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Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

Hybristophilia // Bonnie & Clyde Syndrome

In Cinema, History, Psychology on February 10, 2010 at 8:10 am

they told me that

when they got ready,

they were going to

tie us up to a tree



::SOPHIA STONE (1933 Kidnap victim of Bonnie & Clyde)::

Jennifer Tilly, in the horror-comedy flick Bride of Chucky, hires a man to bring her the remains of her dead lover. She uses black magic to resurrect the psychoslayer, because she’s been unable to find another guy who can satisfy her freaky needs like he once did. Once reawakened, Chucky’s still an asshole, slapping her and chiding her for wanting to be his bride, but the fire between them still burns like hell.  The murder and mayhem begin anew, the gore starts oozing, the bodies fall. She purrs to him, “You always did know how to show a girl a good time.”

The demented dyad from Bride of Chucky are reminiscent of Depression Era media darlings Bonnie and Clyde.  There is something altogether attractive about the fated lovers.  Are Bonnie and Clyde just Romeo and Juliet in a getaway car?  What makes them such provocative icons?  So unabashedly erotic, wild, and popular?  Instantly intimate.  Infinitely imitable.  They are prime slices of American celebrity.  Their story is lacquered with mythos.  Time has not dulled its impact, its force, and its sense of winking nihilism.  And as Valentine’s Day draws nigh, we can still feel the psychological sweat stains they left on our culture… lingering impressions like the after-images that appear after vigorously rubbing your eyes with your fist. As one witness to the couple’s death says, “I guess I will never forget the sight of that car. It looked like where hogs had been slaughtered.”

Bonnie and Clyde Syndrome,” or, more accurately, Hybristophilia (from the Greek root Hybridzein: to commit an outrageous offense) is defined by sexologist Dr. John Money as “being sexuoerotically turned on only by a partner who has a predatory history of outrages perpetrated on others.”   It may result in an irresistible compulsion to seek out and partner with heinous sexual sadists in crimes against others.  There is no profile of hybristophiliacs that covers them all except this: They have an overwhelming lust for outrageous violence.

Young lovers Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate epitomized the teen couple on a killing spree—their true story provided the foundation for movies like Badlands, Natural Born Killers and Wild at Heart. In 1958, 14 year old Fugate’s family forbade her to marry 19 year old Starkweather, a bowlegged, ne’er-do-well punk with a history of violent assault. So her mother, stepfather and infant sister were all summarily murdered as the couple kicked off an infamous eight-day killing spree.

Though Caril Ann aided and abetted Starkweather, collecting newspaper clippings of their adventures as they ran from police and racked up bodies, she later claimed to have been forced against her will to stay with him. She witnessed her family’s death, then stayed in the house with Starkweather for five days afterwards, screwing and playing house while keeping relatives at bay. She guarded some of their captives while he napped, and she held a loaded gun on others, but she swore that she was a hostage and not an accomplice. The courts didn’t buy it, sentencing her to a hefty term behind bars, and even Starkweather, on his way to the electric chair, testified to her powers. Caril was “something worth killing for,” he said before his death. “She put the spark and thrill into the killing.”

There in lies the magic.  The eroticism inherent in exploring the horrors of our anarchic impulses.  We are all innately perverse, capable of enormous cruelty and paradoxically, our talent for the perverse, the violent, the alien, the obscene, may be a good thing.  This is the nekyia or the archetypal descent into the enigmatic land of the dead, the realm of the unconscious.  We have to go through this phase in order to reach something on the other side; it’s a mistake to hold back and refuse to accept one’s nature.  “One has to,” as Joseph Conrad said, “immerse oneself in the most destructive element, and swim.”

University of Georgia literature professor Joel Black stated that “(if) any human act evokes the aesthetic experience of the sublime, certainly it is the act of murder.” Black goes on to note that “…if murder can be experienced aesthetically, the murderer can in turn be regarded as a kind of artist — a performance artist or anti-artist whose specialty is not creation but destruction.”  André Breton’s 1929 Second Manifesto on surrealist art stated that “L’acte surréaliste le plus simple consiste, revolvers aux poings, à descendre dans la rue et à tirer au hasard, tant qu’on peut, dans la foule” [The simplest Surrealist act consists of running down into the street, pistols in hand, and firing blindly, as fast as you can pull the trigger, into the crowd].”  It is no wonder that these vigilante lovers have been thoroughly embraced in cinema.

