I have a confession to make. It’s pretty embarrassing. Some of my more “intellectual” friends may have figured it out already. There’s only so many times you can pretend to get a Wong Kar Wai reference, after all. Alright, I’ll quit filibustering and just say it:
I’m not interested in movies anymore.
I’M NOT INTERESTED IN MOVIES ANYMORE. THE COMEDIES ARE LAZY AND THE “GOOD” DRAMAS ARE PREACHY AND THE FOREIGN MOVIES ARE DEPRESSING AND SO ARE MOST OF THE DOCUMENTARIES. PROBABLY THE LAST “GOOD” MOVIE I SAW WAS FREAKING “SYRIANA” AND THAT WAS LIKE FIFTY YEARS AGO AND I THOUGHT IT WAS “VEGGIE TALES” FOR LIBERALS. I’M NOT A REAL INTELLECTUAL AND I SHOULD BE PURGED IN THE UPCOMING CULTURAL REVOLUTION. I DON’T LIKE NPR EITHER.
Sorry to shout but this is a pretty embarrassing confession. Proof: sometimes I tell people I will go see “good” movies with them and then I say I am too busy to go and then I just watch “Top Chef” or something. I am a liar and it is because I feel guilty for not loving cinema anymore. I look at ads for Aldomovar movies and am haunted by the specters of my film professors but I don’t rent them anyway. I am worried that I might be fatally shallow. The only justification for this that I can figure out is the following:
TV is better than movies. As a medium, it has the potential to tell longer, richer stories about an ever-expanding universe. It has the time to spare for smaller stories and moments; to explore experience on a more intimate level; to lay down theses and build upon them in a way that is impossible within a 180-minute format. Characters become more open-ended; events have time to gain momentum; tiny gestures are invested with greater portent. This is a fancy way of saying that I like to see what happens next, and most movies have no “next”–they’re over when they’re over.
Also, I do think movies have gotten dumber. Most dramas or documentaries are so political, even when they’re not overtly political. I have no objection to works having a political quality; the problem is that I’m not interested in hearing what I already know. Example: I haven’t seen “An Inconvenient Truth.” I don’t feel the need to. The reason why is that I already know the environment is effed and that we have to change the way we consume things. I make an active effort to reduce my carbon footprint, to the point that it sometimes encumbers me. I try to educate people about the environment and the ways that they can reduce their consumerism, to the point that they find me annoying and pedantic. This Sunday, I’m going to blow a bunch of time uglying up my windows in an attempt at weather-proofing in order to reduce our heat expenditures. The point is, I’m exactly the target audience for “An Inconvenient Truth,” which is why I’m exactly the wrong type of person to watch it. I feel like movies like “An Inconvenient Truth” are designed for people who would never, ever go see them. It seems like the producers of these movies think that conspicuous consumers and other jerks are going to find out about them and go see them and then be all “Whoa!!! I never realized that driving an SUV was a bad idea! I’ll never do it again! Racism is bad, you say? I’ll get right on that!” This is not what happens. Instead, smug Baby Boomers (people not incredibly different from the filmmakers and producers of these films) go out and pay good money to have their opinions confirmed. I do not think this is a viable use of time, energy, or cash. So no, I don’t want to go see anything about Rwanda or repressed housewives or dying birds, because I am already a cheerleader for all these individuals, and also I can learn about them by–and stop me if this sounds crazy–READING. Reading journalism, reading a book, reading my RSS feed. I can read ACTUAL FACTS about ACTUAL SITUATIONS done by people who have done some ACTUAL RESEARCH. I don’t need George Clooney to be all, “My God–what about the Africans?” in order to understand that all is not well in Africa. I don’t need Harvey Weinstein to pay for Cate Blanchett to have fake sweat sprayed on her so she can pretend to labor in a gulag or whatever. I like to think I’m smart enough to figure out that GULAGS ARE BAD without the expenditure of MILLIONS OF DOLLARS AND THE USE OF KEY LIGHTS AND BEST BOYS AND CGI, Y’ALL. Plus supporting reading is even more alt than supporting “cinema,” SO THERE.
