Sorry it has taken me so long to respond to your revenge posts, Brandon and Jason. I've hardly had a an entirely uncluttered moment this past week up until now. Thankfully, it is now spring breaaak for all the schools around here, so I have a least a whole week off to catch up on posting and all things Film Club. Let me kick things off with some more revenge thoughts and then some thoughts on Korine's SPRING BREAKERS.
Jason, I really admire your stance on pacificism and your committment to its practice. We don't really share common ground on the religious imperative for non-violence, but ethically I'm right there with you. You make many strong points on why non-violence is a courageous choice. I'm sure there are many STRAW DOGS-esque points one could make about the unfortunate necessity of resorting to violence, and I don't know if I'd necessarily be able to refute them (I definitely do not consider self-defense to be all that inappropriate and certainly not immoral). However, for now, since I am fortunate enough to not be threatened with violence, I choose to remain peaceful and promote it as much as I can through kindness (the soccer field excluded haha- even if I am getting a lot more gentle in regards to sports as I get older).
Brandon, I'm sure being fairly weak and small in stature has influenced my desire never to get into a fight or really to use violence ever. There's certainly very few people I could do any damage to using pure brute strength alone. But being weak and small can easily be overcome through the use of weapons. I think that's pretty evident through what you find from school shootings. The weak, ineffectual kids using massively overpowered guns to take down their tormentors and any random bystanders. In addition to not wanting to fight anyone, I have no desire to use a gun or join the army or partake in any other activity that results in the use of excessive force on someone. There are horrible ways to overcome being undersized, but I am generally repulsed by all of them.
I wasn't trying to make point that all acts of violence are the same. Just pointing out that I think it's fascinating how easily we all qualify violence. Two identical acts of violence can be given entirely different social and emotional meanings based solely on how one rationalizes each. There's nothing inherently wrong in rationally breaking down acts of violence, unless you are doing so hypocritically. You should give an ethical evaluation to each action you make, violent or non-violent. I only brought up these points because I'm interested in the way language manipulates reality. This is one of many cases where two identical corporeal acts can be given divergent meaning through linguistic construction.
I agree with your points on high school comedies. I basically have grown tired of any revenge narrative where the dice are completely stacked, forcing you to feel exactly what the film wants you to without room for ambivalence or uncertainty. I recently watched Tony Scott's MAN ON FIRE with a friend. To me, that's a great example of a revenge film that deploys archetypes to drive a point home instead of creating real people with nuance. Dakota Fanning is the perfect, innocent little cherub and when we think she's dead, we are supposed to feel that Denzel Washington's brutal revenge streak is entirely justified. The people who kidnapped her are all monsters deserving slaughter, and Denzel is just a hardened old soldier whose humanity has only awakened by the love of this perfect child. Everything fits into a tidy box. It's a rote revenge narrative. It's also a film that wants to have its cake and eat it too. At the end, it argues for self-sacrifice instead of righteous revenge (to borrow your turn of phrase) but only after having indulged in 45 minutes of righteous revenge. It wants it all to the point that it doesn't know what it wants. A lot of revenge cinema suffers a similar fate.
Shifting gears a bit, I quite liked SPRING BREAKERS. Though to be entirely fair, I would never refute any of the well-reasoned objections John and Jason have towards it. It's a trashy movie with very little to say that isn't readily scraped off the surface. It's purely disposable pop-art. However, I found much of it fascinating, even as it made me feel uncomfortable and slightly dirty. Brandon's point about it depicting the rampant nihilism of this modern youth culture is well taken. These kids do not stand for anything other than bikinis, beer, big booties, dubstep, and being just another scrap in the trash heap. Korine is undeniably guilty of enjoying his time digging through the trash (a staple of his it would seem). He revels in it, meanders through it like he can't get enough of it. But he's also smart enough to balance this indulgence with some much needed melancholia. As Chris wisely put it to me, there's always an air of "hangover" in this rapturous party of a film. Even the film's final inverted shot seems to suggest that not everything is idyllic in this fantasy world, but perhaps nightmarish. This is excess driven to the point of a hollow extreme; the car has gone off the cliff but somehow its still floating in midair. It's held in abeyance over its own nothingness.
I also appreciated that the film seemed to comment on a specific cultural reality while also seeming completely hyperreal. There's rapture and rupture here, but also a spirit of (to burrow this word from John) mirth in its depictions of over-the-top characters and milieux. The colors are excessively bright and glossy, the parties are excessively raucous, the final girls are excessively amoral and sexualized (and apparently invincible), and Alien is excessively adhering to gangster stereotypes (grillz, cornrows, an aspiring rap career, a house full of guns and money with SCARFACE playing 24/7, etc). There's moments of realism here, but this is very much a fantastical netherworld where Korine has found himself encamped. I can't blame those who would have rather stayed home. I found it all withering with decay yet oddly alluring.