Thursday, April 21, 2011

Charles Manson Was My Grand Daddy

Genealogy is a popular hobby.  There are numerous websites that, for a fee, grant you access to countless databases full of census records, burial plots, and newspaper archives.  Many are excited, and rightfully so, about learning where they come from as an aid to self-knowledge.

On the other hand, such enthusiasm leads me to ask about the ethics involved in such interest.  What are people's deeper motivations?  No doubt many will be looking for some trace of blue blood, some Duke or Baron who's long dead title they might use to enhance their fragile sense of self-worth, and at the same time, flout in their neighbor's faces as a flag of superiority.  Americans, for all their talk of democracy and equality are always ready to salute a king when the sentiment is right (just look at the current obsession with Prince William's wedding).  No doubt the sign of an age grown tired of its lack of dreams, and longing for an age of action over mere profit margins.  But, what if what they find is a shade darker than blue?  What if what they find they would rather keep to themselves than trumpet from the rooftops?

I have often found it puzzling how many claim decent from Jesse James.  How ever his admirer's seek to justify his action's, his character was little more than that of a cold calculating killer.  Some of this is obviously tinged with racist sympathies, and the sepia color of sentiment which time casts upon all human actions.  Yet, a murderer he remains in what ever light you view him.

Historians are charged never to judge the past by present values.  A task perhaps easier to follow with professional objectivity, but not one so easy to accept when kin are involved.  Then the merely antiquarian becomes a matter for family and, sometimes, national pride.  Take the example of Vlad Tepes.  For over a hundred years to the West he was the boogeyman called Dracula.  To Romanians he is counted as one of the father's of their country, with no less a comparison being drawn then with George Washington.  Still, a stake, I mean line, must be drawn.

Whatever we are, and whatever we may become, will always be a mixture of water and wine.  The water of our genetic and material inheritance with which we are born, and the stronger wine of personality and character we fashion through our action's.  We are not our father's nor our mother's children, but the sum of all their folly's and all their wisdom, the choice is ours to which we lay claim.  Ancestry is like an inheritance to which we add our contribution then pass the plate.  We take the good with the bad that is given to us, but through the choices of our life we choose which pile gets the lion's share, and what riches, if any, are left to those who follow.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

'Tis A Pity She's A Whore

From this.....
.....to this.
In Restoration England the words actress and prostitute were interchangeable.  Nothing much seems to have changed in the three hundred years or so since then, as every stripper will invoke the title "performer" when discussing their trade. When looked at in those terms there seems very little difference between someone like Sasha Grey, porn star turned mainstream actress, and Natalie Portman, who's "simulated" sex acts in Black Swan won her an Oscar and near universal acclaim.  So, is there really any difference?

I have heard, from time to time, a few actors state that they don't live in Hollywood because they don't wish their children to be exposed to "it".  Exposed to what?  Acting is their trade and, if the environment in which they work is so shameful, should they even be participating in such a profession?  It would be the same as if my father, who was a contractor, kept his children away from construction sites, not out of concern for the obvious dangers of such places but, for fear they would be corrupted by the smell of sawdust and the sight of hard work.  Obviously there is something about the entertainment industry that is a little less than wholesome.

I have long disliked Hollywood, not as conservatives do because of their claim it subverts traditional values, but because Hollywood gives the appearance of being the upholder of free speech, when everyone of sense knows there is nothing free in Hollywood.  The only freedom they fear losing is the freedom to make money, and to make as much as possible producing garbage which they defend under the banner of art.  To participate in any other creative endeavor, to paint, to write a poem, to sing a song, requires very little in terms of material substance.  However, to make a film, or at least a film that has any hope of being noticed, requires millions in both money and man hours behind it, for a movie without an audience is like a stripper without a pole.  It is a Gesamtkunstwerk  that needs to satisfy the monetary demands of many rather than the simple creative desire of an individual.  If the actor merely wished to express him or herself, they could stay home reading monologues, or never range any further than the local community theater, but something in its very nature demands "exposure" in more than one sense, and the tie of art to money has never been a healthy bond.

To return to my initial point, many of these early actresses cum courtesans are very often used as feminist role-models, and rightfully so.  Women like Nell Gwyn and Elizabeth Barry broke the mold for what women could be and do in ages that expected little more from the "fair sex" than to keep house and produce heirs.  Interestingly, Hollywood has treated the lives of both of these women in the films Stage Beauty and The Libertine respectively.

Following in their footsteps, many a young actress today would like to claim an association to these illustrious forebears.  However, they forget such a role was not a desire but a necessity in an age when there were few other options from poverty and perpetual pregnancy.  They represent the fight for a world where women need not use their body's to free their mind's.  Today, that battle won, the modern ingĂ©nue appears more than happy to be the whore if they might play the actress.