The Babadook: an advertisement for contraception
NB: I don’t care about spoilers, in fact I really don’t care hard about spoilers… but even if you do there aren’t any here that you won’t find in the trailers and publicity for The Babadook.
My alternative title for writer-director Jennifer Kent’s new low-budget Oz horror film is Parenthood: It’s a Fucking Nightmare That Never Ends. In The Babadook, widowed mother Amelia– suffering from unresolved grief and what could be construed as an open-ended form of postnatal depression– is either being driven mad by her son’s antisocial acting out, or perhaps vice versa and her descent into madness is destroying him. It’s this negative domestic energy that seems to open the door to the storybook character so unnervingly introduced in a Struwwelpeter-esque tome that shows up in their house in advance of Mister Babadook himself.
It’s quite an old school (and distinctly non-American) horror film in…
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BEARS VS ABSTRACT CAPITALISM
The “cut direct”
Etiquette: Rules and Usages of the Best Society was published in Australia in 1885 for the benefit of “the better sort” among our colonial cousins. Not the crims, in other words. Some of the advice is very wise, some of it is surreal, while some of it– such as the recommended homemade treatments for acne or grey hair– is liable to end with a trip to the accident and emergency room.
THE “CUT DIRECT”
The “cut direct,” which is given by a prolonged stare at a person, if justified at all, can only be in case of extraordinary and notoriously bad conduct on the part of the individual “cut,” and is very seldom called for. If any one wishes to avoid a bowing acquaintance with another, it can be done by looking aside or dropping the eyes. It is an invariable rule of good society that a gentleman cannot “cut”…
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“CONDUCT IN PICTURE-GALLERIES”
Imbecile ward keepers wanted
Some scans from The Public Notice (1973, out of print) by Maurice Rickard. It’s a gold mine. First of all, the following poster from late 1861. Despite the ambiguous grammar, they were requesting keepers for a ward of imbeciles, not ward keepers who were imbeciles. Although such terms are now used interchangeably as insults for somebody who’s acting in a way deemed stupid, until well into the 20th century “imbecile” was a respectable diagnosis meaning that a person was more functional than an idiot, but less functional than a moron. In this notice the “imbeciles” are alternatively referred to as “HARMLESS LUNATICS”, which is hardly better. Note also that these poor people (in every sense of the term) were incarcerated in a workhouse, specifically the workhouse of Bancroft Road, Stepney, in north-east London.
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