Tag: queer theory

You and Us Make It Reverse: Itty Bitty Titty Committee’s Bad Drag, MEN’s Simultaneity, & Spahr and Young’s (Re)enactments

by on May.12, 2011

One more post on temporal drag and I’ll shut up about it maybe. This time I’ll approach it through counterexample.

The 2007 film Itty Bitty Titty Committee does some bad drag. That is, its temporal drag is flimsy and unclear about its relationship to feminist history. Directed by Jamie Babbitt (But I’m a Cheerleader!), IBTC chronicles the politicization of a young woman named Anna (Melanie Diaz) in present-day Los Angeles. Over the course of the film Anna moves from working as a receptionist at a plastic surgeon’s office to joining a group of radical queer feminists named the C(i)A (Clits in Action) who plot and enact feminist actions such as spraypainting slogans on offending businesses’ storefronts:

The C(i)A

The film is often charming and exhilarating, especially due to its raucous soundtrack and general exuberance for feminist theater; but it’s ultimately clouded by what I see as an embarrassing nostalgia for riot grrrl, ACT UP, the 90s generally — a nostalgia that doesn’t realize it’s nostalgia. There is no acknowledgment in the film that the 90s already happened, that that period of feminist/queer activism is over. (I’m not saying that feminist and queer activism’s dead, but that it looks much different now.) The datedness of the film is weird and confusing. When, in the film’s climax, the C(i)A manages to slip a papier-mache penis mold onto the top of the Washington Monument and blow it up, then infiltrate a news studio and invade American televisions with the footage, it comes across as a dead punchline to a tired joke.

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So I Want to Kill This [Spritzhead]: Paranoia in Tori Amos, Hothead Paisan, and reading/writing generally

by on Oct.26, 2010

1.

In “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or, You’re So Paranoid, You Probably Think This Essay Is About You,” a chapter in Touching Feeling, Sedgwick addresses the paranoid reading practices that she argues have come to monopolize critical theory, including New Historicist, deconstructive, feminist, and psychoanalytic studies, and especially queer studies: in these fields, she claims, “to apply a hermeneutics of suspicion is widely understood as a mandatory injunction rather than a possibility among other possibilities” (125).

To explain what she means by paranoid reading, and to contrast it to the reparative reading mode towards which she desires queer studies to turn, Sedgwick adopts Melanie Klein’s formulation of two affective positions, the schizoid/paranoid and the depressive/reparative. These are positions, importantly, not developmental stages, and so they are temporary, changing, and relational, each subject to oscillation into the other. Klein sees the depressive position as a reprieve from the schizoid/paranoid position: its “terrible alertness,” its government by “hatred, envy, and anxiety.” From the depressive position, it is possible, Sedgwick explains:

to use one’s own resources to assemble or ‘repair’ the murderous part-objects into something like a whole — though, I would emphasize, not necessarily like any preexisting whole…a more satisfying object [that] is available both to be identified with and to offer one nourishment and comfort in turn. Among Klein’s names for the reparative process is love. (128)

I want to look at two performances of the oscillation between Klein’s paranoid and depressive positions within art — then return to Sedgwick and think about paranoid writing. I don’t understand why my writing here is so forced and I can’t break out. You’re going to point out every interpretive error, aren’t you, sneer that it’s obvious I’ve never read Klein. Stop it I hate you. Fuck you all.

Tori Amos’s “The Waitress” has radically evolved since its original 1994 recording on Under the Pink. The original version is pure murderlust, its speaker, a waitress, announcing her desire to kill a fellow waitress, a desire suppressed only by the speaker’s belief “in peace, bitch.” In this version the speaker is ruled by the “hatred, envy, and anxiety” that characterize Klein’s paranoid/schizoid position. The speaker is stuck, paralyzed by her “terrible alertness” to the threat posed by the presumably more-powerful waitress.

The version that Tori played on her 1998 Plugged tour is vastly transformed from the original and is improvised slightly differently in each performance. This clip  is pretty characteristic:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rolRKCIAi0

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