Years ago, I received one of my favorite gifts, a copy of Todd Hayne's movie Superstar. The movie, all about Karen and Richard Carpenter, is banned by the Carpenter estate (for unauthorized use of their songs) because of its unflattering portrayal of both Karen and Richard, portrayed not by actors but by Barbie and Ken dolls. The elegiac voice of Karen is interspersed with scenes from the Holocaust, wars, and clinical explanations of anorexia nervosa. The main plot plays like strict biography -- the rise and fall of this duo, each with creepy voices speaking through the dolls. As both of the dolls got sicker and more battered by life and the claustrophobic environment of their family, their faces are filed down into sharp edges, black circles are colored underneath the eyes, and the Karen doll is seen reaching for big scary looking boxes of Ex-Lax and bottles of Ipecac. Where to start? What's not to love?! My tape has a fuzzy quality and is interspersed with snippets from the eighties television show, Webster, a time that seems oddly marked by shows where African-American men with serious pituitary disorders play in the role of child/man to an older white authority figure as some sort of advisor/comic relief/disturbing social stereotype.
The person who procured this gem for me said he could find anything. It took him a year to find this movie, the hardest task he'd ever had in this regard. During this time, he was attending classes to cure him of his homosexuality, a religious program called Exodus, as in Exodus from the land of sin and disease, according to their ratty brochures that looked like wedding invitations gone awry. Do you want to find your perfect self under the garbage heap of desire? You bet I do! The program suggested that sexuality was a crucifixion and that it could be changed. File that under the category of not fucking likely. Which leads me back to the movie and Karen's perfect voice. The most affecting scene sums it up -- the Karen doll singing "Top of the World" and fainting in front of an adoring Japanese audience. So much had been sacrificed to the pursuit of beauty and perfection already that almost nothing was left, just the ethereal sound of someone who had managed to put her pain into a beautiful song about a love she would never experience.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Of course, all you have to tell me is that something's not normal and I'll go for it!!" Karen Carpenter
Drinking movie suggestion: Safe
Benedictions and Maledictions