Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Of Priggishness, Prudishness and Prattishness

It's been a while since I've taken a swipe at the censor board. Now, it may be misdirected in this instance, as the snipping was on a TV channel, and the TV chaps may have done it all on their own. Still, since the censors' rating of "A" on the back of a DVD case always leaves me wondering how much they've snipped; and this prevents me from buying the film - no matter how badly I want to see it - I'll bag on them, anyway.
"Oh, Holden, I beg you, please. Don't drop 50 stories in my opinion of you by falling prey to that latest of trendy beasts: lesbian chic. It's oh-so acceptable to be a gay girl nowadays. People think it's cute. Got this fool picture of lipstick lesbians in their heads like they all resemble Alyssa, while most of 'em look more like you. Screw that all-for-one shit, all right? I gotta deal with bein' a minority in the minority of a minority, and nobody's supportin' my ass. While the whole of society's fawning over girls on girls, here I sit: a reviled gay man. And to top that off, I'm a gay black man. What is it about gay men that terrifies the rest of the world?"

To find out who all those people are, and what the context for that quote is, you'll just have to watch "Chasing Amy." The reason I brought it up, though, is that the snip-snip-chop-chop men and women have managed to convey the same idea in a way that Hitchcock would approve - all visuals and no reliance on dialogue; specifically, by showing Alyssa and her girlfriend at it until I half expected to see pieces of their faces flying off the TV, and then when it comes to the part where Ben Affleck and Jason Lee snog, they snip sneakily away. Not a thousand words each by a thousand gay men could've got their point across better than our guardians from vulgarity did with the judicious use of their scissors.

I've noticed I'm becoming all crusty and intolerant. It wasn't that long ago that I was boasting to all and sundry that the gay sex in Almodovar's movies don't bother me at all. But had I paid more attention to the world around me, I would've seen sooner that the likes of Antonio Banderas and Gael Garcia Bernal are in a different league from most other men. And my tolerance for seeing this latter group in the buff, much less anything more intimate, is very low. I've just about had it with sitting on the couch next to the lockers in the gym to tie my shoelaces, only for some guy to place his third eye about 2 feet from my face. It's not like there aren't changing rooms there. And those have doors too.

And this isn't just with the men. The contraptions in the gym ensure that I get my fair share of glimpses of what the censor board would call an indecent angle. Time was when I'd give myself a mental high-five. Now, though, unless the girl in question fits Gimli's descriptions of Galadriel, I find myself turning away with the dismayed look of a Shiv Sainik spying a couple holding hands on Valentine's Day or displaying some other signs of corruption by the Decadent West.

I think I'm growing old.

Speaking of gymming, one of the attractions of my gym is that it has a lot of really good restaurants just near it. Despite the wealth of choice, the one place that keeps drawing me in is Haldiram's and its masala dosa. Now, it's hardly perfect: they distribute coconut chutney in the same quantities that lembas were in the Mordor stretch of Frodo's and Sam's journey, and the staff there are the grumpiest bunch of sourpusses ever assembled on one spot since Saruman's Uruk-hai had the misfortune of meeting Fangorn's Huorns at Helm's Deep. But still, since you can take a Mallu out of Kerala, but you cannot take his craving for masala dosa out of him, I find myself there time and again.

Since it turns out that I'm not speaking of gymming at all, but rather of Tolkien, I might as well admit that I've finally finished reading "The Lord of the Rings." While my efforts spent reading it were no less epic than the Fellowship's Quest, they were well rewarded. I'm in awe of Tolkien's imagination: for over two months, he marooned me in another world. But I do have some quibbles: the book seems a little obsessed with racial purity, lets us downs by showing only the Elveses as free (relatively) of ssexis'sm, and is very directionist (being from a part of the world that is regarded as the East, and also because I'm from the South of this segment of the map, I was doubly offended).

But my major complaint is that the writing deteriorates through the series. "The Fellowship of the Ring" isn't too bad, but "The Return of the King" is all but unreadable. To paraphrase Fawlty, "Why don't they speak properly?" Apart from the chapters where the Hobbits find themselves in forests, the sections that had Gimli, Legolas and Aragorn were what I enjoyed the most; but even Gimli catches the mush-talk disease after meeting Galadriel, and Aragorn gets insufferably pompous as the story wears on. And, having had to endure the descriptions of Faramir's and Eowyn's courtship, I can see why Tolkien left all the romance to Peter Jackson. Also, aren't these people supposed to be fierce warriors on a desperate mission? So what's with all the weeping and wailing and speeching whenever someone gets a bit of a scratch or falls into a little pit?

I wish Tolkien had taken a little inspiration from "The Big Sleep." Even before I ever saw it, it was already amongst my favourite films. And now, having managed to get a copy, it has risen higher in my estimation, if such a thing were possible. For dialogue, for sleaze, for atmosphere, for unforgettable characters - in other words, for embodying noir and every associated image to perfection - it has few equals. I could watch it a dozen times and not tire of it.

P.S. - For a very critical appraisal of the first LOTR film, you may go here.


missjane said...

I am a fan of Kevin Smith. Speaking of films-likely-to-be-censored, have you seen Dogma?

I would like to start by saying that you complaining about long, formalised, possibly pretentious conversations is, err, interesting.

Tolkien was writing in a particular style; it's epic, in the really old school sense. He was drawing on a bank of knowledge in various fields, literature and poetry ancient and new, and doing world-building in new and unprecedented ways. Unfortunately there are lots of postcedents who either took it all too seriously or not enough. I could argue that he uses the change in character's speech as a sign of the changes in the characters (ala Gimli) but that's mostly motivated by my instinctive defensive fan tendencies.

I think I was 10? 11? 12? when I first read the series, and I've re-read it a number of times since (although possibly not since the films came out - might be time for a re-read) so it is very difficult for me to analyse it in any sort of critical way. And I've always been able to read fast so some of those long conversations seemed agreeable to me - kind of the opposite of the Ent effect.

I like this bitser post; it has flow and consistent thematic content, although possibly that's just because Tolkien has succesfully invaded your head. You may as well stop trying to resist it.

Rohan said...

Well, my complaints are not with the long conversations per se, but with the exceedingly affected way people talk to each other. Instead of saying "Thanks, bro" and getting on with it, they thank him, his forefathers, his country, his horse and generally take up half a page for what should have been 2 words. I get the feeling that all major characters change for the worse in this regard (except Frodo, who remains consistently good at keeping his mouth shut). And I'm betting Eowyn and Faramir never have sex. They probably spend all their spare time sitting in the gardens of Ithilien, gazing at each other in the moon-light.

Or maybe you're right, and I'm just jumping at the chance to have a go at someone else for being long-winded. :D

Either way, I would have to read the books again to know for sure. It did take me a couple of months to read the books, and Middle-Earth fatigue may have played a part; and perhaps I'm idealizing the earlier bits, too. Overall, though, I loved the books.

I haven't seen too much of Kevin Smith - just Clerks, its sequel and Chasing Amy. I see that a horror movie of his is in the pipeline. That should be interesting.

Thanatos said...

I quite liked Return of the King - was possibly my favorite of the series. Here's the thing though - I happily skipped all the poems and songs.

Times must have changed, there was no nudity in the locker rooms in Bangalore's gyms and the ladies left plenty to the imagination. Of course Delhi has always been pretty progressive, so the damn northies might be on to something there.

Rohan said...

Well, I did exaggerate just a little bit.