A Thing Created, An Outline Stepped Into
Film's Greatest Actor Retires.
There's no obvious reason why Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) should have caught his eye on one unassuming, plain waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps) at a country bistro he visits one weekend afternoon. "You must be around many beautiful women," she remarks on their first night out, then looks into the fireplace beside them, perhaps considering this very question of why her. But for a man for whom the many women in his life mostly serve as his own personal models—standing still, upright, without much fuss—Alma is quite ideal. Her face is square and perfectly symmetrical, and her body just as plain. She's told she has no breasts, and a little tummy, but all for the better. She's modest, speaks in hushed tones, and not out of place. She appears almost like a real-life Renaissance portrait, perhaps da Vinci's 'Lady with an Ermine'. All this feeds the perfect object of Woodcock's desire: something as close as possible to a blank slate, a mannequin, no buxom and no fuss.
It is these qualities which reveal the most obvious conflict driving the relationship of The Phantom Thread's two main characters. He, the artist (sub: genius, man, etc...), is the active and she the passive. Whenever they walk together, he leads from the front. The routine of breakfast, the activities partaken, even the sounds of a meal all occur according to his design. This, of course, has little to do with her at all. His muse, his model, she's less doing than participating. Such is the deal she must buy into, in order for any relationship with Reynolds Woodcock to work. "Reynolds has made my dreams come true. And I had given him what he desires most in return. [. . .] Every piece of me."
Most dangerously, though, as a dressmaker, women are quite literally Reynolds' object. Ultimately, few acts humans partake in connote lesser agency to its actor than does modeling to a model. The function of a model, after all, is not to "create" anything, but to "model", or stand in for, an already existing (though not yet manifest) something. The designer's sketches, the mannequin, the outfit itself, and the photographer's vision of the magazine cover all work to formulate a preexisting outline: something already there, waiting, whole but incomplete, not unlike those cardboard cutout standees you'd find at a movie theater or zoo, or a black-and-white sketch not yet colored in. It is not to create an image but to step into one. Reynolds is the one drawing these outlines, and shaping these people—dressing them how he wishes, adjusting them to appear according to his vision, and so on. With a few exceptions, almost every woman to enter his house is of mostly mechanical use to him: either to knit and sew, or to stand still and "model". Only he is the one who creates, imagines, shapes. He is not a cruel man so everything floats by fine, until Alma decides it necessary to become more than just his thing.
I'm not here to speculate on the inner life of Daniel Day-Lewis. It is remarkable, though, how of all his films, this would be the one to prompt him towards retirement. It strikes me that, not necessarily in character but indeed in function, Daniel Day-Lewis and Reynolds Woodcock exist in quite a similar space. Where Woodcock takes bodies and imbues them with his exquisite dress, Day-Lewis, as a notoriously dedicated character actor, takes "characters" and imbues them with, well, himself. One could say his practice is less in "taking on" roles—the passive—but "becoming" characters—active, doing unto the subject. As such, he's less the model for the dress than its maker. For 'The Phantom Thread' this idea is made literal for Day-Lewis, who learned how to make dresses in preparing for the role.
I'm imagining a hall of clothed mannequins: one sporting Hawkeye's loose robe and long brown hair, another Bill the Butcher's top hat and vest, Daniel Plainview's ranger hat and pipe, Abraham Lincoln's three-piece suit and beard, et al. For all the costumes he's donned over the years, Day-Lewis has gone further than anyone else to exist wholly as the character, removing all of him but giving all of his craft. (There are plenty of actors, by the way, who make careers of doing the opposite: think Jeff Goldblum, Seth Rogen, or anyone else for whom they do less taking on a role than giving themselves to a role.) For every film, a new dress, new proverbial shoes to step in. They're something entirely removed from himself, which is why he actively removes himself (the person) from himself (the body) to become the character during production. Woodcock is not as much that. Woodcock is dapper, an artist, a demanding genius for whom work becomes life. This isn't to say Woodcock and Day-Lewis are entirely similar in their actions, but they are quite similar in their essence. They fit similar outlines.
