Themes of Political
Incorrectness and Rape in
Are you bipolar?
A Casual Interview with Richard Perez
by Rebecca Goodman-Smith
What made you write PERMANENT
I wanted to do something very
different from my first (The
Losers' Club), which was a quasi-documentary
style, neo-realistic romantic comedy.
So how is this different?
It takes its influence from exploitation
cinema rather than slice-o-life neo-realistic drama. PERMANENT
OBSCURITY is actually my version of a sexploitation drama,
in particular referencing those films from the 1960s and 1970s.
Why the 1960s or 1970s? What
makes that era so special?
It was before "political
correctness" came into effect, which lends more raw honesty
to it. I'm a big fan of politically incorrect comediennes
like Sarah Silverman anyway; politically incorrect humor is
like subversive art in that it's often jolting; it has the
capacity to awaken you.
Why do you need to be awakened?
Because, like most people, I'm
usually sleep walking. Or numb. Or whatever you want to call
it. In order not to succumb to perpetual anxiety attacks,
human beings are in denial about everything: down to the fact
that they're going to die. Are dying.
But why sexploitation specifically?
As opposed to horror?
Horror is done to death. How
many more vampire and zombies stories do we need to see before
we drop into a coma? Sexploitation, which I often find more
subversive than horror, hasn't really been reexamined. So
this is like revisionist sexploitation -- through female protagonists
-- and the exploitation this time runs both ways.
What's subversive about a
pair of big tits?
There's more to sexploitation
than tits. There's gender politics, there's the power dynamics
(which questions "status") and the subversive power
of sexuality, which makes most of us uncomfortable on some
level, as it seems to challenge moral and ethical behavior.
Is PERMANENT OBSCURITY anti-feminist?
I don't see it that way. I was
totally in the head of Dolores Santana, the female narrator,
as I was writing it. If anything, writing this book made me
more aware of how women are vulnerable: emotionally, psychologically,
physically. I definitely have more empathy now.
More empathy in what way?
Well, let's take the physical
aspect: the way women are always being hit on and harassed,
which is something you don't have a clue about when you're
a guy. Guys are ignored. Even in bars. You don't get free
drinks, but you also don't have to put up with corny pick-up
lines. There's much less bullshit directed at you as a guy,
much less flattery. And that's a good thing. Men don't typically
think about being raped either unless they're in prison. But
rape is always a very real possibility with a woman -- a huge
threat that looms over a woman's life ... because there's
always that possibility: being the target of male rage or
violence. It's an unfair balance in nature. And in writing
PERMANENT OBSCURITY, I saw how Dolores and Serena were always
vulnerable that way; it made me worry right along with them.
Serena, in particular, is a beautiful woman who was always
an object of lust, and this brought her unwanted attention
and unhappiness mostly; it even interfered with her normal
development as a person.
How would being beautiful
interfere with being normal?
Well, it often does. A woman
who is perceived as an object of lust, and who's accustomed
to being perceived that way will always be "on,"
will always see herself as delivering a "performance"
of sorts. A beautiful woman is like a performance artist really,
and her femininity is just part of an artificial persona.
And that's how Serena sees herself: a "fake." Her
body and looks are what "make her special" in many
ways, and she hates herself for it. Or resents it, while neurotically
embracing it too. The joke about her butt being perfect and
her name being "Moon" is deliberate of course; talk
about being resentful for a physical attribute. That really
comes out in the book, and she acts out this resentment --
exacts her revenge in the most perverse way. Not just against
the writer of her scenario, but against all men, in general.
My favorite line of the book is when Dolores says, "What
I wouldn't give for a punishing ass like Serena's!"
So is the story of PERMANENT
OBSCURITY mostly about Serena?
It's a mutual misadventure between
Dolores, the narrator, and her best friend, Serena. But Serena
looms large in Dolores' pot-soaked brain. Serena is the one
person she'll never forget in her lifetime -- that's how big
a part she plays. It's Dolores's recounting how her obsession
with her best friend brought her a shitload of pain. Kind
of a sad story, really, which Dolores alleviates in the telling
with her relentless sarcasm.
Why did you choose a woman's
voice -- a female first person narrator to tell the story?
I thought it would be fun. And
it was. If you're a guy, it's liberating to write from a totally
opposing perspective. Females characters are also granted
a much wider range of emotion, and that was a blast. I'm an
emotional person anyway; probably too emotional. Emotions,
not rational thinking, rules my life and influences nearly
all of my choices, and boy does this get me into trouble.
In much the same way, Dolores Santana is on the same roller
coaster ride. From one moment to the next, you never know
what she'll do or say, because she doesn't know herself and
she's comfortable with surfing her emotions to wherever they'll
take her. Unpredictability can be fun, but it has an annoying
and wearying side too. It can be exhausting.
So are you bipolar?
No, I'm Spanish. That's the best
I can say in my defense. (Laughs.)
Also of interest:
masochists the ultimate romantics?
(Or the inspiration for the character of Baby aka
Sebastian in PERMANENT
An INTERVIEW with Richard
Perez by Rebecca Goodman-Smith: filmmaker, non-fiction
writer, and friend. Read INTERVIEW #2
Did you enjoy this interview?
Support this author by purchasing his work: here.
Richard Perez has the
ears of the angels—lend him yours.
—Barry Gifford, author: WILD AT HEART
, PERDITA DURANGO
Perez's is an exciting
talent and his work goes far beyond most of what is
—Henry Flesh, author: MICHAEL and the Lambda
Dolores & Serena:
for Russ Meyer—
assuming, that is, if Meyer was around and still at his peak.”
Josh Alan Friedman, author: TALES OF TIMES SQUARE, WHEN SEX WAS DIRTY
They were young and immoral!...