50 Shades of Postmodern Persephone

The following text may contain triggering material, rape in fiction, spoilers for Fifty Shades of Gray, Juliette, Eleven Minutes, and…no Persephone, actually.

Fifty Shades of Grey is a fiction novel written by E.L. James, originally published via digital vanity press, until 2012 when the publishing rights transferred to Vintage Books. It tells the story of a university graduate Anastasia and all the sex that she has with her wealthy older boyfriend, Christian Grey. (Or Gray. I can never remember.) The particulars of the sexual acts therein are depicted as unconventional and deviant, and let’s consider for now this element as the main attraction that had lead to this work’s phenomenal success and prominence in modern culture.

Sex is not (by my experience) a casual topic. Perhaps the allure of alluding to the matter does develop though generations, incrementally but enough that each generation whose members would hold to the standards of “acceptably perceived sexuality in public spaces” would consider the newer generations as unacceptable or at least uncomfortable, but—that’s also very individual.

So, that it comes out into public awareness at all tends to create a galvinating point of interest, exponentially intensified by the deviance of bondage, domination, and sadomasochism.

For whatever reason, many, many more individuals gained more of a familiarity with James’ Fifty Shades, rather than Paulo Coelho’s Eleven Minutes or many of the Marquis de Sade’s novels—I’ll name Juliette because that’s the only one of de Sade’s that I’ve read (one day, I’ll get around to reading Justine.) The latter two do contain sadomasochism, the author of latter even inspired the term (and the author of the former being a 90s book club darling because he wrote The Alchemist! What gives?); they contain introspection and extensive social commentary…and yet it’s Fifty Shades that’s the cultural phenomenon of today.

When it comes to categorical standards for what makes the quality of a book, Fifty Shades is no critical darling. The writing style is a word salad. The characters read as closer to concepts than people. The plot is static, more of a collection of events that set the scene for recurring and redundant conflicts…and, finally, it’s bad for society because of the power struggles portrayed as an integral part of the romance.

That last point, I’d actually want to examine further. In interviews, James often returns to this simple position: “It’s my fantasy.

~

In the twelfth chapter of the novel, Anastasia jokingly breaks up with Christian over an e-mail. He then breaks into her home and punishes her for the joke with sex. The major problematic thing is that he has no idea that it was a joke, and considered an e-mail breakup as license to break into his ex-girlfriend’s home…and rape her. Anastasia, from whose point of view this novel takes, conveys no excitement or arousal, and cries in misery after the event.

That certainly doesn’t read like a fantasy. It wasn’t, “Oh, that minx Anastasia thought she would hate it and knows that she should hate it, but the domination is attractive and confusing her with all the inner goddess that it’s drawing out.” It wasn’t, “She was being a brat exactly so that he would ‘punish’ her, mrrowr!” No, Anastasia didn’t get raped and secretly enjoy it. She was raped and hated it. Fantasy? What fantasy?

At the same time, I think I get it. To remind the reader at every line that this is a fantasy, would take the reader out of the fantasy (that James is offering.) In considering what stories are Bad For Society, it could even be more problematic to say that Anastasia secretly enjoyed it all along and thus that made it okay, as this event in the story was set up so that neither character had diegetically agreed to this sort of play.

But I can and do still see it as play. It’s just that the play began at cracking the cover to open this book. The blurb, the reviews, the word of mouth…were already, I think, a negotiation between myself as a reader and this piece of work.

(Of course, negotiation is an active entity. I actually haven’t finished reading Juliette because eating somebody else’s vomit is not something I was able to even continue reading about, even though I know it’s a fiction…and why I could continue reading after a hog-tied, prepubescent girl is tortured to death with sexualized impalement in Juliette, or chapter twelve of 50 Shades, is something I’m going to ask my therapist about next time I have a session.)

So, beyond that threshold, yes, I can believe that it was a fantasy…just not one of sexual exploration, necessarily.

It’s one of grief, and the verisimilitude of the cause would therefore be a crucial part. In examining this body of work, I consider Anastasia and Christian as aspects of the same consciousness. Anastasia is the bearer of the ego, the voice of the novel and the spoke around which the story revolves; and thus cannot see herself from the outside in the same way the reader can, if the reader even does (because I can see it as the reader’s ego that is invited to incarnate itself in Anastasia.) Christian is the Animus-Shadow: the amalgation of all the qualities classified in this work as what a Real Man is, controlling, dominant, forceful, sexual, violent, the antithesis of Anastasia. Their relationship is a process of conjugation, of reconciling these aspects, and that transformation would bring about grief.

