts at entertainment. I’m not interested in committing any of my bandwidth to them (which I’ve done now trying to clarify this all to you.)

    Your hair splitting on my posts is a waste of both our time. I absolutely deny you any right to use my statements in your article. If my statements appear in it, I will seek legal recourse. Frankly I’m seriously off-put by your approach to this whole topic.

    baci | Jun 11, 2013 | New Comment
  26. Seeing as you have misunderstood me several times, I DO NOT give you permission to quote me in your article. I am NOT certain you will represent me correctly. You have mistaken what I’ve said several times in this thread. DO NOT USE MY QUOTES IN YOUR ARTICLE.

    I’m NOT afraid or uncomfortable engaging in these discussions but I AM very concerned you will misrepresent me. DO NOT QUOTE ME IN YOUR ARTICLE unless I can see what you have me saying.

    baci | Jun 11, 2013 | New Comment
  27. I’d love it if discussion spread, but with the pornification and reframing of rape, sexual violence, and even pedophilia as harmless “kinks” I remain pessimistic.

    rev | Jun 11, 2013 | New Comment
  28. First of all, I did not see this film, I have no interest in ever seeing this film for many of the same reasons the original poster did not want to see this film; I am not interested in any type of glorifying of rape or violence against woman (or men) be it by able bodied/minded people or otherwise.

    However, I think that this conversation has taken a negative turn, mostly due to the fact that this isn’t a conversation anymore. It’s people trying to reply to the original questions and ideas posted, and being ripped apart by the original poster. The whole idea of having a conversation about this is to be able to talk freely and expressing opinions without tearing other peoples ideas/feelings/opinions apart.

    It is unfortunate that women who saw this movie have not chimed in, but I have to say this thread no longer feels like a safe space to share a dissenting or differing opinion, and maybe there are people out there who saw it and are now just not willing to put themselves out there.

    I completely agree with your original sentiments about the movie, the idea of the movie disgusts me as does many things we see every day that perpetuate this culture, however I don’t agree that the manner in which this conversation is being conducted is beneficial to local feminism. I hope it has not scared people away from talking about these topics.

    wskyline | Jun 11, 2013 | New Comment
  29. Kat,

    WTF Goldstars?!?! I hope you are joking there. I have no need for your praise or anyone’s pat on the back. I’m proudly who I am, yep white, yep male. So what!?! Seriously, take your militancy and energy and do something real with it. Treating me with condescension like that is like flinging crap at the choir. Go up to the Proctor speedway and spread the good word there if you want real challenge. I was raised in a commune, the Co-Op started in the basement, I’ve had the most inclusive and progressive life, by upbringing choice and action, that any man you know. I’ve helped to empower grrls and boys to be bohemian technomancers and kick serious science ass. Don’t lob your gender war grenades in my court, I’ll eat them and convert the explosions into chaos power and send you back beams of total man power radiance.

    baci | Jun 11, 2013 | New Comment
  30. Baci, whether or not you’re jonesing for a gold star or a cookie, it’s pretty messed up to sit here — as a guy — and tell a woman how to be a better feminist. Your CV really doesn’t have any bearing on whether or not you’re in a better position than a woman to guide feminist politics.

    If you don’t think there’s anything else to be gained by engaging in this particular discussion, move along. As men we’re socialized not to do this, whether or not we were raised in a commune or by a single mother or by a lesbian couple.

    rev | Jun 11, 2013 | New Comment
  31. Point taken Rev, I know Kat is an activist and you are right, it’s not my place to tell anyone how to do their thing.

    Kat had repeatedly mistaken some facts and inferred that I was defending that misogynist film. I took offense to that.

    Kat, I’m on your side … really. Good luck with your efforts.

    baci | Jun 11, 2013 | New Comment
  32. Thanks, Rev.

    To keep the atmosphere civil in the discourse of rape, torture, and sexual exploitation of women is a difficult tension. I don’t know if it’s possible to maintain, nor if it should be. These issues are mortifying, enraging, & devastating. Should the atmosphere be anything other than off-putting? I should hope these topics will never become comfortable to talk about, for anyone. That said, if this discourse is turning into a monster truck rally, perhaps it’s time to take a breather.

    baci: I’ll not be re-using your comments. May they keep you warm.

