Sunday, 11 October 2009
Nietzsche and Hegel and She-Ra in the Closet
I was wading through a wardrobe in what was The Boo’s bedroom and discovered her Crystal Castle lurking at the bottom. It was a Christmas present given nearly twenty years ago. Of course the uninitiated or too young may not know that The Crystal Castle was home to She-Ra, ‘Princess of Power’. She was never called just plain old She-Ra just as He-man never got away without the tag line of ‘The most Powerful Man in the Universe’ follow him. She-Ra was a revolutionary, the freedom fighter against the domination by all evil forces who would subjugate the ordinary people. She was Obama, our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, our fight against all evils that threaten a democratic way of life rolled into one. Swap Hordak or Skeletor, the baddies in these two cartoons for Ben Laden, the Taliban or generally anything anti-American ( it was made in America) and there you have the right and the wrong of it all, the morality tale that all children want to identify with. She-Ra of course did good by stealth never revealing her true identity but once she lifted that old sword there she was in all her glory, tight figure hugging costume, knee high gold boots and a good legth of thigh showing as she goes out to battle against the evil hoard. As He-Man was the mild mannered Adam (think bumbling Clark Kent to Superman) so the fluffy headed Princess Adora became She-Ra. All this came back to me as I was moving The Crystal Castle, even back then the power of marketing was a thing to behold, I think the Boo had the lunch box too, plus all the action figures. Should I have been encouraging her to play with more politically correct toys but no one was marketing the Marie Curie doll complete with toy laboratory and I certainly wouldn’t have bought her a Thatcher Doll complete with handbag to make her feel girls could be leaders of men. It was all roughly around the ‘girl power’ era when the marketing men realised that girls might not just want baby dolls and Barbies but action figures or pop stars that looked like they might kick a few butts and were generally proactive rather than passive. I think the toy industry was a tad slow on picking up on the feminist revolution but then Mattel etc still wanted to cling to the Stepford Wife concept I expect. They did not have many women on their board of directors until recently and they still have one woman executive in charge of 'girls toys' as if girls and their parents need a special range for them alone.
The finding of the Castle comes at a time when I am in the middle of reading Stephen Dobyn’s Book, 'The Wrestler’s Cruel Study' which I am enthralled with and the She-ra thing and this book collided in my brain. It is a surreal, even bizarre book which is set in a New York full of varying and arcane heretical Christian religious groups who meet to dispute at the top of the Chrysler Building about what is true and the nature of good and evil. The plot (if you can call it that) is driven by the classic hero’s dilemna. A wrestler called Michael Marmaduke who’s wrestling name is Marduk the Magnificent trying to find and rescue his kidnapped girlfriend Rose White. His world weary and philosophic manager, Primus Muldoon, whilst trying to help him and advise also spends time lingering on the nature of ‘the gimmick’ in wrestling and ‘the mask’ and how these relate to how people function in ‘real’ life. He has a love of Nietzsche and relates much of what happens in professional wrestling to our desire to cling to or to look for stereo types and pared down simplicities and our search for power of all kinds but Muldoon has a Hegelian nemesis. I won’t spoil it for you by saying too much but I never though Gnostic heresies, philosophy and wrestling could be brought together in a strange yet satisfying mix. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but Dobyn’s is a well known poet as well as a novelist and his language and voice is right up my street.
Of course American wrestling seems a tad more violent than the world of Sport 19 70’s version I recall.
I was at The Essex poetry festival yesterday mainly to see an old friend,Joanna Ezekial, from an Arvon Course way back, read. It was wonderful to catch up and talk about where poetry and writing has lead us over the years. I never cease to be amazed by what people are prepared to sacrifice and give up in order to make writing an important part of their lives. Poets especially usually gain no financial reward at all from their writing but have to rely on all the workshops, residencies, teaching etc that brings in a crust. Yet people still give up well paid jobs and potential careers in order to do it. It gladdens my heart that people are still willing to do this and it makes me feel sad that there is so little money in the Arts pot now that such people are going to be fighting hard for what minute amount there is. Of course you can write magnificently even if you have a full time job as a sheep-dipper, cashier, lawyer or water board official but it is a struggle and I sometimes wonder how many great poets or poems may have been lost to the world because they could not juggle earning a living with writing. A brilliant poet will triumph over financial necessity and adversity you could say but then maybe not and society may or may not be the poorer for it. I note that Eliot has been judged the nations favourite poet, I wonder how he would have coped in maintaining his personal writing life in the current financial wasteland when he would have had to pour endless time into keeping a publishing house afloat plus all the networking and endless meetings with the Arts Councils maybe to get grants?