But 'The Phantom Thread' conveys a devastating image of what it means to be a true artist. For Woodcock, the work itself is sustenance. He exists only to serve his craft, and therefore social responsibilities are either secondary, unnecessary, or even threatening. When Alma surprises him with a romantic evening dinner, he sees it more an act of war than love, describing the act with terms like "surrounded on all sides" and "ambushed". Women, being the thing worked on, are used and removed by Woodcock, much like an actor will take on the role of pretending to be another human being, and then put them aside upon completion of shooting.
But if there's a correlation between different art forms, and Woodcock is the consummate artist, then his motivations reflect more broadly on the motivations of artists more generally. And for him, the only thing in the world that supersedes the creative mind—as we and Alma find out gradually through the film—is mother. His long-passed mother is both his guide and his anxiety. At his sickest point, he envisions her in the dress he made her, and burns to know whether she's there, by his side, listening to him, watching over him. Just as in childhood he sewed a wedding dress to perfectly fit her, his work in her absence—of befitting the other various women who pass in and out of his door—is an outlet for the hole she left. Alma recognizes this, and her most devastating actions are in direct response to his need for not just a caregiver but a mother—a mother for the crying baby.
Perhaps the difference in 'The Phantom Thread' is that it implicates not American history nor great men of times past, but the role of being an artist in itself. To create his great works Reynolds Woodcock must give all of himself to the point where, upon completion, he's rendered not just exhausted but nearly incapacitated. Daniel Day-Lewis gave his all to this role, but perhaps instead of being able to let it go—give it off to audiences as a dress to a client—it stuck. There's something about the role that proved determinative for him, a necessary end.
There's a line from the beginning of the film: "You can sew almost anything into the canvas of a coat. When I was a boy, I started to hide things in the linings of the garments. Things that only I knew were there. Secrets." This sentiment from Reynolds Woodcock comes back around when Alma turns over the inner lining of one of his works. It's the wedding dress being made for the princess of Belgium—supremely important, beautiful, "perhaps the only wedding dress to ever have been made"—with an inscription hidden on the inside. It reads: "Never Cursed".
The notion of a curse doesn't explicitly crop up anywhere else in the film. But in an interview with W Magazine after announcing his official retirement from acting, Daniel Day-Lewis spoke to his path to retirement in saying: "There are spells in these films that you can't account for," he said. "Paul [Thomas Anderson] and I spoke a lot about curses—the idea of a curse on a family, what that might be like. A kind of malady. And it's not that I felt there was a curse attached to this film, other than the responsibility of a creative life, which is both a curse and a blessing. You can never separate them until the day you die. It's the thing that feeds you and eats away at you; gives you life and is killing you at the same time."
Whether 'The Phantom Thread' is cursed or not, as both a piece of fiction and an artwork in the canon of American cinema, it is both beautiful and tragic. For one, like the Showtime Lakers or Sergio Leone's 60's Westerns, we'll have only to look fondly back on the times when three of the top performers in their respective fields—director Paul Thomas Anderson, Daniel-Day Lewis and Radiohead's Johnny Greenwood—came together to make two of the premiere films of their age (this, and 'There Will Be Blood', separated by a decade). Most of all, it is a poignant end to the career of perhaps the greatest pound-for-pound actor in film history.
It was an inside job.
TW: This article contains references to sexual assault and abuse.
Let's get one thing straight: Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself.
According to official reports helmed by top medical examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson, Epstein hanged himself in his cell—but later medical reports suggested that his injuries resembled those of a homicide more than a suicide. When Epstein died, he had been removed from suicide watch, left alone and not checked on for hours because the two guards assigned to watch him were "sleeping," and, conveniently, the cameras outside his cell "malfunctioned." Recently, a former Navy SEAL went on Fox News and blurted out, "Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself."
