Getting Emotional with Movies, Part 9: Contempt
Don’t regret reading about REGRET before subjecting yourself to…
I try to watch the full range of movies, from the most innocuous to the most shocking. When it comes to the latter, finding something resembling entertainment can be a chore. There are viewers who brave the most loathsome and/or disturbing cinematic displays possible just for the bragging rights, or for the sake of being thorough in their cinephilia. I’m probably guilty of that myself. Sometimes, though, being adventurous leads me to one of those movies that I wish that I could unwatch. Like this nasty flick:
Don’t Go in the House was my first experience where I realized that there were certain types of content that I didn’t want to see in a movie. Ever. What I am willing to watch might not be considered any less vile by most people, admittedly. I’ve seen Cannibal Holocaust and Salo more than a few times, neither of which bother me that much. Perhaps, then, in my mind I have created a distinction between films for which I feel negative contempt and positive contempt. (NOTE: There is this one movie called simply Cannibal that blew my mind. It’s based on the true story of Armin Meiwes who advertised on the Internet for a willing victim for him to kill and consume. The film graphically depicts the whole process. I’m still trying to figure out my feelings on that one.)
In some cases, I might even feel both negative and positive contempt during the same film. Like with The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover. Watching that movie is a constant tug of war between outright revulsion and enjoyable provocation. Actually, though, with all its excrement, vomit and cruelty, there’s only one part of the film that I find truly unendurable:
I hate that kid. I hate the singing. I hate how he looks. Nearly ruins the whole movie.
If one can feel positive contempt for a movie, then Pink Flamingos is the best example I can come up with. I saw it for the first time at a local art theater that normally showed films of a more refined nature. Not surprisingly, some of the audience members were unprepared for the virulent waves of taboo-molesting indecency that would wash over them. The less hearty souls ran gasping for the exit, desperately hoping to fill their lungs with the fresh air of the respectable society they’d strayed away from. (NOTE: I might be exaggerating a little… but there was one couple for sure that took off in disgust.) While most modern viewers will still find something at least a little gross or offensive about Pink Flamingos, there’s undoubtedly more appalling content lurking within the foulest depths of the internet. Just not as funny.
Maybe the characters in Pink Flamingos are repugnant in a lovable sort of way, but the people in Mandingo aren’t even likable. The film portrays slavery in the Old South about as down and dirty as most viewers will want to see. Aside from being entertaining in a lurid sort of way, the film offers plenty to be disgusted about. Initially, I was troubled by the bizarre relationship between the plantation owners and their human property. As the film progresses, though, Mandingo becomes just as much about the hypocrisy of slavery as it does about the double standard lorded over women (slave or otherwise). Perhaps the only inspiring moment in the film is when an escaped slave is about to be hanged and he gives a defiant speech before his white captors. His last words are “After you hang me, kiss my ass.”
On a side note, I’ve been putting off seeing A Serbian Film because I’ve heard about some scenes that might place it in the negative contempt category for me. Every time I catch wind of one of these messed up movies, I ruminate over whether I really want to put myself through the trauma of watching it. I mean, I saw Don’t Go in the House when I was in junior high and I still think about it. It might’ve even killed my soul a little bit. But, then again, I thought The Human Centipede was going to be disturbing and the worst reaction that movie got from me was an uncomfortable chuckle. The trailer for A Serbian Film doesn’t even look too menacing:
For comparison, this is The Human Centipede trailer:
And finally, this is the trailer for Good Luck Chuck:
Objectively, which film would you be most hesitant to watch based on the above information? That woman with the bad table manners in Good Luck Chuck disturbs me more than anything else. And I saw Divine eat you-know-what in Pink Flamingos.
I’ll leave you with this scene from Hatchet. I can say that I’ve been happily desensitized to good ol’ fashioned blood and guts for years. (WARNING: Lots of blood.)
Come back tomorrow when we’ll wrap this up with films that cause child-like awe and Wonder.
This post is part of our User Showcase series. You can find Chad as kingofpain on Flickchart. If you’re interested to submit your own story or article describing your thoughts about movies and Flickchart, read our original post for how to become a guest writer here on the Flickchart Blog.