Jeremy Dennis is Jeremy Day (cleanskies) wrote,
Jeremy Dennis is Jeremy Day
cleanskies

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catching up on the films (Secretary, Sticky Fingers of Time)

What I was really aware of when watching Secretary was obscenity rules. Awkward angles, nasty, unnatural poses, carefully calculated clothing levels ... I found myself respecting Cronenberg more and more as the film progressed, the Director who can shoot a sex scene so un/natural you never notice you're missing two tits and a set of bits. And poor old James Spader -- while I'm aware the focus was supposed to be her, the total lack of interest in (making) him (look good) just grated. Not that I didn't enjoy it at all, it was quite fun, like a smutty joke in rather poor taste; you laugh, but you're kind of embarassed; and not just because you're watching big-screen spanking.

Oh yeah, I had problems with Secretary. Serious, deep-rooted problems. The trouble was, it reminded me of something I read.

It was one of those horrible true-life stories from Mizz or Jackie, sometime in the 80s. I'm going to try to re-tell it from memory; and the thing to note here are the differences between this story and Secretary. It was in a section called Bosses From Hell, Worst First Jobs, or something like that:

"I got my first job in a small office. Most of the time it was just me and this one man who was sort of my boss there. He was always kind of nasty to me, criticising how I looked and behaved with people, but I didn't complain, because he was kind of fat and ridiculous and always seemed to be having a hard time with the other workers and customers.

I'd been working there for a few weeks when he called me into his office. He said that I'd been here a few weeks and that everyone had been waiting for my work to improve but that it hadn't, and that I was still making really simple mistakes, things you wouldn't expect from a child. He said everyone was talking about it and laughing at me. He made me feel really stupid. Then he said he could help me. He got me to bend over the desk and smacked me with a ruler. He said it would help me remember not to make mistakes.

Afterwards I tried to go back to work but I couldn't concentrate and in the I end I went and cried in the loos for ages. I didn't get any work done that afternoon which made even more worried I wasn't doing my job well.

After that he kept criticising me, always saying it was for my own good. He kept telling me the other staff were complaining about me and that he was having to stick up for me or make excuses. And whenever I made mistakes he'd smack me with the ruler, for my own good he said. But the more unhappy I got the more mistakes I made. I began to get really worried about losing my job.

I got unhappy enough that my parents asked me what was wrong but I couldn't tell anyone what was going on, I was just too embarrassed and ashamed.

One day he told me I'd made a really bad mistake and that I needed an extra reminder. He made me bend over the desk and pull down my pants and tights. I really thought hs was going to rape me, but instead there was a sound like an animal scuffling behind me and a minute later something wet hit me. I wiped it off afterwards in the loo when I was crying.

One day I woke up and I just couldn't go into work any more. But I couldn't tell my parents why, because I was too ashamed. They gave me a hard time about it but I just couldn't go back. After that I stayed in my room a lot. Often I didn't get out of bed. When anyone asked me what was wrong I would just start crying. I didn't talk to anyone much.

One day I got a phone call from a woman, a stranger. She had been working for the same company and the man had done something to her. She wanted to prosecute him and she wanted to know if he'd done anything to me. I think she thought maybe I could tell someone and back up her story. But I couldn't even talk to her. Eventually she gave up and put the phone down.

After a couple of years I started feeling a bit happier and now I'm eating and coming out of my room much more. I feel much more hopeful now. I'd like to start thinking about getting a job again.

I never told anyone what happened. This is the first time I've tried to tell anyone what happened."

So, you see, all the time I was watching it, it was with this sordid shadow running behind. Your abuser isn't going to be James Spader, it's going to be some sweaty creep who's honed his emotional abuse skills on his own wife and kids. Being slapped around and told what to do causes emotional problems, it doesn't solve them. And doing something bad to someone else (no matter what you tell them, no matter what they tell you) is always for your own good and never for theirs.

And because Secretary supports the self-deluding self-flattery of the abuser (that they are the victim, that they are being forced to abuse them, that the abused person wants or needs to be abused) in a very naive and unselfconscious way it comes across as, of all things, badly researched. And (in slight but significant way) on the side of evil.

I also watched through The Sticky Fingers of Time. Turns out the people who were telling me it was about atomic time-travelling lesbians were not telling the entire truth. It's actually about atomic time-travelling noir-talking bisexuals caught in a time-slipped love/murder quadrangle with a dangerous future femme-fatale who keeps a brain-dead librarian in her basement and has a fully prehensile tail (even has extra chakras!). And, apart from one single pet peeve of mine (which should not interfere with anyone else's viewing pleasure) it was really quite fine. Atomic paranoia! Pah! This had dental paranoia!
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