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Issue 5, 2016


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  • Bussing at the Seams

  • PSA: Recycle or you will destroy our planet

  • A special new graduate school

  • UC wins engineering prize again, shock

  • Crossing with Carmen Rupe

  • International students targeted in Auckland CBD


  • Eye on the University Council

  • RIP Media Studies Cloob

  • Features

  • sex toys

    Toy Story

    I revere Missy Elliott for several reasons. Not only is she one of the greatest living rap artists, she is also inadvertently responsible for my obsession with sex toys. I won’t go so far as to proclaim she’s my spirit animal, but getting her album This Is Not a Test! for Christmas was a momentous […]


  • jess scott

    Trapped in a Prison of Flesh

    When your body and the clothes you wear are taboo In an industry seen to be one of the most progressive, one built upon the cultivation of individuality, innovation and creativity; taboo in fashion is more to do with the body of wearer than a garment itself. Certain aspects of the human anatomy carry specific […]


  • Miranda July finger

    The First Bad Woman—Miranda July and the power of taboo

    As an artist, Miranda July doesn’t just dabble in taboo, she dives right into it, taking her audience with her. Cassie Richards went along to her debut appearance in Wellington, and takes a look at a woman blowing social norms out of the water. A woman walks onstage to applause. She is tall, slender, wide-eyed, […]


  • sex toys

    Toy Story

    I revere Missy Elliott for several reasons. Not only is she one of the greatest living rap artists, she is also inadvertently responsible for my obsession with sex toys. I won’t go so far as to proclaim she’s my spirit animal, but getting her album This Is Not a Test! for Christmas was a momentous […]


  • jess scott

    Trapped in a Prison of Flesh

    When your body and the clothes you wear are taboo In an industry seen to be one of the most progressive, one built upon the cultivation of individuality, innovation and creativity; taboo in fashion is more to do with the body of wearer than a garment itself. Certain aspects of the human anatomy carry specific […]


  • Miranda July finger

    The First Bad Woman—Miranda July and the power of taboo

    As an artist, Miranda July doesn’t just dabble in taboo, she dives right into it, taking her audience with her. Cassie Richards went along to her debut appearance in Wellington, and takes a look at a woman blowing social norms out of the water. A woman walks onstage to applause. She is tall, slender, wide-eyed, […]


  • Arts and Science

  • Hiding In Plain Sight


    Creeping slowly down The Parade during the construction of the Island Bay cycleway, we passed a group of road workers who were about to finish up for the day. It was hot and sunny, and the men were leaning against the sides of trucks, on brooms and spades, surveying the day’s work. The road beneath their feet sparkled with green stones. White painted lines stretched taut across the hot asphalt, wrapping the sparkling emerald pathway, containing it perfectly. The new bike lane. It was beautiful. The guys in their high-vis and steel caps thought so too. As we picked up speed and left this scene behind I noticed several of them had their phones out, snapping pics.

    This is the moment I thought of when I first opened Vernacular: An Everyday Landscape of New Zealand, a photographic anthology of the more modest and ordinary aspects of urban, suburban, and rural space. Landscape designer Phillip Smith and documentary photographer David Straight travelled the country focusing on the details of a landscape overlooked.

    This book eschews the ‘memorable’ moments in civic design—the City to Sea Bridge, the Beehive, the Wellywood sign—focusing on the small parts of the world that we often don’t notice. Page after page of elegance and beauty found in the most modest of places, moving beyond the cliché Kiwi icons: the bach, the woolshed, number eight wire. The objects and places featured, as well as the writing and design of the book, project sensitivity and a quiet strength. Nothing overwhelms, and you find yourself very quickly making your way through the chapters, from urban benches, to suburban gates, a rugged rural fence, and the curve of an open road. The writing and images connect us with these places and objects, whilst celebrating the “aesthetic sensibility” of the people who make the places we live in.

    And this is what surprised me the most about Vernacular. For a series of photographs depicting lonely places, and an accompanying narrative about the history and specifics of these potentially dull spaces and things (chapters include Handrails, Local Materials and Skills, Walls), there is something intensely human and alive about the whole thing. Smith is constantly making reference to the authors of so called “authorless design” and the people who use these spaces. From the Oriental Parade bench and “the countless conversations that must have taken place,” to the individual hands that stretched the wire across the fence… this book is just as much about people as it is about landscape and architecture. Although the images are void of figures, their traces are everywhere. Reminding us of the unseen labour behind our environment, the layers of history and individuals behind a single handrail, the power of things and spaces to connect us with the people around us.