    Let’s all keep fighting the good fight by finding out what that fight is.

    kat mandeville | Jun 11, 2013 | New Comment
  33. At the risk of rekindling the commenting romance here, I’ll note that the article referenced above was published today.

    Crispin Glover’s latest shock-flick: Are you really sure it is fine?

    Paul Lundgren | Jun 13, 2013 | New Comment
  34. I was there, I’m a filmmaker, and a lot of this discussion seems to be evolving quite rapidly in a different direction than the film left me. The actual content of this film seems to have been overshadowed through these articles and discussions, or it could be the films perfect shadow.

    If you haven’t seen the film, there is a good chance you’re not going to know how to handle its description. Even if you have seen it, there’s no telling how you will handle it anyway. There is violence, rape, and women are objectified through a male gaze- but the actual depiction of these events is so much less appalling than many of the blockbuster films seen in cinemas on a regular basis by a much wider audience.

    The film was written by the main actor Steven C Stewart, who suffered from a strong case of cerebral palsy, and was produced while he was virtually on his deathbed. From what I gathered from Glover’s explanation (which was unnecessarily hard to follow) was that the film is a culmination of Steven’s emotional experience while being kept in a nursing home against his will. The films that he saw during this period of his life have a heavy influence on his written story. It is shot like a 70′s B movie, to the T, with all of its flaws including a commentary on how women were portrayed in film during that time (this is where most of the conversation has been focused). The timing is campy, the music ironically repetitive, and the content bluntly grows into a spiraling disaster.

    While watching, the focus of the viewer is always turned towards Steven’s struggle to communicate, and interact with those around him (most importantly the viewer). There are no subtitles, and Steven’s dialogue is unrecognizable. There is no way to truly understand his character fully, which constantly makes the audience struggle with his motives. This is a film about a trapped man’s fantasies, someone who has never been able to communicate love or aggression to the extent that he feels internally. If you were going to fantasize in this condition, I would imagine that there would be no limit to internal ambitions, no matter how confusing or ugly they may be.

    I would expect every viewer to feel offended while watching this film at some point, and all in all I wouldn’t say it’s a film that should be highly praised. But I think it’s too easy to hate it, and to label it as sexist and miss out on the potential overview. It is a film that requires discussion, evokes it, and forces viewers to think about what they have been exposed to. With all of this said, it is a unique experience -- and everyone who watches it will digest it differently. I would encourage film enthusiasts to watch it, because it is challenging in so many ways.

    This is what art is for, to boycott it would be extremely regressive. The time period we live in allows for us to see things from so many angles, and this is a direct view into an individuals unique mind, situation, and fictional story. I personally felt very agitated after seeing the film, confused, tired, and like I wanted to forget what just happened.

    The main reason I’m responding, is that I wish the author of the article would have stayed to view the film. I think the discussion would have greatly benefited from this.

    This response is late in the game, and probably repeating what others have already said, but I’ve thought about it enough to want to engage.

    caleb | Jun 14, 2013 | New Comment
  35. To summarize, a lot of my attention goes towards the process of the film when viewing. I’m fairly desensitized, and sub par intelligence when it comes to human issues.

    And to attempt to answer the originally posed questions, no I don’t think the film romanticizes rape and violence -- because it’s still disgusting and repulsive no matter how unbelievable it comes off in the terrible acting. No one is rooting for the main character, they are just subjected to his acts.

    I guess the weirdest part is how the situation could seem laughable because of its execution, which no one has really talked about. The acting is extremely unbelievable throughout, the only thing that gets across to the viewer is the idea of what this guy is trying to do. The film sloppily moves the story forward, with the majority of the impact revolving around his level of self control (in all aspects). I think your idea, Kat, of the film -- is much more potent and stronger than the film itself. (This is why I want you to see it.)

    caleb | Jun 14, 2013 | New Comment
  36. Thanks for your comments, Caleb. But some of them sound as if you haven’t read parts of the exchange above. I think many points of your response were addressed in previous exchanges. I think the one of the more succinct one is that the main character with cerebral palsy is humanized at the expense of dehumanizing the women. Many (especially women who experience dehumanization first-hand) would consider this the perpetuation of a big problem. We’re scared about what films like this are doing to men’s opinion and esteem of us under the cover of experimental art, and that men’s (and our own) constant consumption of media like Glover’s will eventually change the way you treat us, and already has.

