Not So Shiny

jack nicholsonI had the unique opportunity to watch The Shining with my 15-year-old daughter this past Halloween and I learned something – Stanley Kubrick’s once groundbreaking film The Shining isn’t scary anymore . . . at least, not to her. Stephen King’s classic novel and the groundbreaking film by the same name may have frightened the heck out of 1980’s audiences, but it doesn’t appear to be having the same effect on Generation Z. A quick survey of my two daughters (ages 14 and 15) and a group of their friends revealed an eye-opening commentary on film making, the horror genre, and the world they are growing up in. Some of the group’s more interesting comments included:

  • “The build-up is too slow.” “
  • “Nothing’s happening and when something finally does happen at the end its not scary at all.”
  • “Wait, that’s it? The mom and kid lived!”
  • “The concept is creepy, the movie has suspense, but it didn’t ‘scare’ me.”
  • “The little boy is suspenseful . . . everything about him screams suspense, but the redrum thing got annoying.”
  • “I’ve seen all of the scenes you call famous before in parodies, spoofs, and memes, so its hard to be scared when I’ve seen the blood thing before on Psych, the crazy dad thing on The Simpsons – Treehouse of Horror, and the creepy twins thing like a million times before.”
  • “That lady is a horrible mom! Your kid talks to his finger, tells you that a kid named Tony lives inside his mouth that tells him things, and you let your husband beat him up. You and your kid need help woman!”

Like The Exorcist, The Omen, and Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining comes out of a time in film making when establishing setting, creating atmosphere, and allowing a plot to unfold at its own pace were accepted by audiences as creative, artistic, and even expected. Sadly, the days of reaching a modern, young audience with an atmospheric think-piece might be dead and gone. The systematic, steady, and let’s face it slow, pace of The Shining did nothing, but bore my group of teens into reaching for their phones to look up the real ‘Overlook Hotel’. Oddly enough, they were all captivated by Stephen King’s real-life experiences in the emptied out Stanley Hotel that led to his penning The Shining. When I asked why they found Stephen King’s true story more interesting than the film, they all basically said the same thing – because that’s what really happened. Is it possible Generation Z has become so obsessed with facts, that they have lost the ability to suspend their disbelief for even a few hours? For the sake of art in its many forms, I hope not. Suspension of disbelief issues aside, their thoughts on The Shining’s influence on pop culture were spot on.

shining twins

My little, informal focus group is right – The Shining’s more famous scenes have permeated pop-culture to the point that they have lost some, if not all, of their original impact. There are literally hundreds of references to the scenes, lines, and images found throughout the film, the few that I am aware of include: The Simpsons (1994) – The Shinning; Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2008) – Dennis Reynolds an Erotic Life; The Office (2009) – Cafe Disco; Family Guy (2009) – Peter, Peter, Caviar Eater, PTV, and Love Thy Trophy; Psych (2012) – Heeeeere’s Lassie. It doesn’t take a genius to see that once humor/satire is added to something horrifying, it will be seen in a new, less frightening light. While I did come to agree with them on this point, I was truly blown away by their thoughts on Wendy and her relationship with her son, Danny.

Shining-Tony-aI have seen The Shining many times and have never thought of Wendy as anything, but the heroine of the piece; my Generation Zers had a very different opinion of her, to say the least. The group, including my two daughters, passionately and resoundingly agreed that Wendy was a ‘bad parent’. They felt she should have done more to help her son, Danny, BEFORE she agreed to move a vulnerable child into an isolated situation with his abuser i.e. his father. They  held that Wendy should have separated from her husband, after he dislocated Danny’s shoulder in a drunken rage. Moreover, they felt that Wendy ignored her son’s need for some serious, professional help as none of them felt he was in healthy mental place. To my utter amazement, my Gen Z group were much more concerned about Danny’s emotional/mental issues surrounding his imaginary friend ‘Tony’, than the scary twins in the hallway! To them, Wendy was a negligent parent and a very stupid woman for putting herself and her son in harm’s way. The question is – are they right?

