There is a horrible scene in the movie “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” where Leatherface, the monstrous, hulking, inhuman cannibal, hangs a girl up on a meathook and then dismembers one of her friends. The actual dismemberment takes place in the foreground, just below the edge of the screen. Can’t actually see it. The real horror in the movie is watching the girl, dying, trying to pull herself off the hook. In most movies, because young women of childbearing age are the most precious adults in society (last to be killed, first to be protected if possible) her struggles would have been front and center, clear focus. “Oh my God someone help that girl.”
But in TCM, she is out of focus. You have to squint to see what is happening. And that is even more terrifying. Because the filmmakers have put YOU in the position of Leatherface. In his warped, twisted, homicidal point of view, her death struggles mean nothing. She is an object. For me, this might be the most horrifying moment in one of the most frightening films ever made. The Sufis say that the beginning of human evil is to treat human beings as means rather than ends. And for a moment, that is precisely what Tobe Hooper forced us to do.
In the book and movie “The Handmaid’s Tale”, author Margarete Atwood creates a post-nuclear holocaust dystopia in which women have been conscripted into pregnancy farms, forcibly impregnated. In this world, all black people have been murdered, shipped off to the radioactive wastelands to die.
And the author never comments on it. Neither did any of the critics. Neither did a single white reader of the hundreds of comments I’ve seen about it over the years. 100% of the attention has been on the forcible impregnations.
Focus tells you what is important. If MORE people had commented on the rapes than the genocide, I would grasp that and accept it. But for NONE of the fans, critics, or the author herself to comment on this…I realized that that book was not about the subjugation of women. It was about the subjugation of white women. And their abuse was clearly more important than the deaths of 100% of the black people in her world.
Atwood can do that. It is her right. But what she cannot do is take it back, claim that she DOES care. No. If it slipped her mind, there was simply no concern. It was a plot point. She was simply making a case for the evils of Patriarchy.
That was her conscious intent. Her unconscious values were displayed by her lack of subsequent comment. And those of her critics and readers likewise. As I read dozens and dozens and finally hundreds of comments over the years, and saw every one of them fail to mention that little thing called “a genocide for your entertainment” I got the point. Fine. It doesn’t matter to you. Once its pointed out, you’re embarrassed, but folks, its too late.
Remember TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE?
So when a discussion of dystopias came up, and the game “Fallout 4” was compared to “Handmaid’s Tale”, I said I preferred “Fallout 4.” But…almost everyone has been killed in “Fallout 4”. Sure, I replied. But “almost” isn’t “everyone.” My children might have survived. I’ll go with that. There will be discomfort about this reaction from some. The unspoken discomforted reaction would be: “but…but…think of all the white people who died! Surely you wouldn’t value their lives so cheaply! Surely its better for all of you to die so that some of us can live…”
But anyone with the nerve to actually say that out loud has my respect, in a sick sense.
What about the television show? I gave it a chance. First episode: a woman and her family. She is white, in a mixed relationship with a black man. My automatic thought: “let’s see how they treat him.” Within ten minutes, he is apparently killed, by an off-screen gunshot. I finished watching the episode. Although there is a bit of diversity on view, no other black men. Fine. I understand my value to these filmmakers.
I also understand that later in the season, the husband came back. That gunshot was an okey-doke. “Just wait!” people say. “You should have kept watching…”
No. Sorry. I’ve seen probably a hundred movies in which the only black character (or only black male character) dies, while white life goes on just fine. Not ONE American film where the opposite is true, and I’ve challenged readers for a decade to prove me wrong. The only time I’ve seen all the white people die in a film like that is in movies that were specifically antagonistic to the white characters, like Bruce Lee’s “The Chinese Connection” or some Japanese movies dealing with the occupation. That’s anger. Fear. I get it. I can deal with it.
But I don’t enjoy it. And no, I have no trust to extend to people who don’t grasp how fucking painful it is to be surrounded by people who on a deep unconscious level think it would be entertaining for all of the people like you to just…die.
And no, I’m not going to look past it to see this profound meditation on “The Patriarchy” because I notice that all the women who liked that book and movie were as complicit and oblivious as any of the men in the movie. Yeah. They would, in other words, I believe they would be just as likely to commit the same horrors.
I can deal with the idea of this being a HUMAN problem. I can take the position that, were conditions reversed, black people would create images just as homicidal and unconsciously genocidal.
But I’m not going to say: “this is a male problem” unless I also get to say “this is a white problem.” Both or nothing, people.
So…it’s a human problem. Deal with that. Or deal with your own reaction.
It’s not my responsibility to ignore the deaths of everyone who looks like me, to empathize with the terrible things happening to women who look like you.
In that fantasy world, I don’t care about ANYBODY. Will sit back and watch bad things happening to the people on the screen and laugh.
Remember “Psycho”? Where you thought Janet Leigh was the lead character, and after her terrible death there is a sense of disconnection? Who do I identify with? Where is the center of good in this world?
Why…it’s Norman Bates, who is strange, but at least loves his mother. We seek to find someone to identify with to walk us through any film or novel.
What happens when there is a pattern of people who look like you being murdered in movies? Why, you stop wanting to identify with them. You actually start identifying with the people who look like the people who killed them. Kind of like little black girls in the South thinking white dolls are prettier than black dolls. Toxic as hell. THIS IS UNCONSCIOUS. NO, I’M NOT SAYING WHITE PEOPLE DID THIS DELIBERATELY.
It is the natural outcome of the tribal behavior programmed into us at a deep level, perhaps even neurological. You have to deliberately “lean into” that wind to avoid being tainted by it. Pretending that the “playing field is level” is just saying that you want Tribalism to win. This pattern can be seen mostly in those who benefit by the tilt. Ahem.
But enough about “Handmaid’s Tale.” “Fallout 4″… has potential, there with the few wretched survivors scrambling in the ruins fighting over rat meat. Yeah. I like it. Bad for EVERYONE. If it has to be bad, yes, I like that better.
(The stories you tell determine the world you see. The stories you enjoy tells about the world in your heart. Afrofuturism is an exploration of what happens when you learn to create and consume consciously. www.octaviatoblackpanther.com)