Sunday, October 28, 2007

But I loved Rushmore...

I went to see Darjeeling Ltd. this afternoon by myselfsies because Simone was rightfully doubtful and apparently less tempted by misogynistic messes than I am. Like most reviewers have said already, it's beautiful to watch, a bit overly precious, and totes racist.

Of course, as ush, Wes Anderson develops his precocious, heart-broken white male protagonists by simplifying everyone else--the Indians, the women, the Indian woman. Apparently in Wes's world, possessing some sort of lonely white male sorrow gives one license to be an incorrigible asshole to everyone and still somehow likable. I don't really have time to go into all the contextual details of his racism and misogyny tonight so you can just read about it here and here. I would, however, like to bring up Wes Anderson's little meta-apology, which only serves to make the racism and misogyny all the more irritating.

First, some brief background: Like any young emotard in a Wes movie would do, Jason Schwartzman's character has a quickie with the gorgeous Indian stewardess on the Darjeeling Limited train to get over his ex-girlfriend played by Natalie Portman. True to form, this isn't just a quick meaningless sex thing (believe me, it would have been less offensive if it was)-- no, Schwartzman has to set "Sweet Lime" up as some sort of exotic savior telling her "I need to talk to someone" and "I know you can help me" like her ethnic vag holds the secret to his stiff white universe. I mean of course it is, in the end, just meaningless sex dressed up in some male existential bullshit. Thanks Sweet Lime, you seemed superficially interesting for a moment, and you looked totally hot in that bathroom scene, but now we must be on our way on this long train ride into profundity. How do you say goodbye in Indian? (Is that the name of your language, btw?) Namaste!

At this point, we've already seen a snippet of Schwartzman's torturous past relationship with Portman in the opening short. Portman shows up at his hotel room in Paris. She says, "I love you, I never meant to hurt you" as well as "If we fuck, I'll feel like shit tomorrow." Schwartzman replies, "I don't care" and "That's okay with me." But hey, listen, those lines just sound so callous because they're removed from the context-- seriously, he's not being an asshole, he's just really really angsty and sad! This isn't some patriarchal set-up where men vilify women to deal with their own inadequacies, or to demonstrate the greater emotional depth and existential awareness that men possess. He is just terribly sad and deep, okay? And this is all her fault, obvs.

Portman, let me get this straight: you protested the smoking in the script and insisted on toothpicks? Should I have started a MISOGYNY CAUSES CANCER campaign for you to say no to the rest of it?

Look at you, you're already wasting away. Read this, it's like chemo.

The worst part of all of these various bad "isms", is the fact that Anderson is obviously hyper-conscious of them and even snidely tongue-in-cheek about it. As the brothers are leaving the Darjeeling train, Schwartzman goes over to the window to say goodbye to Sweet Lime. She is crying. Clearly those ridiculous emo-potent lines worked on her.

Schwartzman looks up at her, smiles, and says, "Thanks for using me."

I'm pretty sure this is a meta-joke said to the one character that embodies both of the "others" (Indian, female), a kind of self-satisfied "I know who I'm using and how in this script, but I don't care." I wanted to throttle Jason Schwartzman at this moment. The movie just isn't good enough to get away with self-aware, offense white male centrism-- like c'mon, a movie about character journey demonstrated literally via a train journey in an exotic country? Seriously, no one has ever done that before!

Sweet Lime, of course, unironically whispers, "You're welcome."


Simone said...



Perfect Ratio said...

I mean she is pretty juicy.

Simone said...

ps thanks for the great post. i think if i had actually gone the the movie with you i would have ended up throwing popcorn and hissing loudly at the screen.

Em said...

It's Simone's friend Emily here. This is an excellent post. I really would like to see more written on this. In fact, some point down the line when I actually have time I would like to do an orientalist critique on his work if it hasn't been done already. And the racism and misogyny is everywhere in all the Anderson movies I've seen. Sure they are beautiful, but the way he uses women and people of color is damn ugly.

I am living in South Africa right now and the movie hasn't come out yet here, but I can't wait to see it in order to give my critical consciousness a healthy workout.

Perfect Ratio said...

You should definitely write something! It seems as though critical analysis on Wes is just beginning to develop now, at least in the mainstream, with that Slate article.

Also your critical conscious will burn like 8,000 calories during the viewing-- it is that much of a workout. Get Milk Duds.

liz said...

Whoa, Milk Duds? Maybe I do need to get on the stick and see this piece of crapola.

Also, you're amaze. Thanks for using me.

Rob said...

my friend michael wants to know if you would have been less offended if owen wilson had bee the one to hook up with the train lady, since he is more attractive and schwartzman looks like an ape. i haven't see the movie so i don't have any real context.

also, you didn't shorten up obviously. somebody was obvs getting too serious here.

Perfect Ratio said...

Sometimes when I get super mad I use full words! It's terribs. It's pretty analogous to when a parent screams your full name, like "Ryan Emo Gosling-- come here right NOW"

I think Schwartzman is adorbs!