|May 1997: Guys 18|
|Administrative Assistant||Carol West|
- Beulah (last seen in issue 212; final appearance)
- Cerebus (last seen in issue 217; next appearance in issue 219)
- Joanne (last seen in issue 217; next appearance in issue 219)
- Marty (last seen in issue 213; next appearance in issue 231)
Q5a: In Cerebus' dream, the landscape is an homage to Krazy Kat & Ignatz Mouse as the Cerebus/Joanne relationship is contrasted with another lovesick woman/reticent man romance. Julius, Astoria and the Albatross all show up.
DAVE: It's less of lovesick woman/reticent man romance than it is an example of the ferociously competitive female determined at all costs to hook and then land herself the husband she has set her sights on. The ferociously competitive female who is aggressively taking advantage of Cerebus' sleepiness in order to capture some territory, win some concessions and gain some short yardage on her hard and rocky road to winning the diamond on her ring finger-which, whatever feminist portrayal may hold to the contrary, is not unheard of as female behaviour patterns go. Wait until he's in a good mood or almost asleep and then spring your trap (whatever you feel your best and most effective trap might happen to be: tears, emotional coercion, sex, jealousy or just the wearing down of resistance through relentless battery of the psyche: like pounding Manuel Noriega and David Koreish with amplified rock music and spotlights morning and night in an attempt to compel them to surrender). The imagery that's going through Cerebus' mind on the borderland between wakefulness and sleep all reflects this oppressive day-in, day-out reality he is living. Although-in the interests of continuing to get laid, he wouldn't be allowing himself to be consciously aware of it (the dick is a monomaniacal organ which screens out all input which threatens its territory)-his unconscious mind is telling him what's going on. He's Lord Julius and he's being cornered by Astoria. He's Marty and he's approaching the brink of the waterfall into husbandly doom. He is carved in stone and his little rowboat is already going over the edge, having avoided two tunnel entrances with sharp teeth.
Q5b: Bear is drowning someone (who?). Sgt. Preston Roach is going down the drain.
DAVE: Mm. Bear isn't drowning anyone. Bear, as the most masculine incarnation that the (by now) 99.9% trapped Cerebus can envisage is trying to "pull the plug" as a means of escaping Lord Julius' and Marty's metaphorical fates visible on the horizon. Of course Bear has already fallen prey to Zig Pig and has been devoured whole-a fact Cerebus is aware of-so when he is able to "pull the plug" it turns out that the plug was actually directly underneath him and he turns out to be not so much the super-masculine Bear draining the swamp through sheer muscle as he is the idiotic Sgt. Preston Roach (who was, of course, putty in Astoria's hands) and (consequently) all he's done is to seal his own fate by pulling the plug, sending himself swirling rapidly and irrevocably down the matrimonial drain. Of course, in light of Bear's recent fate, Cerebus himself is more than a little ambivalent at this point so in the next image, instead of going down the drain, Sgt. Preston Roach has been raised up to the top of a tall building, still revolving, but more slowly and Cerebus envisions a tiny Regency Elf, a less threatening female incarnation than Astoria. This causes him to picture his own divided nature relative to the issue of marriage, his head on one side of the image and his feet on the other. He floats within his own hollowed-out interior, the bar dramatically compressed and moved to one side emphasizing his own weakness and diminishment-his loss of crucial yardage and now imminent matrimonial demise-in failing to recognize the threat posed by Joanne in mentally "casting" Joanne as the small, non-threatening Regency Elf-and as a result sees his hollow interior dominated by a giant Missy (more accurately ominous than a tiny Regency Elf but less accurately threatening than the image of Astoria).
Q5c: Rick is seen in Sophia's clothes (emphasizing homosexual overtones in Guys?). Jaka appears in a papal gown.
DAVE: Homosexual overtones only in the sense that, yes, a man who is pussy-whipped-who has chosen to be pussy-whipped-and is allowing himself to drift into enemy territory without even token resistance as Cerebus has chosen to do is going to be, in all significant ways, about as masculine as a homosexual. No, Cerebus here is still mentally "casting" the two roles, himself and Joanne and ventures into the forbidden territory of contemplating marriage by allowing himself, however briefly, to see her as being as small and inoffensive as a tiny Regency Elf: by not allowing himself to see that when a woman says, "Let's not fight anymore" what she's usually saying is, "Capitulate to me. Do what I want you to do. Marry me. Bind yourself to me. Come, permanently, into my context".
