Frozen Children: Devitalisation, Ice-olation, and Zero Degrees Princesses, by Rod Tweedy

Rod Tweedy explores the pathology of contemporary Disney

Frozen is now the second highest-grossing animated film of all time, and one of the highest-grossing films in any medium ($1.3 billion in worldwide box office sales). 676 million youngsters have viewed and sung along to the YouTube clip of it’s hit song Let It Go, and as Dorian Lynskey notes, “it’s shaped the imagination of a generation”. Beyond the sparkle and CGI patina something about the movie clearly resonates powerfully with children and young people, and I think it’s secret – and what lies at the heart of its appeal – is its potent exploration of themes of childhood anger, ‘ice-olation’, inner devitalisation and self-absorption, which the film both addresses and amplifies.

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Never Leaving Neverland: Stardom and Childhood

What’s Missing?: What Michael Jackson, Wade Robson, and James Safechuck reveal about Childhood, Sexuality, and the Entertainment Industry

 

Introduction: Leaving Neverland

‘Never Leaving Neverland’ might’ve been a better title for this recent high-profile HBO documentary, given its relentless focus on the Neverland ranch as the sole cause of Wade Robson and James Safechuck’s later mental health difficulties.

Michael Jackson and Wade Robson

The exhaustive 4-hour documentary explores allegations made by Robson and Safechuck that they were sexually abused as children by the singer Michael Jackson. Robson and Safechuck are clearly articulate and thoughtful people, which lends their allegations initial credibility and persuasiveness.

But the documentary is equally striking for its one-sidedness, as many commentators (from Rolling Stone to Entertainment Weekly) note. “They have provided no independent evidence and absolutely no proof in support of their accusations. The two accusers testified under oath that these events never occurred.” It’s certainly striking that in 2009 Wade wrote that Jackson was ”one of the main reasons I believe in the pure goodness of human kind”, given what he now claims. His earlier court statements absolutely denying any sexual wrong-doing on the part of Jackson are as convincing as his later statements that Jackson was, in fact, a serial paedophile.

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Dynasties: A Review, by Rod Tweedy

How Late Capitalism Writes Itself Into Nature

‘David’, an ageing patriarch whose time at the top is nearly over and who is clearly anxious about challenges from his younger rivals and concerned with his legacy, narrates this compelling programme about ‘David’, an ageing patriarch whose time at the top is nearly over and who is clearly anxious about challenges from his younger rivals and concerned with his legacy.

The BBC’s new block-buster, Dynasties, can perhaps best be seen as an impressive and timely reflection of the unconscious concerns and obsessions of late capitalism – as Marx presciently observed, ‘The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas’ (e.g. ideas of power, dominance, hierarchy, survival as telos, become ‘naturalised’), and nowhere is this unconscious dynamic seen more clearly than in the dominant ideas of environmentalism.

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EUrope: A Psychoanalysis, by Rod Tweedy

Consciousness and Revolution

The previous post reprinted Blake’s Europe a prophecy, written shortly after the French Revolution and depicting the political and psychological womb out of which it emerged. His illustrations and text are dense, poetic, and richly ambiguous. Here I unpack some of the main themes of the poem, which revolve around Blake’s critique of materialism, and explore the psychological subtext of the poem. As Paley notes, the function of the prophetic form for Blake was “to expose the otherwise hidden motives and consequences of human decisions”. Blake’s concept of ‘prophecy’ is therefore a form of political psychoanalysis, a powerful new way of going under the skin of contemporary events and accessing the deep psychological and sexual dynamics that lie behind both religious and political structures. This superimposition of different fields of reference (simultaneously political, sexual, religious, psychological) is one of the things that makes Blake’s works so striking and distinct, as well as so dense and multivalent. It is also a feature of his thinking that he has in common with modern psychoanalytic approaches. As Adam Phillips notes:

You can only understand anything that matters — dreams, neurotic symptoms, literature — by overinterpreting it; by seeing it from different aspects as the product of multiple impulses. Authority wants to replace the world with itself. Overinterpretation means not being stopped in your tracks by what you are most persuaded by; it means assuming that to believe one interpretation is to radically misunderstand the object one is interpreting, and indeed interpretation itself.

Blake located the source of contemporary struggle in a specific complex of psycho-social structures and dynamics, which we still see being played out and repeated in contemporary European politics. Until we learn to understand and recognise these processes, Blake believed, we will be doomed to repeat the same underlying cycle again and again: a world where revolution becomes simply endless re-cycling. 

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David Bowie: Alienation and Stardom, by Rod Tweedy

Schizophrenia, Spaceboys, and the Spiders from Mars

The death of David Bowie in 2016 revived both intense media interest in his work and astonishing creative legacy and also a plethora of unthinking and misleading cliches about who he was and what he signified. Foremost amongst these was the description of him as some kind of alien being, or “mysterious extraterrestrial”: “40 years ago, in millions of living rooms across the British isles,” one hagiographic BBC documentary started, “a strange alien creature was beamed onto our television screens”. Online and newspaper headlines were full of references to Starmen, Spaceboys, The Man who Fell to Earth – but there was very little attempt to explore or decode these references or to consider their psychological significance.

