I was working a short piece about David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” when the news from Connecticut came over the server. It was one of those moments in which time, memory and multiple experiences transfer and superimpose themselves onto one another. Initially, the piece was just a simple recollection about my experience watching the violence unfold in the film. when the film came out, I was finishing up my undergraduate degree and a friend, a young woman from a town close to mine in Central Illinois, invited me to check out the show with her. I had always admired her: she was petite, attractive, exceptionally bright and probably one of most independent women I had ever met. So, when I got the invitation, I took it. It was an honor just to have her attention for a short time. I also needed the company. I had been clean and sober for about eighteen months and needed new things to keep my mind from wandering. Unlike most Midwesterners, whose cinematic likes and dislikes depended on how many cars exploded or flipped over in the chase scene, she tended to select her films according to the director. I had never heard of Lynch and had no idea what to expect.
There were two scenes from the film that quickly became indelibly etched on my mind. The first was the ritualized “baby-wants-to-fuck” scene in which Frank Booth brutalizes Dorothy Vallens, played by Dennis Hopper and Isabella Rossellini, respectively. The scene is horrific not only because of the triple voyeur (Booth himself “Let me see it!”; Jeffery hiding in the closet, and the audience trapped in watching Jeffery, watch Frank, who looks between Dorothy’s legs), but also because of the physical violence that accompanies the horrific, incest-laden, “mommy-mommy” rant. Rossellini also sensualizes the scene be placing the end of her blue velvet sash into Frank’s mouth, as if he were an infant, and then throwing her head back in a pose that recalls maternity, the passion of the crucifixion, and sado-masochistic bondage. If the scene isn’t disturbing enough, the director doesn’t permit any form of dénouement, because despite the high degree of perverse titillation and arousal, Frank is impotent. His only consolation is being able to terrorizing Dorothy with the fear of castration with a pair of scissors, forcibly penetrating her with his hand, and then feigning a sexual act. The tension only dissipates when Jeffery –now sufficiently erotized–comes forth to carry out the act that Frank could not.
FADE TO BREAKING NEWS AND SOCIAL NETWORKS: shock, horror and disbelief
Newton, CN is grieving for 20 lost children and 7 adults, in an unexplainable tragedy involving a deranged 20 year old man entering an elementary school with weapons and a purpose to kill. Teachers who were trained in this improbable act kept the numbers of deaths from being even higher than they were. Nevertheless, caring individuals ask “Why?” What on earth could have motivated this man to kill innocent children and adults? Why does our country permit unlimited access to weapons designed to kill our people? What can schools do to protect the children mandated to attend them? How can parents ever explain to their own children why their classmates died? How can parents ever accept the tragedy of their own children’s death? It is a very sad day in America.
This is very close to where I grew up – so sad and feeling so sick about this.
This is all I got, besides tears.
Back to Blue Velvet: As frightening as the scene was, the rape and violence in “Blue Velvet” have explanations. Frank’s attraction to Dorothy involved the superimposition of the “mother figure,” the blue velvet robe, and Frank’s unresolved attachments. His “baby-wants-to-fuck” and “Don’t-you-fucking-look-at-me” rants are regressions to infancy and a type of primal-horde masculinity, one that does not recognize limits. On one side of the spectrum, it involves the conversion of Dorothy into the fetish object that hides Frank’s lack, and on the other, his resentment for not being desired. During the rape scene, the words, “Let me see it” implies coming face-to-face with the horror of his own lack, his own impotency: she has nothing and he is nothing. As a result, the blue sash that he takes into his mouth as a pacifier acquires the value of the missing vitality. Lynch dramatizes the fetishization of the blue velvet sash a second time in the film in the night club where Dorothy sings the title song and Frank is portrayed as completely mesmerized, totally unaware of what is occurring around him, while he fixates on Dorothy and strokes the remnant of the sash the same way an infant would cling to his security blanket.
FADE TO BREAKING NEWS AND SOCIAL NETWORKS: blocking out the loss
I can’t wait to see my kids this afternoon. I am going to hug them a little tighter and smother them with kisses. My heart is broken for all of the families in CT that lost their babies today.
I picked my youngest son up after work a little while ago. With his arms stretched wide open he said, “Mom, come here!” I walked over to him and he gave me a very big hug and said that he had heard what happened to the children in CT. I am so blessed!
