JUMP CUT
A REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY MEDIA

 

Notes

1. A representative selection of such manuals includes: God, the Rod, and your Child's Bod, Larry Tomzak (Old Tappen NJ 1972); Spanking: Why, When and How, Roy Lessin (1979); What the Bible Says About...Child Training, Richard Fugate (1980); Dare to Disipline (1970) and The Strong-Willed Child (1978) both by James Dobson, founder and head of Focus on the Family. All the above and numerous others are analyzed by Philip Greven in Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse (Vintage Books 1992)

2. Greven, Spare the Child.

3. Passion no. 1 at Box Office,” CNN,
http://www.cnn.com/2004/SHOWBIZ/
Movies/02/29/box.office.reut/
The leader of the church group I surreptitiously saw the film with was equipped with free tickets, glossy pamphlets and discussion guides. You can now purchase "beautifully" reproduced images from The Passion website in multi-packs. Ca-Ching!

4. “The Backlash Passion: A Messianic Meller for our Time,” Richard Goldstein, The Village Voice, February 25-March 2, 2004
http://www.villagevoice.com/
issues/0408/goldstein.php

5. Ibid.

6. “A Disciplined, Charging Army,” Francis Fitzgerald, Reporter At Large, The New Yorker, May 18 , 1981, p. 53-141.

7. To study the parallels between the Kulturkampf and today's culture wars I recommend several books that analyze Austrian culture during and after World War I and the decline and fall of the Hapsburg Dynasty: Fin-De-Siecle Vienna: Politics and Culture, Carl E Schorske (Vintage Books 1981); Modernity and the Crisis of Identity: Culture and Identity in Fin-De-Seicle Vienna, Jacques Le Ryder (New York: Continuum 1993); Subject Without Nations—Robert Musil and the History of Modern Identity, Stefan Jonsson (Durham: Duke University Press 2001)

Of special relevance is Otto Weininger: Sex, Science and Self in Imperial Vienna by Chandak Sengoopta (University of Chicago Press 2000). Sengoopta analyzes Weininger and his theories of innate bisexuality, female sensuality, and animal-nature with its attendant lack of soul. He applies these theories to Jews and homosexuals as effiminate and degenerated; Weininger was himself a Jew who committed suicide at the age of 23. His ideas had wide currency within the German-speaking world and beyond.

Crises of meaning, gender and identity evolved and grew more intense in the anxiety-ridden and florid inter-war years of Weimar Germany, centered especially in Berlin. See: Before the Deluge: A Portait of Berlin in the 1920's by Otto Friedrich (New York: Harper Perennial 1995); Gender and Sexuality in Weimar Modernity: Film, Literature, and "New Objectivity, Richard W. McCormick (New York: Palgrave 2001); Male Fantasies, volume 1: Women, Floods, Bodies, History, Klaus Theweliet (University of Minnesota Press 1987); Male Fantasies, volume 2: Male Bodies: Psychoanalyzing the White Terror, Klaus Theweleit (University of Minnesota Press Minneapolis 1989). Both of Theweliet's books record and examine men’s dreams and fantasies in the years leading up to World War II, particularly of members of the German Freicorps, a right-wing militia group.

Voluptuous Panic: The Erotic World of Weimar Berlin by Mel Gordon (Feral House Venice CA 2000) is a profusely illustrated treatment of lesbian and gay cabaret, night clubs and magazines as well as venues and material catering to a wide variety of sexual variations. Also of crucial interest is Lloyd de Mause's The Psychic Life of Nations from which I derive the idea of "psycho-classes." This book is downloadable from the Institute of Psychohistory website.

And finally, in The Gorgon's Gaze: German Cinema, Expressionism and the Image of Horror (Cambridge University Press UK 1991), Paul Coates distills all of the cultural currents noted above and examines their depiction in the form and iconography of German Expressionist Cinema.

8. Greven, Spare the Child. See also Beating the Devil out of Them: Corporal Punishment in American Families and its Effects on Children, Murray A. Straus and Denise A. Donnely (NY Transaction Publishers 2001). The work of Alice Miller is of signal importance: see The Drama of the Gifted Child (NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, revised and updated, 1998); For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Childhood and the Roots of Violence (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 1983); and Thou Shalt Not Be Aware (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 1998). Child Abuse Trauma: Theory and Treatment of the Lasting Effects, John Briere (Sage 1992); Soul Murder: The Effects of Childhood Abuse and Degradation by Leonard Shengold (Ballantine Books 1991). 

