[VIDEO] Finger In The Fan – A Short Film
“Being catapulted into perfection… it’s completely out of anyone’s control.
…once you’re up here you don’t really want to come back down. You almost embrace it.”
~ The Narcissist, Finger in the Fan
If narcissism could kill, it’d be a damn-good top-notch marksman. Narcissus, the Greek-myth hunter from which the term is derived, would likely agree after suffering a perilous, grief ridden death upon discovering, but unable to court, his own enamoring reflection. A parallel but particularly strange strain of plot plagues the unnamed character in Finger in the Fan whose perfectionist, pleasure-seeking, masochist hand invites a similar denouement of demise.
Audiences are treated to a lesson where achievement is only half the battle; the other half is staying on top. Directed by U.S. university student Zac Grigg, the eight-minute video acts as a window exposing the mind and lifestyle of a sexually deprived, perfection-obsessed-yet-overwhelmed narcissist portrayed by musician Jos O’Conell. Utilizing intense continuous shots and sharp, close-up, jarring jump cuts, Grigg unveils the characters long-managed loneliness and burden of flawlessness as its guarded and subdued complexity unfolds along emotional and intellectual lines.
Truly a man ‘rotten with perfection’, as coined by Kenneth Burke, a narcissistic stench permeates his psyche acting as a catalyst of irrational thought to quell and explore extreme urges. In the film, following an enthusiastic masturbatory release and daily routine romp of hygiene and exercise, the frustrated voice-over monologue evokes desperation attempting to communicate ineffable enigmas of periled flawlessness. The plots uniqueness comes not from a cliché struggle to acquire perfection but the realization, conceptualization, maintenance and partial condemnation of it.
Although a narrative reminiscent of American Psycho with an indie, directorial twinge of auteur Quentin Tarantino, overt abundances of gore and murderous, physical violence are omitted. Instead it manifests as romanticized, self-afflicting violence internalized within the originating host ravaging emotional, mental, and eventually physical landscapes.
O’Connell’s appearance as the sole human subject suggests a loneliness being dreadfully managed. An omission of name suggests a consumption of identity by masochist desire. Consumption so far advanced that the cultivated, multiplicative identity is rendered deformed and unrecognizable to the own self. Further, his compelling dramatic portrayal offers an ambiguity of agency raising question of control. On one hand, the character seems in control: a willing participant and active pursuant of these desires. But on the other, perhaps a victim surrendering to the arrest of domineering mental forces possibly bred from a varied impact of cultural institutions (i.e. media, education etc.) and influences.
Finger in the Fan marginalizes assertions of cultural influence leaving media role in male beauty and aesthetic obsessions on the cutting room floor to audience inference and discussion. Instead, viewers are left with a singular socio-psychological narrative as a case study for subjective interpretation.
But perhaps that marginalization of media’s influence is intended. In this omission, the film brings a focused lens on personal responsibility. In the issue of being “rotten with perfection”, a balanced interplay of external influences (i.e. media) and idiosyncratic factors (i.e. personal choice) are important to fully understand each unique case of perceived perfection.
While the effect of media portrayals on women is now commonly researched and critiqued, particularly regarding acceptable body image, male body issues and aspirations receive limited coverage despite similar concerns: complexion, pectoral size, muscle definition, hairstyles and balding, body types, acceptable ‘manscaping’ etc. Even less so, the psychological issue and pursuit of perfection are overlooked except in the most niche conversations and communities. The achievement and complications of maintaining that perfection and feeling the need to change or destroy it has bred minimal literature. Michael Kimmel, Sut Jhalley, James V. Catano, ands Kenneth MacKinnon are a few observers working at the forefront to further appropriate discussions. The bottom line: men benefit from patriarchal systems in many degrees and at assorted costs. While one may be revered for his biologic male sex, gender, race, religion and various factors function as sub-inhibitors creating a hierarchy within the ideal.
Male sex symbols and their reputations have become as prevalent and at times deadly as women’s. Modern entertainment media has bred some of the initial and most recognizable examples: large-and-in-charge types like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, tight-toned-and-fit types like Ryan Gosling, thin-and-narrow types like Johnny Depp, the chubby-and-scruffy types like Seth Rogen and many others. While a commendable range of representations currently exists, more than female examples before the initial feminist movements, many are chained with unnecessary behavioral stereotypes and are deserving of liberation.
Granted short films have their limitations, modern audiences may have also appreciated a boundary push beyond sexual frustration inclusive of ambiguous sexual orientation, confusion, exploration and freedom. Further, the path and process by which the character is “catapulted into perfection” has merit for mention and expansion. For beyond his self-assessed pristine physique, not much else is left to qualify the narcissistic narrator’s ‘incomparable existence’: fulfilling occupation, loving family, caring friends etc.