Comments on Raymond H's A Successful Audition for the Darwin Award

Or, why Shigeharu Aoyama is the stupidest horror movie protagonist Raymond has ever seen

Comments (go to latest)
Arthur B at 10:56 on 2018-06-05
See, I have a different take on Audition. Yes, Aoyama acts like a fool. On the other hand, he acts like precisely the sort of fool patriarchal society has set him up to be.

There's a cliche in discussing dating and the risks people face in that context of "Men are afraid of being embarrassed; women are afraid of being murdered", and there's quite a big chunk of truth to it: women are by far the targets of violence more than they are the perpetrators of it in dating contexts, and I know numerous women who feel that they have to take various safety steps when going on a date in the event that the person they're with turns out to be some form of abuser - the classic full-blown serial killer being an extreme example, but hardly an unknown one. I don't think I've ever known a man to express the same fears about meeting up with a woman.

So far as I can tell, the whole point of Audition is to depict a man who, for once, is actually subject to the same danger that women are routinely subjected to in dating - and because he's a privileged little patriarch, he doesn't recognise the danger at all. That's part of how privilege works - it insulates you from the very idea that someone might dare to harm you. (As a beneficiary of that privilege, I often find it eye-opening and startling how much others who don't get the same benefits have to be wary.)

So sure, he gets all these people suggesting that he should distance himself from Asami, but when has the disapproval of one's peers ever prompted anyone to break off a new relationship? And sure, he investigates Asami's background and finds out that something is up, but I think it entirely makes sense for him to decide that whatever that is, it surely can't be her fault - that if anything, she's in trouble and she needs a doughy patriarch like him to save her. The possibility that she might be the trouble doesn't occur to Aoyama because he doesn't conceive of young, pretty girls as being capable of being trouble. And you know how the saying goes: when you assume, you make an ass out of yourself and lose a foot.

As far as Asami's apparent lack of clear motivations go, I don't consider them a problem. The stated motivations of real life serial killers aren't especially narratively satisfactory either, in most cases. Again, so far as I can see, the whole point of Asami is that she is (on a somewhat grand guignol scale) exactly the sort of sadistic abuser that women have to be afraid of on a regular basis, but which men are rarely in danger from. Plus, giving her actions a convincing rationale would run the risk of, if not excusing them, at least making them somehow sympathetic.
Raymond H at 12:02 on 2018-06-05
...Okay...I see what you're saying...and I half-agree, but I still don't quite see it that way, and it all boils down to that word you used "sympathetic". I think, if you are trying to point a lens at a put-upon group of people, then you need to paint that group with at least some degree of sympathy, but from my experience, the audience's sympathy seemed intended for Aoyama all the way through, even when they demonstrated some of his more reprehensible thoughts and actions. Ultimately, even if this film was intended to subtly mock viewers' patriarchal prejudices, it still set about doing it with a scaaary woman that needed to be killed. So it's kind of like reading Dracula as a subtle critique of Victorian pomposity and prejudice. Considering that Stoker was himself an Irishman, that's an entirely valid reading, but because Dracula is a blood-drinking, soulless abomination, it somewhat shoots the message in the foot. Maybe it's because of my experience reading Naomi, which seemed like it's criticizing its patriarchal protagonist, but then was actually just about how if you let women have male friends or talk back in any way it'll destroy society.

You are right, unless there's a clear power imbalance, when women are abusive to men, they go for emotional and psychological abuse, rather than physical, at least from my experience. And maybe it's because of that experience that I'm bitter and cynical, and was thus more receptive to the warning signs Asami exhibited. However, by making Asami, as you said, a female version of the sort of serial killer a woman might encounter on the dating scene, I think the filmmakers went too far, from satire to farce. I do like what you pointed out, that Aoyama's stupidity can be chalked up partially to how he never suspects Asami might be the trouble, and I know that can be a blinder. But again, I think without any sympathy, Asami's excessive psychopathy ended up hurting any potentially anti-sexism message the film had. By making her the abuser, and making Aoyama the victim, it makes it difficult to see beyond that evil woman / good man dynamic. Maybe it worked better in the book, maybe I'm too distrustful to put myself fully in Aoyama's shoes, but I don't know.

