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It might not have been worth it, Lupita


This is how Lupita Nhyong'o describes the shooting of the whipping scene in "12 Years a Slave": 
And being there was more then enough to handle. "The reality of the day was that I was stripped naked in front of lots of people," Nyong'o said. "It was impossible to make that a closed set. In fact, I didn't even as for it to be a closed set, because at the end of the day, that was a privilege not granted to Patsey, you know? It really took me there. It was devastating to experiencing that, and to be tied to a post and whipped. Of course, I couldn't possible be really whipped. But just hearing the crack of that thing behind me, and having to react with my body, and with each whip, get weaker and weaker …" She grew quiet, and sighed. "I mean, it was -- I didn't practice it. It was just -- it was an exercise of imagination and surrender." 
Lupita was trying to become as close as she could to the actual Patsey, out of fidelity, appreciation, loyalty. The real Patsey was humiliated out in the open, so apparently that was the least she could do, go naked while a whole set watches this new actress -- who, "admirably" modest, doubted she could ever possibly get the part -- surrender in a penultimate scene to one mock whip lash after another. Ostensibly, this risk to self was worth it because each surrender brought that much more attention to the historical Patsey, and the realities of slavery were going to be emblazoned onto everyone's mind in a way it'd never been allowed to before. And through it all, she knew she could trust her director, Steve McQueen. So, after the shoot they apparently all went paint-balling and shook it all out, and thereafter onto the next part of their lives. (Admittedly -- not quite: though this was Lupita's own experience Chiwetel Ejiofor admitted he took two months off, hiding himself in Brooklyn, to chase the experience out of him.)

They all took a lot of risks, but because they were supportive of one another and on about a truly good endeavor, they made it out okay. But almost immediately someone took a jab at dislodging one of these pillars: the critic Armond White pointed out how this film but "continues [McQueen's] interest in sadomasochistic display, highlighted in his films 'Hunger' and 'Shame.' Brutality is McQueen's forte." White points out that McQueen has been up to this before -- in fact, in every previous film; and that that was most important to him, with the setting and situation mere dollying up. But a world was able to ignore or bypass this highly available fact because the idea that it was only at this point in history where a black man would be enabled to show through film what had actually happened to slaves, was going to add geyser-energy to any existing preference to view this film as just documentary, as truth. To our credit we'd staged things so that one representative of a race historically discriminated against could be the one to create the effort that would lift the curtain upon the whole damnable scene, and now collectively we could deal with whole truth of slavery, how sadistic, how terrifyingly awful it was. And so the irritant -- White -- was chased from the New York Film Critics Circle, and we coalesced around this likely best-picture winner, proud to have this feat of bravery as one of the anchors of our age. 

What happens, though, when McQueen's next film features torture once again, and the next one after, and the next one after -- whether they're about holocausts or harvests? Do we look back and say to ourselves, "Oh Lupita, you but heightened sadistic pleasure by your willingness to experience Patsey's own humiliation in this film! You thought your sacrifice worth it owing to its drawing us all further away from slavery, but it might have been just to confirm 'we're in the mood' …your naivety meant your feeding not alleviating man's inclination to institutionalize suffering." I personally would hope so, because my suspicion is that this film confirmed that even liberals are taking pleasure from suffering, that it "told" them they should keep on "requesting" it, so long as like "12 Years" it can be facilitated without notice, without guilt. 

Rightwingers do so through wars, like this current one in Afghanistan, which to anyone sane is clearly only about launching fresh young bodies into some nebulous area where a good portion of them will lose body parts and come back traumatized. And the thrill of it is augmented by the fact that youth feel almost obligated to go -- they're surrendering their own lives for the sake of others: how delightful it is to see them so agreeable even onto death, just to please us! This doesn't work well with liberals, but more films of clear historical importance which ostensibly honor the dead and partially right terrible historical wrongs, might, as was proven before with "Schindler's List," where women were stripped down nude, humiliated and traumatized without it necessitating any break from filming -- literally, the director, everyone on set, watched even former Holocaust survivors panicking in the shower scene without feeling compelled to stop, because their individual humiliation was instantly judged bested by the awesome historical necessity of their cause. 

