Archive | September, 2013

Dark vision: the world of Melinda Tankard Reist

24 Sep

Last night’s Australian Story on ABCTV invited its audience into the world of the remarkable photographer Poli Papapetrou and her family, in particular that of her daughter, Olympia.

When Olympia was six, Poli took a portrait of her naked in a re-creation of a much earlier image made by Lewis Carroll, known as the author of Alice in Wonderland, as well as for his photographic studies of young girls.

Poli’s photograph caused expressions of outrage from Kevin Rudd, Bravehearts founder and child advocate Hetty Johnston, and of course my old nemesis, Melinda Tankard Reist, all of whom found Olympia’s image highly offensive and her mother even more so for making it.

Olympia, now sixteen,  has become interested in what’s known as “selfies” which for the uninitiated are self-portraits, usually taken by teenage girls in various stages of undress, and posted on the internet. Her critique of this practice can be read here.

Australian Story  invited Melinda Tankard Reist to comment on selfies, and the manner in which we gaze upon young girls in our culture. Tankard Reist declared that because our vision is so tainted by pornography thanks to the pornified, sexualised atmosphere in which we dwell, it has become impossible for us to innocently view images of girls, whether they be those made by Poli Papapetrou of her daughter, the notorious photographs of Bill Henson, or selfies.

My damn spell check will not accept selfies as a word and insists on changing it. That means something, doesn’t it.

The sudden appearance of Ms Tankard Reist in the middle of what had, up till then, been an engrossing  portrait of a loved-filled, creative family life complete with what I suspect were rescued greyhounds, was something akin to the shocking effects felt at the  manifestation of a bad fairy at a joyous christening. Dark, forbidding, increasingly grim-lipped, Tankard Reist described to us of our loss of innocence, our inability to ever see a naked child as anything other than sexual fodder, thanks to the porn saturated universe we have wilfully allowed to engulf us.

We have, whether we realise it or not, had our capacity to gaze innocently upon the young stolen from us by pedophiles. In some abominable alchemical exchange, that gaze has been replaced with their dark and evil vision, and most of us do not even know what we have lost. Obviously, it is up to Melinda to tell us.

I don’t know about everybody else, but when I see a naked child the last thing that comes to mind is sex. I don’t think, oh my, that child is sexualised!Heavens, I even take photos of my grandsons with their willies out and their gorgeous naked buttocks that I could just kiss and kiss!

Set against the backdrop of Olympia and her family, Tankard Reist’s message has never sounded so insanely deviant. Of course there are situations in which girls are exploited and abused. But to lose the ability to tell one thing from another is a dangerous tragedy. Most of us retain that ability. Tankard Reist does not. In warning us of the loss of the innocent gaze, she reveals only that hers is lost. Mine is not and no matter how many pornographic images I’m bombarded with, it will never be lost.

Olympia’s family are an excellent example of how to combat pornographic assaults on the gaze, and raise children capable of distinguishing between art and beauty, and exploitation and abuse. Tankard Reist’s dark vision has no place in this world, and indeed, brings only destruction.

Why I don’t care that there’s only one woman in cabinet.

18 Sep

Look. It’s not as if we didn’t know Prime Minister Abbott’s attitude to women before enough of us voted for him to lead the country.

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a reminder.

Abbott on women

So it should come as no surprise that the new PM has only one woman, Julie Bishop, in his cabinet.

Anyone who can make the above observation is not going to apply the same merit test for women as he is for men.  Abbott claims the LNP promotes on merit, leading in this instance to a vast majority of males in positions of power and influence. He doesn’t reveal his criteria for assessing merit, but if he starts from the position that women are destined to exclusion from large numbers of areas because of our lady bits, one is inclined to think one of them is owning a penis.

It is, of course, shameful that in 2013 a first world country should be led by a man with such biologically determinist attitudes. I don’t believe for a minute there aren’t women in the LNP as worthy and capable as many of the men Abbott has chosen. However, I have no  sympathy and no respect for any of them, if they are content to stand silently by while their leader treats them with such contempt, simply because they have vaginas.

Although a willingness to be treated with contempt because vagina is likely a precondition of joining the LNP.

Neither do I believe that Abbott’s policies would be any different if his cabinet was crammed to the ceilings with women, so in that sense it doesn’t matter if they are present or not.

The PM has further enraged many by appointing himself the Prime Minister for Women.  He has done this because he can. He is taunting us. We should do our very best to ignore him.

There is certainly a gender issue in play here. However, it is one for Coalition women to fight, not me. Coalition women don’t give a toss about those of us who aren’t of their number. Why do I care if they have positions of seniority or not? They aren’t going to do anything I’d like with their power. So they can fight their own battles, and if they don’t, it won’t keep me up at night.

Abbott & daughters

Why I can’t call Abbott a cunt

7 Sep

Abbott Winker

 

One of the most telling revelations Tony Abbott has ever made about himself occurred in his chat with Annabel Crabb on ABCTV’s Kitchen Cabinet last week.

Describing the circumstances that led to his abandonment of theological studies and his goal to enter the Catholic priesthood, Abbott explained that while struggling with a 500 word essay on the desert fathers, he had a conversation with a mate who was about to leave for London to enable the satisfactory conclusion of a billion dollar business deal. Upon hearing his friend describe his venal life, Abbott experienced a Damascene moment. Christopher Pyne will tell you how to correctly pronounce that word.

