Midquarter Seven

 

Postmodern
Japan

Spring 2002

Earl
Jackson, Jr.


talkingcure2000@aol.com

http://www.anotherscene.com/postjapan/

Jackson

Japanese Postmodern

Midquarter
Spring 2002

13 May 2002

 

One Two Three Four Five
Six Seven Eight Nine Ten

Romance as Melancholic Detachment from

Reality in „Chungking Express“ and the „100%Perfect
Girl“

Romance as depicted in Murakami Harukiís story „On seeing the 100% Perfect
GirlOne Beautiful April Morning“ and in Wong Kar-Waiís film „Chungking
Express“ is

marked by a melancholic retention of a lost or absent love object
[What object has the narrator lost in the Murakami story?],
on
the part

of the narrator in „the 100% Perfect Girl“, and the characters of Qiwu
and

Officer #633 in „Chungking Express,“ which functions to remove the romance
from

any actual existence in a present reality, and create for the melancholic

characters, reasons for living predicated on hopes that are inconceivable
in the

reality that they have detached themselves from.

Melancholia, as discussed by Freud in his 1917 essay „Mourning and

Melancholia,“ is, like mourning, the result of a loss of a love object
by an

individual (166).  The loss of the love object in both mourning
and melancholia

necessitates „that the libido shall be withdrawn from its attachments
to this

object“ (Freud „Mourning and Melancholia“ 165-66).  The necessity
of the libido

being withdrawn from the love object creates a struggle within the individual

during which the object may be clung to in what Freud calls a „hallucinatory

wish psychosis“ which has the effect of turning the individual away
from the

reality that they have lost their love object (Freud „Mourning and Melancholia“

166).   In mourning the libido is successfully removed from
the love object and

the ego which has been inhibited during the process of freeing the libido

„becomes free and uninhibited“ (Freud „Mourning and Melancholia“ 166)
and hence

the individual becomes grounded in reality again.  In melancholia
however the

libido, having been freed from the object cathexis does not take another
object,

but rather „withdraws into the ego“ (Mourning 170) where it serves to
„establish

an identification of the ego with the abandoned object“ (Mourning 170)[But
also remember that for the melancholic the loss does not have to actually
have occurred, or the magnitude of the affect of the loss is inexplicable.]. 

Freud

posits, in „The Ego and the Super Ego“ [What
text of Freud’s do you mean, and where is your Works Cited?]

that this identification of the ego with

the lost love object may make it easier for the object to be relinquished
(29) [At what expense however?].

The identification of the ego with the lost love object serves to offer
the ego

as a substitute [to what?] for the
lost object and marks the transformation from object

libido to narcissistic libido ( Freud „The Ego and the Super Ego“ 30)
[Freud
never wrote a text with this title.]. 
In the

transformation from object libido to narcissistic libido all of the
energies

which were once directed towards the love object are directed back upon
the ego,

and as the ego has identified itself with the lost object the ego becomes

subject to all of the reproaches against the lost object (Freud „Mourning
and

Melancholia 169) [And what is the point you’re
eventually going to make with this?].

The self-reproaches that the melancholic subjects him or herself to
by creating

his or her own ego as a substitute for the loss object ensure that the
loss of

the love object will not be recuperated, an end which the subjects in
„The 100%

Perfect Girl“ and „Chungking Express“ find a sort of joy and reason
for living

in, and which they take great pains to see to is met [This
doesn’t make any sense. The act of identifying with the lost object puts
it the place of the ego and then makes ego the target of the superego.
This is what causes the self-rebuking and morbid self-assessments. And
Freud adds that this process is what accounts for the frequency of suicides
among melancholics who reach this stage. You haven’t made any direct comparisons
between this theory and either of your texts. To list Freud’s theory and
then presume it applies to your texts leaves out any justification for
such a move. And note neither of the subjects in Chungking Express nor
the narrating „I“ of „100% Perfect Girl“ exhibit any symptoms along these
lines. Moreover, the stages in melancholia that result from identifying
and incorporating the lost object cannot lead to any „joy in life.“ Therefore
the theory you cite doesn’t support that conclusion you draw, and the texts
you examine do not provide illustrations of the theory either. So something
is amiss here.]. 
The identification of the ego with the
lost love object makes the retention of that love object possible and thus
prevents the melancholic from regaining any sense of reality surrounding
the loss of their love object [But this leads
to bitter self-inflicted suffering often to the point of suicide, a process
nowhere in evidence in either of the texts you’re reading here.].

