‘Claws,’ an Erotic Horror Novel, Chapter Fourteen

[Some sexual content]

After leaving two…mementos…of her encounter with the Yamas at their dry-cleaning shop, the hairy beast ran and jumped down the streets in the direction of The Gold Star. Though she was seen by onlookers, including cops in patrol cars, throughout Toronto, the growing power of her pheromone smell kept everyone too dazed to follow her.

Eventually, by about midnight, she stopped her running and jumping, calmed down, and began shedding hair. Her claws shortened into normal fingernails. Her pheromone aphrodisiac, though adding to the erotic pleasure of seeing her transformation back into shapely, nude Callie, nonetheless kept its dazed sniffers at bay as she walked, in the most carefree, insouciant way, towards the front door of the strip joint.

One of those sniffers of her sexy smell was none other than Dr. Visner, who felt compelled to see her again at The Gold Star. In fact, he was walking on the same sidewalk that the balls of her pretty bare feet had just tapped on, so he noticed the growing amount of wisps of her bestial hair.

He picked up a few and sniffed that arousing pheromone smell. “Callie,” he sighed with a smile.

He looked further ahead down the sidewalk, and saw a beautiful nude female figure from behind. The street lights and shadows worked together to caress her buttock cleavage.

He walked faster towards her.

She sensed his approach and grinned.

When he was about five feet behind her, she turned around to face him. She grinned when he stopped and let his eyes roam down her body to feast on those wiggling breasts and that hairless crotch. Embarrassed by his lust, he yanked his gaze up to her eyes.

“You can stare at my body if you want to,” she purred. “Enjoy yourself. I won’t be mad.”

“Yes, but…you’re my…patient,” he panted, resisting the temptation to let his gaze drop back down below her neck. “I shouldn’t–“

“Come here,” she cooed. He did.

She put her arms around his neck. He put his hands on her ass and gave the cheeks gentle squeezes as they French-kissed.

She pulled her tongue out of his mouth and said, “Let’s go into a VIP Room. My services to you are free of charge tonight.”

They held hands as they walked into The Gold Star.

They went into a VIP Room, he sat on the couch, and she sat on his lap. Rubbing her buns against his erection, she leaned back with her flowery-fragrant hair (another example of Kluh’s growing powers, to smell so lovely after having just been the sweaty beast) brushing against his face. She turned her head back and looked in his eyes.

“I love revealing…all my secrets to you,” she sighed in his ear. “I revealed all my…private pain to you…during our therapy. Now I can…reveal my…private parts to you.”

“Yes, but is it…the real you…that you revealed to me?” he asked. “Is this some game?”

She frowned and stopped lap-dancing. “Of course it was the real me. All my private feelings.” She turned her frown back into a smile, then resumed rubbing. “Now I can…reveal my…private parts to you.”

“I’d love that, but…,” he grunted from the sensation of her massaging bottom. “I still feel…as though…I’m taking advantage of…a vulnerable, fragile patient.” The memory of that Thai prostitute he’d had when young flashed before his eyes.

“Dr. Visner, it is I who am taking advantage of you.”

“You are?

“Yes,” she said, grinning as she got up and turned around to face him. She rubbed her breasts against his face and slid down between his spread-out legs. “I’m practically raping you.”

“Oh,” he said with a slight smile.

She unzipped his pants. Another image of that Thai prostitute appeared in a flash before his eyes, a memory of her about to perform oral sex on him.

“Wait,” he said, stopping Callie’s hand. “Not here. People in the bar might hear us.”

“Oh, they’d hear my screams for sure, if you put it in my pussy.” She moved his hand out of the way and put her fingers inside his open fly. “That’s why it’s best if it’s only your moans, drowned out by that metal music the DJ’s playing.” She took his cock out and wrapped her wet lips and tongue around it.

Her hypnotic eyes stayed fixed on his as her head went back and forth.

As she continued blowing him, he saw her face shift back and forth between Callie’s and the Thai prostitute’s. His heightened guilt augmented his arousal as those moist lips and tongue slid and slithered back and forth along his length.

Is this me seeing both girls? he thought. Or is Callie somehow making me see this?

Finally, he came in her mouth, his body shaking as he shot every squirt down her throat. She swallowed every last drop greedily, as if dying of thirst. Grinning, she put his spent dick back in his pants and zipped him up. “OK, Doctor. I guess that’ll be all for now.”

“OK,” he panted, unsure whether to smile after getting the most amazing head, or to frown from his guilt. He took out his wallet.

“No, no,” she said, waving her hands. “I told you: my services are free tonight, as they will be from now on.”

“Very well, then. I’ll see you in my office next time.” He left the bar, still holding that wisp of beast hair between his fingers.

She grinned from the feeling of his ejaculation inside her body. Its energy, its mana, would be useful to her very soon.

***********

The next morning, Detective Surian was woken up by her ringing cellphone.

“Hello?” she said into it.

“Remember me, Detective?” the caller said in a rush. “I’m Sam. I helped you find the Yamas.”

“Oh, hello, Sam,” she said after a yawn. “What’s going on?”

“Hurry over to the dry-cleaners!” Sam said with agitation in his voice. “Something terrible has happened. You’ve got to see it. It’s too awful for me to describe. Hurry!”

She rushed over there in her car so fast, she forgot to call Thurston.

When she got there, though, she took out her phone to tell him. “Get over here, Andy,” she said. “I’m at the dry-cleaners. I know how the exorcism attempt worked out.”

She stood before the entrance to the dry-cleaners. Vanessa’s and Raymond’s bloody heads were on steel poles stabbed into the top of the wooden front door.

Don’t Fear Freedom from Abuse

[NOTE: please read the second and third paragraphs from this post before continuing. Important–don’t skip reading them!]

You might ask, Dear Reader, why any victim of emotional abuse would be afraid of being freed from it. Isn’t freedom from the abuse exactly what we victims crave? That freedom is what we want should be a no-brainer.

The sad reality is, however, that the functioning of the mind is far more complex than that of one having a straightforward wish for what’s good for us, or for what’s pleasurable for us. Not to rely too much on Freud, who got a lot more wrong than he got right; but for what it’s worth, in his Beyond the Pleasure Principle, he noted our self-destructive, aggressive tendencies in what he called the death drive (Thanatos) and “the compulsion to repeat” irrational acts, or re-experience distressing moments in the past.

Object relations theorists like Melanie Klein and WRD Fairbairn noted how negative internal representations that we have in our minds of our parents and early caregivers (the “bad mother” and “bad father” internal objects) can be transferred to our later relationships in the form of boyfriends, girlfriends, or spouses with similar narcissistic traits to those of our parents. These bad internal objects, residing in our minds like ghosts, become the blueprints for our later relationships, and they are difficult to shake off (see part 5 of this for a deeper explanation).

Making things even more difficult, our wish to find good people in our lives–to replace the bad ones we’ve gone no contact with–can be thwarted by what Fairbairn called the Anti-libidinal Ego/Rejecting Object configuration in our minds. Originally, Fairbairn called this the Internal Saboteur, for that’s exactly what this part of our minds does–it sabotages possible new, good relationships by rejecting people.

For Fairbairn, libidinal need is object-need, that is, a need people have for others to love and have relationships with (the subject=the self; objects=people other than the self); so the anti-libidinal ego is the part of oneself that is hostile towards and rejects objects. We all know how we reject new people from having been hurt so often by earlier ones.

In An Introduction to Object Relations, Lavinia Gomez explains that the “anti-libidinal ego [corresponding roughly with Freud’s superego] is the split-off ego fragment that is bonded with the rejecting object. We can think of it as the ‘anti-wanting I’, the aspect of the self that is contemptuous of neediness. Rejection gives rise to unbearable anger, split off from the central self or ego [corresponding roughly to Freud’s ego] and disowned by it. Fairbairn originally termed this element the ‘internal saboteur’, indicating that in despising rather than acknowledging our neediness, we ensure that we neither seek nor get what we want. The anti-libidinal ego/rejecting object configuration is the cynical, angry self which is too dangerously hostile for us to acknowledge. When it emerges from repression we may experience it as chaotic rage or hatred, sometimes with persecutory guilt.” (Gomez p. 63-64)

Even worse, our relationships with narcissists, past and present, are those of traumatic bonding rather than ones of mutual respect and love. We feel as though we’re glued to these bad kinds of people whether we want to or not, so when we leave a relationship with a narcissist, we often fall back (however unwittingly or unconsciously) into a relationship with either the same one, or get trapped in a new relationship with another.

How do we get out of this vicious circle? Since I find relationships with these people to be overbearingly authoritarian, I find that the ideas Erich Fromm wrote about in his classic 1941 book, Escape From Freedom (also called The Fear of Freedom), to be applicable in relationships involving narcissistic abuse.

In his book, Fromm wrote about the experience of Europeans having been freed from the yoke of authoritarian thinking on two momentous occasions (from medieval-era Catholicism, and Germans from their authoritarian empire a century ago), only to find themselves with feelings of isolation, insignificance, and meaninglessness in their lives. The only way they found themselves able to reestablish a sense of meaning and belonging was to adopt new forms of authoritarianism: respectively, 16th century Lutheran and Calvinistic Protestantism; and for early 20th-century Germans, Nazism.

Fromm writes, [for the Germans] “The authority of the monarchy was undisputed, and by leaning on it and identifying with it the member of the lower middle class acquired a feeling of security and narcissistic pride. Also, the authority of religion and traditional morality was still firmly rooted. The family was still unshaken and a safe refuge in a hostile world. The individual felt that he belonged to a stable social and cultural system in which he had his definite place. His submission and loyalty to existing authorities were a satisfactory solution to his masochistic strivings…What he was lacking in security and aggressiveness as an individual, he was compensated for by the strength of the authorities to whom he submitted himself.

“The postwar period [i.e., 1918 and after] changed this situation considerably…the economic decline of the old middle class went at a faster pace…The defeat in the war and the downfall of the monarchy…on which, psychologically speaking, the petty bourgeois had built his existence, their failure and defeat shattered the basis of his own life. If the Kaiser could be publicly ridiculed,…what could the little man put his trust in? He had identified himself…with all these institutions; now, since they had gone, where was he to go?” (Fromm, pages 211-213)

In abandoning the old authoritarian structures, these Europeans achieved what Fromm called negative freedom, or freedom from an oppressive life; they hadn’t, however, achieved positive freedom, or freedom to reach their true human potential. Without this second kind of freedom, their sense of loneliness, purposelessness, and powerlessness could only lead them back to the comforting, though dysfunctional, structure of a new authoritarianism, namely, Nazism or authoritarian forms of Protestantism.

As for Luther and Calvin, Fromm writes, “Luther’s system, in so far as it differed from the Catholic tradition, has two sides…he gave man independence in religious matters…he deprived the Church of her authority and gave it to the individual; that his concept of faith and salvation is one of subjective individual experience, in which all responsibility is with the individual and none with an authority which could give him what he cannot obtain himself. […]

“The other aspect of modern freedom is the isolation and powerlessness it has brought for the individual, and this aspect has its roots in Protestantism as much as that of independence…Luther’s and Calvin’s doctrines…[have] a negative aspect…: their emphasis on the fundamental evilness and powerlessness of man.” (Fromm, page 74)

Fromm explains further: “Calvin’s theology…exhibits essentially the same spirit as Luther’s, both theologically and psychologically. Although he opposes the authority of the [Catholic] Church and the blind acceptance of its doctrines, religion for him is rooted in the powerlessness of man; self-humiliation and the destruction of human pride are the Leitmotiv of his whole thinking.” […] Calvin himself said, “We are not our own; therefore neither our reason nor our will should predominate in our deliberations and actions. We are not our own…it is the most devastating pestilence which ruins people if they obey themselves…” (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, Chapter 7, 1; quoted in Fromm, pages 84-85)

There’s a kind of sadomasochistic quality to this authoritarian structure (just to be clear here, I’m not talking about the sexual kind found in the BDSM community; rather, I’m talking about the appeal of a dominant/submissive relationship with others, as a simpler, easier one, rather than the ambiguous, more challenging one of equality and mutual respect). In this structure, you know who is ‘above’ you, and who is ‘below’ you; hence, the comforting assurance and belonging felt in this structure. The Protestant God of Luther and Calvin was above the ‘unworthy’ sinners. (Again, I’m not criticizing Protestant Christianity in general here, just the particular, authoritarian form it took when Martin Luther and John Calvin had established their churches back in the 16th century.) Similarly, the Führer was ‘above’ the ‘Aryan‘ German; the Jews, Roma, gay men, and other persecuted groups were ‘below‘ the ‘Aryans.’

To get back to my main point, I believe this kind of authoritarian restructuring can be seen in the replacing of old forms of narcissistic abuse with new forms, either in staying with the abuser, in leaving one abuser only to enter into a new abusive relationship, or through our inner critic‘s continuing of the old abuse in our minds (“the fundamental evilness and powerlessness” that we imagine ourselves to embody, thanks to our abusers’ gaslighting of us), even years after we’ve ended the old relationships and not replaced them with new narcissistic abusers. (Note: I’m not trying to blame the victim here, but rather to explain what I think is happening.)