What the hell, Abbott wondered, am I doing sitting in a seminary writing about the desert fathers, when I could be carving out a future for myself in the world of power, money, and fame?

Well, that’s not a verbatim report of what he says he thought, but it would be, if he’d been truthful. He couched his moment of enlightenment in terms of doing good, however, in the context of the billion dollar business deal, one is given cause to ponder that ambition.

In short, Abbott found God sadly wanting in comparison with what the world could offer, and without much ado, quit his service.

Some may say it was at this point that Abbott embarked on what was to become a lifelong commitment to selling his arse. In my book, arse-selling has been his highest and most consistent achievement, and before too much longer he’s going to need a colostomy bag to contain his excrement when his arse, abused beyond endurance, finally falls out.

So why can’t I call Abbott a cunt, as do so many others?

I’ve long been ambivalent about the co-option of this female body part to perform as the worst expletive Western culture can manage. I acknowledge the admirably explosive possibilities of the cunt word. Its unique ability to convey a profound, rage-filled and terminal contempt is undeniable.

And yet, and yet and yet…

The cunt houses the only human body part whose sole purpose is to provide its owner with pleasure. How this can possibly bear any relation to Tony Abbott I’m damned if I know.

The cunt, pink, plump, shiny with the juices of desire, is a thing of exquisite beauty, hidden from view, shown only to the chosen one, repository of what is most astonishing in human sexuality. When I think of the cunt, the last association I make with it is, yes, you’ve guessed right, Tony Abbott.

The cunt, with its miraculous ability to open beyond imagining when fulfilling the task of delivering new life into the world, does not in the least remind me of Tony Abbott, whose desiccated countenance and impoverished speech patterns symbolise a shrivelling of human spirit I cannot associate with any life-giving qualities at all.

Or am I being too harsh?

In truth, I love my cunt and everything she can do. I have never been entirely comfortable using her name as a means of conveying contempt, though I fully understand why that is done, and I’m not getting up a petition to have it stopped.

This leaves me with the problem of how best to describe Tony Abbott. I like to think of him as a rat-fucking piece of human excrement who sucks dead dogs’ balls.  I know that is far clumsier than cunt, and takes more breath.

But please, do consider my argument for the beauty of the cunt, and think twice before likening our next Prime Minister to her.

How to do an ending

3 Sep

It’s occurred to me many times as I’ve watched quality television drama, how few script writers manage a good ending.

I’m thinking specifically of the ABC TV drama Broadchurch, a series that finished last week.  It was pretty good I thought, and I hadn’t picked the villain. That revelation was an unpleasant shock (Oh, no! No! I cried) which I won’t reveal, in case anyone is planning to watch the DVD.

However, after the critical denouement, things went south fairly rapidly, sinking into a swamp of sentimentality that left me irritated and offended. It was as if the script writers didn’t quite know what to do next, and settled on an unrealistic coming together of an intolerably fractured community as their nod to catharsis. Obviously they felt compelled to attempt a resolution, in a situation in which such a thing would take decades to achieve, if ever.

The final scenes worked as an exposition of the kind of overwhelming public emotion experienced after a catastrophic event, the short-lived euphoria of  an intense and temporarily bonding experience. But it told me nothing about the morning after when everyone woke up to find themselves inescapably trudging through daily life in a bell jar of emotions, most of them necessarily dark.

The other ending that comes to mind is that of The Sopranos. No easy resolution for these scriptwriters: the Soprano family are seated in a cafe, Tony looks up, and everything goes black. What the fuck? I yelled. Then I thought we’d lost our power. However, I count this as one of the finest endings I’ve ever seen. Not even the merest nod to catharsis, bugger audience desire for resolution, everything just went black so figure it out for yourself.

My interpretation was that we were offered Tony’s perspective as his life abruptly and unexpectedly ended.

Of course, everything has definitely gone black now, with the recent death of James Gandolfini, who played Tony. There can be no change of plans and further episodes. It is ended.

Endings are rarely easy. The lovely innocence of Aristotle in Poetics, in which he declares his belief in a beginning, a middle and a cathartic end, seems in 2013 to belong with fairy tales and Hollywood, though in the latter case, innocence is long-lost. The ending has to be happy in Hollywood because that’s what brings in the money. There’s also an infuriating rush to resolution in most media: after the most horrific events, people are urged to seek “closure” and “move on” with what seems to me a most unseemly haste. Grief has its own unpredictable timeline, and Freud referred to the “labour” of mourning, implying the hard slog of it. If you’ve lost a sentient being under any circumstances, you’ll know the rewards of  “closure” and “moving on” have to be earned and they don’t come easy. And they aren’t the only losses some of us have to grieve: loss of health, body parts, hopes and ambitions unrealised. Sorrow is, to varying degrees, an inescapable aspect of human life, so why there is such emphasis on hastily tidying up the dark and difficult with such lack of due respect, is a mystery to me.

“I can’t believe it, I can’t believe I’m alive,” snarls Bob Dylan, in one of his many angrily grieving lyrics written for some woman who’s abandoned him, “but without you it doesn’t feel right…”

It doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel the same. Something has irrevocably changed. That’s endings for you. And that’s what I want the scriptwriters to show me. Bugger the confected catharsis.

Happy-Ending-quotes-35206692-500-425

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