The narrator of Murakamiís „The 100%Perfect Girl“ recounts his telling
his

friend about his experience of seeing the 100% perfect girl for him. 
He doesnít

speak to her, nor can he remember anything specific about her, yet he
is fixated

on the mere experience of having seen a girl whom, because of the rumbling
in

his chest, he „knows“ is 100% perfect for him [He
doesn’t really and it would have insane for him to have spoken to her.
Seeing this woman triggers his idea about the „100% perfect person“ and
is the occasion for him to tell that story about two hypothetical people.
The story is really more an essay than a story. The narrator is not talking
about anything that could possibly happen nor is he talking about himself.
It’s a thought experiment. Just reading the story, reading what it says
makes it clear that the narrator is NOT describing something that happened
to him or could possibly ever happen to anyone. Please reread.]. 

The narrator is fixated on what

he should have said to her [No. He knows that
to have done that would have been harassing a stranger. He’s not talking
about her at all.]. 
He formulates in his mind a story
of two people who

were 100% perfect for one another and were lucky enough to find one
another, but

having done so gave in to their anxieties about the reality of their
perfect

love, and decided to part leaving to fate the possibility them meeting
again.

However when they do meet again years later they donít remember one
another,

because of illnesses which have affected their memories, and so they
pass one

another silently.  The narrator of „The 100% Perfect Girl“ in repeatedly

retelling the story of his seeing his 100% perfect girl
[Which she wasn’t and he doesn’t „repeatedly“ tell anything. He tells the
story once.]
is reinforcing his loss

of his love object, a love object which he only had as an object for
a few

fleeting moments [He lost nothing. He had no
love object. Not for one second. Nor does he believe he did. Please reread.]

.  The narratorís retelling of his seeing his 100% perfect girl

and his formulating in his mind what he should have said to her keep
him fixated

on his loss of her for far longer than she was ever present for him
[Fine
except nothing in this sentence is accurate.].
This

retelling of the event of seeing the 100% perfect girl and formulation
of what

he should have said serve to reinforce the loss he feels has taken place,
even

though he canít identify exactly what it is that he has lost
[You have „repeatedly told“ this formula at least three times in the last
two paragraphs. The formula is completely inapplicable to the story, nor
matter how times you repeat it.].

In „Mourning and Melancholia“ Freud writes that the melancholic often
„knows

whom he has lost but not what it is that he has lost in them“ (166). 
The

narrator in Murakamiís story knows that he has lost his 100% perfect
girl [No he doesn’t. Please Reread.]
but he

canít remember anything about her and is thus unaware of not only what
it was

about her that made her perfect for him, but also what it was about
her that he

has lost.  What the narrator has lost is the object of an idealistic
fantasy,

not an object that exists in reality [But of
course he hasn’t lost that at all – the chance encounter actually provides
him a way of conceiving it. It has nothing at all to do with the actual
woman who walked by him.]
.  The woman that he sees in
the streets of

Tokyo may in fact have existed, but the narrator is using her presence,
which

has become her absence after he passes her on the street, to fulfill
his fantasy

that there does in fact exist one perfect person for him.  The
belief in this

fantasy [He DOES NOT BELIEVE IN THE FANTASY]
that the narrator is afforded in seeing his perfect girl, and which

becomes his driving force in life, cannot risk being disrupted by an
attempt to

bring the romance that he has formulated in his head into reality. 
The narrator

writes that he couldnít go up to her and tell her that she was the 100%
perfect

girl for him because he couldnít bear to hear her say that he wasnít
the 100%

perfect boy for her, „if I found myself in that situation,“ he writes,
„Iíd

probably go to pieces. Iíd never recover from the shock“ (Murakami 70). 
The

loss of his love object and his subsequent fixation on the loss of that
object

serve to fuel the narratorís optimistic belief in the possibility of
his ideal

romantic fantasy, a romantic fantasy which he knows is impossible in
actuality.