Wild at Heart, Bonnie and Clyde, Badlands, True RomanceNatural Born Killers.  Each of these films follows the crime spree of a pair of lovers for whom sex and violence become entangled in an imaginary world of white trash aesthetics and 50s pop culture references.  There are many parallel themes and imagery. Tony Scott intentionally pays homage to many road movies and couple-on-the-run classics that formed the implicit basis of the screenplay. Setting the tone is the film’s opening that re-uses the signature music from Badlands, while Patricia Arquette’s lazy voice-over nearly draws the scene into the realm of parody.

Style is synonymous with identity for these characters.  Note that both Sailor and Clarence are obsessed with Elvis Presley to the point that they imitate the King’s mannerisms almost reflexively.  Sailor is practically glued to the inside of his jacket, “a symbol of my individuality, and my belief… in personal freedom.”  And it is impossible to forget that critical getaway scene in Badlands where Kit fixes his hair in the mirror.  The sleazy white-trash style and bleach-blonde hair of Mallory, Lula, Alabama are almost identical.  The protagonists in these films are outsiders, usually poor, and with very distinct almost neurotic behaviors, and they all hold an insurmountable love for rock-n-roll and American iconography – a theme that Tarantino and Lynch constantly revisit in their movies.  The protagonists of these films were never properly introduced to the world we live in.   They are from strange and idyllic parallel dimensions; the characters live in an animated state of constant kitsch.  In an interview, Terence Malick explains how the psychic milieu of Badlands transcends its chronology:

I tried to keep the 1950s to a bare minimum. Nostalgia is a powerful feeling; it can drown out anything. I wanted the picture to set up like a fairy tale, outside time, like Treasure Island. I hoped this would, among other things, take a little of the sharpness out of the violence but still keep its dreamy quality. Children’s books are full of violence. Long John Silver slits the throats of the faithful crew. Kit and Holly even think of themselves as living in a fairy tale. Holly says, “Sometimes I wished I could fall asleep and be taken off to some magical land, but this never happened.” But she enough believes there is such a place that she must confess to you she never got there.

This gets at the crux of what we desire in outlaw couples: to be in a constant state of abandonment.  To be out on the lam, letting your primal urges take control, being constantly reborn.  A baptism of blood that wipes the slate clean.  Adam and Eve in the Garden but with the dramatic satisfaction of a whirlwind romance.  The Garden is a getaway car (or an RV).  A state of flux that implies release from the prisons of domestic responsibility.  The Bonnie and Clyde archetype delves deep into the psyche fusing Pagan eroticism of antiquity with an Abrahamic creation mythos.  “I see angels, Mickey. They’re comin’ down for us from heaven. And I see you ridin’ a big red horse, and you’re driving them horses, whippin’ ’em, and the’re spitting and frothing all ‘long the mouth, and the’re coming right at us. And I see the future, and there’s no death, ’cause you and I, we’re angels…”  Indeed.  Mickey and Mallory confer a perpetual of divine opposites  akin to that of Shiva and Kali.  Their dance is the dance of creation, the dance of destruction, the dance of solace and liberation. Beneath their foot ignorance is crushed; from their heads springs the life-giving waters.  The rhythm they dance to is that of a world perpetually forming, dissolving and re-forming.

Hence the snake imagery in Natural Born Killers and Sailor’s Snakeskin jacket.  Shiva too, was laced with snake imagery.  Snakes are symbols of cosmic rebirth and fertility. This trait is connected with the practice of snakes of shedding their old skin and growing a new one. The snake’s venom has the power to either heal, poison or provide expanded consciousness and even immortality through divine intoxication.  It is an animal with chthonic properties connected to the afterlife.  Bonnie and Clyde represent the archetypal twin cosmic serpents in permanent embrace, providing a ladder to the unconscious.