Regardless of whether or not I agree with their views on Wendy’s parenting, it was truly inspiring to hear a group of young women talking about how they would: a) never put up with an abusive man b) do anything for their son, including getting him professional help c) never, in a million years, allow themselves to be placed in a potentially dangerous situation. Listening to them, I found myself wanting to join their ‘fictional cause’ to save Danny! And maybe that is what Generation Z is all about – causes, the rights of others being protected, and the vulnerable getting their needs met? Only time will tell if they are able to take their passion and put into impactful praxis that changes lives for the better. Finally, there is one important underlying reason my focus group was not scared of The Shining – they face a terror on a daily basis that The Shining’s original audience never did: school related violence. Here are a few of their more humorous and poignant remarks on what did scare them:

  • “This movie isn’t scary, possibly getting shot at school every day is.”
  • “Yeah, I mean I’m extra nice to kids other kids pick on, cause when they come back to shoot up the place. I’ll be like, hey, remember me, I was chill with you . . . no need to kill me . . . and then I’d run.”
  • “They tell us not to bully other kids and I want to yell at the teachers, why the hell would we do that?! Last time I checked, we want to live . . . well most of us.”
  • “But, I wouldn’t want the teachers to have guns . . . I mean, what if they don’t like a kid or they have mental problems and just start shooting.”

My husband and I drop our teens off at their middle and high school buildings every morning (I know they could take the bus, but isn’t life hard enough – lol) and the one thing we make sure we say is “Love You!” – for the simple reason that those words might be the last words we ever get to say to them. This might sound overly dramatic, but believe me its not. I did my best to listen to the conversation and not interject, because I didn’t want any of them to filter their thoughts through what they thought I wanted them to say; instead, I fired up my laptop and starting making notes because there was something important about this group of seven kids conversation.

When you live with the fear of being shot to death every time you walk through the doors of your school, its going to take a lot more than a hallway of blood and creepy twins to scare you.

As hard as it was for me to hear my beautiful daughters, let alone, their friends talk about their fears, I learned a great deal. Without any prompts or help from me, these teens were able to verbalize quite plainly the reason school/mass shootings have increased – mental illness. That’s when it all started to click into place for me, they wanted to help Danny because in their minds he was the most vulnerable, and therefore, represented the biggest threat to them; this might also be the reason they found his character the most suspenseful. Their instincts about Danny and desire to help him are reflective of the kind of fears my focus group deals with everyday. Some of their solutions included: getting Danny medication, sending him to intense counseling, moving him away from his abusive father, and making sure he wasn’t bullied by anyone at school.

Generation Z might not be able to suspend disbelief, they certainly spend too much time on their phones, and they seem to have the uncanny ability to get offended by absolutely anything; still, there is a method to their madness. By obsessing over facts, staying up to date with their larger circle of influence on their phones, and getting offended on behalf of others – they have found a way to process their very real fears about being murdered during lunch. After listening to my audience’s commentary, it is easy to see why The Shining failed to terrorize – their lives are scarier than the demons dwelling at The Overlook.  Continue reading

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Don’t Give Up! Oh Wait . . . Maybe You Should?

Are there valid reasons to throw in the towel on your dream of publishing? You’re not going to like it, but the truthful answer is – ‘Yes’. Here are a few reasons to make writing your hobby – not your profession. Check out my full post via Writing Tips!

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November 6, 2018 · 3:24 pm

A Valentine from Mrs. Poe

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Enter a The attached poem was written by Mrs. Virginia Poe, to her husband Edgar Allan Poe.

Virginia Poe was very ill on the day she wrote the attached acrostic poem to her husband Edgar Allen Poe in honor of Saint Valentines Day and the love/esteem she held for her husband.

At first glance, her poem seems to be a prime example of the sickeningly sweet, highly romanticized poems Poe spent much of his life tearing to shreds with his poisoned pen. However, when held in juxtaposition to his own poetry and prose on the subject of love, it takes on a new, contrarian dimension.

Edgar may have seen the dark side of love and the beauty of death (two of his favorite themes), in contrast, Virginia saw the healing power and peace that true love offers those who choose to accept it. Perhaps, she wrote the poem in the overly romantic fashion of her time as a private joke between them i.e. anyone could write such a poem if given enough time, and as Poe so often remarked, very little skill or thought was needed to produce such drivel. Whatever her reasons, Virginia’s great love for him shines through into the dark corners of his mind making it easier to understand why he was so devastated by her premature departure from his life.

