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Thursday, November 16, 2017

GHOST: ménage à trois





In the infamous "GHOST" pottery scene, Demi Moore’s character, Molly, and Patrick Swayze’s character, Sam, have a seductive moment while both shaping a phallic mold of clay on the pottery wheel. The “other” in this instance is the phallus on the wheel, which they both grasp. And it is the most seductive source of the scene, not the later images where they fumble through clothes groping each other as The Righteous Brothers croon in the background. It is the initial moment when their hands, wet and covered in clay reach out to grasp and hold the phallus, to stroke and mold around the head of it: That leaves the impression.

The subtext of the cuckolding of Sam is woven throughout the film. Or the reality of the triangulation of desire, that the ultimate state of seduction is not on the body but is on the mind’s knowledge that desire is being witnessed.



In an incredible beyond the dead cuckold scene, the ghost of Sam witnesses his former friend now murderer, try to seduce his fiancé. Carl makes a move spilling coffee on his shirt in order to remove it so that he can display his masculine chest, a nod back to the opening scene in the film where two shirtless men, Carl and Sam, flank a diminutive overall wearing Demi Moore as they sledge hammer a wall down. Three bodies, some partially clothed, covered in sweat and grime wielding heavy tools as they demolish a wall. The question of desire here is whom does Carl actually desire? Does he desire to possess Molly or to possess Sam whose life he will take or both? Is Carl metaphorically the phallic mold on the pottery wheel that if Sam and Molly could have reached out to grasp would have changed the arc of the story? Did Sam and Molly take Carl to bed after this initial renovation scene and we missed it? Is it the missing link as to why Sam’s best friend seemingly went off the rails, murdered Sam for a measly 80K and then preceded to follow it up by attempting to murder two women.  Or is it because they couldn’t take him to bed, they couldn’t enact the unspoken desire created by their triangle because their heteronormative coupling outline did not allow it.  Or are we to believe Carl is just evil and this is just the evil men do?

Sam ends the cuckold scene where he is silent witness to Carl’s seduction of Molly by knocking over a picture, essentially finding his ability to enact his will upon the scene even without his corporeal body to stand in place. This is pivotal because the other underlying desire in GHOST is belief.

Does desire occur in the body or the mind? Does love lie in language, actions or in our will to believe in it?


Parameters of desire: Demi Moore’s body versus Whoopi Goldberg’s body

what is the fluidity involved in the traditional ghost story as transitional from here to there, alive to dead, between worlds… corporeal or spirit.

The most complicated threesome in the movie is enacted on the women's bodies. 

Of course it is.... the most complicated threesomes in every movie are enacted on women's bodies. 


Whoopi Goldberg's character, Oda Mae Brown, agrees to allow Sam to inhabit her body in order to have a physical form to touch Molly.  The complications of a white man inhabiting an African American woman's body in order to enact desire on a white woman's body is such a nesting doll of political and ethical difficulties that I would have to dedicate another blog post just to this one scene. 

The way that this scene is filmed speaks to how difficult the subject matter is: Once Sam inhabits Oda Mae's body, we never see her body touching Molly's. We instead enter a fantasy where we bear witness to Sam, now incorporeal again, having a tender scene with his wife. This heteronormative fantasy is so powerful, we literally suspend the reality of what is happening. 

Think about that for a minute: We forget what is happening when we are presented with a powerful hegemonic fantasy. 

This how culture works.  Thankfully, Goldberg won an Oscar for this role, because the amount of emotional labor she probably had to do to perform this scene is beyond language. The suppression of self to be more palatable is never not vicious.

“And I won an Oscar because of Patrick Swayze,” Goldberg said. In her 1991 Oscar speech, she thanked Swayze, calling him “a stand-up guy.”

The first time I touched a penis I cried. Surely, this scene holds some meaning.

"Mimetic Desire" as Rene Girard explains it is the desire for objects or people influenced by others. So our desire then is not our own, but influenced by the other's desire. We enact and are subjected to mimetic desire every day endlessly. It is the basis of all advertising and marketing, but how does it then slip into the language of love? 

Online dating is the epitome of mimetic desire in the domain of romantic desire. An endless scrolling of available choices dilutes the possibility of specialized desire to nothing. When confronted with endless possibility, we believe the fantasy. We forget the reality in order to believe the slip of the camera, which shows us we have choices and options; we are indeed in control of our relations with others. The opposite of freedom is actually the possibility of infinite choices that don't feed us, but in fact deplete us. See Capitalism. See Consumerism. See what we have done to the place we call home in the name of being an "urbanized" society. 

How do we confront risk when faced with it all? And/ or if we do dissolve the notion of specialized love are we as a species actually ready for the idea of unconditional love. 

I'm fascinated by the changes in the conversation from when I began dating as a teen in the early 90s to today with options in contrast to monogamy that exist now. But what I find is the conversations and ideas around open/ poly/ ethical nonmonogamy are leading before the practice. And perhaps this is how it must go. Perhaps the idea must be taken into the community, disseminated and then practiced before the actual concept can take root. 

Most people I've met who either successfully or unsuccessfully practice any of the above rules of relationship parameters seem to still operate in the sphere of specialized love and the sphere of specialized love requires hierarchy, and hierarchy then leads to power struggles. 

Srećko Horvat in his book: The Radicality of Love states: 

This is the meaning of "falling in love." We take the risk, whatever the consequences might be. Even if we are aware that this fatal encounter will change the very coordinates of our daily lives, we insist on it precisely because of that. What else is there to be done?

What can be done?
What can be done?

Perhaps we could remember we were a species who did not always fall for the trap of specialized love, perhaps we can remember as a species that control of people begins in the roots of how we are taught to love and how we receive love. And that no equality or freedom exists when we love one above another. 

Perhaps...


 


The Righteous Brothers’s 1965 cover of “Unchained Melody”
Oh, my love
My darling
I've hungered for your touch
A long, lonely time

And time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much
Are you still mine?

I need your love
I need your love
God speed your love to me

Lonely rivers flow to the sea, to the sea
To the open arms of the sea
Yes, lonely rivers sigh, "Wait for me, wait for me
I'll be coming home, wait for me"

Oh, my love
My darling
I've hungered, hungered for your touch
A long, lonely time

And time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much
Are you still mine?

I need your love
I need your love
God speed your love to me