Geez, that was long-winded and messy. Sorry. Uh, I guess, in summation, I think you make several valid points, but I just can't agree %100.
Ichneumon at 04:33 on 2018-06-08
I dunno, I think you can write and effective horror yarn around a largely unsympathetic cast. The point of horror isn't necessarily to reflect empathy with the characters themselves; rather, as Thomas Ligotti has argued, horror is about empathy with a set of shared fears and a shared understanding with the author. The shared fear here is not that of the protagonist person see, pathetic though he is, but of women within a patriarchal society which objectifies and abuses them; the empathy may in part be with the victim, made a patsy by societal expectations, but also with the author's dim view of said society.
Raymond H at 12:58 on 2018-06-11
Okay! So, uh, I guess I ought to start with some kind of disclaimer or something. This article was simply meant as a means to laugh at a bad family movie night experience. By laughing at things, we often are able to deal with and process them better, after all. However, Arthur's initial comment struck a chord with me. Not because he disagreed with my opinion on the internet (the unforgivable sin), but because his comment
As a beneficiary of that privilege, I often find it eye-opening and startling how much others who don't get the same benefits have to be wary.

made me realize that my own experiences with dating and romance may not have been, for lack of a better word, "normal". I've always laughed at the things that happened to me, because, again, that makes them easier to deal with, and I'd always thought that, because I was a straight, cis guy, whatever had happened to me couldn't possibly measure up to what women or trans people face on a daily basis. And it doesn't. But after talking with friends and family, I realize it does matter, and I can't just keep laughing it off. Just because a disease isn't cancer or AIDS doesn't mean it isn't fatal if left untreated. And I need to treat this. So, uh, thanks Arthur, I guess.

Hoo! Okay, that was...man! I'm glad you convinced me to use a pseudonym, Arthur, because without that I'd probably have kept all that under a pickle-jar-tight lid. But ironically enough, an internet-based mask let me open up and deal with a deep-rooted issue in my life. Tell everybody what, next article I write will be about a happy romantic comedy.

Okay, now to address Ichneumon's comment, and Arthur's comment correctly this time! What bugged me about a lot of reviews that praised Audition's supposed feminist credentials was that they operated under the logic of "Asami tries to kill the guy that objectified her, ergo she is a feminist hero, ergo this is a feminist film". I don't agree with that line of logic, for the reasons I listed in the article. However, re-reading Arthur's comment, I see that you're actually going down a different logic route. "Asami is a reflection of the worst fears a woman in the dating scene can face, ergo by making her a her and her victim a him, it flips the power dynamic of this traditional, real-world horror and thus casts a lens on said real-world horror." Ichneumon, your comment, if I understand it correctly, is basically "Even if you don't like Aoyama, you can still empathize with his fear, and thus even if the movie seems to be 'sympathizing' with him, it could still be deeply criticizing him."

Thinking about it, I would say those are valid "readings" of the film, and again, maybe my own experiences have clouded my own reading. Even accepting your readings though, I stand by my judgment that Miike went for the most gratuitously violent and juvenile route when dealing with these issues. Even thinking back on the film and going "Oh yeah, I guess that's right", I still think Miike was too focused on "Whoo! Blood! Guts! Fuckin' gorefest maaan!" for me to consider this a good film. Genre fiction, in my opinion, is used best when wrapping real-world issues and problems in a creamy, more easily-digestible genre coating. In the case of horror, no boogeyman or monster under the bed can compare to the myriad ways that human beings can hurt you, but personifying real-world fears as boogeymen and monsters can make them or their memory a little easier to confront. But I think Miike was too firmly focused on the personification of Asami to really give the real-world fears behind her conception the focus and subtlety they deserve. I don't think horror should be "feel-good", but it should give you the courage to face your fears. This film seems more focused on making patriarchally-insulated men as scared as women are when it comes to dating, and it stops at that point, rather than going on to make the male audience think about how to change this patriarchal system. And that, I think, is why I still can't bring myself to like this film.
Arthur B at 13:39 on 2018-06-11
Yeah, I think any reading of the film where Asami is any sort of "hero" is simply untenable - when you take into account more or less every aspect of how the movie frames her actions and their effect on people, the argument simply doesn't have a leg to stand on.
Ichneumon at 02:59 on 2018-06-12
Oh, I agree. But I do think the subtext is quite important here in terms of the mechanics of the horror even if one does not care for the execution. Asami is a ghoulish subversion of the assumptions of a patriarchal society made flesh; her existence as a concept may resonate, but that does not make her anything resembling a sympathetic character—if anything, that type of character is more a force of nature, an emanation of the malevolence or harrowing indifference of greater forces rather than a person in themselves.
Robinson L at 15:00 on 2018-08-15
apart from that, and, y’know, the whole foot thing, Aoyama is none the worse for wear

