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April 02, 1992 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1992-04-02

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The Michigan Daily-Weekend etc. April 2, 1992 Page 1

It's a man's
man's man 's
world - isn't it?
W bile millions of angry men
were making a fuss out of
lastyear's controversial film Thelma
and Louise, Ijustdidn'twant to see
It. So, even if you agree with the
powers-that-be, who've made femi-
nism a bad word, my interpretation
of this film's unique trail of carnage
might just surprise you.
For the most part I greatly appre-
ciated the overall effect of Thelma
and Louise.
It seems to me that these em-
battled men were not raving about
the actual content of the film, but the
hallowed ground of Hollywood be-
ing subverted and used as a medium
for somerelatively serious feminism.
As you probably know, Thelma
and Louise run rings around the male
power structure when their guilt of
killing a would-be rapistis presumed
by all. Primarily for this reason, the
film lies somewhere between the
realms of a harmless revenge fan-
tasy and an advancement of a mili-
tant feminist discourse.
Unquestionably, the backyard
rebellion of this film was simply
N.&,4s f4.*
unacceptable to the film critics and
paternalistic overlords who so fer-
vently thrashed it in such a short
time following its release.
Would the women's revolution
be videoized? Not quite. But the
precious art of cinematography
should not be wasted on images of
Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis
outthinking and outgunning the
lengthy member (sorry, arm) of pa-
triarchy. The reek of cultural implo-
sion must have been unbearable, to
say the least.
However, I am a firm believer
thatan intelligentoppositional voice
will always prove to be rewarding in
and of itself. For example, the back-
lash regarding Thelma and Louise
shows us how many men feel about
rape and whose side they'll take -
the antagonist's.
It has been suggested by a well-
known writer and University pro-
fessor that a woman's realm in life is
socially relegated to nature while
man's is that of culture. If creative
women wish to accept this philoso-
phy as an indicator of their param-
eters, they're limiting themselves in
a big way.
I won't hesitate to say that I've
had many problems with the
women's movement. The more dog-
matic feminists can often be just as
authoritarian in their ways as the
enemy they decry. Many upper-class
women tend to place blame in the
mostridiculous places, for example,
the wave of backlash to Phil Cohen's

infamous op-ed piece which dealt
with the internalization of sexist at-
titudes. And often, the movement
seems painfully ineffectual, more
than anything else.
I've written in these very pages
that rap lyrics are no threat to femi-
nism, and I stand firmly by that
statement. The sardonic tirades of
Black Sheep and Ice Cube rarely
challenge the advances of feminists;
they're simply extensions of an
American cultural foundation which
says it's cool to hit women. You
don't deal with spilled milk by yell-
ing at what's already spilled - you
nick un the carton and wine yaour


F irst, let's cut through the
bullshit. Forget all of the
noise about mindless, re
pressed bureaucreeps
(read: Jesse Helms), NEA controver-
sies, and the like. Let's concentrate on
what's really important, what really
Karen Finley is an artist. A very
momentous and talented one at that.
With her work, she grabs you by the
hair, and shoves your face into the
buggy mire of reality beneath the rock.
Her latest one-woman piece, the awe-
inspiring "We Keep Our Victims
Ready," has garnered rave reviews
worldwide, as well as being nomi-
nated for the San Diego Theatre Crit-
ics Award for Best Play in 1989. Us-
ing rage and pain as catalysts, Finley's
voice becomes the collective primal
scream for those of us that suffer the
horrific injustices of life.
With the underlying theme being
the unity of oppression, Finley exam-
ines the brutal worlds of rape, AIDS,
misogyny, and child abuse. Slipping
in and out of characters on stage, she
turns herself into a living, seething
work of art.
At one moment she's symboli-
cally covering herself in chocolate
sauce (shit) and alfalfa sprouts
(sperm), ranting from the defeated
mind of a woman who has
accepted the patriar-
chal mentality

that women are nothing more than
human excrement, and receptacles for
semen. Then, wrapped in a stark, white
sheet, she delivers a hushed soliloquy
to a dead AIDS patient. Finley's per-
formances often reduce audience
members to tears. No one leaves un-
As someone I truly admire, I ea-
gerly anticipated speaking with her
about her upcoming show.
Then, when I did talk with Finley
on the phone from her home in New
York, I dropped the ball. I froze. I
came justtthisclose to blowing the
whole thing. I clumsily stammered
through as many dumb and wrong
questions as possible, suffering
through long snatches of pained si-
lence. Sullenly, I admitted defeat. I
had to tell her that I just didn't feel
prepared to speak with her, and that I
was terribly sorry for wasting her
time. But instead of just shutting me
out and hanging up, Finley saved my
life. Sensing my imminent disaster,
she took over the interview, and we
ended up having a very emotional,
cathartic, and incredibly rewarding
Talking about her work, Finley is
quick to explain what exactly it is that
she does.
"I come from a visual background,
I do visual work, and I don't look at
my work as shocking or controversial
whatsoever," she explains.
"My work that I've done, I come
from a tradition. Performance art goes
back a long time. It goes back to the
tradition of rituals and cer-
emony. So we even do
performance and
L ceremonies in

