Humbert Humbert Syndrome
From Lana Del Rey to Seth MacFarlane, we live in a society of controversy. And no one knew the duality of good and evil better than author of Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov.
May 29, 2014 | Summer 2014
Dolores Haze, also known as Lolita, inspires my daily style. Never mind that I’m into my twenties, she inspires me because of her balance of innocence and darkness. Lolita used to be highly controversial (and rightly so- Nabokov’s Lolita was 13-years-old) but in recent years has become a symbol of romantic style. Nabokov never wanted his Lolita to become a sensationalized sex story, as he wrote to his publisher of the novel’s cover: “I want pure colors, melting clouds, accurately drawn details, a sunburst above a receding road with the light reflected in furrows and ruts, after rain. And no girls.”
I believe we shouldn’t reject books or movies that are controversial because they can help us think and be aware of societies fears. I think that’s why I like the show Family Guy so much. Seth MacFarlane covered the song “Sadder But Wiser Girl” from The Music Man and the line “No wide-eyed, wholesome, innocent female. Why, she’s the fisherman, I’m the fish, you’ll see.” The fisher/fish metaphor perfectly describes Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and her ‘caretaker’, the European intellectual, Mr. Humbert Humbert.
One contemporary example of a ‘fisher’ is James Franco. I’ll be honest, I actually like James Franco as an actor. His portrayal of Alien in Spring Breakers was incredible. The film was life changing for me. However, I don’t agree with his latest behavior: pursuing a teenager. He’s a grown-ass man and needs to start acting like one. It made my skin crawl when he half-assedly apologized on Live! with Kelly and Michael: “I’m embarrassed, and I guess I’m just a model of how social media is tricky,” Franco said sheepishly. “It’s a way people meet each other today, but what I’ve learned is you don’t know who’s on the other end. I used bad judgement and I learned my lesson.” Instead of admitting he was in the wrong he passed the blame to the girl, and social media. To him, he was the fish and she was the fisher. He was self-victimizing.
I know it is controversial for me to wear my Dolores Haze inspired outfits and adore my nymphet movies, but for me Lolita inspires art. Older men inspire me. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Seth MacFarlane, Jim Morrison, Jared Leto, and Modigliani inspire me. The controversy inspires me. It’s necessary to show that you can dislike a mans actions without hating men all together. Obviously, I would like young women to stop being called sluts or jailbirds, that just emphasizes the idea that they are the troublemakers and that men fall in their trap. It’s downright slut-shaming. I adore nymphets; it’s more like slut-adoring, except I hate that word.
Society is a soap opera. It relies on the existence of good and evil. We need drama to be human. The world would be a dull place if itwas always good. The big question of human existence has always been, what is good and what is evil? Nabokov’s tale doesn’t answer that question, but it attempts to get readers to question the obvious good and evil paradigm. Women in general (even in their most virgin state) are still often considered evil. Think about it. How many times have you seen on shows, read in books, told by your friends, these conflicted notions of what it is to be a woman? A good woman.
R-rated movies, rap music, Tumblr, twerking and sex on TV, dominate contemporary entertainment, and all are controversial. All these things are so popular, we don’t even blink twice; we’re totally desensitized. Why is it then that a woman walking down the street receives such berating and heckling?
Sex, mannerisms, race, sassiness – none of it matters. There will always be problems with how society regards women because of the powerful male gaze. It doesn’t matter if a woman is deemed a ‘slut’ or she’s as pure as the snow. The fight for gender equality has a long history. It’s not just a matter of recalling things from a hundred years ago. It’s far greater. It goes as far back as Adam and Eve. “Eve” – the name itself starts with “Evil”. We’re told by birth who is good and who is evil.
MacFarlane’s work is a good example of the duality of good and evil at play in our world. His work is so popular, yet so vehemently hated by critics. He pushes the limit within a genre not precisely defined. MacFarlane uses crude college boy humour, comic violence, education, sex, timeless storytelling and a musical number, a fairly uncommon combination. It made me cringe when his latest film, A Million Ways to Die in the West, got such polarizing reviews. It reminded me of a line from the film Amadeus, when Emperor Joseph II tells Mozart, “My dear young man, don’t take it too hard. Your work is ingenious. It’s quality work. There are simply too many notes, that’s all; just cut a few and it will be perfect.” Maybe there’s only so much an audience can handle. On the A Million Ways to Die in the West website it was mentioned “We thought about bringing Ted to the Old West, but the MPAA doesn’t have a rating that high yet.” I always seem to identify Seth MacFarlane with Mozart. Ahead of his time, ingenious, a bit crude with too many ideas. Perhaps society can’t rightfully appreciate him yet. But I think they will.
I think society is threatened by content that is simultaneously intelligent and controversial. Lolita, is smart-controversy. Seth MacFarlane’s work is smart-controversy. Even Lana Del Rey’s music is smart-controversy. Smart controversy makes even The Average Joe react. In general, I think our society lacks reaction. I’d rather have someone be critical than just carry on with indifference.
This year on May 22 I attended Lana Del Rey’s show in Vancouver. West coast girls gathered by the thousands; a sea of flower crowns waiting for the Coney Island queen. Most of the attendees were over the age of 18. I think it’s important to say you can enjoy the aesthetic of Lolita without supporting pedophilia. Lana Del Rey is turning 28 yet belts out her nymphet hits like Cola, Ride, Lolita, Off to the Races, and Ultraviolence (which premiered live at the concert). Her love interests are older men, but her songs don’t mention anything literal about children’s romantic relations. You can feel like a child even as an adult. Like Lana, I admire Lolita without supporting pedophilia; it is absolutely possible!
As an artist, I am wide eyed and innocent and slightly dark. I like to dress up as Dolores Haze and make art in reference to Lolita simply because I like to. I like men but I also don’t like a lot of things they do. Humans wouldn’t be human if we weren’t full of contradictions. Humans wouldn’t be human if we were perfect. Fish, and fishers can be female or male. Maybe we should get out of the water.
Images from Kubrick’s 1962 Lolita and Kat’s blog.
Kaitlyn is a 21-year-old artist from Vancouver Island, Canada. She is shy and passionate. Her interests include, The Doors, Jim Morrison, pastel, Dolores Haze, daisies, Bugs Bunny, Family Guy, Archie, and Meadham Kirchhoff.