Monday, July 20, 2015

Free the Nipple (2014)

Planet of the (Holy) Apes

directed by Lina Esco
starring Lina Esco, Lola Kirke,
Casey Labow, Monique Coleman, Zach Grenier

By the sheer breadth of man's ingenuity, and for little more than a hatchet wound and the guarantee of his paternity, modern life was molded — some would say twisted — into the cupcake-and-reality-TV paradise of constant Facebooking and Instagramming that today's baby-shitters and Daddy's-little-princesses take for granted. After all, woman was cold, so man harnessed fire to keep her warm. Woman was hungry, so man slayed a beast to fill her tummy. Woman needed a purpose, so man made her a mother. Woman felt unsafe in a world of cutthroats and scoundrels, so man took up sword and rifle in her defense, and made the laws that protected her. "More," she said. "I'm still not satisfied. LOL."

And so, man gave her more. He made space for woman in his corporate America, increasingly pushing his fellow man out of a job in order to do so and, in the process, watching his once-hallowed workplace degenerate into a high-school lunchroom beset by cliquishness, backbiting, the passive-aggressiveness of the female supervisor, and a near-Orwellian redefining of "acceptable" office behavior so as not to make tough, independent career girls feel uncomfortable. He reshaped civilization in order to see her hailed as his intellectual and social equal. He dug deep into his masculine identity and scooped out the very guts of it so that she might never again feel that something was beyond her grasp simply because she wasn't as strong or as driven as the average man. He indulged her pity for those she perceived as lesser than her by letting her vote away his tax dollars to self-interested groups who spurned his values — by letting her nudge his once-proud country down an "equality"-greased slope into debt-wracked socialist oblivion. He rewrote divorce laws so that she needn't justify it when taking his children from him for the slimmest of reasons and then exposing them to a revolving door of Mommy's new boyfriends while she flies to Vegas and books "me time" at the spa thanks to his alimony payments. He kicked his Judeo-Christian morals under the cultural relativism rug so that she'd be applauded — rather than cursed as an ice-hearted murderer — as she brayed from the mountaintops about her inalienable right to have his unborn child suctioned out of her and then disposed of like a bloody tampon. He gave her the pill and, with it, a gateway to the game of musical beds that she imagined every man already took as his due.

And when woman's demands for further entitlement grew shriller and more obstinate instead of fading with long-vanquished iniquities — when woman, in all her deluded, long-simmering pique, began tattooing, "plus-sizing" and whoring away at the very femininity and suitability for motherhood that his society had been structured from its genesis to preserve — did man put his foot down and demand a return to common sense, to workable relations between the sexes? Why, no, he remained as he was: collared, branded with a scarlet "P" for "privilege" and poised on all fours to lick the leather dominatrix boot of "progress" whenever commanded.

Meanwhile, what has today's rights-obsessed Western woman done with all this power accorded her by the cushiest, most advanced society of personal freedoms and post-Enlightenment deference to the concept of the individual that history's ever seen? Does she speak out against the "honor killings" of Muslim women or against female genital mutilations in African tribal rites? Does she campaign to improve conditions for female migrant workers or to hold Mexico accountable for countless women and girls slain by south-of-the-border drug cartels? Does she take to the streets for fourteen hundred British girls abducted and violated in Rotherham, England — girls as young as eleven pimped out by Islamic throwbacks to the Crusades while police did nothing for fear of appearing "racist"? Does she agitate for government intervention over the escalating numbers of her raped and murdered sisters popping up in Sweden, Denmark and other European nations now flooded with unassimilable hordes from the asshole of the third world?