    Vernacular: The Everyday Landscape of New Zealand, by Phillip Smith and David Straight, was awarded Highly Commended (Trade Published) at the inaugural New Zealand Photo Book of the Year Awards, 2016.


    What’s on: 

    Te Whare Hēra Wellington International Artist Residency presents an exclusive screening of Tales of a Sea Cow (2012) by Etienne de France, and A Journey That Wasn’t (2005) by Pierre Huyghe.

    April 6, The Pit, Te Ara Hihiko, Massey University.

    Drinks provided, arrive at 5.30pm for 6.00pm screening.



  • Aquarius, Season One


    My bags are packed / I am ready for my flight / wanna put an end to my daydream days and sleepless nights / sitting like a mindless clone / wishing he would tap my phone / and just to hear the breath of the man / the myth / the monotone
             —Bree Sharp, “David Duchovny, Why Won’t You Love Me?”

    I am a David Duchovny fan. Completely head over heels. Or maybe that just means I am a Fox Mulder fan for he is intrinsically linked to the brooding FBI agent of my dreams. It is hard to allow him to become any other character, though it would seem Duchovny doesn’t mind too much; he’s just as dry and sexy in Californication, and even in his Sex and the City cameo he played a paranoid dreamboat. Aquarius sees him again playing a law enforcement role, as detective Samson Benedictus (Sam) Hodiak, though compared to Mulder he is a lot less thoughtful and shy than he is short tempered and prone to face smashing.

    Billed as “historical fiction,” Aquarius details the rise of Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony) and his ‘family’, while interwoven with fictional characters and stories to flesh out the series. Duchovny’s Sam is contacted by an ex-girlfriend when her daughter goes missing, and it is soon found that she has been living on the hippie commune of the part-time pimp, part-time musician, full-time batshit Manson. Sam and his team of fairly corrupt law enforcement officers find that the family may be more trouble than they first thought, as more and more connections to the commune are made apparent when undercover narcotics officer Brian Shafe (Grey Damon) investigates a local drug cartel. Charlie is a subjectively charming sociopath and has a growing number of followers who believe him to be the second coming of Jesus Christ, and as he exerts his hypnotic control over them with tales of fame and an excessive amount of LSD, they find themselves deep in a life of increasing debauchery to please their charismatic leader.

    The show is very ambitious and has a tendency to get a little lost in itself. While only a season in, the show’s production and writing team have already planned out a six season run, which is exciting but also means there are some filler episodes that are frankly pretty dull. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the spate of anthology shows and miniseries lately, but I went into Aquarius hoping for crazy Manson madness throughout and the first season ends not even close to delving into the LaBianca and Tate murders. There are some weird liberties taken with the “historical fiction” idea, including a confusing subplot where Manson is straight up banging someone’s dad. I don’t think that happened but I guess it was the 60s. The show touches on racial issues and the Black Panther movement, but does little to connect that to Manson, who believed the Beatles’ White Album predicted a racial uprising by the black community that would lead to a full out race war.

    Faults aside, Aquarius is a good show with a lot of promise, and with only 13 episodes it’s an easy binge watch on a sick day. Luckily the show was picked up for a second season by NBC in June 2015, and I have a lot of hope and faith that it will find itself and dish out some juicy, gruesome true crime. And, shirtless David Duchovny.



    In the Orientation issue of this magazine, I gave a reasonably positive review of The X-Files reboot. I would like to issue a retraction, to say that the last two episodes of the mini-series could possibly have been two of the worst episodes of television I have ever seen (bar David Duchovny tripping on mushrooms dancing to Billy Ray Cyrus). Please watch at your own risk.



  • Small Metal Objects

    If you managed to see Small Metal Objects by the Australian company, Back to Back, as part of the NZ Festival you were one lucky person. This production has toured the world, and has been performed in a range of public spaces including railway stations and in the middle of streets.

