February 22, 2005

Hungry Hungry Hippos and the representation of a relation

Category: Personal — Biella @ 1:47 am

SO I usually don’t have high standards when it comes to movies. I have an uncanny ability to lose myself in plot, kick back, and just be with the movie. But there are certain movies that I like more than others, and, Donnie Darko is one of them. The reasons for the higher than normal attraction are many, too many to lay out here but they span from its representation of sacrifice to the silliness of the following scene when Donnie was talking to his shrink while under the spell of hypnosis:

Donnie : My parents didn’t get me what I wanted for Christmas.
Dr. Lilian Thurman : What did you want?
Donnie : Hungry Hungry Hippos.
Dr. Lilian Thurman : And how did you feel, being denied these hungry, hungry hippos?
Donnie : Regret.

Sometimes one scene, one phrase, like when Donnie Darko says ‘Hungry Hungry Hippos” that just seals the deal for me–> I decide I really like the movie.

Like many folks of my age, background, and politics, I tend to like the genre of “hipster” darkish underground movie that eventually reach a state of cult classic, like Harold and Maude, Garden State and Donnie Darko. I have to qualms of admitting that my like for these movies indexes the type of person I imagine myself to be and you call can fill in the blanks as to what that may be.

That aside, one of the things I like about them is that through a very powerful trope common to many blockbuster flicks, i.e. the transformative power of romantic love (all of these are uber-romantic, even Harold and Maude), they get to a much broader scope of love, that transcends individual/sexual need and fullfillment and in the words of Thomas Merton to represent love as “an intesification of life, a completeness, a fullness, a wholeness of life. We do not live merely to vegetate through our days until we die.” And to awaken to this intesifcation, is to bear one’s heart, mind, and eyes to the fact of tragedy and pain. It comes with the package, so to speak.

But one thing that has frankly deply annoyed me about the new instantiations of flicks that tend to embody certain Harold and Maudesque qualities (although the Sci-Fi element of DD stands on its own for sure… Hmm side-track –> notice that all of the men in these three flicks were in some capacity deemed as a little nutso? I also find it significant in H and M that meds were never an option. Sending him to the military was considered before meds! Can you imagine that today? Impossible but that is a whole other subject… ) is that they have the balance between yin and yang all off. I better restate that as a whole sentence:
But one thing that has frankly deply annoyed me about the new instantiations of flicks that tend to embody certain Harold and Maudesque qualities balance is that they have the balance between yin and yang all off

Simply put in the newer breed there is too much yang and too little yin. The female characters in all of these movies bring the males to some greater understanding of love, that leads them out of a paralyizing cacoon. And Maude, despite being a nearly 80 year old chix0r, stood fully on her own as a compelling character. And perhaps it is just a function of her age, but I think it goes beyond that. She had a dynamic force that simply is not there with the female counterparts in GS and Donnie Darko. The female characters are anemic, which I don’t think is a function of bad acting, but of the role given to them in the screenplay. They are some lesser vessel, brining the males to a higher place, and then at the end we sort of throw out the vessel to focus our gaze on the hero-male.

And this yang ying dealio, I don’t think it is simply or at all about gender balance. It is more about the fact that the form is not true to the conent. The relationship between the two characters is one in which one realizes oneself in the other and vice-versa. There should be some sort of symmetry there (even if they occupy different roles and positions at different times), in which both characters are fundamentally transformed in ways that are interesting for the audience. For all I care it could be between man and humanoid-duck but there seems to be something un-even in which one character gets all the plot-glory (even while he for examples sacrifices himself to saved his beloved and the rest of the world, ok, so DD is a super-hero but still…), and the other is short changed, in the processes shortchanging the viewer.

I think it is harder for sure to capture the transformation into love, in which nuance is given to two characters instead of one. But if it is a relation being explored, I think that the challenge is there to be met… But in the meantime I will still enjoy my Hungry Hungry Hippos…

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