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Go out with you? Why not... Do I like to dance? Of course! Take a walk along the beach tonight? I'd love to. But don't try to touch me. Don't try to touch me. Because that will never happen again. "Past, Present and Future"-The Shangri-Las

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Gospel According to Leatherface

I got another thought about Texas Chainsaw. In Chainsaw, violence is the favorite tactic-and entertainment-of the stupid, mentally deficient, ugly and weak. The movie is a devastating critique of violence fetishism. Why didn't Cho, the VTech shooter, get the message and learn from it? After all, he took the class on the movie, didn't he?

Sure, he took the class. Then, according to the news sources, he sold the textbooks. Not the first time a callow kid took a film class expecting it to be a breeze, and then found that, lo and behold, the professor actually wants the students to engage the texts with critical thinking, not just sit back and munch popcorn! Books like Men, Women and Chainsaws (one of the texts he sold after the class, in which he did not participate) demand that the reader think deeply about the meaning and significance of these films. Well, Cho didn't/couldn't do that. He was precisely the kind of intellectual invalid to whom the film was impenetrable, and exactly the kind of violence fetishist the movie scorns.

Chainsaw 2, the other good Chainsaw film, deepens the critique of violence. Of the two protagonists, one (played by Dennis Hopper) yearns to battle evil with violence, and soon goes nuts. The other (played by Caroline Williams, a wonderfully knowing scream queen) survives with wit, compassion and guile, until the end, when she finally takes up a chainsaw to fight back against her enemies. The film ends with her striking out in violence, then doing her own version of Leatherface's insane dance. It's funny, but significant; when you use violence against the violent, you take on their awful madness. These movies have profoundly moral truths to impart about violence, and it's no wonder so many people hate them. TCM tells us violence is aways the problem, never the solution. That's not a very sexy notion to lots of Americans, but I agree with it.

In an effort to get all the TCM stuff out of my system, here's what I hope is my last thought on it for a while. Throughout TCM the cannibal family tells us all about how big and strong Grandpa, dealer of death in the stockyards, beefcow killer extraordinaire, is. He's a patriarch who exemplifies the one thing the family revers; killing. So when he finally appears, he looks like a mummified corpse in a wheelchair. He can barely lift his hammer, which is good news for the heroine whom he weakly tries to kill. The big strong patriarch is an invalid. He can't even eat meat anymore; he slurps blood from the poor girl's fingers like a suckling baby. No wonder so many people hate this film; so many people want to believe in the lies (about the nobility and grandeur of violence, the authority of the patriarch, etc.) that TCM mocks.

And I haven't even touched on the cognitive dissonance of The Cook, who claims to have no stomach for killing, but who giggles and cheers when someone else kills. Or the marvelous scene in TCM 2 in which a sidekick makes a personal sacrifice after being skinned, his musculature shining and beautiful, a validation of the meathood of the body. I needed that scene at the time; I was all et up with worry about the meathood of the mortal body, and that scene made it something to celebrate.

This post has been lightly edited to clean up an estimated 20% of the grammatical sloppiness. Please note that I misspelled "grammatical" three times before getting it right.

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