One of the factors that determine theme and form in our great books is this strategy of evasion, this retreat to nature and childhood which makes our literature and life! When Huck drifts south from Missouri, he finds a dysfunctional patriarchal order whose notions of honor and decorum mask the ultimate cruelty of slavery. What struck Fiedler about these apparently sexless but intensely homoerotic connections was their cross-cultural nature and their defiance of heterosexual expectation. At sea or in the wilderness, these friends managed to escape both from the institutions of patriarchy and from the intimate authority of women, the mothers and wives who represent a check on male freedom.
Fiedler saw American literature as sophomoric. He lamented the absence of books that tackled marriage and courtship — for him the great grown-up themes of the novel in its mature, canonical form. Or, to put it another way, all American fiction is young-adult fiction. The elevation of the wild, uncivilized boy into a hero of the age remained a constant even as American society itself evolved, convulsed and transformed. While Fiedler was sitting at his desk in Missoula, Mont. From there it is but a quick ride on the Pineapple Express to Apatow.
The Updikean and Rothian heroes of the s and s chafed against the demands of marriage, career and bureaucratic conformity and played the games of seduction and abandonment, of adultery and divorce, for high existential stakes, only to return a generation later as the protagonists of bro comedies.
But the antics of the comic man-boys were not merely repetitive; in their couch-bound humor we can detect the glimmers of something new, something that helped speed adulthood to its terminal crisis. Unlike the antiheroes of eras past, whose rebellion still accepted the fact of adulthood as its premise, the man-boys simply refused to grow up, and did so proudly. Why should they listen to uptight bosses, stuck-up rich guys and other readily available symbols of settled male authority?
That was only half the story, though. As before, the rebellious animus of the disaffected man-child was directed not just against male authority but also against women. Mean mommies and controlling wives are ridiculed and humiliated. Sexually assertive women are in need of being shamed and tamed. The bro comedy has been, at its worst, a cesspool of nervous homophobia and lazy racial stereotyping.
Prospects of a Cure for "Death"
Its postures of revolt tend to exemplify the reactionary habit of pretending that those with the most social power are really beleaguered and oppressed. But their refusal of maturity also invites some critical reflection about just what adulthood is supposed to mean. In the old, classic comedies of the studio era — the screwbally roller coasters of marriage and remarriage, with their dizzying verbiage and sly innuendo — adulthood was a fact.
It was inconvertible and burdensome but also full of opportunity. You could drink, smoke, flirt and spend money. The trick was to balance the fulfillment of your wants with the carrying out of your duties. The desire of the modern comic protagonist, meanwhile, is to wallow in his own immaturity, plumbing its depths and reveling in its pleasures.
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But they also, at least some of the time, had something to fight for, a moral or political impulse underlying their postures of revolt. The founding brothers in Philadelphia cut loose a king; Huck Finn exposed the dehumanizing lies of America slavery; Lenny Bruce battled censorship.
Maybe nobody grows up anymore, but everyone gets older. What happens to the boy rebels when the dream of perpetual childhood fades and the traditional prerogatives of manhood are unavailable? There are two options: They become irrelevant or they turn into Louis C. Or, if you prefer, a loser. Who is the most visible self-avowed feminist in the world right now? Did you see her at the V. A lot of things were going on there, but irony was not one of them.
It explains who she is as a pop star, a sex symbol, the mother of a daughter and a partner in the most prominent African-American power couple not currently resident in the White House. And while Queen Bey may be the biggest, most self-contradicting, most multitude-containing force in popular music at the moment, she is hardly alone.
The Depression Trap
And while there will continue to be hand-wringing about the ways female singers are sexualized — cue the pro and con think pieces about Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Iggy Azalea, Lady Gaga, Kesha and, of course, Madonna, the mother of them all — it is hard to argue with their assertions of power and independence. Take note of the extent and diversity of that list and feel free to add names to it.
The dominant voices in pop music now, with the possible exception of rock, which is dad music anyway, belong to women. The conversations rippling under the surfaces of their songs are as often as not with other women — friends, fans, rivals and influences. Similar conversations are taking place in the other arts: in literature, in stand-up comedy and even in film, which lags far behind the others in making room for the creativity of women. But television, the monument valley of the dying patriarchs, may be where the new cultural feminism is making its most decisive stand.
Most of them occupied the half-hour rather than the hourlong format, and they were happy to swerve between pathos and absurdity. Were they sitcoms or soap operas? This ambiguity, and the stubborn critical habit of refusing to take funny shows and family shows as seriously as cop and lawyer sagas, combined to keep them from getting the attention they deserved. But it also proved tremendously fertile.
But Carrie fig. The real issue, in any case, was never the ability of women to get a laugh but rather their right to be as honest as men. And also to be as rebellious, as obnoxious and as childish. Why should boys be the only ones with the right to revolt?
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Not that the new girls are exactly Thelma and Louise. Just as the men passed through the stage of sincere rebellion to arrive at a stage of infantile refusal, so, too, have the women progressed by means of regression. After all, traditional adulthood was always the rawest deal for them. On the contrary.
Prospects of a Cure for "Death"
It is a kind of moral death in a culture that claims youthful self-invention as the greatest value. We can now avoid this fate. For Heath, it was the seat of pleasure and emotions that he thought would allow him to unlock the human brain. Born in in Pittsburgh, Heath trained as a neurologist, before being drafted into service as a military psychiatrist in World War II. He rapidly aligned himself with the new breed of biological psychiatrists — scientists who argued that what were traditionally thought of as diseases of the mind were often actually diseases of the brain and could therefore be cured through surgery, not therapy.
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This was the most widespread form of what was known as psychosurgery — the surgical treatment of mental illness. They decided to compare it with a much less invasive alternative, which they called topectomy: this involved targeting and removing specific areas of the cortex, in order to avoid wider damage to the brain. Heath had already developed a particular interest in schizophrenia, which he viewed as the single greatest challenge in mental health, affecting roughly 2 per cent of Americans. He noticed that such patients seemed largely unaffected by either lobotomy or topectomy; since these procedures targeted only the most immediately accessible part of the brain, the cortex, he concluded that their symptoms must be more deep-rooted.
And one particular area — the septal region — appeared particularly promising. When it was damaged or destroyed in cats and monkeys, they started behaving in a startlingly similar fashion to people with schizophrenia: their emotions were dulled, they lost their ability to experience pleasure a phenomenon known as anhedonia , and they generally seemed to be removed from reality.
By implanting electrodes into the deepest parts of the brain, he could not only examine how this machinery operated, but also — he hoped — jolt it back into life. There was just one problem. Then, on a trip to Atlantic City, he found himself lying on the beach next to a man from New Orleans.
How the Brain Seeks Pleasure and Avoids Pain
And so they started to talk. For the year-old, the job at Tulane was an irresistible opportunity. New Orleans was an academic backwater. This was Charity Hospital, a vast, brutalist s edifice through which the poor and sick of New Orleans flowed in their thousands. If he needed healthy volunteers, he had free access to inmates at the state prison complex at Angola. On top of this, there was his role within Tulane. Uniquely, his new department combined not just neurology and psychiatry — itself a reflection of his then-radical commitment to treating the mind and brain as linked — but also a psychoanalytic institute modelled on the work of his mentor Sandor Rado, who had argued for the key role of pleasure in motivating behaviour: Heath urged all of his colleagues to learn analysis, and to be analysed themselves.
In , Heath and the colleagues he had recruited from Columbia and elsewhere revealed the first fruits of their work.