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.