Anyway, that is why I kind of hate most dramas and documentaries. I also hate horror movies because I think they desensitize people to violence (this is worthy of an essay by itself, because I know there are great reasons to disagree with me, but I spit upon those reasons! I am intellectually irresponsible!) I hate all the comedies that come out because I hate sad ladies and helpless men and don’t care what happens to them; I hope they all go to hell. Yes! I want Jennifer Aniston and Seth Rogen to GET JOBS and I want the producers of comedies to MAKE JOBS by hiring actual writers and editors and directors to work on comedies, instead of releasing single-shot opuses consisting of a camera pointed at a crying lady “magazine lady” and Owen Wilson playing with his hands and a dog taking a whiz on a snotty child actor. That is not a movie, sirs!
What else do I hate about movies? I hate how producers think that people will think it is “acting” when Julianne Moore acts REAL REPRESSED ABOUT SOMETHING AND THEN TOUCHES SOMETHING INCONSEQUENTIAL. I hate how producers think that people will think it is “cool” when somebody crashes open a door and then there is a cut to somebody getting into a car and then there is a cut back to people striding through the door triumphantly to a music cue! This is only “cool” if the people are men who are too fierce to be tender towards each other but then they display a tiny bit of tenderness in the face of danger (and even then it is not that cool!)
For all the reasons that I hate movies, I loved “The Fog.” Because Mad Men is a serialized drama, it can take the time to do episodes like “The Fog”; episodes which do not particularly advance the plot and yet are entertaining precisely because of this. The meat of “The Fog” concerned itself with the experience of giving birth in the early ’60s. “The Fog” focused on Betty’s point of view, replicating the feel of the hospital (and of the drugs she had been given) via direction that evoked both David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick. It was a perfectly titled episode, since a thick cloud of foreboding hung over every moment. Watching it the first time, I felt enormously tense–I kept expecting the baby to die, or Betty to die, or some manner of REDRUM to infiltrate the proceedings. The pacing was kept exquisitely slow, which exacerbated this tension. It felt like one of those dreams when you are trying to run from an unseen danger but can’t move.
Speaking of dreams, I thought the dream sequences were fantastic. The scene where Betty is wandering her neighborhood strongly reminded me of both Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive. Everybody always calls Betty a Hitchcock Blonde, and while the comparison is apt, tonight I realized she could also be a Lynch heroine. Actually, we should just go ahead and admit that there is such a creature as “the Lynch Blonde.” Think Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer, or Laura Dern as Blue Velvet’s Sandy Williams and Wild at Heart’s Lula Fortune, or Patricia Arquette as Alice Wakefield in Lost Highway, or Naomi Watts as Betty Elms in Mulholland Drive. The Lynch Blonde is a mass of contradictions–perversely naive, powered by sweetly deranged single-mindedness, by turns cravenly ambitious and charmingly childish, vain yet refreshingly unselfconscious when you least expect it, an object of obsession and yet curiously isolated.
These characteristics don’t apply equally to all Lynch Blondes, of course; they don’t all equally apply to Betty either. And yet there is a kinship there. The Lynch Blonde is the descendant of the Hitchcock Blonde, in that they are both objects of erotic fixation, animas come blazing to life. But the Hitchcock Blonde is colder, more remote, more inscrutable than the Lynch Blonde. I’d like to claim that the Lynch Blonde is the Hitchcock Blonde deconstructed–after all, what was Twin Peaks but a deconstruction of the Hitchcock Blonde, a quest to unravel the humanity behind the platinum facade, a mystery about the feminine mystique?–but I’m not sure that the theory would hold up against the whole Lynch canon. I do feel safe in saying that the Hitchcock Blonde and the Lynch Blonde carry similar symbolic burdens in both directors’ work. I used the term “anima” above and I meant it. The anima is a Jungian concept. Jung thought that all men have, within their subconscious, a feminine inner personality (the anima), while women have a subconscious masculine inner personality (the animus.) Jung’s vision of the subconscious was not all that different from the sitcom Herman’s Head; he saw the individual as being composed of a number of personalities and forces, some of which are in conflict, and not all of which are apparent to the conscious mind of the average person. The anima or animus represents not only a person’s hidden feminine or masculine qualities; it also represents how a person sees the opposite gender. Thus, all men have within them a vision of ultimate Woman, which contains everything they truly think about what Womanhood represents (and how they feel about their own feminine qualities.) This is also how the animus works for women (although Jung believed the operation of the animus to be more complex than that of the anima.) The anima is one of a man’s most powerful subconscious figures–appearing often in his dreams, haunting his relationships and creative works. People often find those who resemble their anima or animus irresistible; they may even fall in love with them. Jung believed that, in order for people to become psychologically healthy, the anima or animus must become fully integrated with the psyche as a whole.
