Sunday, July 19, 2009

Public Enemies

I saw Public Enemies this weekend, and I have two main reactions to it (relevant to this blog, anyway):

1) I found John Dillinger and Billie Frechette's relationship to be really... problematic at first. The one scene I'm thinking of in particular is when he visits her at her job as a coat checker; he's mad at her for leaving without him the night (or maybe a few nights; can't remember) before, and wants to convince her to come with him.

Now, remember that they've only met once before. But he explicitly says that she's his girl and she's coming with him. She protests of course, saying she's not anyone's girl. Meanwhile, a customer is getting irritated that Billie is arguing with John instead of doing her job and starts making snarky remarks to that effect. John gets annoyed with the customer, beats him upside the head, and grabs Billie's coat, ordering her to come with him.

Okay. She knows that he's a criminal who's killed several people. She just saw him assault a random stranger just because he got annoyed. And now he's ordering her to come with him. Shit, I wouldn't be surprised if she was too scared to protest! Given his actions toward her, it's very reasonable to think he'd hurt or kill her if she didn't do what he said!

But we're supposed to believe that no, no, she truly deeply loves him (and he truly deeply loves her) and they're a match made in heaven. :/

2) After Billie is arrested, she's tortured by one of the police in an attempt to learn where Dillinger is. She's handcuffed to a chair, verbally abused and threatened, slapped, and even hit with (what looks like) a phone book at one point. They leave her chained to the chair for so long that she wets herself, and when Melvin Purvis finally rescues her, she so weak that she can't walk; he has to carry her through the crowd of people to the bathroom so she can clean herself up.

As I watched that scene, her dress soaked as she clung to Purvis's neck, all I could think was, She must be so embarrassed. And I felt my heart beat faster and my body tense up, and I realized that I wanted to feel that embarrassment... kind of.

I imagined the intense conflict running through Billie's mind. On the one hand, I imagined, she was grateful that someone was finally helping her. On the other hand, she was ashamed that she was caught in such a powerless condition - that she even needed help walking down the hall. And then there'd be her pride; she wouldn't want everyone to see her reduced in this way, but there was no way she could avoid having all those people see her.

It's that conflict that I wanted - to know that something needs to be done but one's sense of pride or whatever screams "no."

But if Master and I work with this in future play sessions, we'll have to be really careful. How do we avoid going over the edge into genuine nonconsent? How can we make sure that we both truly enjoy the event, while still capturing that pull of wills, pride against pragmatism, that grabs my guts and makes me gasp?

What activities could we do? Perhaps a role-play of a similar scenario, where Master interrogates me for information. I enjoyed the mild embarrassment and sense of helplessness when we used an enema; that might be worth pursuing. Obviously nothing as extreme as what was depicted in the movies; I don't actually want to be beaten until my face is swollen, and I'm ambivalent about wetting myself. It'll all have to be carefully negotiated before we try anything.

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