Back to Anaheed:
I think if a man were writing that scene about Jessica, he wouldn’t focus on her agency the way Adrian Nicole LeBlanc does. Maybe I’m being unfair, but I don’t think he would be likely to talk about her skillful management and “deployment” of her “power,” or how part of that was about generosity—she is “sharing her pleasure in it.” I think a lot of men would see a girl so young and beautiful taking pleasure in exercising her ability to enchant people as a kind of dirty trick, and see the men in the scene as victims of that trickery, rather than as sharers in the pleasure of being enchanted.
Here, Sady said it way better than I could, when Rookie was just one month old:
Once you realize that The Exorcist is, essentially, the story of a 12-year-old who starts cussing, masturbating, and disobeying her mother—in other words, going through puberty—it becomes apparent to the feminist-minded viewer why two adult men are called in to slap her around for much of the third act. People are convinced that something spooky is going on with girls; that, once they reach a certain age, they lose their adorable innocence and start tapping into something powerful and forbidden. Little girls are sugar and spice, but women are just plain scary. And the moment a girl becomes a woman is the moment you fear her most.
I mean, not to get too dark here, and I’ll move off this subject in a second, but when I think about a lot of the male anger directed at women in general, which I have been doing a lot lately, I think a lot of it has to do with anger and resentment about rejection, but even before that, about the thing that made them vulnerable to being rejected, which is someone else having the power to pique their interest. What Adrian Nicole LeBlanc sees as “radiating intimacy,” others may see as a kind of dark witchcraft.
Before I get totally off that subject, there are vague, sleepy ideas swimming around my head about persuasion and manipulation and how they are tied to enchantment—and how they also can be interpreted as evil or good, depending. Like, activists use many of the same tactics that advertisers do, and even though it’s only their goals that are different, people tend to describe the actual tactics that advertisers use—persuasion, manipulation, seduction—as evil. [FUN FACT FROM ME, TAVI: Charles Manson took Dale Carnegie courses in prison before becoming a cult leader!]
Why is magic so powerful to children, and what kinds of magic are still powerful to us as teenagers and adults? I can think of so many: superstitions, rituals and objects that we engage with for “luck,” INTUITION, “soulmates,” New Age-y beliefs, “vibes,” even prayer. Why do we need these things?
They give us a way of feeling in control—putting vibes out into the universe, manifesting what we want—as well as a way to explain something after it has happened, making it easier to remove ourselves from any responsibility for the event. But I think I also believe in this stuff—feel like I’m guided by something when it keeps showing up in my life, like whenever I look up at the moon I decide it’s Stevie Nicks watching over me—because I would like to believe that there’s not only order and structure in my life but MAGIC (again). I want to think everything is unfolding on a specific trajectory because I would like to believe everything can be more fantastic than it truly is. It’s nice to feel that your life is a story—like Michael Chabon’s essay about Wes Anderson where he says that the most crucial part of Joseph Cornell boxes is the box itself, the outline, the same way that Anderson’s movies are about these worlds’ self-containment more than they are about what happens in these worlds. This is also why in high school I wrote down moments that felt especially CINEMATIC. Maybe life was annoying, but it could still feel like a movie or like magic or like for that one drive or dance or kiss, the universe was closed in around me.
I am a boring, stodgy literalist, so I don’t actually believe in supernatural stuff, but I do run as fast as I can after a certain kind of enchantment that comes when you’re really into something you’re doing or watching or reading or listening to or looking at or WHATEVER. That experience where you feel spellbound and captivated by something—seriously, like you’re under its spell and you are its captive!—and you lose your sense of self and time and everything else and just sit there slack-jawed, and when you come back to the world you can’t believe three hours have gone by. The fact that it’s easier for some people to feel that than others is just proof, to me, that enchantment is never something someone is DOING TO YOU—our girl Jessica isn’t victimizing anyone, in other words, she’s offering up her charisma and charm to the world, which is a GIFT, and people’s reactions to it is their own thing. It’s like how people sometimes say they’re “looking for love,” as though love is a thing that comes to you at some point and you just go “great, thanks,” rather than something you do or don’t, at any given time, have the capacity to feel for someone else. No one makes you fall in love, in other words—you do that. It’s the same with enchantment. It comes from you, it’s not done to you.
This was like the premise of a talk I gave last year about the importance of fangirling, like how One Direction fans are far more fascinating to me than One Direction themselves, or how the best part of watching David Attenborough’s Life series is watching him watch the natural world and get all excited about it. I talked about, in spite of all the snobbery most people meet with “fangirling,” how wonderful it is to be someone in this world who has the capacity to love something that much, even if it is projection, even if it does come from you— that’s great! That makes it, like, an act of self-love! I really like crushes for that reason. They are not about the dummy I am projecting onto. They are about ruling my own world and volunteering practical strangers to participate in my madness and creating for myself the experience of relating to songs about unrequited love and whatnot.
That’s kind of the basis of the book I Love Dick—that the writer, Chris Kraus, is fixated on this man named Dick and writes him all these letters and is repeatedly rejected, but by the end of the book, it has nothing to do with him anyways, and it never did. He was just the little spark she needed to beat her writer’s block, and now you’ve just finished this insanely great book that is about so much more than love. I pick up on similar feelings with Taylor Swift’s music.
And, finally, Anaheed:
Kids have the capacity to be enchanted by everything, and hopefully we never lose it completely. This is getting real corny, so I will leave you with two quotes:
In my experience, singularity and isolation and jadedness are all parts of the same thing—they’re all reflections of being limited by an understanding of yourself as separate and isolated from things around you. The more [you experience] a more permeable relation to other people and other things, the more naturally that sense of wonder comes. I think if you allow it, it can happen naturally over time. —David Hildebrand Wilson
He who seeks beauty, will find it. —Bill Cunningham
Enjoy, wizards/witches/fairies/et al.