The Circle, part two
It's difficult to figure out why everyone is so ready to laugh at the humiliated Carrie in Carrie. We're told at the beginning that it's the popular gang's fault, where everyone else laughs along so to not be caught out and be deemed part of her very dubious camp. And this is substantiated at other times, when one or two kids show that, when no one's really attending, they're quite prepared to interact with her as if she might not have the plague. But then again, when the prom's on, and they laugh at her while she's covered with blood, it's impromptu, immediate, reflex: there's no calculation of what is expected of them, they simply automatically in chorus respond in awful jeering. So, what? Kids can be mean? Except they're not really quite kids anymore. So, people can be? Except not everyone is. There's not an ounce of it in the gym teacher. Nor in a few others who met her at the prom and reacted to her openly. The film has an inkling to show that the inclination to empathize has something to do with what kind of parents we have. The popular girl, who almost immediately realizes how horrible it is to torture this dismayed girl, is shown to have as a mother someone who goes out her way to try and make Carrie's own oddball mother feel appreciated. And the dastardly evil girl is shown to possess a big business father who is entirely indifferent to people he judges as not really mattering. But then again, no one has a mother as grievous as the one Carrie possesses, and there's no hint in the film that Carrie has any inclination to torture the exposed and vulnerable. Her own "bullying" at the end, is really just self-exertion, as she found herself either terrifyingly confined or horribly hounded.
The reason kids bully does not owe, fundamentally, to someone's foreignness. They actually recognize their similarity to the bullied profoundly, but often not consciously. The loner, the exposed, the insecure, is themselves, not when they were first in school, or any such, but when they were younger than that, when they were infants, and they badly needed attendance, and over and over and over again, didn't get it. This is the very opposite of nothing to a child, and more closer to the apocalypse bearing down. It changes your brain, for instance. Installs the superego, to make sure you never do whatever caused you to be in that situation again. Since the only thing you could conclude is that it was your vulnerability and neediness which was to blame, your brain makes sure that when you see the vulnerable the capacity to empathize gets shut down, and takes any course to make sure you see this person as not the once-you you can never let yourself remember, but as someone foreign. If you just saw this person as different from you it wouldn't be enough, though, for if that was all that you were when you were left alone and unattended, then it would make your parents seem culpable, as it's paltry excuse just to abandon someone. You judge it instead as criminal, as guilty. And in taking the "guilty" down, you show the rightness in your parents once having abandoned you, thereby keeping them those who wouldn't be offended by your inner-most thoughts, thereby still maintaining them as potential sources of provision and love. So now you understand why Carrie, humiliated in ways that would recall one being a soiled, shit-stained child (twice covered in running dirty pools of excretions) would red-alarm people to suddenly wish her to be laughed at and hounded into a crunched-down, crumpled form. Of course, this means that a whole lot of us were possessed of hardly perfect parents, cause if we weren't, the vulnerable would only draw our sympathy, and we'd all be closer to the welfare state of Sweden, where even when it's in its worst moods there's no chance they'd leave a portion of their populace to the wolves in the same fashion still-awful-parent-afflicted U.S.A does. How bad portions of the U.S.A are, is revealed by how even after everyone has agreed we're in a Depression, it's nothing at all for many states to summon the legitimacy to think the proper next order of things is to cut food stamps.
