Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Grotesque

My southern literature professor (lord i reference that class a lot on this blog) repeatedly asks us this question: What is the most grotesque institution?

(I love it when teachers ask those broad questions where the whole class is supposed to chime in and answer. Because what comes back to our learned professor is some mumbled, murmured, scattered semblance of words so that suddenly "southern rape complex"sounds to the ears in the room like "mish rerera merragenoo". It's as if the phrase doesn't want to leave our voice boxes, so the whole time its fighting for air our larynx gives it the old one-two. Then the Professor claps her hands and rings our the answer for everyone to hastily scribble in their notebook. Next time she asks, I am just going to contribute a whispered "FISH AND CHIPS", "ring a ding ding" or "down by the bay")

Anyway, the answer to her question is slavery. Slavery is the most grotesque institution because it commodified the human soul to the point that one being owned another's. Slavery seems to me almost as the dead embodiment of grotesque, as if the word was solely created to accurately depict slavery in the English language.

But it also got me thinking about the.. mini-grotesque? I mean those everyday situations where we are bombarded by something disgusting, vile, or wrong but we take a strange and often masochistic liking to it. For instance: my weird obsession with making Linda Blair references, watching Cat House with my roommates while eating prunes, consuming obscene amounts of ice cream right before I go to bed while watching reality television on line and feeling the aftereffects at 3 am when I dream about Patty Stanger shooting me in the shin with a gun made of leather and spoons...(?) LESS SPECIFICALLY reality TV, horror films, infidelity, S&M, all the nasty shit.

Or perhaps most commonly, when you do something you know is wrong. And for a while you can't help yourself because of it's magnetic pull; it's wrong, but it's so intoxicating and exhilarating that you can't stop. Like a junkie, you start to justify your action so you can keep going. Until one day you look in the mirror and realize you are grotesque.

I think a healthy fascination with all that is bad is what keeps us human. But it seems to me finding the balance between the grotesque and your own goodness is the most important thing. Because while I think we are hedonistic beings, I am also in love with one. And that is enough to keep the grotesque at bay.

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