    I want to mention here that I think the Duluth/Superior Film Festival is a good, beneficial phenomenon for our community. I was in fact a volunteer for it last year, and I want to commend those who work hard to keep it in existence. I think it’s also important I address the impulse to scapegoat the committee who chose this film and the Zinema (which itself screens many obscure, remarkable films) as no more to blame than the audience who paid and stayed to watch it, and those of us who seek out exploitation as entertainment in other forms and opportunities. The committee that chose this film is our cultural identity; is our appetite for it; is all of us. To start a witch-hunt would contradict the analysis I’m trying to engage us in. I want us to consider that we supply our own demand and thus perpetuate our own appetite, and thus our own destruction. I hope for us to examine what is the structure of destruction we have built, buttress, and strengthen with our conscious and unconscious participation. I hope the film festival itself will function in this critique not as a target but as a concrete instance that can launch us into the conceptual; a particular as a lens through which we can look at the universal, which will in turn become a lens through which we can look at other instances and begin a discourse on our concealed hatred for women, our open dehumanization of them, and our pursuit to witness the extermination of them as entertainment.

    kat mandeville | Jun 14, 2013 | New Comment
  37. p.s. I don’t know any woman who could look at the mere poster for Glover’s film without feeling deeply disturbed and concerned for her own well-being if this is the image men carry around with them while they simultaneous think it’s these images that make the film intellectually interesting. There’s a disconnect happening in our minds. The poster has a man in power with a beaten, almost unconscious and naked woman he’s forcing to give him oral sex while he holds a lynch and the perpetrator in the foreground laughing. This is worse than most images of pornography advertisement. Caleb, think of the film’s poster and think of the Steubenville rape case. Do you see a connection? Why did the high school boys find it arousing and amusing to drag around an unconscious peer, strip her, sexually assault her and record it on social media? And where did these boys get the idea we would find their behavior acceptable and amusing? To me, the poster might be considered like the explicit image of a black person facing a lynching with the shadow of a white man at the lynch, and a white man laughing in the foreground. Even if the woman were changed to say, an African American, how would we receive the image? Why is it okay for white men to lynch white women? Catch my drift?

    Violence against women in the form of rape and torture and murder is at sky-rocketing all-time highs. How in the world can we not wonder if it’s because media perpetuates it as okay at the cost of an intriguing plot, or the interesting character development, or for the arousal in and of itself? Yes, other films depict these theme more dramatically, but I addressed this in an earlier response.

    kat mandeville | Jun 14, 2013 | New Comment
  38. Kat, look, I share some of your frustration with this kind of film/text, but this set of comments and your responses . . . you’re not hearing people very well, you seem to be trying to shut down any voice that disagrees with any aspect of your critique. This doesn’t help people take in what you’re saying. I’ll post here what I posted in the responses to the version of this debate:

    I also did not see the Glover film, because my capacity to see violence against women in particular and living creatures in general was pretty maxed out a long time ago. So I haven’t been to see any Tarantino films lately, or the American “Girl with Dragon Tattoo” films, or etc etc etc-- I particularly don’t go to see Hollywood-style violence-is-good-endorphin-kick-fun films. But I can’t write critically about works I have not experienced. I’d venture to say that, if one wants to spare oneself yet another grueling helping of women-in-the-meatgrinder of mens’ baffled sense of entitlement and estheticized rage, it might be possible to just say that. Then, of course, you don’t get to comment on what may or may not be the various virtues or vices of the film in question, but you do get to comment on your own experience of the many other films, say, that have brought you to this point of frustration and anger about how this culture thinks about women.

    It seems simple, maybe--you may wish to say, “we simply shouldn’t make films that depict violent acts being done to women”-- but art exists in part to tell us things that we might rather not know about our world. One aspect of which is the strange and fraught relationship men have with their own need of women and their shame and fear of rejection by women. Another aspect of which is the tendency even for “good” people to objectify those other than them. And the strangeness of gendered life for conscious beings: women and men sleep with “the enemy” every night; we love “the enemy.” We hate the enemy. We are, men and women, both determined by our roles in gendered culture and, potentially, utterly free and able choose the good. Until we’re driven by need and rejection and suffering and violence to choose otherwise.