It’s been noted many times how we victims of emotional abuse keep the haranguing going on in our minds years later. I do this kind of haranguing to myself! There’s a feeling that if I don’t go over these feelings, this endless rumination and re-examining of past events, that I’ll have jumped to premature conclusions and misjudged my family too harshly. The feeling is, why can’t I just put it all behind me and be happy?

I suspect that many other sufferers of narcissistic abuse out there go through similar internal conflicts. Instead of properly processing their trauma and rebuilding their lives through a regular practice of self-care, they go over the same past events to reassure themselves that they’re judging their past relationships correctly (when they so obviously are correct about the abusive relationships, and thus don’t need to re-examine them, except that all their second-guessing perpetuates their doubts).

My point is, are we afraid of being free of the past?

Is our mental state comparable to what was happening after the end of medieval Catholicism, and after the end of the authoritarian German state? Has our traumatic bonding caused us to crave the sense of ‘security’ and ‘belonging’ that comes from the authoritarian rule of our narcissistic abusers?

Are we so used to the sadomasochistic structure, the false assurance, of who’s ‘above’ us (i.e., the narcissistic parents or ex) and who’s ‘below’ us (i.e., the scapegoats…if we’re the golden children or lost children) that we’re afraid of giving up that structure, only to be thrown into a world where we don’t know who we are anymore? Has the trauma of narcissistic abuse drilled a false self so deep into our heads that we can’t conceive of ourselves as having any other self?

Just as Fromm, at the end of his book, suggests positive freedom is the solution to the problem of negative freedom (and its attendant void of meaninglessness, loneliness, and powerlessness), so do I. Positive freedom, or the “freedom to” achieve one’s fullest potential, involves living a life of spontaneity, of solidarity and equality with others in mutual respect and love, with no more rigid sense of people ‘above’ or ‘below’ us. It involves us enjoying life in the moment, a focus on present-mindedness.

Fromm explains: “We have said that negative freedom by itself makes the individual an isolated being, whose relationship with the world is distant and distrustful and whose self is weak and constantly threatened. Spontaneous activity is the one way in which man can overcome the terror of aloneness without sacrificing the integrity of the self; for in the spontaneous realization of the self man unites himself with the world–with man, nature, and himself. Love is the foremost component of such spontaneity; not love as the dissolution of the self in another person, not love as the possession of another person, but love as spontaneous affirmation of others, as the union of the individual with others on the basis of the preservation of the individual self. The dynamic quality of love lies in this very polarity: that it springs from the need of overcoming separateness, that it leads to oneness–and yet that individuality is not eliminated…It affirms the individuality of the self and at the same time it unites the self with man and nature. […]

“In all spontaneous activity the individual embraces the world. Not only does his individual self remain intact; it becomes stronger and more solidified…The inability to act spontaneously, to express what one genuinely feels and thinks, and the resulting necessity to present a pseudo self to others and oneself, are the root of the feeling of inferiority and weakness. […]

“…what matters is the activity as such, the process and not the result…[by focusing only on “the finished product” rather than the process, though,] man misses the only satisfaction that can give him real happiness–the experience of the activity of the present moment–and chases after a phantom that leaves him disappointed as soon as he believes he has caught it–the illusory happiness called [financial] success.

“If the individual realizes his self by spontaneous activity and thus relates himself to the world, he ceases to be an isolated atom; he and the world become part of one structuralized whole; he has his rightful place, and thereby his doubt concerning himself and the meaning of life disappears. This doubt sprang from his separateness and from the thwarting of life; when he can live, neither compulsively nor automatically but spontaneously, the doubt disappears. He is aware of himself as an active and creative individual and recognizes that there is only one meaning of life: the act of living itself.” (Fromm, pages 259-261, his emphasis)

I believe we survivors of emotional abuse can apply these principles in our own lives, incorporating them into all the other things we can use for self-care. Space in this blog post cannot do justice to a full explanation of what Fromm was writing about; so if you find these ideas intriguing but don’t fully understand them, I suggest buying his book and imagining how his ideas can apply to your healing journey.

Note that there is a dialectical relationship between freedom and bondage, as Fromm notes in his analysis of history. The thesis is authoritarian oppression, be it from the Church, the state, or a narcissistic abuser; then, there’s the negation, or freedom from those oppressors. We all too often expect life to have a kind of secure stasis, or a state of familiar fixity. Change frightens us, so a move to freedom from the familiar form of bondage is frightening. Spontaneous living, however, is the resolution of the opposition between freedom and bondage; spontaneity is the sublation of the contradiction, because our individuality/unity creates our own structure, belonging, and meaning.

Instead of settling for the false security of staying in abusive relationships (the troughs of the ocean of life), or fearing a permanent sense of powerlessness, meaninglessness, and loneliness associated with negative freedom (the crests of the ocean of life), we should just ride the waves as they go up and down. There is no fixed, permanent solution in life, but there is a soothing flow to everything. Go with the flow.

Erich Fromm, Escape From Freedom, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1941

‘Claws,’ an Erotic Horror Novel, Chapter Thirteen

“I never asked you before: how much did it cost you to fix the dent?” Thurston asked Surian as they got in her car with the Yamas, who brought with them a small gong, a jingle bell (to be shaken on a handle), and incense sticks.

“It cost far too much,” Surian said with a frown, then she put her key in the ignition.

“What caused the damage to your car?” Raymond asked.

“Not what, who,” Surian answered, starting the car.

“Was it Kluh?” Vanessa asked.

“Yes,” Thurston said. “She jumped high in the air and came down on the roof.”

“Don’t remind me,” Surian said, remembering also the bear attack from her teen years as she got the car on the road.

“What else can you tell us about Kluh?” Thurston asked.

“What else do you want to know, specifically?” Vanessa asked.

“Like, what motivates her to kill sometimes, and other times, just to lure you in for sex?” Surian asked.

“Well, there are many motives for her to kill,” Raymond said. “Revenge on, or protection from, a rapist. Also, any threat to her growing power–“

“Which means, my husband and I are putting ourselves in danger,” Vanessa said.

“Since you know the danger, are you sure you want to go through with this?” Surian asked.

“Yes, we must do this. Only we can stop Kluh,” Raymond said.

“And if she kills you?” Thurston asked.

“You’re all screwed, not just you two, but everyone,” Raymond said. “Vanessa and I are your best hope to send Kluh back to the spirit world. Of all the people in the Polynesian community in the Toronto area, we are the most knowledgeable in how to perform the kind of exorcism that can defeat this demon.”

“If you two fail, and she kills you,” Surian said, “Andy and I will be standing by to shoot her if necessary.”

“No!” Vanessa shouted. “You drop us off at Callie’s apartment, tell us her room number and the floor she lives on, and Raymond and I will do the rest. You must drive far away when we begin the ritual.”

“Why can’t we be with you?” Thurston asked.

“Because you’ll distract us,” Vanessa said.

“We’ll be quiet and stay out of your way,” Surian said.

“No!” Vanessa said. “Your very presence, your psychic energy, your mana, will contaminate the ritual. With any luck, no one else in the halls outside her room will interfere, psychically or physically. I’m hoping anyone she may have made love with in the apartment will not be anywhere near there.”

I’ll have to make sure ‘Super-stud’ isn’t at home, Surian thought, assuming what the Yamas is saying isn’t total bullshit.

“You see, she is acquainted with both of you,” Raymond said. “Certainly with Andy, in an intimate way. The more intimate you’ve been with her, the more you’ll contaminate the sacred space.”

I guess I’ll have to stay far away, too, Surian thought, remembering her encounter with Callie.

“Kluh can exploit the mana she’s absorbed from you, to thwart us in our attempt to exorcise her from Callie’s body,” Vanessa said.

“From Sandra Brahms’s body, as I told you before,” Surian said, then handed Vanessa a photo of Sandra. “This, I believe, is how ‘Callie’ originally looked.”

Vanessa looked at the chubby teenage girl in the photo, then showed it to Raymond before giving it back to Surian. “If our exorcism is successful, we can expect to see Callie’s body change into this Sandra girl’s,” Vanessa said. “But as I said before, you two mustn’t be present. We also fear Kluh will try to kill you if she kills us.”

“OK, we’ll stay away from your exorcism, if you insist,” Surian said. “We’ll wait for a phone call from either of you, and if we don’t hear anything by tomorrow, we’ll go to your dry-cleaning place, and if you’re not there, we’ll assume Kluh has killed you.”

“OK,” Raymond said.

“But what else can you tell us about Kluh?” Surian asked. “Why d0es she have sex with some people, and lets them live?”

“Well, sometimes she does it for pleasure, of course,” Vanessa said. “But always to take some of her lovers’ mana, and now that Kluh seems to have a permanent female body–that is, she isn’t moving from one girl’s body to another’s with every sexual encounter–we can assume this Sandra, or Callie, is her ideal female, her female mate, so now she’ll be looking for an ideal male as a mate, to make herself complete.”

“So, she’s looking for Mr. Right?” Surian asked.

“That’s a good way to put it,” Raymond said. “Remember that she builds power by merging opposites.”

“And the fusion of male and female is one of the most powerful kinds of a merging of opposites,” Vanessa said. “I’ll bet that psychiatrist she got naked for in the video is her chosen male mate. He doesn’t seem to be a lover she wants to have only one time.”

“Oh, yeah,” Thurston said, remembering the night of his encounter with Callie. “I saw her say goodbye to Dr. Visner in The Gold Star.”

“She’s getting regular psychotherapy sessions with Visner, too,” Surian said. “What will happen if the two of them…mate?”

“Kluh will be almost unstoppable,” Raymond said.

“Oh, come on!” Thurston said. “Can’t we kill her by filling her chest with bullets?”

“Only a hit dead-centre in her heart, or right in the middle of her brain, will send Kluh back into the spirit world,” Raymond said.

They arrived at the front of Callie’s apartment building, Surian parking at the curb of the sidewalk there. The Yamas got out of her car with their things for the exorcism ritual.

“Are you sure you don’t want us in there with you, in case Callie turns into that thing, claws you to death, then goes rampaging through the night?” Thurston asked, looking up at the setting sun.

“We’re absolutely sure,” Vanessa said with urgency in her face. “Drive far away, and don’t phone us until tomorrow morning, if you hear nothing from us tonight. Or, you can try to contact us at our shop tomorrow.”

“OK,” Surian said, looking around the area. “I have to make sure ‘Super-stud’ isn’t in his apartment…oh, wait. There he is; he’s leaving.” She spotted the first-floor neighbour who’d had Callie; he was walking away from the apartment in a uniform, about to do the night shift, apparently. “That’s convenient.”

“OK, we’ll contact you tomorrow if you haven’t said anything by then.” Thurston said. “She’s on the seventh floor, Room 717. Goodbye.”

“Bye,” the Yamas said together, then watched the detectives drive away. Once Surian’s car was far enough away to have disappeared from sight, Vanessa and Raymond felt comfortable to begin the ritual. They heaved a huge sigh together. They then each lit an incense stick for themselves, to carry with the gong and jingle bell stick.

They went through the front doors of the apartment building, and as soon as they were inside, Raymond began hitting the gong with a mallet, getting a gentle, ringing bass tone from it, and Vanessa began shaking the bells. They were playing a triple-time rhythm of one gong beat for every three shakes of the bells.

Vanessa pressed the button to bring the elevator down to the first floor. They got in the elevator. As soon as it began going up to the seventh floor, they, always playing their 3/4 rhythm, began whispering a mystic chant in their native Tahaiwi language.

“Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!” (Kluh, go back! [to the spirit world]) The whispering grew louder as the elevator rose up the floors.

By the time they reached the seventh floor, the door opened, and they stepped out of the elevator, the whispering had grown to a loud, vocalized chant.

“Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!”

They smelled the powerful pheromones, but their incense protected them from its hypnotic properties.

Vanessa began a twirling, hopping dance as she and Raymond went down the hall towards Callie’s apartment. They hadn’t needed to know the number: both the growing smell of the pheromones and their ability to sense the presence of Kluh led them to the right apartment–Room 717.

Vanessa continued twirling and hopping in front of Callie’s door. The Yamas were shouting the chant now: “Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!”

No one else in the apartment opened his doors to find out where the shouting was coming from. Everyone sensed the effectiveness of the ritual intuitively, even without a conscious understanding of the nature of Callie’s power. There was a collective feeling of hope that their apartment was soon to be freed of a vaguely evil presence.

Callie, nude from head to toe as usual, opened her door to receive the Yamas, as if she were being compelled to. She reacted to them almost like an automaton.

“Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!” They entered the room.

Raymond had to use all of his strength to resist the temptation to enjoy looking at her shapely, buxom body, to focus on the ritual, to remember that he loved his wife. Callie, having closed the door and turned around to face the exorcists, flitted back over to him, and danced around in front of him to entice him with her body.

Still, he and Vanessa carried on with the ritual, not allowing themselves to be distracted by Callie.

“Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!” they shouted to the 3/4 rhythm, over and over again, him hitting the gong, and Vanessa shaking the bells and doing her twirling, hopping dance.

