Saturday, August 11, 2012

Lolita (1997)

The 1997 film Lolita directed by Adrian Lyne is indeed a superior product to Stanley Fucking Kubrick's 1962 Lolita. Though Kubrick is a more celebrated director, but I do believe the 1997 version to be far superior.

The subject matter is hebephilia (a subset of pedophilia which focuses on girls aged between 10-12), which to me is horrifying. Through my interaction with Thai sex workers, we agree on some things, one of them the fact that no child below the age of 18 should ever have sex, for any reason. These are my values, my principles, and I stand by them.

The movie, though, stayed true to the novel of the same name by Vladimir Nabokov and painted the two characters as being very sympathetic lovers. I sometimes found, horrifyingly, that I felt sad for the guy as well as the girl - such is the power of this film that makes even what in the real world is to me a heinous, despicable human, something I can feel sad about (I dare not say sympathise because as a role model, I don't want people to believe me a pedophile).

The horror also came from the performance of the actress - Dominique Swain - who mastered the gangly gait and wild abandon of children while portraying someone much younger (she was 16 or 17 when they filmed it).

Tonight, I was reminded of the 1997 Lolita as I sat down with a lawyer who spoke about a very incendiary, possibly divisive topic - the case of an 18-year-old having reportedly consensual sex with a 13 year old.

I cracked jokes about it online, because the ruling supposedly said that the guy was let off because he had 'a bright future'. I found that to be funny because what the fuck? And it is yet another example of Malaysia's 'corrupt legal system'.

However, my lawyer friend did pose some interesting arguments. I shall not go into detail for reasons I will state later.

His main point, though, is something I take to heart. The ruling, done by the judges, was not written. It was simply a simplified whatever ruling (pardon my lack of handle on legal terms or legalese), whereas the detailed, written ruling will come much later.

The thing is, my friend questioned the fact that journalists such as myself was focusing only on one part of the ruling - the bright future part - without addressing the extenuating circumstances of the case. Was it really a malicious manipulation of a minor by a man far senior? Or was it the case of young love gone wrong?

What of the families? Why are there no loud protests from the girl's family? What were their backgrounds? What the hell was going on?

And more importantly, people talk about the girl's future as well, but was what we were doing - what I was doing online - contributing to the girl's future in a positive manner or otherwise?

My concerns, I must admit, are selfish. I figured out in  the past year-plus, that I am still old school, no matter how much new media shit I slap on to myself. I still believe the old practices and principles of journalism are  fundamental to writing great content.

If they are good enough for Neil Gaiman - the God of Writing himself - they are good enough for me.

I believe that along with members of my profession especially, we should have given the case a much clearer berth and allow for the full details to set in before making snap judgments on the boy, the girl, the case, the judge and the Malaysian judicial system. Stare not into the abyss, for it also stares back at you. Or some shit like that. Juggle ye not, lest ye be juggled.

It could very well have been an open-and-shut whatever, with a clear villain and victim - real life, unfortunately, is not like movies. Or it could have been something more. Whatever it is, it is perhaps different than whatever we had in our minds. Because the point of all this is - we do not know.

And as with all things we do not know, we should not rush into judgment too quickly. There are people trained and paid to do so - judges. We should put our trust on them, and the system because if we don't we have no system. That is a far more terrifying thing than anything else.

I believe that this case, and how we reacted, should act as a reminder on our own conduct online and in public.

I still very much believe that sex for anyone below 18 years of age is wrong and should be admonished, but I also believe that we have acted too hastily, for our own amusement, without considering the welfare of all those involved. I know I did, and for that, I am sorry.

I am not sorry for watching Lolita, though, because I think it is a fine movie. Just, quite, horrifying.