Monday, March 22, 2004
Punch Drunk Love

Punch-Drunk Love

Popeye the Novelty Toilet Accessory Man

Share the pain as Adam Sandler—er, Barry Egan—tries to figure out what it is to be a man.



Fascinating take on Punch-Drunk Love and very apt.  Let me add this:

You say “Men and women both continue to be oppressed by patriarchal gender constructions.”  One scene in particular caricatures Barry’s frustration with that very oppression.  In the middle of his First Date Performance with Lena, at the restaurant, Barry gets up, heads to the restroom, and proceeds to brutalize it and himself within it: in short, he “beats up the Men’s Room.”  In symbol, he’s physically confronting the confining box of stereotypes post-patriarchy has placed him in.  The only solution?  Love, and, as you say, cathartic love, especially.  In a later scene, we see a shot of Barry’s knuckles, bloodied from punching the bathroom fixtures; the wounds and blood spell the word “Love.”  Rage is Barry’s single most male characteristic; he packs quite a “Punch.” The expression of his rage manifests a literal “spelling out” of his ultimate salvation: Love.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 29 Mar 04 at 07:10 PM

Terrific piece.

Throughout, I couldn’t help but think that your emphasis on performativity in the construction of masculinity and the importance of masquerade was like a reversed mirror image of Lacanian theories of femininity.

It was this aspect of your article which made me ask the following question: what justification could a Lacanian posit for NOT extending their view of women to post-patriachal men?

Ultimately, my answer to this is that (for Lacanians at least) patriarchy is not just about power - it is integrated within the very structure of our language. As Beauvoir pointed out “man is both the neutral and the positive”. In other words, there are individual men and then there is ‘Man’, whereas although there are individual women, as Lacan says “the Woman does not exist”.

Therefore, I wonder what prospects there are for real, genuine change in patriarchal gender constructions whilst our linguistic system itself remains patriarchal. Like you, I think “Punch-Drunk Love” does address this issue - however its conclusion (that salvation is to be found in the love and honesty between two individual people) risks mistaking a personal truth (ie. love) for a political truth (ie. the need to radically change patriarchal gender constructions).

The suggestion that the personal experience of love might have political consequences is, for me, too close to the idea, in “Fight Club”, that masochism can be turned into a political project, when ultimately what happens is that the project descends into an ineffective orgy of aestheticised violence (see Slavoj Zizek’s book “Organs Without Bodies: Deleuze and Consequences” for more on this point).

Posted by deathvalley69 on 07 Jul 04 at 08:32 AM
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