There's a war going on right now, and it's not between us and them, or good and evil, it's between the imaginary, the symbolic, and the real. The reason is that the 'real' - the immediate issues of food, shelter, warm clothing, electricity, gasoline -- are suddenly 'not there' for so many of us in the northeastern U.S. There was the big moment here last weekend when for a hot second the world seemed to stop beating, the heart to stop turning, the ears started popping from strange pressures, and all the TV could do was warn us to stay indoors. Then comes the massive clean-up and now we're moving onto elections and marathons and other quintessentially imaginary / symbolic endeavors, but for those who have not yet been able to resume their gentle electric sleep of warmth, food, clothing, shelter, it's damned insulting. This is important to know in understanding why animals and plants exist only in the 'real' and not the imaginary or symbolic. They don't recognize themselves in photographs (though sometimes in mirrors); they seldom speak, except in a grotesque howling or barking, as if to mock us, we who have dared to leave the realm of the real.
In the ghost shows I watch (see my mind-numbing reviews) there's the common belief that any demon would be afraid of crosses, attracted by pentagrams, repulsed by the sting of holy water. But this implies the demon must have been raised in a very orthodox Christian or Catholic school, or else why would it notice or care? I've been obsessed by these symbolic inconsistencies all my life since my favorite movie is Dracula (1933). Why would a vampire be afraid of a cross? Is it just the symbolic reminder, like a text message from mom coming right when you're trying to break your very first law?
Lacan writes of the three basic tenets of experience -- symbolic, real, imaginary -- and I think horror movies get them confused, probably because their writers got too much Christian conditioning growing up, so that crosses and holy objects are themselves seen as threatening: they recall physical pain, knuckles on ruler-style pain, real or imagined, and thus fear, dread of hell, etc., so attacking or defacing the symbols directly becomes a very first chakra kind of rebellion, one mired in an id-less chowder bowl. But it is futile - like defacing a stop sign rather than just not stopping for it.
School of the Holy Beast (1974) is an example of this, a 70s Japanese pinku wherein, amongst other things, a nun is stripped and beaten with thorny roses and then made to urinate on the holy cross. This is actually considered pretty subversive in the context of the film, but really, in the end, it's kind of silly and not very cinematic. A representation of someone desecrating a representation of someone else. I ended up selling my copy on ebay. I was expecting better.
But then again, I went to public school.
Don't Deliver us from Evil (1968) finds two besties performing similar 'atrocities' - such as stealing holy articles from their school's chapel and even tossing out a bunch of sacramental wafers in La Mer. The shizz with the passing swinger/rapists the girls pick up along the way are one thing, that's human life, that's real, but their litanies and rituals with the pilfered holy items are purely symbolic. It's a very odd breech of the walls between the levels of imaginary, symbolic, real, like a picture of a fire (symbolic) burning up, so it's no accident I saw my idol Kim Morgan's picture with her kneeling before a poster for the film and felt compelled to smudge in some flames.
Imagine, for example, if you could see through your own image's eyes, the way characters spy in old dark houses through the eyes of an old portrait. But you could see out of all reproductions, all photos of yourself - so you would look down from gallery walls at the throngs judging you and out of scrapbooks and from atop mantels, and god knows the horrors you would see. You could just leave a picture of yourself on the wall anywhere you wanted to spy.
Similarly, if society falls apart, the US dollar bill will be worth nothing. Gas will be the new gold. We use the gold standard, its universal, so all our paper money is allegedly connected to some store of bullion somewhere in Fort Knox, but there's some conspiracy theories that Fort Knox's biggest secret is its staggering emptiness, which we must keep hidden from the other nations lest they see we're broke. But then again, why waste all that gold? It's just sitting there, locked deep in a vault, no good to no one.
|The shiny base underwriting everything ever created by man|
So prized was Picasso's signature that it is said that when he paid for things by personal check, the odds were that the recipient of the check would save it rather than cash it. Seeing as a simple Picasso autograph can easily fetch $1,000 today, perhaps this wasn't such an irrational decision. (...) The value came not from any intrinsic source -- it's a fraction of a cent's worth of ink on a piece of paper worth scantly more. Anything touched by Picasso becomes in the eyes of many that much more valuable. It was something that he could have used (and perhaps did use) to his advantage. Why not keep paying with checks if people aren't going to cash them. (fool.com)Warhol's $ sign silkscreens (which his assistants made, he only signed them) showed he understood the tragic joke at the core of this symbol blindness - but does the devil? Why would Satan need to disgrace religious symbols if he got this cosmic joke? Would the devil create holy statues just to desecrate them? It's not very rational.
|Top: Warhol silkscreen; Dubuffet Personnages 5 |
both on paper - est. $80-200,000. ea.
Just as when the head vampire is killed and all his victims are freed from his spell, does a vampire's scars from holy water disappear when the priest who blessed it is found in the rectory with a choir boy and a candlestick? What if it's a pedophile priest waving a cross at a very decent sort of vampire, one who only targets deserving mobsters like Anne Parillaud does in INNOCENT BLOOD? Could you scare away a priest by waving a pentagram in his face? I imagine the priest even thinking about some sin he'd like to perform and BooM! all his slain vampires come back to life.
Every kid in the 70s had seen Hammer's Dracula films at least once and we remembered Peter Cushing using two candlesticks to form a cross. It seemed to us a bit like cheating. We'd practice with holding our two fingers together to form crosses, presuming that would work on real vampires the way it did in the movies. We'd make them from popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, anything handy. Is it a matter of calling the vampire's attention to the cross patterns abounding within the field of his vision? Can he weasel out of his adverse reaction by not paying attention to you as you frantically gesticulate towards the cross shapes? Did vampires have to avoid checkered floor tiles? Would the cross have power if Dracula couldn't see it? A gun can shoot through a sack cloth but can a cross repel a vampire through one? Just look at all those crosses in the floor tile behind Christopher Lee in the photo above! How come those don't bother him?
The only answer is that the symbolic is as real as the 'real' and that it is the wellspring from which the daemonic flows. On the surface this wouldn't make sense, but surface is perhaps an illusion more than even the symbolic. A deep, deep down reading leads to a lot of Sesame Street-style fun. Imagine scaring off a vampire with the word 'cross' - One ringy dingy! Two Ringy Dingy!
|Behold the word!|
This would seem to stem a lot from our own beliefs, the power of the human mind. For example, as a child I was terrorized by a monster in my closet until my dad posted a sign on the door saying "no monsters allowed" and they never came back. My dad didn't believe in either the monster or the power of the sign in the sense of their being 'real' but as a pharmaceutical market research analyst he understood the importance of symbolic over the imaginary, like the way paper beats rock.
Ohmigod - Rock Paper Scissors / Imaginary real symbolic: the Rock is the imaginary -- the vampire and the monsters; the paper is the symbolic - the cross, the sign; the real is the scissors - our general well being, the state of our physical place in the universe in any given moment, where the only real concerns are food, shelter, tobacco, warmth, more food, and a decent plumbing. Right now in the northeast we are the vampire undone by the real of the hurricane - we are reduced to pure 'real' - until our electricity is back and our lives restored, we are but symbols, shadows of charity, oblivion, panic attacks - panic attacks. Symbols beat the rock!