Doesn't that invalidate him being a candidate for a Darwin Award?

Also, do you think you could edit the footnotes to make them links. It would aid readability, and I'm pretty sure it's in the HTML guide for articles.

I don't have any comments on the actual movie, as it's so far removed from my interests. *shrug*

I've always laughed at the things that happened to me, because, again, that makes them easier to deal with, and I'd always thought that, because I was a straight, cis guy, whatever had happened to me couldn't possibly measure up to what women or trans people face on a daily basis. And it doesn't. But after talking with friends and family, I realize it does matter, and I can't just keep laughing it off. Just because a disease isn't cancer or AIDS doesn't mean it isn't fatal if left untreated. And I need to treat this.

Oh, wow. I'm so glad this conversation led to such a positive revelation for you, and you're absolutely right. A couple months ago, I saw something reposted on Facebook, originally from a counselor who's worked with survivors of severe trauma, extreme childhood abuse and the like, and noting that even they are quick to say, "there are other people who have it worse than me." The originally poster's point is that everybody downplays their own woundness in contrast to someone else's experience, and even if the contrast is true, that doesn't mean you don't also need help and healing. Your disease analogy reminds me of a similar comparison I came up with a few years ago, about medical patients, one with severe burns, and multiple broken and fractured bones, and the other with a broken arm. Sure, the former has it worse off and should probably get higher priority in treatment, but that doesn't negate the latter's need for help and healing also.

ironically enough, an internet-based mask let me open up and deal with a deep-rooted issue in my life.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that a fairly common experience for people dealing with some heavy shit online? Isn't the anonymity one of the major contributing factors to many people's ability to process issues of trauma, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental illness and a host of other taboo/stigmatized subjects? Doesn't strike me as particularly ironic at all.

In any case, I'm so glad your participation on the site, and this conversation in particular, helped you come to this realization and start working on getting yourself the help you need. I know it's been a while (chronically behind on articles, me), and you're still working out the employment situation, but I hope you've managed some progress here, too.

This film seems more focused on making patriarchally-insulated men as scared as women are when it comes to dating, and it stops at that point, rather than going on to make the male audience think about how to change this patriarchal system.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that true of a lot of social commentary in fiction? I mean, that it shines a light on a particular problem without really pointing towards potential solutions? It seems a fairly common phenomenon to me.
Arthur B at 15:50 on 2018-08-15
Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that true of a lot of social commentary in fiction? I mean, that it shines a light on a particular problem without really pointing towards potential solutions? It seems a fairly common phenomenon to me.

Agreed, and to be honest neither fictional nor non-fictional statements need propose a solution to be valid. I don't need to propose a potential solution to homophobia to point out that Orson Scott Card is a homophobe, for instance.
Raymond H at 05:04 on 2018-08-24
Doesn't that invalidate him being a candidate for a Darwin Award?

You just want the world, don't you? In all seriousness, the title was more to indicate Aoyama's stupidity than his dying or being rendered sterile, since the whole point of the Darwin Award and the reason we laugh at the winners is less to do with the results of their actions and more the fact that someone would take those actions to begin with.

Also, do you think you could edit the footnotes to make them links.

I... don't... know... how... I couldn't find anything about it in the HTML Guide, except for the bit about putting links to outside websites in the article, which I thankfully know how to do.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that true of a lot of social commentary in fiction? I mean, that it shines a light on a particular problem without really pointing towards potential solutions? It seems a fairly common phenomenon to me.

