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Tylim, I. (1997). Crash: Sex and Death at The Millennium. Psychoanal. Rev., 84(6):947-952.

(1997). Psychoanalytic Review, 84(6):947-952

Crash: Sex and Death at The Millennium

Isaac Tylim

The human imagination has stretched itself in an attempt to overcome the limitations of the body, producing extensions of the self through machines capable of fueling omnipotent fantasies and grandiose visions. The nineteenth century Romantics created monsters in the laboratory which unleashed forbidden impulses. Vampires and other creatures of the night fed the innocent Victorian, opening erotic vistas that infiltrated the repression barrier. The Romantics immersed themselves in a new erotic discourse where illness and death appeared as condiments of veiled desire, the foreground for that which could not be represented. Consumption plagued Romantic and post-Romantic novels. In these novels dying of consumption defined romantic sensibilities together with piano playing in courtship. The infected romantic heroes or heroines found passion not despite but in the realization of unavoidable death.

Romanticism at the threshold of the twenty-first century exchanges the nineteenth century foreground of death and illness for one of decadent and perverse sexuality. The looming reality of death and illness is denied, transferred to the background of the narrative as if repressed in the film text. In Crash the foreground is explicit, risky sex, of soft pornography; the background is illness—AIDS denied, inaccessible to the viewer, whose attention is being diverted to body parts copulating in, on, under, or next to cars. The excitement produced by violence and death on the road is the millennium version of a Romantic story.

Crash is a Romantic story where for want of suitable fetishes, car crashes become the ultimate frontier in the landscape of perversions. Sexual performance in Crash is enabled by the presence of a car going out of control, chasing fatal orgasms. Fetish is a term that refers to something artificial or fictitious (Kaplan, 1991), the imagination giving birth to a new object with the mandate to push trauma to the background in order to install the illusion of omnipotence, the denial of the differences between the sexes, and the differences between the generations—in the case of Crash, the differences between human objects and non-human ones.

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