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Beyond Civilisation: Marcuse, Eros and the Myth of Progress, by Rod Tweedy

From Logos to Eros: Humans Moving Beyond the Reality Principle 

‘Eros and Civilization’, a multimedia performance installation by Han Bing [above]. The Sleep of Albion, aka the Enlightenment. Blake believed that the sleep of imagination, not reason, produced the real monsters.

“Intensified progress seems to be bound up with intensified unfreedom” Herbert Marcuse observed in his classic work Eros and Civilisation, one of the most profound and compelling books ever written on the problem of ‘civilisation’. In it, he tries to explain and unravel this apparent paradox.

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How We See War, by Rod Tweedy

Rod Tweedy reviews the book War against War! by Ernst Friedrich

On May Day 1924 Ernst Friedrich published a collection of photographic images of the atrocities of World War I, hoping to use the relatively new medium of photography as documentary evidence to challenge the orthodox presentation of war. As Douglas Kellner has remarked, “Friedrich hoped that when they actually saw the reality of modern warfare, people everywhere would become more critical of war, the military, and militarism.”

The book was called War against War!, and the photographs made an immediate and lasting impression on his contemporaries, both within and outside of Germany. The images attracted even greater attention when he put them in the window of his newly-opened Anti-Kriegs-Museum in Berlin, the first international anti-war museum (opened in 1925).

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William Blake and the Red Dragon, by Rod Tweedy

Rational Psychopathy: The Urizenic Brain and its Fall into Division

Blake’s term for the psychopathic power of the Urizenic ‘rational’ mind when it is dissociated and divided from man’s imaginative and empathic consciousness was the “Red Dragon”. The term derives from the Biblical Book of Revelation, where the reality of things is supposed to be finally uncovered (‘apocalypsis‘, meaning “uncover, disclose, reveal”), but as usual with Blake, it’s given a surprisingly modern twist – one that is both psychological and politically radical in nature.

Blake’s presentation of the “dragon” form of Urizen as his final dissociated apotheosis (his “logical conclusion”, if you like), is a stinging critique of the very power and cognitive process that drove and underwrote much of the ‘Enlightenment’ project – the period in which he was living. The enormously powerful, as well as devastatingly disruptive, destructive and dehumanising, energy unleashed on Britain (and later Europe) on a vast – indeed global – scale was, Blake believed, the unregulated and domineering character of the instrumental left brain itself: what many Enlightenment thinkers rather naively simply called ‘Reason’. Blake analyses this celebrated function of the human brain and reveals that it was actually a peculiar and peculiarly distorted form of reason that was being developed and harnessed – “ratio-nality” (rather than reasonableness) – a self-enclosed, rapacious, and manipulative power that was being released into the world via the Industrial Revolution and modern capitalism.

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Ezekiel and the Burning Coal of Prophecy, by Rod Tweedy

Commodities and Idolatries

coal-in-hand-1

 

The Nature of Appearances

The name Ezekiel is perhaps the most well known and celebrated of all the Old Testament prophets, referenced by everyone from Blake to Quentin Tarantino. The extraordinary vision which he saw of the chariot of God coming toward him burning with flashing fire, moving “wheel within wheel” and driven by strange four-headed winged cherubim, has seared itself into the vision of every succeeding generation.

img_5904What Ezekiel saw has been variously interpreted – as a record of a profound mystical experience (as in the extensive and esoteric Jewish merkabah tradition), a glimpse into the nature of God, a literary text that has inspired poets from Dante and Blake to T. S. Eliot and Yeats, and in more recent times as a record of a possible encounter with extraterrestrial beings – even as a statement of a traumatic and possibly schizophrenic episode that the prophet experienced two and a half thousand years ago near the Chebal canal “in the land of the Chaldeans” (southern Mesopotamia), where he and three thousand other Jews had been deported and lived in exile.

When I was a kid there was an American children’s drama series called Project UFO which began every episode with the words: “Ezekiel saw the wheel. This is the wheel he said he saw.” – accompanied by a diagram of Ezekiel’s supposed UFO. It was a striking way to capture a child’s attention, but like many modern-day takes on Biblical passages and experiences, was also an incredibly literalist and diminished interpretation of Ezekiel’s original vision. Interestingly, this peculiarly ‘left brain’ way of seeing reality and understanding imaginative truth was one that historically emerged in the very cultures that Ezekiel grew up in and was surrounded by – the technologically advanced, newly literate, post-Sumerian high-rise cultures of Babylon, Egypt and the Near East.

ezekiel_25_17_by_chronicrick-d51w168What is remarkable about Ezekiel’s vision is that it’s actually aimed directly at this new literalist way of seeing. For Ezekiel, seeing phenomena as if they were discreet, objectified, literal ‘things’ – as ‘idols’ (from Greek eidōlon, meaning representation or illusory shape, literally “appearance, reflection in water or a mirror”) both obscured and reified their inherently transcendental and interconnected, relational nature – their true value. In this he shares a striking resemblance to another well-known social prophet, Karl Marx, who also exposed the ‘fetishistic’ nature of our modern belief in similar sorts of idols – commodities.

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