    I arrive at TSB Bank Arena at peak lunchtime with no idea as to how the performance was going to pan out. Nevertheless, I spot a pop-up seating arrangement on Queen’s Wharf (the stage). The audience are equipped with quality headphones, ready to watch a performance featuring not only the actors with microphones but the general public doing their daily 12.00pm lunchtime routine. It was like an audience watching another audience.

    Small Metal Objects is a simple narrative about two best pals, Gary and Steve (Sonia Teuben and Simon Laherty), doing their regular drug deal. The performance begins with a random conversation we hear through the headphones of the two boys: the audience sit there searching for them in between all of the public walking around. Gary is interrupted by a phone call from Allan (Jim Russell) wanting to buy some “top shelf” drugs. The searching for characters between the public became a fun game for the audience.

    The drug deal does not go to plan, as Steve decides he does not want to proceed with the deal. Gary stands by him. This causes frustration for Allan and he becomes more and more desperate. He calls up his psychiatrist ‘friend’ (Genevieve Morris) to help do some ‘professional’ convincing. Again we are sitting there trying to match the woman’s voice to character. This game never gets old.

    What I found most powerful was the loyalty in the friendship between Gary and Steve, and the use of public in a strong but subtle way. In a way, the public’s reaction to the performance creates a second level for the audience to enjoy. There were moments where the actors were so natural the public could just walk past without noticing there was something happening or feeling they were interrupting a performance.


  • Werewolf or Why Wolf?

    Sinister, twisted, and unsettling—these are the three words that come to mind when I think about Tim Barcode’s Wolf. The poster for the play is a striking image; a pair of wolf eyes plastered across a young man’s face. Yet the posters hardly served as a hint for what was to come.

    Hosted at Bats, Wolf is performed in a set resembling a one-room house. It is, at best, ‘kitchen sink realism’, nestled in a crumbling Christchurch flat during the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake. The narrative structure was startlingly old-fashioned. In fact, you could slot the characters into an 18th century melodrama very easily. The nuclear family; an unlikely group of stock characters comprise of fair maiden Cushla, villain Lee, the drunk Ali, and hero Mike.

    The show interrogates several taboo subjects, namely domestic violence, jealousy, and distrust. The dialogue saw a surge of insults. Words like bitch and slut were flippantly thrown around, particularly during climatic, shocking ending which reinforced the melodramatic storyline. Mike (Ryan Mead) heroically runs onstage in order to save Cushla (Talia Carlisle), who is heard screaming behind her boyfriend Lee’s strangling hands. Cushla’s damsel-in-distress character was directed and written under a blatant male-gaze, and I would seriously question this in the context of a contemporary New Zealand drama. Regardless of whether the staging sought to evoke shock-factor or suspense, it became prevalent was the heightened sense of heteronormative characterisation in the script. 

    The disconcerting rumble of the earthquake soundscape seemed to snarl angrily like a wolf, reinforcing the play’s premise of “an evil that lurks.” The sound technician should be applauded for the sense of uneasiness created when presenting the audience with the energy and atmosphere of a natural disaster. A confrontational recording of Christchurch resident’s reactions to the 2011 earthquake blare through the speaker system; the gasps and screams accentuating the turmoil of the on-stage family relationships.

    Some stand out performances grounded the show. In particular Cassie (Susannah Donovan), the steam-punk next-door neighbour, who offers an earnest eccentricity to the ensemble’s dynamic. The lead Mike (Mead) offered a mature, energizing embodiment of an ex-lawyer in amongst the total disorder.

    For a show that promised us wolves and earthquakes, what remained was something much more terrifying.


  • Not expecting the world leads to better-than-expected results

    Expectations are funny. I tend to avoid them wherever possible, as I feel I’m one of those awful people who always expects the world and ends up with… not quite that. I might end up with an island or a continent, but I seem to always set myself otherworldly expectations (ha). So, I decided before I went to check out the Auckland City Limits festival (ACL) that I would go into it without any preconceived expectations.

