NOT YOUR LOLITA – How Nabokov’s Controversial Novel is Still Relevant Today

v1.bjs3MzcyNzY7ajsxNzUxMzsxMjAwOzIxMjI7MzAwMAPicture this. A young girl, sitting upside down in an armchair, pigtails dangling on the floor. She’s sucking a lollypop that makes her tongue go bright red. Her eyes are transfixed on the crotch of the older man sitting opposite her, but every time he catches her gaze, she looks away. She’s a Lolita, right? ‘Lo-Lee-Ta’, a ‘minx’, a temptress.
Wrong.
She’s just a twelve-year-old girl, alone, lost. No one to rely on but this man who wants things from her that she doesn’t understand even know he’ll tell you she does. He’ll tell you she was looking at his crotch when she was really just daydreaming. We’ve forgotten. We’ve let Lolita become a Lolita, forgetting she was ever a Dolores.

Picture this. I’m sitting on my sofa in coffee-stained pyjamas, re-reading Vladamir Nabokov’s Lolita. On the TV playing quietly in the background, is a news report about Harvey Weinstein. And it hits me. He’s Humbert Humbert. In fact, lately, it seems the earth is full of Humbert Humberts. We have become exactly what Nabokov was first satirizing. Time repeats itself forever and ever again.

The original Lolita was Dolores. She was twelve years old, she was a rape victim, she was a sex slave. Lost and motherless, Dolores was vulnerable and powerless, looked after by the person who was too obsessed with having her to actually care for her. Everything Nabokov wrote in Lolita was written through the eyes of a very manipulative and talented writer. Everything about her was written through her abuser, a man who threatened she’d be taken to an orphanage if she wouldn’t please his sexual desires. We were manipulated by Humbert Humbert just like Dolores was, and it’s only when you look past the beauty do you realise how horrific what H.H did to her truly was.

The book is a reflection of how people are fooled by beautiful things. By clever words or talented performances, if you’re likeable or rich and you’re good at something, you might be able to get away with anything. Even murder, rape or paedophilia. But we know this right? After the truth about our favourite TV presenters came out, our politicians, our police officers, it was clear that even your neighbour could be just like Ted Bundy. But none of it was enough to stop us going down that same path of creating excuses and elaborate apologies for abusers. None of it was enough to stop us blaming the victim and protecting the abusers. None of it was enough to stop Dolores becoming Lolita, forever.

Emmanuel Polanco- Lolita 2

Nabokov made it very clear that Humbert was not insane. Deeply flawed and lacking in self-awareness, definitely. But not insane. We’d like to think that all abusers were somehow driven by the voices telling them to do something awful, but that’s not true for a lot of them. And let’s face it — if either film adaptations of the novel portrayed Dolores as she truly was described in the book; a young girl who was not conventionally attractive who had “monkeyish nimbleness”, both films would have made people a lot more uncomfortable than they did. In fact, the films did the opposite. They made Lolita into, for the most part, a willing party in the sordid affair with her step-father. They made her an iconic sex object, a ‘thing’ to obsess over, just like Humbert did. And unlike the book, which encourages readers to understand the narrator’s unreliable view and question what he is describing, films have a tougher time with expressing that what they’re showing you is only from the perspective of one character. Suddenly ambiguity becomes something solid. The objectified child becomes the willing sex object. Just Google the word ‘Lolita’ and thousands of images of sexualised girls or women made to look younger appear before your eyes.

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‘Lolita Comes Again’ – Seriously?!

Hollywood is rife with paedophiles. I was shocked to find out recently that a convicted paedophile, Victor Salva, who sexually molested a twelve-year-old boy who was an actor on the set of a film he was directing, was hired by Disney (and Harvey Weinstein) to direct a film for them. And that’s just one of many, many cases of directors, actors and producers who have been accused and on some occasions like Salva, been convicted of paedophilia or sex-related crimes and still been hired to work with children and vulnerable people looking for their breakthrough role.

In everyday life, if someone gets caught with child pornography, or hurting or molesting a child, it’s near enough impossible for them to integrate back into everyday society. They are condemned, even in prisons where they sometimes have to be sectioned off from the general population for their own safety.  For every job I’ve ever had you have to inform them of any criminal history, and if there’s a chance you’ll come into contact with children at your job, you have to get an even deeper background check. Yet in Hollywood, it seems you can do horrific things to children or non-consenting adults, even at your place of work, and be hired again and again. And be successful. And win awards. If you’ve got a way with words like Humbert, or maybe you make pretty good films, or shit, maybe you just know the right people. Hollywood will forgive you for anything.