I had a hard time with the scene where Clarence tells me he’s killed Drexl and I say, “What you did was so romantic.” I couldn’t jump to that reaction. My acting coach and I came up with the idea that here’s a man I barely know, who killed someone and is eating a burger. He could kill me next. As a female, the way to stay safe is to be in a love bubble. But part of her does think it’s romantic, like, kill all the mistakes I ever made.

::Patricia Arquette::

I just fell in love with these two characters and didn’t want to see them die.  I wanted them together.

::Tony Scott::

It is much better that they were both killed, rather then to have been taken alive.

::Blanche Barrow::

I’m glad Bonnie and Clyde went out like they did because it’s better then getting caught.

::Roy Thornton (Bonnie’s husband)::

Bonnie Parker: You know what, when we started out, I thought we was really goin’ somewhere. This is it. We’re just goin’, huh?
Clyde Barrow: I love you.

::Dialogue from Bonnie and Clyde::

Black Melancholia // Saturn

In Alchemy, Art, History, Image, Myth, Pharmacopeia, Psychology on December 9, 2009 at 9:55 am

Certain poisons worked by an occult and specifick property and have their essence from the stars and celestial influence which is apt to destroy the strength of man’s body, because being taken but even in a small quantity, yet are so precious a quality that they kill almost in a moment.

::Ambroise Paré::

Ambroise Paré was a French surgeon renowned for his ingenious experiments.  He once used a solution of egg yolk, oil of roses, and turpentine for war wounds instead of boiling oil and cauterization.  In 1565, Ambroise Paré described an experiment to test the properties of the Bezoar Stone.  At the time, the Bezoar stone was commonly believed to be able to cure the effects of any poison, but Paré believed this to be impossible. It happened that a cook at Paré’s court was caught stealing fine silver cutlery, and was condemned to be hanged. The cook agreed to be poisoned, on the conditions that he would be given some bezoar straight after the poison and go free in case he survived. The stone did not cure him, and he died in agony seven hours after being poisoned. Thus Paré had proved that the Bezoar Stone could not cure all poisons.

Albrecht Dürer, Melancholia I

The Mütter Museum has an interesting exhibit up about Lead.  The quote above was a reference to the physical dangers of that element. In alchemy, the planet / diety associated with lead was Saturn/Cronus.  A Saturnine disposition has been a common ailment of artists and philosophers since the beginning of time and is better known by its  synonym:  Melancholia.  The name “melancholia” comes from the old medical theory of the four humours: disease or ailment being caused by an imbalance in one or other of the four basic bodily fluids, or humours.  Personality types were similarly determined by the dominant humour in a particular person. Melancholia was caused by an excess of black bile; hence the name, which means ‘black bile’ (Ancient Greek μέλας, melas, “black”, + χολή, kholé, “bile”); a person whose constitution tended to have a preponderance of black bile had a melancholic disposition. The other humors are yellow bile, blood, and phlegm.

In 1921 Swedish physician Fahråeus suggested that the four humours were based upon the observation of blood clotting in a transparent container. When blood is drawn in a glass container and left undisturbed for about an hour, four different layers can be seen. A dark clot forms at the bottom (the “black bile”). Above the clot is a layer of red blood cells (the “blood”).  Above this is a whitish layer of white blood cells (the “phlegm”, now called the buffy coat). The top layer is clear yellow serum (the “yellow bile”).

The print-maker and theorist Albrecht Dürer ties all this together with his masterpiece “Melancolia 1.”

The alchemist’s lot was such that he was often depicted as a melancholy and frustrated being, as, for example, by Chaucer, Weiditz, Brueghel, and Teniers. In a wider sense, melancholy was held to be an attribute of students or seekers after knowledge. The doctrine of melancholy, moreover, is inseparable from the Saturnine mysticism that permeates alchemy. One of the elements of Saturnine mysticism is measurement, typified by the compasses, balance, and hour-glass.

