Archive | April, 2012

Hand On My Shoulder, I See Dead People: GIs in Afghanistan Posing with Corpses

20 Apr

“As objects of contemplation, images of the atrocious can answer to several different needs. To steel oneself against weakness. To make oneself more numb. To acknowledge the existence of the incorrigible. ”
Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others

PLAYING WITH DOLLS. Los Angeles – 4/19/2012

I’ll never forget seeing the stacking. The pyramid of people. Man on man, all aces, the sadist’s cards, and we all fall down.

All told, Abu Ghraib is old news.

Then again, what news is new when it comes to war. Variations on a theme.

Some people do the dying, some people do the killing, and some are stuck in between. Stuck in a stack. Stack of parts: of people and their remains, of photos and the roles we play.

Yesterday I read in The New York Times that the LA Times published some photos of GI’s in Afghanistan. The GI’s? They been posing for photos with dead people. And the US officials? They be asking the LA Times not to publish the photographs. So give them a hand for publishing the photos. Yeah, give the LA Times a hand – dead hand on the shoulder. Give them a pat on the back with a dead hand. Give it to them, since they gave it to us.

Oh and the soldiers? Come on man, they just messing around with their newfound dead dolls. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division in the house. Afghanistan. 82nd Airborne’s Fourth Brigade Combat Team from Fort Bragg, N.C. Can’t anyone lighten up around here? Jesus. We’re just playing around.


War has it’s own version of the carnivalesque. All fool’s day. Puppet playing. Here, the actors become directors, the pawns become kings. And here is the snapshot of trauma: A solider looks to the side smiling. In the background is a dead man. Someone ‘s put the dead man’s hand on this soldier’s shoulder. And someone took a photograph.

It’s a pinched smile. Yeah, something’s pinched a nerve.

We’ll take a photo and we’ll post it on FB! We were here. See, this is when we were at war and I stayed alive and my friend, I killed him. But it’s all good, he’s got his hand on my shoulder. Yeah, he’s got my back. Get it?!

That’s not exactly what happened. These guys are paratroopers. They were told to find the remains and get fingerprints of an insurgent suicide bomber. They totally found their Disneyland destination in the middle of hell. And hell, they decided to grab a photo with Mickey, or whatever his fucking name was.

A souvenir of sorts.

The evidence of living, and yes of dying. In a temporal space; interiors. To me, this photograph maps the topography of spirit gone wrong. Spirit done gone. Spirit is dead, man. Nothing’s here but a machine.

The lens: both witness and buffer. This is real, I am here, I am not here, I am here-not-here. And everyone in the room is saying: this is so fucked up, actually, this is hilarious. Dude, get your camera, yeah and grab his arm. War is so fucking Godforsaken, it’s funny. Are you to tell me that anything is holy here, because, look, I don’t feel a thing.

Yes, Sontag: to steel, to make numb. Yes, to essentially mock the system of war and it’s outcome – that being, Death. Yeah, do it like that. Now hold still!

I look at the photograph, I notice the soldier’s smile lines. Smile lines – probably got them back in the day, before all this, being over here, before reality changed. When I look at the photograph, it reminds me of South Park. Something about Kenny. How shamelessness is how you get a reality TV show and millions in the bank. How everything is up for grabs, yeah like a dead man’s hand.

When I look at the photo, the first phrase that came to my mind was: I see Dead People. Wherever that came from, it came. Came from one lexicon or another, but I never even watched that movie in the first place. I go to YouTube to just watch the clip from The Sixth Sense, going over the lines.

Cole Sear: I see dead people.
Malcolm Crowe: In your dreams?
[Cole shakes his head no]
Malcolm Crowe: While you’re awake?
[Cole nods]
Malcolm Crowe: Dead people like, in graves? In coffins?
Cole Sear: Walking around like regular people. They don’t see each other. They only see what they want to see. They don’t know they’re dead.
Malcolm Crowe: How often do you see them?
Cole Sear: All the time. They’re everywhere.