    So I haven’t seen Glover’s film. From what I can glean from those who have, it seems to be trying to engage with some of the messy stuff I’ve been struggling to detail in the paragraph above. I cannot know, not having seen it, whether it does it well or badly. It doesn’t, however, seem to be engaged in glamorizing women’s pain or making it acceptable or sexy.

    annklefstad | Jun 15, 2013 | New Comment
  39. Also, Kat, in the United States rape is actually declining (not “skyrocketing”): According to a March 2013 report from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, from 1995 to 2010, the estimated annual rate of female rape or sexual assault declined 58%. It may be that the open discussion of sex, shame, how men and women feel about each other, etc, which is spurred by film and art that explores these issues from all points of view, is contributing to the drop in rates of rape.

    annklefstad | Jun 15, 2013 | New Comment
  40. Thanks for the response Kat. The advertisements of the film that Glover is using really do create something truly ugly. I hadn’t seen the poster, or the trailer of the film, so I checked them out. I was surprised at how focused on the terror they were, only pushing the cruelest ideas of the film to a prospective audience. Seeing that allows me to understand apprehension to view the film.

    But they feel pretty separate from the experience I had while watching the film. It never gets anywhere close to that kind of intensity.

    Having said that, I’d have to agree with you because of how the film is publicized. This means that as a director Glover was more interested in the pure propaganda of violence to an audience, rather than focusing into the elements of Steven’s personal story. To reel in viewers based on this, certainly paints a not-so progressive picture. But it all seems to play out as a social experiment. Heated discussion is intended to pop up anywhere the film series gets screened. It’s a good thing that it’s a traveling show for small audiences rather than something to be seen by all. Perhaps its intended to be like a virus vaccination toward violence against women. Exposing something terrible to a small section of a body, so that the ability to overcome said terrible thing can be spread through the rest of the body — building up a strong defense system within a culture. I don’t know, just some devil’s advocate bullshit. But I really don’t think (hope) anyone walking out of that theater were going to act out the events they had witnessed, or have any type of new found acceptance for them. I think most people were weirded out, shocked, or sickened by the film, not empowered in any sense. (But this is not a credible discussion point at all, just personal projection onto others.)

    The slide show was the best part of the show though, and totally unrelated with no element of negativity. Much more enjoyable than the film, and as a writer/poet you may have found it interesting.

    caleb | Jun 15, 2013 | New Comment
  41. To all who commented on PDD and I appreciate you responding, as I appreciate all who have been willing to engage in the issue. We all run the risk of sounding like fools when trying to articulate tricky issues, especially in documented forms like online deliberation. Thank you all for taking that risk. I, too, think many responses have not been well read or well considered. And although this exchange may have helped some of us further form our arguments, I don’t think much has been accomplished in these exchanges. It proves those who understand my position understand my position. And those who do not understand, do not understand. And vice verse. And this is among the common criticisms of online discourse – as lively as it can be, it’s not a proper replacement for discussion. I suspect it would be a different phenomenon altogether to have to say these thoughts to each other’s faces, without the cloak of anonymity; to watch all the history of someone else’s experience in their face, their body, their gestures, watching us; listening to us, as we attempt to be understood.

    Although I’m glad this exchange has happened, I’m not encouraged by it. I don’t think much else can be accomplished here except further disappointment and anxiety over not being understood. So this is my last response to responses to my article — on PDD, or, or the Duluth News Tribune. After this final response, the important points I have to make will have been made. And I see no new developments in cross-examination, so I believe the important opposing points have been made, and my counter-responses as well. To go on like this would not be efficient. And in a struggle, a campaign, a crusade — when you can see the big picture and you know where you stand, it’s best to be efficient with your energy. It will be needed. I wish us all good luck in our quest for understanding, and thank you again for your willingness to speak-up.

