A short note on Christine’s desire

Reading through Christine’s desire (1) I found myself going over one section repeatedly.

At its essence she has a destructiveness about her at the beginning of the story. The question then becomes; what is she at the end? In purely technical terms she needs to achieve the polar opposite. Put simply if her weakness is destructive she needs to create something.

Thinking about her destructive weakness and creative need it dawned on me that this binary polarisation of destructive and creative impulses is at the heart of the story. The clash between the will to destroy and need to create is the point at which all the characters intersect. Adam and Reiner are fighting over the kind of world they are going to live in; one of security or one of freedom? Each character wants to destroy the others version of the world and create their own. Another of the things this understanding allows is to broaden destroy/create dynamic into one of damage/heal. For example, the destructive weakness that compels Christine to rebel against Adam brings with it the creative need to heal the rift between them. I said this was a “short note” and it is. That’s it for now.

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Notes on Adam and Christine

By the end of yesterdays post I had to reassess my understanding of Adam and Christine’s relationship. Truthfully I had an inadequate view of Adam that benefits from being reversed. I had this idea of him as a basically decent character. A victim of circumstance obliged to look after his sister. I understood his self-righteousness towards Christine as desperation but didn’t really understand how despicable his behaviour is at the beginning. For some reason I viewed Christine as a problem he must solve. Her behaviour drops him in the trouble he has to get out of. None of that takes into account Christine or the influence she exerts. I guess what I’m saying is that their relationship lacked depth. Yesterdays post made me articulate very specifically Christine’s desire, what she wants, in a way I hadn’t done before. A less passive Christine makes Adam’s job that much harder. The contrast between the two becomes that much starker. If I view him as a complete cunt at the beginning the change at the end is more powerful. It is also interesting if you consider Christine’s need is hidden from her until the end. It is only at the point of self-revelation, after the crucible of battle, that she realises what she is asking of him. Best of all this revised dynamic is rife with dramatic potential.

Christine’s desire

I ended my last post with a question; what does Christine’s desire line look like?

It would be easy to say Christine’s desire is to escape prohibition but I don’t think that adequately describes what she wants. To truly understand her desire we first have to understand her need. What must Christine fullfil within herself to have a better life?

Need is about overcoming her moral and psychological weaknesses. The knee-jerk reaction to this question identifies her drug use as her weakness, but as I tried to explain in my previous post, Christine’s drug use is not a negative. That understanding just doesn’t fit with the moral vision or theme I have for the story.

As I understand it Christine’s weakness is her rebelliousness, that impulse she has to resist authority, control, or convention. In the chapter “Character Web by Archetype” of “The Anatomy of Story” John Truby notes that the rebel’s strength is the “courage to stand out from the crowd and act against a system that is enslaving people”. The weakness of this archetype is that they “often cannot provide a better alternative, so end up destroying the society”.

I think of the link between the two sides of her weakness like this. If Adam’s self-righteousness is a product of a positive pushed until it becomes a negative, his responsibility, taken to the extreme, is oppressive.

Christine’s weakness is a product of her bravery pushed until it becomes destructive. At the beginning of the story her rebelliousness is the wellspring of the conflict with Adam. Her defiance exasperates Adam. He reacts with self-righteous indignation and arrests her, which reenforces her will to resist. She has a destructiveness about her at the beginning of the story.

The question then becomes, what is she at the end? In purely technical terms she needs to achieve the polar opposite. Put simply if her weakness is destructive she needs to create something.

That insight brings me to the conclusion that Christine’s need is to change the society she lives in. Ironically, a need she is only able to fulfil through Adam. When, at the end of the story, Adam chooses freedom over security, he is fulfilling Christine’s creative need to free society. He is doing it because of what he’s learned through Christine.

A conclusion I wasn’t really aware of until now. Christine’s desire line is not to escape prohibition, it’s to change Adam. This insight changes the way I look at Adam and how he relates to Christine.

Why does Christine Leigh take drugs?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Christine Leigh. Who she is? What she wants? Why she takes drugs?

Christine’s relationship with Adam is the cornerstone of Carrion.

She is the reason he goes up against Reiner. Without her Adam would remain inactive, Reiner’s actions would go unchallenged, and our view of prohibition would remain inviolate.

The story only gets under way when Adam’s desire to save Christine kicks in. But there is a problem with characterising Christine as something that needs to be saved. Certainly it allows Adam to justify arresting her at the beginning of the story, but it has the potential to make her incredibly passive.

There is another thing. “Characterising Christine as something that needs to be saved” underestimates, or more accurately, misrepresents her drug use. Overall it presupposes she is victimised by drugs. Certainly she is persecuted by prohibition, but when I think of her drug use I don’t see her as a victim.

The understanding of drug user as victim relies heavily on the popular perception of those who take drugs as damaged individual running away from something. While there are undoubtably a percentage of individuals who fit this profile. I know the vast majority of people who use drugs take them for entirely different reason. If the truth were told there are probably as many reasons for using drugs as there are people who take them.

There’s also another misconception at play, one that presumes everyone who takes drugs is an addict. I view this as prohibitionist propaganda. The truth is less hysterical. Just as not everyone who drinks is an alcoholic, not everyone who takes drugs is an addict.

Which brings me back to the question, why does Christine take drugs? The short answer is she’s looking for something. If I had to pin it down I’d say she is actually seeking a state of grace. I don’t think of Christine as a religious person. I think what she seeks is less devine grace and more secular enlightenment. In an earlier post I outlined something of Christine’s character.

Born in 1995. She was two when her brother joined the army. In the years that followed she saw him occasionally. His absence from the family home meant she actually grew up an only child. The sole beneficiary of her parents emotional, physical and financials resources, the constant attention lead to a strong willed girl sensitive to disapproval. Denied competition from a sibling she exhibits a certain possessiveness with her time, space and belongings. Perfectly happy to spend time alone and fiercely loyal, she prefers the company of a few close friends to the superficial connections exhibited by her extrovert peers. (2)

I view Christine’s drug use as her way of connecting to others. It’s not just that she has a small group of friends who are united by a common activity, or the feelings of empathy that comes with the use of a drug like ecstasy. I think she uses drugs because she has a deep-rooted need to short circuit the barriers between people.

At the core of that need are the barriers she feels between herself and Adam. The flip-side of this need to connect is her great weakness, her rebelliousness, that impulse to resist authority, control or convention. All of which raises a question, what does her desire line look like?

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