“Don’t you want me, Raymond?” Callie purred at him, gyrating her hips and jiggling her tits before his eyes. “That wife of yours looks like a little elephant-lady, she’s so chubby. Don’t you think I’d be more fun in bed?”

“Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!” the Yamas repeated, as if Callie hadn’t said anything.

Callie frowned. “She’s mine!” she shouted. “Sandra Brahms is mine. You’re not taking her from me. Make love with me, Raymond, and I’ll let you live.”

“Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!”

Callie began faltering in her counter-exorcist, erotic dance. Now scowling, she said in the Yamas’ native Tahaiwi tongue, “Sandra is my mate. I searched a long time, all over the Earth, for centuries, to find the ideal female body to control, and Sandra Brahms is she! She’s perfect. A pretty face with a chubby body: beauty merged with plainness. She would have been modest, avoiding sex, but her stepfather made her into his whore: chastity and unchastity combined. She’s suffered, but I’ve made her happy: joy and sorrow united. She’s the perfect merging of opposites, to give me enough mana to make me more powerful than anyone could ever know. She’s my mate, she’s mine! I have her male mate in my sights, too, and he’ll be mine soon!”

“Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!”

Callie fell to the floor in front of the living room sofa, on which a white blanket lay. She began shaking all over, as if having an epileptic seizure.

“Please,” she said in the whining, pleading voice of a frightened teen, “Get this demon out of me. I just want to be Sandra again. Please, help me!”

“Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!” The Yamas drew closer to her as they continued chanting.

Callie’s body started changing. She became shorter. Her pubic hair grew back. She lost her shapely curves, her body growing rotund, like Vanessa’s.

Nude Sandra looked up at the two chanting exorcists, who were staring at her with ritual intensity. Blushing, she pulled the blanket over herself.

“Thank you,” she said in a tremulous voice, her eyes avoiding theirs as they continued their chanting, shaking the bells, banging the gong, and dancing up close to her.

The chanting of “Kluh, sa-bang, Kluh, sa-bang” grew softer and softer until becoming the whisper it had been in the elevator. The Yamas, even closer to Sandra now, bent down to get a good look at her to make sure she really had Kluh exorcised from her.

Raymond was still hitting the gong, though softer, and Vanessa was still shaking the bells…softer and softer. They looked into Sandra’s eyes.

They never noticed the hairs snaking out of her arm follicles.

“Unh!” they grunted together when they felt her stabbing claws dig into their guts.

The tall, curvaceous, hairy beast grinned, looking down at the two bloody bodies lying on the floor.

**************

Late that night, Surian and Thurston were sitting together in a café with their cellphones lying next to their half-drunk coffees.

“Come on, Vanessa,” Surian said. “Call me!”

Analysis of ‘Salomé’

I: Introduction

Salomé is an opera by Richard Strauss that premiered in 1905, the libretto being Hedwig Lachmann‘s German translation (with some editing by Strauss) of Oscar Wilde‘s 1891 French play. Wilde’s play, of course, was in turn inspired by the Biblical narratives in the Gospels According to Mark and Matthew.

Wilde transformed the brief Biblical story, making what’s implied explicit, namely how Salomé’s dance sexually aroused the Tetrarch Herod Antipas, elaborating on it as The Dance of the Seven Veils, considered by some to be the origin, however unwitting, of the modern striptease. Wilde also altered certain details, such as when, in the Biblical version, Herodias tells her daughter, Salomé, to demand the head of John the Baptist; instead, Wilde has Salome ask for “the head of Iokanaan” of her own accord.

Both Wilde’s play and Strauss’s opera caused scandals on their earliest performances, resulting in performances of them being cancelled or banned, for example in London, for many years. Now, Strauss’s opera is considered a masterwork, a regular part of any orchestral or operatic repertoire.

II: Quotes

Here are some quotes from Wilde’s play (some of which are not in Strauss’s opera), in English translation:

“How beautiful is the Princess Salomé to-night!” –Narraboth, the young Syrian, Captain of the Guard

“You are always looking at her. You look at her too much. It is dangerous to look at people in such fashion. Something terrible may happen.” –Herodias’ page

“How pale the Princess is! Never have I seen her so pale. She is like the shadow of a white rose in a mirror of silver.” –Narraboth

“The Jews worship a God that one cannot see.” –First Soldier

“After me shall come another mightier than I. I am not worthy so much as to unloose the latchet of his shoes. When he cometh, the solitary places shall be glad. They shall blossom like the rose. The eyes of the blind shall see the day, and the ears of the deaf shall be opened. The suckling child shall put his hand upon the dragon’s lair, he shall lead the lions by their manes.” –the voice of Iokanaan, heard from below, in a cistern

“What a strange voice! I would speak with him.” –Salomé, of Iokanaan

[Approaching the cistern and looking down into it.] “How black it is, down there ! It must be terrible to be in so black a hole ! It is like a tomb. . . . .” [To the soldiers.] “Did you not hear me? Bring out the prophet. I would look on him.” –Salomé

“Thou wilt do this thing for me, Narraboth, and to-morrow when I pass in my litter beneath the gateway of the idol-sellers I will let fall for thee a little flower, a little green flower.” –Salomé

“Oh! How strange the moon looks. Like the hand of a dead woman who is seeking to cover herself with a shroud.” –Herodias’ page

“Where is he whose cup of abominations is now full? Where is he, who in a robe of silver shall one day die in the face of all the people? Bid him come forth, that he may hear the voice of him who hath cried in the waste places and in the houses of kings.” –Iokanaan, having emerged from the underground cistern

“It is his eyes above all that are terrible. They are like black holes burned by torches in a tapestry of Tyre. They are like the black caverns of Egypt in which the dragons make their lairs. They are like black lakes troubled by fantastic moons. . . . Do you think he will speak again?” –Salomé, of Iokanaan

“Who is this woman who is looking at me? I will not have her look at me. Wherefore doth she look at me with her golden eyes, under her gilded eyelids? I know not who she is. I do not desire to know who she is. Bid her begone. It is not to her that I would speak.” –Iokanaan, of Salomé

“Speak again, Iokanaan. Thy voice is as music to mine ear.” –Salomé

“Back! daughter of Babylon! By woman came evil into the world. Speak not to me. I will not listen to thee. I listen but to the voice of the Lord God.” –Iokanaan, to Salomé

“Thy hair is horrible. It is covered with mire and dust. It is like a knot of serpents coiled round thy neck. I love not thy hair. . . . It is thy mouth that I desire, Iokanaan.” […] “There is nothing in the world so red as thy mouth. . . . Suffer me to kiss thy mouth.” –Salomé

IOKANAAN: Never! daughter of Babylon! Daughter of Sodom! Never.

SALOMÉ: I will kiss thy mouth, Iokanaan. I will kiss thy mouth.

“Cursed be thou! daughter of an incestuous mother, be thou accursed!” –Iokanaan, to Salomé

HEROD: Where is Salomé? Where is the Princess? Why did she not return to the banquet as I commanded her? Ah! there she is!

HERODIAS: You must not look at her! You are always looking at her! […]

HEROD: I am not ill, It is your daughter who is sick to death. Never have I seen her so pale.

HERODIAS: I have told you not to look at her.

HEROD: Pour me forth wine [wine is brought.] Salomé, come drink a little wine with me. I have here a wine that is exquisite. Cæsar himself sent it me. Dip into it thy little red lips, that I may drain the cup.

SALOMÉ: I am not thirsty, Tetrarch.

HEROD: You hear how she answers me, this daughter of yours?

HERODIAS: She does right. Why are you always gazing at her?

HEROD: Bring me ripe fruits [fruits are brought.] Salomé, come and eat fruits with me. I love to see in a fruit the mark of thy little teeth. Bite but a little of this fruit that I may eat what is left.

SALOMÉ: I am not hungry, Tetrarch. […]

THE VOICE OF IOKANAAN: Behold the time is come! That which I foretold has come to pass. The day that I spoke of is at hand.

HERODIAS: Bid him be silent. I will not listen to his voice. This man is for ever hurling insults against me.

HEROD: He has said nothing against you. Besides, he is a very great prophet. […]

A THIRD JEW: God is at no time hidden. He showeth Himself at all times and in all places. God is in what is evil even as He is in what is good.

A FOURTH JEW: Thou shouldst not say that. It is a very dangerous doctrine, it is a doctrine that cometh from Alexandria, where men teach the philosophy of the Greeks. And the Greeks are Gentiles: They are not even circumcised. […]

FIRST NAZARENE, of Jesus: This man worketh true miracles. Thus, at a marriage which took place in a little town of Galilee, a town of some importance, He changed water into wine. Certain persons who were present related it to me. Also He healed two lepers that were seated before the Gate of Capernaum simply by touching them. […]

THE VOICE OF IOKANAAN, of Herodias: Ah! the wanton one! The harlot! Ah! the daughter of Babylon with her golden eyes and her gilded eyelids! Thus saith the Lord God, Let there come up against her a multitude of men. Let the people take stones and stone her. . . .

HERODIAS: Command him to be silent.

THE VOICE OF IOKANAAN: Let the captains of the hosts pierce her with their swords, let them crush her beneath their shields. […]

HEROD: Dance for me, Salomé.

HERODIAS: I will not have her dance.

SALOMÉ: I have no desire to dance, Tetrarch. […]

HEROD: Salomé, Salomé, dance for me. I pray thee dance for me. I am sad to-night. Yes; I am passing sad to-night. When I came hither I slipped in blood, which is an evil omen; also I heard in the air a beating of wings, a beating of giant wings. I cannot tell what they mean . . . I am sad to-night. Therefore dance for me. Dance for me, Salomé, I beseech thee. If thou dancest for me thou mayest ask of me what thou wilt, and I will give it thee, even unto the half of my kingdom.

SALOMÉ: [Rising.] Will you indeed give me whatsoever I shall ask of thee, Tetrarch? […]

HEROD: Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, even unto the half of my kingdom.

SALOMÉ: You swear it, Tetrarch?

HEROD: I swear it, Salomé. […]

SALOMÉ: I am ready, Tetrarch. [Salomé dances the dance of the seven veils.]

HEROD: Ah! wonderful! wonderful! You see that she has danced for me, your daughter. Come near, Salomé, come near, that I may give thee thy fee. Ah! I pay a royal price to those who dance for my pleasure. I will pay thee royally. I will give thee whatsoever thy soul desireth. What wouldst thou have? Speak.

SALOMÉ [Kneeling]: I would that they presently bring me in a silver charger . . .

HEROD [Laughing]: In a silver charger? Surely yes, in a silver charger. She is charming, is she not? What is it thou wouldst have in a silver charger, O sweet and fair Salomé, thou art fairer than all the daughters of Judæa? What wouldst thou have them bring thee in a silver charger? Tell me. Whatsoever it may be, thou shalt receive it. My treasures belong to thee. What is it that thou wouldst have, Salomé?

SALOMÉ [Rising]: The head of Iokanaan.

HERODIAS: Ah! that is well said, my daughter.

HEROD: No, no!

HERODIAS: That is well said, my daughter. […]

“You have sworn an oath, Herod.” –Salomé

“Well, thou hast seen thy God, Iokanaan, but me, me, thou didst never see. If thou hadst seen me thou hadst loved me. I saw thee, and I loved thee. Oh, how I loved thee! I love thee yet, Iokanaan, I love only thee. . . . I am athirst for thy beauty; I am hungry for thy body; and neither wine nor apples can appease my desire. What shall I do now, Iokanaan? Neither the floods nor the great waters can quench my passion. I was a princess, and thou didst scorn me. I was a virgin, and thou didst take my virginity from me. I was chaste, and thou didst fill my veins with fire. . . Ah! ah! wherefore didst thou not look at me? If thou hadst looked at me thou hadst loved me. Well I know that thou wouldst have loved me, and the mystery of love is greater that the mystery of death.” –Salomé, holding and gazing upon the severed head of Iokanaan

“She is monstrous, thy daughter I tell thee she is monstrous.” –Herod, to Herodias

“Ah! I have kissed thy mouth, Iokanaan, I have kissed thy mouth. There was a bitter taste on my lips. Was it the taste of blood ? . . . Nay; but perchance it was the taste of love. . . . They say that love hath a bitter taste. . . . But what matter? what matter? I have kissed thy mouth.” –Salomé, still with Iokanaan’s head

HEROD: [Turning round and seeing Salomé.] Kill that woman! [The soldiers rush forward and crush beneath their shields Salomé, daughter of Herodias, Princess of Judæa.]

III: Themes and Beginning

Recurring themes in the play/opera include these: lust, with gazing/leering/staring at the object of desire, hence objectification; the conflict between, and complementarity of, opposites (love/loathing, spirituality/carnality, desire/disgust, white/black, male/female roles, beauty/ugliness, life/death, victim/victimizer, etc.); and the decadence of the ruling classes, as against the assurances for the oppressed that revolution, redemption, and liberation are soon to come.

