Flashbacks: February 10, 2006

By EDITORIAL  |  February 9, 2006

“The scene offers insights into the nature of horror and evil untouched by the average splatter flick. There is, for example, the eerie but undeniable empathy between Starling and Lecter, between heroine and villain. There is also the suggestion that Lecter may be right, that those who seek to save lives are the deluded deviants, and that those who slaughter the innocent are closer to the truth. And then there’s another, perhaps even more demoralizing suggestion — that the noblest and most ambitious impulses have their roots in events that are banal, mediocre, and meaningless. The scene, like the film itself, suggests not so much the monstrousness of killing as its essential humanity; not so much the banality of evil as the banality of good.”

Ms. Diagnosis | 20 years ago |February 11, 1986 | Kathleen Hirsch reflected on the feminist bent in Elaine Showalter’s latest book:The Female Malady: Women, Madness, and English Culture, 1830-1980.

“It’s difficult to understand why this book was written. For an intelligent and otherwise scrupulous literary scholar like Princeton’s Elaine Showalter to offer readers yet another discussion of what by now have become feminist clichés of women and madness in literature — Jane Eyre,The Yellow Wallpaper,The Golden Notebook, and The Bell Jar — is surprising. …

“Showalter presents an evolving saga of how women have been oppressed by society, driven to various forms of mental illness, and wronged repeatedly by the very ‘science’ that might have helped them become free of a vicious cycle.

“Victorian psychiatry, under which the madhouse became euphemized as the asylum or retreat house, and often offered lectures, entertainment, and even balls for inmates in surroundings designed, in Showalter’s words, ‘to domesticate insanity,’ heralded the first humanistic approach to mental illness....

“Women, as the prime consumers of psychiatry’s latest menu of services, will continue to be misunderstood and mistreated, she says, until they develop a feminist psychology and ‘break... for themselves the chains that made madness a female malady.’ One only wishes Showalter had herself broken more thoroughly with received feminist dogma.”

Basket case | 25 years ago | February 10, 1981 | Michael Gee described the unlikely theatrics of an NBA contest occurring soon after the all-star game.

“Hype and February are bad companions, especially in the National Basketball Association. ‘Grim’ and ‘grind’ are the words that come to mind in describing this particular stretch of the endless journey toward Hot Rod Hundley’s last burble. To highlight the surrounding bleakness, the league manages to run an all-star game that showcases in bold comic relief both the charming and the tawdry parts of its small-time nature. It is a tedious period that validates Bill Fitch’s conviction that ‘games right after the all-star game are usually sloppy. And in the games prior to the break, you’ll see some real whore-houses.

“So it is to the credit of both the Celtics and the 76ers that of their two recent encounters, both widely heralded, hoorahed, and Action News at Sixed, one was actually a damned exciting contest. This was the one in the Garden, back on January 28; the quality of the Celtics’ 104-101 victory put pro basketball up there with the MBTA as a conversational topic for the next few days. The citizens of Philadelphia were so enthused that they went out and bought enough tickets for the rematch... to sell out the Spectrum for the first time this year.”

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