    Ladies and gentlemen of the jury.

    annklefstad: The statistics you give are hilarious. 58% decline in violence against women? Surely you see the farce in that. Let’s remember that many MANY assaults, rapes, and exploitations do not get reported, and thus, would not end up in bureau’s neat and tidy file (there are also all kinds of jurisdictional rewards for policing communities who have statistics that are dropping). Perhaps the statistic could read: 58% more women are not reporting acts of rape, abuse, etc. Many other sources disagree with the bureau — like battered women’s shelters for women who have been raped, abused, exploited. Many of those cases are not reported. Not convinced? Do your own research and go around and ask your female friends how many of them have experienced sexual assault, rape, violence, exploitation (assuming of course they would tell you). Off the top of my head, I can think of ten women friends I see around town daily or weekly, and eight of the ten have experienced these offenses. And none of these offenses have been reported. I must make sure to tell my friends that because their names are not in the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ report, their pain does not exist.

    annklefstad: You said you cannot tolerate anymore watching violence against women and animals (is that one category or two?) and so you chose not to go to Glover’s film. Yet at the end of your comment, you said Glover’s film doesn’t seem to be engaged in glamorizing women’s pain or making it acceptable or sexy. First: start with the poster. Is it meant to entice us? And why did Glover know that image would entice us? I wonder how you would describe to someone aloud the images on the poster. Second: perhaps why you can no longer endure watching violence against women has something to do with the underlying tone involved; the use of the violence; the immensity of it in media. What are the deeper reasons for your psychological revulsion to violence against women that lead you to avoid Glover’s film? People who watched the film say it wasn’t glamorized – have you considered they simply don’t share your revulsion of violence against women? That it doesn’t bother them as much, so the subtleties of glamorization are lost on them?

    Ladies and gentlemen of the jury:

    If you yourself do not live in the aftermath or expectation of sexual assault, exploitation or harassment, I would say this explains the main reason why Glover’s film is a moot point for you. And that is your luxury. To believe in a world that stays on the screen; a world that has good intentions for you. Many of us do not have the luxury to intellectualize rape to the point of sympathizing with the rapist. Viewers of the film who are determined to see past that, are in what Slavoj Žižek would call the function of ideology: you pretend you don’t see sexual exploitation romanticized, but you still have to see it without admitting that you see it; you are suppose to see the dehumanization of one for the humanization of another, but you have to pretend and act as if you don’t see it.

    This same Slovenian philosopher, and professor at the European Graduate School which I attend in Switzerland, has made observations that torture and exploitation has become so normalized in Western culture, that its morality is now debatable. Žižek, a radical leftist, says there is something to be desired in a dogmatic culture where torture and exploitation would be NOT DEBATABLE. Žižek would like a world where if you say the morality of torture and exploitation is debatable, you disqualify yourself from the conversation; you are a joke; no one takes you seriously. And to demonstrate how normalized torture and exploitation has become, he tries to shock us with the hypothetical: the use of torture should be non-debatable the way the use of rape is non-debatable; if you were to argue the morality of the use of rape is debatable, you would disqualify yourself from the conversation; you are a joke; no one takes you seriously. This is what Žižek said before there was the Steubenville rape case, before he could witness a whole nation fumbling over the morality and accountability of a documented rape. I think perhaps he under-estimated the ethical state we’re in.

    Essentially, Žižek asks his audience the same question I ask of us: When someone wants you to agree that the use of torture and exploitation and rape is debatable, what is it they’re really asking you to say?

    Ladies and gentlemen of the jury:

    Since the fantasies in Glover’s film are so similar to the Steubenville high school rape case, let’s return to it for its deeply revealing pathology. (Here comes some of that pesky Socratic method – hold on tight.) If the rape victim in the Steubenville rape case were standing in line to see Glover’s film, would we encourage her to see it? Let’s say she goes into the theater without knowledge of the content, would we want to be sitting next to her during the film? Would we want to look her in the face? How about after the film, when we critique the film for her – would we still insist the film’s sexual exploitation, rape, torture, and necrophilia must be intellectualized; that she mustn’t take it personally; that there is a higher goal when we dehumanize women in avant-garde films, and that is: to humanize art; that the ends justify the means; that the sexual exploitation in the film is inconsequential to the goal at hand; and what is that goal, by the way? Risky art? Risky to whom?

    Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: Do we realize that when we critique this film, we ARE speaking to the Steubenville high school girl -- one out of three of us, remember? (The U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics from 1995 to 2010 be damned.)

    The high school boys of the Steubenville rape case were acting out a fantasy the way Steven C. Stewart acts out his fantasies in Glover’s film. The rapists gained sympathy from Americans following the trial, like Stewart gains sympathy from American audiences that watch Glover’s film. Other men who act out on these kinds of fantasies I guarantee consume media not unlike Glover’s, but these perpetrators don’t kid themselves as to what it is they’re watching. They would not be so pretentious as to call Glover’s film “avant-garde.” (Is “plot” the artistic integrity that defines the difference between an art film and a pornography/snuff film? Who makes these definitions?)

    And let me be clear – I’m not advocating censorship – I’m not demanding we not make films like Glover’s – I want us to question WHY we make films like Glover’s. I’m asking us to examine WHY there is a MARKET for them. WHY Glover knew which images to put on his poster to get us in the seats. To question WHOSE fantasy is being privileged over and over again in media – and what is our ethical reaction? And yes, shrugging is an ethical reaction.

    Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. I would not consider myself in the high ranks of physically attractive women, though I do consider my self-esteem average. And still I have experienced many variations of violent and violating encounters and assaults, especially in the bigger cities I’ve spent time in (Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City). In Los Angeles I experienced it daily. And not just from freaky night-crawlers skulking in the dark around clubs, or from creepy strangers at parties, or the businessmen in SUVs following me down the block to my car with their window down or even door open making explicit propositions with specific instructions; but also from men I would have considered friends; or from casting directors, agents, managers, directors, producers I encountered in my work, in studios, at auditions. The casting-couch is a real phenomenon in LA, and many men with any power at all feel entitled to a woman’s sexuality and will use their means of power to establish that expectation or transaction. And why shouldn’t they? Exploiting power over women’s sexuality is reinforced in the media they consume, produce, direct, and fund. And the women who work with these men, who have accepted the power dynamic in LA, they close the office door, the trailer door, and go to lunch.

    Back when I was traveling through Taiwan with an American guy-friend, we met some Taiwanese hipsters who had never hung out with Americans before. Later, in my solo conversation with one of the Taiwanese guys, he suddenly turned it violent and sexual -- in his broken English he exclaimed, “But you American! You do this! You do this now!” Nothing I said could assuage him. “But you American!” he kept insisting, “You American!” How was this excuse formed in his head? Does it have something to do with the way American women are portrayed and treated in American films?

    And this is key to what I’m arguing. A woman cannot defend herself against the image, or break-out-of the image media gives of her and reinforces in others. And what is that image? How about the image of the woman on Glover’s film poster? The woman beaten, stripped, unconscious and forced to give oral sex to a towering man holding a lynch rope, and the protagonist showing us his tortured delight. THIS is the image chosen to lure us into the theater, and it worked. WHY? Is that the same image the Taiwanese hipster had of me? Or the Hollywood casting director? Or the Steubenville boys? Or the next guy who takes me on a date?

    I don’t think the Taiwanese hipster would be considered anything remotely close to sociopathic. More than anything, he would be considered a regular guy who was finally given the opportunity to enact a fantasy. And why shouldn’t he? If he’s taught a woman’s sexuality is a commodity, the next logical step is to try to get it for free – and that’s rape, assault, exploitation. It reminds me of a recent news report by Naomi Wolf. The number one health issue on college campuses today? -- liberal and conservative campuses alike – women suffering from anal fissures. Ruptures in their anal cavities because the men they’re sleeping with are a generation of men coached by the violent sex in internet pornography. It turns out, women’s bodies don’t work the way they do in hardcore porn. And the male viewers have not made that distinction (and what other distinctions are they failing to make?). They have trapped themselves inside the porn they watch where they are literally tearing apart the bodies of women they sleep with; and the women are trapped inside the men’s porn fantasy, too – but the women are the ones who are suffering for it. Sound familiar?