The story begins at night, just outside a banquet held by Herod, his wife, Herodias (widow of his half-brother, Herod II), and her daughter, Salomé, along with all their guests in Herod’s palace. The moon is shining, silvery-white and bright. Silvery-white because, as Narraboth says, “She [the moon] is like a little princess…whose feet are of silver,” and “who has little white doves for feet.”

Narraboth, a young Syrian and Captain of the Guard, amorously declares how beautiful Salomé looks. The Page of Herodias wishes he wouldn’t always stare at her, for the Page fears that disaster will come of his passion.

The moon is a pale, virgin, silvery white, as is Salomé’s flesh. The moon looks so pale and white, “She is like a woman rising from a tomb. She is like a dead woman,” as the page of Herodias observes.

The princess-moon, with her innocent white feet, can drive men lunatic, as can Salomé’s virginal beauty; as, in turn, the holy purity of similarly-pale Iokanaan drives her mad with love for him. In this play, virginal innocence is dialectically related to the deadly sin of lust: the one opposite dissolves into the other.

IV: Enter Salomé

Salomé leaves the banquet area, finding it disturbing how Herod keeps staring at her with lust in his eyes. Of course, Narraboth is eyeing her similarly, but she will soon be an ogler herself, for she hears the voice of Iokanaan from the cistern below.

He has spoken harsh words against her mother, Herodias, as well as against Herod (i.e., his incestuous marriage with his half-brother’s widow); Salomé knows of this, but instead of being offended by Iokanaan’s words, she’s intrigued. It seems evident that Salomé has hardly any less contempt for her mother than she does for her adoptive father: alienation, including that between family members, is a typical symptom in a world of class conflict, in this case, that of the ancient slave vs. master variety.

Thus, any speaker of ill against Salomé’s family is a singer of sweet music to her ears. Small wonder she’d like to take a look at that mysterious man down in that dark, yonic pit. She looks down into it, awed by its darkness. This blackness, of course, is associated with Iokanaan’s mysticism. An ominous, eerie tritone is heard in the musical background when she looks into the cistern and notes its blackness, near the beginning of scene two.

Let’s compare some images used so far. Pale Salomé is consistently associated with the silvery-white, virginal moon, an ominous orb portending imminent evil. The cistern is black, as Salomé observes, but since it houses a holy man, a celibate man, it could be seen as virginal, too, the yoni of a virgin such as Salomé herself. The cistern’s blackness thus has a dialectical relationship with the silvery-white moon, which phases from white full moon to black new moon, and back again. Iokanaan, like the moon, also portends an evil coming too soon for comfort.

She insists on having Iokanaan brought out so she can see him, to have his mysteries revealed…just as Herod will want Salomé to dance a striptease for him, to reveal her anatomic mysteries. The lecherous, decadent tetrarch, of course, also hopes to make the young beauty replace her mother as his new queen, so her virginal yoni‘s dark secrets can be revealed to him…just as she wishes to have Iokanaan, the secret of the dark yoni of the cistern, revealed to her eyes.

The parallels between Iokanaan’s display and that of her nakedness continue, first with Narraboth’s and the soldiers’ insistence that the prophet not be allowed out (by Herod’s orders), on the one hand, and Herodias’ disapproval of her daughter dancing erotically for Herod. Also, Salomé entices Narraboth with suggestions of her favouring him (offering a green flower and a smile) if he’ll allow Iokanaan to come out, and Herod entices her with an oath to give her anything she wants if she’ll dance for him. Both Narraboth and Salomé are persuaded to do what they’d otherwise never do.

V: Enter John the Baptist

Iokanaan emerges from the cistern, pale, hairy, and filthy, but always shouting his imprecations against the decadent kings and queens of the world, especially Herodias. His holiness inspires Salomé’s passion for him, symbolizing the dialectical relationship between the erotic and the ascetic (something also explored in Hindu myth, as Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty observed in Siva: the Erotic Ascetic, pages 33-36).

At first, Salomé loves Iokanaan’s white flesh, a parallel of the love Narraboth and Herod have for her pale flesh. The prophet, of course, rejects her wish to touch his body; indeed, he can’t even bear to have this “daughter of Sodom” look at him. She’s angered by his rejection, feeling narcissistic injury, no doubt; but his chastity fascinates her all the same.

Salomé is used to having a train of admiring men following her everywhere, leering at her, lusting after her. Such men bore her, annoy her, inspire her contempt; but Iokanaan is no lecherous pig. With him, the sexes are reversed, and the man is disgusted with the woman’s lechery. She’s hurt by his rejection, but she can only admire him all the more for it. This man’s spiritual willpower is as rare as her physical beauty is, and her desire for him is made all the hotter for this.

As soon as he rejects her, she speaks ill of his whitest of white body, which she’s just finished praising. Now she speaks of loving his blackest of black hair; note the immediate juxtaposition of opposites–loved/loathed, beautiful/ugly, and white/black. When he rejects her wish to touch his hair, she’s now repelled by it and begins loving his red lips.

VI: Baiser

She wants to kiss his mouth, saying in Wilde’s French: “Laisse-moi baiser ta bouche.” Baiser, as a verb, originally meant ‘to kiss,’ but it grew to mean ‘to fuck,’ this new meaning starting as early as the 16th or 17th century, having been used this way in, for example, a few poems by François Maynard. This usage began to grow more common by the beginning of the 20th century, prompting the French to start using embrasser to mean ‘to kiss’ instead.

My point is, given the already shockingly erotic overtones of Wilde’s play, as well as in his choice to write it in French instead of his usual English, did he use baiser as a double entendre? Was he suggesting a secondary meaning, a cunnilingus fantasy of Salomé’s, to get head from Iokanaan?

Now Strauss, in using a German translation for his opera, used the word küssen, which only means ‘to kiss.’ Perhaps he was aware of the growing use of the sexual meaning of baiser, and wanted to mitigate the scandal by eliminating that problematic French word. I’m guessing that my speculations hadn’t been discussed by critics back around the turn of the 20th century, given the-then taboo nature of this subject; but this taboo use of baiser has been discussed more recently.

VII: Lustful Staring

Back to the story. The prophet is so shocked by this “daughter of Babylon” that he curses her and goes back down into the cistern. Salomé’s unfulfillable desire has turned into an obsession; speaking of which, Narraboth’s has caused him to implode with sexual jealousy, since he can see she clearly prefers Iokanaan to him. Thus, he stabs himself and dies, fulfilling Herodias’ page’s dire prediction that his obsessive, mesmerized staring at Salomé would bring evil.

Of course, the young Syrian hasn’t been the only one staring at Salomé to the point of such ogling being dangerous. Herod enters with Herodias; he slips on Narraboth’s spilled blood, an obvious omen.

The tetrarch speaks of the silvery-white moon and Salomé’s pale skin, an evident identifying of the one with the other, just as Salomé has identified the chaste moon with celibate Iokanaan. We see more unions of opposites: virginity and whorish objects of desire, in both her and the prophet.

Herodias is annoyed with Herod’s staring at her daughter, with Iokanaan’s insulting diatribes against her, and Herod’s–to her, absurd–belief in omens and prophecies. She is a purely materialist, decadent queen: the moon is just the moon to her.

She wishes he would just give Iokanaan over to the ever-disputatious Jews, who come out and begin a clamorous storm of debating over whether Iokanaan has seen God, whether he is Elijah having returned, and whether this or that dogma is correct. This is another example of wanting to know mysteries, to see secrets.

In all of this arguing among the Jews, we see dramatized the dialectic of contradictory viewpoints. Added to this is the contradiction between the Jewish point of view and that of the Nazarenes, who now come onstage.

VIII: Revolution

Since the Crucifixion hasn’t happened yet, discussion of how the Messiah will save the Jews from their sins is never in the Pauline notion of a Divine Rescuer dying and resurrecting, so that believing in Him will confer God’s grace for the forgiveness of sins. Instead, salvation for the Jews is understood to come in the form of a revolution against Palestine’s Roman imperialist oppressors. Recall Matthew 10:34.

Revolution! Insurrection! Such words terrify decadent rulers like Herod and Herodias, who naturally don’t want to lose their privileges as members of the ruling class. Thus do we see the dialectic move, from the Hegelian sort we heard among the debating Jews, to the materialist sort that Marx discussed: the contradiction between the rich and poor.

Iokanaan prophesies the downfall of sinful rulers like incestuous Herod and Herodias, as well as the redemption of the downtrodden. As the prophet says at the beginning of Wilde’s play, “the solitary places shall be glad. They shall blossom like the rose. The eyes of the blind shall see the day, and the ears of the deaf shall be opened. The suckling child shall put his hand upon the dragon’s lair, he shall lead the lions by their manes.”

Such welcome changes can be seen to symbolize revolutionary relief given to the suffering. The blind seeing, and the deaf hearing, suggests the enlightenment of the poor, hitherto ignorant of the true causes of their sorrows. The idea of gladdened solitary places suggests the replacement of alienation with communal love. The suckling child, with his hand on the dragon’s lair, and leading the lions, suggests the end of the oppression of the weak by the strong, replacing it with equality.

Marx similarly prophesied the end of the rule of the bourgeois, to be replaced by communist society. The bourgeois today, like threatened Herod and Herodias, are scared of their imminent downfall, for many believe their days are numbered.

My associating Iokanaan with Marx is no idle fancy, for in 1891, the very same year Wilde wrote Salomé, he also wrote The Soul of Man under Socialism, inspired by his reading of Peter Kropotkin, and in which Wilde considered Jesus to be a symbol of the extreme individualist he idealized. Wilde would also have been aware of the short-lived Paris Commune twenty years prior, which Marx joyfully described as being a manifestation of his notion of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

IX: The Music

It seems apposite, at this belated point, finally to discuss Strauss’s music. Influenced by Wagner’s musical dramas, Strauss used Leitmotivs (“leading motives”) for each character in Salomé, as well as for many key moments or concepts in the story.

There’s the light, dreamy Leitmotiv heard when Narraboth expresses his admiration for Salomé’s beauty at the beginning of the opera. There’s the Leitmotiv when she sings of wanting “den Kopf des Jochanaan,” which gets increasingly dissonant with her every iteration of the demand for it, to ever-reluctant Herod.

And there are Leitmotivs for Iokanaan and his prophetic abilities, the former being a stately, dignified chordal theme heard on the horns; and the latter melody being a trio of fourths, C down to G, then F down to C, then–instead of another, third perfect fourth–there’s a tritone of A down to D-sharp, then up to E, now a perfect fourth (relative to the previous A). These three sets of perfect fourths symbolize Triune, holy, divine perfection; the tritone, though the diabolus in musica, nonetheless resolves to E, symbolizing a prophecy of sinning imperfection soon to be made perfect, redeemed.

Strauss, as a late Romantic/early modern composer, anticipated many of the revolutionary musical ideas soon to be realized in full by such modernists as Stravinsky, Bartók, Schoenberg, and Webern. Strauss was thus a kind of musical Iokanaan. Strauss, through his extreme chromaticism, pushed tonality to its limits, while not quite emancipating the dissonance, as Schoenberg would soon do. Since some have seen the emancipation of the dissonance as linked with the emancipation of society and of humanity, the music of Strauss–as musical Iokanaan–can be seen symbolically as heralding the coming of that social liberation I mentioned above.

The harsh discords in his score symbolize the contradictions not only in the class conflict between the decadent rulers (puppet rulers for imperial Rome) and the oppressed poor, but also in the conflicts between what Narraboth, Salomé, Iokanaan, Herod, and Herodias each wants. Also, the contrast between these dissonant moments and the prettier, more tuneful sections suggests the dialectical relationships between beauty and ugliness, and love and loathing.

Finally, the choice of ‘harsh‘ (at least from the point of view of English speakers), guttural German–instead of Wilde’s erotically lyrical (if a tad idiosyncratic) French–reinforces the dramatic tension, especially when Salomé demands the prophet’s head on a silver charger.

X: Dance for Me, Salomé

Back to the story. Herod is so obviously troubled, on the one hand by the threats Iokanaan is making against his rule, and on the other by his fear of the prophet as a man of God–which means he can’t kill him–that the soldiers note the tetrarch’s sombre look.

Herod hopes that Salomé will dance for him, to take his mind off his troubles. This escape into sensuous pleasure is an example of the manic defence, to avoid facing up to what makes one so unhappy.

Always annoyed that her husband stares lustfully at her daughter, Herodias forbids Salomé to dance for him. But his oath to give her anything she wants, even to half of his kingdom, puts a sly grin on her face and a twinkle in her eye; so Salome agrees to dance.

Wilde‘s brief stage direction, of Salomé dancing in seven veils, has been made so much of. It says nothing explicitly of a striptease, but why else would she dance in those veils, if not to remove them one by one?

Strauss’s exotic, sensuous music certainly makes much of the dance, starting with a slow, erotic, mysterious aura and building up to a fast, frenzied, and dissonant climax, once almost all (or absolutely all, depending on the boldness of the woman playing Salomé) of the veils have been removed.

XI: Getting Naked

As each veil is removed, more of the mysteries of her body are revealed to horny Herod, just as the mystery of Iokanaan was revealed to lascivious Salomé when he emerged from the vaginal cistern. This story is all about the desire to have secrets revealed, including, as the Jews obsess over, the mysteries of God, through such things as prophecies, as the Nazarenes are concerned with. Mysteries thus may be sensual or spiritual: note the dialectical relationship between these two.

