Wednesday, September 28, 2005

whatever happened to little Lolita?

She's morphed into Britney Spears, apparently. And Lindsey. And Mary Kate and Ashley. And every Hillary, Hailie, and Paris out there. Obsession that does not age. Happy Birthday Lolita. You're turning fifty. Who can forget the first time they read these words?

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.

Sheer poetry and pure beauty, from the mouth of a madman, from the tongue of a pedophile, from the heart of a criminal. What it is about Nabokov's tale that keeps us returning? I would like to think that our culture has gained a new sense of morality, that Lolitaesque fantasies can now be reserved to the dusty shelves of dusty bookshelves, pulled down only as a temporary journey into psychological disturbances. But our Lolita-obsesson seems to have found new energy.

In an article at SFGate this week, Oscar Villalon says:

How else to explain the careers of a Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan? How else to explain the success of "Girls Gone Wild" or porn boasting of having "barely legal girls?" Humbert could hazard a guess: "What drives me insane is the two-fold nature of this nymphet -- of every nymphet perhaps; the mixture in my Lolita of tender, dreamy childishness and a kind of eerie vulgarity, stemming from the snub-nosed cuteness of ads and magazine pictures ... and from very young harlots disguised as children in provincial brothels ... "

He continues:

Take Spears, for example. Her stock was at its highest when she was the teen girl in the denim skirt singing about "Hit me baby one more time." As she got older, she dressed and behaved more and more provocatively, though we were assured she was still a virgin, further fueling our fantasies. Then she turned 18, and was now, finally, legally obtainable -- but she kept getting older. Now she wasn't so inviting; her wide smile and flashing eyes we read as oh so knowing turned out to be simply vacuous.

Next thing, she's married to a guy who appears to be something of a good-natured slob, becomes screamingly pregnant, and is drifting off the radar of cultural significance, washed up at an early age. Throw in a trailer park, and it's the same fate as Lolita's following her days as a used-up nymph.

Washed up seems to sum up the future -- even the present -- of Britney. (Peak at 18? Washed up at 23? How is that possible?) The Lindseys, Halleys, and Jessica's of the world may very well soon follow her to the trailer park to make room for a whole new crop of virgins ripe and primed for exploitation. (There seems to be a neverending supply, doesn't there? Of course, I have to wonder, is it solely the men who demand and control the sexualization of little girls? Or is it we women who perpetuate the myth of Lolita?


Blogger Julia said...

I almost want to cry that you posted this, and post this so beautifully you did.

I devoured the book but moreso those opening lines one was me, the sea, the sand, the sun and Lolita. Sheer poetry and pure beauty, indeed.

What do you think of the movie? I just can't link the two. The Lolita, Humbert and Clare Quilty aren't those of my imagination (although Shelley Winters is hysterically brilliant).

I just put an ode to Brigitte Bardot on my blog, and this post reminds me that she was always branded a Lolita...Simone de Beauvoir even wrote "Brigitte Bardot and the Lolita Syndrome" (am still on the lookout for a copy). But she was much more femme fatale, her power over men more dictated than Britney et al, who purposefully cater to men's impulses. I always think of the original Lolita as in charge, whereas these modern day Lolita subserviant. Your thoughts?

6:39 PM  
Blogger TessaJ said...

I had never read it until a couple of years ago. A student of mine (who I adored -- perhaps my best and most lovely student ever!) started quoting the lines from memory in class, and I was sold instantly. Odd how Nabokov walks the line between beauty and terror so profoundly. I know I've seen the movie (Jeremy Irons, right?) but can't recall any impressions. The book, as (almost) always, is so much more memorable.

Just saw your ode; I'll have to look for Simone de Beauvoir's piece.

9:45 AM  
Blogger Julia said...

The original film (1962) is by Kubrick (Nabokov wrote the screenplay), with James Mason as Humbert (I was always put off by his effeminate voice), Sue Lyon as Lolita, Shelley Winters as the mum and Peter Sellers as Clare Quilty. The remake - no interest in seeing it - made in the late 1990s was with Jeremy Irons and Dominique Swain.

6:33 PM  
Blogger TessaJ said...

That's right. How could I have forgotten the original? But I'm thinking I haven't seen it. Perhaps I'll check it out someday. Maybe. But the book is too stunning for words....

6:48 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home