9 years after the discussion

Rhizome | mouchette.org

POSTED BY MTAA | THU APR 17TH 2003 7:02 P.M.
i’m just gonna list my points:To properly understand the web site it’s probably necessary to see the french film of which it seems to be an homage.
Just because the site deals with adolescent sexuality and suicide doesn’t make it exploitative. In fact, it seems to be the exact opposite. It’s seems very critical of patriarchal society. I haven’t seen the film, but I would bet that the film is as well (from what I could glean from the film quiz section of the site which is found on computerfinearts.com).

Mouchette, though said to be a little girl, also transforms into a fly at different points in the site. Hmmmm? What could that mean? Could it be a critique of some sort? Could it somehow be a critique of a patriarchal society which has taught a young girl that she is worth no more than a fly? That she is better off dead than being a burden to a man who has committed a horrific crime against her?
++
Seriously Eryk, you are committing an incredible error with your review of this site. It’s one usually committed by the religious right (in the US), but it’s also committed by extremely radical feminists as well. The error being: A knee-jerk response to any questionable subject no matter what the content is that it carries. If you make this error than a ‘girls gone wild’ film and Mouchette.org–since they have the same subject, adolescent sexuality–can be critiqued for being exploitative when in fact the content of the pieces makes them polar opposites. One is exploitative and the other is critiquing that exploitation by revealing it’s consequences.

<twhid>
http://www.mteww.com
</twhid>

ERYK SALVAGGIO | THU APR 17TH 2003 8:19 P.M.
Finally! Someone proposes an alternative reading to the site, which I have been asking for since I first wrote the critique a couple of months ago. Thanks! I just went to the site again with your take in mind, and while I can see a few more elements within the work that make it more interesting artistically, I still can’t agree with you that the piece is entirely succesful. I go on about why point by point below, if you’re interested.
-e.
—– Original Message —–
From: “t.whid” <twhid@mteww.com>
> Just because the site deals with adolescent sexuality and suicide
> doesn’t make it exploitative. In fact, it seems to be the exact
> opposite. It’s seems very critical of patriarchal society. I haven’t
> seen the film, but I would bet that the film is as well (from what I
> could glean from the film quiz section of the site which is found on
computerfinearts.com).
My original crit on the site, which I stand by to a degree, is that there is very little intrinsic condemnation of patriarchal society within the piece itself. What I see in the work is the image of a girl presented to play into the hands of that patriarchal pov in such a strong way that it overshadows any critique you say it presents. I think in that sense Mouchette fails as a critique of child abuse and slips into the glamorization of it- it is not “good art” if it attempts to be “humanist”, because it fails in my eyes to establish that humanism. I feel like the approach of the piece is an attempt to make the viewer see the girl at the level of an abuser- by sexual titilation, invitation, and winks and nods, at the expense of that humanism, and I still stand by my take that this is an irresponsible concept to be throwing out, this idea of “invitational molestation.”> Mouchette, though said to be a little girl, also transforms into a
> fly at different points in the site. Hmmmm? What could that mean?
> Could it be a critique of some sort? Could it somehow be a critique
> of a patriarchal society which has taught a young girl that she is
> worth no more than a fly? That she is better off dead than being a
> burden to a man who has committed a horrific crime against her?
I don’t know if I want to go into the area of a symbolic interpretation of the web site. The symbol system is pretty ambiguous if you ask me, and there isn’t any way to “prove” anything about symbolic interpretations of something like that. I assume the fly is just a fly, in this piece, it’s associated with death and it hovers around flowers. If this is a critique of patriarchy then I can see that, but then what?
Something I don’t like about Mouchette is her resignation to victimhood, and the invitations to perpetuate that victimhood. I have to ask why it begs the viewer to participate in that abuse and why it is considered “fun” to do so. The problem may not even be so much one of content as it is the composition of the narrative. There just aren’t enough bits to that end of “consequences” within the spectrum of this piece to bring the point home and make it as powerful as it could be.

> Seriously Eryk, you are committing an incredible error with your
> review of this site. It’s one usually committed by the religious
> right (in the US), but it’s also committed by extremely radical
> feminists as well. The error being: A knee-jerk response to any
> questionable subject no matter what the content is that it carries.