While we usually think of men objectifying women, as Herod is doing with Salomé here, in Salomé the objectifying is a two-way street, since she lusts after chaste Iokanaan. And while it is usual and correct to be concerned with the injuries done to female strippers, sex workers, and pornographic models and actresses, consider how pathetic the men are, those addicted to porn, prostitutes, and strippers, using these as a manic defence to avoid facing their own sadness. Consider their shame at knowing what pigs they’re being (or at least seen as being), each a modern Herod, walking guiltily in and out of strip joints, whorehouses, and the porn sections of DVD rentals.

There are two sides to objectification: the view to destroy, as Salomé does to Iokanaan, and as Herod does to Salomé at the end of the opera; and there’s the view to admire, to worship the beautiful object, as any connoisseur of art understands…and as Salomé and Herod also do to their adored objects. Looking to admire and to destroy are, again, dialectically related. This obsessive urge to look, a pagan adoration of divinity that is–in this opera–thematically related to whether or not the Jew or Nazarene has ‘seen’ God, is also a weakness that can be exploited.

Salomé is certainly using her sexuality to take advantage of this weakness of Herod’s. And since, on the one hand, the tetrarch is objectifying and using her for his pleasure, getting her to strip down to a state of nude vulnerability; and on the other hand, she’s turning his lust against him, we have here a male/female variant of Hegel‘s master/slave dialectic, or a dialectic of feminism meeting antifeminism.

XII: Switching Roles

The master (Herod) uses the, so to speak, slave (Salomé) for his own pleasure, but she uses her creativity (her dance) to build up her own mastery over him. Thus, master and slave switch roles, making her especially triumphant, since she’ll cause the doom of two men–decapitated Iokanaan, and the revolutionary toppling of Herod, as it is assumed will happen to him when the Nazarenes (and God!) are so enraged to learn of the execution of their beloved prophet.

Women are perceived to be inspiring of lust and sin (the misogynistic, antifeminist side of the dialectic), yet Salomé and Herodias triumph in thwarting the tetrarch and killing the male religious authority (the feminist side). What’s more, Salomé is all the more feminist in wishing for Iokanaan’s head for her own pleasure, not out of obedience to her mother.

Herod pleads with Salomé to ask for something else. The tetrarch has made himself a slave to his oath, of which she’s the master. He offers her rare jewels, ones even her mother doesn’t know he has; he offers her rare white peacocks. All she does is repeat her demand for “den Kopf des Jochanaan,” each time given more and more aggressively, with increasingly tense music in the background. Finally, he is forced, in all exasperation, to relent.

XIII: The Head

When the executioner is down in the dark cistern, Salomé waits by the hole and listens. Suspense is built when she hears nothing. She grows impatient, thinking she’ll need the soldiers to do the job she imagines the slave who went down with his axe is too incompetent or cowardly to do. Nonetheless, he emerges with Iokanaan’s bloody head. The ruling class’s indulgence of their petty desires always brings about violence of this sort.

Still, there are contradictions even among the desires of the different members of the ruling class. Herod is horrified to see Salomé’s maniacal gazing at the head, but Herodias is pleased to no end. Salomé kisses the mouth, triumphant in having achieved what the living prophet refused to let her do. In her mania, she imagines for the moment that Iokanaan’s eyes should be looking at her, as if the severed head could possibly be alive. She is thus disappointed that the eyes don’t look at her.

She wishes that he could have accepted her love, that if he’d looked at her, that if he’d just let her kiss his mouth, he would have loved her back, for love is a greater mystery than death.

XIV: Decapitation as Symbolic Castration

Since Wilde’s use of baiser has the implied secondary meaning of “to fuck,” and since she says, “Ah! thou wouldst not suffer me to kiss thy mouth, Jokanaan. Well! I will kiss it now. I will bite it with my teeth as one bites a ripe fruit. Yes, I will kiss thy mouth, Jokanaan,” she is implying that she has a symbolic vagina dentata, which will castrate him when they make love. She compares his body to a column of ivory, a column being a phallic symbol. Thus, ‘fucking’ his mouth with the implied vagina dentata means his decapitation is a symbolic castration.

Herod’s unwillingness to have Iokanaan beheaded is thus an example of castration anxiety, especially since loss of the phallus is a symbolic loss of power. Herod’s fear of Iokanaan’s execution provoking a Nazarene revolution, spearheaded by none other than God, reinforces this symbolic fear of castration. Iokanaan’s “Kopf” is a cock.

XV: Conclusion–Who Wins the Sex War (and the Class War)?

Salomé (and by extension Herodias, since she has wanted Iokanaan’s death from the beginning), having the prophet’s head in her arms, is now symbolically the powerful phallic woman. She, especially in her madness and perversity, is a threat to Herod. Regarding her as “monstrous,” he orders all the torches to be put out. He says, “Hide the moon! Hide the stars!” For the whiteness of the moon and stars resemble her pale skin far too much for his comfort.

Finally, the male/female dialectic sways back in the antifeminist direction, and Herod orders his soldiers to “Kill that woman!” The men surround Salomé with their shields, and crush her to death with them, ending the opera with a barrage of discords.

Still, we know that the days of all decadent kings and queens–as well as those of the tetrarch, it seems–are numbered. Herod is still quaking in fear over the consequences of killing a holy man. The Nazarenes believe the tetrarch cannot stop the march of God through history, just as we Marxists believe the bourgeoisie cannot stop the dialectical movement of historical materialism.

Herod can hide the moon and the stars for only so long. Recall Iokanaan’s words: “In that day the sun shall become black like sackcloth of hair, and the moon shall become like blood, and the stars of the heaven shall fall upon the earth like unripe figs that fall from the fig-tree, and the kings of the earth shall be afraid.”

Furthermore, Salomé may be dead, but her double, that pale moon overhead, is still shining. In his poem, ‘Problems of Gender,’ Robert Graves wondered which gender to assign the moon, asking, “who controls the regal powers of night?” In Salomé, I think we know which sex controls them.

Mindfulness in Healing from Emotional Abuse

Another post I’m not seeing in my list of blog posts, so I’m reblogging it here.

Infinite Ocean

calm daylight evening grass Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

[NOTE: please read the second and third paragraphs from this post before continuing. Important–don’t skip reading them!]

In our healing journey, trying to recover from C-PTSD as a result of narcissistic, emotional abuse, we may make some progress, but then backslide into our old ways. That is, we at first are growing calmer, more at peace, and more patient in dealing with life’s irritations; then, pleased with our progress, we get complacent and lazy, skipping our planned meditations and other forms of self-care. Finally, those inevitable, difficult situations arise again, and we react in our former, emotionally dysregulated way…then the shaming inner critic comes back!

What can we do? We want to get back on track, we have to get back on track, but discouragement daunts us, and tempts us to give up.

We must remember that progress in healing is neither a steady…

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‘Claws,’ an Erotic Horror Novel, Chapter Twelve

The next day, Detectives Surian and Thurston were sitting on a bench in a dry-cleaning store, waiting to talk with the mom and pop owners, both of them of Polynesian descent. The detectives were watching a video recording on Surian’s cellphone.

“How were you able to sneak a hidden camera into Dr. Visner’s office without him or his receptionist knowing?” Thurston asked.

“I think ‘Chloe’ used her powers to distract those two so I could get in,” Surian said, trying to fast-forward the video to the exact point where Visner’s session with Callie began. “The door to his office was conveniently left open, with neither the shrink nor the receptionist around at the time to see what I was doing there.”

“If ‘Chloe’ used her powers to help you get info,” Thurston said, “then this must be part of a trap she’s laying for us. We’d better be careful.”

“Yeah, I know,” Surian said. “We’ve always known the dangers involved in pursuing her. Let it work. We need everything we can get to learn as much as possible about her. We’ll have her hoisted on her own petard soon enough. By the way, since I’ve already watched this video recording, I know what name she goes by from day to day: Callie Seaver.”

“So, ‘Chloe’ is just her stripper stage name?”

“Yes. It’s also Sandra Brahms’s mother’s name. And Callie is Sandra’s middle name, and Seaver was her mother’s maiden name.”

“Hmm. Interesting set of coincidences.”

The store owners walked up to them.

“Hello,” the female owner said. “My name is Vanessa Yama, and this is my husband, Raymond.”

The detectives got up and shook their hands. “Hi. Detective Andrew Thurston. Call me Andy.”

“Detective Agnes Surian,” she said, shaking Vanessa’s hand. “To get an idea of what I was talking about before with you, let’s watch this video I got of ‘Chloe,’ the stripper name of Callie Seaver, during a psychotherapy session with a man named Dr. Visner.”

“They allowed you to record this?” Vanessa asked.

“No, but I think the spirit inside Callie allowed me to sneak in and put a hidden camera in the room,” Surian said.

“If Kluh helped you do that, then she has plans for you as well as Callie and the psychiatrist,” Raymond said. “Kluh is all about…bringing people together.”

“So, what do you know about this ‘Kluh’?” Thurston asked.

“Let’s watch the video first, to see if this Callie really is possessed by the demoness,” Vanessa said. “We’ll be able to tell by her manner if Kluh is controlling her.”

They all sat side by side on that bench with Surian in the middle, all of them leaning over to look at her cellphone. She pressed PLAY.

“So, what has Kluh done lately, besides almost seduce me in The Gold Star?” Dr. Visner asked Callie in the video.

“I seduced one of the two cops who have been following me,” she said. “He was fun in bed.” She giggled.

Thurston’s face went red. Surian looked over at him and smirked. Now the Yamas’ faces went red.

“Did the beast claw him to death?” Visner asked as he jotted a few notes down. “I didn’t hear anything in the news about any killings lately.”

“We’ve heard about all those killings, of course,” Raymond said. “A hairy female beast with claws slices up her male lovers during sex. That sounds like Kluh.”

“And the girl in the video sure looks like a typical female host for the spirit,” Vanessa said. “Beautiful, sexy, and seductive.”

“Kluh can change the physical appearance of the host to make her more attractive to men,” Raymond said.

“We suspect that ‘Callie Seaver’ was originally Sandra Brahms,” Surian added. “A rather plump teenage girl sexually abused by her stepfather, who was killed by the beast in Hamilton a month or so ago.”

“She wrote about trying to contact the spirit world in several entries in a diary we found in her stepfather’s house in Hamilton,” Thurston said. “She tried to contact her mother’s ghost.”

“That is how Kluh is typically summoned,” Vanessa said with widened eyes. “The demoness initially pretends to be the ghost of a loved one trying to communicate with it. She exploits the emotional weaknesses of people she wants to take over, to get in.”

“Hey, let’s pay attention to the video,” Surian said. “Watch what Callie is doing. She’s undressing in front of the shrink!”

“Callie, please don’t do that,” Visner said, covering his nose and mouth. “That isn’t just any old perfume, is it?”

“Kluh’s pheromones,” Raymond said. “Her aphrodisiac for luring you in.”

In the video, Callie was standing before Dr. Visner in only a black lace bra and panties, and in black high heels.

“C’mon, Doctor,” she said, unhooking her bra. “You’ve seen it all already. Live a little.” She removed it and shook her breasts.

“She must be Kluh,” Vanessa said, noting the black panties coming off. “This is exactly the kind of exhibitionism we’d expect from the sex demoness. We’ve seen enough. We’re convinced this girl is the host.”

Surian stopped the video, saying, “Right when it was getting interesting.” She set her phone up to get an MP3 recording of her conversation with the Yamas. “OK, what do you know about Kluh? What does she want? How’s she going to get it?”

“I remember hearing stories about a ghost named Kluh back in my childhood, when Raymond and I grew up in Tahaiwi,” Vanessa said.

“Tahaiwi?” Thurston asked.

“It’s a small, obscure island in the Pacific Ocean, just south of the Equator at the northeastern-most point of the Polynesian triangle,” Raymond said. Thurston and Surian still had confused looks on their faces. “It’s northeast of the Marquesas Islands.”

“Thanks for the geography lesson,” Thurston said. “But what about Kluh?”

“To know about Kluh, you need to know a bit about Polynesian beliefs,” Vanessa said. “Our gods are similar to those of other Polynesians, but we have a lot of local beliefs that are really different from theirs, including how we conceive of mana.”

“What’s that?” Surian asked.

“It’s a special power in all living beings, but some have more of it than others, due to political influence, success in war, or, as we in Tahaiwi understand it, due to a stronger connection with the spirit world, which unifies everything,” Raymond said.

“We Polynesians stress the duality of all life,” Vanessa explained. “Body vs. spirit, good/evil, birth/death, pleasure/pain, etc. But in Tahaiwi, mana can grow through the merging of opposites.”

“OK,” Surian said. “But where does Kluh come into all of this?”

“Well, she builds power by uniting such opposites as beauty and ugliness–for example, having a sexy body, then turning into the horrible, clawed beast. She has sex, implying the creation of life, then kills her lover, causing the end of life,” Vanessa said.