We’ve forgotten to look past the lights and the camera for the action. “Nabokov ‘never lets us forget that there is something monstrous about Humbert’s desire for Lolita'”, but in real life, we’re too busy wondering what the victim was wearing to think about what the abuser’s intentions, wondering what the victim might have done to spur their abuser on. But there is never a good enough reason for abuse, never a good enough excuse. Mental illness often has very little to do with it, often a person does what they’ve learnt they can get away with. Dolores is not a temptress or a sultry tease who got what was coming to her. She was a child. She was a victim. She is not your Lolita. We are not your Lolita’s.

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mother! Review & Explanation (SPOILERS​)

“Man is the most insane species. He worships an invisible God and destroys a visible Nature. Unaware that this Nature he’s destroying is this God he’s worshipping.”  – Hurbert Reeves 

mother! Is the latest film by the daring writer/director Darren Aronofsky, starring a talented cast including the main characters played by Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem.  Marketing for the film has been enigmatic, the trailers giving away the bare minimum, which already creates questions and debate before the film is even out. Going into mother! I already had high expectations due to the fact that Aronofsky is one of my favourite writers/directors and was indeed the writer and director of the 2010 psychological thriller Black Swan, which in my eyes is a masterpiece. The trailers almost hinted towards a sort of psychological mind game played on Lawrence’s character, a Rosemary’s Baby sort of rip-off, or perhaps something to do with a cult. But what I got from mother! was much more than that, instead, Aronofsky has exceeded himself again and has created a work of art that will be spoken about for years to come.

SERIOUS SPOILERS AHEAD 

I’m not going to waste time explaining every detail because if you haven’t seen the film, you need to see it before you read this review/analysis. Instead, I’m just going to jump straight into it. Lawrence’s character is Mother Nature, and Bardem who plays her husband is God. The house that they live in represents the earth, and more specifically, Bardem’s character’s writing room is the Garden of Eden. Make sense?

(I’m going to refer to Lawrence and Bardem’s characters from now on as Mother and God)

We begin before human civilisation.
‘Baby?’ is the first words Mother speaks in the film after she wakes up and notices that her husband is not beside her. This immediately struck me as important, obviously because of the association of the title of the film mother! and baby as in a child. And this word is a sort of foreshadowing for the most critical point of the film and the catalyst for the climax.
We are given a sort-of tour of the beautiful secluded house that they live in. Its layout is circular, like of course, the earth (sorry flat-earthers!) and ultimately, the endless circle of destruction and creation. This not only gives the desired effect of representing the earth through its shape but also immediately creates a sense of dizziness for the audience, as the camera spins around to follow the characters weaving through each room.

We soon learn that Mother has recently rebuilt and redecorated their house since it burnt down in a fire. When she presses her hands to the walls, she can feel and envision a heartbeat. The house is incredibly important to her like a child, and she takes great pride in maintaining it. God is a poet who is struggling to get started on his new work, and this is proving to cause tension between the two. The doorbell rings. To Mother, this is a stranger. But God seems more than happy to let him into their house and give him a bed for the night despite Mother’s small protests. This character is Adam, the first man, and soon will come, Eve.

Mother is becoming increasingly more stressed as these two strangers move into her house and mess with her hard work, her clean surroundings and question her about her relationship with her husband and why they haven’t had kids. Mother is pushed aside by God, but soon enough, Adam and Eve go into the writing room and touch God’s most prized possession, the forbidden fruit, the crystal rock that he claims he saved from the fire when the house burnt down. They drop the crystal and it shatters, angering God and banishing them from his office, aka The Garden of Eden, and Mother finally thinks she might be able to get God to tell them to leave. But he doesn’t. And in fact, more and more people begin entering their house, obsessed with God and his poems. And despite the fact that Mother just wants to be alone with God, he loves the attention and adoration of the people. Soon Mother is pregnant, with of course what will be Jesus, and Mother is hopeful that they will finally get some time together. But this doesn’t happen, and Mother is pushed to breaking point as a literal war breaks out in her home. Everything is destroyed. People are everywhere. There are riots. Police brutality. Mass worship.
And then she begins to go into labour.