our own lives, whether it's weddings,
or funerals or whatever. I think we
need more rituals, and we'd be a
healthier culture."
Such rituals are especially needed,
she feels, due to the current state of
organized religion.
"Religion is just not doing it for
us. Religious services basically turn
their heads, they do not welcome
women, they do not welcome minori-
ties, they do not welcome homosexu-
ality. Women are heathens, and only
white, straight men have the mouth-
piece to God."
Performance, Finley elaborates, is
not theater, but her own form of
covert action.
"I'm really fed up that people think
performance is about theater. I appro-
priate the theatrical setting. The same
way that Andy Warhol used advertis-
ing to get a message across, I exploit
theatrical method for my own mes-
sage. I'm using this to manipulate
people to get in there and to see it."
Finley'sjourneys into the world of
writing are constructedmuch the same
"I used literature. I'm interested
in infiltrating the whole medium of
writing, to challenge it. I think I did
challenge it," she says, referring to
her collection of poetry, Shock Treat-
Finley also has another book in the
works, her own inimitable take on
self-help books.
"I'm going to do a book on daily
meditations, for people that don'tnec-
essarily want to forgive or forget. In a
lot of these kind of books, it's always
about forgiving, and letting go. In this
one, you don't have to let go, you
don't have to forgive, you don't have
to forget.
"I think that blame is very healthy.
And I think that hate is O.K.
See FINLEY, Page 5


Karen Finley performs at the Michigan
Theater Saturday at 8 p.m-.Tickets
are $18.50. Call 668-8397.




B 1r'' R O N K O B E LL


Spike Lee
speaks at Hill Aud
tonight at 7:30. Tickets are
$8.50, $6.50 students. Call 763-TKTS.



Spike Lee is nothing if not
controversial. At 35, the
ducer cannot even brush his
teeth without making an implicit po-
litical statement. In over ten years of
filmmaking, Lee's been accused of
everything from militancy to mis-
ogyny. Supporters commend him for
raising consciousness, while critics
rebuke him for raising hell. And
whether you think he's doing the right
thing or not, Spike Lee is definitely
doing something:he's making people
As a pioneer filmmaker, Lee ex-
plores the reality of the B lack middle
class in a manner never before ex-
posed to popular culture. Hordes of
people from all different races and
classes have flocked to his flamboy-
ant flicks, all of which promise not to
bore the audience. From the promis-
cuity in his pseudo-blockbuster She's
Gotta Have It to the heightened racial
tension in Do The Right Thing to his
latest controversial project Malcolm
X, Lee introduces issues which enter-
tain and educate through sardonic
humor and unrelenting commentary.
After graduating from the pre-

dominantly Black Morehouse Col-
lege, Lee entered the predominantly
white New York University film
school. If being one of the only two
Blacks in the class was not enough to
draw attention to him, then he made
certain his films would.
A bold film called The Answer
responded to what would happen if a
Black screenwriter were to remake
D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation.
Griffith's film, which was hailed as a
masterpiece by then-President
Woodrow Wilson, featured white vir-
gin women being pursued and raped
by ferocious Black men, played by
white actors in Blackface makeup.
Instead of provoking more ques-
tions, The Answer enraged so many
professors and students that Lee was
dangerously close to being booted
from NYU. The next year, however,
he received the Student Academy
Award. The following year, he wrote,
directed, starred in and produced She's
Gotta Have It. Although Lee had only
a $175,000 budget, which is piddly
pocket change to most movie moguls,
the film grossed over $7 million.
Right from the start, Lee lets you
know that he's not a man to mince
words. The character of Nora Darling
in She's Gotta Have It has gotta have
sex, money and male attention. Her
three simultaneous intimate relation-
ships have sent feminists fuming about
Lee's portrayal of women as promis-
The controversy continued with
Lee's next work, School Daze, a film
set at an all-Black college campus
that pits light-skinned "Wannabees"
against darker-skinned "Jiggaboos."
These derogatory names and their al-
leged self-hate incensed some mem-



to dilute the truth about racism in this
country in the proverbial sugar water
which many artists have drowned in
before. The violent truth is an aver-
sion to anyone's taste buds, but Lee
makes us chew it and swallow hard.
And if we should leave the theater
with a lump in our throats, then we are
responsible for finding the medicine
to cure it.
Lee's firstmajorlump in the throat
was Do the Right Thing. This por-
trayal of racism in Brooklyn starred
Danny Aiello as Sal, the Italian
restauranteur who served slices and
slack to his Black patrons. The versa-
. -I . . -- 1 L _ _ _ 1 _ i _. 1 .

sons but depends on them for his
After a white policeman murders
neighborhood kid Radio Raheem,
Mookie leads the Black community
to pillage Sal's pizza parlor and take
back their community. Raheem's race-
motivated, murder and the
community's reaction is purposefully
similar to the police-related murders
of Michael Stewart and Eleanor
Bumpurs in the Howard Beach inci-
After a resolution of sorts between
Mookie and Sal, Lee leaves us with
the quintessential question: What is

and say that violence is impractical
and immoral. But the words of
Malcolm X state that violence used in
self-defense is intelligence.
Spike Lee didn't endeavor to calm
the storm whirling around his name
with his nexttwoproductions. In 1990,
his 40 Acres and a Mule Production
Company released Mo' Better Blues.
Despite actor Denzel Washington's
dazzling performance, the film re-
ceived harsh accusations of anti-
Semitism as a result of Lee's carica-
tures of two stingy Jewish nightclub
owners, played by John Turturro and
Raymond Thomas.


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