“The merging of her spirit with Callie’s body is another merging of opposites,” Raymond added. “The same is true of her merging of opposing identities: the uniting of self and other.”

“That’s what Kluh has done with Callie,” said Vanessa. “And she’ll continue to do that, again and again, until…” She paused, not knowing how to continue.

“Until what?” Thurston asked.

“It’s hard to say,” Vanessa said. “It’ll sound over-the-top. You won’t believe it.”

“Just say it,” Thurston said.

“Until she’s absorbed all life on this planet, making it all a part of her,” Raymond said. “Causing the end of everything as we know it, like the end of the world. Then, there will be a new beginning. The end of the old life cycle, and the beginning of a new one.”

“You’re right,” Surian said. “I don’t believe it.”

“Look, all you need to know is that we need to stop her before she kills again,” Vanessa said. “We’ll need to do an exorcism as soon as possible, before she gains any more power. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to stop her as it is, but we must try.”

“Yes,” Raymond said. “Let’s go over to her place right now. You know where she lives?”

“Yes,” Surian said. “Let’s go.”

Present-mindedness

[NOTE: please read the second and third paragraphs from this post before continuing. Important–don’t skip reading them!]

One of the methods of coping that sufferers of C-PTSD use is dissociation, a shutting down to block the trauma’s intensity and a mental escaping from the present, stressful moment into a world of fantasy. As an alternative to fight or flight, dissociation is part of freezefawn being used more typically by people-pleasers and golden children.

This dissociation can be in the more advanced form of maladaptive daydreaming, a kind of manic defence escape from what troubles us into fantasy for protracted periods of time. Now, while this escape into fantasy may have served some useful purpose as a way to cope with childhood trauma, when we reach adulthood we can’t allow ourselves to dissociate to the point of it interfering with our lives.

I’ll give an example of a mild form of this problem. I look back on my teen years with regret over my habit, at the time, of daydreaming and excessively fantasizing, hour after hour, about being a great musician. I should have been practicing the guitar for the required hours, gradually overcoming my faults, and perhaps even becoming at least a good musician, instead of being the, at best, mediocre one I am now. The creativity involved in daydreaming isn’t worth much if it isn’t manifested in the real world, demonstrated as a physical thing people can see, hear, read…and admire.

Don’t daydream too much!

That excessive daydreaming was one of a number of things that helped me forget–temporarily–the school bullying and emotionally abusive family of my youth. Once, however, we’ve escaped the traumatizing relationships we were in with toxic people, be they a narcissistic family or ex-boy- or girlfriends, or ex-spouses, we have to learn to wean ourselves away from the bad habit of excessive daydreaming, as well as all the other, more serious problems that ongoing dissociation can cause. We have to train our minds to live in the NOW.

I’ve discussed this issue before, though from different angles. In Putting the Painful Past Behind Us, I devised an auto-hypnosis geared at persuading us to think of our painful pasts as no longer having any relevance in our present lives; if we think of it more as a dream we’ve woken from, it may be easier to forget and to stop ruminating about. In Rumination, I featured a list of reasons why overthinking the past is not only a pointless waste of time, but is also harmful.

Now, instead of stopping overthinking the past, I’m focusing on getting us to be more present-minded, to being mindful for as much of the day as we can. I’d like to try that by having us do another auto-hypnosis.

Start by sitting or lying down in a comfortable, quiet, and relaxing place, with nothing to distract or bother you. Close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths, in and out, in and out, over and over again. Pay close attention to what is happening in your body.

Sit or lie in a comfortable position.

Imagine yourself standing in a growing, rising pool of water, at first covering your toes and heels, then rising up to the tops of your feet and reaching your ankles. As every part of your body is submerged by this ‘water,’ you feel those submerged body parts tingling, vibrating with relaxation.

This ‘water’ rises up to your calves, knees, upper legs, and thighs. Now, half of your body is submerged in this ‘watery,’ tingling relaxation. It continues up to your waist, belly, and lower back. Your fingers, then hands and lower arms are also submerged.

The ‘water’ rises up to your chest and upper back, as well as your elbows and upper arms, until your shoulders are also submerged, then the water reaches your neck. Finally, your whole head is ‘underwater.’

This whole time, you’ve continued your slow, deep breathing. Now, with each long inhalation and exhalation, count down from ten to one; as each number is passed, feel yourself getting more and more relaxed, so by the time you reach one, then zero, you’re at a maximum state of relaxation.

Now, imagine your nostrils are like the gills of a fish, and breathe in that ‘water’ you’re submerged in. As it enters and permeates your whole body, imagine yourself becoming one with the ‘water.’ This ‘water’ is the infinite ocean that is the entire universe, and like the Hindu notion of Atman‘s union with Brahman, you are now unified with, you’re a drop of water in, that peaceful ocean of everything.

You are a part of the ocean’s waves. You ARE those waves.

Feel the soothing waves of that nirvana-like ocean passing in you, through you, and out of you, for you are that ocean, or at least you’re a tiny but happy part of it. The waves move up and down, slowly, serenely. Focus on the gentle movement of those waves as they flow through you right now. If you get distracted and catch yourself dissociating, that’s OK: just gently but firmly bring yourself back to concentrating on those peaceful waves. Feel them massaging your soul.

Try to stay focused on this three-part state of consciousness: your connection with the oneness all around you, what I like to call the Unity of Space (that Atman = Brahman idea); your focus on the present, the eternal NOW, what I like to call the Unity of Time; and the up and down rolling of those waves, which for me symbolizes the dialectical unity of opposites, the crests being the theses, the troughs the theses’ negations, and the in-between movements up and down being the sublations of the theses/negations, what I like to call the Unity of Action. Everything is one: there is no more fragmentation.

Focus on these Three Unities simultaneously to bring yourself into full consciousness of the present reality within and around you. Such a meditation is excellent practice in concentration, and doing it regularly, every day, over time should help you become more habitually present-minded, since it will discipline your mind to stop drifting off into dissociations. It will also help you to calm your mind, be more peaceful, and feel more connected with the world, less alienated.

The infinite ocean of peace that gives true happiness.

The Unity of Time combines present-mindedness with an instinctive understanding of the eternally cyclical nature of reality, symbolized not only by those undulating waves, but also by the ouroboros, as I’ve discussed elsewhere. I find focusing on the cyclical motion of the waves to be helpful in keeping my mind from wandering from the NOW. Keep your mind on those up-and-down wave movements, and stay in the present.

Now, if you don’t like the meditation/visualization I’ve proposed above, remember that you can develop present-mindedness through the practice of other meditations, such as chanting the mantra Aum; counting slow, deep breaths; or staring at a single object. The basic principle is to do one thing and concentrate only on that thing you’re doing, not allowing your mind to wander.

What matters most is that, in developing your skill at sustaining your present-mindedness, you’ll be ruminating less, agonizing over the past less, feeling more peaceful, and enjoying more of your real life, which is right here in front of you, and which is now and only now.

Courage in the Face of Psychological Abuse

Just a reminder that this blog post still exists…since it isn’t showing up on my list of past blog posts anymore, and I’m rather annoyed about that.

Infinite Ocean

portrait angry closeup black and white Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

[NOTE: please read the second and third paragraphs from this post before continuing. Important–don’t skip reading them!]

One of the many ways the family kept me in control was to denigrate me as weak and cowardly. This, of course, is a common bullying tactic, to keep the victim from fighting back by making him or her believe that sticking up for him- or herself is a useless gesture.

What must be understood about bullies and emotional abusers, though, is that they are, in fact, the real cowards. I was put in a situation with a power imbalance in which my probably narcissistic mother used her golden children–my older brothers R. and F., and her #1 golden child, my older sister J.–as sticks with which to hit me. As the family scapegoat, or identified patient, I rarely, if ever, got sympathy from…

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‘Claws,’ An Erotic Horror Novel, Chapter Eleven

[some sexual content]

Nude Callie had a special guest in a VIP Room in The Gold Star that night: Dr. Visner.

“How did you know,” he panted as she rubbed her ass against his pointy lap, “that I was with…a Thai prostitute…when I was a young man?”

“How do you think…I know?” she sighed, getting wet from the pleasure of that point rubbing against her vulva.

“You must have found…an old…archived…newspaper story…about what…happened to her,” he moaned.

Callie took him by the wrists and put his hands on her breasts. He wanted to resist her sexuality, but her aphrodisiac pheromone smell was too powerful to resist. “What happened…to the Thai girl?”

“Stop pretending…you don’t know,” he sighed, enjoying the softness and smoothness of those large breasts cupped in his hands. “You must know. It was in…the story I read. It’s the only way…you could have known.”

“Oh? Refresh my…memory.”

“I’d rather not.”

“Why not?”

“It makes me feel…as guilty as I feel…with you now.”

Callie got up, turned around, and sat on his lap facing him, but not without first rubbing her breasts against his face. “Confession…is good for the soul. Tell me…what happened to her, and you’ll probably…feel better.”

“She…killed herself,” he groaned. “I read about it…in the paper…the day after…the night I’d had her. I recognized…her face in the photo.”

“Why do you think…your fucking her…was what made her…want to kill herself?” Callie asked. “How was your fucking her…any worse than…what any other man…could have done to her?” She put his hands on her ass, his fingers resting against her anal cleft.

“Because I…had anal with her. I paid her well, but I don’t think…she was too…accepting of how I…fucked her.”

“Were you too rough?” Callie asked, spreading her ass so his fingers would touch her anus.

“I don’t know,” he panted, one of his fingers massaging Callie’s anal ring. “I don’t think…I physically hurt her, but I think…she thought…what we were doing…was shameful.”

“I wouldn’t think that,” Callie said. “Ooh,” she moaned at the feeling of that finger. “I’d let you…do me that way.”

“But, your trauma…with your stepfather, Mort. I remind you…too much of him.”

“Oh, but you’re like…a good version of him,” she purred in his ear, then pecked him on the lips.

“How am I…’a good version,’ given what I did…to the Thai prostitute?” he asked.

“Because you resist…the temptation to have me. I like that. You’re a challenge. You can control your lust.”

“I didn’t…with the Thai girl.”

“You were young. You’ve learned to be good…since then.”

“My lust…made her kill herself.”

“You don’t know that. Anything could have happened…to make her want to kill herself. Stop blaming yourself.”

“But you’re my patient,” Visner said. “To sleep with you…would be a breach…of professional ethics.”

“And yet, you’re still here.” Her hand gave the erection in his pants a light squeeze, getting a grunt out of him.

“And that’s why…I should go.” He got up, the song having just ended, and put some money on the table. “I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon in the office.” He left.

And that’s why I like you, Callie and Kluh thought together. You’re no pig. She put the money in her purse and left the VIP Room, too, not bothering to put any clothes on.

Back in the main area of the strip joint, she saw Thurston standing by the tip rail, alone…Surian wasn’t with him this time.

What I wanted, Callie/Kluh thought.

The psychiatrist passed by Thurston. “Goodnight, Dr. Visner!” Callie shouted out to him.

“Good night,” he called back, just before going outside.

Thurston recognized her voice, but–being addled by his divided attention between it, and seeing the man she’d called out to–he wasn’t sure which direction he’d heard her calling from. He was noting the erotic scent of her pheromones, though. The demoness in that curvaceous nude body went up to him.

“Good evening, Andy,” she said from behind him.

He turned around, then gasped at the sight of those beautiful breasts and shaved crotch. “You know…my first name?” he asked.

“I know a lot more about you and your girlfriend, Agnes, than you realize.” Thurston was amazed to see Callie’s sudden resemblance to Eva, his old teen crush.

“Agnes isn’t my girlfriend,” he panted, trying not to look down at her tits. Her pheromone scent was like drugs, dazing him.

“Oh, but you want her to be your girlfriend. She wants to be your girlfriend, too, though she’s too shy to say. You’ll be together with her one day. We’ll all be together one day. In the meantime, how about you and I be together for a while in the VIP Room? Would you like me to give you some lap dances? They’re lots of fun. $20 per song.”

“Oh, uh, OK.” As long as Agnes doesn’t know, he thought, she won’t doubt how much I like her. He followed Callie into the VIP Room, and they sat on a couch there together.

Five minutes later, she was grinding on his lap. She brushed her long, wavy hair against his face; the pheromone smell was overpowering.

If Callie seduces me tonight, he thought as he fondled her breasts, may she turn into the beast and kill me right then and there. She may be hot, but I’d rather make love with Agnes. Callie is making herself look like my old teenage crush to fuck with my mind; Agnes, however, is like Eva, in body and soul. I must never forget the difference; I’d rather die than betray Agnes for this demon-whore.

Just then, when the song ended, his cellphone rang. He fumbled to get it out of his jacket pocket. It was Surian.

“Hello?” he said into it with a shaky voice. Callie sat in the chair facing him, a smirk on her face.

“I found some Polynesians, living near Queen Street, who know how to exorcise demons,” Surian said. “Are you in The Gold Star, Andy?”

“Uh, yeah,” he sighed. “Sorry. I felt…compelled to come here.”

“Are you sitting at pervert’s row? The music isn’t all that loud, from what I hear.”