Trauma, it’s an altered reality, where all the players, paratroopers and suicide bombers have death in common, in different stages, yes in the theatre of war. They only see what they want to see. They don’t know they’re dead. The dead man’s dead, he doesn’t know shit. But he might be better off than everyone out of the bunch. Living dead can be the worst.

Sontag writes, “Photographs objectify: they turn an event or a person into something that can be possessed. And photographs are a species of alchemy, for all that they are proved as a transparent account of reality.” This photograph is an overlay, it’s an expression. At face value, it’s an expression of ownership, soldiers dominate the dead and in turn the war, by making light of it. In the dollhouse, bringing light to the dark. To own that shit. The art directed moment – hand on a back- an attempt to express supremacy over circumstances. It’s clear that movement towards dominance is always rooted in fear. We’re all wrecked. Whatev.

War requires shut down, it’s trauma. The spolier is that Bruce Willis has been dead all along. Just a ghost.

The whole thing is real-not-real. Spirit is long gone. We’re past a Memento mori drive-by: “Remember your mortality” “Remember you must die” “Remember you will die.” Death to all, done deal.

And I’d say that everyone’s a victim, and no one’s a victim. This depends on our make up. How we metabolize and respond to events. We make choices to join in- spectator, actor, author. What preceded the photograph? What happened after? Count the cospectators, count the ghouls.

Yes this act is morally wrong, indecent, has trumped the rules of war. Yes. But that is not the first thing I see.

The thing I see in total is a document of trauma. I see a failed attempt at dead soldier and his dead soldier pals using a dead man like a doll for comfort. I see some guys with a camera working to transmute what they all got, the fucking pain of it all. The war churned the pot. The debasement of each soldier’s spirit is intact. A death mashup of varying degrees.


Bad Television + Bad Behavior: The Fearless, Fabulous, and Horrible Aubrey O’Day and Courtney Robertson

13 Apr

Who is SheCritique?

Well, you can’t take the F out of the feminist, even when she is plugged into Hulu.

And I’ve given up alcohol and cigarettes, oh so good bad boys AND sugar – and because there is no other hit like a hit of the toxic. Then deconstructing the stench.

Because I’m addicted to bad tv. Because I can’t turn off my radar. I’m in jest, well…sortof. This blog is not only about TV, but today it’s where I start.

So, what is a she critique?

I often do not know the people in the TV shows, their names, their past bad TV shows, who they are dating, if the bag they are holding is hot off Rodeo or from the rack at Ross , or what red carpet they recently tromped on. Everyone is at once themselves, and a total product of culture. What they say, how they are responded to, what we can glean from all this – this is what is of interest to me. It is of interest because it is about representation. It is of major interest to me because each person transmits a message. For those who are watching, if there is not a critique, there is just ingestion. And when you take something in with no assessment, no filter, it’s bound to wind up living in you in a way that may – influence your own behavior – or influence the way in which you perceive yourself or other women. You’ll see, baby.

I’ve been paid to be a blogging ghostwriter from brands to a self purported advocate for the confidence of young girls and women – why not begin writing from my own voice only. Time to build a brand- She Critique.

So, what a better way to inaugurate a blog but with an assessment of some down-home bad behavior. Bad is always a good place to start.It’s also good to see where the “bad” label is coming from, who has deemed it so, and why. Let’s trim away the horribleness and learn from , tweek, and replicate bad behavior that is actually good. Let’s celebrate the attributes in each that feel emancipated, that are inspiring, that are generally awesome.

Aubrey O’Day on Celebrity Apprentice. OK. So Aubrey was called a whore by the guy who is primarily and basically known to woof like a dog (Arsenio Hall). He said your naked pictures are all over the internet and you are a slut with a big gut. Really original. So he called her a derogatory name and insulted her body. Lame. He blamed his outburst on his passion for his charity when in essence he had a complete freak out because he could not believe that Aubrey would not change his photo for their challenge, and also that she tried to take all the credit for work the whole group did together. He was mad because she took over, interrupted, did not do what he wanted, was not a team player. I was mad at her, too.