Agreed, and to be honest neither fictional nor non-fictional statements need propose a solution to be valid. I don't need to propose a potential solution to homophobia to point out that Orson Scott Card is a homophobe, for instance.

I guess this is just another matter of different personal experiences. I just think that if you're going to go to the trouble of making a whole piece of art, as opposed to a simple critique or internet comment, to address a particular social issue, you should try to discuss the issue more comprehensively than simply going "Man, I am so woke for knowing about this issue! Bask in my wokeness." I've run into too many people who think all that's needed to change the world is to smoke weed and brag about how aware they are to find that attitude anything but insufferable. And again, this is all reliant on the axiom that such social commentary was intentional on Miike's part.
I really hate to be that guy in this situation. I myself have tried for years to get friends of mine into things that I like, where my best-reasoned arguments and most-impassioned treatises are apathetically deflected by said friends' simple inability to enjoy those things. And I can tell from the comments section that now I'm the one who just doesn't get it. But I'm simply not feeling it like you all are. I wish that I was, but I just...can't. I'm sorry.
Robinson L at 18:30 on 2018-08-28
I've never really followed the Darwin Awards, so I wouldn't know.

Oh yeah. I remember figuring out the html code for footnotes was a little weird for me. I've just looked back at my very first article, and it turns out I submitted it with a footnote, which got coded when the article was transferred from my original text submission into a Ferretbrain article, by Kyra or Rami or whoever would have done that. I must have accessed it that way.

Anyway, at the risk of pulling away the curtain for non-contributing readers, here's the html code I use for footnotes:

< sup >< a href="#ftnote">[1]< /a >< /sup >
< sup >< a id="ftnote">[1]< /a >< /sup >

(Just remove the spaces before and after the < and > characters - added to prevent auto-formatting - and replace the "1" inside the square brackets with the desired number for both parts after the first footnote.)

I just think that if you're going to go to the trouble of making a whole piece of art, as opposed to a simple critique or internet comment, to address a particular social issue, you should try to discuss the issue more comprehensively than simply going "Man, I am so woke for knowing about this issue! Bask in my wokeness."

Huh, I don't know about that. I mean, absolutely, yes, you should try to discuss the issue comprehensively in a piece of art - but it doesn't necessarily follow that you should suggest a solution. Maybe you think you don't have the answers; or at least aren't convinced your answers are right. Or you think there are too many answers to fit into one piece, and don't want to privilege one or two answers over the others. Or you think it's more important to get your viewers to come up with their own answers.

There have definitely been times when I've seen a piece of art address a given difficult social issue without suggesting a solution, and it felt like a cop-out. But I've also seen plenty of examples which work so perfectly as what they are that putting in a part about "this is how we could fix this problem" would cheapen the result. Doctor Strangelove doesn't fail as a critique of militarism and the nuclear arms race because it refrains from putting forward a comprehensive program for phasing out nuclear weapons, or war in general. Indeed, it would likely be a far inferior film if it tried. Likewise, The Lorax doesn't need to propose a solution for environmental devastation to make the point that environmental devastation is a serious problem that we should work to solve.

I can believe that, if Audition is indeed trying to make a serious point about rape culture and male violence, it does so badly. But I think if so, then I don't think "it fails to propose a solution to these problems" is the reason.

And I can tell from the comments section that now I'm the one who just doesn't get it. But I'm simply not feeling it like you all are. I wish that I was, but I just...can't. I'm sorry.

I hope you're kidding, because a piece of art working fine for other people is no reason to expect it should necessarily work for you as well. Personally, I've never seen and with luck never will see Audition, because, as I've mentioned elsewhere, horror is decidedly not one of my preferred genres; especially not film/tv horror.
Raymond H at 13:11 on 2018-09-01
Comments: Ooh, thank you!

Commentary: That's... a good point.

Concern: Oh. Well... I mean... this is the internet...
Robinson L at 22:02 on 2018-09-10
You're welcome, thanks for cleaning up the formatting, it looks much smoother now.

Well... I mean... this is the internet...

Yeah, plus, I screw up reading others' moods in person often enough - I'm hopeless at it online, so I thought I should check.
Raymond H at 04:21 on 2018-09-16
Nah, it's cool. Thanks. :)
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