340 meters per second

Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.

&mdash Alfred Adler (1870-1937)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Hi, kids! Today's word is "fascism".

In 1995, Umberto Eco published a pithy distillation of fascism's essential elements in New York Review of Books and an excerpt has been circulating ever since. Aside from being an insightful and easily-quotable reference source, "Eternal Fascism: 14 Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt" also serves as a great segue into my other points.

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And speaking of militarism, the Iron Man trailer is up: check it out here.

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I caught 300 a while back and my feelings on it are decidedly mixed. While stirring on a technical and esthetic level (the digital effects are gorgeous, striking yet beautifully nuanced), it is those same visuals which made me the most uncomfortable. Much has been said about the film's fascist imagery and rhetoric so I won't add to the din with my own critique; rather, I'll let Susan Sontag's analysis of Leni Riefenstahl's work (from her 1975 text "Under the Sign of Saturn") make the point better than I ever could.

The one thing I will add is this: despite director Zack Snyder's persistent denials of any homophobic intent to his film (necessary in light of the mounting criticism he's faced since the movie's mass release), this quote from "Entertainment Weekly" exposes his true intentions:

The scenes of a bejeweled, long-fingernailed Xerxes offering King Leonidas peace in exchange for "submission" have a decidedly sexual undertone. Snyder says that's not accidental, that it's intended to make young straight males in the audience uncomfortable: "What's more scary to a 20-year-old boy than a giant god-king who wants to have his way with you?"

Snyder deliberately exploited his intended audience's latent homophobia. That's straight up hatemongering, no ifs ands or buts.

From "Under the Sign of Saturn":

All four of Riefenstahl's commissioned Nazi films—whether about Party congresses, the Wehrmacht, or athletes—celebrate the rebirth of the body and of community, mediated through the worship of an irresistible leader.


Fascist aesthetics (...) flow from (and justify) a preoccupation with situations of control, submissive behavior, extravagant effort, and the endurance of pain; they endorse two seemingly opposite states, egomania and servitude. The relations of domination and enslavement take the form of a characteristic pageantry: the massing of groups of people; the turning of people into things; the multiplication or replication of things; and the grouping of people/things around an all‑powerful, hypnotic leader‑figure or force. The fascist dramaturgy centers on the orgiastic transactions between mighty forces and their puppets, uniformly garbed and shown in ever swelling numbers. Its choreography alternates between ceaseless motion and a congealed, static, "virile" posing. Fascist art glorifies surrender, it exalts mindlessness, it glamorizes death.


Fascist art displays a utopian aesthetics—that of physical perfection. Painters and sculptors under the Nazis often depicted the nude, but they were forbidden to show any bodily imperfections. Their nudes look like pictures in physique magazines: pinups which are both sanctimoniously asexual and (in a technical sense) pornographic, for they have the perfection of a fantasy.


  • At 8:47 p.m., Blogger Pacanukeha said…

    I don't see how her description is unique to fascism. Basically any authoritarian structure requires a father (yes or mother but that is much rarer we are taking historical here) figure, and most non-western-liberal-democracies throw in a fear-of-the-other and -we-are-so-great aspect or two.

  • At 10:51 p.m., Blogger Labris said…

    Democracies aren't supposed to be authoritarian, quite the contrary: power is supposed to reside within the people. Riefenstahl's point isn't that surrogate father-figures are unique to fascist governments, but rather that the worship of these figures and their (figurative) apotheosis-by-acclaim is an inherent quality of fascism.


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