Since starting tumblr, I have been increasingly worried, no not worried per se, increasingly “eye-rolly” at the worship of Lolita that appears on my dash on a daily basis.
Many years ago, had you asked me what my favourite book was, I would have replied, Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov. I also loved both versions of the film, the Kubrick and the Lyne adaptations.
I loved it for its narrative, for the amazing interpretation of a man, essentially a monster, when you remove yourself from the romanticism, that coerces a young girl into a sexual and emotional relationship, and later keeps her there, quite against her will. The cleverness with which it was written, the empathy you found yourself feeling for Humbert and the disgust you felt with yourself for wishing it would work out astounded me.
So much so I wrote my first university thesis on the topic of nympholepsy.
nym·pho·lep·sy Noun /ˈnimfəˌlepsē/
- Passion aroused in men by beautiful young girls
- Wild frenzy caused by desire for an unattainable ideal
I was particularly impressed with the film version by Adrian Lyne, his ability to portray a girl, a twelve year old girl’s discovery of her sexuality and the power it has over older men.
I remember being around that age, and discovering that I could make boys do things for me. Discovering that men, fully grown men would stare at me by the pool just a little too long as I hopped out, discovering that I could coyly ask something of a teacher or an uncle or a family friend and with a little batting of my eyelashes, a touch of innocent cuteness, I would get my way with them.
It was the discovery of flirtation.
And Adrian Lyne portrays this perfectly in his adaptation of the book. They way Lolita bounds up the stairs and throws herself onto Humberts arms, the way she sits on his lap chews and twists her gum, the way her lips envelop the straw as she sips from the cola bottle.
But he does it so well, we forget that this story, the original story written by Nabakov is written in the perspective of an unreliable narrator. That is, from the perspective of Humbert Humbert, who although he knows he shouldn’t be doing the things he is doing, is seeing it through paedophile tinted glasses, still on some level telling himself, telling us, willing us to believe that Lolita wanted it just as badly as he did.
The fact of the matter is that this story, at the end of the day is about a TWELVE YEAR OLD GIRL that is sexually seduced and abused by her step father, who was complicit in the death of her mother, a man that lied to her, manipulated and controlled her, but because we are reading it from his perspective we tend to see his view and empathise with him.
It doesnt make it any less wrong.
Sure I will masturbate to Lolita like porn, I will still find the whole taboo topic sexy and romantic on some level, because the fantasy of that whole thing IS sexy. But the reality definitely isnt.
But what I wont do anymore is declare my love for it as publicly as I did.
I am slightly distressed by the number of girls on tumblr that dont seem to truly understand what a monster Humbert was, and what a terrible story it is at the end of the day. They just see the romance, the whim and wit and declare it is their favourite book or film, for all the wrong reasons.