 

 

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Starting Again . . . Again

As a novice writer with only a few publishing credits to her name talking to people about what I do for a living is daunting to say the least. I have been working on my first fully realized novel for a few years now and the question I get asked the most is, “Why is it taking so long?” And the best answer I can give is that I had to fail at my first attempt in order to find the place I plan to write from for as long as God and my mind allow.

I started out writing a gritty, crime, thriller that centered on a strong, but damaged, female detective. While there are a lot of things I love about my first creation Detective Miranda Hoxie – her drive, her passion, and of course her ability to survive and overcome her circumstances, she failed to connect to readers. Looking back, he was the combination of every female detective I had ever encountered in literature or in film and that was the problem. Like Dr. Frankenstein’s misunderstood creature, she was a patchwork quilt of characteristics, thoughts, and ideas that I had picked up from books, movies, TV shows, and pop culture which led to her being an interesting monstrosity versus a compelling character. Consequently, my fledgling novel was resoundingly rejected and I had to begin again, the problem was where?

It was during this gut-wrenching limbo with a dead novel, a bruised ego, and no idea how to fix either I had to dig deep and start again . . . again. I no longer wanted anything to do with Det. Miranda Hoxie or the world I had created around her, so I began to delve into the past in search of true crime stories that might make for good fiction. It was then I realized something that changed the trajectory of my writing in a profound way i.e. I wasn’t writing what I loved; instead, I was writing for a market that had no interest or room for me.

Although, there had been several positive comments about my beloved Detective Hoxie, she just wasn’t reaching readers in impactful ways.  It took some time, but I came to understand that Miranda even in her sewn together form had merit – it was my writing that didn’t. I was then faced with two choices: 1) Give up on my dream of becoming a published author 2) Work even harder to perfect my craft and find a way forward. Clearly, I chose the second option and began the painstaking, tedious, and often soul-crushing work of sifting through my rejection letters for constructive criticism on how to improve the overall level and quality of my fictional writing. I even took the time to email some of my more harsh critics to humbly ask what they felt I should work on, and to my complete and utter amazement, most of them wrote back with encouraging words and more detailed comments that allowed me to grow as a writer. But, these things take time . . . something very few people living in our instant gratification society understand.

It was with this new attitude of openness that I gently placed Miranda on the shelf and penned The Diary of Mary Barrow. I wrote Barrow for one simple reason i.e. I loved the story she allowed me to tell. I had no idea what genre this book fell into, I just knew that this was the story I wanted to tell and the difference between my first attempt with Det. Miranda Hoxie and Barrow is nothing short of miraculous.

The months I spent researching, writing, and rewriting Barrow have shown me that, I not only love writing historical, speculative fiction, I have a knack for it. Although I am still fighting for my first publishing contract, I have achieved the first goal any author should have: I am now writing what I love.

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My Journey with Victoria – The King of the Castle

King of the CastleThe next book I read was The King of the Castle (first published in 1967) and I was immediately intrigued by the Cinderella-like plot and heroine. Dallas Lawson has just lost her father, a famous restorer of paintings, art, and buildings. Having worked as his apprentice for so many years, she has no other skills and decides to answer a letter requesting her father’s assistance in restoring several damaged and priceless paintings at the Comte de la Talle’s Château Gaillard in the wine country of France. She decides to show up in her father’s place and either be given the job or immediately dismissed.

Thus, the reader is introduced to D. Lawson as a bright, modern woman, who has a skill set that she could utilize to make a living for herself if only the Comte will give her a chance to work for him. Like Cinderella, D. Lawson’s true beauty shines through as the novel progresses and she begins to restore not only the paintings, but the family to a place of love for one another. As she cleans the years of grime away from each painting bringing back their former glory, she also becomes interested in the broken lives of the people at the Château Gaillard. oubiletteDallas begins with the neglected, spoiled, and often violently unpredictable Genevieve the Comte’s only daughter who wickedly locks her in the oubliette – which literally means the forgotten place and can be defined as a type of dungeon accessible only by a trap door in its ceiling. Dallas is later rescued by Genevieve’s nurse Nounou, who holds the key to the mystery that surrounds young Genevieve’s unstable behavior.