The narratorís reason for living is predicated on his experience of
the loss of

his love object [Experience of loss predicated
his existence?]
, and he continually reinforces this loss 
in order to reinforce

the possibility that his fantasy of a perfect love could actually exist.

Wong Kar-Waiís film „Chungking Express“ presents two male characters

who each, after having been jilted by lovers, retain their attachment
to their love

objects by replacing their lost love objects with inanimate objects
which serve

to reinforce their individual losses and prevent them from regaining

identification with reality [This is far more
on the mark.]
.  In the first of the two stories in „Chungking

Express“ Qiwu [You need the actor’s full name
in parenthesis here].
waits at a Hong Kong food stand claiming
that he is waiting for

his ex-girlfriend, May, to come find him there when she changes her
mind about

breaking up with him.  While he waits he makes phone calls to Mayís
family and

friends and begs them not to tell her that he called.  Qiwu carries
a pager and

every time it goes off he is sure that it is May, but it never is. 
When the

film starts it is April 28.  May broke up with Qiwu on April 1
so he decided

that he would give her a month to let the joke run out and he commemorates
each

passing day that she doesnít call him by buying a can of pineapple with
an

expiration date of May 1 which marks the end of the one month that he
decided to

wait for her to change her mind, „then our love will also expire“ he
says of the

May 1 expiration date on the pineapple cans.

In buying a can of pineapple for each day that May does not call him
after she

has broken up with him [Not just a can of pineapple
but one with an expiration date one day closer.],
Qiwu is ritualizing
his loss of his love object, and his

ritual of buying cans of pineapple which bear both his lost love objects
name

and the date which Qiwu has determined as the date which will announce
the

expiration of their love, Qiwu has ensured that he will not be able
to

relinquish May as a love object until after the date of May 1. 
His ritualizing

of Mayís absence and removes his loss from reality and relegates it
to the

status of a symbol for his loss of his love object.  His ritual
of buying a can

of pineapple everyday allows Qiwu to continue to believe in the possibility
that

May was really just joking when she broke up with him, and it is in
this belief

that Qiwu takes pleasure in his melancholic retention of May as a love
object

and his ritualizing of her absence [Excelllent]
„As May 1st begins realization dawns,“ Qiwu

says „In Mayís eyes Iím no different from a can of pineapple.“ 
Qiwu then

proceeds to eat all 30 cans of pineapple, literally internalizing the
objects

which he ritualistically used to remind himself of Mayís absence, an
act which

is a manifestation of the act, as described by Freud, by which the ego

internalizes its early object choice:  „The ego wishes to incorporate
this

object into itself, and the method by which it would do so, in this
oral or

cannibalistic stage, is by devouring it“ („Mourning and Melancholia“
171).  Qiwu

later throws up the pineapple what could be seen as a metaphorical purging
May

as his love object.  It is only after he has metaphorically internalized
May as

his love object and then purged himself of her as his love object that
Qiwu is

able to realize that he has in fact lost May as a love object, and that
he is

able to take on new love objects which he makes himself do by promising
himself

that he will fall in love with the next woman that walks in through
the door of

the bar [Great – see what a difference relevance
makes?]
.

The second story in „Chungking Express“ involves a man known simplyOfficerNo.
633 who has become the love object for Faye who works at the the fast food

restaurant that the officer goes to everyday to buy food for his flight-

attendant girlfriend,  The officerís girlfriend leaves him and
although he

acknowledges verbally that she has left him he retains her as his love
object

and prevents himself from fully realizing the reality that she has left
him.