The tension that Aronskfy creates in this climax of the film is unreal. God and Mother stare each other out, with Mother determined not to let God hold Jesus and show him to the people. But eventually, she falls asleep, and in a flash, God has taken their son to the people for them to pass around. Mother is hysterical, weaving through hoards of people to get her baby back. And then, in perhaps the most shocking part of the film, his neck breaks. The people have killed her baby, have killed Jesus, and are now eating pieces his tiny body. Mother is naturally distraught and tries attacking the people, but God tells her to forgive them. They attack Mother, almost killing her before God makes them stop. A bruised and battered Mother begs God to tell them all to go, ‘they don’t listen to me’ she cries, a haunting reflection on the climate change and the blind damage we are doing to the earth.

The film is, of course, a commentary on how we as people have treated the earth. How blind faith is dangerous. It’s also a commentary on women in society, who are either goddesses, mothers, or whores. Or all three. It’s speaking on the idea of celebrity worship and the intrusion of privacy. It’s probably got even more messages to find than just those, and that’s what is so great about this film. It’s a discussion. There is no simple beginning middle and end because the film stays with the audience after they’ve left the cinema. It makes you question. And that’s my favourite part about it.


There are mirrors of Black Swan throughout this film, homages to Rosemary’s Baby and the surrealist classic, The Exterminating Angel. The performances of Lawrence and Bardem are powerful and strong throughout, and incredibly believable. The cinematography is stunning, the muted, ‘earthy’ (see what I did there) tones, the close-ups on Lawrence’s face and the disorientating camera work really puts you in the place of Mother and her confusion, her panic, her exhaustion. I had a lump in my throat from beginning to end. And I’m still not sure what that yellow liquid was, but I’m going to have a lot of fun researching it.

 

Psycho Cinderella’s Rating – 10/10

Tell me what you thought of mother! In the comments!

CRIME SCENE ROMANCE – A VALENTINE’S POEM

CRIME SCENE ROMANCE

I fell
in love with the colour
of your blood
mixed
with mine —
a deep garnet
red — almost
black
except when you
looked
at it in the light
streaming
through the
broken
glass window
that I smashed
aching
for your
attention.

We own
the biggest
knives
you’ve ever seen
and I nail
razor blades
to the door
handles
to stop
you leaving
and

our welcome
mat says
love —
inside
a pretty little
heart
like the ones i draw
all over
your chest
when you’re sleeping —
while the kitchen
tiles are
splattered
with the inside of my
stomach
and the smears
of your attempts
to clean me
all up.

i stitch
up soft palate —
ruptured
from all those words
I couldn’t
say
while my
twitching
aorta artery
pumps
in the syllables
of your name.
I have always
been a crime
scene,
but with you —
It’s all so
much more

romantic.

 

G.M Stone (Psycho Cinderella) February 3rd, 2017.

If you liked this rather violent but romantic poem, stay on the look out for my pamphlet/chapbook of poetry that I’ll be bringing out in May!

THE GIRLS BY EMMA CLINE – BOOK REVIEW

The Girls. Emma Cline’s debut novel that has drawn a lot of attention since it was first published back in June of this year. The cover had caught my eye, a photograph I immediately associated with Lana Del Rey and soon found out that the photograph was indeed taken by Neil Krug, who often photographs her.

And that Lana Del Rey esque feeling continues inside the book as well. Hypnotic and dreamy with a sour tinge. A hauntingly accurate portrayal of how it feels to be a girl growing up and the intense power of female friendships.

The Girls is set in the late 1960’s when the narrator Evie is fourteen years old, and flicks forward to her as an adult. Set in Northern California, we follow the normal-enough teenage Evie, her less than perfect home life, her crush on her friends older brother, going to school. Her internal narrative is realistic and mature while reading I related to some of the thoughts and feelings that Evie described, thinking back to myself as a fourteen year old girl.

Continue reading THE GIRLS BY EMMA CLINE – BOOK REVIEW

ARE ALL CLASSIC FILMS SEXIST?

Check out the post I wrote for Film Inquiry on sexism in classic films. I discuss the famous Hitchcock thriller Vertigo, Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, and Marilyn Monroe.

Do you think all classic films are sexist or are there some that are surprisingly progressive for their time? Comment down below, or on my post on Film Inquiry, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

-Psycho Cinderella ❤