A famous San Francisco DJ used to end his broadcasts with the phrase, “Out of the mud comes the lotus.” The life of Tina Turner, who was born this day in 1939, seems to epitomize this saying. If you read her memoir, I, Tina, or watch the 1993 film loosely based on it, you see the extraordinary journey that began in the muck of ghetto life with all its attendant pathologies, proceeded through abuse and victim-hood, and blossomed finally into the irrepressible flower we now know and love.
Twenty years later, What’s Love Got to Do with It, is still a difficult film to watch. We know that what happened to Anna Mae Bullock (Tina's real name) continues to happen to other women. The National Coalition against Domestic Violence reports that one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Eighty-five percent of domestic violence victims are women. Historically, females have been most often victimized by someone they knew. Women between the ages of 20 and 24 are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate-partner violence. And get this – most of these incidents are never reported to police.
If you look at the worst scenes from What’s Love Got to Do with It, you notice a correlation between sex and violence. Pushing cake into Anna Mae’s face. Dragging her into the bedroom after knocking her down and punching her in the face. These acts are extensions of sexual behavior rooted in the idea of male dominance. If you listen to frat boys or rappers—white or black—talking of sex, the discussions of what they want to do to women all verge on misogyny. They don’t want to love women. They want to hurt them. And they want to believe that women actually desire this. Women are ho’s or what have you, and they are built to desire an experience that…hurts so good so to speak. If you are brave enough to read the YouTube comments beneath any random clip of the movie, including those that describe what kind of punishment Ike should receive in hell, you see that even these anonymous comments are mired in the idea of sex as an act of violence. I don’t have to tell you that this is messed up.
What’s wonderful about the film is that it shows how Tina becomes free of all this. You have to go to the cake-eating scene when Ike slaps her friend, Jackie, to the floor (Clip 1). When Jackie leaves the restaurant shouting profanities, she makes it known that he only has to hit her once. She leaves their revue before it tours with the Rolling Stones, and she tells Tina to leave Ike too. But of course, she doesn’t. That’s the thing about this kind of victim-hood: it’s codependent.
Fast forward now to the scene where Jackie returns (Clip 2) and introduces Tina to the meditative chanting that provides a pathway to her physical and psychological liberation. If you want to know more about the chant, you can click here. I was unable to find a clip of Tina’s final triumph over Ike near the end of the movie, where you can see in Angela Bassett’s brilliant performance that she is no longer afraid of him. When that happens, it’s as if she’s depriving him of oxygen. There’s no payoff for the abuser if the victim is no longer afraid. His pornographically induced, co-dependently reinforced psychic erection shrivels away to the impotence his violence had been trying to conceal all along.
None of this is meant as judgment. It’s just a way of pointing out that the lotus does not exist apart from the mud from which it sprang. The third clip features Tina singing “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” from the Thunderdome movie, which seems a fitting coda to this aspect of her story. Victims of the world cannot be saved by an outside hero. Liberation can come only from within.
By the way, Tina Turner has won eight Grammy Awards. She received the Kennedy Center Honors Award in 2005. She is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Rolling Stone Magazine placed her at number 17 on its list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. Anna Mae certainly got free.
Born this day in 1922, this American cartoonist gave us decades of Peanuts, still delightful after all these years. Born in Minneapolis, MN, Schultz influenced many other cartoonists over the years. During its 50-year run, Peanuts ran in 2600 newspapers in 75 countries. Schultz produced some 18,000 Peanuts comic strips, which eventually brought him an income of $30 to $40 million a year. Here's a clip from one of the Thanksgiving cartoons spawned by his lovable characters.
Born in Romania on this day in 1909, this playwright is known for his French written Theater of the Absurd pieces, the best known of which is probably Rhinoceros. What follows is a clip from the 1974 film version with Gene Wilder