Friday, May 23, 2008

I couldn't help but wonder... are women just better at losing their minds?

(Did Carrie Bradshaw just write that headline?)

What's with films about insanity and identity dissolution being almost entirely female-centric? I'm talking about those classic, mind-melding films where we see people (usually women) start to break from reality or lose their grip entirely. What's with female madness funneled through male directors funneled through male bloggers?

These wonderfully warped women are nothing if not complex. They're layered women's roles, as in you can't distinguish where one half of their personality begins or ends, or if they might have doppelgangers. They are innocence corrupted. They're also sexpots with one hell of a dark side!

Yet have no fear ladies. Even though all of these films are directed by men, all the male characters are surprisingly unfulfilled, manipulative sex-fiends, or potential rapist/murderers. It's pretty consistent. That and they're at least partially responsible for the female madness. While the women progress from happy to crazy to scary, the men progress from sweet to horny to evil. So maybe it's an even gender keel after all. Maybe it's even a progressive perspective for a male filmmaker; that even when questionably painting women as victims, one also paint the male as culpable? Who really knows, and all we have to rely on to answer that are the wayward perspectives of the lost or utterly insane...

It's probably my favorite genre. Just remember this simple formula: Happy. Crazy. Scary.

Warning: SPOILERS!!

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Directed by David Lynch

The woman: Laura
Traits: Innocent schoolgirl turned incest non-survivor turned coked-out Canadian prostitute.

The men: Leland Palmer, Various Townsfolk
Traits: Some fathers rape and murder their own daughters. (Visit Austria.) Men without daughters simply buy sex with high school girls and tie them up in their remote woodland cabins.

Inland Empire
Directed by David Lynch

The woman: Nikki/Susan
Traits: Starry-eyed actress turned scorned lover turned finger-snapping, white-trash prostitute.

The men: Devon/Billy, Piotrek
Traits: Suave, flirtatious co-stars turn into sadistic liars in front of their wives. Concerned husbands turn into abusive, jealous carnies.

Directed by Roman Polanski

The woman: Carole
Traits: Soft-spoken manicurist turned chaste recluse turned razor-toting rape victim.

The men: Michael, Landlord
Traits: Charming date prospects turn into pushy, unavoidable stalkers, or worse yet, walls that won't stop groping. Reasonable businessmen turn into rapists over late rent.

Directed by Robert Altman

The woman: Cathryn
Traits: Children's author turned triple sexual assault victim turned murderous wife with road rage.

The men: Hugh, Rene, Marcel
Traits: Dull, hobbyist husbands and persistent exes (even the dead ones) turn into philandering louts and walking libidos who force simultaneous shape-shifting sex on their lovers.

Now, in honor of these fascinating women on the edge, an excerpt of Wilson Phillips' "Hold On":

I know that there is pain
But you hold on for one more day and
Break free from the chains
Yeah I know that there is pain
But you hold on for one more day and you
Break free, break from the chains

Some day somebody's gonna make you want to
Turn around and say goodbye
Until then baby are you going to let them
Hold you down and make you cry
Don't you know?
Don't you know things can change
Things'll go your way
If you hold on for one more day yeah
If you hold on

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