Lina Wertmüller Colin L. Westerbeck, Jr. - Essay

Colin L. Westerbeck, Jr.

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Despite the abundant political activity in her films, Lina Wertmuller seems to have little regard for politics. In fact, she seems to dislike it altogether. In Love and Anarchy, for instance, neither of the two main characters has any political consciousness even though both are zealous Anarchists….

[Whether] you see any political import in Wertmuller's films all depends on how the term "politics" is defined. You can't help wondering whether she isn't, like so many imaginative, self-assertive women these days, in the process of redefining it. When Mimi attacks Fiore sexually [in The Seduction of Mimi], his actions seem to parallel those of the rightwingers who attacked her a few scenes earlier on ideological grounds. We feel at least implicitly that she is involved in a more political struggle than she realizes—the old battle of the sexes transformed into a war of liberation. If the love life of these characters is being politicized, however, it's not something that Wertmuller approves, nor is it a result of the way the women in the film perceive life, Wertmuller herself included. (p. 430)

Women have always been thought to have some inherent incapacity for the purely abstract kinds of love and hate that politics requires. Women used to be rather proud of this, in fact. But they have become self-conscious about it lately because womanhood itself has been politicized. Among radical lesbians and ability to form only personal attachments is now held in such contempt that even personal attachments are supposed to be formed out of strictly ideological and impersonal motives. That is a form of emotional suicide, and if it is what's necessary to be a real feminist, then clearly Lina Wertmuller isn't one. Political lesbianism is behavior in a class with the revenge Mimi exacts for the betrayal of his honor. What distinguishes the heroines in Wertmuller's films is that they retain a womanish incapacity for abstract love or hate. That is what makes them so superior to the foolish men whom they have the misfortune to love. (pp. 430-31)

Colin L. Westerbeck, Jr., "The Screen: 'Love and Anarchy'," in Commonweal (copyright © 1974 Commonweal Publishing Co., Inc.; reprinted by permission of Commonweal Publishing Co., Inc.), Vol. C, No. 18, August 9, 1974, pp. 430-31.