Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Sappho Rising

Picnic at Hanging Rock (2018)
It is the case with the LGBT movement that all artistic media have been and are being used to promote an agenda. The agenda is to facilitate the mainstreaming and normalization of homosexuality on every possible occasion, by every possible means. Theater and film have long been agents of social change, for good or ill. Movies, even those that are poorly done, can change public opinion by manipulating the thoughts and emotions of the viewers with words and imagery. Not that every film or show which feature homosexuality are necessarily manipulative. But recently I came across three films which stood out for me as ham-fisted in the emphasis on same sex romantic relationships. What offended me was not the LGBT theme in itself but the fact that in each film same sex attraction was spotlighted to the exclusion of other human emotions and tendencies. Not everything is about homosexuality and sometimes dwelling on it overmuch can give a skewed interpretation of life experiences.

The 2018 Amazon remake of Picnic at Hanging Rock features outstanding performances from Natalie Dormer and several young actresses who no doubt are at the beginning of stellar careers. The sets and costumes are exceptionally fine as well. Taking place in the Australian bush in the year 1900, several young ladies and teachers from an elegant boarding school set out to have a St. Valentine's Day picnic at a volcanic rock formation. Three of the girls and one of the teachers wander off and disappear. Two of the girls return with only sketchy memories of what happened. The boarding school begins to unravel over the search for the missing girls and teacher and the implications of their disappearance. Unfortunately, the insistence upon several LGBT subplots detract from the original simple but haunting tale. Based upon Joan Lindsay's 1967 novel of the same name, there also was a 1975 film by Peter Weir which was a masterpiece of both film-making and storytelling, being subtle and restrained in all the ways the new drama is not. According to The Muse:
It is extremely gutsy to take on an adaptation of Joan Lindsay’s novel Picnic at Hanging Rock when there is already Peter Weir’s perfect 1975 film. But not long into Amazon’s 2018 revamp of the Gothic classic does it become clear that the show’s intention isn’t to simply bring this story of four schoolgirls who seemingly vanish into Australia’s “Hanging Rock” one day in 1900 to the small screen, but to create something new entirely. And what was once a sort of minimalist, quiet horror story turns into an unfortunately cluttered, trippy mystery....Rather than let viewers come to their own conclusions about the meaning of the rock, and the girls’ intentions for climbing it, the new Picnic At Hanging Rock lays it on too thick. Everything is amplified to the extreme: the sensuality, the violence, the suffocating symbolism of all those corsets and stockings. One character even dodges a sexual assault in the first episode. And while Dormer might give a fantastic performance as Appleyard, the focus on her twisted backstory and her heightened abuse turns her into a lead villain who feels larger than the entire production. You get the sense that the new adaptation was reworked to respond to a contemporary demand for “strong female characters” (you know the kind—they’re always described as “badass”) rather than letting the quiet, creepy Hanging Rock work its strange magic on a group of vulnerable girls. (Read more.) 
In the original story, Victorian starchiness and propriety collide with primitive passions and preternatural forces symbolized by the volcanic rock, once the site of tribal worship and initiation rites. However, one has the impression from the 2018 version of Picnic that almost everyone in the Australian bush was wrestling with strong homosexual tendencies that were just waiting for a crack in the veneer of Christianity to come oozing out. The two young men who are searching for the girls are more interested with flirting with each other than in finding the missing damsels. The characters that are not secretly gay or lesbian, that is the heterosexual characters, are either cruel and abusive or hypocritical and coldly indifferent or even incestuous or, as in Dora Lumley's case, all of the above. One of the only decent and humane characters is the French teacher, named Dianne de Poitiers (not kidding). The Natalie Dormer character "Mrs. Hester Appleyard" was sold as a child by nuns to a pimp, which explains a great deal of her sadistic behaviors. Yes, Hester is one of the non-gay characters. Almost all of the characters, except for the strong-willed Amanda and the clumsy Edith, appear to lack a loving and supportive family; the most troubled of the girls are either motherless or have an indifferent mother. One wonders if there lies the root of the psychological turbulence, rather than suppressed or repressed sexual inclinations.
The Girl King (2015)
Queen Christina of Sweden is one of the most fascinating converts to Catholicism ever. The only child and heir of the great Gustavus Adolphus, Protestant champion of the Thirty Years War, Christina was brought up as a boy, at her father's orders. Becoming "King" of Sweden when she six, she continued to have the education and training usually given only to princes, all the while dealing with a morbidly hysterical mother who openly disliked her. It is no wonder that as an adolescent she had a crush on one of her ladies-in-waiting, Ebba Sparre, probably seeking the feminine affection and affirmation that her mother denied her. At the age of twenty-seven, Christina shocked Europe by abdicating her throne in order to become a Catholic. She left Sweden and settled in Rome. Although she may have been in love with Cardinal Azzolino, by most reliable accounts Christina lived a celibate life, which was nevertheless a full and exciting one. According to The Mad Monarchist:
In the many works concerning her written long after her life she has been portrayed as a lesbian, a bisexual or owing to her occasions of wearing masculine attire as a transgender person. However, there is absolutely no factual basis for any of these accusations. As a matter of fact there is not one shred of hard evidence of her ever having a sexual affair with anyone. The most that can be presented are letters to female friends, none of which actually suggest anything more than strong personal friendship and her letters to her friend Cardinal Decio Azzolino, none of which, again, convey anything but strong friendship and one would have to do some extremely stretched reading between the lines to make anything more of them and in such cases one is usually able to find whatever one wishes, seeing things that are not there and twisting words so far out of proportion as to be totally unrelated to the original work.

