Friday, August 6, 2010

'Scorpio Rising' and Sartre's “Look”

Mise-en-scène is very important to consider when analyzing Scorpio Rising as it provides a backdrop; a visual soundtrack if you will to the action in the foreground that serves as commentary on the notion of sexual identification.  We can attest that the characters themselves are part of the very decorations of the film that is around them including their motorcycles, portraits of Hollywood iconography, and the clothes they pay so much attention to. Instead of using Jack Smith’s approach to camp identifiers to turn pop culture on its side (most prominent of which is transvestism), Anger attacks the most indelible identifiers of masculinity in order to reconstruct them into homosexual symbols. 
They are iconic in themselves and stand as personifications of not only “the rebel” but of the subversive gay culture they live in. They are aware not only of their own sexuality but also the presence of the “Other”, thus making them subjective and objective characters simultaneously. They are objects of each others gaze as well as objects of the voyeur’s gaze.  As Suarez puts it, “in addition to being objects of the camera’s and the spectator’s gaze, the bikers appear as objects of desire for each other; a series of eye-line matches construct a homoerotic circuit of looks in which the biker seem to admire each others’ bodies in several stages of dress and undress.” This is important to consider not only because it provides them with identity, but it also presents the presence of sexual preference and sexual desire. The characters are aware of their own sexual appeal as well as the “Other’s” sexual presence.
We can attribute this concept of sexual identification of the self through arousal from the watching the other to Jean-Paul Sartre’s concept of “The Look”. Sartre theorizes the relationship between “The Look” and its relation to the establishment of one’s own identity and subjectivity saying that “The Look” manifests itself in the “for-itself” and manipulates consciousness by turning one from a subject into an object through how the other perceives him. It is one’s ability to recognize others looking at one, which is a seamless immediate recognition of two consciousnesses or more. Thereby, this implements the notion of desire, particularly sexual desire. We can see this working in Scorpio Rising as both the desire of the spectator, and the mutual desire between the characters in the film.
Thereby, we can argue that Scorpio Rising does contain an element of pornography because the content of the film is not only arousing for the men of the mise-en-scène, but also originates in the desire it implements within the viewer via the camera-eye. Though devoid of explicit sexual content, it is the ambiguity of sexuality that serves as the arousal apparatus. It is the suggestion of sexual relations and sexual awareness between the subject and the object that instigates an implied sexual relationship in the mind rather than the body. “The Look” influences each character making them at once aware of their personal attraction to others as well as their attraction to others. There is a motif of mirrors that is symbolic of this concept, turning “The Look” into something that operates in-the-self as well as subject to object relations. At times it seems as though the men of Scorpio Rising are more interested in their own sexuality than in the sexuality of the other. The mirror is a symbol of the camera as it creates the subjective by means of capturing the objective. All of the men are in a constant state of looking. They gaze at themselves in the mirror, they stare at their biker gear, they exchange strangely intimate glances, and at all times projecting the idea that they are aware of their own sexuality which can be translated acquisition of power.
Sartre suggests that within the presence of “The Look”, there is the subsequent acknowledgement of one’s own sexual identity. Within one’s initial discovery of sexual identity, there is an immediate manifestation of a certain kind of shame. In his terms, sexuality is the product of a certain kind of voyeurism, where we begin to discover our own sexual pleasures from what we see. It is the acknowledgment of the “Other”, thereby the object, and subsequently our self-recognition as the subject. What we desire is emblematic of our own sexual identity. He states that; “If we start with the first revelation of the Other as a look, we must recognize that we experience our inapprehensible being-for-others in the form of a possession. I am possessed by the Other; the Other’s look shapes my body in its nakedness, makes it emerge, sculptures it, produces it as it is, sees it as I shall never see it.”
Recognition of sexual power and influence becomes the most provocative statement of Scorpio Rising. It provides a sexual identity and preference to the objects first rather than allowing the voyeur to utilize his/her interpretation of the content for his/her subjective identity. As the objects realize themselves as sexual beings, the film becomes a manifestation of the implied rather than the explicit. Because of this objective power, the implied becomes just as potent as the physical presence of a sexual act between the objects.
Thereby, we can assume that the general sexual ambiguity and the avoidance of explicit sexual content in Scorpio Rising is the very catalyst that drives the subject to the desire of the object in the simplest sexual definitions of identity. It would seem that though this film is based primarily on ambiguity and suggestion, it is seemingly the most erotic of the three films in study within the thesis. The aspect of suggestion over blatant pornographic content is much more potent in the realization of sexual desire in the mind of the subject (i.e. the voyeur).

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