Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (2009)

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (2009)

The death of American icon Michael Jackson marks a decisive stage in the American Hollywood dream. Twentieth century film and literature up until now has been basically American Plantation Literature which resulted from changes that began in the Great Depression and continued up until now:

“As these changes played out they often took the shape of a larger clash between national democratic ideals, which emphasize the theoretical sameness of all citizens as citizens…”—Michael Bibler, Cotton’s Queer Relations: Same-Sex Intimacy and the Literature of the Southern Plantation, 1936-1968, “Nation and Plantation between Gone with Wind and Black Power: The Example of Ernest J. Gaine’s Of Love and Dust,” Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 2009

The death of Michael Jackson focuses attention on the questions of sameness and difference in closet-plantation literature from the Thirties through the Twenty-First Century, reflecting and engaging the social, political and economic changes that transformed America during these years.

Although set at the end of the post-Civil War Era, Tennessee William’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955) is in many ways a rewriting of William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! (1936). The two Big Daddies (Thomas Sutpen and Big Daddy Pollitt) are wealthy Mississippi planters and both men are consumed with passing their estates smoothly to their sons, Henry and Brick.

But the problem is this: Henry and Brick’s latent homosexuality threatens to spoil their fathers’ designs by raising the strong possibility that these sons will become the last of their family lines. The two young men are each involved in a powerful love triangle—Henry with Bon and Judith in Absalom and Brick with his friend Skipper and his wife, Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

In both cases, this homoeroticism produces the notorious resistance to narrative closure for which these texts & movies are famous for.

This lack of closure is the American problem. What did Colonel Sutpen whisper in Henry’s ear to try to turn Henry away from Bon his half-brother and lover? Until finally the tragic end at the gate of the Sutpen Plantation at the end of the Civil War? What alienates Brick from Big Daddy and Maggie—who was this Skipper who dominated Brick’s life?

Most of us by now have read Faulkner’s novel and seen Tennessee William’s movie—so we know that there’s no single answer to the above question. There’s no single way of sharpening the narrative indeterminacy of white men, black men and the planter class in America today.

What I’m going to suggest is that Michael Jackson offers an alternate solution to this American tragedy by exploiting the crisis of inheritance that dominates Absalom, Absalom and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Jackson combines both Henry Sutpen and Brick as the new Plantation Son of the South—wealthy, talented, omni-sexual, Motown idol and American icon.

Pastiche, satire, fragments, collages, transgression, deconstruction—these are the methods we used in the Movie Club, Fiction and Poetry for exploring The Age of Mirth, "Delta Autumn," the Weimar Period, Magic Realism, Carol Ann Duffy, Sylvia Plath and other filmic-fictive representations of American Zeitgeist Lit.

The above methods I gradually embraced, extended and learned how to deploy by writing in the literary Blogosphere—as did nnyhav with his blog Stochastic Bookmark.


Although I tend to agree with the immanent snarkaeologist
Mahendra Singh whose insightful characterization of nnyhav as “occluded” and rather “high-flown” smacks of cheeky Snarkosphere dish

I nevertheless think nnyhav has always been in contact with Snarkology and Blogosphere Lit. In fact, I see nnyhav’s blog as a Rimbaud-esqe bateau ivre getting ready to pull ashore & begin the post-Ardennais adventure of taking Verlaine and Paris by storm. But I quibble…

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