    The fantasy of Glover’s film goes beyond the film itself. It goes into the daily lives of women; into men’s opinions of us, into our opinion of ourselves. And my own life examples over the years (none of which I ever reported, by the way. Nor should I have to in order to be legitimate in a tally system that has anything but my best-interest in mind); my own life examples speak to the greater volume and degree of debasements and assaults that are terrifyingly common. And I want to know why. If rape and exploitation and torture is more popular in media now than ever before and it ISN’T because rape and exploitation and torture are more popular in media now than ever before, than what is going on? What is happening? How many times would the foreigner, the citizen, have to say “But you American!” before he says “But you a woman! But you not a person! But you a f**k-doll, a punching bag! But you a thing! But you are nothing!”

    The American friend of mine in Taiwan who had left me in the company of the Taiwanese guy, later met up with me. And when he realized what had happened, he felt outraged and humiliated, close to violence himself. He blamed himself for not being there, but I imagine he was also sick about it because earlier that day he had been reading a Japanese comic book that depicted rape after rape after assault on different women, and he had justified reading it as cultural research. I suppose my assault could be marginalized as cultural research, too. Perhaps we could say the Taiwanese guy was doing a little cultural research of his own.

    Out of the innumerable studies done on gender difference in perceiving the world, a famous synopsis was gleaned: Women’s greatest fear of men? The men will rape and kill them. Men’s greatest fear of women? The women will laugh at them.

    Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Perhaps the woman’s nightmare exists so that the man’s nightmare doesn’t have to.

    Happy father’s day.

    kat mandeville | Jun 16, 2013 | New Comment
  42. Kat, I’m old. I remember when it was much worse. I do believe the statistics. When I was younger was when rape was really underreported. I share many of your experiences of such violence.

    To take my statement that I have very little tolerance anymore for depictions of violence against women or other living creatures and say that means I think women are animals is a bit of a distortion. I’ve intervened in attacks on women and I’ve intervened in attacks on men. I would like all such violence to stop.

    What I’m trying to say is that as an artist I recognize that art is evidence, is a place where people work things out that are difficult. I don’t see shutting down depictions of what we dislike as being useful.

    I think if you at some later time, when things are less raw, read over the comments to your piece, you’ll see that really there is a great deal of care, nuance, concern, and thought in them. Thank you for eliciting all that.

    And boy, I think Zizek is a problematic philosopher — sometime we should talk about his work.

    annklefstad | Jun 16, 2013 | New Comment
  43. adam | Jun 20, 2013 | New Comment
  44. Ann, what I’ve seen of your work on has made me a fan. But your responses to this article have me a little confused. I guess mainly -- why would you want to minimize violence against women? Who does that serve/help/defend? What do we gain by minimizing it?

    Jackal | Jun 21, 2013 | New Comment
  45. Please excuse me, I think I wasn’t clear. I meant -- what do we gain by minimizing *the issue* of violence against women (by minimizing numbers/statistics, or by discrediting its prominence in women’s lives)? Who does that serve/help/defend? Thanks

    Jackal | Jun 21, 2013 | New Comment
  46. I’m not trying to serve, help, or defend anyone except the idea of openness. Again, I did not see the film, so I cannot comment on it. My initial take on Kat’s take was to say, if we are going to critique a piece of art or a text, we actually have to see it or read it. That may be hard to do; nevertheless, it makes no sense to me to critique something another person has made without experiencing it.

    A secondary point is that I have in my life experienced the endemic violence that cultures all over the world perpetrate on women. I’ve made it my business to find out as much as I can about this. What I know is that in the United States (despite our crap media) we have substantially reduced not only violence against women but our tolerance of such violence in real life.

    My dad was a small-town doc. I remember that certain women would come in almost every weekend, beaten, hair torn out, bleeding, and no one ever dreamed that this was a crime that their husbands had committed. Not my dad either. It was just the way life was. I myself have experienced plenty of violence and fear, and have intervened in situations where both women and men were being beaten or chased.

    Crispin Glover’s film does not appear to be the usual thing now so often done (as in “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” for instance) where violence against women is played for max eroticism while viewers are allowed to exempt themselves from any complicity because the film is ostensibly feminist. His film appears to complicate the question of complicity; to call into question the very much larger realm of the relations between the sexes, in which we all, men and women, participate. This to me may well be a good thing. This openness, this ability of art to be fucking ugly when it must be, may well be why violence against women in the United States is being questioned, is being fought, and is indeed going down. Other places in the world, where discourse is limited, where “saying the right thing” is imposed both by social norm and by law, are experiencing the full onslaught of male hatred of their own need of women.

