Excision (2012), Menstrual Contradictions, and Framing Sexuality

Philosophers have a notoriously horrendous reputation for  tackling the subject of femininity sexuality.  Nietzsche would argue that Philsophers have been terrible seducers and suitors. Lost in their own abstract thought, trying to figure out which chicken came before the ego – the object or the subject – they never pursuit courtship with the same rigor as ontology. Obsessed with the nature of morality, instance and god they lost skills the skills need to seduce the topic of femininity. It was only when the Simone De Beauvoir slapped Second Sex into print that the space was open for the female experience to enter as an object of study for the (male) philosopher. The moment here plays like one of the suspenseful turning point in Rear Window. It was only when Grace Kelly entered into the neighbors home, thereby entering into the fantasy frame, that James Stewart recognized his fiancé as an object worth his interest (Zizek, 1989). Of course, the glaring problem with this is that is based on masculine qualification of the feminine. Functionally, this is identical to slave master’s qualifying a slaves book by writing a preface. So, in order inspect the truth the truth of a feminist message, we need to factor in and dismantle the misogynistic framing of the female experiences.

Excision is a film about the dismantling of the misogynist frame. The film tells the story of the delusional and hideous Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord). Pauline is the eldest daughter of a middle-class family. Her mother (Traci Lords) has a mission to curb Pauline’s boyish mannerism in order to turn her into a proper lady. Pauline highly resistance to her mothers plan and the film funnels around the tension between Pauline and her mother as they fight over the type of femininity that Pauline should embody. The irony here is that Pauline is not easily typified. She defies boyishness and girl-y-ness by rejecting qualities of both and embodying atypical aspects of others.

Pauline is a sexually conscious young adult who goes about finding a suitor by publicly confronting a boy in her school and directly asking him to de-virgin-ize her. Pauline ditches the courtship formalities and reduces the sexual encounter to one of mechanization. The rationale for her desire for sex, as well as any sensual yearning, is entirely absent. Sex is presented like a ritual on the cultural assembly line. On the other side, Pauline shows an obsession with her own menstrual cycle. Blood is an ongoing motif in Excision and is highlighted in both her walking life and dream states.

In the opening scene, we are introduced to the first violently psycho-sexual dreams that pepper Pauline's day. The camera frames two versions of Pauline sitting face to face. The Pauline on the right is coughing up blood and gagging out guttural noises. The Pauline on the left is sexified, and wiggles orgasmically as she looks fascinated on the pained Pauline. The dreams comment on several sets of binaries between; Sex and Death. What is the allegory here?

The paralleling of the two Pauline brings to light the obscene struggle between life and death playing out biologically and socially during puberty. Physically the body rudely announcing that a girl has become a conduit for reproduction. Life and death force their bloody cycle into the girls life. Menstruation marks the moment that introduces desolation to a nutrient rich environment and clears the ground for life. Pauline’s mind shows us the confusion over the borders that separate life and death. Focusing and polarizing sex against death, Pauline's struggle towards an autonomous sense of self is obfuscated by the disrupted border that bleeds death and life into each other. Pauline's struggle to make sense of this functional contradiction highlights the normative dysfunction in the transition from girl to women.

AnnaLynne McCord, who gives life and death to Pauline, has undergone a hardcore de-make over for the role. The transformation is astounding. As I was researching the actress for this post, imdb.com reminded of her role playing the bad-ass bad girl in Transporter 2. The visual and stage presence AnnaLynne brings to the role is carves out a character who has hunch posture, greasy skin, knotty and hair. The mannerisms and body language demonstrate a distinct contrast between Pauline and the other characters in the film. In a sense, the contrast between the character and the actor reproduce the sexual contestation in the film. Pauline dreams of her prettier self. Yet, this pretty self is moving and acting through a landscape of death and blood. The shifting between the hideous and the pretty presents an allegory of the feminine right of passage. The passage is one of collapsing rules, marked in the traumatic destabilization of symbolic meaning. The horror - the menstrual blood, emphasizing the fear of turning into a monster.

Pauline’s mother is the guardian of this transition. Seeking to force Pauline into conformity with rational girlhood demonstrates our inability to relate with atypical gender expression. The mother is suffering. She wants to heal her own wound by her difficult relationship by having a loving relationship with her daughter. But she is unable to relate with Pauline. The mother is a clear articulation of cultural superego that demands conformity, and by fulfilling this function she reinforces a myogenic framing that defies Pauline’s sense of self. The conflict between Pauline and her mother act out the violent contestability that explodes when ideological apparatuses confront one another.

The Sublime Object of Ideology 1989 In-text: (Google Books, 2014) Bibliography: Google Books, (2014). The Sublime Object of Ideology. [online] Available at: http://books.google.com/books?id=EujcNVAlcw4C&pg=PA119&lpg=PA119&dq=rear+window+zizek+fantasy+frame&source=bl&ots=9bOiNoABLn&sig=FHC4ph-MGTSDTbjWjE-LPnabTKU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=vDjZU7DgHsSayATVq4KICQ&ved=0CCAQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=rear window zizek fantasy frame&f=false [Accessed 30 Jul. 2014].


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