Film

The Talented Mr Ripley and the ‘transgender’ Warrior gene

‘better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody’. I’d watched Anthony Minghella’s tour de force with the director’s commentary following a rather unpleasant argument with a group of hardcore feminists (mostly men it seemed) about a Guardian article commenting on the negative aspects of masculinity and the role of men after the recent invention of synthetic sperm. I’d suggested that a world without men would be like an eco-system losing its top predator, which could have catastrophic consequences (maybe worse than we have already), such environmental issues happened in Europe and North America following the extinction of wolves, for example.

This did not go down well. I’d likened what transpired to be the social media equavalent of ‘public shaming’, after I’d suggested there were biological reasons for man’s violence and aggression, unfortunately I was unaware that this was such a controversal debate concerning the issue of gender relating to the ‘nature vs nurture’ paradigm. For this I was accused of being transgender phobic ‘transphobic’ and ‘essentalist’, both terms I was woefully unfamilair with, although I had read plenty of feminists discourses for my degree, and even finished the novel Middlesex.

Regardless of this, I was critised for my comments that gender was the cause of war and violence in human history since we first evolved, despite the fact that this was not actually what I said, as I was merely discussing a point of view from the article.

Here is an blog by one for the ‘male feminists’ who’d critised me for being transphobic:

http://tumblr.shivoa.net/

http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/people/gb2g10

This said, the online groups (we’ve been through a few revisions and policies) we’ve used to chat in outside of meetings: oh dear. A while back the committee asked people with input to come along a bit earlier to a meeting so it could be discussed. Just like every other week, almost none of the guys who engaged online came along to meet. The online toxicity was a constantly rising issue and a lot of the “male feminists” seemed to be there for a fight (”well this woman says she’s been harassed but I just spent 20 minutes looking and found barely any evidence so you should definitely debate me and not worry about why that was the first thing I did when seeing discussion of harassment”) or to poke anti-feminist talking points (straight out of MRA discourse) into any discussion. Always ready to buff the Rationalist medal that implied only their points were reasoned, as they blindly asserted uncited claims with no awareness of feminist theory (if you have to look up half the words, maybe your hot take on why this “isn’t really a problem” can be filed straight in the garbage). People who never turned up to a single actual meeting, to be outnumbered by women in a space they couldn’t try and take ownership of.

Strangely though, Minghella’s film appears to present an interesting vision on this. I was told that gender is not biological, and there’s little difference emotionally or hormonally despite the level of testosterone in either gender, that this is entirely on one’s social background and culture, i.e Men are not naturally aggressive anymore than women. But the science on this remains inconclusive.

Although many are likely to prefer the Hitchcockian Chris Marker fllm Sans Soleil, both are completely different films with little in common.

Minghella’s Ripley goes down the Hollywood Fatal Attraction route with an ensemble cast and a series of mistaken identity cat-and-mouse style shots and setpieces.

It’s a very odd film because Matt Damon is both sympathetic and manipulative. A social climber and underdog we can all relate,  similar to Winona Ryder’s character in Heathers. He’s like the tormented wallflower who gets revenge on the popular kids in high school, and that’s why we love him.

He seems to have what scientists and psychologists might refer to, like the psychopaths Norman Bates and Hannibal Lecture, ‘The Warrior Gene’. His character could fall into the ‘transgender’ label, as a homosexual or bisexual, who’s quite predatory and masculine, despite the nerdy glasses.  Ripley’s wrathful, murderous appetite and ability to lie with a straight face is perhaps not so much related to his genes as his inauspicous social standing at the start of the film.

Maybe this was already covered in Trading Places and Chinatown, ‘in the right situation, you are capable of doing anything’, including breaking moral codes and pursing your own greedy nature.

It’s a film that’s literally close to me, since Minghella was born and raised a few miles away on the Isle of White. He admits that the film is somewhat based on people he knew and envied during his life, perhaps as we all have at one time. Damon’s performance is perfect, and seems to have evolved from the troubled adolescent he played in Good Will Hunting. Paltow never looked more a classical, so to does Kate Blanchett and Jude Law. Law and Hoffman never seemed better than when they play characters who are nasty.

Minghella, who I’d wrongly assumed was gay and upper-class, was in fact not, despite his credentials, the beauty, the emotional themes and theatrics of his films, and the fact that he’s so eloquent, and as I said he’s from the Isle of White?! Which is far from Kensington or Chelsea, and the aristorcrats he portrays in his films. You can’t judge a book by its cover.

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