Angry Inches, Happy Itches, Aber Wer Bin Ich?



Every one of us is thus the half of what may be properly termed a man, and like a flatfish cut in two, is the imperfect portion of an entire whole, perpetually necessitated to seek the half belonging to him.
- Plato, The Symposium on Love (33)


Mitchell's inspiration from Plato's Symposium is particularly evident in the song "The Origin of Love". According to Aristophanes' speech (quoted above), every human-being used to be double at the origin of the world. However, Zeus, feeling threatened by their power,  decided to cut them down through their middle, which would explain why men and women have since been desperately searching for their other half.

I cannot let go of this obsession I have, this conviction that my other half is out there.  Of course, Mitchell is playing with me. He is leading me astray, employing stratagems which I am going to account for, and which are actually meant to convey to you, spectators, the delusional character of this conviction.

By revisiting a variety of myths and blending them together, Mitchell aims at exploring the way men and women try to make sense of this belief in the duality of the sexes, of this sense of loss - of lack? - which pushes them to want to find their soul-mate.  I mentioned above that the film denounces the imaginary character of reality - reality being only what we perceive of it, thus not really reality. Mitchell also finds a great deal of inspiration through Kant's "Copernician Revolution", a theory which supports the idea that the human mind will never be in possession of the power that would allow it (the mind) to penetrate the veil of appearances and thus seize the veritable nature of things (Muir, 194) .

As much as they give reality a seeming substance (which also gives human-beings the impression that they can get hold of pure knowledge), myths highlight man and woman's preoccupations and obsessions. Laura Mulvey explains:

Myth flourishes a the point where the social and psychoanalytic overlap, redolent of fascination and anxiety and generating both creative energy (stories, images) and the "taming and binding" process through which collective contact with the unconscious is masked. (166)

Myths are what bonds human-beings together, they relate a common experience as well as they give their individuality the sense of a coherence.  It is through "The Origin of Love" that I try to justify my humanity. Isn't it intriguing how sex and gender seem to be so crucial when it comes to define the individual? Do I have to try and elucidate the origin of gender and sexualities as we know them to justify my existence?

Foucault and Lacan
Michel Foucault's History of Sexuality (Volume I) provides a certain number of insightful observations, one of them being the following: according to him, sex - which he considers as the socialization of sexual acts - plays an extremely important role in our post-classical societies, as if it concealed a fundamental secret (92). The term "sex" understood as the socialization of sexual acts encloses the meaning of the term "sex" as morphological attribute, if one concedes that the meaning associated to morphological attributes works along with societies' establishment of sexual norms: it is through the socialization of sexual norms that male and female sexes become intelligible. Foucault argues that the individual expects from sex a truth about him/herself, in which s/he expects to see the truth deeply buried in his/her self - an immediately conscious truth (93). Doesn't this tie up with Kant's Copernician Revolution, in the sense that this impression to be able to access this truth is in fact a delusion? I might thus as well take another path to reach my self: perhaps should I defy the meaning of sex by avoiding attacking it full front?

In any case, it is possible to establish a parallel between what I previously said on myths, and Foucault's account on sex. Indeed, the author ingenuously posits sex at the level of myth: discourse compensates for the impossibility to properly name sex, and thus creates a fiction around it.  Sex is as much a myth as is Aristophanes' story of the separation of double human-beings into single beings by Zeus. Jacqueline Rose, who decrypts Lacanian theory, allows us to look at this argument from a psychoanalytical point of view:

Lacan therefore [since sexuality belongs in this area of instability played out in the register of domain and desire, each sex coming to stand, mythically and exclusively, for that which could satisfy and complete the other], argued that psychoanalysis should not try to produce "male" and "female" as complementary identities, sure of each other and of their own identity, but should expose the fantasy of the notion on which it rests. (33)

This view comes as a confirmation of this idea, which I previously evoked, that the masculine and the feminine are products of the imaginary - fantasies.

Fishes and crosses

Mitchell does not only challenge the presumption of the masculine and the feminine: he also takes to shaken Christian religion, imposing the status of myth to it too. When I first met Tommy (when he was still called Tommy Speck, the not-yet-renowned Tommy Gnosis), he was a real "Jesus freak with a fish in his truck". He used to draw endless parallels between his own life and the Bible, to the point that he was no longer able to tell them apart. He was so caught up in his Christian myth that my own reality, the fact of me, escaped him.  His naïvety prevented him from realizing that I was not the Eve of the Genesis, that he did not fall in love with "the woman par excellence", but with someone he was not ready to accept the front of. His world crumbled the moment he ironically discovered the imposture of his imaginary, which he believed was truer than truth.

Am I disturbing the order of things again? Which role am I intended for? As Tommy mistook me for Eve, he probably also mistook himself for Adam. If I am not Eve, then I why not play the role of God, of the Creator - the Father of the law - himself, and thus call its pseudo-incontestable existence into question? This is what I do, for instance, on that particularly rainy day when Tommy comes looking for comfort after a violent dispute with his father  - in other terms, following a fervent contestation of patriarchal autority: after conscientiously trimming his eyebrows, I make him my creature by painting a silver cross on his forehead. This cross may remind some of the letter א, which is the last letter of the Hebraic term אמת (meaning "truth") and which serves to give life to a golem, a Hebraic legendary creature made out of clay, otherwise inanimate. Yes, I use Tommy as my golem - my creature, my toy, as he himself hints on the idea in the first line of "The Long Grift", which he finally manages to play in tune once he looks at himself in the mirror and recognizes my ownership of him: "Look what you've done" (Tommy).  To continue my demonstration, I will once again refer to Butler, who makes the following relevant remark:

In Greek, hyle is the wood or timber out of which various cultural constructions are made, but also a principle of origin, development and teleology which is at once causal and explanatory. This link between matter, origin, and significance suggests the indissolubility of classical Greek notions of materiality and signification. (31) 

Even though I would not go as far as infer that the character Tommy takes up all his meaning through my fashioning, he nonetheless becomes more significant after I take him in hand. The same way one brings an inert golem to life, I give to Tommy - to my creature - the power to realize his potential. And similarly, Mitchell endows me - his creature - of a strange power. My disobedience to - or incompatibility with - the law of the symbolic is in fact not so much detrimental or unfortunate as it happens to provide me with a singular ability.