- What's up with all the Epstein didn't kill himself memes ... ›
- 23 'Epstein Didn't Kill Himself' Memes That We All Fell For - Funny ... ›
- Fox News Guest Blurts Out 'Epstein Didn't Kill Himself' meme ... ›
- Jeffrey Epstein 'Suicide' Stumps Expert Pathologist, Case May Be ... ›
- Why wasn't Jeffrey Epstein on suicide watch when he died? ›
- There's 'no way' Epstein killed himself: Former MCC inmate ›
- Memes Are Keeping the Jeffrey Epstein Story Alive | MEL Magazine ›
- Epstein Didn't Kill Himself: Trending Images Gallery (List View ... ›
- Jeffrey Epstein: How conspiracy theories spread after financier's ... ›
- Epstein Didn't Kill Himself | Know Your Meme ›
Porn videos games and video game themed porn are suddenly on the rise.
One of the biggest things that sets Millenials and Gen Z apart from previous generations is their relationship with technology, a common critique being that video games have replaced real life for many young people, particularly young men.
It's true that many 20-and-30-somethings began playing video games when their brains were still malleable.This was before psychologists began raising concerns about the effect it may have on the brain, concerns that are now backed by a mountain of evidence. Frequent video game playing has been connected to a myriad of issues, including decreased life satisfaction, loneliness, decreased social competence, poorer academic achievement, increased impulsivity, increased aggression, and increased depression and anxiety.
These concerns have only been further highlighted in cultural conversation by the sheer number of people who play video games: 67% of Americans, to be exact, a number that has grown exponentially in recent years. Perhaps even more startling, according to Pew Research Center, 72% of men younger than 30 report playing games often. Scariest of all, Douglas Gentile, a psychologist who's been studying the effect of video games on the brain for decades, estimates that roughly 8.5% percent of young people who play video games in the United States are addicted — not including the number of people who are inevitably underreporting how much time they spend playing.
There's also plenty of evidence that video games can be a positive thing for brain development. According to Psychology Today, playing video games can help children develop "perception, attention, memory, and decision-making," as well as "logical, literary, executive, and even social skills."
But regardless of what side of the evidence you choose to believe, there's a new factor to consider in the conversation about video games' psychological effects: their relationship to porn. Most notably, according to a study by Laura Stockdale and Sarah M.Coyneif, playing an excessive amount of video games greatly raises your chances of becoming addicted to porn, and, likely, vice versa. This is because both sources of stimulus, primarily visual and aural, affect the same pleasure center in the brain, specifically the ventral striatum which helps elicit the good feelings you get when you do something good, can be done in the same environment (alone, in a technologically connected room), and are both sources of immediate satisfaction and escapism.
Prominent Stanford University psychologist, Phillip Zimbardo, conducted an in-depth study into 20,000 young men's relationships with video games and pornography. He said of the experiment: "Our focus is on young men who play video games to excess, and do it in social isolation - they are alone in their room. Now, with freely available pornography, which is unique in history, they are combining playing video games, and as a break, watching on average, two hours of pornography a week." He goes on to say, "It begins to change brain function. It begins to change the reward centre of the brain and produces a kind of excitement and addiction. Young men -- who play video games and use porn the most -- are being digitally rewired in a totally new way that demands constant stimulation. And those delicate, developing brains are being catered to by video games and porn-on-demand, with a click of the mouse, in endless variety."
As these commingled addictions develop, they soon (similarly to drug addictions) require greater and greater degrees of stimulation to get that same chemical release. But since these two addictions seem to affect similar demographics and often coincide with one another disproportionately, there's something that sets them apart from other forms of addiction. According to Zimbardo, porn and video game addictions are "arousal addictions," which differ from drug and gambling addictions in that the attraction is in "the novelty, the variety or the surprise factor of the content." So while drug addicts need increasing amounts of a substance to get high, they still crave the same substance over and over, while arousal addicts need an increasing intensity and variety of stimuli, as well as more and more.
