Following some links around this morning, I hit a thread I’d seen a while back.

Black Amazon takes on Sofia Coppola, and discusses hipster feminism
. Go read….I’ll wait.


If you got to the comments, you’ll see that I made a brief defense of reading SC in a different light.

Basically, i don’t know that she likes her (ostensible) protagonists. in VS, the boys weren’t presented sympathetically at all, and it was odder than hell watching a movie that wasn’t about them through their eyes. the question is if the oddity is intentional, and is disruptive of the assumed male gaze, of if it’s an accidental byproduct that shows why the movie is crap.

Later on, midwestern transport comments that it seems like “making a film version of lolita and missing that humbert humbert is unreliable.”

Bingo. The question first hinges on if the narrator is reliable. The response there correctly noted that this question can be answered yes, and the text is still problematic. As long as the Western Blonde of Perfection is the great pearl cast before an undeserving audience, the unreliability of her observers only furthers the trope. The question then moves to our ultimate narrator. Is Sofia intentionally creating an unreliable narrative of race, gender, and civilization? Or is she unfortunately sincere?

Hard to answer. I have to have a profound amount of respect that a great deal of folks read it very differently. See the comments for that. To have any recourse in trying to arbitrate directorial intent, I’d have to listen to commentary track and such. The fact that I don’t is perhaps a signal that I’m afraid I’m wrong. I want to read these movies (I haven’t, and likely will not see Marie on the basis that it looks like it will destroy this thesis) in a very counter cultural way, in which a nearly perfect mime of Western Values uses the imperfections of reproduction in order to produce an dissonant note. Optimism? Perhaps.

Why dredge this all up? The first is simple. I happened to reread it, based on reading BA’s current piece on the blowup at FDL. The second is that I think that properly executed, the unreliable narrator is one of the highest forms of mockery. Briefly falling into sarcasm and coming right back up for air is one thing…it is quite another to create a literary avatar and send them off into the abyss in a display of contempt disguised as love. See also, Steven Colbert. But imagine if he winked at the audience less.

Lolita is a damn good novel. It remains throughly problematic for exactly that reason. If my memory serves me, both The Derb and Snitchens have recounted their sincerely sexualized readings and thus winning the “EWWWWWWW” award for reading miscomprehension. Lolita has the potential both to undermine and reinforce narratives of exploitation and sexual consumption. The text is openly dangerous, and requires careful negotiation.

Not everything can simply be subverted by slapping a label of irony on it…a text has to have a level of complexity and authorial awareness to actually merit such use.

I’m still torn. Is is a question of unreliable narrators, or unreliable narratives?