[I wasn't really going through this at the time and at the same time I was because I had been sleeping with Susan for a period of years, which always raises the question, "So when are you two going to get married?" and implies that not getting married is an insult to the woman involved. I've been on something of a binge of reading Simone De Beauvoir lately. Her complete letters to Nelson Algren, her A Farwell to Sartre, The Mandarins (I love Nelson Algren's comment: "It would appear that Mme. De Beauvoir has invaded her own privacy"), The Woman Destroyed. I think her reputation as The Seminal Feminist is largely undeserved. She was a feminist to the extent that she had to turn herself into something interesting enough to keep Jean Paul Sartre's attention once she was no longer physically young and attractive enough to do so, but her interests and the core of her writings are almost exclusively female-love, marriage, faithfulness, unfaithfulness "how do you make love stay?"- things which she wraps in heavily over-intellectualized leftist trappings (again, I suspect, so as to keep Sartre's attention) but her female characters always have those as their primary interests-whatever else they might be pretending to be for the world and posterity. Her female characters are all holding onto some man's attentions by their fingernails neatly divided into those who manage the trick by various means of deception and those who collapse into psychological train wrecks when they fail in the attempt. She documents this implicit "love coercion" state very perceptively in a sequence in The Blood of Others (Le Sang des Autres):
'You haven't the slightest need of me,' she said. 'nothing that is really part of your life has any connexion with me.'
'It's possible to be very fond of someone without needing them.'
I pressed her arm against mine, but she stiffened.
'I feel so useless."
I ought to have been able to say to her 'I love you', but I dared not lie to her. I had sworn to leave her free, and to be free, she must be able to see clearly. And clearly did she see my tenderness and my indifference, and she dragged along, like a joyless burden, that love which I did not need.
'Are you sure that you don't love her?' Denise would say to me.
'It isn't love.'
'But perhaps you can't love in any other way.'
'Perhaps, but that makes no difference. It isn't what she calls love.'
What Hélène required was that I should have an essential need of her; then she would have existed in her entirety, she would have had a miraculous justification for being what she was, for being what I should have loved.
'You do not will to love her,' said Denise. She shrugged her shoulders. 'You are deliberately spoiling your life as well. A great love is not to be scorned.']
De Beavoir divides and sub-divides and re-subdivides herself on the printed page in just this fashion. She is both the rejected lover and the confidant, both rejected by Sartre and, at the same time, berating Sartre for not loving her enough: "A great love is not to be scorned" with the nervous tick of imminent madness lurking at the periphery of the pronouncement.
Cerebus isn't aware of this comparably unrelenting pressure, consciously, but his unconscious mind is, so Cerebus' unconscious mind pictures another married couple-Rick and Jaka-as a means of attempting to keep the concept of imminent marriage at a remove from himself (although he is aware enough of reality to picture married life as side-by-side coffins). The couple is Rick and Jaka but the clothes are those of his own previous marriage, Cerebus and Red Sophia. His unconscious mind is registering the fact that if he does actually marry Joanne she will be the one calling the shots as Cerebus was with Sophia and Cerebus will just be the amiable dominated partner that Red Sophia was which is why the costumes are reversed.
Q5d: Then, a great 2-page spread wherein Cerebus is feminized, the make-up kit containing a tiny helmet...
DAVE: Yes, his unconscious dreaming mind is following the extrapolation. Given that Joanne is going to be the masculine half of the hypothetical marriage, his dreaming mind is trying to picture what life will be like being Red Sophia-the female half of the marriage-and he remembers that this is most of what Red Sophia did-primping and pampering herself, trying new looks and new hairstyles. The helmet is the core of his masculine self that can't be eliminated even by his free-ranging dreaming mind. It's a profoundly discordant note both because of its small size and because it's just mixed in with all the make-up and brushes and things.
Q5e: Then we see Cerebus as a youth...
DAVE: His unconscious mind recognizes that he's gone too far in his extrapolation. To even contemplate living life as if he was Red Sophia is not only distinctly un-masculine-a warning sign of how far into dangerous psychic territory he's strayed in his involvement with Joanne-but also profoundly childish. Only a child would think that being feminine was an option for a male in marriage.
Q5f: Then a baby...
DAVE: ProFOUNDly childish. So profoundly childish as to be certifiably infantile.
Q5g: A woman/mama grabs his hand...
DAVE: Not a woman/mama-Joanne. He's still telling himself the same story, still casting their roles. He's completely infantilized and she's just Joanne. He's the one that has undergone several complete transformations to accommodate himself to her reality while she is completely unchanged. She is only one thing: the relentless would-be bride. The fact that she can get him to think even unconsciously of changing himself in Red Sophia means that she is winning her relentless war of psychic attrition dominating him at every level of reality just as an adult dominates a baby. She is doing what his unconscious and conscious mind are fully aware that she intends to do and has intended to do all along-to take him firmly by the hand, ignore his feeble protests and crying and drag him to the matrimonial altar.
Q5h: He rapidly changes from youth, to warrior, to Prime Minister...
DAVE: He's still telling himself the same story. Even if he's a youth, a blood-soaked warrior or Prime Minister, they are as impotent to do anything as a baby is-she's still just going to drag him to the altar unless he does something to stop it.
Q5i: As the dream continues, Cerebus is getting married, Joanne is now a barbarian Pope...
DAVE: Well, you missed the good part where Cerebus-typical of most grooms (sad-ass self-deluding bastards that they are)-thought the assembled crowd of women were applauding him and applauding his choice to marry. It's only when he looks over at Joanne and sees that she has his sword, his helmet, his medallions and his Papal robes and that the crowd is chanting her name that he registers the extent to which he is going to lose everything of value to him if the wedding ever takes place, the wedding he has allowed himself for the first time to contemplate unconsciously.
Q5j: And then Cerebus is a baby with curtains on his head,
DAVE: Yes, the curtains have parted and revealed him to the crowd-and to himself-as he is, as he has chosen to be-as the matrimonial patsy, the connubial clown, the "'til death us do part" fall guy-and everyone in the crowd, including Joanne is laughing at him.
====Q5k: a diaper, and his tail (or diaper?) between his legs like a penis.====
DAVE: The crowd sees him and he sees himself, accurately, as being completely and irretrievably infantile and completely dominated by Joanne. He has lost everything of value in exchange for nothing and has become an enormous joke.
Q5l: Suddenly awake, Cerebus screams "Get Out!" Is this Cerebus casting out the serpent?
DAVE: Actually that's very well put.
Q5m: Is the reaction one of anger at being so emasculated, even in a dream? Or a sense of foreboding, perhaps foreshadowing the Joannist movement? Or merely a re-statement of a woman attempting to usurp the male light, no matter how seemingly enjoyable the relationship is? Can you give us your interpretation of this dream? (i218-19)
DAVE: I had forgotten the punch-line until I re-read it. She has so completely pussy-whipped him by this point that even with the dream fresh in his mind and the overwhelming sense of urgency that he has experienced-the certain knowledge that She Has Got to Go-all she has to say is "Don't. Yell. Geez. Now. What's the matter?" in a chilly voice, like a mother speaking to her infant-and he folds like a house of cards. "Oh. Aye. Sorry. Sorry. The matter is...uh...". Pavlov was right. That was pretty good. I laughed when I reread it. The look on his face when he realizes that he just folded like a house of cards and snaps back into the urgency of She Has Got to Go. I was quite pleased with the way it works on the page.
I was well past that point of romantic ambivalence in my last two relationships with Diana and Susan. When it was time to go, it was time to go and no two ways about it, but I certainly remembered with Zolastraya and with Kallin completely missing the point that I had allowed myself to be so subsumed within their context which context was so completely dominated by the urgent need to get married that I seriously wondered if I shouldn't get married, very, very seldom thinking to myself-except in my most lucid moments- "But... there is no part of me that wants to be married. To anyone." If you aren't going through it-and by 1994-1998 when I was sleeping with Susan, I was no longer going through it-it provides a sublime measure of masculine comedy. Only someone who is thoroughly pussy-whipped is going to seriously wonder and doubt why he doesn't do something that he has absolutely no interest in doing.
And it certainly foreshadows the Joannist movement. In the upper reaches of all that is critically important to men, it is exactly these sorts of half-victories, half-defeats, in my view, that undermine men's own best efforts and core self interests. Neither Joanne nor Jaka ever got Cerebus to the altar, but that didn't mean that they didn't, in tandem, completely destroy every aspect of his life that was worthwhile years and years after they were both dead just by the gravitational effect they had on his decision-making at those critical junctures in his life when he should've known better than to stay in proximity to either of them. If it only knocks you five degrees out of whack, the journey of a thousand miles that begins with a single step ends up thousands of miles away from its intended destination.
Put another way, I wonder if the Synoptic Jesus would've allowed Susanna and Joanna and (especially) Mary Magdalene to "tag along" if he would've known the feminist cesspool/nightmare that would hatch out of them two thousand years later?
This issue summary is a "stub" Please help complete it.