Beat Me Skeet Me: A Critical Analysis Of "Secretary".

1736 words - 7 pages

"Secretary," the movie, is a provocative and warped love story. Viewers may go purple with rage or gray with disgust, while many may turn pink with embarrassment in order to hide the red of arousal. This movie crosses dangerous psychological territory: the threshold between desire and pain, between surrender and subjugation. Gaitskill's "Secretary" is more about submissiveness and "sexual perversion" (Garrett 1). Critic Regina Weinreich argues that Gaitskill's debut is startling and refreshing due to the neediness she portrays in her characters; their "vulnerablility makes them . . . victims of their own behavior" (Weinreich 1). Steven Shainberg's film, working from a short story by Mary Gaitskill, is about two specific characters. Some will claim that Shainberg's film makes sexual abuse palatable, maintains that women secretly crave submission to a dominant male, and makes the case that humiliation at the hands of a man can lead to psychological freedom, not to mention all the awful things it implies about the position of secretaries. Yet, "Secretary" is so consistent in its characters that it's fair to say that only in the case of these two weirdly satisfying people are any of the instances true to life. The film shows how specific characters bridge their isolation (Shainberg 3). The additions to the film adaptation of Mary Gaitskill's "Secretary" makes the story more fascinating and better justifies the characters' actions.Mary Gaitskill's "Secretary" is about a frumpy wallflower who's so "bruised emotionally" that she's struggling to "connect with [her]self" (Weinreich 1). She gets a job as a secretary and ends up in a strange sadomasochistic relationship with her employer. It's a great premise for a story, especially in its absurd moments, as when the lawyer begins to spank his new hire for every typo she commits. Gaitskill is an insightful writer; her stories are "lean and quick and tightly controlled," yet the end of "Secretary" is flat, and too serious (Garrett 1). Gaitskill's humor in "Secretary" is dry and teasingly salacious; it's a more subtle incitement of sadomasochism. Having been spanked and sexually humiliated by her employer, the narrator feels estranged from her own body. And she likes that estrangement; it fires her sexual fantasies. When you finish reading the story, you think to yourself, "So what? Why should I care for this character?" The secretary begins and remains much the same. She is the kind of person who suffers from such low self-esteem that she invites and accepts abuse. She "frequently wonder[s] if there's something wrong with [herself]" (Hallgren 2). You can't blame the lawyer for maltreating her and you find yourself wishing that he'd managed to knock some sense into her. It's hard to feel for anyone so stubborn and resigned. The protagonist in the story wasn't known to enjoy pain before the incident, so it's hard to justify how she responds to her boss's abuse. The only explanations for her reaction are that...

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