What does this have to do with Mad Men? Everything! Anima development is a process that occurs throughout one’s lifetime. It is closely linked to one’s artistic inspirations and works–think of muses. Thus, anima representations litter the history of human endeavor, appearing especially in visual mediums. Jung personified the stages of anima development into four women: Eve, Helen, Mary, and Sophia. Eve is incredibly beautiful but ultimately unattainable, a creature of malevolence who is also rather powerless. In other words, Eve is the lowest anima conception–she is the anima of the kind of guy who thinks all women are “dumb bitches” whom he nonetheless would like to “break a piece off of” or “hit [that].” The Eve cliche permeates pop culture–think of all the beautiful mean blonde cheerleaders, or Cameron Diaz in “Eyes Wide Shut,” or Regina George in “Mean Girls” or ANY MOVIE EVER.
The next phase is Helen. Helen has skills but is still a faithless bitch. Helen is a lot like Season 2’s Bobbie Barrett, who Don admired and despised in equal measures. Helen is basically Woman as Ball-buster, and is anima to the recently dumped or the recently dumped of spirit (those guys who go on and on about mean ex-girlfriends who dumped them six years ago.)
The third phase is Mary. Mary is the vision of Woman as totally pure; she’s inspired by the Virgin Mary. Have you seen the film “There’s Something About Mary?” That will tell you everything about Mary that you need to know. Mary is the anima of Promise Keepers. Don vacillates between seeing Betty as Eve and Mary; a lot of dudes do this to ladies they are married to. Welcome to the Virgin/Whore complex!
Final phase is Sophia. “Sophia” is Greek for wisdom. A dude with a Sophia anima sees women as actual human beings and individuals, instead of projecting his concepts of Woman onto her. In lousy romantic comedies, Sophia is often represented by the mousy best friend who looks hot when she takes her glasses off. The hero is overjoyed, because he gets to date a female whose personality he actually relates to, rather than a mean hot popular girl with no interests (which is how the mousy girl’s romantic rival is usually portrayed.) Don’s lovers in Season 1, Rachael Menken and Midge Daniels, were Sophia figures for him.
Obviously, though, these figures and stages are not entirely clean-cut. Animas are as individual as the men they belong to, and may blend multiple stages together. But it is interesting, when watching movies or TV, to see how often female characters fit neatly into the four stereotypes.
Lynch’s Blondes and Hitchcock’s Blondes are odd because they don’t fit exactly into the Eve, Helen, Mary, or Sophia categories. They obviously operate as animas, since the way in which they figure in most of these masters’ films is highly suggestive, and yet they defy easy analysis. Heather Locklear was an anima figure for Aaron Spelling, since he used her in series after series, but it’s not hard to figure out what she meant to him. She was simply his Ultimate Blonde, and he knew that as such, she would keep viewers turning in, since she was probably a lot of people’s Ultimate Blonde (Wayne and Garth certainly thought so.) But Hitchcock and Lynch didn’t hire their blondes simply because they were pretty.
We must pause here and perhaps redundantly reiterate that the blondness of these blondes is important, since–for better or for worse–the blonde does represent the masculine sexual ideal. I expect that a survey of animas, were such a thing possible, would yield rather Scandinavian results. Visual geniuses like Hitchcock and Lynch know exactly what they are doing when they place an iconic blonde in the frame: they are, in a sense, stopping the entire movie. For a moment, you’re not thinking about the plot or the characters or anything else–you’re just gawking at Grace Kelly or Patricia Arquette (or January Jones.) If these women weren’t part of your anima conception before, they are now, and these filmmakers exploit that in order to draw you more intimately into their worlds. Vertigo isn’t about a man who falls in love with a lady and tries to figure out her identity–it’s about the stuggle of a man to confront himself. Twin Peaks wasn’t about the murder of Laura Palmer–it’s about the insanity of Leland Palmer.
