Monday, 20 February 2006

I wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole

They showed the Baftas on the TV yesterday. The whole thing looked very much like the Oscars, except that it was cold and dark and rainy outside, and all the stars who’d made the trip to London were interviewed under dripping umbrellas.

But that’s not what I want to talk about: they showed a few clips from Capote. The hitherto underrated Philip Seymour Hoffman won the Best Actor award. He looked very cool and I don’t think he understood any of Stephen Fry’s jokes. In fact, I doubt any of the Americans in the audience understood them: they sounded as if they’d been written by whoever writes Humphrey Lyttelton’s text in I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue so they were very British and rather surreal. George Clooney, William H. Macy et al. smiled politely but looked more bemused than amused.

I remember reading In Cold Blood when I was young – after seeing the film, I think – and being bowled over by the writing. What I didn’t know at the time was that Truman Capote had been smitten with one of the murderous psychopaths and actually developed a close relationship with him. Just like those women who write love letters to men on Death Row.

What is that about? Is it always women who can’t manage to attract ‘ordinary’ men? Is it just the thrill of dealing with dangerous people? Do they believe they can 'save' those hardened criminals? They are deluded, of course.
On the one hand, you have women stuck with men who beat them up and who would dearly like to be free of them, and, on the other, women who seek out men who very often embarked on their murderous careers by beating women up. It’s totally beyond me.

I wonder what message it gives to men in general.

I'm slapping those women and anyone else who thinks they can play with fire and not suffer the consequences.


  1. I don't know if this will change anything for you, but George Clooney never looks amused by jokes - it's like he's got his facial-setting stuck at "bemused" permanently. He means well, though... I think.

    Somewhere or another* I read that many of these women fall in "love" with men in prison because it is safe. Safe meaning they don't actually have to deal with the tangible and challenging issues of being in a real relationship, nor emotionally must they really have to make themselves vulnerable or available to anyone. Thus for them it is a subconcious effort to remain "safe." Which is crazy, of course, because I honestly can't think of anything less safe than going out of my way to chit-chat with violent criminals.

    * Somewhere or another is not exactly what you'd call a reliable or verifiable source. And yet sadly, 90% of my sources are all from somewhere or another. Feel free to shake your head in dismay at my apallingly poor memory.

  2. They were all like that, K. Lots of US stars had turned up for the occasion. One can't blame them for not laughing: the jokes were bizarre and full of innuendos that only made sense if you lived here and knew what Stephen Fry was like. But it was strange to see one half of the audience falling about and the other sitting there po-faced. Perhaps they were more nervous and anxious about winning than the British actors. A lot of the losers (Brits and non-Brits) looked decidedly disappointed.

    I'm sure there's a lot of truth in what you say. It's a paradox but it does make some sense.

    Oh, you should hear me - on a good day: "Now where did I hear that? Maybe I read it. Anyway, there's this..." I used to have a very good memory. Not any more. It's the menopause, in my case. They've proved it now: older women cannot retain new info so well. Wish I could remember 'old' info too. LOL!

  3. I agree with Katie about the 'safe' thing - a relationship with someone that can remain free of the boring practicalities of everyday life.

    But I'm not sure I agree with the common argument that it is about the desire to save someone. That makes it sound altruistic, whereas I think, on balance, I believe that it is not about the other person or about doing good, but about bolstering one's own self-esteem. What I mean is, I think there is a certain attraction in people whom most other people regard as scary, and who is perhaps nasty or downright dangerous to other people but nice to you. Somehow you fool yourself that this makes you more special, in one of two ways: either that this person who doesn't value other people very highly does value you; or that you are a very perceptive and empathic person and can understand the 'real person underneath'. Whereas in fact, I think it is perfectly reasonable to take account of how someone treats others as well as oneself.

  4. It's romantic - it's the lady and the highwayman. I do very much agree that "if they'll do it to anybody, they'll do it to you," and that fear for my safety would keep me from such a relationship, but for the woman who has convinced herself she's special, he would never do to her what he did to those other women, I'm sure it must be quite a high to think they can walk on the dark side unscathed.

    It's also an ego trip, as it plays on the Victorian idea of woman as angel, whose love brings redemption because she's above the things of the earth. Certain women are in love with that idea of womanhood, and how better to act it out than to transform a murdering brute by your undying devotion, etc.

    The female violent prisoner doesn't have the same cachet as the male does - the whole James Dean, Johnny Cash, mystique of "my parents rejected me, I never got a fair break, I ended up in prison because nobody loved me properly ... *puppydog eyes*" but I think just as many men have rescuer tendencies, and choose women who, for example, habitually drink, do drugs, have affairs, make themselves emotionally unavailable.

  5. I am very keen on people facing consequences and taking responsibility for themselves, their lives, their emotional disasters. Hence I shall join the slapping. Maybe I'm not well, it's not like me to be so agreable.

  6. I don't have anything pretty to say about women who tightrope-walk with sociopaths. But it isn't just the dramatic examples that get to me -- as bela noted, there are all types of women submitting to all types of mistreatment, and coming back for more. It makes me shudder. And I refuse to believe that masochism is built into the x chromosome. It's not innate, and it can be overcome. Women just need to wake up and have the intelligence to -- at the very least -- be careful what they wish. xoxo

  7. L, I think scary and nasty people are scary and nasty people, full stop. I don’t care if they’re not scary and nasty with me; I wouldn’t want to have a relationship with them. You’d have to be very naïve not to think that they’re using you in some way and will return to their old habits as soon as you’ve supplied whatever it is they want from you.

    FTR, I understand what you’re saying, but I’m shaking my head in disbelief that so many women can be so deluded. They’ve read too many Harlequin romances or been taken in by films like Dead Man Walking (I hated that film with a passion). The sooner women get back down to earth, the better. Life is not a fairy tale.

    Glad you agree, JvS. Hope you feel better soon. LOL!

    M, I’m with you one hundred per cent. A lot of women bite off more than they can chew. In the case of criminals in prison, I expect it’s not so bad when the guys are on Death Row and won’t come out, but what about those that do and turn up on their doorsteps?


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