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Lars von Trier: Director, Genital Mutilator, Accidental Life Coach

You know, people, if there is one beat that I, as a blogger, aspire to provide comprehensive and informative coverage of, it is this: graphic genital mutilation in film.
OH! WAIT! NO! That is totally not something I want to cover! It’s icky.

Nevertheless, Lars “Sunshine” Von Trier has, apparently, created yet another film in which something terrible happens to a lady. Or, to be more precise, to her genitals. Also, to her husband’s genitals! Also, to their child! (He falls out a window while Mommy and Daddy are making the beast with two soon-to-be-damaged sets of genitals; compared to them, he gets off easy.)

Now, this has been extensively covered elsewhere in the blogoworld, so I will not really go into it here: suffice it to say, Charlotte Gainsbourg apparently separates her husband’s meat from his vegetables, and he ejaculates gore (“He Ejaculates Gore,” BTW, is also the title for my forthcoming album of feminist death-metal fuckjams) shortly before she, um, excises… or, er, removes… um, she… oh, okay. SHE CUTS OFF HER CLITORIS WITH SCISSORS. There really is no useful euphemism for that! Gruesome as this injury is to contemplate, it is also worth noting that it is exactly what I contemplate whenever anyone brings up the topic of Brazilian waxing, which is why the whole process fills me with terror. I’m pretty sure we should not be ripping things off of that area! One ill-judged yank, and the whole thing can go awry! AWRY, I tell you.

Anyway: remember when I said I would not be getting into that scene? And then I did? Good times! My point, back then, was this: all of the focus on this scene is taking away from the most wonderful thing about the movie. The most wonderful thing about the movie is:

LARS VON TRIER
HIRED
A “MISOGYNY CONSULTANT”
FOR THE FILM

I know, right? A misogyny consultant! I did not know people did this! I was, until today, entirely unaware that “misogyny consultant” was a valid career path, which one might profitably pursue. “Mom, I want to be a misogyny consultant when I grow up; also, I hate you,” is a conversation that young people all across this great nation (and also in Denmark, where Lars Von Trier is from) are apparently having, before embarking on successful careers as Hollywood misogyny consultants – and I did not know.

Now: here is the thing. You know I am looking for a second job, right? Sure you did! I think I mentioned it once! But did you also know that I have a blog, where I talk about misogyny, pretty much all the time? Now, a person of entrepreneurial mind, when considering these facts in tandem, can only come to one conclusion: if Lars von Trier, who manages to portray a woman being hanged/raped/mutilated/fed to wild ravening bears every single time he picks up a camera, and is widely regarded as somewhat of a knowledgeable source on misogyny himself, looked at the script for his latest movie and was like, “hmmm, I’m not sure this is misogynist enough: better hire a consultant,” then there should be – nay, must be! – other directors who could benefit even more from this service!

In other words: I HAVE FOUND MY NEW CAREER.

As a sample of my talents, I shall now consider several hit movies, and give you my carefully considered, professional advice as to how they might be imbued with more misogyny.

1. CHICAGO: Well, all of the ladies are criminals. That’s a start! I also appreciate the way that they are all portrayed as shallow, two-timing, and dim, using men only to satisfy their insatiable need for fame and adulation. HOWEVER! I note that there is a man lawyer, Richard Gere, who is also a big old liar. Make him a helpless victim of their ploys, say I! Also: there’s lots of singing and dancing. TOTAL CHICK STUFF. You’re going to want to replace all of that with exploding cars.

2. TITANIC: Here’s your problem: Kate Winslet, two-timing hussy, lives. Leonardo DiCaprio, the helpless guy whom she lures into sin with her wiles, does not. Kill them both! Or, just write Leo out of the picture. Let’s focus on that Billy Zane guy: he’s really the character with whom you want your audience to identify. Also, could we make it so that Kate Winslet sinks the ship? On purpose? Maybe you could make some jokes about her weight, or something. Those are funny and misogynist.

3. TERMINATOR 2: Okay, so you’ve got this robot, right? And he can kill anything, right? And yet he chooses to hang out with this chick Sarah Connor and her whiny little kid? And – this, I cannot believe – he fights another killer robot? Dudes! Lame! The other robot is his bro, man: you don’t violate that bond. Write a scene where they have a beer and talk about how Sarah Connor and the kid are totally weighing the first robot down. Then, they can kill her and the kid. Together. That’s what bros are for.

4. SEX & THE CITY: Women who define themselves entirely through their relationships to men, you say? Whose professional accomplishments are ceaselessly backgrounded in favor of obsessive man talk? Frivolous, shallow women, whose interests are limited to shopping, gossip, and the performance of a restrictive and frankly insulting variety of traditional femininity? Women who – and this is the important portion – I myself cannot help but hate? As a professional misogyny consultant, I must tell you: there is nothing I could possibly do to make this movie more offensive to women. My work here is done.