“I’m in a…VIP Room.” He looked up from his phone and saw Callie grinning.

“Are you with her?” Surian asked, almost in anger.

“With ‘Chloe,’ yeah,” Thurston said, with a tinge of guilt in his voice, and noting ‘Chloe’ grinning a wider grin.

“Andy!” Surian said. “Get out of there. You know how dangerous she is!”

“I know…I can’t…help it.”

“She’s turning you on. She’s hypnotizing you.”

“Don’t be jealous. I like you more. You know that.”

“Oh, fuck off with that. You’re in danger.”

“I’m not gonna fuck ‘er, Agnes.”

I wouldn’t be too sure about that, if I were you, Andy, Callie thought.

“Andy, you know how that woman’s sexy smell can mess with your mind,” Surian said. “I’m coming over there. Don’t let her take you out of there.” She hung up.

“Wanna go to a hotel with me?” Callie asked, still grinning.

“Oh, uh, OK,” he said, his eyes half open.

**************

Twenty minutes later, Surian arrived at The Gold Star. She ran in, looking around everywhere in the strip joint. All the VIP Rooms were empty at the time.

“Fuck!” she shouted. “He left with her.” She ran back outside.

**************

In a hotel room just a few blocks away, nude Callie was riding on top of clothed Thurston (his zipper open and his hard cock sticking out), in the cowgirl position. The mattress of their bed squeaked with her every bounce.

“Oh!” she screamed, orgasming. Panting as she got off of him, she noticed he was still as erect as a monolith. “You need to be finished off.” She knelt at the side of the bed, and gestured to him to sit with his legs on either side of her.

He sat there, and she–looking up into his eyes–took his cock in her mouth. He looked down in her eyes, amazed at her skills as her head went up and down on him.

Memories of her blowing her stepfather flashed before her eyes as she sucked Thurston off. Mort’s cruel eyes looking down at her, from her teen memories, made her shake and flinch in agitation.

***************

Surian had driven to Thurston’s apartment, then to Callie’s. No sound of moaning or sex could be heard in either place, let alone any other sounds indicating they were at home.

Memories of that bear attacking her teen boyfriend flashed before her eyes. Please, God, she thought, not knowing anywhere else to look for them, Don’t let the beast kill Andy. “He isn’t answering his phone,” she said to herself as she put hers back in her purse.

***************

I shouldn’t be here, Thurston thought as he looked down into Callie’s eyes. Her mouth and tongue feel fantastic, but I’d rather be with Agnes. She must think I’m just another typical pussy-chasing dude, but even she knows that ‘Chloe’ is controlling my whole time here with her. Sometimes I see a slutty smile on her face, sometimes…I see anger, fear. Is something going to set her off, make that hair grow all over her, make those claws grow from her fingertips? Agnes is right: I’m in danger, but how can I break Chloe’s spell?

As Callie looked up into Thurston’s eyes while sucking his cock, images of his face alternated with those of Mort. She was shaking all over.

As he was approaching orgasm, he listened to her moans–at times, lustful, at other times, menacing. Finally, just before he came, he heard a moan sound like a growl.

His eyes widened.

He thought he saw a few hairs growing on her arms as he shot bullets of come down her throat. He gasped in a mix of pleasure and terror. He squeezed his eyes together as he continued coming in her mouth.

He heard what seemed another growl or two.

Finally spent, and with her lips no longer wrapped around his penis, he dared to open his eyes.

All he saw was smiling Callie, putting his penis back in his pants and zipping him up.

Now he gave a sigh of relief.

“OK,” she said as she rose to her feet. “I think we’re done here, Andy. You can go. We paid for only a ‘rest,’ as you’ll recall.”

“Oh, uh, OK,” he said, his eyes half-open. “Good night. Thanks for the good time.”

“No, thank you,” she said as he staggered to the door. Your come inside me will strengthen our connection, she thought. It’s a good thing I reined myself in at the last second; otherwise, you’d be lying in a pillow of blood.

*****************

As Thurston staggered down the street back to his car in The Gold Star parking lot, he felt his cellphone vibrating in his pocket. He took it out. “Hello?”

“Oh, thank God you’re OK!” Surian almost sobbed. The memory of that bear killing her old boyfriend flashed before her eyes again.

“Yeah, she didn’t change into the beast.”

“Did you fuck her?”

“Uh, yeah. I’m sorry, Agnes. She–“

“I know she made you do her. I’m just glad she didn’t kill you.” He thought he heard a sob or two.

“Really? You mean, you do like me?” he slurred, still feeling a little dazed from the aftereffect of those pheromones.

“Oh, shut up, Andy. You’re my partner, that’s all. I need you.” That bear’s face flashed before her mind’s eye again.

“You need me as…a partner of another kind, I do detect.”

“Fuck off with that, will you? Look, I’ve learned some useful things about her. Not only can we get these Polynesian immigrants to exorcise the demon from ‘Chloe,’ but I know that she’s been seeing a shrink named Dr.–what was it?–Visner.”

“Hey, that name…sounds familiar.”

Analysis of ‘Falling Down’

Falling Down is a 1993 thriller film directed by Joel Schumacher, written by Ebbe Roe Smith, and starring Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall, and Barbara Hershey; it costars Frederick Forrest, Rachel Ticotin, Tuesday Weld, Lois Smith, and Raymond J. Barry.

Douglas plays Bill Foster (whose car’s personalized plate says “D-FENS,” hence the ending credits name him thus), an unemployed, divorced former weapons builder who has a mental breakdown in Los Angeles during a sweltering day in summer. He is the stereotypical “angry white male,” feeling shafted by a system that’s actually far more unfair to those other than his socioeconomic category.

I’d have to agree with Kirk Douglas and say that his son’s performance as D-FENS is his best yet. Though D-FENS represents a lot of disagreeable aspects of conservative American men, Michael Douglas humanizes the character and his many faults, making us sympathize with him, however indefensible his acts and thoughts may be.

Here are some quotes:

[Bill Foster exits his car in the middle of the highway]

Man on Freeway: Hey, where do you think you’re going?

Bill Foster: I’m going home! (his first line in the film) […]

“I’m rolling prices back to 1965!” –Bill, to Lee, the Korean store owner

“I am not a vigilante. I am just trying to get home to my little girl’s birthday. Now if everyone will just stay out of my way, then nobody will get hurt.” Bill, to Nick, the neo-Nazi surplus store owner (Forrest)

“I lost my job. Actually I didn’t lose it. It lost me. I’m overeducated, underskilled—Maybe it’s the other way around. I forget—but I’m obsolete. I’m not economically viable. I can’t even support my own kid.” –Bill

“You know what was in this? Zyklon-B! You remember? What the Nazis had! Listen! [shakes can, a slight rattle is heard] Empty! This was used, man! This was actually used! I wonder how many kikes this little can took out? Huh?! Think about it!” –Nick, to Bill

“Fuck you, Captain Yardley. Fuck you very much.” –Prendergast (Duvall)

Rick: Yes, sir?

Bill Foster: Hi. I’d like some breakfast?

Rick: We stopped serving breakfast.

Bill Foster: I know you stopped serving breakfast Rick, Sheila told me that you… why am I calling you by your first names? I don’t even know you. I still call my boss ‘Mister’ even though I’ve been working with him for seven years, but all of a sudden I walk in here and I’m calling you Rick and Sheila like we’re in some kind of AA meeting and…I don’t want to be your buddy, Rick. I just want a little breakfast?

Sheila: You can call me Miss Folsom if you want.

RickSheila. We stopped serving breakfast at 11:30.[Foster looks at his watch to find it’s 3 minutes past the deadline. He places his gym bag full of guns on the counter.]

Bill Foster: Rick, have you ever heard the expression “the customer is always right”?

Rick: (sighs) Yeah.

Bill Foster: Well, here I am. The customer.

Rick: (still smiling) That’s not our policy. You’ll have to order something from the lunch menu.

Bill Foster: I don’t want lunch. I want breakfast.

Rick: Yeah, well hey, I’m really sorry.

Bill Foster: (smiles back) Yeah, well hey, I’m real sorry too. (pulls out a TEC-9) […]

Bill Foster: You’re Korean? Do you have any idea how much money my country has given your country?

Mr. Lee: How much?

Bill Foster: I don’t know, but it’s gotta be a lot. […]

Nick: We’re the same, you and me. We’re the same, don’t you see?

Bill Foster: We are not the same. I’m an American, you’re a sick asshole. […]

“I am just disagreeing with you! In America, we have the freedom of SPEECH! The right to DISAGREE!” –Bill, to Nick

“Good! Good, freedom of religion. Now you get the swing of it. Feels good to exercise your rights, doesn’t it?” –Bill, then opening fire on Nick, shooting him through a mirror

“Beth, did you know that in some South American countries it’s legal to kill your wife if she insults you?” –Bill

Sergeant Prendergast: Let’s meet a couple of police officers. They’re all good guys.

Bill Foster: I’m the bad guy?

Prendergast: Yeah.

Bill Foster: How did that happen? I did everything they told me to. Did you know I build missiles?

Prendergast: Yeah.

Bill Foster: I help to protect America. You should be rewarded for that. Then they give it to the plastic surgeon. You know, they lied to me.

Prendergast: Is that what this is about? You’re angry because you got lied to? Is that why my chicken dinner is drying out in the oven? Hey, they lie to everybody. They lie to the fish! But that doesn’t give you any special right to do what you did today.

D-FENS!

How D-FENS dresses and looks is significant. With a crew cut, glasses, and a white shirt and tie, he looks like a man straight out of the late Fifties, or early Sixties. In fact, he’s stuck in the Sixties, but not the way a hippie is; he is a don’t-trust-anyone-over-thirty kind of man from the Sixties, having built missiles “to protect us from the communists,” as his mother tells Prendergast. D-FENS thus represents straight America.

Now, D-FENS, like straight America, has always had problems. His ex-wife, Beth (Hershey) has always sensed his potential for violence; like Travis Bickle, Bill Foster is a ticking time bomb.

Similarly, the US has, throughout her history, been a bomb waiting to explode; we know this because she has already exploded so many times before. But now that the Cold War is over, and she doesn’t have the convenient enemy of the USSR, America needs a new enemy, and has been seeking them out eagerly; so now her explosive tendencies have grown so much more dangerous…as have Bill’s. On this hot summer day, his war with LA is no cold one.

His problem–a “horrendous temper,” as Beth calls it–is on a continuum with most of the other characters, and this is significant, given his being a personification of conservative America. Indeed, a number of characters, especially Prendergast, parallel D-FENS to at least some extent, in terms of their pain, anger, alienation, and how varyingly functional or dysfunctional their ways are of coping with their problems.

When we see D-FENS in his car at the beginning of the movie, stuck in bumper-t0-bumper traffic on such a hot day, his air conditioning not working, and a fly buzzing all around him, we see him sweating, growing increasingly agitated, and finally losing it and abandoning his car. He goes from this agitation to a complete mental breakdown within the next half-hour.

He seems, on the face of it, so normal, so ‘straight,’ yet he goes crazy and violent in such short order. Seeing this, we ask ourselves, ‘Could I do that one day? What will it take to push me over the edge?’ After all, we don’t yet know much about him, until we get his ex-wife’s perspective; so Bill could be any ordinary American, for all we know.

This potential to become–this changing from one kind of man to another, two kinds so seemingly opposed, from ‘the good guy’ to the bad guy, is what makes D-FENS so scary to us. This contrast seems stronger when we learn from his mother, who’s terrified of him, that he has built weapons for American defence–“D-FENS!”–and when he’s lost his job, it’s the rest of us who need defence from D-FENS.

Loitering and trespassing on private property.

Now that he’s stopped building missiles, he’s become a kind of missile himself. As a weapons builder, Bill represents more than just straight America: he also represents the military-industrial complex (MIC). His accumulation of weapons (a bat, a switchblade, a gym bag full of guns, and a rocket launcher) thus represents the frightening growth of the MIC. The phallic nature of those amassed weapons also symbolizes Bill’s growing hyper-masculinity.

The MIC has always been in the service of imperialism, which is the extension of capitalist hegemony into other countries. The capitalist imperialist tends, however, to project his intrusiveness onto his victims (e.g., ‘the terrorists are going to get us,’ so we must bomb the Middle East, or, ‘we must stop the Red menace,’ so any killing of communists around the world is considered justified), just as Bill projects his aggression onto those he runs into. He attacks, yet he imagines it’s all…D-FENS.

So when he walks into the grocery store for change for the pay phone, and he finds Mr. Lee (Michael Paul Chan), the Korean owner, uncooperative, he busts up the place, as the US military did when the North Korean communists refused to cooperate with capitalism. Bill’s paying for a can of Coke–rolled back to 1960s prices–represents the capitalist imperialist short-changing the global proletariat. His taking of Mr. Lee’s bat represents imperialism’s attempts (if not successes) at depriving countries like the DPRK of the ability to defend themselves, a depriving that the US considers…D-FENS!

Capitalism breeds alienation, which includes the inability to communicate; therefore it’s no surprise that Bill finds it difficult to say anything when Beth answers his phone calls. He says nothing during those first few calls, but she knows it’s him on the other end.