Rather than demonstrate these concept-characters as concepts, however, they’re written out as people. And real people act all this out…without acting, but as real people, as separate consciousnesses, as not aspects of a process, as not fictions, and grieving over violations of personal sovereignty within a socially constructed sphere of being forbidden to heal or escape from when it should have never happened.

~

All that said, I don’t believe that this novel necessarily has the power to promote, normalize, and even romanticize abusive relationships. Rather, it’s an expression of an already established, normalized, romanticized power struggle that is already present in the collective consciousness. I cannot conceive of how it’s possible to take anybody to task for what this has done. It’s a fiction. The events described might imitate a very real horror faced by many people under a veneer of romance, but what does that imitation then do? And how does it do that? For every answer given, it ultimately depends on the reader or viewer.

This isn’t to say that relativism can be brought up to invalidate all perspectives and shut down all discussion, nor that those who criticize 50 Shades only do so because they forget the difference between fiction and reality.

(The main reason that I read Juliette is because it made the list of this one authoress’ favorite books, where she described it as having raised awareness for the abuse of women and girls, even if the Marquis himself wrote it with every intention of it being a one-handed read.

I read it myself, and I couldn’t even see how anybody could have written it as a one-handed read. The eponymous Juliette carries the voice, bears the ego-identification, and she is the one subject to all the sexual violence and abuse. Wouldn’t an author who objectified characters and people of that gender and position, not put such a character front and center narratively, not spend all that time, effort, and consciousness essentially in her skin as he writes?

During the torture of the prepubescent girl in Juliette, my translation read: “Her screams were terrible.” Authored by a sexual sadist, wouldn’t that line have read, “Her screams were delicious”?)

50 Shades is still in many ways an irresponsible work, and that irresponsibility is very well worth discussing and critiquing extradiegetically. (As established, I completely missed out on if any of that critique were present dietetically.) Also, offering concrete alternative actions to affirming the popularity of a work that embodies such a terrible thing is great.

All I hope to offer, when I put out there that this is a fiction, is, hopefully, to break the thrall. True, 50 Shades doesn’t sound itself out in a vacuum any more than it came from a vacuum. It’s just that the fact that it’s a fiction means (to me) that there are so many ways to take it. The real question is, how to save the world or even just the victims of people who have taken this work in a very wrong way (for the established value of a wrong interpretation)?

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Unspoken and Wild

The following entry contains gender, pop song music videos, and spoilers for the television series Once Upon A Time.

I feel like I’m tracing an unnecessary line between “official” media and “fan works” (fanfiction, fan art, and filk music) when I say that right now Christina Perri is the High Queen of All Filking.

Between those two categories, of course, there’s going to be commissioned works and borrowed influences in the realm of Official Media. I’ve also got the feeling that I really shouldn’t care about Perri as a person, persona, or personality because I shouldn’t partake in that culture of entitlement for any of those being my business. Perri makes music. I buy her albums or concert tickets, or I don’t. I enjoy her music when I hear it on the radio, at the mall, or in the car with my extended family, or I don’t. If she likes to knit or something, and blogs about her life that occasionally involves knitting, then I might look up her blog whenever I remember…or I might get bored at the lack of knitting.

So, with that said, I meta-squee that she’s also a fan of ABC’s Once Upon A Time, and especially of their version of Captain Hook, played by Colin O’Donoghue.

And guess who she got to be The Guy in her latest music video, for a song that could very well have been written from the point of view of what character on which television show?

I enjoy speculating about the creative process that went into making the song, which is why I call Perri the High Queen of All Filking (right now, in my humble opinion,) but I guess anything like that can’t be legally implied by Perri herself, because the realm of Fan Works to Official Media are like the Shadowy Place Beyond the Borders of Mufasa’s Pridelands. “You must never go there, Simba.”

Besides, I would now speculate that this creative process gained an entirely other dimension, because the music video tells an entirely different story… and it’s just confusing. Beautifully filmed, that is, but open to interpretations.

Interpretation Number Zero: Christina Perri is playing a deceased human ghost, like the guy’s dead girlfriend that he can’t bring himself to think of as an ex.

Not very cohesive, given the song and everything we’re shown, so I am immediately scrapping this.

