"I've been thinking a lot about binary antagonism because I've spent a lot of time this year in alternative socio-political space . . .in fact agonism is viewed as aberrant and even pathological. " (Art Durkee, complete comment on previous post.)
As it turns out, I spent my blogging time earlier today giving feedback on a chapter in a book about a Blackfeet family. I was very pleased to be asked to comment and daunted that the scholar asking didn’t know about my bio of Bob Scriver (“Bronze Inside and Out”) or this blog, both of which contain a good bit of info about the person in question. I mean, the point of both was to inform scholars as well as others. But I’m not on a faculty anywhere and that still counts. The advantage is that I can tell the truth as I choose without worrying about tenure.
My attention is now captured by Art Durkhee’s comment on the “Oz” posts. (Art is not academic but I respect him very much. We don’t agree sometimes.) Naturally my point of departure is the Bibfeltian “both/and” principle. Art interpreted my comments as being down on those big gym-bull alpha males, but they have their uses. Sometimes a guy built like a grizzly and with a Conan attitude is exactly what is needed.
More than that, I find that I’m really “turned on” by Simon Adebisi, Karim Said, and Chris Keller NOT Vern Schillinger. Adebisi because if a tiger came around, he could deal with it. Though -- if he were ineffective, if he ran -- I’d never pay any attention to him again. But I also loved his wacky striped sock, magic hat, and general dominance, underlain with constant plotting. He wasn’t so much narcissistic as in total denial of the existence of any kind of consequences or limits and his willingness to die -- he considered death trivial. His or anyone else’s. He’s a true sociopath. (The CHARACTER, now. Remember I’m talking CHARACTERS. The actor is quite a sophisticated lawyer in London.)
But go to the other extreme of mental/emotional/compassionate while keeping the magnificent physique and you’ve got Said, who seemed all the more powerful because of his restraint. It was not weakness -- it was power kept voluntarily under control. TERRIFIC Greek drama material. Nothing to do with being black or Islam. Excellent for Shakespeare.
For me Chris Keller is the most magnetic of all, a sociopath capable of love in an obsessive way: Tobias is everything he is not and can't be. Sister Peter Marie was vulnerable to Keller, as much as I am. (Yes, I remember he’s not REAL and neither were Sister Pete’s fantasies.) The writers could have made more of his admiration for Tobias Beecher’s mind. But they did a good job of showing Keller’s voracity for what he thought was love -- he craved, he destroyed, More even than his physical fuckery, he was a mind fucker. And yet love to him was only sex -- he couldn’t get past that. He remained unexplained even as he destroyed himself.
There aren’t a lot of these types around, which is lucky. I am safe from them only because they don’t think I exist. They bump into me if they pass too closely because they don’t see me. They don’t wonder whether I can see them because I'm invisible. (This is an advantage for a writer.)
The great irony of these Extreme Alphas is that many of them are hurt, partly because they smash into confrontations and partly because they hurt themselves. The women they need are moms. (Chris goes for Sister Pete’s breast.) They can’t even feel gorgeous sexy women. Which is why they need men for sex. But they despise their need. I don’t think it IS caused by nurture. I think these men are created genetically. Probably a high proportion are killed young. They are Beowulf, mythic. Sampson, pulling it all down on their own heads. Pre-Greek drama.
On the other hand Chris may very well be a victim of early sexual abuse combined with violence, which is a thread that was explored with the Aryan Nation character -- I never did get his name -- who has a “black” gum implant, whose penis gets the tip bitten off, and who ends up with HIV. His breakdown is powerful and justified, but it would not have been possible for Chris Keller. Keller is too armored, too cynical. Of course, what attracts me and Sister Pete and even the Toby character is the possibility of somehow getting to the core of him. It’s his inscrutability, the Sphinx dynamic, that pulls us in. He is naked and entirely hidden at once. (I think the actor “got” this.)
Which is all begging the question that Art poses: why can’t the world understand that raw opposition doesn’t go anywhere? Well, because sometimes it DOES. Sometimes it WORKS. The magnificence of the human animal is the ability to produce variety, people of all kinds and abilities. If we have all gladiators, we’re in trouble. if we have all civilized guys in togas, we’re in trouble. The ideal is to find the niche where you fit. And some niches probably are rat holes that need to be cleaned out.
A specific culture produces specific types. This is the level I think we should be addressing. Why are we producing the kind of men in “Oz”? They must have some use that we like. (There were no former soldiers in this group.) Or are they accidental by-products from something else we like too much, like drugs? Why are we so attached to the agonistic sports of boxing and football, in spite of what it does to individuals? Why is it so interwoven with sex? (Ask the football team in Missoula.) Is it Anabisi’s attitude of being entitled, or is it Chris Keller’s craving for deep sexual intimacy?
My natural “peers” ought to be Tim McManus or Sean McMurphy (the actor actually WAS a Golden Gloves boxer), I feel friendship for them. Chucky Pancomo makes me want to run. I’ve never known any Hell’s Angels -- only Gypsy Jokers. I did deal with “Oz” types when I was an animal control and being agonistic would have been hopeless in person on the street. I was “Ms. Friendly Persuasion” the whole way.
But there was a kid who was siccing his dog on other kids, who were being bitten, and when I grabbed the dog, the kid tried to strangle me. The dog’s collar broke and the two got away. Weeks later, I spotted the dog away from the kid, tossed it in the truck and was picking up speed when the kid threw himself on my hood and tried to break the windshield. I didn’t even slow down. When we got to court, his file was literally two feet tall. “Oz.”
You know the “Oz” actor -- not the character -- I’d most like to meet? Anthony Chisholm. Now there’s a guy who must know some stories. Come to think of it, he WAS supposed to be a Vietnam vet and his bunkie was also military -- didn't last long. But Chisholm has the feel of American frontier cavalry. Someone ought to put him in a show about the Buffalo Soldiers.