8 November 2003 | sondracarr
It's so strange - life, not Gummo.
I have trouble with the comments of users who find no emotional attachment to sad characters. Those who state that all the characters in this film wouldn't be missed if a tornado did wipe them out - isn't this the ultimate prejudice? Isn't it telling that these people have no sympathy for characters that are children who've been given no other options? Could it be that the pervasiveness of this attitude is exactly why there seems to be no cure for the plight of poverty?
Could it possibly be that THIS is the point of this film?
So few want to get inside the real problems to understand what's going on. It is impossible to understand anything fully from the outside looking in. I think films (and books, and music, and lectures, etc.) like this are needed to counteract the fantasies that we regularly accept as reality. Is this reality for most people? No, probably not, but it is for some and all stories need telling. In a world-view where wrestling chairs and killing pets are considered acceptable and worthwhile activities, would we really expect to feel a sense of plot or unfolding or striving? The point, it seems to me, is that for people trapped in these situations, there is no point, no goals, no worthwhile transformations. They can't even begin to see these things. All that's left by this tragedy of human existence is meaningless, chaotic, confusing experiences that seem to make no sense, and ill-conceived rushes to relieve the frustration and anxiety in whatever means seem readily available. Do you understand why people cut themselves to feel better? Or starve themselves? Or abuse people? I don't. But for our culture's sake, I hope some people care enough to try to find out.
Tragedy, for anyone who has ever personally experienced it, leaves one without faith, hope, or any possibility of transcendence. Without these higher-level world-views, we revert to self-protective mere survival. When this strikes a larger community, it has disastrous effects. This film shows just how fragile our safety net of community, progress, and culture really are - how easily they can be unraveled.
I know it's hard for us to see this. How can these characters not see that there is a better way available? Don't they watch TV or movies? Don't they see what we see? But this is precisely the point we have to understand. They really don't. People who live in ghettos don't get degrees because they don't even know that they can. They believe that these areas are for others, not them. We'll never understand class problems if we don't try to see them from all perspectives.
I, too, felt horrified to find myself on the "inside" of this lifestyle - something I hope never to do in a non-filmic experience. This is the genius to which people are referring - the director and actors' ability to draw those of us for whom these are alien experiences directly and completely into this hopeless, pointless world. We actually feel the dread, frustration, meaninglessness that people caught in these circumstances experience.
This is why I read, go to movies, listen to music and experience all art - to experience life from the many different perspectives available. If you only want to be entertained - there really are only a few stories to tell and there are many "artists" out there willing to serve you the same McArt to "satisfy" your needs, but for those of us who would like to know more about something other than ourselves and our ethnocentric, narcissistic experiences, movies like Gummo will always be admired. And there's nothing wrong with entertainment. I like it too. But don't judge films like this based on that standard. It isn't fair. You don't say "I don't like Mozart because it doesn't have a beat I can dance to." Or maybe you do. And so, you should be able to understand how some people have no way to access another transcendent point of view.
I also have to make a comment about the "meaninglessness" of the bunny suit boy. I didn't understand the symbolism either - and according the director's comments, there doesn't seem to be any - at least not in any direct, conscious way. And this is probably difficult for any non-artist to understand, but sometimes instinct doesn't take on any direct symbolic reference but is still important. Artist's trust their instincts and don't always have to have everything make sense in a literal sense. In fact, it is generally agreed that works of art that are too directly symbolic, or too literal lose much of the magic that makes art special in the first place. I'm not condoning ambiguity for the sake of ambiguity, but the bunny suit seemed so absurdist to me that it set the tone for the absurdity that followed. In a strange way, it seemed hopeful. This effect isn't lessened by the director's inability to explain why it was important. The fact is, it was important on some instinctive level or it wouldn't have been cut in.
Listen to any of your favorite music and try to find a "plot" or a "meaning" for each and every line and note. Unless you listen exclusively to bad country and western I think you'll get this point. A lot of people think other forms of art have more responsibility to be crystal clear, but I doubt most of us prefer these same attributes in our music. If you understand half of what you sing along to, you are among the few. I think the problem is that most of us expect something different from film, art, novels because we've been fed so much crap that (similar to my kids when they come back from a week at a friend or family member's house where fast food is the daily fare) we cannot taste the goodness of real meals. Think about it.