Interpretation Number One: Princess Abigail (alter ego Katheryn Nolan, canonically) from Once Upon A Time dyed her hair black in some alternate universe where Captain Hook (alter ego Cody Fisch, made that one up meself) got caught up in the first Fairy Tale Characters Reincarnation Spell.

I’m sure that’s not it, by which I mean, the notion would not have existed in the realm of Authorial Intent (or should that be “auteurial intent” because it’s a filmed piece?)

Perri looks so much like Anastasia Griffith at some angles, though…this fanfic must happen.

Interpretation Number Two: Christina Perri is a stalker. (Or, playing a girl who is stalking the guy in this music video.)

Wait, what? No. How the…did that even…?? How does she disappear? Why would he be ignoring her that hard when she’s in his home and in his bath tub?

Obviously, this is an interpretation I’ve read other people take.

That said, the lyrics do come off as less, “Funny Little Frog” (which I’d consider a thematic predecessor of Interpretation Number Four below)…

…and more like a genderbent version of “Blurred Lines”…

Not like that, that one’s fun.

More like, the main voice’s insistence that the addressee feels the same attraction, but is in some way wrong about their (the addressee’s own) personal boundaries, but maybe that wrongness can be adjusted if the main voice can regale the addressee with “all the hell I had to go through” pain of unrequited love.

It’s very, very difficult for me to say how different that is from dealing with someone you love, who loves you back but tends to pull away because of low self-esteem or something…but it is different.

And I want to say that it’s completely different, but “The Words” isn’t all of one, there are several lines that I would also consider a celebration of empathy, autonomy, and consent. So, the notions would be completely different but frequently mixed with each other.

I don’t even know what’s going on up there. “The Words” is comparatively benign.

Interpretation Number Three: Christina Perri is an astral projecting stalker. (Or playing a…you know.)

Just hanging this here to justify this entire post’s presence on my woo-woo metaphysics blog.

That interpretation might also make the second most sense of the music video, either as conscious astral projection through space into someone’s crush’s bathroom, which is less than cool; or projecting, perhaps unconsciously, through time, from a future where this guy who is dissatisfied with life in general will soon meet with somebody that will change the aforementioned dissatisfying life. I’ll get back to that last one.

Interpretation(?) Number Four: The video is about a guy who cant stop thinking about the girl he keeps seeing at the flower shop. He is so torn with his feelings and she haunts him the way love does…finally at the very end he finds the courage to say hello and let himself love her.

That’s the explanation on Perri’s Facebook page, hence the question mark if the intent of the creative process still counts as interpretation. I’ve picked up on these ideas about storytelling media such as that, even with an official work that has an official creator, it’s only ever the way that it is taken (by the audience) that determines what message is conveyed. But looking to the word of the official creator, at least, I think clears a lot of things up.

The entire thing is an inner struggle between romantic inspiration, and the less inspired spaces that purport to be safer…and how we can try to cling to that safety, even if it means that we go to war with ourselves.

Interpretation Number Five: So, I’ll take Interpretation Number Four and the other interpretations I like best.

It is not this “She” who haunts him, of course, but his idea of this “She” who is…borrowing from Jungian psychology…himself. Basically, his Anima.

In Jungian psychology, there’s this idea that romantic love is the product of somebody else carrying the projections of our own psyche, that is, manifesting the qualities that we would admire for remaining unrealized within our own personality—that self-actualization having an unmet need that our psyche attempts to fulfill by generating a romantic attraction for, or attachment to, another person.

In men idealising women, that ideal is known as an Anima. In women idealising men, that ideal is known as an Animus. From the little I know of Latin construction, to queer this binary would be properly known as an Anime, which would inevitably get confused with Japanese cartoons, especially if the actual Anime were modelled after or influenced by anime.

In this estuary of complication, it then makes a lot of sense that this very form that is haunting him is egging him on to make her real in his life. In the form of his intended, the Anima pronounces or echoes his perspective of the intended, as it would, even though that presents as very strange.

On a tangent, I could even connect that to another metaphysical interpretation: There are quite a few people out there who develop deep and fulfilling bonds with incorporeal figures such as this. Commonly, as I’ve read, these incorporeal figures promise their corporeal lovers that they actually are both corporeal and it’s just a matter of finding them and/or awakening their consciousness in the corporeal world, because the incorporeal forms are subconscious projections of that person, or the higher selves of that person, or something similar.

The thing is, the details of a work create the structure that would lead the audience member to the point or purpose of the work: emotionally, thematically, what have you.