17 Comments

  1. smadin wrote:

    Holy crap, Sady. Yesterday you managed to convince me I actually wanted to see a movie about a bunch of aimless dudebros, and today you have convinced me I never want to see any movie ever again. I’m so confused!

    Also, sad that this movie is a thing that exists. Anyway, why is Serious Filmmaker Lars Von Trier cribbing from the ’90s “Asian Extreme Horror” fad?

    Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 8:04 am | Permalink
  2. amanda wrote:

    I support this, Sady. I give good references, just sayin.

    Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 8:09 am | Permalink
  3. JustReading wrote:

    Sady, I just want to say that I love your blog and maybe, kinda want to Internet marry it. (And you??? Not sure how that works.) You give me so many good points that I then shamelessly plagiarize into the rants that I inflict upon my cowering (and sexist) coworkers. You also manage to keep a sense of humor about things that cause me to fly into wordless rages, so I am also thankful for that.

    Keep on fighting the good fight. I’ll keep stealing your one-liners.

    Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 8:25 am | Permalink
  4. snobographer wrote:

    I don’t know, Sady. I don’t remember any rape jokes in Sex and the City. Nothing misogynies-up a joint like some rape jokes. You could also easily throw in a scene where Charlotte and Amanda or whoever have an actual physical fight over a pair of Manalos (sp?) and/or some dude.

    Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 9:36 am | Permalink
  5. stras wrote:

    Oh, that Lars von Trier! Say what you will about him, he never compromises his vision – his vision of watching women get raped to death.

    Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 11:53 am | Permalink
  6. Chex wrote:

    This: (“He Ejaculates Gore,” BTW, is also the title for my forthcoming album of feminist death-metal fuckjams) wins the Funniest Aside of the Day Award.

    Also, your version of Terminator sounds really hilarious and I want to see it made.

    Also, and I am slightly ashamed to admit this, when I saw Dancer in the Dark I was alone in my parents’ basement and I cried until I could not be bothered to use a tissue anymore and snot ran down my face and onto my shirt. Fuck that movie.

    Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 12:12 pm | Permalink
  7. smadin wrote:

    Also, Roger Ebert has blogged about Antichrist after seeing it at Cannes, and his take on it is very interesting reading.

    It’s also very disappointing reading, for all that I respect and admire Ebert, in that he utterly fails to engage with the problem of the kind of misogynistic violence von Trier portrays being real, and being reinforced and normalized by its portrayal. Or to make a fairer criticism: he doesn’t just fail to engage with that problem, which might reasonably be said to fall outside the scope of a blog entry written by a film reviewer about a film, he fails to even acknowledge that there might be such a problem.

    Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 6:16 pm | Permalink
  8. smadin wrote:

    To perhaps clarify a bit, I think that one of the problems both with von Trier and with Ebert’s approach to von Trier, is that (see discussion over here for related ideas) they imagine the kind of extreme violence and/or horribleness as being over-the-top, as being too extreme, as being so exaggerated that they are clearly not to be taken as literally realistic; their variously-privileged positions in life have shielded them from having to know that such horror is not as exaggerated as they think, that it is a real thing that happens to real people, and not just a clever storytelling device they can employ or analyze, respectively.

    (Another problem with von Trier, of course, is that, gee, somehow he seems to almost always come down on the a-woman-suffering-horribly clever storytelling device, and isn’t that odd! And another problem with Ebert, of course, is that he doesn’t find von Trier’s pronounced tendency to pick that particular device worth remarking on.)

    Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 8:07 pm | Permalink
  9. Ashley wrote:

    I don’t know… Sex and the City does seem to value human intimacy and female friendship. This is a problem for me, as a misogyny consultant. Love cannot be tolerated! What if we replaced Carrie with a bro, perhaps a bro played by Paul Rudd? He could write about how demanding and unreasonable the other three women are for wanting men to be nice to them. Instead of Carrie’s usual column-starting questions, which are impressively vapid but usually lack the kind of misogynistic “punch” I’m looking for, he could start out the episode pondering questions like, “Are women crazy, or just bitchez?”

    If we could throw in some jello wrestling and exploding cars, I think we’ve got ourselves a show.

    Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 10:42 am | Permalink
  10. Liam wrote:

    I’m not disagreeing that Lars Von Trier certainly seems to be a bit of mysogynist, or, at the very least, have mysogynistic elements in his work. But I don’t think his treatment of men is much better. From Europa to Dogville, his men are cowardly, passive aggressive. The main male in Dancer In The Dark guilts a young woman into killing him so he doesn’t have to take responsibility for his life. The husband in Breaking The Waves asks his wife to do something many would consider disgusting, all for his benefit. The males in Dogville are close minded, weak, and disgusting rapists.
    Now this doesn’t validate Lars Von Trier’s misogyny. But, maybe what it does do is level the playing field. From my perspective, Lars Von Trier is more just a Misanthrope than a mysogynist. Indeed, Von Trier recently defended himself from the charges of mysogyny ( from the Interview with Knud Romer available at http://www.antichristhemovie.com) by saying that calling him misogynist is wrong, but rather that he doesn’t find a women or her sexuality wrong, but rather frightening. That’s another issue, albeit something also troublesome.
    Finally, Roger Ebert states, in an earlier blog from Cannes, that the psychological or intellectual damage that the male character inflicts in Antichrist is equal to the physical violence of the female character.
    I think defining Von Trier as simply a mysogynist is to ignore the clear disdain he holds for both sexes.

    Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 6:10 pm | Permalink
  11. Cait wrote:

    W00t! Sady, you got a “Wut about the MENZ? Won’t someone please think of the MENZ?” comment! W00t! That’s like, double bingo of the bingoest kind!

    Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 7:02 am | Permalink
  12. Chex wrote:

    Liam, something that helps me remember the correct spelling of “misogynist” is a little mnemonic device I’ve sort of subliminally developed: They’re so totally misinformed that they think soup goes in cooters. Hence “miso-gyn-ist.” Perhaps you will find this helpful, too. :)

    Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 11:58 am | Permalink
  13. Anonymous wrote:

    Have any of you male-bashers seen “Dans Ma Peau” directed by a woman name of Marina de Van? (2002)

    Now there’s a harrowing sojurn goes well beyond mere mysogyny as the female protagonist becomes obsessed with detaching her inner self from her outer shell. In cruder terms, she skins herself alive, bit by bigger slab.

    Trier’s male protagonist gets impaled AND has his nuts pulpified by his wife! Where’s the mysogyny?

    Besides, hurling accusations of “mysogyny” at male directors any time a female character takes one on the chin is getting really, really old.

    Many thanks Liam for a reasonable, balanced view of Von Trier’s work; these amazons will skin you alive for it though.

    Run away, run away…

    Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 3:28 pm | Permalink
  14. Sady wrote:

    @Liam: Um, nice try, but “fear of women” is a pretty critical component of misogyny. So is viewing women as the Other, and having a limited, stereotypical view of them: which, since von Trier consistently casts women as submissive, childlike victims or devouring, psychotic monsters (or both!) is pretty darn apparent in his work.

    Misanthropy and misogyny are difficult to separate out from each other, but as a female, feminist person who is a misanthropist about 75% of the time, I’ll give it a try: misogyny is targeted at a GENDER, and is based on a limited, stereotypical view of people who belong to that gender. Misanthropy is targeted at HUMAN BEINGS for their unique personal qualities, most of which the misanthropist finds annoying.

    In other words: a misogynist hates you for being a lady. A misanthropist hates you for WHO YOU ARE.

    Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 3:46 pm | Permalink
  15. Liam wrote:

    First of all, I didn’t validate Lars Von Trier’s misogyny. I said it was clear there are misogynistic elements in his work, and I wasn’t denying it. What I did attempt was to point out was that there are misanthropic elements in his work that I believe to go far beyond misogyny…Lars Von Trier has a clear disdain for people.
    Now, as for my mispelling of misogyny, that is both embarrasing and detrimental to my posting.

    I find it dissapointing that defending Von Trier’s films makes me a misogynist. I do like his films. In fact, I love his films.
    In addition, I did actually make it clear that I think there are misogynistic elements in Lars Von Trier’s work. I didn’t say those elements are not present, as Sady claims I did. Lars Von Trier certainly has an issue with women, and he has issues with men too. In fact, he has issuees with both. That is all I’m trying to say.
    It doesn’t make his obvious issues with women AND men as %100 valid or fair.
    Also, I quite honestly admit that the ‘anonymous’ poster is not me. Our mutually in correct spelling of misogyny is disappointing, to say the least.
    Lastly, what proof can you offer that Mr Von Trier hired misogyny consultant for his film?
    Thank you for listening to my opinion,
    Liam

    Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 7:53 pm | Permalink
  16. Sady wrote:

    OK, Liam, I took my last comment down. You are a very gracious dude, with whom I happen to disagree (I don’t feel the same sense of venom and Othering going on with his male characters as I do with his female characters; that, plus the special emphasis on watching women slowly destroyed and the reliance on stereotypes, makes me confident of his misogyny; as for the “misogyny consultant” thing, it’s been covered in several early reviews – Google “Lars von Trier misogyny consultant” and you should get a few of them). You are NOT the OMG AMAZONS ARE COMING TO SKIN YOU DANS MA PEAU WHICH IS CLEARLY FEMINIST IS ACTUALLY MISOGYNIST WHY DO YOU HATE THE MENS GRRR commenter. I know this because she has sent me several more comments. And, hoo boy. She has her own special brand of crazy.

    Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 10:06 pm | Permalink
  17. Liam wrote:

    Hi Sady,

    I appreciate you taking down that post, and let me reiterate that I really do understand and, at times, think there is validity in what you’re saying, and it does appear he has really gone off the deep end with Antichrist. That being said, I’m interested in seeing it.
    Anyway, It was nice talking with you, and good luck with the blog.

    Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 9:20 pm | Permalink