Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hypnotically Ugly

"Hypnotically Ugly" is a phrase the film critic Bosley Crowther used to describe the actor Jean Paul Belmondo in his New York Times review of the film Breathless. This is a picture of Jean Paul Belmondo from another film, Ho!

Look at that nose. The hair. Look at those lips, those fat and impeccable lips, as raw and alluring as a wedge of orange. Belmondo's lips defy proportion. His entire face, really, is a study in incongruity. Is this ugliness or beauty?

The phrase "hypnotically ugly" speaks to me of the allure of blogs: the hypnotic appeal of another person's less than pretty life. Ugly, to me, is not necessarily a pejorative term; it hints at a certain messiness, a certain incongruity, inherent in self expression. I think of a quote from Julio Cortázar's Hopscotch:

"Irony, ceaseless self-criticism, incongruity, imagination in the service of no one."

Some decry blogging as narcissistic. I'm writing this blog, in part, to explore the difference between self expression and narcissism. I'll probably expose too much. I have a burning desire to tell secrets. Like all blogs, this blog offers another venue for the voyeur.

Who are my voyeurs? I'm looking for a few good voyeurs. I think voyeurism is companionable to self-expression in the human need it fulfills in our modern, web-addicted life: To squeeze and to be squeezed. To reach out from the soul, on the one hand, and say, I'm here! And to reach out from the soul, on the other hand, and say, Is that you, there?

Still, the equation is not simple. Why, exactly, do I need voyeurs?

Why do I have this desire to be appear at once humble (ugly) and yet alluring (hypnotic)?

At what point do I stop merely expressing myself?

When do I become pitifully self-absorbed, narcissistic, just plain ugly?

Is there a threshold, a certain picture pose, a certain blog title, a certain comment, that obliterates the line--my line between self expression and narcissism?

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