I missed class and might as well have an IV drip of sudafed/tylenol/caffeine, so this post is probably way less relevant than I'd like it to be. BUT what do these things (Blue Velvet and Lolita) have in common?
Sexual perversions. check. Obviously.
It goes a lot deeper than that, though. Liz is right when she points out the taboo nature of both. They're presented, though, in a really beautiful, sympathetic way. (Actually, okay, the descriptor "beautiful" might be a stretch when it comes to Blue Velvet, but that's purely my own aesthetic preference speaking)
Sontag writes that "pornography can be a crutch for the psychologically deformed and a brutalization of the morally innocent." Neither Blue Velvet nor Lolita falls into this trap, though the subject matter of both of them could veer dangerously close BECAUSE though they do, like the Story of O, "presume this dark and complex vision of sexuality so far removed from the hopeful view sponsored by American Freudianism and liberal culture," they are excellent from a quality-of-work standpoint. They possess the "erotic glamour of physical cruelty and an erotic lure in things that are vile and repulsive." But they are saved from being mere, craftless smut by their "originality, thoroughness, authenticity, and power." They are elegant, the characters portrayed are emotionally complex and intense, and the stories provoke intense visceral reactions on emotional, intellectual, and, yes, sexual levels.
Nafisi writes that "the perfection and beauty of form revels against the ugliness and shabbiness of the subject matter" (47).
They made us identify with someone we might not ordinarily - a sexual deviant like Frank Booth, or a pedophile like Humbert Humbert. I think we are shocked at the proximity of these characters to ourselves. Like Frank says to Jeffrey, "you're just like me." They're just like us. There is a moment, I think, when we watch or read these works, and we say to ourselves, "Oh my God, who is the real protagonist here?" Both Lynch and Nabokov are so unbelievably good at what they do that they can make us identify with such extreme characters, or at least understand them a little more.
I know I'm quoting a lot, but Sontag says that "pornography that is serious literature aims to "excite" in the same way that books which render an extreme form of religious experience aim to "convert"" That's exactly what these two works do, and why they are so frequently claimed as "favorites" among intellectual sets. They are in themselves, almost "religious" experiences."