And For What?

16 Jan


When I think about senseless, inexplicable violence, I remember the character created so brilliantly by Peter Stormare in the Coen brothers’ Fargo. The flat affect. The vacant eyes. The silence. 

Remember, Proudfoot did not vouch for him.

And now Mrs. Lundegaard is dead. And those three people in Brainerd.

Look, this guy is just plain nuts. How else can you explain that wood chipper?

This is absolutely not what Jerry Lundegaard intended.

Certainly, Wade Gustafson, Jean Lundegaard’s father, is not to blame. Though I can’t shake the feeling that he contributed somehow to this mess.

And he’s not the only one. There is so much that is cold and desolate in the landscape of Fargo.

And now, with Frances McDormand’s Marge Gunderson, we bring in our own mysterious perpetrator.

We look at him through the rearview mirror, and wonder what it was all for.

Stormare is extraordinary in that scene, and, for a moment, I imagine a flicker of understanding in his expression. And I feel sorry for him.

And here you are, Jared.

And it’s a beautiful day.

I just don’t understand it.

37 Responses to “And For What?”

  1. Paul Costopoulos January 17, 2011 at 6:47 am #

    Nothing much to be understood here, Jenny. The workings of a deranged mind is unfathomable although, at times preventable. This one slipped through the proverbial cracks. Of course U.S. gun idolatry was a contributing factor but your country is a hopeless basket case in that regard.

    • jenny January 17, 2011 at 8:30 am #

      a hopeless basket case…

      Now I’m depressed.

      • dafna January 18, 2011 at 1:21 am #

        got it, well done jenny, most subtle post yet.

        yes paul, “the workings of a deranged mind is unfathomable”. yet the coen brothers seem to have a knack for capturing it on film.

      • jenny January 18, 2011 at 7:27 am #

        Thanks, dafna. I’m a fan of the Coens.

  2. Man of Roma January 17, 2011 at 8:18 am #

    Now it’s me who’s wishing I understood what the heck are you talking about 😉

    • jenny January 17, 2011 at 8:30 am #

      I know. Sorry.

      • Man of Roma January 17, 2011 at 8:37 am #

        Don’t be. And fulfil your dream (and ours) as ministry of education.

      • jenny January 17, 2011 at 8:45 am #

        🙂 And, I apply the same revolutionary approach to the study of foreign languages, you should know. Works great: all the naughty words first, but you must use them in grammatically correct sentences.

        BTW, if you have not seen this movie (Fargo), you should.

      • Man of Roma January 17, 2011 at 8:47 am #

        I’ll try, but I am forgetful.

      • sledpress January 17, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

        My late, and ex, husband used to tutor immigrants in English and he used this method. It worked brilliantly. I believe he saw it as a subversive practice. If his students did especially well he would teach them at the class’s end one of those opaque slang expressions that don’t translate, such as “pissed off.”

      • jenny January 17, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

        @Sledpress: I expect nothing less of any one-time husband of yours.

  3. Mark Workman January 18, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    Brilliant. But scary. Keep writing. Your country needs you.

    • jenny January 19, 2011 at 7:02 am #

      Aw, thanks. I wish it needed me in a warmer climate.

  4. Cyberquill January 19, 2011 at 11:09 pm #

    For mom and apple pie.

    • jenny January 20, 2011 at 2:16 am #

      Oh my god, CQ! Oh. My. God. Who gave you a green card??

      What about baseball?

      • Cyberquill January 20, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

        I won my Green Card in the Green Card Lottery, so I guess the Department of State is to blame. But then I had to return it in exchange for my Certificate of Naturalization. So for all intents and purposes I do not have a Green Card at this time. Hope this makes you feel better.

        And ballgames bore me to tears. All of them.

      • jenny January 21, 2011 at 6:57 am #

        Cy, regarding baseball:

        I decided in my mid-thirties that my focus should no longer be everything I always wanted to do, but everything I never wanted to do. Cuz what do I know? Opens up a lot of fun stuff.

        You might like a baseball game.

      • Cyberquill January 21, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

        As per your thesis, I should try dating men for a change.