Why, none of the above, you silly goose; our modern-day Joans of Arc have far more pressing concerns. And if Free the Nipple — self-described activist Lina Esco's riot-grrrl agitprop masquerading as a debut film — is any indication, then foremost among those concerns is tearing topless through our city streets like apes on Adderall, their childishness underscored by ski masks and dime-store Superman capes as they deface cars and public property, disrupt traffic and passers-by (many of whom are in the middle of their day working actual, y'know, jobs), and generally waste the time and energy of the police officers forced to respond to all this ruckus (because, certainly, it's not as if cops in a crime-riddled sewer like New York have anything more relevant to the public's safety to busy themselves with). And why, you ask, would such sparkling specimens of womanhood spend their career-and-relationship years engaging in such stunts? Well, they're making a Statement®, wouldn't you know. Apparently, this free-the-nipple jazz is some real-life, grassroots political "movement" (and by "grassroots," I mean "undoubtedly funded and organized by the same billionaire cultural shit-stirrers as every other outfit devoted to leftist social disruption"). I'll let Wikipedia do the explaining:
Free the Nipple is an equality movement focused upon the double standards regarding the censorship of female breasts started by activist and filmmaker Lina Esco. The campaign is not a crusade that exclusively advocates for women to bare their chests at any and all given times; rather, it seeks to strip society of its tendencies toward the sexualization of the female upper body, addressing hypocrisies and inconsistencies in American culture and legal systems that enforce its taboos. Ultimately, the campaign resolves to decriminalize female toplessness in the US and empower women across western nations in a greater effort toward global gender equality.
Or in English: it's just another wet fart in church from the defiantly un-Brazilian-waxed brown-eye of third-wave feminism — more distaff attention-whoring as flimsily conceived social crusade from women's studies majors who diddle themselves six ways to Herland over self-righteous S&M fantasies of being pinned under the jackboot of some imaginary patriarchy. The indigestible smugness of the movement's resolve to essentially "correct" human nature is handily summarized by a shot late in the film, with its emetic restaging of The Beatles' Abbey Road cover: self-styled "girlrillaz" march their unsheathed (and mostly unremarkable) baby-feeders across a city intersection, one trollop behind the other in arrogant pretense to the cultural heft of an iconic artifact from the Revolutionary Sixties™, grinding the real world to no more than a momentary stammer as they screech and foot-stamp for the respect and accolades that might have been theirs, had they bothered to cultivate some genuine skills or talent in gratitude to a country that's footed their bills since birth, or had they ever communicated something to the wider society that didn't resemble screams of bloody murder from a pampered little snot who's just been told to do her homework.

Esco casts herself as her own protagonist, the improbably-named With, who starts the film as a wide-eyed change-the-world-through-journalism wallflower and winds up the linchpin of the movement, its thoroughly radicalized Malcolm XXX. She meets her Elijah Muhammad when she pops up on the sidelines to photograph the midday streak and subsequent arrest of Lola Kirke's Liv, a hipster-lesbian confrontation artist who specializes in getting herself arrested so that her pink-haired minions can sit around the abandoned custodial-supply closet they're squatting in and refer to her as a "political prisoner." With watches Liv cackling like a mental patient as the fuzz carts her away and it's like watching a little boy with leukemia meet his favorite wrestler through the Make-A-Wish Foundation — she's so awestruck, it gives her the tingles.

When With interviews Liv for a fight-the-power piece she hopes will sell (spoiler: it doesn't), she asks Liv to lay out her manifesto; Liv responds with twaddle about the holiness of the female nipple and its life-giving nectar — it leaves you giggling like the moment in Bamboozled, Spike Lee's black-complicity-with-media-stereotypes satire, in which a rapper who pushes down-with-the-system rhetoric is asked to specify just what it is that he's rebelling against and all he can squeeze out is a hilariously mush-brained "USA... KKK... all dat shit." Of course, Lee was poking fun at his moron; Esco expects us to be bowled over by hers. She filters Liv's addle-brained statement of purpose through the playback monitor of With's video camera, linking this daughter of "professional hippies" with the film's incessant found-footage array of prepackaged media "rebels" and talking heads lent automatic credence by the gaze of the camera's eye. What Esco's doing is cutting her directorial corners — she wants to endow Liv with the cultural-critic legitimacy that neither the film's shrieking Lindy West article of a screenplay nor Kirke's channeling of a distinctly Courtney Love level of charm bothers to give the character. Of course, legitimacy is hard to come by when you're pushing a role model for Che-Guevaras-with-milkbags and her battlefield oratory — indeed, her entire cause — boils down to: waaaaa it's not fair! men can do it, so why can't weeeee?