Hitchcock’s Blondes ultimately are a bit more shallow than Lynch’s. Hitchcock nods towards his blondes’ struggles to transcend their objectification (notably in Vertigo), but his true playground is the masculine psyche. Lynch is more interested in the female character. After all, Betty Elms in Mulholland Drive has an anima of her own. Additionally, it could be claimed that Lynch satirizes the blonde-as-anima in his ongoing quest to satirize and complicate the weirdness of the American psyche. Lynch’s great gift is to make the ordinary and banal seem unfamiliar and sinister. In the process, he makes us question our subconscious assumptions–the foundations of our very worldviews. He doesn’t hesitate to use the iconic blonde in order to manipulate us, but he makes us very uncomfortable that we are so susceptible to this manipulation.
Betty Draper is both a Lynch and a Hitchcock Blonde. Hitchcock Blondes possess the primal aspect of the Eve, in that they are so beautiful, desirable, and unattainable; yet they also tend to be strong and pure of heart, after the manner of a Mary. I would not call them Sophias, in that they are so psychologically freighted (in terms of how others see them) and emotionally closeted. Lynch Blondes are not Sophias either–they are shadowy creatures running amuck through Lynch’s subconscious underworlds. But none of Lynch’s characters are real people, really–rather, they’re all inhabitants of a capacious David’s Head. Many viewers write off Betty as an Eve type–a beautiful, icy bitch. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–she’s an Ibsen heroine (her people are, after all Nordic.) Don himself sees her as merely an Eve, which is why he finds her so boring. She’s important to him because she’s a sexual ideal, and his possession of her signals his dominance to other men. Yes, he has had some anima-like experiences of her, such as when he is in California and keeps thinking he sees her in the crowd; likewise when he sleeps with the jet-set girl whose voice is so close to Betty’s. And he also idealizes what he fondly thinks of as her motherly qualities–his speech to her in Season 1, Episode 9 (the bird-shooting episode) is indicative of this: “I would’ve given anything to have a mother like you. Beautiful and kind, filled with love. Like an angel.”
In retrospect, this speech is hilarious. Betty is anything but an angel. She’s an extremely frustrated woman who has barely begun to find out who she really is. She hates her kids. That episode was fantastic because it showed the gap between how Don sees Betty (and how Betty wants to see herself) and who she really is. Recall also that this is the episode where she gets compared to Grace Kelly and asked to resume her former career as a model, and is only too happy to do so. Betty is awesome because all she wants to do is be an anima–for what else is a model but the distillation of a million fantasies? She wants nothing more than to never see who she really is, perhaps because she fears that that person is nothing special. Don married her at an earlier stage of his anima process, but has since outgrown her (or thinks he has.) He’s moved on to Sophia types (Bobbie was a Helen regression), and left her to her own devices. These include acting like a total homeless, but nobody notices because she’s just so darn attractive. Increasingly lonely and isolated, treated as symbol instead of individual, she’s going slightly crazy. Her pregnancy has made her into a pure Mary anima, a vessel, which only angers her further.
“The Fog” deftly illustrated Betty’s growing break with reality. While parts of this break were drug-exacerbated (who didn’t shudder at the phrase “twilight sleep?” Or all the weird “The Shining” moments with her father and mother and Medgar Evers?), much of her alienation stems from the disconnect between her inner reality and the way in which the world perceives her. The world is trying to gaslight her (and she’s trying to gaslight herself) into thinking her life is awesome. It’s anything but, and her consistent negativity, while galling, seems to be an attempt to reconcile this. In a way, Betty still lives in a “twilight sleep,” but she is starting to wake up. Someday, somebody is actually going to fall in love with Betty–the real Betty, not the projected anima vision she so easily embodies–and shit is going to get BURNED DOWN and Don will cry and I will laugh and laugh and laugh.
What does your anima or animus look like?
 Actually, I don’t really hate movies at all.
 BTW, if that is a reference to the twins’ hot blonde mom Alice Wakefield from the “Sweet Valley High” series then the world is more beautiful than it has any right to be.
 And yes, Betty seems to be an Eve figure, at least upon first glance. More on this later.
 And women. I wonder how many women find Don that much more attractive when they see Betty? I wonder if their desire to sleep with him stems from a desire to “prove” they are batting in Betty’s league? It will be interesting to see if the show ever explores this.