Loretta Lynn will hurt you.
There is something about this song that is incredibly satisfying. It is self righteous and powerful, without losing a provocatively cool sweetness, yet it ultimately promises real and possibly ugly violence. In fact, the violence implied by these lyrics is palpable, becoming its own space: "fist city" is a place that you could wind up, a place where Loretta Lynn is going to "grab you by the hair 'a your head and lift you offa the ground..."
I love this song and am a big fan of Loretta Lynn. I think a major element of what makes this particular song so appealing is its ability to invoke a sense of personal power through controlled, justified violence. When we hear a song like this, watch a fight scene in a film, or read a passage in a book that happens to take place in "fist city," we become fascinated by the control with which something scary-- and unpredictable and perhaps uncontrolled-- is being portrayed to us. The feeling we get from this controlled depiction of violence is different than watching, say, an artless bar brawl, which is sloppily uncontrolled and likely not initiated under the auspices of a struggle between Good and Evil.
This clip from the movie "Kids from Shaolin" has all of the elements of a good fight scene. (How were bullies defeated before the days of Facebook? Flying kicks. Duh.) Those important elements include: an underdog who represents humility and honor, an adversary who thinks they are undefeatable, and a great amount of fighting skill--exhibited by both the bad guy and the good guy--to make it interesting.
|Magda says "bring it" in Soulstring by|
Aerin of The Hero and the Crown (1984) was probably my first love, as I read the book as a child. Making fire-proofing kennet, slaying dragons, saving the day with her blue sword, and having the most dreamy man (Luthe--yes, I had a total crush on him) fall in love with her... I want to cheer just thinking about it!
Then there is Magda of Soulstring (1987) which I read fresh out of high school. She is a complete badass, freeing herself of the forces of an oppressive patriarch (her father), with the tender gaze of her husband --who's been turned into a stag-- to keep her company. There are so many great fight scenes in this little novel-- all of which solicit more cheers from me!
Then in college, I read Tolkien's masterpieces, The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy with their epic battle scenes, exciting in the novels and brought to life recently on the big screen.
|Don Quijote/Windmill painting by|
Fight scenes in literature and film seem to be reflections of our deep desire of witnessing Good prevailing over Evil. It is what makes the violence in these scenes not only tolerable but admirable. Vastly different from scenes of torture or cruelty (in which there is a sense of hopelessness and pervasive darkness), these fight scenes show the forces of oppression meeting the forces of freedom on the battlefield, and the fight itself reveals the weaknesses and strengths of both sides.
Yet these fight scenes are not purely allegorical, they are not simply a metaphor for the victory of light over darkness. If they were meant only as metaphors, then there would be no reason to take pains to write a fight scene--the battle could be a game of chess, or an argument over tea. The violence in these fight scenes is real and necessary, it does not simply point to some other meaning, it has its own meaning.
I believe that the violence of a fight scene demonstrates what, to us humans is the potential of total sacrifice (putting one's life on the line). A willingness to die--and to kill--for the benefit of others is one of the most visceral and controversial of all human instincts. That's why a fight scene is exciting-- not because it is a metaphor-- but because it is really the event in which our very mortality is subjugated by a cause.
What are your favorite fight scenes? Who do you cheer on in books, music, film? ...
Until next time-- keep the petticoats rustling!