Gyms and Jams

I’ve been going to my new 80s gym every day and it’s great. I just really get into the scene there; the other day I watched an entire episode of Judge Judy whilst on the elliptical. I haven’t seen Judge Judy since college. She’s so mean!! Her celebrity is based solely on how much we, as a people, love authoritarianism. It’s so crazy how the whole point of that show is watching someone dominate and abuse people who have no recourse against her. The way she wears people down until they just stand there nervously saying “yes ma’am” as politely as they can. How does that become your life, as a judge, I wonder? She must be an awful human being–I read on Wikipedia that she made her name as the “toughest” family court judge on the circuit. Imagine what that means. She’s taken so many poor people’s kids away from them and called them idiots to their faces. Imagine having your kids taken away by this mean woman and then seeing her on her celebrated TV show each day. Lord. TALKIN’ JUDGE JUDY. My friend told me Judge Judy’s daughter lives in my town. I also recently learned that Matthew Fox lives here. Also Lou Barlow and Jay Mascis. Really interesting celebo mix we’ve got going!

Anyway I still love my gym. I have been going every single day, taking aerobics classes but also just doin’ the old elliptical. I haven’t exercised every day since high school and it feels great. Can this be my new life??? Will I ever learn the Zumba moves? Some say maybe, others aren’t so sure. The other day at Zumba it was just me and one other old lady. The instructor just goes THIS IS WEIRD! Then put on the music and taught class totally as normal. I respected her for it. I realized that day that where her moves are sexy and kind of hip hop themed, my attempts to imitate them end up being basically ska. I am not proud of this.

I took a really hard aerobics class yesterday, from a maniac who is kind of my old age icon, all ropy muscles and wild yelling. She knows everyone by name–the class was packed–and she incorporates humorous ribbing into her shouted instructions. “Okay eight more to go, you can do it! Ha ha look at Carol! Carol hates it, oh my god!” At one point she asked rhetorically “did you guys like that pec series we just did? IT CAME TO ME IN A DREAM!!!” As we were doing our ab work one lady asked “are we allowed to swear” and the instructor said “yes, you can swear” and the lady yelled “son of BISCUIT!”

Working on my syllabi, reading grad theses, messing around with this thing I’m supposed to be writing. Planning these syllabi is always such a slog. It’s so hard to envision the arc of the semester. What should come first? I get bogged down in side issues, finding readings about them, etc., then realizing wait this isn’t what this class is supposed to be about. But to learn anything about this issue, you have to learn this history and that history and this idea and that idea…and before you know it you’ve planned an entire class on “The Symphony” and forgotten to put any readings about the symphony in it.

If you are wondering whether I am still haunted by “Hereditary” the answer is yes. I am still unable to get up in the night and go to the bathroom without risking a heart attack. Last night my friend Sarah and I went to a movie because our respective life partners were watching THE PURGE at our house and we hate those movies. The movie we went to see instead was UNFRIENDED: THE DARK WEB, which was very stupid but I did enjoy how the whole thing takes place on a single computer screen. Our modern world! Anyway my point is on the drive home instead of talking about the movie I just told her the entire plot of Hereditary in great detail while she said NO over and over again. I can’t stop thinking about it.

In other movie news, recently on Mubi they put up a bunch of Ealing comedies, which are these charming British comedies from the 40s. They are all incredibly zany. The first one we watched was called WHISKEY GALORE and it is pretty racist against Scottish people, which sucks coming from the English, but we still enjoyed it. It’s about a tiny Scotch island where the supply of whiskey is cut off by various grand events related to WWII. Nobody on the island gives a shit about the war, it’s all very distant and abstract to them, but the whiskey supply abruptly ceasing sends the town into a spiralling panic. One old man dies of shock in the early scenes establishing the situation. Anyway the whole movie is a bunch of hijinks—a ship carrying a whiskey cargo runs aground on the island but since it’s the Sabbath they aren’t allowed to do any work so they just all sit on the beach staring at the boat for the entire day (joke about catholicism). They finally get the whiskey and spend a lot of time and ingenuity hiding it from the British army guy who’s in charge of the island and who is slowly worn down by their puckishness and refusal to give him straight answers. And once the stolen secret cargo of whiskey is dispersed across the island there is indeed Whiskey Galore! Whiskey in the bread tin, whiskey in the hot water bottle, whiskey hidden behind father’s picture. And everyone is happy and that’s the end of the movie. BUT it was in this movie that we discovered the genius of Joan Greenwood, who I can’t believe I’ve never seen before. WHAT A NATIONAL TREASURE FOR THE WORLD. She’s like a weirder, sleepier Audrey Hepburn. Very funny actor.