I think it could also be done through the Olympics as well. Outside of agreeing with her complaint against privatization, I'm not sure that even liberals would not find themselves annoyed by luger Samantha Retrosi's recent strong complaints about amateurism. It's a vivid account, great stuff to add thrill to torture porn, if it isn't received receptively like she hopes. She talks about how she was "an adolescent female standing in underwear in the glass cube of sport science, each area of fat accumulation clinically pinched by a man with metal tongs." About how "[she] once hoped that by withstanding all this pain, there would one day be a payoff, even if only an emotional one." But at the end, with "confused emptiness consum[ing] her as [she] stood in the cold of a Turin winter, wrapped in the American flag, wincing under the cruel glare of a thousand flashbulbs," she knew she was due for none at all -- she was sacrifice for someone else's payoff; that's all. Amateurism meant being primed to see herself as serving others' behest -- that was her role in life -- something she noticed pornographers -- specifically, "Maxim" magazine -- hoped it could take advantage of as well. "Lucky [her]." 

But you see, Samantha, the same people who disparage right-wingers and the Afghan war still mostly like the idea of youth sacrificing their bodies and their future for something pure and beautiful … ballet dancers and figure skaters and elegant gymnastic stars might all be human discombobulates after age 30, but it's uncivil to discuss the cleaning up when pinnacles of performance and beauty and absolute purity have once again been reached and collectively experienced, so disparagement once again returns upon you. 

Samantha's pain here is in fact about in line with what a lot of liberals are okay with even their own children suffering. Even if their children are due for a life of reasonable affluence, getting there has meant whole childhoods of self-abnegation, submission and torture, in making sure all the innumerable boxes are checked, that everyone, absolutely everyone, is placated and pleased so they're possessed of the aberrance-free look fate-determining colleges expect. An account of what it is like for them, of what would make a daughter into a "sleep deprived zombie" that would make a truly good father get really upset about and profoundly investigate, is provided here, where a writer for the "Atlantic" acknowledges that it is impossible for him to manage the workload and stress his daughter is weekly being subjected to. But most liberals are much more okay with it because unconsciously when they see their own children becoming products, when they sense their spirit being shackled-in, they know they're becoming people broken to do whatever necessary to ease anxieties they might themselves find themselves experiencing in the future. A time for the full awful squaring of accounts might finally be here -- the kind of terrifying phenomena we're hoping putting saintly "12 Years" at the bulwarks of our "town square" will help ward us against --  and in this scenario these refined, opera-going liberals are quite prepared to use their children as wantonly as chimpanzees are with theirs to help handle the stress, that is, where they can very effectively be shaken and flailed about to ease their own uncanny trepidation.  

And then of course there's our economy, with so many children emerging into so much uncertainty and stress, but going into this paling abyss as compliantly as troops into Verdun. How many parents -- even liberal ones -- believe that such conditions will ensure their children are, however, absented spoiledness? How many parents are able to ignore their children's distress because a great historical necessity -- a quickly fashioned-together period where the human product is vividly spare, lacklustre and self-sacrificial, after a few previous where permission enabled them to be noisomely self-determining and pompous -- is being met? "Your reward will come after, when subsequent generations appreciate your being quietened so that your parents' largesse didn't loom as large, your laying down of your lives into covering submission so that a hovering beast espying the wretched grandiose eventually vacated and they themselves might better live."

Or not -- if our current enthralment over "12 years" proves predictive. Then all that will happen is like what happened to Samantha, where pornographers see you as submission-prone, subdued matter doubly helpless for use at their own behest. Basically it'll be as if your bodies are dug up to be molested once again, while an audience commends the ritual for its saintliness. Hopefully no soul clings to corpses … for if there's any good in them it'd be unbearable to witness a future Lupita haplessly repeat their own damned life course, thinking this far-worse-than-pointless abomination to her own self the very least she could do. 

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