    Despite having experienced Big Day Out in it’s almost-glory days, I let ACL wash over me. I took it upon myself to write the first-person account of ACL for you—the good, bad, and ugly of  the newest festival to sweep New Zealand’s shores. The music was not my sole focus, I concentrated on the entirety of the festival, these are my findings:

    • The National, seasoned indie-rock pros, put on a set with out of this world lighting, that made the experience much better than I thought. The sun was just setting, the crowd were drunk and free, and then these huge lasers came shooting from the stage. It was pretty wild.
    • I’d heard rumours about the stage set of Girl Talk, the remix and sampling DJ, being one of the coolest things around. He played in twilight, with a crowd of people dancing alongside onstage as he grooved smugly from behind a huge set-up. On either side of the stage, huge inflatable legs with red converse sneakers loomed above an adoring crowd, while beautiful women shot streamers into the crowd. It was, again, pretty wild.
    • For some reason there were a few theme park-esque rides hanging around the festival. It seems weird to me that people would go to a music festival to ride brightly coloured spinning deathtraps, but there you go.
    • This one doesn’t really count as it’s my favourite thing about any festival, but the videographers at ACL perfectly picked people in the crowd to film for the jumbotrons on the side of the stage—those who were singing along to an artist without necessarily knowing the words. It was honestly the most hilarious thing, trust me.
    • It’s kind of important to mention the music right? That’s generally why people want to go to festivals in the first place. The music was a smooth mix of current rappers, indie rock bands, and New Zealand hometown-heroes. It was an interesting combination, one that allowed for a mellow day filled with killer percussion and lots of beautiful harmonies. Oh, and of course I have to mention Kendrick. But I’m sure you could already guess it was incredible.

    So, after putting any expectations aside I managed to have a wonderful time at this colourful and beautiful festival. I discovered some amazing artists and caught up with some blasts from the past (“Misty Frequencies” by Che-Fu definitely brought me back). I’m not sure whether my theory or the festival were to be celebrated, but I’m going to assume it’s a bit of both: is it possible to surpass no expectations?



  • Untitled Unmastered—Kendrick Lamar


    During his My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy studio sessions, Kanye West told producer Statik Selektah that jazz was dead. Statik responded with the jazz-inspired album What Goes Around, with features from Snoop Dogg, Joey Badass, and Action Bronson. It was met with widespread critical acclaim.

    A year later, Kendrick Lamar dropped the super-jazzy To Pimp A Butterfly (TPAB). Ever heard of it? Album of the year from Billboard, Complex, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone and Vice. Eleven Grammy nominations. I have friends who think that TPAB “transcends hip-hop.” People simply have not stopped jerking off to it.

    Enter Untitled Unmastered. Some say that NBA star LeBron James requested this body of work to be released. Like so many records in recent times, it was ‘leaked’ on Spotify earlier in March (Top Dawg Entertainment CEO blames Interscope Records for “fucking up [their] release”). Hype sells, and we’re all buying.

    It is difficult to talk about this release without reference to TPAB, as the former is a culmination of the demo sessions from the latter. You can certainly hear it. We have heard some of it before. Kendrick performed “untitled 03” on The Colbert Report, “untitled 08” on The Tonight Show, and “untitled 05” at the Grammys. All of those tracks were met with praise, and it turned out that this was because they were excellent representations of the socially conscious, jazz-inspired hits that we would hear in TPAB.

    With Untitled Unmastered, we have the funky leftovers from that album. But they certainly are leftovers, and they’re not quite ready for us to eat. None of the tracks have actual titles. They aren’t mixed or mastered either. Never has an album title been so literally accurate since the Talking Heads’ The Name of This Band is Talking Heads.

    Perhaps this is why the album suffers. The second half of “untitled 07” is an unnecessarily long skit with Kendrick and the bassist. “untitled 04” is needlessly avant-garde, and is clearly filler material. With a mere runtime of 34 minutes, we have to ask, is Kendrick stalling?

    Yet if we’re asking this question, we’ve missed the point. Untitled Unmastered intends to show that TPAB still has something to offer. If polished, none of these demos would sound out of place in that record. “untitled 01” is a spitting image of “Wesley’s Theory”, “untitled 06” could be played in elevators without a hitch, and “untitled 05” absolutely belongs on the final release of TPAB. You can hear bassist Thundercat dominating “untitled 08”, a constant that can be heard in Kendrick’s previous release.