Then we watched four more Ealing comedies, three of them starring a young Alec Guinness. Have you ever seen a young Alec Guinness? Do yourself a favor. He is very cute, but also he is a comic actor which I don’t think I realized. There’s one movie where a disinherited nobleman decides to kill the 8 family members who stand between him and his Dukedom, and all 8 family members are played by Alec Guinness. The mean old patriarch, the cute earnest young heir who loves photography, the stern lady suffragette (that one dies when the guy shoots an arrow into the hot air balloon she is using to distribute leaflets triumphantly over London), etc. One of the family members is a doddering old priest who is a fool, and it is 100% proto Obi Wan and so funny to think of Guinness first working out some of those gestures and that diction in the form of this dumb old priest who gives the world’s boringest sermons and only cares about port wine. Anyway that one is called “Kind Hearts and Coronets,” it’s a brutal satire of the class system and social striving, and it’s also got Joan Greenwood. WORD TO THE WISE

I also recommend “The Lavender Hill Mob” very strongly, in re: Ealing comedies starring a young Alec Guinness. It is EXTREMELY zany; there’s a delightful sequence where Guinness and his friend/co-conspirator run all the way down the Eiffel Tower stairs holding suitcases and laughing wildly (they’re chasing a busload of English school girls who have accidentally bought model Eiffel Towers that Guinness and his friend have smuggled gold out of England in. It’s a long story)

That’s all I’ve got, in terms of Young Alec Guinness news and suggestions

I guess that’s all I’ve got in general. I’m making ravioli tonight. My friend gave me a seedling and told me he didn’t know what it was but that he thought it was some sort of berry; when it ripened I posted a picture of it on instagram and everyone told me it’s a DEADLY BLACK NIGHTSHADE. Why/where did my friend get hold of a deadly nightshade seedling?? What kind of nursery is selling them? Anyway now I have a five foot tall nightshade plant in my yard, which I think makes me a goth.


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6 Responses to Gyms and Jams

  1. Yelena says:

    Spoiler alert to those who have not seen Hereditary. The previous post convinced me to go out and see it immediately and I just can’t get out of my head the idea that —-lots of spoilers ahead—-this is a movie about a mother’s fear of not properly bonding with her child(ren), and in particular, having a disabled child with whom she cannot connect, despite the fact that they are in some key ways totally the same character (obsessive artist). I was really bothered by the way the daughter’s exaggerated physicality, i.e. strange mannerisms, infantilized face and seemingly prematurely adult body (highlighted especially by the gross focus on her chewing on that chicolate bar) just really made her a repulsive character whose inscrutability added to her frightening nature. So basically disability > monstrosity > unnatural fear by the mother towards her child. Also, the son was for some reason a lot darker than the parents, and again, the mother just couldn’t quite accept him as her own (even if subconsciously with the fire). Am I totally missing something? Sorry to word-vomit on your comments page, I really would like to know what you think.

  2. Yelena says:

    Also,—more spoilers—forgot to mention the extreme spectacle of the daughter’s decapitation as a wish-fulfillment to get rid of the troublesome disabled child and her repulsive (to the viewer) face stuff (clicking, chewing, wheezing, not speaking).