As she continues her work, she soon learns that the Comte’s first wife died under mysterious circumstances and that most of the villagers, servants, and wine workers surrounding him believe he killed her, and those that don’t, believe his infidelity drove her to commit suicide. Holt allows these two mysteries to surround the reader while at the same time giving enough clues that the two are connected – Genevieve’s behavior is directly related to her mother’s death. Holt allows a romance to grow between Dallas and the Comte who, by his own admission, was a terrible husband in the past: moody, unfaithful, angry, and often unloving.

Holt adds one more mystery to this mix in the search for the Gaillard emeralds given to an ancestor who was once the mistress of King Louis XV and married into the family at his command. Before she left his court, he presented her with an emerald necklace worth a fortune. Her new husband not to be outdone by the King had a matching bracelet, tiara, two rings, a brooch, and a girdle all set with emeralds of equal value. During the Revolution, they were lost or stolen. However, the family believes they were hidden away somewhere in the castle and periodically searches for them. Of course, it is Dallas who solves this and all mysteries by the end of the book.

Dallas finds out that Comte’s father-in-law, Genevieve’s strange, pious grandfather, fell in love and married a ‘mad woman’. Upon this discovery, he vows to keep her confined in an upstairs room where she can’t hurt herself or others and never have children with her. He breaks his vow and they have Genevieve’s mother who later becomes the Comte’s wife. While she herself is not mad, her daughter Genevieve shows all the signs of the same hysterical and unpredictable behavior found in her grandmother. When her mother learns that she is pregnant again, her father warns her of the madness she is ‘breeding’  and in her already unhappy state she takes her own life. Dallas vows to set  the record straight and clear the Comte’s name, but he persuades her to keep silent to spare Genevieve’s already fragile psyche any further trauma.

King of the castle GaillardThus, Holt’s Cinderella story ends with Dallas becoming the Countess of Gaillard married to a flawed Prince with a daughter in need of care. The reader is not left with the traditional and they lived happily ever after statement; instead, the reader assumes that life will be lived with all of its happy and unhappy moments. Dallas ends the book  with a quote that sums up Holt’s twist on a fairy tale ending,  ‘I was never afraid of a challenge’ reminding the reader that life is challenging, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be lived.

My next journey with Victoria will be The Time of the Hunter’s Moon. 

 

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My Journey With Victoria: The Bride of Pendorric

This will be the first of many posts regarding the novels of Victoria Holt. Her novels would be called cozy mysteries today, but she is just as often classified as a writer of romance novels. Not romance in the Harlequin sense, where each passionate kiss and sexual act is at the very least heavily alluded to and at the most vividly described. Instead, Holt follows in the footsteps of Jane Austen when she writes about matters of the heart, such as, love, sex, and marriage. Her works most of which were published in the sixties and seventies, saw a resurgence in popularity in the early nineties and have gone through several re-printings. I myself have been an avid admirer of her novels since the age of twelve. Now, twenty-six years later I have decided to return to her works to see if they stand up to the test of time, age, and maturity.

Bride of PendorricI chose for my first reading The Bride of Pendorric (first published January 1963) because I remember reading it all those years  ago, but the details of the plot and characters I’d quite forgotten. There were many things I enjoyed about Holt’s romantic, light mystery regarding the young Favel Farington and her devilishly handsome husband Roc Pendorric. Including the underlying sense of menace Holt moves the reader feel for the heroine Favel, who is referred to as only The Bride by the strange, secretive, and certainly supernaturally obsessed Pendorric clan. What came as a complete surprise to me, were Holt’s beautifully written setting details that create a true sense of place for her reader. Here are five of my favorite descriptions from The Bride:

