flipping through the channels, and I see “The Graduate” is on. The strip club scene. Where Benjamin, the disaffected hero, takes girl-next-door, Elaine,
to a smoky, seedy strip joint.
know the story so you know it unfolds. But watching it again, I was reminded of
is a scene in “Taxi Driver”. Where disaffected “hero” Travis Bickle takes
nice-girl Betsy to a porn film. The
other is the not-at-all-nice Mel Ignatow.
ig-NAH-toe. He’s dead now. You’ve probably never heard of him. It’s just as
well. Mel was a piece of work.
So I’m watching the strip club scene, and I’m thinking, why does Benjamin do that. Why
does he take Elaine to this den of tits-and-tassels.
Cleopatra, legend has it, liked sticking pins in slave girls’ breasts. There’s lots of
ways to pass the time. That’s one of them, I suppose.
also lots of ways Benjamin could get out of his predicament. He chooses one that’s
cruel. The most degrading way.
may be disaffected, but Benjamin isn’t clueless. Travis Bickle’s clueless. God’s
lonely man. Lots of couples on their first date will go to a picture show. Not a porno picture. Not Swedish sex-ed films.
Travis seems confused when Betsy tells him, “This is a dirty movie.” I cannot
even begin to count the references, in "Taxi Driver", to cleanliness and dirt. Travis says of Betsy, “She appeared like an angel. Out of this
filthy mess…” It’s
pertinent, here, I think, because it points to an ideal. An idol, as Nietzsche would’ve called it.
look up, he said, when you desire to be exalted. And I look down,
because I am exalted.
words, unless you're looking down from a pedestal, and someone's making bets on how
brings me back to Mel Ignatow. Louisville, KY. 1988. Mel Ignatow killed his
girlfriend, Brenda Schaefer.
He tortured her for hours, former girlfriend, I should say. Brenda Sue was trying to break
it off. She was delicate. Petite. A dark-eyed Southern angel. Mel Ignatow tore her down, looking for a whore.
We are saints or we are sluts, we are angels or we're whores, and we have marched through this before, to a difference of degree.
Still it lingers in the air like the smell of an old cigar, and it will die a slower death than even Brenda Schaefer’s.