My response was not knee jerk, it’s a question of perspective- the piece puts its audience in the position of an abuser, and the consequences are not “dire,” in fact, it’s presented as an entire culture of fun and good times to be had by all. Her suicide is not a “consequence,” it’s “a party.” I believe the piece itself does not deliver what it needs to deliver in order to overcome the initial problems it poses- it becomes a caricture of victimhood, instead of a real response to it. Mouchette is entirely defined by her victimhood; it makes up her entire identity. I understand your take that this is deliberate, but I still wonder if the work would not be more succesful with some element of “humanity” as opposed to the perpetual victim/aggressor thing. I think the scope of victimhood is a much wider net than that, and to have a character who is so dehumanized is more of a sexual fantasy than it is an illustration of the consequence of those sexual
fantasies. This is the point I think is up to debate I guess, I mean, I *get* that she is *supposed to be* a perfect victim, but what does that really change?

> If you make this error than a ‘girls gone wild’ film and
> Mouchette.org–since they have the same subject, adolescent
> sexuality–can be critiqued for being exploitative when in fact the
> content of the pieces makes them polar opposites.

I think I am misusing the word “exploitative” too much when I mean “sensationalist”, though in this case I would stand by “dehumanizing” as a common element to both, though M is a fictional person and the girls of bikini island aren’t. They both endorse the view that femininity is a passive gender, they are both working w/in the construct of a male gaze, and they are both presented in a context of dehumanization as a result of that passivity (ie victimhood.)

I mean it’s true if you are saying that her total victimhood “is” the consequence. I think a roadblock I had in the way of understanding that element of the piece- and the effectiveness of that element- is that I came from it from the perspective that it was made by a man in his mid forties. The fact that her femininity is sooooo over the top in its submissiveness is somewhat disturbing in that context, imo. But your point is taken, and I think you’ve got a good one. But I would question the overall effectiveness of this piece anyway, and I would question if the messages it sends of total victimhood aren’t dangerous sociological ideas.

> One is exploitative  and the other is critiquing that exploitation by revealing it’s
> consequences.

That’s where we disagree, I don’t think it shows the consequences as adequately as it could. If it did, I think the piece might have been more succesful. As it is, I just don’t feel that the piece “brings it home” as powerfully as it could if your reading was correct.

-e.

 

RYAN GRIFFIS | FRI APR 18TH 2003 5:08 P.M.
regarding some of the criticisms and readings of mouchette, has anyone seen Todd Solondz’s movies (storytelling, happiness, welcome to the dollhouse)? i’m never quite sure what i think, but they certainly push some buttons in a very self-conscious way. (not that mouchette and Solondz’s films are the same issue, but i can imagine similar critiques/defenses)

ryan
ERYK SALVAGGIO | FRI APR 18TH 2003 7:59 P.M.
I really enjoyed the work by Todd Solondz that I’ve seen, which has been
Happiness and Welcome to the Dollhouse. I think in cinema you have a much
wider capacity to evoke a humanist element even in potentially
offensive/button pushing contexts; Happiness is really a great example of
work that deals in the dark side but pulls out of it in an unexpected way. I
had actually contrasted Mouchette w/ David Lynch films the first time I
posted the crtique in a similar way.-e.—– Original Message —–
From: “ryan griffis” <grifray@yahoo.com>
To: <list@rhizome.org>
Sent: Friday, April 18, 2003 4:08 PM> regarding some of the criticisms and readings of mouchette, has anyone
>seen Todd Solondz’s movies (storytelling, happiness, welcome to the dollhouse)?
> i’m never quite sure what i think, but they certainly push some buttons in a very
>self-conscious way. (not that mouchette and Solondz’s films are the same issue, but
>i can imagine similar critiques/defenses)
> ryan
RACHEL GREENE | SAT APR 19TH 2003 4 P.M.

I thought I would post something on Mouchette. I wrote this a few months
ago, and it’s in rough form (I was clearly preoccupied with appropriation
and mechanical repro). Perhaps after meeting the Mouchette auteurs tomorrow
at Postmasters, my thoughts will change:The website Mouchette, which launched in 1998,


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