The polyhedron lying beside the foot of the ladder (representing the base metal, lead) may be an image of the Philosopher’s Stone, or more immediately, of the so-called ” Stone of Saturn,” which Saturn (or Kronos), “swallowed and spewed up instead of Jupiter.” Saturn, who is often represented in alchemy as an old man with an hour-glass upon his head, was addicted to swallowing his own children; for this reason, infants, usually shown at play, enter into the Saturnine elements of alchemy.

::John Read::

Francisco Goya, Saturn Devouring His Children

Cronus envied the power of his father, the ruler of the universe, Uranus.   Gaia created a great adamant sickle and gathered together Cronus and his brothers to persuade them to castrate Uranus. Only Cronus was willing to do the deed, so Gaia gave him the sickle and placed him in ambush. When Uranus met with Gaia, Cronus attacked him with the sickle by cutting off his genitals, castrating him and casting the severed member into the sea. From the blood and semen that spilled out from Uranus and fell upon the earth, the Gigantes, Erinyes, and Meliae were produced. From the member that was cast into the sea, Venus later emerged. For this, Uranus threatened vengeance.  After dispatching Uranus, Cronus re-imprisoned the Hecatonchires, the Gigantes, and the Cyclopes and set the dragon Campe to guard them. He and his sister Rhea took the throne of the world as king and queen. This period of Cronus’ rule was called the Golden Age, as the people of the time had no need for laws or rules; everyone did the right thing, and immorality was absent.

Cronus learned from Gaia and Uranus that he was destined to be overcome by his own son, just as he had overthrown his father. As a result, although he sired the gods Demeter, Hera, Hades, Hestia, and Poseidon by Rhea, he devoured them all as soon as they were born to preempt the prophecy. When the sixth child, Zeus, was born Rhea sought Gaia to devise a plan to save them and to eventually get retribution on Cronus for his acts against his father and children. Rhea secretly gave birth to Zeus in Crete, and handed Cronus a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes, also known as the Omphalos Stone, which he promptly devoured, thinking that it was his son.  Once he had grown up, Zeus used a poison given to him by Gaia to force Cronus to disgorge the contents of his stomach in reverse order.

Cronus spent the last of his life as a prisoner of Tartarus, a dark, gloomy place that can be described as a pit of blackness.  Feelings of shame, fear, guilt and humiliation shackle us and keep us confined to the pit of darkness. Its mutations have become so ramified with time, so contradictory that soon one could no longer say just what melancholy was in the first place. Yet we all have a feeling for what it is being referred to, a sort of enormous black abyss which contaminates and sucks up everything in its vicinity.  Having recognised, for example, a sickle, a scythe, a broom, an oar, ankle shackles a crutch, or even an old man preparing to devour a child, the viewer would immediately recognize Saturn, who, in turn, he would automatically associate with melancholy.  If a picture contained devices alluding to geometry or mathematics, these too led back to the same theme, since in the Middle Ages, mathematicians and geometricians were regarded as melancholic. “The mathematician is a mirthless fellow,” wrote Martin Luther, and equipment related to that science is also visible in Dürer’s engraving.  Conspicuously present in the background of Dürer’s engraving is an enigmatic, eight-sided, and up to the present inscrutable polyhedron, one whose very inscrutability makes it mysterious, even uncanny. This polyhedron not only alludes to melancholy, it also radiates it, so to speak. It is no riddle, but rather a mystery. Nonetheless, by virtue of this polyhedron, Dürer’s image could be referred to as melancholic.  In place of transmissibility, the inexpressible aspect of melancholy moves to the foreground. In place of the concrete, the abstract.  Melancholy is the dark unknowable.

The Goya painting is also of note.  It is one of the series of Black Paintings that Goya painted directly onto the walls of his house sometime between 1819 and 1823.  Goya produced a series of 14 works, which he painted with oils directly onto the walls of the house. At the age of 73, and having survived two life-threatening illnesses, Goya was likely to have been concerned with his own mortality, and was increasingly embittered by the civil strife occurring in Spain.