  5. lyndabirde January 20, 2011 at 9:24 pm #

    we try to understand unfathomable acts because we want to make sense. we can’t make sense of it, no matter how much we analyze. is it because we want to have control? Only God knows.

    I love everything you write, Jenny.

    • jenny January 21, 2011 at 7:06 am #

      Hi Lynda! So nice to hear from you! I don’t want control, I just want everything to be the way I know is best. Well, not everything. A few (pleasant) surprises along the way would be nice too.

      Working on Spanish, by the way. Seriously.


  6. Man of Roma January 21, 2011 at 9:52 am #

    I decided in my mid-thirties that my focus should no longer be everything I always wanted to do, but everything I never wanted to do.

    Dangerous statement, if you think of it.

  7. jenny January 22, 2011 at 7:22 am #

    Gentlemen! Roma! Wien!

    I’m actually serious about this, even if it is easily mocked.

    I hope to avoid the rigidity of outlook and narrowing of interests that I see so often in people as they get older.

    Nothing provocative or perverse.

    Yours very sincerely,
    (tapping into my inner gangster)

    • Man of Roma January 22, 2011 at 8:10 am #

      Ah ah ah. You made me laugh Chicago.
      But I understand what you mean.

      • jenny January 23, 2011 at 5:29 am #

        I thought you might get it, Giovanni.

        The gangster part, that is. 🙂

    • Cyberquill January 22, 2011 at 8:47 pm #

      Nothing provocative or perverse for sure, but a piece only a typical liberal could post, given that its sole focus is on the tortured soul of the perpetrator (“And I feel sorry for him”, “And here you are, Jared”) with not one reference to a single victim.

      In essence, all you’ve said about the Arizona shooting so far—at least to the extent to which the public, i.e., your blog readership is aware of—is “Poor Jared!”

      Serious enough?

      • jenny January 23, 2011 at 5:34 am #

        OK, CQ. Let me make coffee first. Then I’ll respond. It’s early here. And cold.

      • jenny January 23, 2011 at 6:51 am #


        When did the conversation shift from the comments to my post?

        When I wrote “nothing provocative or perverse” I was referring to our discussion in the comments about my mid-life interest in things I never wanted to do. That is what we were talking about, right? I mean, when you said that, per my thesis, you should try dating men, you didn’t have in mind my thesis about the Arizona shooting, did you?

        I’m taken aback that you have any interest in the post itself. But we can talk about it:

        In this post, I use Fargo to evoke the feeling I have about the events in Arizona. (I suppose that you have seen the movie.) I place myself (and all of us) in the role of the appalled Marge Gunderson as she brings in the Peter Stormare monster of a villain. Do you think that she is feeling only pity for this guy who fed body parts to a wood chipper? Did you leave the movie feeling nothing but sympathy for the Stormare character? That would be odd. What we feel, mainly, I think, is total incomprehension.

        Actually, compassion for Jared never occurred to me until I watched Stormare in the scene I hyper-linked. It surprised me, so I described the feeling here. Great, nuanced acting shapes thinking.

        Not one reference to a single victim in my post? Your assumptions about my politics cloud your powers of interpretation. Who are Mrs. Lundegaard and the three dead people in Brainerd? I don’t imagine that you (or any other reader) need me to tell you that I’m not really talking about the dead in a Coen movie.

        Why do you ignore that part of the post?

        I guess that you are irritated because I use the Fargo plot to suggest that some responsibility for what happened in Arizona rests somewhere beyond the perpetrator. I intentionally do not identify where it lies, because I do not know the answer. Nor does that interest me here.

        The movie Fargo (as I understand it) and my post (as I conceived it) do not say “poor Jared”, but “poor all of us”.

        Finally, what do you know of my blog readership’s awareness?

        Why do you assume that all readers understand my post the way you do?

      • Cyberquill January 23, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

        Yeah, cold. Six degrees in Minneapolis according to the Fox News weather guy. A conservative estimate, presumably. In reality, it’s probably a lot colder up there.

        So this is an example of a rebuttal after you had your coffee? For your clients’ sake, I hope you stay off the joe before pleading their cases in court. (This may not be fair, but I’m getting too big a kick out of this remark to zap it. A popular Austrian comedian once said that it’s better to lose a friend than to suppress a joke. I’ve always lived by that dictum. Needless to say, by now I have very few friends left to lose.)

