Quoth Cleo as she walks deeper into the rain forest shedding clothes “You needn’t bother collecting, unless you want it for yourself. I for one will never be needing it or any other clothing again. I take a straightforward visual inspiration from Me Me Lai, who would get naked as could be in any number of Italian jungle cannibal movies, including Ultimo mondo cannibale, whence these screenshots come.
If we can tear our attention away from naked jungle frolics for a few moments, we might wish to ask ourselves what on earth is going on here. The answer, I guess, comes not from the frolics but from the satirical speech Cleo gives to Aloysius and Jireen: “I would work hard, get some sort of professional degree, then some sort of boring professional job. Get married to some boring professional guy. Live in a suburb in a McMansion with a brace of S-U-V’s and perhaps a brace of kids going to soccer practice. “
I suppose that Cleo’s rather astonishing rebellion mirrors ones I’ve had. Cleo is doing exactly what she should not. I’m not a huge admirer of David Brooks, but I must say that his Atlantic magazine piece “The Organization Kid” is rather on the mark. Our elite colleges swarm with compliant, hard-working kiss-asses — and boy do I know, because I taught a lot of ’em. The last time they rebelled against anything was during potty-training, and since then they have been building their resumes. They accept the system (easy to do, I suppose, when you have such a privileged place within it) and look forward to their professional degrees and professional jobs. I taught quite a few of them, and after a while I rather began to long to teach someone with a little fire in the belly for a change. So maybe Cleo involves a bit of personal wish-fulfillment for me, and not just because she’s so cheerful about getting naked out of doors. I mean, leave college to turn into an immortal spider-goddess? Talk about rebellion! You’ll never get a job with Goldman Sachs that way, young lady.
At a deeper level, I suppose, Cleo’s serenity at her own change might reflect another conviction, the one I put in the Thaumatophile Manifesto, which is that if you want a worthy life, you ought to embrace what you are (or have become) rather than trying to suppress what you are, even if other people will think it’s gross. You’ll surely die with regrets if you live any other way.