  1. And there it lay – the most enchanting little village I had ever seen. There was the church, its ancient tower, about which the ivy clung, clearly of Norman architecture, and it was set in the midst of the graveyard. On one side the stones were dark with age and on the other they were white and new-looking. There was the vicarage, a grey house set in a hollow with its lawn and gardens on an incline. Beyond the church as the row of cottages . . . they had thatched roofs and tiny windows and were all joined together – the whole six of them . . . they were the same period s the church.
  2. There were no dust-sheets here. The huge windows gave me a view of the coast, with Polhorgan rising majestically on the cliff top; but it was not the view I looked at this time., but the room, and I think what struck me most was that it had the look of a room which was being lived in. There was a dais at one end of it and on this was a stand with a piece of music opened on it. Beside the stand, on a chair, was a violin, looking as though it had just been placed there; the case lay open on a nearby table. 
  3. The countryside seemed restful after the rugged coast views, and I was charmed by the greenish-gold of the freshly mown fields and the scarlet of the poppies growing here and there. I particularity noticed the occasional tree, slightly bent by the south-west gales, but taller than those stunted and distorted ones which survived along the coast. I could smell the fragrance of the meadow-sweet growing on the banks mingling with the harebells and scabious.
  4. The sky was a guileless blue, and the sea sparkled so brilliantly that it was almost too dazzling to contemplate. It was like a sheet of silk with scarcely a ripple in it. 
  5. The sun was shining but I could see the spiders’ webs on the bushes, and beautiful as the Michaelmas daisies and chrysanthemum were they did underline the fact winter was on the way. But because this was Cornwall, the roses  were still blooming, and although the hydrangeas did not flower in such profusion, there were still some to brighten the quadrangle.

My next journey with Victoria will be in The King of the Castle. I look forward to more of her cozy murders, Austenesque romance, and vivid descriptions.

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A Response Worth Sharing

Image found on humanitiesunderground.wordpress.com

Image found on humanitiesunderground.wordpress.com

Writing means sharing. It’s part of the human condition to want to share things – thoughts, ideas, opinions. – Paulo Coelho

Last year, I was given the unique opportunity to read my essay “Lisa and Lolita, Le Viol de deux” for John King’s The Drunken Odyssey, since working on that project with him we have remained in touch (shameless plug: my reading is included in Episode 107 after Boris Fishman’s; check it out!). After sharing my essay on “Natural Born Killers” with him and our subsequent intriguing discussion on the my essay, the film, its director and Quentin Tarantino he has kindly given his blessing to share his comments on my website. Enjoy!

“Lisa, The most interesting part of your essay is about the couples who re-enact the wedding scene in NBK. While I don’t think there is a generation of NBK, which suggests a generation defined by the movie, seeing why people did like it and identified with it or became obsessed with it does seem like a fascinating subject to explore, and I don’t have to like NBK to find that odd cultural quirk revelatory and exciting. FYI: I was one of those viewers who was told by people who had seen Natural Born Killers that I would love it, as I like the weird and disturbing, apparently, but I deeply hated the movie, for reasons similar to the Rolling Stone critic. I wasn’t able to read this in the spirit you were hoping for, since you seem to be diligently dignifying what seems like a truly bad piece of art to me. Your claims about the film’s longstanding relevance fell a little flat with me. Quentin Tarantino was so horrified by the cheesy liberties Oliver Stone had taken with his screenplay that Tarantino insisted that he NOT be credited as a screenwriter, so the credit reads something like “based on a script by” or “based on the ideas of.” The dramatic context in the way that QT presents violence is so compelling, yet unnerving that we don’t quite cheer for it. For me, the loving way Oliver Stone made violence look cool and slick, often like a rock video, made him totally complicit in the critique he thought he was making against American media. I did like the “I Love Malory” sequence rather a lot; the satire there was effective, the laugh track disturbing (a trick used earlier, if I am not mistaken, in the Jungle Goddess episode of Mystery Science Theater). Some of the parts of NBK were good I thought, but the few good parts were worth far more than the tiresome whole, in my opinion. I found the story so stupid, the satire so gigantically self-unaware, that I wasn’t asking any big questions at the end other than why, oh why, does Oliver Stone have a messianic ego and who keeps green-lighting his films? Don’t even get me started on Baz Luhrmann or Steven Spielberg. With me, OS hits a nerve, apparently. Sigh.

I adore Tarantino, who could do no wrong … until the last act of Django. Pulp Fiction is a masterpiece in so many ways. Not since Sam Peckinpah has someone shown us the violence we crave, and then make us feel uneasy with our cravings. The questioning of race and gender politics is also pretty wonderful. The way he takes the most basic pulp fiction plot tropes and makes them deviously interesting. Oliver Stone was a good writer (Midnight Express, Conan the Barbarian, Scarface) before he became a director, and then he became intolerable, to me at least. Here’s a link to an article I wrote on MST3K.”

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Another Published Essay!