Blackness, in alchemy means putrefaction or decomposition. The alchemists believed that as a first step in the pathway to the philosopher’s stone all alchemical ingredients had to be cleansed and cooked extensively to a uniform black matter. In depth psychology, Carl Jung interpreted alchemical blackness as a moment of maximum despair, that is a prerequisite to personal development.  James Hillman writes, “The rotting and blackening process of alchemy, dreadful wounds and suppurating sores, the ritual butchery of animals or their contagion and poisoning, and other such shocking imagery point to where something material is losing its substance and thrust, where a physical impulse or animal drive is descending toward the underworld.”

Every night and every morn

Some to misery are born.

Every morn and every night

Some are born to sweet delight.

Some are born to sweet delight,

Some are born to endless night.

::William Blake, Auguries of Innocence ::

Dream #1

In Animals, Dreams, Magic, Psychology on November 12, 2009 at 11:45 pm

I have been having a series of vivid dreams.  I have tried to keep a dream journal in the past, but to no avail.  Jungian Psychology places a strong emphasis on dream analysis.  Hopefully, this process will prove therapeutic and, of course, entertaining.  Public feedback is also an important part of the process so please feel free to chime in with your thoughts.  So, let’s lay the corpse on the table and start dissecting…

Last night I had a dream about a Whale-man.  I often have dreams concerning whales.  I distinctly remember one such dream several years ago wherein I was a whale floating through outer space.   Groovy, right?  Well, this dream was pretty “far out” too, but it carried with it a more sinister tone.  I dreamt of an immense palace with a large, open ballroom.  There were ornate balconies lining the walls in a saccharin Rococo style reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast.   I was sitting alone on the marble and I was a child.

All of the sudden, the oak doors creaked open and the Whale-man entered the great room, his wet footsteps echoing all around me.  He was dressed as a Count, but had the head of a sperm whale.  I found this picture online, the tone and expression is all wrong but the general idea is correct.  I remember his head being enormous, like the actual head of a whale, though his torso may only have been 7 feet tall.  I think his skin was orange, too.  It was definitely a bright color.  He had a mouth like the picture, but I don’t remember him using it to speak.  I believe he was telepathic.  He was wise beyond his whale-years, I could tell you that.  He was monstrous and it frightened me, but I felt drawn to him and his presence was familiar.  He came up to me and touched me with his hand on the small of my back, as if we were about to dance.  But instead of dancing, we floated up into the air, levitated, if you will.  I knew right then that he was MAGIC.  I felt terribly insecure but he calmed me with a kiss, which I found erotic.  I became embarrassed and paranoid that the Servant would find us.  Servant may not be the right word.  There was a man on the balcony looking for me (his job was to look after me), and he seemed to be like a nurse-maid or pseudo-parental figure… like Zazu from the Lion King ( are you counting the number of Disney references?).

The Whale-man took me straight out of the palace and across the dark ocean.  At this point he morphed into a Seaplane.  We flew close to the skin of the sea and I watched as other whales were following us.  They popped in and out of the sea like wooden puppets.  It was night.  I was worried, but the Whale-man seem to say, “Don’t worry.  I am taking you away.  We are running away together.  Trust me.”

After a long journey we made it to his Castle.  He seemed to say: “Have a look around, my boy;” and so I did.  It was really neat, his Castle that is.  Very dark, lit by candelabra, Gothic.  “Nice place, you got here, Whale-man,” I said.  But he had transformed again.  This time he was dressed back as the Count and was a VERY old  man with a thick mustache.

But I couldn’t focus on this new manifestation; I was too transfixed on the knife he held behind his back with pale, thin hands.  I could see it as he crept toward me because I was viewing things in the third person.  He lunged forward and cut me, I don’t remember where, but it was deep.  For some reason he couldn’t kill me, because I knew who he was now: he was Dracula.  He seemed disappointed.  So he swooped me up into his arms and returned me to the Palace.

I found my father in the Hall of Elders and told him I was raped by Dracula/Whale-Man.  He said the same thing happened to him when he was my age and to his father before him.  I thought it strange that Ole’ Drake had been lurking around my family lineage initiating every male child into some sort of divine molestation for all eternity.  And with that thought, I woke up.