    In fact, this compilation provides a unified set of ideas derived from hood politics. We saw this theme being played out in his last album, but that political and social message is just as strong. Kendrick is still unhappy with the government (“Justice ain’t free, therefore justice ain’t me”), has the self-awareness of his success (“A rapper chasing stardom, how can I fast forward? My accolades better than all them”), and even manages to include a repeated catchphrase like he did in TPAB—all while celebrating that very album: “pimp, pimp, hurray.” For a compilation album, this is a fairly cohesive final product.

    I’m not going to argue that the raw sound quality of the album was intended to reflect the raw political message of the album—I’m not your damn high school English teacher. However, I can say that Untitled Unmastered is an enjoyable collection of demos which somehow ends up being a more polished product than The Life of Pablo. Sorry Kanye, jazz isn’t dead—not in the slightest.



  • Medusa’s Labyrinth


    Developer & Publisher: Guru Games

    Platform: Windows PC


    Here’s a rule of thumb to live by: don’t lock your daughter in a catacomb. Otherwise, she may turn into Medusa.

    Medusa’s Labyrinth is a Steam Greenlight game, released this year. The game is a short first-person journey through a dilapidated, supernaturally-ransacked Ancient Greece, where monsters now roam in the darkened pits of catacombs, and at least one ancient temple rests in ruins. A path of parchment documents lead you straight to the said temple. These you continue to find as you go deeper into the tunnels. Through them, we learn the story of a young girl trapped by her worried father in the catacombs, and just what has happened to destroy this place.

    When the game begins, you’re outside. The sky is purple-blue, the moon emanates, big and pale, above a temple complex. There’s an unearthly choir singing in the background, a bunch of broken amphora, and a bunch of still-burning lamps strewn about—but nothing particularly scary afoot. Sure, it’s a bit creepy and awe-inspiring casually walking through a deteriorating courtyard, past a blackened man, frozen where he stands, but that’s cool. It’s a build up to fear. When you get into the tunnels however, you become constantly aware of your surroundings, moving deliberately with accord to strategy.

    So what’s the goal? Get out alive. Granted, this is difficult when you’re being tracked by monsters in meandering tunnels, armed only with a few arrows and a torch that you keep having to replace. You have no HUD display, which means you get full immersion. This is, of course, typical of the best stealth games on the market. It’s rather astonishing that Medusa’s Labyrinth is available free on Steam, its design is spectacular for its budget, even with some bugs. It has earned fantastic feedback from players, resulting in Guru Games continuing work on Medusa as critique comes in. Guru hopes to refine the project to realize its full extent as they originally conceived.

    Medusa’s Labyrinth draws from various Greco-pagan myths. First is Daedalus’ Labyrinth, which was an impossible maze fashioned by the master inventor Daedalus. His son was an idiot, and fell to his death after flying too close to the sun. That aside, Daedalus is primarily known for the labyrinth he constructed for King Minos: which, awkwardly, was to house the Minotaur; a half-man, half-bull creature, born to Minos’ wife and the white bull of Poseidon. But hey, it was Minos’ fault. He’s the one who kept the bull instead of sacrificing it to Poseidon like he was supposed to. That’s the general law of Greek deities—they’re just like humans, lustful, easy to anger, and vengeful. So, piss off a God? Get cursed, possibly for eternity.

    It’s this law and this particular instance of it which Medusa revolves around. Medusa is one of the Gorgon sisters and has a head of snakes for hair. If you see her horrible visage, you turn to stone. This terrible creature is also terribly beautiful; transformed from a fair-haired, roseate-cheeked priestess of Athena after allowing herself to be wooed by Poseidon, she was doomed to have her best assets turned into her worst. How’s that for karma? Well, it’s a pity for Medusa, but at least we can start to see where the two tales might coincide. Medusa’s Labyrinth creatively intertwines the concepts inherent in these legends, creating a unique story that speaks to history. I haven’t included everything from the two stories, so there’s a lot more for classics buffs to discover; you’ll have fun putting those pieces together.



  • What is Taboo?

