Boys’ Life & Feminism 101

Boys’ Life

A note on how male critics see or do not see male artists:

This is a description of the films of Hong Sang-soo, summarized by Phillip Lopate in the New York Review of Books, Dec. 7 2017: “The men tend to be loners, doggy-lustful yet timid seducers, alternating between commitment-aversion and needy clinging. Often they are film directors teaching in the academy and hitting on attractive female students. The women, ambitious to become actresses or filmmakers themselves, are typically looking for a mentor, a letter of recommendation, or a way to gain entry into the industry. So the power games begin.” Later in the essay, Lopate writes: “Hong has been called ‘The Korean Woody Allen’, as much to associate him with a more familiar brand–comedies about rationalizing males who receive a comeuppance–as for any real resemblance.”

I have not seen the films of Hong Sang-soo. I cannot compare my impression of his plots to Lopate’s. I’m struck by the fact that Lopate does not comment on this set of preoccupations in the work of this male artist at this time, socially and historically. I’m struck by the affectionate term “doggy-lustful.” What is that? A man who, given that he would typically find himself in the category of a loser, touches Lopate’s heart for still wanting to score with younger, beautiful females? I’m struck by the word “ambitious” to describe the younger females who want a place in the world and a way to be artists and have few options but to get with male losers who have power. Get with them and pretend interest in them beyond their capacity to help the women. I’m struck by the phrase, “So the power games begin.” What is the power the females have in this constellation? The ability to say yes or no? Yes can lead to professional advancement. No leads nowhere. I’m struck by Lopate’s summary of Woody Allen’s films as comedies where males receive comeuppance. When does this happen? It does not happen. Even if an Allen male hero doesn’t get the girl, his feelings and soulfulness are always the focus. Allen’s films are not investigations of male self-centeredness, they are expressions of it. They have also not been funny or sensitive to contemporary cultural shifts in decades. I don’t know what I would make of Sang-soo’s work. I might have a very different understanding from Lopate’s of the film director’s value as an artist and as a commentator on contemporary sexual mores. I am highlighting the kind of discourse this writing represents, where a male critic who is a mirror of the values and sensibilities of the male artist under discussion, sees nothing odd or jarring about the topics, sees only his reflection mirrored everywhere he looks, in the metal toaster, in the bathroom mirror, in the eyes of his fellow traveler.

Feminism 101

Re the dangerous male libido embraced in the recent New York Times article. The cult of masculinity is dangerous. Men as a group are not dangerous. The sexual fantasies of women are as dangerous in their imagery as the sexual fantasies of men. The sexual libidos of female humans are arrayed on the same spectrum of hot to tepid as the sexual libidos of male humans. Appetites for sex, for food, for love, for striving, for crusading vary from person to person. It’s interesting we are going through feminism 101 again. I suppose a lot more people are questioning these matters. I remember times when I was too flustered or worried about turning a situation awkward to say, “Take your hand off me,” or “I don’t like the way that feels.” I wasn’t even young. It’s hard to do this. We are so trained not to. My whole life I have not known how to behave. I guess wrong. I make wrong choices. It’s becoming clearer what we need to do. Some people will always be better at these moments than me.


After watching a doc about Bob Dylan some years ago.

How to be butch, for small, slender girls and boys. Develop a dead thing in your eyes that people will exhaust themselves trying to light up. Do not smile or articulate your joints. Develop a habit, whatever works for you, don’t give it away easily. Become a place no one wants to go if they are hungry. Feel born to the wrong parents. Love your own irritability. Stare blankly at questions about who you are and what you mean. Smoke. In response to the remark, “No fear, no envy, no meanness,” respond, “No childhood, no memories, no stitches.”