Monday, April 3, 2006

Dr Strangelove or: How I learned to write a paper comparing it to Lysistrata

I have a paper comparing Lysistrata to Dr Strangelove and Wag the Dog due tomorrow, and I’m having a really hard time writing it. I know what I want to say...I just can’t put it onto paper.

For all that don’t know Lysistrata is an ancient Greek comedy from Aristophanes. It’s a genius satire of war. The women of Athens, Sparta and the other city states are fed up with The Peloponnesian War. They decide to end it by withholding sex from their husbands and lovers until the men stop the fighting. They tease the men by dressing in masquerade and then refusing intercourse and force them to live with their painful erections and blue balls until the war ends. In the end, there is a (if my Greek terms are correct) Gamos, or ritual orgy scene, as all is reconciled and everyone’s happy. Basically a perfect example of 'make love not war'

These same satirical elements are seen in a modern war satire like Dr Strangelove. In that, the men (there is only one woman in the movie, and she’s a playboy centerfold turned into a secretary sex object) replace their sexual desires with notions of war. There’s sexual imagery all around Strangelove. The opening scene with the refueling of the plane is purely a symbol of intercourse. The long phallus like fueling pump going into the orifice on the lower plane...and then they’re moving, and shaking, and well, it looks like they’re fucking. What else: All of the powerful men have displaced sexual urges...Ripper, Turidson, Strangelove, The Russian Ambassador, hell even Mandrake have oral fixations. They’re all either smoking a cigar, cigarettes or chewing gum. Ripper's cigar is like an erect phallus to him. After he is defeated look how limp it goes. Also Ripper is worried of the Russians corrupting and stealing his 'natural bodily fluids'. He explains that he came to this conclusion while making love. And since then he doesn’t give his 'essence' to anybody (because that’s what the Russians want) other words, his going to war (to 'preserve our bodily fluids') is because of his impotence. (ironic due to his namesake Jack the Ripper destroyed female genitals, while he’s trying to preserve stuff from that area).

Further, there’s an allegory of war is like love many symbols everywhere throughout the movie...the planes are infiltrating Russian airspace...if even only one gets through, then the Doomsday Machine will kick in, and that’s the end of the world (producing no babies that way, but it will in the plan the men have at the end...i’ll get to that later). In the survival kits, the soldiers are given condoms (as well as lipstick and stockings)...when the code to attack comes in, they’re interrupted from doing things like reading Playboy. On the inner door of their safe that keeps their secret codes there are pictures of naked women. The bombs are named "Hi There!" and "Dear John". The bomb doors won’t let anyone through, and when they finally do, Slim Pickens rides that bomb all the way down...feeling the power between his it’s a swollen phallic symbol.

Turgidson’s (George C. Scott) got a great line, when he’s talking to Tracy Reed, who plays his secretary. He’s going to the War Room, but she wants him to stay and have sex and he says "You just start your countdown and old Bucky will be back before you say BLASTOFF". Of course the sexual metaphors are all over that. Though the best part is the end when the men are more interested in the 10 to 1 ratio of women to men as they try to repopulate the world. Then they get worried that the Russians will try and steal their mine space (the place that will allow them to have sex with these women) and they almost start another war fighting over the idea that the Russians can steal the mine space. The desire for sex leads to war. Basically the 'make love not war' thing is turned on its head and now its War is like making love, but making love the old fashion way gets less people killed.

Then there’s Wag the Dog. One of my favorite satires...I don’t know if it fits well into this at all. Both Lysistrata and Wag the Dog discuss how war can be controlled by people. How it is insanity that can be fabricated by men. Basically the main points I’m going to use from Wag the Dog is the line "Why do people go to war?" "To ensure their way of life" (this is from a conversation between De Niro’s character and William H Macy’s). Basically War is used to keep the status some way, the women of Lysistrata were both trying to keep the status quo and trying to change it. While they did claim that they wanted to control the money for wars, they really just wanted their lovers and husbands to be home and not be killed anymore. The whole controlling the money thing was just politics...kinda like what was also happening in Wag the Dog.

There...this kinda if I could only make five pages out of this.

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