When the officer learns that his ex-girlfriend has left a letter for
him at the

fast food stand he tells Faye that heíll pick it up later, refusing
to allow

himself to be forced to be given a definitive end to their relationship
in the

form of a letter and the returning of the keys to his apartment. 
In refusing to

take the envelope which holds the letter announcing the end of their

relationship and the keys to his apartment the Officer is allowing himself
to

continue to believe in the false hope that one day he may come home
and find

that his ex-girlfriend has returned, and this hope becomes his reason
for

living [Hard to negotiate what’s necessary
in the plot summary here. And who’s the melancholic? What is Faye’s deal?]
.

Faye takes advantage of the officerís refusal to take his letter and
after

obtaining his address from him proceeds to replace things in his apartment
with

things which she has bought.  The officer however, in his melancholic
detachment

from reality fails to realize that the things in his apartment have
been

changed.  He continues to hold on to the belief that the things
in his apartment

belong to his ex-girlfriend and attributes the changes that he notices
to the

state of grief, regarding his ex girlfriends departure, that he has
transferred

from himself onto the inanimate objects in his apartment.  The
refusal on the

part of the officer to see the reality that someone is changing things
in his

apartment serves to allow him to continue to hold his ex-girlfriend
as his love

object and to maintain the realistically hopeless fantasy that she will
return

some day. [You should specify the pattern of
the officer’s rationalization of the changes in the apartment.] 

The officer is finally able to come to terms with the reality of his

loss of his ex-girlfriend as his love object when he rubs a leg cramp
out for

Faye after he opens the door to find her standing there with a bag of
gold fish

which she had brought over to his apartment thinking that he would be
gone.  The

officer used to rub his ex-girlfriendís legs and in rubbing Fayeís legs
he

begins to relinquish his libido investment in his ex-girlfriend and
is able to

regain identification with reality [???]. 
The officer goes to the fast food stand to

retrieve the letter that he has avoided for so long, and takes with
him to give

to Faye her CD of the Mamas and the Papasí „California Dreamin“ which
although

he had heard Faye play repeatedly he had initially believed belonged
to his

ex-girlfriend when he found it in his apartment where Faye had left
it. In this

story in „Chungking Express,“ like the first one in the film, the withdrawal
of

the libido from the lost love object results in the restoration of the
ability

to identify with reality for the protagonist
[Who’s the protagonist? Why would anyone have to „identify“ with reality?
To be invested in reality is not to identify with it. And what about Faye?].

Murakami Harukiís story „On seeing the 100% Perfect Girl“ and Wong Kar-Waiís
film „Chungking Express“ present stories of romance in which the the attachment

that is felt towards  love object is realized only through the
absence of that

object, and in which the objects absence and the characterís subsequent
refusal

to acknowledge the reality of that absence becomes the foundation for
the characterís reasons for existence.[Very interesting
and the second half is sporadically insightful and promises great things
when you get your focus in control and stick to what the text actually
says instead of forcing it to conform to a predetermined theoretical template.]


 

 


Post-Modern
Japan Forum One
Post-Modern
Japan Forum Two
PMJF4
PMJF3 PMJF5
PMJF6 PMJF7 PMJF8
PMJF 9 PMJF 10 PMJF 11
PMJF 12 PMJF 13 PMJF 14
Study Guide One Study Guide Two Study Guide Three
Study Guide Four

 

Works Cited and Consulted

„Chungking Express“. Dir. Wong Kar-Wai. Rolling Thunder Pictures 1994.

Freud, Sigmund. „Mourning and Melancholia.“ General Psychological
Theory: Papers

on Metapsychology. Ed. Philip Rieff. New York: Touchstone,1997.
164-79.

Freud, Sigmund.  „The Ego and the Id.“ Trans. James Strachey. The
Standard

Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud.
Vol.19. Ed.

James Strachey. Toronto: Hogarth Press, 1961. 28-39.

Freud, Sigmund. „The Libido Theory and Narcissism.“ Trans. James Strachey.
The

Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund
Freud
. Vol.16.Ed. James Strachey. Toronto: Hogarth Press, 1963. 412-430.

Murakami, Haruki. „On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April
Morning.“

Trans. Jay Rubin. The Elephant Vanishes. Vintage Books, 1994.
68-72.