Wicker? I hardly know ‘er!

Here be spoilers, yarrrrgh!

Tonight at the Marquee: The Wicker Man

The Deets:
1973
Directed by Robin Hardy
Starring Christopher “Kicking Ass Since 1922” Lee, Britt “Perky Bubbies” Eklund, and a lot of Scottish locals

An uptight Christian Scot walks into a pagan ceremony…
Sgt. Howie, straightlaced to the point of exsanguination, travels to a remote island in the British Isles to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. Unbeknownst to our stalwart man of the law, the locals are practicing neo-pagans. Naturally, ancient rites, choreographed musical numbers, and Christopher Lee in drag ensue.

Nice try, Howie, but NO DICE.
Yeah, The Wicker Man. Dude, this movie is effed. And it’s actually a really good movie, ‘really good’ in the sense that

a) I couldn’t look away,
b) everyone speaks in a lovely brogue,
c) there’s hella nakedness,
d) I’ve honestly never seen another movie like it, and
e) it reveals the eerie crossroads where Saruman meets Cher:

If I could turn back tiiiiime
I’m including it in the Marquee because watching this movie caused me literal pain. I’d already spoiled myself on the ending (curse me and my insatiable desire to KNOW EVERYTHING AHEAD OF TIME) and it still totally gave me the heebies. To the point where I’m thinking about it days later, mulling over what the movie has to say about faith and ritual and hypocrisy and religion and bioengineered produce and spontaneous folk singing and dead bunnies and breastfeeding in cemeteries.

And on top of the impact of the actual content of the film, it got me thinking about why people (myself included) like experiencing things that hurt us. Knowing the end, as I did–knowing that it’s really pretty horrible and upsetting–I thought: hey, that sounds like a GREAT movie to Netflix! Call it masochism as entertainment. It’s the same impluse I have for writing this post–processing it by passing it on, getting it out of my system and into someone else’s (hi, reader!). I’m dying to spoil this for you, but if you know anything about pagan ceremonies you might have a general idea of where the whole mess ends up.

Festive patchwork vest by Christopher & Banks: comfortable fashion for the classroom, the office, and the human sacrifice
To which I posit the question: why would anybody want to see that? Or, in a less gramatically correct but catchier Carrie Bradshaw way: why do we hurt the one we love, when the one we love is us?

The key point to note here is that we’re enjoying the pain of this movie via a movie. It’s safe. It’s on a screen, physically apart from us and unaware of our presence. It’s voyeurism, and in the particular case of The Wicker Man, it’s voyeurism into a fact of life that America’s Puritanical roots have spent centuries trying to quash: sex, like death, is an inextricable part of life. You can’t deny it, and, while an individual may abstain, a society will die if you don’t do it. In short: those pagans were on to something. I’m certainly not advocating a return to all aspects of the pagan lifestyle, because I doubt slaughtering a nice chubby piglet would make my crops more plentiful (wink wink). I’m just saying that it would be nice to live in a society that was more upset by the violence of Justin Timberlake ripping off Janet Jackson’s costume than it was by the physical presence of Ms. Jackson’s breast.

So the sex voyeurism is certainly a big part of the Wicker appeal. The discomfort Sgt. Howie feels when he stumbles across a bunch of couples bangin’ on the greensward is mirrored in the viewer: it’s shocking, but since it’s also fundamentally natural, the discomfort speaks to us. We enjoy the “deviant” sex and the horror (The Wicker Man is, however subtle and subtexty, a horror movie) because they come from an organic place. It’s like old home week for the Id.

But never discount the visceral thrill of seeing Christopher Lee in drag. Still wearing his watch. Seriously, can we trot that out again?

Do you belieeeeve in life after rites?
If you’re at all interested in the history of the British Isles, sex, folk music, sex, thrusty maypole dancing (by children!), sex, virgins, sex, barmaids who dance naked in their rooms and/or over fire pits, sex, and what a kid’s face looks like when you put a toad in her mouth, then this is the movie for you! Technically, Freud would probably say this is the movie for everyone.

Ahh, the halcyon days of youth: singing, smiling, and dancing around the giant penis

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3 Responses to “Wicker? I hardly know ‘er!”

  1. J Says:

    Heeeeeeee! Christopher Lee as Cher makes me giggle.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    I’m not sure if I should be offended or not, but Netflix recommended this movie to me based on my ratings. What are they trying to tell me…? LJQ

  3. Karissa and Rob Says:

    We just watched it! We were slightly disappointed. Is it bad that the thing that freaked me out the most was the horrific squealing of the animals about to burn alive–with a virginal Christian?!? Is it?

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