  3. Yours Truly says:

    Totally!! I love this reading. So much of the horror of the movie ended up being this kind of Freudian motherhood nightmare (prob not literally Freudian; I guess I use that word whenever I mean “creepy unconscious feelings between family members”), which is why I compared it to Babadook…I definitely agree that as the movie unfurls it becomes obvious the mom is massively struggling with her own hatred of her children (the dream where she tells him I DIDNT WANT YOU, or that crazily stressful dinner table scene where it’s so disturbing because you’re like wait, this isn’t how parents are supposed to talk to/about their kids eg!). It’s intense to think of all the Satan stuff being displacement—were you struck, watching it, by the feeling of doubting what was real? Over & over I felt like the movie pushed scenes until you started wondering if actually something else was going on. Eg the scene when she’s begging the husband to burn that book: at first I felt like “oh great she’s figured out how to fix this situation” but the scene of her begging & sobbing & him looking at her with such shock & sorrow went on so long that I started thinking, is this whole thing just in her head? She’s made to seem so unhinged, and there’s the whole subplot about her having mental illness in her past, he’s clearly been her caretaker in this regard…anyway I guess what I’m saying is, I wonder if there’s a way to read all the supernatural stuff as a manifestation of this woman’s profound struggle to not hate her children. In babadook that reading is made more explicit than in Hereditary but still…

    (All this being said, sidenote: I also really like the idea that Charlie was so weird and repulsive because she was actually a devil, confused by his incorrect form. It’s actually very sad and probably another metaphor for something—the way Charlie (aka King Paimon) seemed confused by her own nature, her urges, etc. The idea of SATAN being a confused misfit kid was oddly compelling to me. Him not knowing who he is because he’s in a female body?!! I wonder if there’s a reading about gender/body dysmorphia in there as well. Charlie was such a troubling figure partly because she herself seemed so at odds with herself, so confused by just existing in the world. She didn’t know that her confusion wasn’t her fault, it was because she was Satan. She didn’t know! But that’s sad—and so sad how at the end Joan says “your first incorrect form has been fixed” or whatever. So sad to think of Charlie as simply an incorrect vessel. Which I suppose is how her mother also thought of her…!)

    But yeah, I agree with your reading, and think it’s part of what constructs the low-grade feeling of dread and horror throughout the film—like it’s not just the supernatural stuff that’s scary, it’s also this woman’s incredible psychological strain at her inability to bond with her kids. Motherhood horror—also her horror at the fact that her hatred of her kids means she is just like her own horrible mother, hence the title of the film!

    I don’t know if this is coherent but I love your reading and I’m so glad you watched it! I STILL find myself thinking about it all the time…

  4. Yours Truly says:

    P.S. definitely also very much agree re: disability = monstrousness. For sure the allergy, the clicking, the oddly adult/“weird” face and body I think call up disability and are def part of why the mom (and the audience) find Charlie disturbing. I mean the clicking was also a clever filmmaking choice bc it enables there to be a sound component to the haunting of the brother, but of course it also indicates Charlie has some kind of disorder or issue. And it’s clear that is part of the mom’s disgust and struggle. I think the movie presents that disgust as stemming from the mom’s perhaps unconscious awareness that the grandma has somehow tainted this child (that weird line where she says she kept her son away from the grandma but “let her have” Charlie), but the taint itself is def figured as disability in some senses.


  5. Yelena says:

    Oh wow, I had not given much thought to the supernatural stuff at all and really like your reading of Charlie as a confused devil struggling with dysmorphia. Wow. I have not seen Babadook (yet), but was compelled by the idea of motherhood horror to watch We Need to Talk about Kevin. That one too has the twin theme of horror at a mother possibly hating her child and the unreliability of the filmic reality. In both, my first thought was, is this really happening or is it a distorted perception through the mother’s warped psyche? (In Kevin, that is actually the case, since it’s all retrospective recollections through her guilty conscience.) Kevin also introduces the idea that the mother and evil child are the same or somehow similar, which I thought was a low key subtext in Hereditary (both are obsessive artists). Ultimately, both morhers struggle and are punished for the bad thing inside them, as personified by the evil child. Poor, guilty mothers, your ineffectual husbands will not help you!

  6. alex says:

    It’s not nightshade, it’s definitely grapes!!! Eat them grapes!

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