Gut wrenching day. Watching President Obama break into tears during the news conference is just terrible. I will now go on and pick up my child from elementary school, I will hug him so tight and do the same with the other two at home. My heart is broken for those parents who lost their kids and adults were killed in CT. </3
I’m praying that God wraps his arms around the parents of the children who were killed today, the teachers who arrived at school this morning and tried their hardest to keep children safe, and to all the people affected by this awful tragedy. Even hundreds of miles away, this changes us and affects us. Hug your little ones a little tighter.
We are all from Newtown today.
Back to Blue Velvet: A third of the way into the film, I was horrified beyond words. It was not just because of the unreal violence that appeared on the silver screen, but rather because the violence was too real. Although film experts consider Frank Booth as one of the most vile and despicable villains in cinematographic history, he reminded me of people that I’d known all too well and of a past that I was trying to forget. Suffice to say that three of my best friends died violently before their twentieth birthdays, and yet another died when a scaffold he was standing on collapsed. The film brought out all the repressed feelings of anger, regret and guilt.
FADE TO BREAKING NEWS AND SOCIAL NETWORKS: outrage, regret and guilt
What the f*&k indeed? Little kids! How can you prepare a sicko f’ing mind that can do that kind of shit, especially after you see what the bullets do to the first 5 year old? I tell you, I could never, ever explain this crap to an Amazonian Indian. It would make no sense at all to them. They would think that “American” is a synonym for crazy.
Same thing with the guy at the mall and the theatre in Aurora! It just doesn’t add up. Young guys who already believe they have nothing to live for, but what about all the innocents, including their family.
I’m not sorry for saying this but what in the insane fuck is wrong with people? I am fucking disgusted with the people I share a common origin with. This is seriously sick. I hate people. I hate mean people. I hate heartless people. We should never ever do things like this. Especially children. Wtfuck.
OMG, and now, there’s debates on security system in schools????????? what the fuck!!!! thats not the solution!!!!!!!
All bought legally, it appears. This is becoming a stereotype, with game plans and discussion on mistakes to avoid. Next year, Massacres for Dummies.
Gun control now. Please.
Back to Blue Velvet: The second scene from “Blue Velvet” that left a strong impression on me was that in which Sandy and Jeffery, played by Laura Dern and Kyle MacLanahan, are in a car parked on Lincoln Street in front of a church in small-town USA. The stained-glass windows of the church are illuminated in the background and Sandy is jabbering about her dream in which Good triumphs over Evil and how the blinding light of Love appears along with thousands of red-robins that show that only Love can make a difference. As she describes her dream, she had the same ecstatic expression on her face that I’d seen on the faces of people that had never seen trauma up close. They had grown up in suburban dream-lands with crossing guards on every corner, every teacher in the classroom had an aide, there were churches on every corner, and every lawn was perfectly manicured. Invariably those faces all asked the same question: why men like Frank Booth existed?
The film itself tries to answer this question: why does evil exist? In the scene that occurs in the malt shop, Jeffery confesses to Sandy that he is intrigued by the mystery, aroused perhaps by the danger, and it is this desire to know that drives him headlong into the violence of Frank’s dark world. The film also tells us that the knowledge comes at a price. Although Jeffery knows who and what Frank is, he will be unable to return to his own state of virginal innocence that drew him into Dorothy’s apartment. Sandy cannot figure out if he is a detective or a pervert. Dorothy sums of the problem of knowing evil late in the film, “He put his disease into me.” So, why did Frank do it? Because he enjoyed it; he got off on it; for this psychotic bastard, violence was his “Baby-wants-to-fuck” jouissance!
FADE TO BREAKING NEWS AND SOCIAL NETWORKS: the horror
So you get up this morning and decide that you need to kill mom and pop, put on all your tactical gear, then go and attack unarmed kindergartners, and their teachers with your M4 and Glock. I just don’t get it. WTF is goin on?
There is no going back to Blue Velvet: My condolences to those in Connecticut: I fear we are a long way from seeing the robins come back.
Cross-posted at My Ongoing Struggle with Misanthropy: http://jimmygabacho.com/?p=957
Really interesting perspective, Jimmy. Terrible terrible story.