What can I say? I’m severely behind in the times. And the worst part is that I feel my brain going to mush. So, I will, yet again, backlog myself beginning with Lolita!
I’m not sure what’s worse: the pedophiliac tendencies of Humbert Humbert (can’t help but think: Pervert Pervert) or the manipulative, woman-charms of Lolita. They’re both sick and liable in their joint and severable ways.
I think what is most disturbing about Kubrick’s depiction of these characters is how everyday it is presented. Humbert didn’t look like a pedophile; Lolita necessarily didn’t look like a girl who would be playing two much older men in the ways she did (she’s pretty but she isn’t a traditional Vamp). Humbert didn’t have to do much to seduce Lolita, nor she him. It just naturally fell into place for the both of them. (Un)Lucky for her, she had that cuckoo mother to serve as a poor sexual role model, and due to her mother’s yip-yappy ways with men, poor ole Lolita didn’t have the wherewithal to keep herself out of the murky grime of adult relations.
But, clearly, Humbert was crazy. As the framing scenes depict, he shows up to kill Clare Quilty, armed with a poem that Lolita supposedly had written about how Quilty stole her innocence. Well, no, Lolita didn’t write it. Humbert did. Talk about obsession: killing the man who led her away and destroyed it for him…. Well, it was always already over for Humbert.
Honestly, it’s this kind of film that gets you right in the pit of your stomach because of the way Humbert not only pursued Lolita, but also because of the ways in which his obsession progressed. It’s quite sick to think that the society around Humbert and Lolita (when they moved to Ohio) “knew” that something was going on between them (i.e. the neighbor told him), but it went on without any sort of intervention to speak of. Even Quilty could have called the cops–he had inside information about a step-father and his incestuous step-daughter. But no! Quilty was just as much of a pedophiliac Humbert was. Just because Lolita was a willing participant in their relationship doesn’t mean she had all her wits about her–because she was so young. I say this knowing full well that she purposely manipulated Humbert with Quilty’s help. Clearly, Lolita had problems and a warped sense of reality, or she wouldn’t have played the masquerade. But Humbert was too obsessed with possessing her to notice he never had gotten much of a real grip on her to begin with.
Kubrick presents a sick option here: one that is disturbing; one that reminds us that all kinds of things happen with people in this world; one that insists we look at the willingness of Lolita, the obsession of Humbert, and the manipulation of Quilty, all as facets of a world sick with sexual exploitation. Humbert and Quilty get a major thumbs down.