Week 1 Of 52 Weeks (State of Insecurity and Torque also Celeste)

So this is the conclusion to the first exciting week of 52 week challenge. I wanted an early start to the year so after midnight on New Years’ evening I watched the first film and read another chapter of the first book, Isabell Lorey’s ‘State of Insecurity’. Now both are done and while I can’t promise this through a look at the next film and book, we shall see.

State of Insecurity: Government of the Precarious

A critique of virtually all critical texts I have encountered is their pointless and harmful obfuscation. Or to put it in a way they never would, they make the simple, needlessly complicated and eschew the easy ways of clarifying either out of a misguided sense of specificity or because they sincerely believe that their way is the best way of explaining concepts.

The introductory chapter of the State of Insecurity contains a prime example of this, Isabell Lorey at the end of that chapter seeks to differentiate Precariousness, Precarity and Governmental precarization. I understand that definitional work is key in order to avoid misunderstandings, however such definitional work would read far better if done via bulletpoints or indentation to clearly differentiate where areas change.

In general the nature of academic texts often feel like either slow and deliberate reading must be done or, alternatively, multiple readings of the same text has to be done. But both of these necessities would be much reduced if the sections were simple broken up along the above guidance. Easy and comprehensible reading should not be the enemy of the academic but their friend, a consumable idea is a spreadable one. To complicate it further this book was written originally in German, so I am uncertain where the unhelpful use of words like concomitant (p.36, p.111) is a translators choice or faithful to the original, specific, intent. It was also a little difficult for me to always tell in reading when the writer was summarizing an external argument and where they were making their own.

The traditional boundaries between the social positionings of the normal and the precarized are dissolving: precarization becomes a normality with new inequalities.

[Chapter 4, pp. 67-8]

Chapter 5 is the most theory heavy and also feels like the weakest chapter, it feels like the work is strongest when not attempting a taxonomical analysis and classification of hierarchies, but rather when it looks at the real world and the ways in which traditional critical discourse often ignores the uncounted and potentially uncountable labour cost. Which links, in my mind, to a book I read last year on ‘A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things’, which also confronted the basis of a capitalistic model of the world which ultimately only works if you discount those key elements of labour that are given ‘freely’.

The text’s key notion of the how the normalisation of precarization within a neoliberal structure occurs is insightful, particularly how the aforementioned precarization then is used a way of dominating and subjugating people within a society.

In talking how precaritazation in its creation can be resisted Isabel Lorey writes:

At many moments in the processes of precarization, something unforeseen, contingent, and also in this sense precarious arises. It is this aspect of precarization that harbours the potential of refusal, producing at the same time a re-composition of work and life, of a sociality that is not in this way, not immediately, not so quickly, perhaps even not at all, capitalizable. These kinds of re-compositions can effect interruptions in the process of normalization, in other words, in the continuity of exploitability and governability.

[Chapter 7, p. 104]

Torque

Torque exists as direct response to the Fast and the Furious (1 + 2), but in retrospect it is also a complementary film. It directly critiques the other franchise:

Cary Ford: I live my life a quarter-mile at a time.
Shane: That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!

But it also has a style that Fast & Furious would take at least another two films to fully embrace. The choreography of both the bikes and the guns is exemplary, you could teach classes on how they pick up and swap guns in the desert outside Earl’s Dinner. There are lots of moments throughout the film that are done with enough seeming effortless grace as to have required what I imagine must have been expert precision and direction.

The film also has these really unsubtle moments of humor where it acknowledges the absurdity of the situation, a good example of this is when the two principle FBI agents are about to rush off to follow a lead, only for one of them to point out that they haven’t paid for the gas in their car yet.

One thing I think is always important to acknowledge is that however complementary or fun I have with the film on a personal level, this is not to say there are not issues that require noting and calling out.

Which, I think this film is rife for a complex and critical gender reading, there are some worrying issues in this film that really highlight a very troubled perspective of women. Two of the main female figures of the film are, in rival like terms, set in direct opposition to each other and their defining characteristics fit very much with traditional judgement often applied to female figures. The ‘Good’ woman Shane is someone who has spent her time minding her own business (literally) and when her former partner returns she is initially angry with him but quickly forgives and ends up abandoning her life to join him on his run from the law. In short, she is, and is implied to have always been, faithful. Whereas one of the first ‘jokes’ made about ‘Bad’ woman China is around her supposed promiscuity.

However despite these familiar stereotypical grooves it does feel odd that the film never really questions the competence of the women at a core level and indeed a highlight of the film is the fantastic motorcycle duel between China and Shane. But at times it feels like a very particular sort of sexism that advocates almost a separate but equal status.

That all said, this film feels very much as even though it was created as a send-up of the Fast and the Furious, it would now equally live within that particular canon. The director of Torque said on the podcast /FilmCast:

I wanted to do [with] “Fast & Furious” movies what “Evil Dead II” did with horror films: do a piss-take version of it…These are stupid-ass movies. What if I made one that was really fucking stupid? [https://www.ifc.com/2010/05/torque-y-talk]

Which I think looking back does understates it, Torque became Fast and Furious once the Fast and Furious franchise became Torque. They now exist as a weird ouroboros, where you can no longer tell at what point the Fast and Furious became self aware in it’s stupid-assness and the parts of Torque, like the fetishisation of bikes, that are supposed to be serious.

Celeste

I was three hours deep into Celeste, one of those games, a hard platformer, that appeared on many best of lists but hadn’t really piqued my attention. I had the pattern, wait until it comes down jump across, dash, then a simple wall jump. Remove the prior steps and this was easy, done a hundred times before, but this time I couldn’t make a single mistake and that knowledge was fatal, no jump up, cancel, re-position, try again. Finally I made it, it is nearly Eleven, I think I am nearly at the end of this Chapter, I am wrong.

It is now is quarter past Twelve, an insecure hotelier who craves approval has turned into a vampire and is chasing after me while demonic dust mites watch, we race through a derelict hotel on the side of a mountain. I die, I start back at the beginning of this screen, each screen is it’s own challenge, death taking you back to the beginning.

Some screens are one room, they can be seen in their entirety as soon as you enter. Not this one though, it goes on and on, it’s late, I’m tired and I doubt my ability to coordinate at the best of times. Let alone when I’m in a game where every enemy kills in one touch and I’ve got difficult jumps to navigate, as that aforementioned vampire hotelier swoops towards me.

I started this game because it was on Games with Gold on Xbox and I wanted to at least try it for an hour, that was five hours ago. It reminds me of ‘OliOli2: Welcome to Oliwood’ a game that I completed but never mastered, relying heavily on timing and precision. When everything works, you feel accomplished but it’s so easy to be pushed back, so easy to fail and start again.

Now I have finally escaped the vampire, turned back into a hotelier and he tells me to go away and leave him alone. This Chapter ends, the game tells me I have died 935 times in this part alone, across the whole game, 1,403 times. Celeste is not an easy game, but weirdly, outside of a few moments it hasn’t made me frustrated, it isn’t finished this week but I want to capture my thoughts on it.

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