The Designer’s Drugs: Room

Medium: Literature

Stimulus: Emma Donoghue – Room

Anno: 2010


It takes some serious imagination and talent to make one of the most disturbing elements of a tale chronicling years of imprisonment and rape the act of breastfeeding.  This goes hand in hand with the fact that this tale of extreme abuse is told through the perspective of Jack, the wide-eyed and wonderful five year old boy who was born in this prison and who has never left its confines.  Considering that the only people he’s known are his mother and their captor, that he hasn’t been weaned – and is obsessively against the idea – is perhaps understandable.  But it’s the language he uses in describing the act which gives it its unsettling quality.  In Room, the word “some” means milk, and Jack refers to “having some” as casually as an outsider would describe drinking a glass of water.  Rarely has a literary euphemism been used to creepier effect.

This is all in keeping with the greater theme, which is the mutual incomprehension between Jack and the outside world.  That outside world, it should be noted, includes the reader, whose cultural solipsism, along with those of Jack’s fictional outside world, is bound to clash with the solipsism of the young prisoner.

At Room’s beginning, Jack is a creature who knows so little of what lies beyond the borders of his prison that he is certain that nothing else exists.  This delusion is so complete that he views the television programs he watches as not a series of real elements coming together to form a show but entirely unreal fabrications.  He doesn’t believe that trees exist, or other people, or events.  As the world is increasingly made real to him, Jack’s sense of routine and habit spirals out of control, and in fact he begins to idealize his imprisonment.

It’s at the points of contact where the reader will feel the most conflict with Jack.  It’s easy to sympathize with the victim when in his prison, locked away from the so-called right ideas and behaviors.  One does what one must to survive, after all.  But once in the so-called real world, Jack’s oddness suddenly becomes unhealthy and disruptive.  When he can’t adapt to the spoken and unspoken expectations and standards of a culture he only recently found, he ceases to be seen as a victim and becomes a brat.  It was so hard to read this book and not feel a sense of self-reproach as the frustration with Jack builds.

Ultimately, Room is a tale against absolutes and complacent certainty, a brilliant and unique tale of confinement that illuminates the restraints of all who watch.


Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: Curse of the Wolf

Film: Curse of the Wolf (2006)

Director: Len Kabasinski

Starring: Lanny Poffo, Renee Porada, Brian “Blue Meanie” Heffron

Written by: Len Kabasinski

When I was a young wrestling fan, one of the wrestlers who creeped me out most was Lanny Poffo, known to me as the villainous valedictorian, The Genius.  With his Prince Valiant bowl cut, his frightening pedo-stache, and his sinister leer, Poffo cut a villainous figure on appearance alone.  Combining this with his propensities to prance around in a graduation gown and recite foppish bad guy poetry made him one of pro wrestling’s legendary creeps.

I suppose that, upon discovering Poffo’s one leading film role, I was hoping to see The Genius leering at wolfmen and reading goofy lycanthrope poetry.  It was surprising to instead see Poffo playing the straight man in an incredibly subpar, dickheaded film about a werewolf on the run from her dickheaded pack.

This exhibit contains just about everything I hate about modern horror films, which boils down to one cardinal rule: no matter the gore and violence, a film isn’t horror if the audience doesn’t give a shit about anyone in it.  By that rule, this film is highly disqualified.  If the filmmakers elected to go the Troma route of splatter slapstick, things might have ended well enough, but instead they chose to make a joyless spectacle disguised behind that humorless veil of dark irony and cool, full of shitty metal tunes and populated by obnoxiously orating wrestler-types and low-rent porn stars.  To say that the action in this film is rather well done is a cheap consolation.

Though I can’t say much for the company he keeps, Poffo’s roughneck fixer is a breath of fresh air in this cesspool.  Similarly, the actress who plays the fugitive werewolf actually seems to invest herself in her role, though the writer/director fills her mouth with the same crap that fills the mouths of all his characters.  Any scriptwriter who has a woman blame her slight sullenness on maybe being on the rag probably has some lady issues – a prejudice reinforced here by every other scene featuring a woman.

The best character of Curse of the Wolf is The Blue Meanie, a real life pro wrestler who spends his screen time as the wolf pack’s muscle.  Whether he’s rambling around clad only in heavily-stained tighty whities or punching the hearts out of fools, Meanie is the one consistent joy to be found in this film.  It’s too bad that he’s paired up with a pack of flaming douchebags.

The Blue Meanie

Indeed, the only reason to watch Curse of the Wolf is if you’re curious about the film careers of The Genius or The Blue Meanie.  If not, stay far, far away.