    I’m saying that we need to see art and texts before we decide that they are bad; we need to allow difficult and ugly texts. We also need to understand that men experience violence at higher rates than women do, at the hands of other men. This question of violence is huge and beyond ancient. We are learning who we are still, beasts with a consciousness, a sentience, that is still a bad fit. To shut down discourse, no matter how superficially distasteful, will not allow us to understand our dark complexities. Without this understanding, the violence will not end.

    annklefstad | Jun 25, 2013 | New Comment
  47. Thank you, Anne. You put together the words I could not formulate myself.

    hbh1 | Jun 25, 2013 | New Comment
  48. Ann, your response is so thoughtful, and has me musing away the afternoon! Thank you!

    I don’t want to dwell too much on numbers, but I believe the statistics for specifically *sexual assault and rape* against men are not 1-in-3 the way it is for women (see the link adam posted above that points this out.) I could be wrong on this, though. I also think one of the scary points about violence perpetrated against women is that in most cases, women are not as physically strong as men, so there is a disadvantage in the dynamics from the get-go (and as you pointed out, there is the long history of women believing they should “just take it and be quiet about it.” Men have not been encouraged to respond that way to their own victimization). It also seems to me that you are trying to critique The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo having not seen the film yourself, in the way you’re criticizing Kat of doing. (I haven’t seen the film either, but now I’m intrigued.)

    “To shut down discourse” as you say near the end of your last response is a little dramatic and confusing. I don’t think anyone in these responses is asking we “shut down discourse” (except maybe those who think Kat should shut her mouth about a film she hasn’t seen). I think, if I read responses correctly, Kat and others are asking the exact opposite, that we open up this discussion, no matter who has seen the film. Before, you were thanking her for that, now it seems you’re inferring she’s pressing you not to discuss. (Though seeing as how Kat is no longer participating, I can’t speak for her.)

    I think all this discourse is very personal for every responder. Everyone has some kind of relationship with violence, whether it’s minimal or not -- and it’s a little wide-eyed for anyone to exempt themselves and say it’s all in the name of art and openness. My wife’s first marriage was with an emotionally and physically abusive alcoholic, and she herself is having a hard time coming around to a feminist point of view, and I think it’s because deep down she believes she deserved the abuse. So although she too is sensitive to violence against women in movies and t.v., I think she feels a little hypocritical making a stand against it, which is heart-breakingly backwards. Violence against women is meant to shut women up, and it has.

    For those of us old enough to remember, there once was a show called “Siskel and Ebert” (2 male award-winning writers, journalists, and film critics who reviewed films for years and years in print and on t.v.). In 1980, they had an episode called “Women in Danger” where they make the connection between the boom of slasher films in the 70’s and 80’s (which so often targets rape, torture, and slaying of women) as a backlash to the feminist movement of the 60’s and 70’s. (here is the youtube link to the episode:

    I moved to the Duluth area from the South East, where I would have thought chauvinism to be more of a problem than here in the Central North. But that makes me the wide-eyed one, I guess. I have read (was it in Women’s Health? One of my wife’s magazines…) of an unsettling branch of modern feminist thinking in first-world countries that’s more or less “chauvinism with a feminist face.” It’s a sad turn of events, I think. Women have been gaining ground, but now they’re being convinced there is no more ground to gain, which is like pretending racism doesn’t exist anymore. I don’t think of myself as very political, but I do feel compelled to step forward and quietly say a few things in defense of gay rights, women’s rights, and civil rights in general. I hadn’t imagined contesting with a woman on these issues, but then again I’ve had to convince my wife she didn’t deserve to be treated so badly, and that a woman with an abusive past has every right to stand-up for herself in theory and belief, even if she can’t stand-up for herself in practice.

    I do disagree with Kat on one point. I think this discussion has been helpful, and I for one am grateful for it! (I have seen some discussion about Kat’s commentary on Facebook. I hope we’re encouraging our Facebook friends to check out this discussion!) I feel more and more wide-eyed about these issues all the time, like I’m re-learning them every year. So there you go. It’s a mad mad world. I hope haven’t been too negative or insensitive!

    Jackal | Jun 25, 2013 | New Comment

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