And one detail that didn’t immediately match up to me about the Anima simply haunting this guy, is that he looks so miserable. I can sort of understand the people who think this is a music video about a stalker (or someone with unhealthy boundaries in some relationship with someone else who surrendered their boundaries) because two minutes and a half in, he seems to be going, “Oh thank all the gods she’s out of my bathtub I can rest…uuurgh quit sitting on my legs you’re cutting off the blood circulation I am trying to read, here…”

Contrast this with “Funny Little Frog”, where that guy is obviously having a lot of fun with his romantic fantasies, even as that coasts on longing.

For some reason, the editor or director of “The Words” did not want O’Donoghue to even crack a smile until the end. I think that may have added to some viewers’ initial confusion of, “Is he just generally dissatisfied with reading botany textbooks in bed? Or…what? Does that soup taste terrible? Does he hate chopping wood? Is the ghost woman already dead?”

Because unrequited love can be awful, but I don’t know about it being that awful.

It’s not quite impossible, though. Especially if, as mentioned, the subject is going to war against themselves and especially against their own inspiration, because of low-self esteem, or taking a cerebral cue rather than an instinctive cue to avoid trauma.

That would be about as awful as shown. The Anima, instead (or in part,) becomes the Jungian Shadow.

“An open heart is an open wound to you” is, perhaps, the Anima singing to the guy about himself, or to him, rather than feeding him the words that he could speak to his intended, or talking about herself—as much of a self as an Anima can have.

Updates

First, I spent the better part of last week refining the ogdoad poesy, which is supposed to be a magix script based on chess pieces, but anyone who wants to can use it for representing the phonics of real words in established languages for mundane means…even though I curse myself for how clunky I made it, and wouldn’t personally use ogdoad for such a purpose. At least in the context of spellcasting, “clunky” can mean “opportunity to concentrate on imbuing meaning.” Mundanely: “I already know what I mean to say. Why did I make this so difficult?”

Second, related to the first, I tried to use it the ogdoad for magix and realized that I’m still lacking a way to, essentially, systemize glossolalia. The sounds or symbols involved would be determined by the traits of each piece as well as the moves that could be made: castling a king, queening a pawn, en passant capture, or capture of any piece by any piece…I should put in a symbol for “to capture” or to differentiate a desire for internal effect versus effect upon the external (or “opposite playing side”).

Third, unrelated to the first and second, The Pagan Experience blog prompt for February is humanity and earth, which I think can combine well into a post about Changelings and Earthlings. That would actually make a rocking band name. I cannot word the other thoughts I have about those right now, maybe not for the rest of the month.

Fourth, I believe that I can be, and am, both a changeling and an earthling. But mostly I’m a gruelling as in turned into gruel from trying to figure out how to organize the papers for this new job for a tax audit, and trying to figure out why I keep messing up the daily collections reports when I’m already being as careful as I can but I keep missing the obvious and important details…and I consider myself a fan of organizing data so why can I not do this?

Fifth, my immediate superior invited me to join a yoga class, considering that is the service we provide, and might help me with not being so scatterbrained.

The following content may contain triggering material.

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Poesy Ogdoad Continued

The primary group of gutteral sounds are now classified under Pawn.
The secondary group of sustained tongue-muscle sounds are classified under Queen, the tsks and clucks (interrupted tongue sounds) under Knight.
The tertiary group of sustained lip-sounds are classified under Castle, the interrupted “lippy pops” classified under King.
The quaternary group of sibilants are classified under Bishop.

Continuing from this post. The diacritics begin from one o’ clock and end at twelve. Twelve, three, six, and nine on the clock face become reference lines for the next “hour”, so one, four, seven, and ten are wedges to show how they follow up on those reference lines. Two, five, eight, and eleven stand alone as strokes because they are neither reference lines themselves nor can they be supported by a reference line.

The diacritics can be stacked to combine sounds under a single classification, such as G being a combination of Pawn’s K and H.

ogdaod6

Although I had to find a way that they wouldn’t appear too similar without the circumference of a clock to give it some context.

So, I decided to turn the indicator for ten upside-down from what’s shown below.

ogdaod12

Seven through twelve are beginning to look a bit like Japanese, which actually doesn’t go all that well aesthetically with the symbols that they’re modifying.

The more or less final…whichever the following is.

Two Bishops are missing their diacritics because I wondered if Z and S are less a progression of resonance from the aft to the fore, and more vocalization versus breath: compare the French J with a Stateside J, which in turn (the latter) might just be D plus Sh.