Had Esco and her screenwriter possessed a shred of intellectual honesty — had they been after anything here besides publicity-whoring for Esco and her grrrls'-night-out posse of trust-fund guerrillas — they'd have acknowledged that, regardless of manboob legality, groups of men don't run shirtless through midtown New York, making public nuisances of themselves, and if they did so, they'd be hauled off to the pokey just the same as any loony batch of "oppressed" Pussy Riot wannabes. Had Esco been interested in something other than propaganda, her film might have explained to us exactly how civil rights are trodden upon by a time-honored social decorum that has the audacity to expect half the population not to go around, flashing their bodies at strangers like common strumpets. Is it even an issue to women who weren't ignored by Daddy that men are allowed to bare chests at beaches and public swimming pools and their wives and daughters aren't? Has it occurred to "my body, my choice" femme-bots that only every dining establishment and place of business in the country wields a "no shirt, no shoes, no service" policy, and that any man flouting this policy would be ejected from the premises and likely — given the perception of masculinity as a potential threat — even faster than a woman doing the same?

Does it really need to be explained to featherbrained middle-class "equality" warriors that female nudity — as decreed by nature — carries a different set of connotations and has a completely different psychological effect on people than male nudity does? For that matter, does it need explaining that this unique impact is actually counted upon by women for their sense of self and that the average girl would shrivel up and expire in a flash of green smoke if that carnal essence of hers ever lost its attention-drawing, resources-attracting grip on the swinging-dick half of the party?

Anyone familiar with the leftist indoctrination camps that pass for today's college campuses will find the motley crew that With and Liv assemble to be no surprise — it's like a who's-who of the girls still sitting at the bar, ignored, when the lights go up. We get the reasonably cute girl who uglies herself with Kool-Aid hair coloring and an air of aggrievement derived from the Bikini Kill CD's and feminist websites she gorged on back in the suburbs. We get a validation-hungry Miss Piggy, dipping a toe in teen-brat rebellion behind her husband's back (as if his having chosen a parade float to spend the rest of his life with weren't validation enough). We get the afro-sporting black girl with chronic no-you-di-innnt-face — crucial in their circles for that all-important diversity cred, and for bestowing upon them the imprimatur of a tenuous connection with saintly, downtrodden brown people. Most predictably, the group finds its panting lapdog in With's neutered male roomie Orson, who pesters her like a nagging wife for the rent money she's behind on and then folds like a lawn chair as she whimpers rehearsed excuses about why she's too precious to soil herself with a real job. Come the film's climax, he's scampering right along with his gal pals' au naturel street offensive, his own scrawny chest unveiled in a self-debasing stab at being the "right" kind of guy — indeed, he's the type who'd take a paring knife to his own testicles if it meant thirty seconds of applause from women who'd just as quickly go back to forgetting he existed.

His presence among them, however, is the most unintentionally honest thing about the film. Though the girls claim insipid degeneracy cheerleaders like Madonna as their inspiration, it's the largesse of men that makes it possible for our little dearies to charge titty-witty through the streets while plotting to bully endorsements from the likes of Larry Flynt and Hugh Hefner — be it the strategizing and media connections of With's old journalism contact, be it their lawyer's knowledge of legal loopholes and his readiness with bail money, be it the rich kid who pledges to lend coin to the undertaking, or simply the "moral support" of hapless pussy beggars like Orson.