Special thanks to Suzy Hazelwood for publishing my essay “The Never-Ending Journey” in The Writing Garden – Issue 4! It is such an honor to have my piece alongside so many other talented writers and poets. Thanks for the opportunity!

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A Generation of Natural Born Killers

Oliver Stone’s controversial film Natural Born Killers debuted in 1994 to an almost instant cult-following and very mixed reviews. The New York Post called Stone’s obvious satire of an America despoiled by violence and exploitation a ‘dense, unmodulated, exhausting ordeal.’ Contrastingly, Roger Ebert (writing for the Chicago Sun Times) applauded Killer’s over-the-top caricatures, frenzied imaging, and high-toned rhetoric as the only way to get his satirical message across: [Stone] understands that celebrity killers have achieved such a bizarre status in America that it’s almost impossible to satirize the situation – to get beyond real life. But he goes for broke, in scenes of carnage like a prison riot, which is telecast live while the “host” gets caught up in the blood-lust. Diverging sharply from Ebert, Rolling Stone criticized Stone’s refusal to look inward at his own bloody body of work as contributing to the American viewers desire to see more and more violent images on both the small and silver screens. Stone holds up a mirror to a dark world, he’s too chickenshit to hold it up to himself. Its other cameras, not his, that turn us into blood junkies. It’s us, not him. In the end, these critical reviews didn’t change the trajectory of Natural Born Killers; a film destined to achieve a cult status and following.

Killers had everything a film needs to gain a fanatical, and as it turned out, criminal following: an original script by then indie-film sensation (and soon to be academy award nominee) Quentin Tarantino; serious rumors of an NC-17 rating if Oliver Stone didn’t tone down the sex and violence; a wide, but average opening weekend grossing just over $11,000,000; an arrogant Oliver Stone sitting on his throne and hypocritically sniping about his film only showing this level of violence once vs. week after week like his peers; a star-studded cast going for broke with every scripted line, gesture, and action; countless conservative groups calling for a boycott; and of course, the alleged copycat killers who claim Killers inspired them to commit coldblooded murder.

All of these elements combined to make Killers one of THE most watched and controversial films of our time eventually grossing well over $50,000,000. In 2006, Entertainment Weekly listed it as the 8th most controversial film of all time. To date, it can be found listed alongside other screen giants, such as, A Clockwork Orange, Pulp Fiction, Scarface, Reservoir Dogs, American History X, and The Godfather as a ‘must-see’. But, is it? Is Killers in the same league as films like Orange that have critical clout and artistic street-cred? With Netflix’s release of the director’s cut last month, Killers will have the chance to live up to its warped mystique with a whole new generation of viewers.

Over the last twenty years I’ve watched Killers more times than I care to admit and I can say with absolute certainty that Stone’s acid-drenched road film will continue to challenge and confront America’s obsession with the very worst of humankind i.e. serial killers, gangsters, and mass murders for generations to come. The following are a few scenes whose bite has not diminished with time:

I love Mallory ‘I Love Mallory’ – I’ll show her a little tenderness, after I eat.

One of the most talked about scenes in the film comes in the form of a vignette entitled ‘I Love Mallory’. An homage to 1950’s sitcoms the most noticeable being ‘I Love Lucy’. Stone’s choice to reveal the horrors of Mallory’s home life is perhaps the most biting commentary he has to offer. Rodney Dangerfield (Ed Wilson) and Edie McClurg (Mrs. Wilson) play their roles as Mallory’s parents with a raw honesty that assaults the heart. Viewers can’t help but cringe at the realization that Ed Wilson is raping his teenage daughter in the full view of his battered wife. Dangerfield brilliantly captures with frightening overtness the voracious nature of men who take their daughters as lovers and McClurg stuns as the quintessential negligent mother who’s more concerned over her husband’s dinner than her child’s safety. However, it is Stone’s addition of a laugh track and comedic music to these scenes that packs the hardest punch: children are suffering through the very real evils of incest and abuse in seemingly happy homes all around us and we’d rather have a nervous laugh and a blindfold than confront what’s actually going on.

Mickey and Mallory WeddingThe Wedding’ – Ain’t gonna murder anybody on our wedding day.

