Sunday, August 24, 2008

Think of the nieces!

Last night I watched the 1971 movie "Get Carter," which Michael Cain playing the title role. It was a violent (though not visual disturbing because the special effects were so outdated; blood was very fake) movie with some extremely interesting moments. (As one reviewer on IMDB says, "as the film reaches its climax, the bodies begin to mount with alarming rapidity.") About two hours long, I found it to be a little long (the same reviewer describes it as a "slow-burner").

Check out the preview:

From here on out, this entire post is going to be one big spoiler and it is a movie that relies on suspense, so if you think you might see it; I'd just skip this post.


The plot is about Carter trying to uncover who murdered his brother. The movie includes several sexual detours; Carter has sex with ever women he has any dialogue with in the movie, excluding his niece/daughter and his dead brother's girlfriend (I'll get to that). He has sex with his boss's girlfriend (I'm counting phone sex as sex because it was a very erotic scene, and also, they've clearly had sex in the past), the woman who runs the bed and breakfast he's staying in, the girlfriend of at least two mob bosses in the movie. There are only two other women in the movie (that have any dialogue): Carter's niece (or possibly daughter, since it comes out in the movie that he's had an affair with her now deceased mother and that no one knew who fathered the baby. Even dead women have had sex with Carter.) and his brother's girlfriend.

The mystery of who killed the brother hinges on this porn movie that Carter discovers; it turns out that Carter's niece/daughter had been lured into the world of porn (Interesting thing about the porn: Carter is upset/disturbed when the porn begins; it's his niece and another woman, but the thing that puts him over the edge [he starts to cry and has to look away] is when a man enters the room and begins to have sex with the niece/daughter]). As for the brother's girlfriend, Margaret, Carter decides to set up the man who killed his brother, using Margaret. He kidnaps her, makes her strip down, and then injects something in her that kills her (you can see parts of this in the preview). He leaves her naked body on property of the man who killed his brother and then calls the police. Presumably everyone thinks she's the victim of a sexual assault.

At the end of the movie, Carter gets his, shot in the head by another professional killer. As a viewer, you want to see Carter successfully revenge his brother's death, but once he begins killing people (after he's seen the porn with his niece), he completely loses it and it becomes difficult to sympathize with him or to see him as anything other than a psychopath, who's revenge engulfs several, if not completely innocent, then close to innocent players, including two of the women.

What has supposedly driven Carter mad (and also got his brother murdered) was the niece's participation in this porn. When Carter is killing one of the men he screams at him, "How would you like it if that were your daughter?" Carter also watches, completely devoid of emotion, as one of the women (who he has locked in the trunk of his car after watching the porn [after they had sex]) who was in the porn with the niece, is drowned when the car is pushed into the ocean by people who have just tried to kill him. Carter himself murders Margaret, who's main crime it seems was not being that into Carter's brother and also "setting Carter up" (by calling the men who were chasing Carter). She may have also been in the porn, it was hard to tell.

In Carter's mind, and maybe in the world of the movie, there is one and only one innocent women, the niece/daughter. Carter never makes the connection, and the viewer isn't intended to either, in my opinion, that all of the women are potentially someone's daughter, sister, mother, wife, etc.

And maybe that's a good thing. To me, there's a fundamental problem with using a woman's relationship to others as grounds for treating women with respect (or at least with not murdering them callously). I mean, at no point in Get Carter did one character say to another "how would you feel if that were your son?!" while men were being thrown off buildings, shot, and knifed. There's something in that relationship-model that reeks of owner ship. (It was my niece, my daughter, my sister, my wife, my mother.) While using the "what if it were your daughter" line of reasoning may call upon someone's tender feelings for their relative, I think that at least in part it also relies on the indignity generated from imaging having one's possession damaged in some way.

I generally like movies where characters "do not learn their lesson" because I think those movies are much more true to life; usually situations are too complicated to take a simple lesson from them and often people cannot change who they are in that light-bulb moment, if ever. Carter never examined why he was so outraged when it was his niece who was used in a porn and why he could care a less (or feel violently angry towards) the other women who were used in the same porn. If the viewer examines why, I hope they don't walk away with the lesson "I wouldn't want to hurt a women, because all women belong to other people (ie are someone's mother, daughter, etc.)." That's a pretty sophomoric way of mastering gender equality.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Easing back into blogging

Reading List:


"The USA Foundation's motto was 'Promoting a free market of ideas on the nation's campuses,' and here we encounter yet another of the Washington right's signature lines. Like so many conservative ideas---anticommunism for example---it sounds fine at first. A 'free market of ideas' sounds like 'free inquiry' or a 'free exchange of ideas,' an environment in which hypotheses are tested and bad ones are wedded out while good ones go on to earn the respect of the community of scholars. But this is not what the phrase means at all. Markets do not determine the objective merit of things, only their price, which is to say, their merit in the eyes of large corporations and the very wealthy."

- Thomas Frank, The Wrecking Crew: How a gang of right-wing con men destroyed Washington and made a Killing, Harper's August 2008


Listen to:


Invisible Worlds


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Radio junky

Check out NPR's "Hearing Voices" podcast. Here's where you can listen to past episodes. At least a few episodes are hosted by Scott Carrier, one of my favorite contributors on This American Life.