Thursday, April 24, 2014

symptom reading reflections on Clerks 2

I saw Clerks II recently. I remember seeing the first Clerks in the early 90s and appreciating the randomness that underlay some of its humor. However, what was vulgar or an echoistic attempt to cause delight in the first hasn't matured by finding more subtle versions in a new strata of society. There is stagnation of these impulses to which are added compensatory movements, such as having a Jackson 5 song turn into a choreographed dance, that feel misplaced. 

The phallic deutero phase that provides a rival phallic image for the child and therefore introduces a split in the ego and low ego ideal is something that only deepens as time goes on. The same irreverence that carried some charm in the first movie comes to a depressing climax in the second movie in which the characters are 30 year olds working at a fast food restaurant.

The symptom reading produces two interesting insights.

The female manager that Dante is cheating on his fiancé with provides the object relation expression of the ego relation of his idealizing his friend Randall.

Randall is in some ways fearless and object altruistically thumbs his nose at civilization which is an attractive quality for the subject altruist Dante who cares about not hurting the feelings of others. Dante’s fiancé is depicted as a former popular, hot girl who is tired of being with “assholes” and wants a loser whose life she can dictate. This is often part of the female castration complex for object egoists and was the fate of Freud’s Dora.  

If Dante isn’t going to choose submission and devotion to the perfection that his fiancé dictates he requires ‘a twin’ or mother-substitute friend to remain independent. Through this twin he can vicariously experience himself as strong and independent.

The young male employee that Randall mercilessly attacks is a relation of the character to both the naïve goodness of Dante and the fanboy aspects of himself in Dante.

In the pivotal moment in the movie Randall lets out his feelings:

I thought you were
the only guy in the world
who got me and had my back...
the only person
who'd take a bullet for me,
'cause I assumed
you felt about me
the same way I feel about you.
Then, all of a sudden, one day,
you're like, "I'm moving. Bye."
Do you know
what that's been like for me?
I'm looking at a future
that just sucks,
because you're
not gonna be in it anymore.
And you're not
even throwing me over
for a life
that means something to you.
It's just a stupid,
hollow existence
you think you should embrace
because you're getting old
or something,
because it's the kind of life
everyone else goes after.
You're a fucking drone, dude.
Then the next friend
whose life you ruin
can be a totally free spirit.
How's that?
You think I want to start
making friends at my age?
Who would want me
as their friend?
I hate everyone, and everything
seems stupid to me...
...but you were always
the counterbalance to that...
the guy who was the yin
to my yang.
But now what the fuck am I gonna
do for the rest of my life?
I mean, shit, I really wish
you would've told me this
when I first met you
that one day,
you were gonna bail
on our friendship,
because if I had known
you were just gonna flake on me
a few decades later...
I wouldn't have even bothered
with your ass
in the first place.

Randall’s appeal to him covers up his use of Dante as a punching bag as much as it may have an altruistic sense of devotion to him. Dante is the castrated mother who Randall gets to feel superior to but also provides the sense of awe and reverence that is given more power than the “drone” life of adults and which Randall can only uncreatively negate. The young employee loves Transformers and Randall puts them down as Go-bots. He provides the content of the conversation an Randall gets to negate them. And although you might take Randall's criticism of him to mean that he is dislikes him, he tells that he will be his new best friend when Dante leaves. 

There’s a moment when Jay (of Jay and silent Bob) stands with his trench coat open and his penis tucked in between his legs. This symbol of confusing and mixing the sexes points to the phallic deutero desire to be more powerful than the castrated mother and the father by obtaining the mother’s phallic image and being greater than both…

(Being superior to the combined parents is one form, the fixation of the primal scene trauma also references the combined parents. However, it still seems like defusion to the proto or polyphallic stage with the high ego ideal is the imperative to be one’s own father and not the attempt to be more than both parents).  

In The Piano the anxiety concerning rape from a father-substitute was seen as converted into jouissance. The exhibitionistic attempts to cause desire that were displaced onto Baines were related to causing desire in Stewart and his subsequent attempts to rape Ada.

In Clerks II, as with Inside Llewyn Davis, the anxiety of getting beaten by the father-substitute turns into the jouissance of bringing this about by antagonizing others. Davis gets beaten, while Randall is threatened by several people in the movie.

In The Piano Ada’s masturbation was a very prominent finding. It seems common sense to place it in relation to her repression of the object drives. If an object egoist endures disappointments in love she can hate men and transfer more energy and inflate her ego so that she feels she is superior to them and none, save anal fathers, are worthy of her. The object drive not satisfied in life would no doubt clamor for satisfaction in masturbation. However, as masturbation shows up here when the young employee is drunk and too aroused by the ‘donkey show’ I wonder if it has more to do with the phallic deutero stage in general… As with many of these questions, much more data is needed.

It is clear that the “inter-species erotica” or bestiality in the donkey show is a perversion. I’ve taken the framework that this arises from the repression of the ego drives from the object drives. (The ego over the object drives leads to narcissism in egoists and echoism in altruists, while the repression of the ego drives leads to sado-masochism in egoists and through channels of affection and fear in altruists. Although this is by no means clear-cut and each libidinal type should have his own expression of these things. The centrality of the OEdipus complex is that it is the point at which the poles of egoism and altruism become near to balanced). However, perversion is more than just a stage or the idealization of an instinct as Chasseguet-Smirgel’s work has shown. The deutero stage of both the phallic and anal stages are needed and potentially more. 

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