What are the pleasures of revenge? What do they look like?
It’s easy enough to know what revenge looks like. It’s much harder to picture its pleasures. This is because revenge tends to be depicted not as a matter of enjoyment but of getting even, righting wrongs, setting the world straight. It looks like slicing off the hands that give commands. Those fucking hands. Or force-feeding the unapologetic shit-heads their own crap, which isn’t your mess to clean up. Revenge isn’t bound to a principle of symmetrical retribution. It expresses the anger of being wronged. And anger, some people say, isn’t the best measure of fairness. John Locke so worried about the escalating bloodshed of revenge that he believed creating government was humanity’s only hope for level-headed justice. