Must be the Season…

I’ve tried to write this piece, oh, I don’t know, five or six times now. Turns out I have a very short attention span. I’d blame it on things like Twitter, but I don’t actually know how to use it. It also doesn’t help that when you run a mortuary you’re on call 24/7 and the last time I sat down committed to finishing this someone died. The two aren’t related btw. I’m not such a terrible writer that I kill people. I think…

So let’s try to wrap this up before another soul leaves this planet. I get bored. Or I get too drunk to finish typing…

Awhile back I decided I needed to get out of the house and mingle with other human mouth breathers. Usually this ends up in agony, however for once fortune smiled upon me.

I rummaged through my closet and found the perfect dress for my evening out (a black Free People Kimono dress) and headed to the Silent Theater on Fairfax. That night they were doing a screening of Belladonna of Sadness. A totally bad-ass Japanese anime from the 70’s about a woman who is raped-hopefully the only time you’ll see bad-ass and rape in the same sentence-and then sells her soul to the devil to seek revenge.

The movie itself is sort of a beautiful train wreck. The main character, Jeanne, is sickly beautiful with long flowing hair, a tiny waist, and perky breasts. So you know the animators were in heaven drawing her. The movie begins with a jaunty folk song about Jeanne and Jean’s wedding, but only minutes after does it begin to spiral into an utterly disturbing nightmare. When the happy couple are unable to pay a tax to the king for their marriage Jean is dismissed from the castle and Jeanne is then violently raped by the king and the entire court. After, she is sent home in shame to a husband who can now only look at her with vile disgust.

Broken down and a shell of her former self, Jeanne is soon visited by the Devil. Lovingly he embraces and seduces her. He tells her, in so many words, that rather than shun her sexuality as she had been, she should forgive herself for it. And, that if she could embrace it, and shake the societal shame of her brutal rape she could become the most powerful person in her village. She fights him at first, torn between staying broken and seemingly pious, or turning to the darkness within to find redemption. After realizing that she and the Devil are one, he makes good on his promise, and before long Jeanne becomes a wise and shrewd business woman. Seemingly able to turn straw into gold Jeanne creates nothing but good fortune for her King and her people, saving them from war and famine. But, when the King and Queen realize she is becoming more influential  and rich than themselves, she is again forcefully humiliated and brought to ruin. By the end of the film we find our heroin being dragged as witch/whore through the streets where she is publicly burned, unrepenting, at the stake. Her parting words, both haunting and fierce, she proclaims that in death she is more powerful still. For now her essence is part of all women who bore witness to the life she lead, and they too, are capable of living strong, brave, and free.

I walked out of the theater completely invigorated. It’s weird to think that a movie that  bled out of being essentially soft porn into just, well, just weird and silly at times, could make me feel better about life. I mean nothing about the movie was overtly positive, but the messages still hit you right in the gut. Probably because the movie leaves you feeling a little traumatized and raw. And those are usually the best times for our “moments of clarity”.

The most obvious message is the sexualizing of women  along with the subsequent punishment for it. A theme that still plagues us today, where sexed up half-naked women are used to sell anything from vodka to hamburgers that make it apparent that women only exist for our pleasure. Women are objects. There is also the idea that when rape occurs that the only bad guy is the “bad girl”. After all, the entire court raped and humiliated Jeanne, but she was the only one who was shunned and shamed for it. Something that is still prevalent in today’s society every time a girl reports a rape and is immediately asked, “How much did you drink?” “What were you wearing?” “Why were you with him in the first place?” There’s the more gender neutral moral that, “ideas are worth spreading”. Even though Jeanne was consumed by flames there was nothing you could do to keep the ashes of her soul and life from touching and forever changing all who watched and knew her. And then there’s the last overall theme of, self-redemption from trauma. Or perhaps, better said, the awakening of the true self. I suppose, as a woman who has been sexually assaulted-just a really awkward way to pepper that gem in there-I related to that idea the most. Because you see, there is a moment after something truly horrible happens to you where you can decide which road you want to turn down. Jeanne’s husband takes the path of despair and disdain. He emotionally abandons his wife and even turns his back on her later during her persecution. But Jeanne, she uses her pain to find the most magnificent parts of her soul. She forgives herself and rather than allow herself  to simply be a victim accepts what life has given her. She doesn’t rail against the futility of existence. She spits in it’s face. And well, I think that’s a rather spectacular message for an old 70’s  porno.

So anyhow, I guess that’s what I describe as an enlightening evening. I sat amongst my fellow humans. I watched a super trippy cartoon. I relived past trauma and relief. And I left feeling generally pretty positive about my life. I mean it only lasted a week or so. But, hey, it’s a start. And it’s a really shitty and violent world out there. A horror show. And if we can go as high as life can go low. Then there’s really no stopping any of us…





I'm a licensed funeral director living in Los Angeles. This is a place to put my thoughts so I'm not always blowing up my friends' Facebook feed or Twitter with my asinine musings on life and death, and that cliché idea of, everything in between.

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