Lisa Lampanelli said to Arsenio that now every woman in America would perceive him this way, calling women bad names. And Aubrey said that both Clay and Arsenio “gang banged” her – and “so typical for men threatened by strong women.” The whole thing sounds really 90’s buzz wordy to me.

I googled Aubrey to look for the naked photos, and saw voluptuous and tacky but did not see a gut. I just saw that she used to be blonde and now is siren red. Looks like she is into some crappy shit and some crappy clothes and a crappy scene. Nothing new for the Celebrity Apprentice cast members. It made me sad for her, to look so trashy and Barbie doll odd in those photos when she has proven to be innovative, super smart, confident, fabulous, and creative on the show. I have been impressed with and inspired by her fearlessness. With her ability to think on her feet. But she interacts with people in a way that does not empower them. Yes, she is a bully, how amazing that her celebrity charity is an organization all about combatting bullying (which is very in vogue now, obviously this is why she chose it) . Her stance also made me sad for her, for her to use the “men are threatened by strong women” song, when really people are over her because she is just acting like an asshole in exactly the same way that men act like assholes.

So, in this case, Aubrey’s asshole(ness) is not a gendered point (to go over).

She was pulling out her own gender card then. Take some responsibility. Although I’m sure Clay and Arsenio may have “issues with women,” they are fairly fairy – meaning, if she wanted to she could have run the show and gotten her way , without being so horrible, with just a bit more nuance.

It is really inappropriate for me to bring in Michelle Obama at this point, especially in this company of Aubrey, and later, of Courtney – but I need to provide a counter. . When I think about Michelle Obama I think : innovative, super smart, confident….fearless and fabulous. She is AMAZING on the Colbert Report. The one woman on The Celebrity Apprentice who I thought had dignity and grace and power and smarts was Patricia Velasquez.

Courtney from The Bachelor. I love her. I’m bringing her back into the conversation because I love her. No it is not interesting that she is a model, grew up in privilege in Arizona, is a wounded soul, or has refined her craft of male manipulation to a T. What is interesting to me is that she is amazingly sassy, and again, fearless. No, it is not good that she did not become friends with the women in the house, no it is not good that she snarkily said “winning!” to another bachelorette – which was really not in reference to “winning” the bachelor’s heart, but more of “winning” the status of being the forerunner of this wretched reality show.

In Courtney’s case, I would say that yes, the media did gang bang her. And then, in After The Final Rape, I mean After The Final Rose The Women Tell All, Courtney was forced to apologize for taking up space, for being fearless, bold, herself. She was outspoken, and weird, and quirky. Yes, she was horrible too – but she did not deserve the backlash she received. My favorite word that Courtney was called in the tabloids was: Maneater. It was horrible to see how she seduced Ben, with her skinny dipping debacle etc, etc, etc, etc……but for All of America to demonize her was insane. Maneater? The Woman Every One In America Loves To Hate? No the cannibalism truly took place when the media and “the girls” on the Bachelorette took to Courtney and tried to break her down for exactly the kind of woman she has been primed to be by Culture. Seductive. Sexy. Mysterious. A Female Suspicious of Females. Remember when that really scrawny gal jumped on Ben’s lap and tried to seduce him? That was very unfortunate. Actually it was extremely upsetting, as I know that her actions were only a replication of what she has seen in blogs, magazines, on YouTube, on MTV. That girl failed in her attempt of seduction, and Courtney succeeded with flying colors. And then she was punished for it. A very, very bad girl.

What I appreciate in Aubrey and Courtney is their verve, competitive nature, smarts, and scrapiness. And then, Michelle all the way. Fearless and full of grace.

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