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February 21, 2006

Of Winona Ryder as Objet Petit a


You can't pay enough money to... cure that feeling of being broken and confused.

A friend once observed that my recurring relationship difficulties stemmed from the fact I "kept dating the same person" and should therefore not be surprised if I continued to encounter the same personality clashes, angst, Sturm und Drang and so forth. Not that this quite sensible observation stopped me from continuing to see the same person, quite literally the same person, over and over again. My learning curve being extraordinarily swift in these matters, it took only ten years to realize it was time to cut short my losses and find someone else just like her.

There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that Marilyn Manson had a girlfriend who looked like Rose McGowan. This was before fame and fortune had blighted his otherwise placid existence and - no surprise here - before meeting someone who looked even more approximately like Rose McGowan, i.e. she herself. At which point goodbye to Rose McGowan lookalike the first and hello to Rose McGowan lookalike the second. Calling upon my psychoanalytic training, and in light of a structural approach to personality and desire described by Jacques Lacan* in terms of the ego-ideal and l'objet petit "a", I can offer two preliminary observations qua the McGowan Effect. First; it must be bloody marvelous to be a famous pop-singer and, second; I can only conclude that to Marilyn Manson Dita Von Teese looks even more like Rose McGowan than Rose McGowan does (how postmodern).

All this found its way into a conversation centred on the inevitable further speculation as to just which celebrity embodied one's own romantic ideal. Furthermore, would one follow Manson's somewhat caddish example and pursue said ideal to the exclusion of commitments made in a pre-fame and fortune life should some calamitous improvement in circumstances make it possible to date the girlfriend beyond all other girlfriends. I noted Winona Ryder as a sort of impossible ideal; the Ur-girlfriend not only of the Flea but of an entire generation. But would I actually date her if I had the chance? Ha, ha, I observed. Not for me; more-girlfriend-than-girlfriend would in this case mean the transformation from endearing quirkiness to tooth-grindingly annoying would take something less than two weeks rather than the usual decade. Something to be said in terms of efficiency but rather more to be said about the wisdom of seeking some quality other than impishness in a future loved one.

Though now I see Winona's appearance in Another Magazine I realize I was completely full of it.

"The one good thing to come out of everything that happened is that I realised I wasnt happy where I was. I wasn't happy being so famous and being written about all the time. Hollywood people associate movies solely with fame and I didn't enjoy working in that way anymore. I am so much happier now."

Damned if you don't Update: For reasons that are obscure to me, my Typekey comments defense system is giving Sean Kinsell a hard time. He offers the following clever observations:

(1) Winona Ryder hasn't done a mainstream romantic comedy? What about that horrible Autumn in New York thing with Richard Gere? She even got to play a cancer patient in that one. On one of the worst flights of my life, there was turbulence for-like-ever, my Discman batteries conked out in the middle of Parallel Lines, Autumn in New York was the in-flight movie, and that month's issue of Vogue wasn't quite pretentious-culture-y enough to laugh out loud and point at. I feel that I'm a better person for having triumphed over those 12 hours of difficulties.

Also, when she made Reality Bites, that pretty much was what mainstream romantic-comedies looked like, however much a period piece it may be now.

(2) It may be of some consolation to know that those of us with the opposite problem--all of my boyfriends have been very different from one another--get just as much flak. You know, "You don't know what you want" and stuff. I don't know what Camille or Jaques L. would say. Maybe Jeff has the right idea in that he picks 'em so they can't talk back.

* Felluga, Dino. "Modules on Lacan: On the Gaze." Introductory Guide to Critical Theory sums it up: "Lacan then argues in "Of the Gaze as Objet Petit a" that there is an intimate relationship between the objet petit a (which coordinates our desire) and the Gaze (which threatens to undo all desire through the eruption of the Real). As I stated in the previous module, "at the heart of desire is a misregognition of fullness where there is really nothing but a screen for our own narcissistic projections. It is that lack at the heart of desire that ensures we continue to desire." However, because the objet petit a (the object of our desire) is ultimately nothing but a screen for our own narcissistic projections, to come too close to it threatens to give us the experience precisely of the Lacanian Gaze, the realization that behind our desire is nothing but our lack: the materiality of the Real staring back at us. That lack at the heart of desire at once allows desire to persist and threatens continually to run us aground upon the underlying rock of the Real."

Posted by Ghost of a flea at February 21, 2006 05:54 AM

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Yes, I had the same problem, & even tho I was dubious, had to admit there might be issues about only dating swarthy illegal immigrants who spoke no English. Winona, btw, does look quite fetching in that pic.

You really need to mud-wrestle Paglia, tho, who said "Writing on American popular culture should be simple, lucid, & concrete. If Jacques Lacan is mentioned, you can be sure you're dealing with an incompetent." However, I think it's fair to say Paglia also has issues.

Posted by: beautifulatrocities [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 21, 2006 10:00 AM

I believe I have mentioned Paglia's DKNY suits exempt her from having to be right about Lacan. Though she is quite right most American academics pretending to cite Lacan are incompetent; almost invariably they have skimmed Judith Butler's bowdlerized commentaries and, not knowing more than a word or two of French, it has never crossed their minds to read Lacan's work itself.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 21, 2006 10:14 AM

That's not surprising. She also says it's ridiculous that people who have never read Freud are spouting Lacan

Posted by: beautifulatrocities [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 21, 2006 11:21 AM

She should be ruled out merely because of the shoplifting conviction. If you're going to go about having a Bond-villian lifestyle, you want someone who can pull off nefarious deeds without getting pinched.

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 21, 2006 11:39 AM

I think Paglia is quite right about Freud. There is no point in reading Lacan without knowing what he was talking about.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 21, 2006 11:39 AM