Phineas Gage and Phileas Fogg

In History, Literature, Psychology on November 11, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Jules-Verne-TextLately, I’ve been on a bit of a Jules Verne kick.  In particular, I have become fixated on the protagonist from Around the World in Eighty Days:  Phileas Fogg.

Phileas Fogg can be described as being an arcane, stolid, reserved, wanderlustuous, expeditious, untoady, indomitable, burnished, hyperopic, magnanimous, well-mannered, benignant, abstinent, daedal gentleman.  The story itself is quite fun, but what I found to be truly fascinating was the closely linked Philip Farmer meta-fiction: The Other Log of Phileas Fogg:

In an introduction, Farmer posits that Verne’s story was not simply an article of fiction, but the chronology of actual events, which Verne later decided to adapt into a fictional setting. In the book’s epilogue, Farmer playfully alludes to the notion that Phileas Fogg is still alive, and may in fact be the actual author of the story (Farmer notes that they both share the same initials, suggesting that Phillip Farmer is actually an alias for Phileas Fogg).

From Farmer’s perspective, Jules Verne revealed only a small and significantly subdued portion of the actual background and exploits of Phileas Fogg. He establishes that the events surrounding Around the World in Eighty Days is actually a singular aspect of a greater conflict taking place between two immortal alien races, the Eridani and the Capellas. Farmer’s story does not challenge any of the elements of the original text, but rather it adds an ambitious secondary tale taking place behind (and often in between) the scenes of Verne’s material.

Instead of a wealthy dilettante with a taste for odd wagers, Phileas Fogg is an agent of an alien race who have been conducting a secret war on earth for years. His race around the world is part of this arcane war generally designed to help ferret out Fogg’s nemesis: Captain Nemo.  The whole thing is reminiscent of a David Icke speech and has clearly been the inspiration behind League of Extraordinary Gentleman and similar fan fiction.

For those unaware of Farmer’s fiction, it may be interesting to note that he was behind the infamous “Kilgore Trout” pulp:  Venus on the Half-Shell. Evidently the Venutian language is a great source of anagrams for naughty bits (Tunc and Angavi come to mind). The story is of the life and travels of our hero, Simon Wagstaff, the Space Wanderer. He goes around in a giant flying dildo picking up androids and becoming immortal.  Good stuff.

Invariably, typos in my quest led me to the likes of Phineas P. Gage.

On September 13, 1848, 25-year-old Gage was foreman of a work gang blasting rock while preparing the roadbed for the Rutland & Burlington Railroad outside the town of Cavendish, Vermont. After a hole was “drilled” into a body of rock (via a laborious process which today might best be thought of as “chiseling”) one of Gage’s duties was to add blasting powder, a fuse, and sand, then compact (“tamp down”) the charge using a large iron rod. Possibly because the sand was omitted, around 4:30 PM:  the powder exploded, carrying an instrument through his head an inch and a fourth in [diameter], and three feet and [seven] inches in length, which he was using at the time. The iron entered on the side of his face, shattering the upper jaw, and passing back of the left eye, and out at the top of the head.

Amazingly, Gage spoke within a few minutes, walked with little or no assistance, and sat upright in a cart for the 3/4-mile ride to his lodgings in town. The first physician to arrive was Dr. Edward H. Williams:

I first noticed the wound upon the head before I alighted from my carriage, the pulsations of the brain being very distinct. Mr. Gage, during the time I was examining this wound, was relating the manner in which he was injured to the bystanders. I did not believe Mr. Gage’s statement at that time, but thought he was deceived. Mr. Gage persisted in saying that the bar went through his head….Mr. G. got up and vomited; the effort of vomiting pressed out about half a teacupful of the brain, which fell upon the floor.

This has become a case study for Psychology students as the damage to only the frontal lobe allowed Gage to function normally for the rest of his life.  Apparently, his behavior and personality was strikingly different after the accident.  Causing him to swear in public and become irritable in private.  Most close friends reported he was “no longer the Gage I knew.”  Eventually, he moved down to South America and became a carriage-driver in Chile.