by Johannes Goransson on Dec.22, 2010
I’ve been thinking about Brad Pitt today. What are the associations with Brad Pitt? Just a handsome actor, or is there something else? I’ve been thinking about Brad Pitt’s appearance in a couple of recent poetry collections, Ronaldo Wilson’s Narrative of the Life of the Brown Boy and the White Man (U of Pitt) and Christian Peet’s Pluto: Never Forget (Interbirth Books).
In WIlson’s book, Pitt figures prominently in one of the first (and it seems, one of the most important) pieces, in which the brown boy elaborates on various violent sexual fantasies involving Kevin Bacon and Brad Pitt:
“Bacon has been beaten with broken bottles and has had his chest smashed in with a large flaming couch section. A mob of whites poured gasoline all over his chiseled stomach and then lit him afire. Brad Pitt lay next to him, his stomach breahtless and glistening in the flame’s light. […] The bodies did not burn. They did not char or turn black. They simply shined in sweat.[…] Brad Pitt’s dying, and how he eventually turned over on his stomach, his penis turned down and scrape-fucking the street – Brad Pitt ejaculating and on fire, the liquid shooting out of him as he looked up, staggered to his feet to let out something between groaning and laughter out to the black sky. Though Pitt had been beaten with bottles and wood, it was not clear where he was hurt, only that he was a screaming surface, dripping with lit gasoline and semen.”
In my previous post about Ronaldo’s two books, I called Brad Pitt and Kevin Bacon “stunt doubles.” I think the reason for this is the way they seem to stand in for something else. Like Wojnarowicz’s Rimbaud-mask-photographs of underground NYC, Pitt and Bacon seem to cover up something. They are “screaming surface[s],” rather than people. In response to this violence and violent fantasies, they do not break down (even a “couch section” going into Bacon’s torso doesn’t seem to harm him all that much), rather they issue forth fluids (sweat, semen, language, even gasoline – perhaps coming from the angry lynching mob, but also perhaps issued forth from the screaming surfaces).
Joyelle (from her post on David W.):
“I’ve been thinking lately about how wounds are a type of media—they are a spectacle on the body, they mark a site of violence (they are a memorial site?), they present a surface or image of uncertain depth and mark both a site of entry and of exit.”
One interesting thing about this fantasy about Pitt and Bacon is that, in difference to many many pieces in this book, there are no wounds on their bodies. In many of the pieces, people have rather grotesque bodies, but here, the bodies remain pristine. Maybe that’s why they have the feeling of a stunt double or a mask. A covering up of the truly violated body.
Yet in the way they issue forth all this semen/gasoline etc, Bacon and Pitt appear very much like the wounds Joyelle has been writing about, these wound/eyes that issue forth art. They are both “surfaces” (like masks) and of “uncertain depth.”
These media bodies generate what I called an “ambient violence” (which I also took from Joyelle!). In this ambience, race becomes displaced – the blackness becomes the street, the black lynching victims become stars, the erotics go all over the place – leading to that “scrape-fucking” of the street, which is its own (black) surface. Blackness is of course totally spectacular in our culture.
Brad Pitt makes another guest appearance – in Christian Peet’s Pluto: Never Forget. In this poem Brad Pitt seems to give a very revealing interview with Entertainment Weekly while drinking malt liquor:
“”Ask yourself, honestly,” entreated the salt-of-teh-earth celebrity, “does inflation in the early stages of the universe mean that they universe mean that they universe must be expanding at close to the critical rate at which it would just avoid re-collapse? F*ck it. That’s what I say…. What does it matter? I don’t care whether numbers are social or anti-social entities anymore than I care about my ex. What keeps me up night is wondering whether my own dog, my girl, my puppy-love, who rode beside me on every beer run, slept beside me every night – whether she would even recognize me three years later. In my nightmares, she just stands there, hair up, next to what’s-his-name. The both of them greet me with what that Dog Whisperer guy calls ‘the back reserved for strangers.'”
He ends the interview by passing out and uttering the word “stanines.”
Christian’s piece seems in some ways to be the opposite of Ronaldo’s piece, but in some ways rather strongly related. Again Pitt seems strangely to be a stunt-double (which is strange for a star, who usually uses stunt doubles, not the other way around) for someone else – a mask of sorts. The words just seem too strange to be coming from Pitt. But in the end of the book, Peet reveals that the words are indeed collaged from various sources (including Stephen Hawking’s book on time); so it’s not perhaps Pitt who is a mask, but the language that infests him. He is both ventriloquist and mask.
Peet also mentions that this project (The Nines) is in many ways a response to Bush’s War of Deception – a “protest” against the way language was used by Bush to bring the US into war. Bush of course was someone who seemed to ventriloquize a euphemistic language. The difference is of course that Bush did this to give cover to a massive war, while Brad Pitt here ventriloquizes a kind of private space.
But like said, I’m interested in what people have to say about Brad Pitt. Is it just that he’s the most famous, most handsome actor? Or is it something else?
Also: that photograph I found is very strange. In the first photo his head looks like a mask, and in the second he looks like a cut-out. In all photos of him on the Internet, he bares his torso to the photographers’ evil eyes.