From: Mark Holloway <mark.holloway@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 24 May 1997 00:12:30 -0700
John Ransom wrote:
> To Colin: but there's nothing wrong with pyrrhic victories, are there,
> other than the large losses involved?
> To Mark: I don't know why we have to be romantic to read Thelma and Louise
> or Princess de Cleeves (sp?) as victories with quotation marks around the
> word "victories."
I didn't see scare marks around victories. But I was using the term victory myself in
much the same way as you have. My later comments were just an appropriation of that
term. Or at least an attempt at one...
By "romantic" do you mean "purely self-absorbed", sort
> of like "The sorrows of young Werther"?
Hmmm...maybe Werther is capital R Romantic...no...what I meant is relevant to your
question to Colin too. Can't "large losses" involved in pyrrhic victories become
substantial enough to remove the possibility of satisfaction from winning? Have you read
Primo Levi's "If This Is A Man"? Levi is often drawn to the triumphs of the human
spirit, but it would be so hard to consider these to be "victories". And when the camp
is liberated there is no sense of victory. Of course not...the losses are so great
that nobody has won. The phrase Levi employs, "the drowned and the saved", offers a more
...in the context of Thelma and Louise, I think that you have to romanticise death
before you can see their suicide as a victory. After all, they lose their lives, and
everything that goes with it. You have to believe in some kind of afterlife (a romantic
notion in my opinion - since it is an ideal but not necessarily a plausible "actuality")
for the scenario to conclude with T & M laughing at the vanquished society they have
left behind. My reading of the film is that T & M perform an act of defiance, but do not
score a victory. They do, however, inflict a defeat upon society. Both sides lose. Of
course, you could argue a victory here. To start with only one side (T & M) were going
to lose, so they've achieved something in inflciting the defeat upon their opponents.
However, IMO, you have to dress their suicide up a little (romanticise it) to make a
victory out of what might otherwise be a sloppy mess on the other side of that cliff.
If that sounds cynical, then its only because I'm trying to make a point. And it strikes
me that the romanticism I'm alluding to isn't really that far off the Romanticism of
Werther. The reading of T & M which sees the two women forging a spiritual unity via the
solidarity of their suicide relies upon the same kind of idealisation of the subject as
the Cathy-Heathcliff eternal relationship in Wuthering Heights (a particularly
"R"omantic text?). But I don't know what you mean by "purely self-absorbed" meaning
"romantic". Its a fitting description for Werther...but so too is "idealist".
If that's what you mean, then I
> respectfully disagree. We cannot exercise our will-to-power over people
> unless to a certain extent they are willing partners in the power game.
> Now I don't want to make out like I'm some huge big fan of Thelma and
> Louise as a movie, but what happens to them at the end is that they are
> unquestionably trapped. There are only two possibilities: over the cliff
> or back into the arms of a system that will, without a doubt, completely
> screw them. And "the system" for a variety of reasons really *wants* them
> back. The willing and even sometimes grateful cooperation of the objects
> of power's exercise is often aspired to by power's functionaries. Makes
> for a better functioning of power, and perhaps a better conscience too, I
> don't know. Thus, the primary sheriff chasing T&L (the preacher from
> "Dawn 'til Dusk" and "The Bad Lieutenant") "understands" T&L and wants to
> bring them in alive, and is "sympathetic" to them.
> But if they allowed themselves to get caught they would wind up back in a
> psycho-criminal discipo-reformatory system of justice, where the near-rape
> of Gina Davis's character is redescribed as something that's her fault,
> where the creep husband is probably made out to be a victim of a "selfish"
> and trampy wife, and so on. Now there they are in that concrete situation,
> with a very tough decision to make. They decide to go over the cliff. That
> decision isn't crazy. Nor is it self-absorbed; nor, finally, do I see how
> it is romantic.
I agree with all that you've said above. The decision isn't romantic. Its a kind of
resignation to the cruelty of the circumstance. And its also a decision of defiance. The
romanticism exists in the reading of this decision (which, biologically, can't be given
by T & M, what with them being dead and all). As had already been noted in this
discussion - by Colin I think...and he put it far more eloquently than I am about to -
the term "victory" is an essentially subjective term. Victory can only be claimed by the
audience, and then we're moving into the realm of empowerment being achieved through the
process of storytelling/reading. eg. The "victory" is possible because the lingering
image is of the police (authority) left looking stupid and not of the corpses looking
ugly. Through the power of the storyteller, the film is able to create a romanticised
(IMO) frame for the suicide...a frame which I for one wish to reject. Does that make
sense? I doubt it but...
I didn't really like the film much anyway!
Thanks for the time you gave the matter, John. The honour's all mine and I daresay we're
probably saying exactly the same thing somewhere along the line...especially as I think
I've been sitting on both sides of the fence...
It seems like a legitimate and even particularly effective
> way to thwart power's moves, to transcend its self-satisfied checkmate by
> knocking the pieces over.
Oops...sorry, missed this bit. Basically, yes, I think we ARE saying the same thing. You
don't win a game of chess by knocking all the pieces over. You'd get disqualified in a
football match for moving the goalposts (didn't stop Wolves - aka "The Shit" - playing
half the season with one goal too big though). Refusing to play by the rules pisses the
opposition off no end I'm sure, but it never wins you the game...
Now, about Maradona's handball in 1986...