As for Queen Christina dressing like a man and having male mannerisms, it must be remembered that she was purposely raised as a boy, encouraged to act like a king rather than a queen and many of her hobbies like horseback riding necessitated wearing something more practical than feminine attire. We should also keep in mind that by modern standards most of the men in her day dressed in a way we would consider feminine with long, flowing hair, earrings and lacey collars and cuffs. She also enjoyed study, learning and other things which were, at the time, considered the domain of men and her attire may have been no different from women today who are in big business that wear pantsuits to fit in better with their male counterparts and keep from drawing undo attention to their gender. As to the transgender issue itself, the body of the Queen was examined in our own time and no evidence of any sexual abnormalities were found. All in all the adoption of Queen Christina by the gay, lesbian or transgender communities as some sort of icon really represents nothing more than people grasping at straws in an effort to write themselves into the history books by claiming figures long gone as their own. (Read more.)
In the 2015 film The Girl King, Christina's relationship with Ebba Sparre is portrayed as a sexual affair and the cause behind her eventual abdication from the throne. The actual reason of the abdication was that Christina had fallen in love with the Catholic Faith, which she found more compatible with the rich intellectual life she craved. She had Jesuits brought to Sweden to instruct her. She could not be a Catholic ruler of a Protestant country so she abdicated in favor of her cousin. In the movie a Jesuit is shown killing Descartes, Christina's teacher, with a poisoned Host at Mass, which is an infantile slap at the Faith which Christina gave up her crown in order to follow. It is a pity since the film is beautifully acted. Young Swedish actress makes a bold yet vulnerable Christina, speaking in a monotone like a seventeenth-century Lizbeth Salander. Once again, the potential to tell a powerful story of emotional and spiritual transformation was sacrificed on the altar of same sex idolization.

Carol (2015)
Any film based upon a novel by Patricia Highsmith is almost bound to be good if faithful to the spirit of the original work. Highsmith's suspenseful, complex and multilayered stories are filled with tormented characters, usually based upon herself and her various friends and lovers. While she identified as a lesbian, Highsmith, an avowed atheist, was in and out of relationships with both sexes her entire life while struggling with severe depression. Films inspired by her novels include Strangers on a Train, The Two Faces of January, and The Talented Mr. Ripley. Carol (2015) is taken from the Highsmith novel The Price of Salt about a lesbian socialite and a shop-girl, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. From the point of view of lighting, acting and set design, the movie is regarded by many as a masterpiece. It is hailed even more for being about a sexual affair between two women, leading to their "liberation" from 1950's norms. The Mara character Therese reminded me of Maggie McNamara in The Moon is Blue (1954) but more subdued and less annoying. The Blanchett role of Carol Aird depicts a charming but manipulative woman from a wealthy background who has long lived a double life, that of elegant wife to the alcoholic Harge Aird and mother of his child, and that of a secret lesbian with a string of affairs.

Carol meets Therese in a the toy department of a New York department store where Therese is selling dolls. Carol is looking for a Christmas gift for her live doll at home, her little daughter Rindy, who looks like a diminutive version of Therese. In fact, it is clear from a childhood picture of Therese that the resemblance between the two is uncanny. Carol is going through a divorce; her husband is threatening to divide her from Rindy. It is then that Carol and Therese run away together and begin their affair. Far from being a romance, the  relationship is one of deft control, in which Carol has found another doll to take the place of Rindy, except with sexual benefits. Carol, being the stronger personality and the one with all the money, psychologically and amorously consumes Therese, who is in a state of nirvana until Carol dumps her. Carol is given the option of returning to the dreadful Harge and being Rindy's full-time mother, or leaving her child in Harge's custody. She chooses the latter, and seeks to be reunited with Therese. In the film, everything looks rosy but according to the real life of Patricia Highsmith, upon which the story is based, there is no happy ending. While Carol is acclaimed by most critics as an ethereal tale of gay love, I was struck by how many other human sorrows, passions and longings are included in the drama. But as in the films discussed above, it is part of the current trend not only to focus on but to exult homosexual behavior to the exclusion of anything else that may matter. Share

1 comment:

papabear said...

The march to a new world must continue!