        Alright, so when you said “serious about this,” your “this” referred to an unrelated subtopic that came up in the comment section, not to the topic raised in your post. You must admit, though, that your antecedent is difficult to ascertain given the placement of the comment which contained your “this,” as the containing comment doesn’t appear to be indented as it would be had it been placed via hitting the REPLY button on any of the previous comments. Due to its freestanding nature—i.e., not being part of any particular comment thread—its content could be referring to anything above it, including the post itself. Indeed, its formal location suggests the latter interpretation.

        Yes, I’ve seen the movie, and no, I didn’t see a single reference to a victim in your post. An actual victim, that is. With all due respect to Mrs. Lundegaard and the three dead people in Brainerd, they are fictional characters, hence not genuine candidates for victimhood. The only real person you showed compassion for in your post is an actual killer. Your post may say “poor all of us,” but it certainly highlighted poor Jared.

        Perhaps I should have said “not one reference to a single real victim,” but since the only person I mentioned in my comment was a real person, it stands to reason that, unless stated otherwise, all other individuals I referenced in the same comment were meant to be real, too. Noscitur a sociis.

        By your blog readership’s awareness I meant as far as such awareness can reasonably be gleaned from the totality of your postings which refer to the Tuscon incident. Perhaps you’re offline buddies with some of your readers and your post is merely a non-representative outlier sample of your thoughts on the shooting. I can only go by what’s on my screen, not by whatever may be said in other forums. And what’s on my screen is “Poor Jared” and “Poor fictional victims of fictional crimes from 15 years ago.”

        Your compassion for Jared “surprised” you? Doesn’t surprise me. I am making incorrect “assumptions” about your politics? Alright. So you do not vote for one side more often than for the other. I stand corrected. Ms. Middle-of-the-Road then. Perhaps even Ms. Republican. My bad.

  8. Artswebshow January 22, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    Lol, what a fun post and comment discussion

    • jenny January 23, 2011 at 5:32 am #

      Check it out: Cyberquill ratchets up the fun level!

      • sledpress January 23, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

        Yeah, it’s almost as much fun as overhearing Rush on the car radio next to you in traffic.

      • dafna January 24, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

        humor, yes that’s the ticket… i’ll have to try it at home.

        if i could only find the humor in it when my tween says black every time i say white, our house would be so much more peaceful, instead it’s exhausting.

        humor and a big slice of chocolate cake, off to it 😉

  9. Philippe January 24, 2011 at 3:35 pm #

    To re-make a point that I made in a comment on the Hannibal Blog (but which was treated as a joke), the percentage of humans with serious mental disorders is sufficiently high to suggest a congenital flaw in the design of the human brain (we are the only animal, as far as we know, that suffers psychosis, among the other myriad mental disorders).

    This is a topic which Sebastian Faulks explored in his novel, “Human Traces”, and which made the point that susceptibility to mental disorders is the price we humans pay for having a brain so advanced.

    Because we are a species relatively new, we are like a newly invented and complicated gadget which, because so new, has glitches still to be fixed, but of necessity not yet.

    Since the likes of Jared whatshisname and the fictional homicidal character in “Fargo” are among those who actually pay the price of serious mental disorder so that the rest of us may enjoy our advanced brains, it is appropriate that we pity them.

    • Cyberquill January 24, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

      Oh, so this is yet another zero-sum game? Just like the rich are hogging my fair share of the national wealth, the likes of Jared whatshisname, in addition to carrying their own, are also burdened with my fair share of the total amount of mental distemper that exists in the world? Are there any problems in the world that do not reduce to some form of unequal distribution at their core?

    • dafna January 25, 2011 at 11:37 pm #

      there is an expression, “when you have to hang a man, it costs nothing to be kind”.

      culpability may not be equal, but i see no harm in pity. how or why should this emotion be measured?

    • jenny January 27, 2011 at 5:37 am #

      @Philippe: That is a very interesting idea. I will check out the discussion on the HB. Thanks.

      @Dafna: Thanks.


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