This leads to a desire for increasingly intense stimuli, leading addicts to more violent and bizarre video games and porn in pursuit of novelty. Fascinatingly, and perhaps disturbingly, while these addictions are interwoven, they used to require separate stimuli to satiate — but even that's changing. In an inevitable progression, the two addictions have begun to seamlessly merge in the form of pornographic video games and video game-themed porn, allowing an addict to satiate both needs simultaneously, setting off a veritable fireworks display of dopamine responses — at least until the viewer becomes desensitized. For example, Fortnite-inspired porn is apparently so widely consumed that "Fortnite" was one of the top 20 most-searched terms on Pornhub in 2018, and in 2016, when Overwatch rose to popularity, searches for Overwatch porn jumped by 817% in a matter of months.
Perhaps even more distressing is the advent of porn video games, where players take an active role in the plot of the explicit content they're viewing, perfectly intermingling the already connected addictions. While some of these games show consensual sexual intercourse, many do not. For example, RapeLay, produced in Japan, is a game where a player plays as a disembodied penis to simulate rape of a woman and her child daughters over and over again. There was a massive outcry against the game when it was released, ultimately causing Amazon to stop selling it — but not before millions and millions of people purchased the game.
As an article on the topic in Men's Health points out, this trend of combining two similar and symbiotic addictions is understandable as video games already often feature hyper-sexualized characters, porn is being watched more and more on video game consoles, and animated porn allows for a level of fantasy live-action porn can't reach. If your brain is lighting up in a similar way when you play video games and when you watch porn, of course you'll begin associating the two. Throw in the feeling of power that comes with having control over the results of the stimuli, as a player does in porn video games, and you have a perfect chemical spider web, one that ensnares young men in an endless and isolating cycle of escape.
There are legitimate physical issues that can result from addictions of this kind. There's evidence that it can lead to debilitating sexual dysfunction in young men, called porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED), a term coined by Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, an associate clinical professor of urology at Harvard Medical School — an affliction that can get worse as a video game addiction feeds off a porn addiction in a vicious cycle of dopamine release. Many doctors are reporting that more young men than ever before are coming to them with ED, and they think the cause is, at least in part, because of this rise in virtual escapism in young men. "I have absolutely seen a pretty drastic increase in ED rates among young men, especially in the last two, three years," says sex therapist Vanessa Marin. "My average client base is starting to get younger and younger."
Even more troublingly, Zimbardo concludes that the effects go even deeper, and that this toxic combination creates a "generation of risk-averse guys who are unable (and unwilling) to navigate the complexities and risks inherent to real-life relationships, school and employment." Of course, this estimation doesn't take into account countless other factors at play in the lives of young men, not to mention the risk that comes with shaming people for sexual exploration. As Dr. Marin goes on to say, "We're not having any conversations about what are healthy ways to engage in porn. So no one has a general sense of what's healthy and unhealthy when it comes to porn. And of course it's not black and white either, but I do see a lot of younger men engaging in porn in ways that aren't healthy, in ways that make it more difficult for them to connect with partners and make it more difficult to engage in their own healthy sexuality."
Perhaps the same can be said of video games, that are treated dismissively by parents, as a quirk of young men that should be, for the most part, discouraged until outgrown. Perhaps, the culturally polarized narrative surrounding video games and porn is part of the problem, and the conversation we need to be having is how young men can indulge in video games and explore their sexuality, without the shame that can often foster addiction — and without letting it consume their lives.
- Why Men Need to be Rescued from Pornography and Video Games ... ›
- Internet & Video Game Addiction – Your Brain On Porn ›
- Video Game Addiction - The Control Center ›
- 'The Demise of Guys': How video games and porn are ruining a ... ›
- Why Are So Many Guys Addicted to Internet Porn and Video Games? ›
- Groundbreaking Study Finds Video Game Addiction Is Linked To ... ›
- How Gaming and Porn Addiction Are Ruining a Generation ›