Why do we want what we want – especially in love? It was a question that preoccupied René Girard. Mostly, he claimed, others do the choosing for us, without us knowing it. Anthropologist Mark Anspach (we’ve had guest posts from him here and here) considers Roger Waters, co-founder of the Pink Floyd band, and his recent marriage to his fifth wife. A longish excerpt from “Mimetic Desire and Serial Monogamy: the Case of Roger Waters“ over at Geoff Shullenberger‘s new blog, Outsider Theory:
“Did anyone ever tell you that you have beautiful cheekbones?” That was the opening line rock icon Roger Waters used with Kamilah Chavis, the woman he married in October 2021. But it wasn’t her face that first drew Waters to Chavis. In fact, during their first meetings, she kept her back turned to him.
Waters told the story in a widely-quoted 2018 interview with Argentine media outlet Infobae. The reporter asked, “Is Kamilah an artist?” No, Waters replied. “She worked in transportation.” More precisely, she was a chauffeur.
“I actually met her at one of my concerts a couple of years ago,” Waters explained. “She was driving the car that was taking me. I was in one place for two weeks and there were many transfers between the hotel and the venue. My security sat in the front with her and they talked, while I stayed in the back. I don’t know, something about her attracted me…”
There was something about her, but what could it be? It wasn’t love at first sight. Waters spent most of their time together staring at the back of Kamilah’s head. She didn’t even talk to him. So what sparked Roger’s interest in Kamilah? Was it her lovely black hair? The way she held her head? Her entrancing perfume?
Curiously, when Waters recalls the attraction he felt for his future bride, nothing he says is about the woman herself. It’s all about the circumstances: she was driving the car, up front with the security, while Waters rode in back. That hardly sounds like a romantic setting, yet he was mysteriously drawn to her. Why?
Waters gave little clue when announcing his wedding on social media. He said only, “I’m so happy, finally a keeper.” This is less an ode to his new bride than a back-handed slap at his previous wives. Clearly, Waters had reflected on why his first four marriages ended in divorce and identified a common flaw in all his exes: they weren’t “keepers.”
Read the rest of it here. It’s not only insightful, it’s fun. Wait! Wait! Here’s also Bill Benzon’s “Crisis in Shark City: A Girardian reading of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws.” As a bonus prize, a Girardian take on Alfred Hitchcock’s 1955 To Catch a Thief:
As you may know, René Girard is a theorist of imitation, desires, violence and sacrifice. His core concept is that of mimetic desire, a desire which one person acquires by imitating the actions of another. Take Alfred Hitchcock’s 1955 film, To Catch a Thief . Cary Grant plays John Robie, a cat burglar who is retired to the French Riviera along with the rest of his gang, all of whom have been paroled in recognition of their work for the French Resistance. A recent string of burglaries leads the authorities to suspect Robie because the burglaries follow his old modus operandi.
In the (somewhat involved) process of trying to clear himself Robie arranges to go swimming with a young heiress, Frances Stevens (played by Grace Kelly). Robie arrives at the beach where he is met by Danielle Foussard (played by Brigitte Auber), who is the young daughter of one of his old comrades in the Resistance. They swim out to a raft where Danielle proceeds to flirt with Robie. Frances swims out to them, sees Danielle flirting with Robie, and decides that she will pursue Robie. She is imitating Danielle’s desire. In Girard’s terms, her desire is thus mediated, it is mimetic desire. Danielle and Frances thus become rivals and rivalry can lead to violence. Though we don’t know it at this point in the movie, Danielle is the cat burglar. She too is imitating Robie.
Read the rest about Jaws here.