Kitsch is Deadly: The Dangerous Male Beauty of Osama Bin Laden and Willa Cather's "Paul"

by on Oct.19, 2012

From the Runwayward Blog:

From John Le Carre’s analysis of Osama Bin Laden, “We Have Already Lost” (from 2001) (Jasbir Puar drew our attention to this):

The stylized television footage and photographs of this bin Laden suggest a man of homoerotic narcissism, and maybe we can draw a grain of hope from that. Posing with a Kalashnikov, attending a wedding or consulting a sacred text, he radiates with every self-adoring gesture an actor’s awareness of the lens. He has height, beauty, grace, intelligence and magnetism, all great attributes, unless you’re the world’s hottest fugitive and on the run, in which case they’re liabilities hard to disguise.

But greater than all of them, to my jaded eye, is his barely containable male vanity, his appetite for self-drama and his closet passion for the limelight. And, just possibly, this trait will be his downfall, seducing him into a final dramatic act of self-destruction, produced, directed, scripted and acted to death by Osama Bin Laden himself.

“Paul’s Case” by Willa Cather:

It was Paul’s afternoon to appear before the faculty of the Pittsburgh High School to account for his various misdemeanors. He had been suspended a week ago, and his father had called at the Principal’s office and confessed his perplexity about his son. Paul entered the faculty room suave and smiling. His clothes were a trifle outgrown, and the tan velvet on the collar of his open overcoat was frayed and worn; but for all that there was something of the dandy about him, and he wore an opal pin in his neatly knotted black four-in-hand, and a red carnation in his buttonhole. This latter adornment the faculty somehow felt was not properly significant of the contrite spirit befitting a boy under the ban of suspension.

Paul was tall for his age and very thin, with high, cramped shoulders and a narrow chest. His eyes were remarkable for a certain hysterical brilliancy, and he continually used them in a conscious, theatrical sort of way, peculiarly offensive in a boy. The pupils were abnormally large, as though he were addicted to belladonna, but there was a glassy glitter about them which that drug does not produce.

3 comments for this entry:
  1. Lucas de Lima

    I’m sure you guys have already read Saul Friedlander’s Reflections of Nazism: An Essay on Kitsch and Death, but I will glue in these quotes to the collage:

    “There is even a kitsch of the apocalypse: the livid sky slashed by immense purple reflections, flames surging from cities, flocks and men fleeing toward the glowing horizon, and far, very far away, four hoursemen. And yet this kitsch of death, of destruction, of apocalypse is a special kitsch, a representation of reality that does not integrate into the vision of ordinary kitsch…

    The hero being, to be sure, he who will die…

    Kitsch is a debased form of myth, but nevertheless draws from the mythic substance—a part of its emotional impact—the death of the hero; the eternal march, the twilight of the gods; myth is a footprint, an echo of lost worlds, haunting an imagination invaded by excessive rationality and thus becoming the crystallization point for thrusts of the archaic and of the irrational.”

    Also the feminization of the turban, plus Mykki Blanco’s apocalyptic video in which he declares, “Damn, I didn’t know my man was in the Taliban.” New myths in response to the terrorist’s threat to imperialist masculinity… maybe connected to the rise of the “straight-acting” militaristic gay man vs. a chaotic kitsch trans consciousness now emergent in queer circles…

  2. kirsten

    I’m not sure I believe in gendered beauty anymore. Beauty is a state often denied grown American men, it is true, and that is sad. But that is denial–not potential. I think, once one participates in beauty, the result has very little to differentiate it.

  3. Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle

    (Excuuuuuse me! I correct myself in an aside—)

    When I Hear It’s Project Based I Reach for My Revolver

    Conceptualism is that dog so ugly they shave its ass then make it walk backwards.

    Fart before the horse.

    It’s not the product; it’s the story about the product. (Merchandising mantra)

    When poets wish to distance themselves from college they dumb down. Baby talk. Mud pies. Alphabet soup. Why don’t any of em go get smarter than college?

    Flarf set out to make bad art. And they accomplished their goals for the day.

    I don’t reply to critics. Why? I don’t even read’em. I won’t write looking over my shoulder. But any whiff or whisper of racism must be eradicated. So, I clear the air. My use of the term “goldsmith” in a recent comment was not meant to represent more than one man.

    The Reduction of Warhol to “Warhol.”

    Let us not dwell on the obvious: Donkey Konk Konkeptualism constrains Warhol to his prints. They are copy-able. Duh. Prints are multiples, by definition.

    The practice of numbering editions dates from lithographs. As stone erodes during the printing process each print gradually becomes less exact. It’s no more than a gimmick now, to number digital prints.

    Cribbing Douglas Huebler Kenneth Goldsmith whines, “The world is full of texts, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more.” O but he has. More of the same.

    I’ll spell this out in English: Warhol INVENTED repetition . . .

    Where theory-heavy Think Tank poetry’s facile infantilizations sink in cheap redundancy, what soars is Warhol’s film. An unreachable originator Andy Warhol created or deployed for the first time in an art context five devices still crucial in cinema today: Real time, Repetition, Fixed camera, Split screen, Looping. And we haven’t even glimpsed his late one off ‘s with Basquiat.

    How halt conscienceless economies by writing left handed or talking backwards?

    You won’t make 50 grand selling conceptual writing book by book. But juries will damn sure dole out 50 grand grants for selling the IDEA of conceptual writing . . .

    Meaningless lexies or less. Fratboy sexist Google Dada. Middle management NPO artlit foundations popping up minutes after any sheep post-parts college, pull quote/ grant proposal/already been done sales rep D-CON septic system Ineptualism is wearing offal thin.

    Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle

    Shot from Guns

    At 24 dollars a fool Goldsmith’s Uncreative Writing blares basic big ass typos, some or more per every page, copy edits any unpaid intern would catch sleeping. Torpedoing old lows for poxed “professionalism” cartel Columbia U couldn’t pump it through production fast enuff.

    User-friendly Ken conducts a full semester class on Second Life.

    Yet forty-one U.S. states no longer require us to learn handwriting. If the power blows bebé futuroids won’t be able to scrawl Help!

    [This is a tease, as I can’t find links to the complete article. Artforum # 49 Vol. 7]

    Do you remember when film had grain?

    “”Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures”” by Taubin, Amy – Artforum – Questia