Greven provides a list of studies, articles and books detailing the psychological consequences of corporeal punishment too numerous to list here (p. 235-247). Straus and Donnely's book is more recent and provides an equally abundant wealth of evidence of the negative effects of corporeal punishment and its effects on later personality development, adolescent and adult behavior.

9. Dobson is quoted to this effect in Greven. Similar views are expressed by Christian child rearing expert Larry Christenson in the same section of the same chapter as Dobson (Rationales: Breaking Wills)

10. The Life and Times of Cotton Mather, Kenneth Silverman (Harper and Row 1984); A Portrait of Isaac Newton, Frank E. Manuel (Belknap Press of Harvard University 1968); George Whitfield: Wayfaring Witness, Stuart C. Henry (Nashville TN: Abingdon Press 1957); Young Man Luther: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History, Erik H. Erickson (W.W. Norton & Co. 1958); My Father: An Intimate Portrait of Dwight Moody, Paul Moody (Little Brown and Company, 1938).   

11. On splatter movies, Breaking the Last Taboo: A Critical Survey of the Wildly Demented Sub-Genre of the Horror Film that is Changing the Face of Film Realism Forever (Fanataco Enterprises 1981); A Taste For Blood: The Films of Herschel Gordon Lewis, Christopher Wayne Curry (UK: Creation Books, 1999)

On the porno movie, interesting histories and critical assessments include Babylon Blue: An Illustrated History of Adult Cinema, David Flint (UK: Creation Books 1998); Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Pleasure in America, Laura Kipnis (Durham NC: Duke University Press 1999)

On the importance of the body in recent film, both underground and mainstream, see Bad Girls, Sick Boys: Fantasies in Contemporary Art and Culture, Laura S. Kauffman (University of California Press 1998). 

Feminist performance artists have also made an extreme emphasis on the (female) body the core of their aesthetic but with a radically different intent, which includes the transgressive undermining of the symbolic order and with it the complex of ideas associated with artistic production, high versus low culture etc. The female body confronts the spectator with the stark reality of female physicality itself. Excellent studies include The Explicit Body in Performance, Rebecca Schneider (Routledge 1997) and Body Art: Performing the Subject, Amelia Jones (University of Minnesota Press 1998).

The work of Annie Sprinkle draws an interesting line between pornography and performance art. For an outline of her career read the very entertaining Post-porn Modernist: My Twenty-five Years as a Multi-Media Whore (San Francisco: Clies Press 1998).

The work of the German film director Jorg Buttgereit combines iconography from both pornography and splatter cinema as well as avant-garde film practice in his notorious Nekromantik films and most successfully realized in Schramm (1991). These films are incisively analyzed by David Kerekes in his Sex Murder Art: The Films of Jorg Buttgereit (Head Press: Great Britain 1994).

The work of the contemporary ultra-low budget shot-on-video director Eric Stanze also combines graphic violence and sexuality in such films as I Spit on Your Corpse, I Piss on Your Grave; Scrapbook; and China White Serpentine. As different as the genres and art practices listed above are they all share an intensive focus on the visceral experience of the embodied human being. What is interesting about Gibson's film is how it is simultaneously just as emphatic in its concentration on bodily experience and yet denies this primacy by reference to the spiritual and supernatural; the spirituality of the film seems spurious—unreal and incredible—considering the film's relentless imagery and tone.

I would like to thank Lloyd de Mause and Michael Christopher for encouraging and seconding my initial observations and interest in the issues presented by this film. Thanks as well to Charles B. Strozier and Professor Steven Shaviro of the University of Washington for offering useful comments on the first draft.

The S & M illustration in the essay is from Mel Gordon's Voluptuous Panic, and is used with the kind permission of Mel Gordon and Adam Parfrey, editor Feral House books.

My greatest gratitude goes to Julia Lesage, whose editing, indeed contributions to this essay are immeasurable, as are her patience and forbearance. She truly has my heartfelt admiration.