Recorded history judges this as no less a fact — walk the path from our present era of "slutwalks" and FEMEN desecrations of clergy back to ye olde nineteenth century and you'll trip over John Stuart Mill and Gerrit Smith attaching the push for women's suffrage to their political platforms; you'll find your William Lloyd Garrisons, your Henry Browne Blackwells, your Max Eastmans and innumerable other male suffragists, who penned essays and letters of protest, chaired women's organizations and bore the brunt of public ridicule so that their female counterparts could plant bombs and burn down the homes of their perceived opponents. Indeed, go no further back than With and Liv's beloved "Material Girl" and count the army of male execs (like Seymour Stein of Sire Records, who signed her), male producers and songwriters (Reggie Lucas, John "Jellybean" Benitez, Nile Rodgers, Stephen Bray, Patrick Leonard), and male music-video mavericks (David Fincher, pre-Paltrow's head in a box), on whose contributions her out-of-nowhere ascent to MTV-endorsed, Pepsi-sponsored, Vatican-rattling supernovadom was virtually assured.

These girls even manage to purloin their ideas from men — Gandhi, Bob Dylan, quotes from Flynt and Hefner on the "hypocrisy" of American morality — and women having their own ideas about things, about the way their lives should be, is supposed to be the blow to the overfed paunch of white Christian hegemony that makes this whole feminism thing float, isn't it? Absent a rationale that springs from our heroines' own noggins, we're left staring at the gap between just-discovered-Frantz-Fanon babble like "Every revolution needs resistance!" and the self-hype of women so chilled by the even temperature of their placid little lives, they have to drape themselves in the philosophical skins of long-dead rabble-rousers, like some purpose-poaching Ed Geins, just to get their pulses racing. Certainly, it can't be that the ladies are constitutionally — nay, chromosomally — incapable of making a statement, of asserting their "true selves," without stripping down and falling back on their physical appeal, can it?

I mean, had I a dollar for every porn skank, webcam girl, stripper, model, Hollywood starlet, "performance artist," "slutwalk" participator, female musician, campus rape fantasist, "reclaimer" of the female body, and prostit— I mean, "sex worker" that I've heard prattling on about how "empowered" they are by baring tits, spreading legs and embodying the very objectification and reduction to mere girlie bits that they claimed to be rejecting in the first place, well, hell, I could buy my own private island, equip it with a Maker's Mark distillery and surround myself with a harem of teenage Anulka Dziubinska clones. That the movement's most vocal real-life advocates are callow courters of outrage like Courtney Love, Miley Cyrus, model Cara Delevingne, pop-diva punching bag Rihanna, and even Bruce Willis' girls Rumer and Scout would, to the skeptical man, seem quite telling. But surely, there's something deeper and more transcendent going on here that my dinosaur man-brain prevents me from seeing, right?

Consistency, apparently, is the hobgoblin of much better films: With and crew compare themselves with straight faces to Jesus, Buddha and Moses, then jabber on about religion shackling the womenfolk (when, in fact, the enforced mores of a traditional Christian society saved women from their worst impulses). We get the blaming, twenty-five years late, of Ronald Reagan and the Christian Right for the smothering of all self-expression while our rage-against-the-machiners say nothing, of course, about the shadow of secular Judaism over our post-Sixties leftward slide and dilution of national character, nor about the fingerprints of the pro-Israel lobby and Jewish-American neo-cons on our current Middle Eastern embroilment. Opportunities for sly humor pass right over the film's head, such as when the token sista mentions her Black Panther grandmother, and With and Liv glint in unison like matching Christmas tree lights. ("I read Malcolm X!" interjects the clueless With, as if Malcolm X's New York-based Nation of Islam were interchangeable — or even ideologically twinned — with the Oakland, California-based Panthers.) The film seems to be nudging you in the ribs there — at last! the leavening of a little self-mocking humor — but then, the moment wilts under a deadening earnestness; that it could have been amusing doesn't even seem to have occurred to Esco.