The reason why I'm bringing up why kids would want to torture a helpless, panicky Carrie in this discussion of the Circle, is because I'm a little concerned that when I hear people say Dave Eggers' book has changed the way they see our public-share networks, what has really happened is that they have recognized the helpless Carrie of this book and taken Eggers' pro-offered route to count themselves mostly of the "outside." Near the end of the book, Mae Holland is in hysteria over the world-wide publicized fact that some people in her company do not like her. It drives her crazy, as she becomes someone who in dismay cherishes the completion of "the circle" as those who've lost their efforts to remain human spend their days with meth cheeks and maddened eyes chuckling in anticipation of the apocalypse. She's the child who when first left alone screams and tantrums, but after sustained, prolonged ignoring, quietens down like one of Harry Hallow's isolated monkeys, as what was right in them to keep them for so long trying has left them for good. Mae in this novel isn't the exception; everyone who believes in the circle who doesn't instantly get the approbation they need, panics in heightened alarm. Not responding instantly to an e-mail sets one off into hysterical crazy land. Another by the possibility that his constant pre-ejaculating might make him less than a perfect ten out of ten lover. Eggers may want us to believe that those furthering the circle, killing every bit of privacy left in the world, and making everyone else at least pretend smile while in their company, are fascists, sharks devouring everything else contained in the tank with them. But I really think it is this show of them that sticks--the alarmed, besotted, powerless infant, that is.
So in her we recognize, or rather we find, our early childhood powerless selves, but rather than identify with her, with our once-selves, Eggers nudges us to use her instead as a place to keep those nasty nagging things safely posited. She can carry all our early-life vulnerability, and we can laugh at her for it, mock her, as we feel compelled to do, without an inkling of guilt. For though she fundamentally is our childhoods, we can certainly just think of her as Eggers would have us, as produced in adulthood, owing to letting herself get lost in company think. We can safely mock her Carrie-like horrible exposure, because she let herself get so upset over learning that 3% of the company didn't like her, rather than let herself leisure in knowing how the whole rest of the human pie could not have been more pleased. How greedy can any one get! How needy! And if she's alone, it's clearly her fault: repeatedly outsiders, former friends/lovers, have tried to talk sense to her, tried to reveal for her the cult-think she was adopting, and she nudged them out of the picture, or forced them to the point where any further bothering would put them at desperate risk. And we can be those in the book who have little delight in the prospect of the completion of the circle, the supposedly powerless and at risk--but in real life actually those who believe the worst damage of our times are going to hit those for whom facebook/twitter/constant share are the only things going for them; and despite their own participation, this clearly isn't them. Something we help cement by declaring, after reading the book, that our own facebook/twitter lives is going to be allowed to droop a notch. Unlike "you" the lost, who we'll likely see next chasing down with bats any poor sod who failed to "like" your latest insipid post, a bit more of our private lives will once again be kept under wraps. We're seeing great rewards in turning cold--our withholding will surely set you all deliciously off! and so more of our unwanted selves can be drooped into you. Thanks in part to you, dear Dave.
Eggers might be regressing to old form. I first remember him for his magazine Might. It was a very clever thing, but nasty as well--Bender from the Breakfast Club taking people down a notch: if he's not happy, why should you be allowed to be? It's been called one of the origins of snark into our contemporary culture, but I remember it most for its interest in leaving the audience feeling played. Eggers and the subject he was writing on was in on the trick--someone or another young and famous ostensibly dying, for instance--but we'd come to realize that our desire to be in the know was being allowed to come to the forefront of our consciousness, our desperate need to feel as smart, knowing, and cool as these whip-smart under-30s, and about that time forced by the reveal to sit sunk for a crushing while in the dank regrettable stinking dark pool of it. Abused and sodden. Exposed as needy as hell. With Eggers likely snickering ...Why should we be allowed to be happy?
If we apply a bit of the humanism from another hipster-produced effort--the Royal Tenenbaums--to our reading of the book, we'd realize that her being upset at being reminded that some few refuse her acknowledgment, isn't necessarily a silly thing. In the Tenenbaums, each child for awhile was getting every accolade from every source, but when their father ended up hardly caring, that was all that mattered, and they stopped even being able to try. Many of us, like them, are in striving to complete our own circle of approval, just trying to undue our mother and fathers not being sufficiently interested ... not being genuinely interested, in the person beyond the eager projections they self-servingly placed onto us--demon, angel, hero, genius, ungrateful filthy scum, or whatnot. If it's one out of hundred, or three, the sole "exception" always harkens back to them.
It's such an obvious thing, when we're inclined to understand.