5/31/08

wild mare / quest for matriarchy


Awoke at 7 am and broke a new personal running record. I had to run fast to escape the scars of viewing Quest for Fire last night. Would have liked to watch it Mystery Science Theater style with Elaine Morgan.

Quest for Fire is the story of some hominid dudes who lose their cave and fire to some more apelike hominid dudes and need to go find more fire because they don't yet know how to make their own, or even that it is possible to do so. So the tribe sends out 3 young males to find more fire while the remaining, like, 12 of them stayed shivering in a cold swamp. Seriously- they are standing on a 5' x 5' patch of soggy ground. Probs would have made more sense for the whole group to go since they no longer had a home cave, they would stand a better chance in a fight as a larger group, and... turns out it was warm everywhere but that silly swamp. But you know gotta get some prodigal son style narrative going, gotta have a hero.

Also curious: the men in the film were a lot better at making outfits than the women even though everybody and the ethnographic record thinks that it is woman's work. Here is some field tested science for ya: if you are cold the first thing you are going to cover are your bosoms. The director wastotally the kid in the back of the library who peeked at National Geographic like it was porn.
THOTH!!!

Also I don't think that the only way our race still exists was from procreation due to rape. That is not true for any species. UNLESS- everything Elaine Morgan hypothesized is true. And in that light I totes believe it. Morgan says that living aquatically changed hominid bodies, and since scents don't travel in water as in air estrus got all messed up. Female - male communication became confused as sex "from the back" was no longer physically possible. In Descent of Woman Morgan says "In the field of frontal sex, as in all these other cases, there must have been a time when it never happened before." It is difficult to understand how unusual this would have been, she explains "The whole ground plan of the quadrupedal structure is such that the vulnerable abdomen, containing vital organs but unprotected by the bony ribcage, is at all times defended by a barricade of limbs. Anyone who throws you down and tries to get through that barricade has only one aim in view-to eviscerate you." So a female thrown on her back would have responded by shrieking, fighting him off, and with out verbal communication he would not be able to explain he was not trying to kill her. When she finally made a signal of submission known to her species he backed off. You know like when two antlered stags are fighting? When one signals his submission the other doesn't "finish him off." Most mammals work this way, they do not kill each other, they have submission signals. Morgan postulates that one individual with a defective behavioral mechanism tried this and ignored the submission signal and therefore passed on his evil genes, as well as bad feeling between the sexes. It is an interesting idea and might explain, among other things, why we are murders and most other mammals are not.


So which is it? Is Morgan correct or is whoever responsible for this film a misogynist perv? ha ha! Puke city. Eventually the bumbling hominids meet an updated hominid model. A female with less hair, no clothes, extensive vocal communication (all the dudes say is "thoth" and something that sounds like "Nooooo!") and a startling voodoo vibe. The sense of her "otherness" is overwhelming. She is painted darkly and teaches them humor and how to make their own fire and heal wounds. (Interesting it is the same way I have seen Survivor Man Les Stroud make fire.) So I guess she is kind of like a Sacajawea figure. (All of the work, none of the credit. No wait there was that U.S. coin- the one that they had to discontinue the only other woman on a coin, Susan B. Anthony, to make. You know that coin no one uses cause it just confuses people as it is the same size as a quarter?) They follow her back to her tribe (in Africa?) and eventually clobber them and steal all their ideas- fire, weapons, and face to face lovemaking! The bumbling hominid's minds are blown by this stuff but one gets the sense, as lead bumbler stares at the full moon with his preggers wife, that by ripping off the other, dark tribe the great white hominid will not only survive, but someday rule the world.
Vomit.
it doesn't matter if you're blue or pink
__________
Things that were cool about Quest for Fire: showing that various hominid groups co-exsisted, a guy gets killed by a wolf, hominid-wooly mammoth communication attempt, the painted female character she was pretty right on moving like an animal and chattering away (I might edit all the footage of just her together to make an enjoyable video), the fact that no one really talked until she arrived, the attempt to base parts of the film on science-- Oh! Desmond Morris developed the gestures and vocalizations. Yeah that guy. Kinda figures, huh?

Questions: why are hominids in films always so bumbling and confused? Even confused by the natural world? Wouldn't early man move around much more efficiently in his environment, more even than we do? Was there really a time when hominids were in the midst of evolving and had to stumble around? If so how did they survive? Wouldn't they have been more in tune with the natural world, closer to it than we are? They are often pictured as if reverse evolution is occurring.

These types of films say more about how men today think, or maybe fantasize, about women and themselves than about how it was back in the day. Walking with Cavemen (and women) seems better everyday.

Don't Forget: Biology can spout mad ideology.

1 comment:

Jenny Kendler said...

Desmond Morris, urgh (that's a "cave man" sound). There's always something not quite right for me about his writings. In "The Naked Woman" he claims to be writing about "the most amazing organism on the planet" but then he says creepy weird (and obviously wrong) things like "women have long hair because men like to touch it. Sounds like his real feeling are a lot more along the lines of sexual fascination that true admiration --- and that seems to have played out in the film you watched as well.