    A man sits beside you on the bus. There are plenty of other seats, but he takes that one right next to you. This is annoying, but most of us have been there. He’s not breaking any laws, just unspoken social rules. But what if he smells bad? Or what if he’s shirtless? No laws have been created around scent standards yet, once again only social rules protect you here. What if this shirtless man then proceeds to get completely naked? The more liberal of us may suggest that even this should not need to be prevented by law. But, say this naked man then begins enthusiastically masturbating right there next to you. Forget the fact that this is indeed illegal, most of us would agree that this is simply not okay. And for those who don’t, I don’t imagine this analogy should have to be pushed much further to get you there too.

    The point is, although we may not all agree on where the line should be drawn, there is most definitely a point at which something goes from uncomfortable, to completely inappropriate. Throughout the decades cinema has constantly experimented with this line: testing audience’s tolerance for violence, depravity, and overt sexuality. As audiences became increasingly over-saturated with the sheer abundance of borderline inappropriate films, some films that were once shocking have now begun to seem tame. However, even by today’s standards there are some films that manage to engage with cultural taboos in ways that some of us may believe goes too far. And yet others will completely disagree. That’s exactly what makes these films so interesting.


    Love 3D (2015)—★★★★½

    Directed by Gaspar Noé


    Despite it’s popularity, for better or worse, sex is still pretty taboo, and especially so in the world of film. Traditionally sex has been something that couldn’t appear graphically or explicitly in film. This was at first largely due to issues of censorship, but now more due to audience expectations. Sex is treated covertly, making it seem strange and alien, and not something we’d ever do.

    With this in mind Gaspar Noé’s Love 3D came as something of a relief. It is an unusual experience to wander into a film screening and be greeted by a well-kempt male sex organ, but by the end, an enjoyable one. This isn’t because Love 3D was French, intellectual, and something only the chosen would ‘get’; but because it was a film that projected in glorious Technicolor exactly what loving someone looks like. If you or I were in the position of Gaspar’s characters (an American film student living in France passionately in love with Elektra—someone who also loved me) there’s every chance we would act the same. Sex, after all, is a natural part of adult relationships. And if these things happen to us in the real world, why shouldn’t they happen in the cinema?

    Overall Love 3D is a masterfully shot romance in which people who look like they’re naked actually are; and after watching it I would defy you to say that the conservative, mute, dry-humping of Hollywood’s superstars is anything close to real love. People are messy and gross, but what would a taboo film be if not one that just accepts that’s how we are? Maybe it will even show you how beautiful we are.


    American Psycho (2000)—★★★★

    Directed by Mary Harron


    This film is infamous for its depiction of a depersonalized, yuppie stockbroker who mutilates and murders as many women as he can, perhaps as an expression of his disillusionment with modern life.

    American Psycho shows us what objectification truly means. Under Harron’s direction American Psycho’s protagonist Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), is an object; a flawless, muscle-bound shell. Throughout the film Bateman obsessively sculpts his appearance, from his morning crunches (“I can do over 1000 now”), to the carefully chosen fonts of his business cards. Vanity and appearances drives Bateman.

    However, there is a darker side to Bateman, and it’s from here, this place of darkness, that this film earns the taboo status. The darkness lives in Bateman’s relationship with women. We are witness to a number of Bateman’s ‘romantic’ relationships, where women are not only sex objects to Bateman, but also objects onto which he inflicts brutality and harm. There’s a terrifying suggestion raised by this film that blurs the lines of objectification—where does the boundary lie between fucking her and cutting her up into lots of little pieces?


    Secretary (2002)—★★★★

    Directed by Steven Shainberg


    A full decade before we learnt that every single shade of grey is in fact equally dull, Steven Shainberg’s Secretary gave us a highly underrated insight into the world of S&M. One that no piece of Twilight fan fiction could hope to compete with.

    First and foremost this film is a part of the romance genre, following the emerging relationship between James Spader as Mr. Grey (no relation) and his new secretary Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal). However, the romantic aspects of the plot may be lost on some viewers as this relationship quickly progresses from workplace flirtation, to workplace spankings, to whips and chain, and just about everything else. As the other reviews have already discussed, the expression of any form of sexuality in cinema has for the most part been approached with extreme caution, let alone the expression of alternative sexual preferences. It would be easy then to focus on this aspect on the film, that being the most obviously taboo. However, it is actually the other taboos in this film that make it so significant.

