Sunday, March 13, 2016

More swelling, plus parallels between Rosemary's Baby and Safe: illness as rebellion

So the medicine that I was prescribed that apparently caused the swelling was Indomethacin. It's basically "super Advil," and I'm presuming it's the culprit because my arm was mostly fine until an hour after I took it; plus swelling is one of the known side effects. Weird that it's only affecting my right arm. This is not normally how big my elbow looks! (My wrists, hands and elbows have been swollen due to this illness but not THIS big, until, uh, now...).

All of this has me wanting to see movies about illness, frankly. Body horror, Cronenberg, etc (has anyone ever made a movie of Clive Barker's "The Body Politic?"). I'm particularly interested in "illness as rebellion" movies - my girl and I watched Rosemary's Baby just before I came out to Maple Ridge. It's really interesting to me how similar it was in ways to Todd Haynes' Safe, both involving women in "apparently" desirable life situations - affluent, married, leisured, with supportive friends all around them - who make a rebellion against their circumstances via forms of illness, insisting against the advice of all those around them that something is wrong. Rosemary's example involves an insistence that her neighbours and husband are all in on a Satanic conspiracy to somehow harm her and/ or her baby; she toggles back and forth between utter conviction and being persuaded she's in the grips of paranoid delusion, getting thinner and frailer, undergoing a very physical transformation. Julianne Moore's rebellion in Safe involves the insistence that she's allergic to the 20th century, that her sensitivity to the chemicals around her is making her sick. Her vulnerabilities are exploited every bit as much as Rosemary's - properly understood, it's the most anti-New Age movie out there, a slap in the face of the whole Louise L. Hay "you can heal your life" mindgame that encourages people to meditate on their complicity in their illnesses, which are clearly just metaphors or manifestations for something emotional. (Now that I note the similarities between the two films I'm delighted even more with Safe, that Haynes is in a way drawing a parallel between the New Age self-help group Moore ends up in and the Satanists in the earlier film!) All the same, her insistence that she IS sick, against the incomprehension and dismissal of the "straight" medical community, is in a way every bit as empowering and necessary as Rosemary's, even if their rebellion may ultimately be leading them down the path to madness (which is arguably where both films leave them). And they're even both redheads!

Incidentally, according to Ms. Hay, edema (swelling) means, "What or who won’t you let go of?", while both inflammation and infection indicate anger and irritation. Or, you know, I could just be having a bad reaction to my meds. (If it's unclear, the difference between insisting you're ill against the pooh-poohing of others and joining a self-help cult is that the first involves an outward-directed rebellion that may force you to change your circumstances, including the political situation; Safe was made in part as a critique of the road many AIDS patients got led down, according to Haynes. Meditating and focusing on self-healing, on the other hand, assuming responsibility for your own illness, involves internalizing the problem, blaming yourself fpr it, withdrawing into a kind of terminal navel gaze that ultimately disempowers you. That seems to be Haynes' argument, anyhow. The film is still, by me, his only masterpiece).

Alas, it seems a bit cruel to subject Mom to my craving for movies about illness, at this juncture. I played her the 1981 film Who's Life Is It Anyway?, a compelling, witty, and very entertaining right-to-die movie, which may or may not have been, when I saw it theatrically, my first exposure to Richard Dreyfus, Bob Balaban, and Christine Lahti, all of whom are excellent in it. I believe I knew who John Cassavetes was at that point - he's the heavy of the film, a doctor who stands in the way of quadriplegic Dreyfus' attempts to be allowed to die - and in fact probably went to see it because he was in it. Alas, as witty as it is - Dreyfus has a lot of fun with the role, believe it or not - Mom found it very, very sad, so I have delayed progressing to the next illness-themed film in my queue, Champions, with John Hurt as a jockey with testicle cancer.

Okay, I'm not itching to see a movie about testicle cancer, either.

Anyhow, sigh, the illness is still with me. My foot is better, my arm is not. I feel a bit better - but I allowed myself a codeine, so I would. (I'm trying to take those no more than once every 36 hours).

Most entertaining other development is that the doctor who diagnosed my reactive arthritis left me a message on the phone basically telling me to eat more bananas, citrus, or tomatoes, because my potassium is low. I'm impressed he's being that thorough. I've had one orange and two bananas since.

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