And who are you? she sternly spoke
To the one beneath the smoke.
Why, I’m fire, he replied,
And I love your solitude, I love your pride.
Then fire, make your body cold,
I’m going to give you mine to hold,
Saying this she climbed inside
To be his one, to be his only bride.
It was deep into his fiery heartLeonard Cohen – Joan of Arc
He took the dust of joan of arc,
And then she clearly understood
If he was fire, oh then she must be wood.
The protagonist in horror is always a potential victim, even when she is the perpetrator, even when the killer’s and the narrator’s hands overlap. The protagonist can’t help but fall prey to the body she inhabits; the story has an endpoint, by which she will either be alive or dead. There is no uncertainty between those poles. In our flesh, we contain the potential for violence, not as an illness but as a characteristic.
When Cronenberg shows the physical destruction of the body, it is not from an aesthetic fascination or in order to shock, but in order to make it real, to show the lastingness of the act, its irreversible consequence.
All of us are subject to our bodies, and when we succumb, we are gone.
Averroes gives us a mind on loan from the mass of universal spirit, but this chunk of the larger intellect is only activated within the animated body; once the body dies, the self with its specifics is erased from the intellect.
Feminist inquiry is about understanding how things work, who is in the action, what might be possible, and how worldly actors might somehow be accountable to and love each other less violently.
Donna Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto p. 7
The beauty of us as Donna Haraway’s “mortal and fleshly knottings”.
The body for David Cronenberg in all its uniqueness and fragility. This same body, depending on who perceives it, can be untouchably holy, pleasurable to defile, in need of protection, and also killable.
We have our ways, says Haraway, of making each other killable.
The idea of cannibalism, too, realises we are all potentially made killable, depending on the way we choose to see each other. In a sense, this is the problem underlying all desire; the Hegelian push-and-pull between wanting to devour (to think of as killable) and not wanting to lose (the regret of having made killable). To sustain while consuming is where the balance necessary for life and pleasure lies. Not to destroy the other fully, which would contribute only to self-destruction, but not to abstain either from the life-giving communion with the other; learning only to nibble at the other’s body before allowing the flesh to grow back, in a metaphorical sense.
This is part of the time we give to each other when we give.
There is, of course, a narcissistic refusal to face what is other, choosing instead to live in the self-produced fantasy of the disembodied other, who exists at a safe distance within abstraction; the narcissistic attraction only to what is necessarily disembodied, unable to exert either refusal or acceptance of one’s desire.
Disembodied means: not desiring in itself, because desiring is to give in to the mortal flesh and its vulnerability, to give in to entropy, to what can be destroyed. It means reaching out to the other in full awareness the flesh’s necessarily time-bound arc, its temporariness. Sometimes, it’s not enough to want to burn each other up. Ash isn’t substantial enough to love.