As I’ve established, doing away with the Knight, D is L combined with N. Vocalized J (or “Tch” for that matter) would then be “L-N-Sh” and maybe the Knight can indicate that a Bishop variant is vocalized so that Knight and Bishop go together like the letters of Q and U in English.

Edit to add:

The Bishop group goes (beginning from the 7th, swapping around J and Sh) Z, S, J, Sh, V, F. To me that’s a movement of sound resonance from aft to fore, also alternating between vocalized and air-pressurized. Z is the same position as S, but Z has voice added. J is produced by the same positions as Sh, but J has voice added. V is the same position as F, but V has voice added. So, the Bishop group would really have only three sounds, but the Knight symbol preceding the Bishop would indicate either a Z, J, or V.

I’d also have the Knight precede the B in the King’s group. The King alone in scripted Ogdoad would indicate a P.

When the Knight precedes “L-N” (same as D) it turns that into a T.

I don’t like how J can then be written both as “L-N-Sh” and “(Knight)-Sh” because I want to keep these as phonetically simple as possible, unlike modern English where there’s a C that can be both an S and a K, and X and Q for similar or the same sounds.

Although I don’t know where “Tch” or “Ch” fits in. “(Knight)-L-N-Sh” or Tsh? Maybe J can be “L-N-Sh” whereas Ch can be “(Knight)-Sh”.

So the Knight itself is silent, but it does cue a forcefulness behind the successive sound-symbol.

~

I would still want Ch to have its own symbol, because in something like English it makes the difference between telling someone, “You have to choose!” and “You have two shoes!”

Revisiting the Queen

queenforms

Another thing about the dual symbolism that I drafted for the ogdoad (my elemental system) of Queen is, personally, it demonstrates the sort of journey that I took to personal empowerment, the turnkey moment being: I was not going to conform. I could never please anybody else.

This wasn’t a bootstraps-pulling decision. It was despair at the inevitable. There would always be some notion that I would be too much of one thing, and this would sustain into something else coming in to mean that I’m not enough of that exact same thing. The dual pressures can tear a person apart.

That’s shown in the above picture, the symbol on the right, one of the Queen restrained.

So, if I can’t do anything right, then I may as well do what I want. (Now if only I knew what that was…) That sentiment would be symbolized by the sigil on the left in the image above, one of the Queen radiant.

In any case, that was the alchemical process of authenticity that I’ve experienced firsthand, and I might not be alone in it. As someone told me lately, imagination is what saves us from merely fitting into the roles we’re shown and given. It’s within the domain of expressive imagination that one can authentically be oneself.

I recognize the dual paradox (or the response to it) that generates this creative force, in homes situated in impossible locations, in fairy tales such as East of the Sun, West of the Moon (because, I guess, a person can’t possibly go further east than where the sun ever is, and be west of the moon at the same time, but that might all just be a figure of speech), and The Founding of the West (“Clarice looked in all directions, and with no hesitation slid from her steed and grabbed one rod of man and one root of Faery. She slammed each into the other world, and with a great sigh pulled forth her own heart, burying it between the two.” — I don’t know why she did that, or how Clarice knew what what she did would do and I hate this language sometimes right now, but when I’m reading that story I just feel like, duh, that is the way to do it, of course it is. That may not be the only way, but I get the sense that dual paradox would be the simplest way to get this thing that isn’t simple at all just happening and done. It all makes perfect emotional-symbolic sense.)

Ogdoad

files

So, I finally got all the symbols for the chess pieces! I call this elemental system The Poesy Ogdoad, even though there are only six elements, because a chessboard is an eight-by-eight grid.

That’s what I’ll also call the sort of writing system that I decided to combine these with:

The primary group of gutteral sounds are now classified under Pawn.
The secondary group of sustained tongue-muscle sounds are classified under Queen, the tsks and clucks (interrupted tongue sounds) under Knight.
The tertiary group of sustained lip-sounds are classified under Castle, the interrupted “lippy pops” classified under King.
The quaternary group of sibilants are classified under Bishop.

I don’t know what to do with these, yet, I’m just hanging these here. Maybe I can think of diacritics around the sigils to indicate exactly which sound under each group would be represented. If I count G as a combination gutteral between K and H, (also D as a combination of L and N, just because, but it won’t really change the file count) then the file of sounds from gutteral to sibilant would be twelve. I could structure the diacritics, then, like the hands of a clock.

To be continued…