Harmony Korine stated somewhere that the characters from his film Gummo, he found, were “transcendentally beautiful.” It is unclear just what the so-called “beauty” of the characters transcends. Korine has also said that he is not into “shock for shock’s sake.” Rather, he calls himself a “provocateur.” Tomatoes, tomatoes, it would seem. This day-in-the-life style narrative rather voyeuristically watches and then enters into the existence of rural, low-income young people who unwittingly wallow in what, it would seem, we bourgeoisie would call “the ugly,” “the abject,” “the disgusting,” “the filthy,” etc. Somehow, many of the most deplorable aspects of these characters are the least explicable, such as the main boy’s hair. It would not repel one on its own, but placed in this context, it somehow adds to an overall collage of grossness. Certainly there is a subjectivity here that must be acknowledged, but it is at least fair to say that the film wouldn’t be what it is if it didn’t have a largely disconcerting effect on mainstream, middle-class America. Can this all be chalked up to class difference, though? Much of what goes on here is morally problematic if not reprehensible: torturing and killing animals, unplugging life support without a care in the world (let alone anyone’s consent), anarchic destruction, parental neglect, and a sadistic hatred toward anyone not conforming to the macho male ideal. Of course many will find this sort of response predictable and insist that there is humanity and beauty here. This seems comparable to saying that war is beautiful because it displays valor and courage. These good things can shine much more brightly without being clouded into near-nothingness by the ugliness of their unnecessary settings. Not hard to believe Korine wrote the screenplay to Kids.
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