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Showing posts from December, 2015

John Sedgwick’s War of Two – The Reluctant Psychoanalyst Learns our Founding Fathers left a Complicated Legacy

Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr are forever linked by their duel (a contraction of duo bellum, Latin for "war of two"), when the sitting Vice President killed a founding father and member of the first cabinet. This book brings them to life as more than just our third Vice President and the guy on the ten dollar bill, which, if pressed, is about all that I could have supplied about them.  Instead, in addition to being interesting characters in their own rights, they serve as foils for describing essential tensions about what kind of country the United States was going to become during and shortly after its birth and maybe to this day.  I read this book as homework before seeing the musical Hamilton, which I have now done and reported on here.  The lives of these two men are linked in this book as kind of mirror images and a chapter on Hamilton alternates with a chapter on Burr, frequently covering the same time period and often the same events from the perspective of the o…

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – The Reluctant Psychoanalyst Ponders the Attraction of “Universal” Themes

Star Wars burst on the scene in 1977, when I was a senior in High School.  Attuned to very local events – what was going on with my friends and at school – I was out of touch with the national culture in many ways.  I rarely went to the Rock Concerts that came through town and almost never went to the movies.  But somehow I found myself with a group of friends – I can’t for the life of me remember who they were – at a movie theater on the opening weekend of Star Wars.  I remember, vaguely, that one of the members of the group suggested that there was this hot movie playing that we should go to.  I don’t know how I paid for it.  I was working at the time, but never had pocket money, I put everything in the bank and kept it there, saving up for college, I guess.  Despite all this, I found myself in the front row of the movie theater; the front row because the place was sold out and those were the only seats left.
After the opening words scrolled deep into the screen – into infinity – a…

Trumbo: A Psychoanalytically Sophisticated Hero

Dalton Trumbo is the subject of a new film about an old issue – the blacklisting of Hollywood scriptwriters in the 1950s - and, because it is a Hollywood film, it has the expected happy(ish) ending.  I am not alone in having taken Hollywood to task for failing to trust their audience to embrace the messiness of being human by, among other things, imposing happy endings on their movies (see a whole raft of examples under thelink here.).  This messy movie is driven by the need for a happy ending – something that ironically it achieves while staying at least somewhat true to human vagary if not, apparently, to all of the biographical facts. 
In the film, Trumbo is accused, early on, of being a writer who writes happy endings.  But he doesn’t do this, we are told, cynically, as many writers do, but because he believes in them.  Across the course of the film, we see him working to achieve a happy ending in real life as much as in his films, and this becomes his tragic flaw.  As the stars …