She explains to the police that she has a restraining order against Bill–which she admits may have done more harm than good (it has!)–because she (justifiably, we learn) fears the possibility, the potential, of his rage to blow up into physical violence. She can see the psychopathy in Bill’s eyes; just as we on the left can see the potential for the moderate right to develop into outright fascism.

Still, we viewers of the film find ourselves sympathizing with D-FENS, in spite of his increasing violence and instability, since almost everyone he encounters is rude and obnoxious. Our sympathizing with him, however, is dangerous in how we make ourselves complicit, if only in thought, in his excesses.

D-FENS, in gangland.

Indeed, when we see him encounter the two Latinos in gangland, their bullying of him makes it hard to sympathize with them; but when you see this film as an allegory of US imperialism‘s dealings with Third World countries (e.g., those of Central and South America), the two Latinos’ aggression against gringo Bill becomes more than understandable.

They claim he’s “trespassing on private property,” a turning of the tables of what’s usually the white man telling the poor and people of colour to get off his property. Seen in this light, Bill’s D-FENSiveness becomes far less D-FENSible.

Now, as we ignorantly sympathize with Bill, we feel less and less sympathy for those who annoy him, including the poor. A homeless man trying to get a handout from him bumbles and stumbles over his absurdly transparent lies, making us want to laugh at his stupidity rather than pity him for his plight. Bill, of course, icily rejects him, and we find ourselves agreeing with him that the man should just “try to get a job.” (We probably forget our having agreed with him when we later realize Bill himself has no job, which has already been implied by his suitcase having only his lunch, and no business papers.)

Such an uncaring attitude toward the poor is dangerous, though, given the American gutting of welfare just a few years after this movie was made, one of many neoliberal moves resulting in, among other problems, the current epidemic of homelessness, not only in LA, but also in such places as San Francisco, Toronto, and the UK.

His confrontation with the staff in the Whammyburger is instructive of how employees are treated in capitalist society. Granted, we customers can’t help being annoyed when we enter a fast food restaurant hoping for breakfast, but we’re only a few minutes late, and they’ve switched to the lunch menu; still, it’s hard for the workers in the hot kitchen, cluttered with both breakfast and lunch cooking equipment, to prepare both kinds of meals at the same busy, hectic time. A strict ending of the one, to facilitate the switch to the other, may be inconvenient, but it’s perfectly understandable, as any past or present worker at places like McDonald’s will know.

He’d like to order some breakfast.

Bill’s brandishing of the semi-automatic weapon, firing into the ceiling, is symbolic not only of the rudeness customers show to those suffering in silence in the food service industry (and I am guilty of such rudeness, too, far more often than I care to admit), but also of the boss’s bullying of his striking workers, getting the police to fire on them. Recall in this connection that, since “the customer is always right,” he is the boss even of the boss and managers.

As our Odysseus continues on his journey home (and recall that Odysseus returned home after invading Troy with his army, as Bill’s America invades countries all the time), seeing poor people all around him and caring little about their plight, one far greater than his personal frustrations, he buys a gift for his daughter and sees a black man (short hair, white shirt and tie!) complaining outside a savings-and-loan that won’t give him a loan because he’s “not economically viable!” Bill can sympathize with this man, because he’s clearly middle class by his clothes. The man is one of several doubles of Bill seen throughout the film.

Speaking of Bill doubles, Prendergast has his own family frustrations, including a difficult wife and a daughter he can’t see…because she’s dead. Instead of losing his job, he’s about to retire; and after leaving fighting crime on the streets to work at a desk, he has to endure the taunts of the other cops for supposedly being a coward, when getting off the streets is the only way he can stop his wife from being hysterical.

Still, with all of his problems, he’s able to deal with them in a controlled, reasonable way, unlike D-FENS. The most violent he gets is punching a particularly obnoxious cop in his department for insulting his wife, and shooting D-FENS when goaded into killing him. Part of the p0int of Prendergast and the “not economically viable” man is to show that we can express our anger without making it escalate into frightening proportions.

Prendergast.

We hear so many tragic stories about unstable Americans (usually white men) with guns a-blazing. The US, as the nerve centre of global capitalism, “the belly of the beast,” as Che Guevara once called her, is also one of the worst places as far as alienation is concerned. Added to this is the toxic mixture of violent hyper-masculinity (a combination of biological factors and sex role socialization) and gun culture, including such absurdities as open carry. Then, there’s the growing problem of “white nationalism,” which leads me to Bill’s next major confrontation.

After Nick, the surplus store owner who’s been emboldened by Bill (and whom he says he’s “the same” as), taunts two gay men, he protects Bill from the “officeress” and gives him a rocket launcher. When Bill sees just how far to the right neo-Nazi Nick is, he refuses to identify with him.

Conservatives shouldn’t fool themselves about not being at least comparable to fascists. The only difference between a centre-rightist and a far-rightist is how much rage and frustration each feels with society. Both support the hierarchical, capitalist establishment; the fascist resorts to violence when that establishment is, or at least seems to be, threatened–the moderate conservative sees no threat…yet.

We must remember that the world isn’t a static, unchanging thing. All things flow dialectically, as I argued in my ouroboros posts. The social democrat shifts counterclockwise to the liberal centrist, who in turn shifts centre-right–or neoliberal/neocon–when such things as political correctness frustrate him; and this centre-rightist shifts to a pro-fascist position when the heat’s on even more.

“You missed.”

This is why, when D-FENS says to Nick, “I’m an American. You’re a sick asshole,” he’s being more than disingenuous. Conservative Americans like to rationalize their reactionary ideology by imagining they’re defending freedom, including freedom of speech and of religion…and who did many of these conservatives vote into office? Someone who cages migrants, has banned travel from six Muslim-majority countries, and dismisses criticisms of him as “fake news.” Because the DNC establishment is largely no better than he, he’ll probably get reelected in 2020, too.

When D-FENS shoots and kills the neo-Nazi, what’s interesting is how the latter is in front of a mirror. Bill is projecting his own fascistic tendencies onto Nick, pretending that his own evil potential is something alien to himself, when that Lacanian mirror shows Bill’s and Nick’s reflections together, a merging of the moderate right that is forever in danger of phasing into the extreme right. Whether Bill wants to admit it or not, Nick’s right-wing authoritarian ideal ego is Bill’s, too.

Just before D-FENS kills Nick, he falls down, which of course refers back to the film’s title (contrast this with Prendergast’s singing of “London Bridge is falling down…” to soothe and comfort his wife). Here is the point where Bill is falling down,…the point of no return. Up until this point, his aggressions have fallen short of lethal. He shot the Latino gang member in the leg, and the switchblade stab in Nick’s neck isn’t quite enough to kill him; but then Bill points Nick’s pistol at him with a shaky, spastic hand while looking at Nick and himself in Lacan’s mirror. Bill is fragmented and alienated from himself and his Nazi doppelgänger, as well as from the world. This murder is symbolic suicide (he shoots a hole in the mirror, at a point connecting with his reflection), for Bill hates what he can see himself turning into.

He’s at the point of no return; having killed the violent, fascist authoritarian, he’s become what he killed–the potential has become the reality. Accordingly, he threatens Beth on the phone. So much for the ‘American’ right to disagree: she disagrees with him, in his unstable state, when he asserts his right to see his daughter on her birthday; he implies he’ll kill Beth if she “insults” him.

Bill and Beth.

Normally, one would sympathize with divorced men who are discriminated against in child custody cases; but Bill is clearly one of those kind of men who are unfit to raise a child. His embrace of his daughter at the end of the film would begin a process of emotional healing for him, but he’s nonetheless reached the point of no return…

Now “dressed like GI Joe,” which is symbolic of his militaristic, quasi-fascist frame of mind, D-FENS leaves the surplus store with the rocket launcher in the gym bag and confronts a group of construction workers, like those whose blockage of the road set him off at the beginning of the movie. Again, as with the Whammyburger incident, we may be annoyed with government bureaucracy and all of its rules, regulations, and interference in our lives, but that doesn’t mean we can assume they’re never justified.

When Bill is told there’s “nothing” wrong with the road, this could just be the worker’s exasperated attempt to placate him, since Bill won’t accept being told there’s a legitimate reason for digging up the road. Government bureaucracy, rules, and intrusions are sometimes without justification, but sometimes they can’t be avoided. Bill, as right-libertarians all too often do, refuse to accept this reality.

The right-winger despises unionized workers, but sometimes he despises the rich, too. That’s why D-FENS gets mad at rich golfers and plastic surgeons. Right-libertarians blame the state for propping up the super-rich while they insist on preserving the class system and ‘free market’ that inevitably result in the current oligarchy. Fascists and Nazis have sometimes paid lip service to opposing capitalism, but Hitler was content to get financial aid from big business, including from foreign capitalists. Both of these kinds of right-wing thinkers are wilfully blind to their own hypocrisy. Capitalism is fine when it’s convenient for their selfish interests; if not, it’s just ‘corporatism,’ or ‘crony capitalism,’ and not ‘real’ capitalism.

Still, we whites are made to sympathize with Bill. Such sympathy is dangerous, leading to such real-life violence as the 2015 Chapel Hill shooting (whose suspect was fixated on this movie). Whites often tend to lack sympathy for the justified anger of such people as the black rioters in LA in 1992, which disrupted the filming of Falling Down. When Bill breaks down and cries before the family in the backyard of the plastic surgeon, we’re touched by the expression of his pain (superbly played by Michael Douglas); but we mustn’t let that blind us to all the wrong D-FENS has been doing. Having a little residual humanity isn’t enough when the rest is all viciousness and brutality.

“London Bridge is falling down…”

Speaking of the mix of residual humanity with brutality, consider the world that D-FENS wishes would come back. As a builder of missiles “to protect us from the communists,” he had work centred around the Cold War. This means, on the one hand, he helped the American war machine undermine the efforts of the USSR, Maoist China, Vietnam, the DPRK, Cuba, and the Eastern Bloc to free the world of imperialism. To Bill, that’s “D-FENS!” To us anti-imperialists, it’s viciousness.

On the other hand, the very presence of those Red countries prodded Western countries to provide quasi-social-democratic programs to help the Western working class feel at least somewhat comfortable under capitalism, thus stemming the tide of communist revolution. This ‘pinkish capitalism,’ if you will, was at its zenith from the post-WWII era to 1973. This was that bit of ‘residual humanity’ symbolized in those sympathetic moments in Bill; to us Marxists, that ‘humanity’ did little of substance for the world.

You see, those postwar, social-democratic benefits were largely for white working class men. The story was different for women who, during WWII, had had their first taste of bringing home a good pay-check doing their husbands’ jobs, but then had to go back in the kitchen, or to traditional, lower-paying jobs, once their husbands returned; and secondly, increasing divorce, especially during the Sixties, threw many women back into the workplace, where they’d experience discrimination. I hardly need to review what blacks were going through at the time.

Still, this postwar prosperity, with the American assurance that Bill et al were on the side of freedom, was a world that gave a sense of identity, meaning, and purpose. By the time of this movie, though, the USSR has already dissolved with almost all the other socialist states, and ‘freedom’ has prevailed. But as Erich Fromm in Escape From Freedom observed, the experience of ‘freedom from’ tyranny leads to a vacuum that needs to be filled with a new sense of structure, since no ‘freedom to’ develop one’s human potential has been provided to fill the void.

Bill has been in this predicament ever since his divorce from Beth and the loss of his job. He doesn’t know what to do with himself, without any structure or purpose in his life. All he can do is resort to increasing violence, as did the Nazis, of whom Fromm wrote.

Similarly, the Western victory over communism left the US without an enemy, and with a NATO hungry for expansion. Terrorism satisfied that need for an enemy during the 2000s, and Russia and China have satisfied it recently. The US, like D-FENS, has been growing more and more bellicose by the year. Many foresee American self-destruction within the next ten to fifteen years, comparable to Bill’s goaded suicide at the end of the film. (Recall what I said above, that Bill is straight America personified.)

All those angry white men, by the way, who cheer on D-FENS’s aggression fail to understand the film’s real intentions. We’re not meant to condone his actions, however much we may sympathize with him for how he’s suffered. Just because he’s gone through so much hardship, “doesn’t give [him] any special right to do what [he] did,” as Prendergast–who has also suffered terribly, yet handled his problems far better–says.

Now, for those on the right side of the political spectrum who are reading this, and are shaking their heads at what I’ve written here, I’ll give you all a full confession. I too went through an ‘angry white male’ phase, from my mid-twenties up until my late thirties, from about the mid-1990s to about 2010, before coming to my senses, shifting from the centre-right–little by little–to the left where I am comfortable now. I know your anger, right-leaning readers: I’m not some latte-sipping liberal who lives in the ivory tower of a university life; I’ve known for many years how mean and nasty the real world is.

So, to all you fans of D-FENS out there: please come to your senses and realize that he isn’t meant to be emulated, as Craig Stephen Hicks emulated him. You don’t want to find yourself falling down with people like this. It’s a fall from grace you might not be able to pick yourself back up from.