The film grasps for relevance in any and all directions — zig-zagging through "murder, violence and war" and Janet Jackson's Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction" — as a means of providing some broader context for this "struggle." Esco even cuts from internet factoids about the state-to-state legality of toplessness to news reportage of the Colorado Batman premiere shooting, and then she leaves it at that, as if the threads connecting the two were so self-evident as to be above explication. Obviously, Esco wants to play up the cliché of violence as endemic to the American way of life, and then contrast that with her conviction that the same culture supposedly runs for the hills at the sight of a woman's breast. But it's fatuousness bordering on derangement to pretend that random shoot-ups of Joe Public by fifth-rate Travis Bickles have ever been endorsed or accepted by the American populace; it's equally disingenuous to try and finger some cultural chastity belt of American neo-Puritanism as having watered the soil from which such violence sprouts.

To the extent that American society is, as With claims, one of the most violent in the world, it's due inordinately to the crime committed by minorities — particularly the low-income, victimologist wings of black and Hispanic cultures, which aren't exactly known for their WASP inhibitions and pearl-clutching at the sight of T&A. But — and here's that intellectual dishonesty again — liberals like Esco can't scratch beneath the surface of any of the maladies they wail about, for fear of implicating the very people they've built their identities championing. So instead, they toss around vague indictments of nebulous entities like "society" and rest their case on ramshackle connections between things that have little to no bearing on each other, while expecting everyone to keep pretending that it's those evil, conservative old white men responsible for all the inner-city shootings, knock-out games, gang turf wars, public-transportation stabbings, street rapes, home invasions, racially motivated beatings, and razings of urban neighborhoods via looting and semi-organized chaos.

Of course, it's no surprise when Liv literalizes the clam-munching bent of a movement driven by hostile, hyper-masculinized women by kissing With on the lips. We'd already picked up on her true m.o. via her constant badgering of With to let it all hang out in the name of liberation — she's no different, ultimately, than those ponytailed "spiritual gurus" who propped up tent-show ashrams and meditation centers back in the Sixties and Seventies, selling enlightenment to hippie girls fresh off the bus from Iowa as a foolproof seduction strategy. Like their real-life analogues, the characters in Free the Nipple are "fighting" for something that will never become orthodoxy, for something that's doomed to failure because it goes against the hardwiring of most every female in existence. Theirs is an inherently sapphic journey, befitting no one but bitter dykes and oddballs successfully brainwashed to shun their own mother/wife impulses; it's a life that entails a bunch of girls being naked in each other's presence with nothing but the dweebiest and most supplicating of men in proximity, relying only upon each other for emotional sustenance and support when nature tells us that every molecule of a woman's being demands the approval and the commitment of the fittest, highest-caliber men. Were women like the subjects of this film the norm, or were they ever intended to be the norm, the human race would have stopped in its tracks millennia ago.

Had David Cronenberg not already claimed it for his adaptation of William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch, the tag line to Esco's film — indeed, her entire campaign — could well have been: "Exterminate all rational thought." Invariably, the proud exhibitionists "fighting" for the "right" to go topless in public are also the bait-and-switchers who'll turn on a dime and rail against their "hypersexualization" under the gazes of the very men they're parading God's handiwork in front of. They're the harpies editorializing against a phantom "war on women" and Western "rape culture" while saying nothing about the dangers that women face in those browner and less "liberated" corners of the earth deemed hands-off for white-people criticism. They're the psychosexual Indian givers who caterwaul about "street harassment" when men have the gall to flirt with women marked as attractive by curve-choking jeans and palpitating chest buttocks perched for maximum gawk factor atop bra wire ready to give like a wicker chair under latter-day Marlon Brando.

