Deb and I watched Kevin Kline in In and Out this weekend. I know stereotypes are the unfortunate source of a lot of humor, but I liked the way this film used stereotypes to make fun of stereotypes. And to still be just a funny movie.
The “teapot” scene — where Kevin Kline’s character is listening to a “how to be a macho man” tape series (I call it the “teapot scene” because he unconsciously stands with his hand on his hip like a teapot which is, of course, oh-so non-masculine!) — has a couple typical examples of insulting a man by calling him a woman. In this case, it was something like, “What are you, a sissy?” and “you pussy!”
And, of course, that phenomenon simply reflects the larger treatment of women as second, as less-than. I don’t think there’s anything particularly interesting about that linguistic/speech phenomenon, except the need to get more people to be conscious of what’s going on, of how women are demeaned when men are insulted this way. I know I hadn’t thought about it, hadn’t noticed it, until the last ten years or so.
Anyway, I want to make a note to myself to watch (or at least read the study guide for) The Smell of Burning Ants, a film by Jay Rosenblatt. Chanel mentioned it last Thursday afternoon, after our staff meeting, when she, Dodie, Jeremy and I were staying after, chatting (about the Vagina Monologues, etc). (Thanks, Chanel!)
The Smell of Burning Ants is a haunting documentary on the pains of growing up male. It explores the inner and outer cruelties that boys perpetrate and endure. The film raises gender issues and provokes the viewer to reflect on how our society can deprive boys of wholeness.
Through formative events of a boy’s life, we come to understand the ways in which men can become emotionally disconnected and alienated from their feminine side. The common dismissal that “boys will be boys” evolves into the chilling realization that boys frequently become angry, destructive and emotionally disabled men. The Smell of Burning Ants illustrates how boys are socialized by fear, power and shame.
The burning of ants is one of the metaphors for the impact that boyhood violence has on us all. Though the film focuses on the painful aspects of male socialization, it also incorporates subtle humor and moments of boyhood celebration. The Smell of Burning Ants is entertaining as well as educational and provides a unique opportunity to begin the process of healing the wounds of childhood.
Finally, it also fits with the discussion we’ve been having in our Bible Study group on Thursday nights (The Bible and Homosexuality) — about Genesis 19, 2 Samuel 10, and Judges 19-21, about women treated as much more expendable than men, about the way to dominate a man being treating him like a woman (e.g., penetrating him), etc.
Come to think of it, it is interesting (for lack of a word that has more sadness in it) how our language hides — hides in place sight, that is — probably all of our society’s cruelty, fear, and hate. Of course good writing comes from learning how to pay attention to words. But so does all clear and healthy thinking. So does all our attempts to rise above ingrained and insidious and invisible sin.