    One of the other great taboos of cinema has always been the depiction of mental illness. Both of the film’s main characters suffer from their own form of mental illness; most significantly Gyllenhaal’s character, having been recently released from a mental institute after a long history of self-harm. Throughout the film both characters find solace from their respective difficulties as they come together in their non traditional relationship. This is what grounds this film in the romance genre.

    Ultimately—as uncomfortable as some parts of it may be for those viewers less inclined to such expressions of affection—this film simply acts to remind us that it doesn’t matter who you love, or how you love them, so long as you both are happy.

    And really, what is so taboo about that?


  • Books—Taboo

    This week, Salient’s books section is scandalised by two racy texts that dwell on perhaps the biggest taboo of all—sex! Both are available as Popular Penguins; both will make you feel dirty when reading them in public.  


    Delta of Venus—★★★★★

    Author: Anais Nin


    If feminist porn (not to be confused with female friendly porn) was created in the 1940s in the form of literature this is what it would look like. My crude attempt at describing Nin’s ability to write sex, however, falls short; it is a subject that even poets like Morrissey cannot master and yet Nin makes it look so easy. This anthology consists of fifteen short stories that were written by Nin for a private collector but were published posthumously in 1977. Each story invites us into the private world of a different woman: think orgies in opium dens, Sapphic encounters, and even some pegging. I had no idea that strap-ons existed in the 1940’s until I read this book.

    The current climate of mainstream pornographic film and fiction caters to our tastes for the violent and exploitative. In a time when the Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy exists, I don’t think it would be far-fetched to say Delta of Venus is still ahead of its time. Not because Fifty Shades is lowbrow erotica, and we can all enjoy gratuitous and indulgent fiction from time to time, but because Nin’s narratives are complex and also sexy without being crude. The stories are believable, in the best sense of the word.

    Her female protagonists have not been infantilized—they know what they want and when, and they know how to get it. They are women of all shapes and sizes, and the stories focus on their pleasure and sexual exploration as much as the men they are sleeping with.

    Nin has written other erotic fiction such as A Spy in The House of Love, and also explored her own sexual experiences and relationships, most notably with Henry Miller and his wife June, in a collection of four memoirs titled A Journal of Love.


    Lady Chatterley’s Lover—★★★★

    Author: D.H. Lawrence


    High-spirited lass marries intellectual sort with a title, who lacks a certain ‘physicality’ being philosophically against it, but also paralysed from the war. She gets sick of him and falls madly in love with a working-class bloke. They bang like gifted rabbits until everything gets complicated.

    There is nothing in this novel that will shock any modern reader with a liberal education. Nothing here is as comparatively stimulating as a quick glance over HBO’s line-up, and there are no words surmounting the vulgarity of five minutes eavesdropping in any high school classroom today (notably, the publisher, Penguin Books, was placed on trial in 1960 on charges of obscenity).

    Yet, the mastery of this book is in its execution of the taboo beyond easy sensuality or erotica. The adulterous sex is extraordinary because it is divorced from social condemnation by the author. It feels cool and real and okay. No one is punished or shamed or ruined, except that they fear the threat of ruination, but that never really happens. I found this refreshing. Not that I can personally endorse adultery—in fact, the contrary is true—but in a world that judges the sin without justifying its own judgment, finding a little written space where people get theirs and enjoy it is unexpected, and consequently rather nice.

    It was written by a man, and guess what? You can tell. Those passages of intoxicated phallic worship are hilariously inane, stretching the limits of imagination beyond what is reasonable. It’s definitely the cynic in me, but surely, no self-respecting lady would be that boldly descriptive? Anyway, underpinning the sex were the intersecting problems of class and wealth. The eponymous Lady Chatterley is repeatedly scolded about not her ‘intrigue’, but the resulting ‘scandal’ that would come from everybody knowing she took it up with a mere groundskeeper. Would that happen today? The funny thing is that the most taboo idea, that a man and a woman could be open about sex, is the least of our contemporary problems. The bigger fears we face are about wealth disparity, and real intimacy, and to be facing a future we aren’t sure we like.

    Read this book if those are some things you need to mull on, or if you like the 1920s, but mostly if you like books that are fast and loose with fun words like ‘fuck’ and ‘cunt’.



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