What today's feminists seek is the logical conclusion to their corset-and-bonnet-clad godmothers mailing letter bombs and hurling axes at prime ministers. To expand upon a maxim coined in the heart of the "manosphere," what they seek is the removal of all consequence and constraints from female behavior — no matter how ill-advised or self-endangering, no matter how antagonistic toward others — while restricting, if not out-and-out silencing, all male reaction to that behavior. Damn propriety, in other words; damn people's antiquated morals, damn the laws. And while you're at it, damn whatever you think is best for your apple-cheeked Sonny Jim and little Susie who, in the anarchistic Eden envisioned by the exposed-nipple brigade, would inevitably find their unfathoming young eyes confronted with the lopsided dangle-bags of some mauve-tressed tattoo farm who thinks herself exempt from considerations of others — a banshee with spite for you and everything you value Sharpied across her pasty flesh as she shrieks fervid fantasies of martyrdom in pursuit of the only attention she can get: the forced acknowledgment that comes from making oneself as strident and as lewd a spectacle as possible.

It calls to mind the timeless words of philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer — that unblinking clairvoyant, a veritable Nostradamus of feminine decline — who, in 1851, predicted the very ennui that's befallen women in our own time. It's an ennui, manifested as a compulsion to invent problems out of whole cloth, that befalls woman when her fathers and grandfathers have self-sacrificed to give her a world in which genuine hardships are rarer than hen's teeth, in which there exists no tyranny that any history book would recognize — neither famine nor religious persecution, nor the spiritual stenosis of the lawfully bound second-class as her muliebral predecessors knew. I refer to Herr Schopenhauer:
"...but to treat women with extreme reverence is ridiculous, and lowers us in their own eyes. When nature divided the human race into two parts, she did not cut it exactly through the middle! The difference between the positive and negative poles, according to polarity, is not merely qualitative but also quantitative. And it was in this light that the ancients and people of the East regarded woman; they recognised her true position better than we, with our old French ideas of gallantry and absurd veneration, that highest product of Christian-Teutonic stupidity. These ideas have only served to make them arrogant and imperious, to such an extent as to remind one at times of the holy apes in Benares, who, in the consciousness of their holiness and inviolability, think they can do anything and everything they please."
In lieu of things like indelible characterizations and facility with mise-en-scène, Esco attempts to skate by on bully-pulpit boisterousness and the lowered-expectations pass that guarantees any young woman filmmaker pats on the back for her "bravery" and "unique perspective." Which is to say that Esco, in her attempt to pull a Warren Beatty/Woody Allen two-fer as both director and star, and fuse it all with the hairy-armpit élan of an issue of Bitch magazine, impresses one as remarkably talent-free. (On the bright side, at least her tits don't sag.) When Esco took a stab at everyday girls as Jimmy Smits' daughter on the CBS series Cane, she looked constipated while smiling across the breakfast table at her rum-magnate pops and mouthing the writers' tomboy aphorisms and endless "I know, Dad"'s. To mangle William Blake's famous appraisal of John Milton: the reason Esco acts in fetters when dramatizing the bond between father and daughter, and at liberty when gibbering on here about "gender equality" and Uncle Sam being an uptight titty-hater, is because she's a true Feminist, and of the Devil's party without knowing it.

©2015 Scott Is NOT A Professional Film Critic


Soiled Sinema said...

Another masterpiece!

I think the dumb bitches involved with this silly shit had pussy fathers and ultimately would love nothing more than be savagely fucked by the most macho and 'misogynistic' of brutes.

Scott Is NOT A Professional said...

Very true. I believe that a lack of fathers, or ineffectual pussy-ass fathering, is the culprit behind everything that's wrong with the world. No greater bulwark against degeneracy, aimlessness and lack of accountability exists than the firm guidance of an unwavering father (or father figure), which is exactly why The Powers That Be spend so much time incentivizing single mothers and delegitimizing fatherhood, and masculinity in general.

It's been said that the increasing insanity of feminism is nothing more than a cultural shit test - that it's women testing, as always, to see just how much they can get away with before men say "enough" and decide to lay down the discipline that 99% of these shrieking daddy-fetishists are craving, anyway.

savagely fucked by the most macho and 'misogynistic' of brutes

The day it occurred to me that I had far more sexual success as an "asshole" and "sexist douchebag" than I ever did as a laid-back nice guy was the day that I began to understand women.

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