Deemed the most poetic and artistically poignant scene in Killers, the wedding scene remains one of the most haunting. Stone uses the grainy look of a 1960’s 8 mm video camera for some of the shots and the effect is profoundly disarming. The home movie style shooting of these scenes softens the murderous pair into an earthy Romeo and Juliet. The dark violence assaulting the viewer just a few seconds ago succumbs to the airy, light surrounding Mickey and Mallory as they take their vows on a bridge overlooking the Rio Grande. The image of Mallory’s childlike smiles and long, white veil billowing out over the sharp, green edges of the gorge and the river below make the merciless killing of Mallory’s parents seem distant, far removed from this pair of star-crossed lovers. Mickey and Mallory join hands in a bloody holy palmers’ kiss that captivates and intrigues the viewer; drawing us deeper into their perverted love story. As they seal their unholy union with a kiss, Mallory’s ‘veil’ is lifted by a gust of wind that gently carries it down to the river below graphically symbolizing the ‘free fall’ their love and lives are already in. It’s not difficult to understand why Mickey and Mallory are so drawn to each other—he sees the beauty in her bruises and she sees the strength in his sadness. They are bound by their shared sufferings at the hands of abusive and neglectful parents and those are powerfully destructive ties. The audience knows Mickey and Mallory will come to a ‘bad end’, and yet, we not only admire their love for each other; we envy it. We want what they have on that bridge: a seemingly unbreakable bond. Stone uses this scene to manipulate his audience to feel for his killers in a fairly obvious critique of the American tendency to mythologize violent killers, like Bonnie and Clyde, into intriguing lovers with larger than life personalities. Twenty years later, couples are still traveling to ‘Mickey and Mallory’s bridge’ to stand where they did and emulate the love they have for each other in this scene. Stone, himself, couldn’t have dreamed up a more haunting image or piercing commentary than this.

Killers Ending‘The End’ – I’ve been thinkin’ about motherhood. So, I think me and Mickey are gonna get started on that, as quickly as possible.

Natural Born Killers may contain elements of a Shakespearean tragedy, and by Stone’s own admission, the entire film can be viewed as an homage to the 1967 road film Bonnie and Clyde with one major difference: the criminal lovers don’t die in a hail of bullets. Here, Stone deviates from the traditional formula of forbidden love ending in death and allows his killers to go on living and loving beyond the reach of the law. Mickey and Mallory Knox don’t ‘pay for their crimes’; instead, they get away with them. This ending isn’t all that ground breaking; after all people get away with murder every day. That said, the mere idea that Mickey and Mallory are ‘good’ parents raising healthy, happy children is pure fantasy to say the least. Both of them were horrifically abused by their parents. Mickey witnessed his father’s suicide and endured his mother’s constant abuse. Mallory was sexually abused and repeatedly raped by her father while enduring her mother’s blind eyes and neglect. In reality, it would take years and years of intense therapy for either of them to become emotionally healthy, and even if they came to terms with their violent childhoods, no doctor in the world would recommend parenthood for either of them. They are killers. Natural born killers. The pathologies both of them present do not diminish with time or even unconditional love and these facts are what makes this final scene so heart wrenching. Their children will suffer, not from parental abuse, but from the knowledge that their birthright is violence. Like their parents, they will be forced to wander the countryside never staying in one place for too long. They won’t go to school, make friends, or even have a place to call ‘home’ and this will have a lasting and destructive effect on their emerging psyches. The genius of Killers’ ending lies in Stone’s use of subtle misdirection. He shows us a happy family traveling down the road together, but is that what we’re meant to see? Stone leaves the question of their happiness open to interpretation. The audience is left to reflect on whether or not Mickey and Mallory have truly changed into healthy parental figures; or if lurking underneath that familial veneer lies the demons they never have and never will conquer.

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The Nabokov Affair

One doesn’t take journeys with Nabokov, one has affairs – Lisa Korthals

Last year, I spent five months reading, studying, and thinking about Vladimir Nabokov. I wrote several smaller pieces of creative non-fiction and one large compilation during my journey, or should I say affair, with his writings. I had no idea when I began this affair that my lover would lead me to my very first publication and podcast with Lisa and Lolita, Le Viol De Deux. Today, I’m posting the final piece I did on Nabokov (under My Non-fiction); written at the end of our time together. I’m certain we will return to one another, but for now I’m content to, not only be free of him, but share him with others.

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