Jill Soloway’s TV series I Love Dick is based on the autofiction by Chris Kraus. In Soloway’s version, everything is peeled away but a woman’s desire, and no one knows what to do with it. The woman burns. It is a job and a career move. In one episode, Dick, the object of Chris’s desire, visits the house where Chris and her husband, Sylvere, are living, and he asks Sylvere to corral his wife, who has been plastering the windows of the town with copies of her love letters to Dick. People are reading them. Each person finds out part of the story, and the readers talk to each other. The readers are connected the way cells that model bone are connected. Sylvere tells Dick that no one can stop another person from being who they are. The men drink and talk about the absent woman. In real life, this would never happen. In real life, a woman would not fill the space between two men of accomplishment. This is how you know it is a feminist work of art.
Sylvere tells Dick he is Chris’s muse. Sylvere says, The more you reject her, the more you enflame her. That is her nature. He tells Dick, Chris is doing to you what men have done to women for centuries, and he asks Dick how does it feel. Dick says, it’s humiliating. Sylvere knows something about eros. Chris knows more. Finally she knows more about something than her eminent professor husband. She knows so much about eros, it drives out all other knowledge, and she finds she does not need it.
Dick is insulted that Chris does not need to know him in order to want him. He doesn’t understand that Chris’s desire is not about him. This is a really hard concept for him. It’s the kind of thing that could crack HAL the computer. Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer true. I’m half crazy all for the love of you.
Chris is burning for a place in the world, and desire is her portal. Dick is instrumental to this ambition. Desire is Chris’s portal the way it is the job description of Emma Bovary. Emma Bovary does not write letters. She does not write anything. She wants, she fucks, she dies. Madame Bovary is not a work of feminist art.
Chris understands desire’s odd detachment from the real. She is a romantic. She is an idealist looking for a career path, and she will do whatever it takes to push her way into the world. She collects all the unused thoughts no one has previously wanted to hear, and suddenly she has readers. Desire is so powerful, it can produce readers. In this way, desire is a golem, imagining the world as it thumps along. It may appear to others that Chris is making a fool of herself by wanting someone who does not want her. Chris sees this and explains this shame is what shuts women down.
Chris doesn’t need to forgive Dick for spurning her. Desire is larger than forgiveness. That’s what makes it eros, and that’s what makes morality and psychology irrelevant to it. You might as well put clouds in a box and expect them to keep their rectangular shape.
In the scene where Sylvere and Dick are talking, Sylvere gets an idea and tells Dick to fuck Chris. Dick says he isn’t attracted to her. Sylvere says, Yes, you are. Dick is a brick. He has made a sculpture of a brick and placed it on a pedestal in his gallery. Kevin Bacon plays Dick in the show. The mouth of Kevin Bacon has tightened and tensed with age. Griffin Dunne plays Sylvere. He has thick, entitled gray hair. Two old, world weary men turning their attention to a woman who lacks footing in the world as well as the beauty of youth. This would never happen in real life. Sylvere says, I want you to put an end to her obsession by fucking her. I want her to see that her cold, cowboy idol has bad breath and sore feet like the rest of us. Sylvere thinks in this way Chris will turn her attention elsewhere. He is wrong. Nothing external to Chris and nothing set in motion by men is going to control her desire. That is the point of her desire. Every male human knows this and uses religion, law, and custom to seize control of the thing that is out of their control. This is a feminist work of art.
In another scene Chris and Dick are about to have sex. They have kissed, and they are aroused. Chris tells Dick to touch her cunt. He says, You’re so wet. You’re wet from me. When he looks at his hand, he sees it is covered with blood. He goes to the bathroom to wash it off. He isn’t attracted to her enough to fuck while she is bloody. Pink water circles the drain like the aftermath of a crime. Chris leaves the house and walks down the dusty road in her cut-offs and cowboy boots, blood easing down her thigh. Her expression is inscrutable, like Dick’s. She is imagining the next scene she will write. Writing, too, is sex.
Today Richard said, “How do you think Sylvere and Dick Hebdige feel about becoming more famous for being characters in Chris’s work than in terms of their own achievements?” I laughed and said, “Who cares.”