'Surprised by Sin' Again
I sometimes recycle for Gypsy Scholar material that I've posted on the Milton List, especially when it gets ignored there because the other scholars fail to recognize my genius, a failure that, writ large, perhaps explains my largely failed career.
Recently, I read a review of Sam Raimi's new film Drag Me To Hell and noticed a remark by Raimi that reminded me of the central theme in Stanley Fish's great work, Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost. As some readers will know -- or will recall from earlier posts on this blog -- Fish argues that Milton depicts Satan as a heroic character with seemingly admirable qualities so that we will identify with him and sin along with Adam and Eve through taking Satan's side until we learn, too late, that we have been misled.
As I noted on the Milton List:
Sam Raimi must have been boning up on Stanley Fish's magnum opus. His recent film, Drag Me To Hell, tells the morality tale of what happens when a young and ambitious loan officer turns down an old woman's application for a mortgage extension. The old lady puts a curse on the ambitious young woman . . . and we're also implicated. Look at this review -- "After Spidey, a Return to Hell" -- by the much maligned Charles McGrath in the New York Times:I address Stanley Fish directly because I know that he subscribes to the Milton List and sometimes even posts there . . . but neither he nor any other scholar responded. Perhaps some didn't like my allusion to Charles McGrath, who was heavily criticized on the list by a few scholars last autumn for 'erroneous' remarks about John Milton in a review of Terrance Lindall's WAH Center's exhibit on Milton in the lead-up to the center's Grand Paradise Lost Costume Ball. Actually, I'm joking in suggesting that my Milton List post was ignored because of the reference to McGrath . . . just in case anyone was taking that as a seriously snarky remark.The torments the poor young woman suffers sometimes seem a little excessive compared with the relative smallness of her crime -- she's hardly a Bernie Madoff -- and that's part of Mr. Raimi's intention. "This is a young woman who thinks she’s a good person, but she acts out of greed," he explained. "That's what seems relevant -- the greed. I tried to make her someone you identify with, because at the moment she has to make her choice, I want the audience to make that choice with her. They sin with her. They know they’re culpable, and now" -- he lowered his voice so it sounded like the voice-over of a horror movie trailer -- "now they know they’re going to be punished."That really sounds like Piscean twist to my learned ears. Stanley, have you been tutoring Raimi -- or did he bite into that fruitful lemon twist on his own?
Incidentally, while I have enjoyed Raimi's Spiderman films, I've not seen any of his horror films and don't intend to, for I have a wild imagination and would suffer nightmares if I watched (as readers will understand).
Why, I won't even watch the trailer to Raimi's hellish film.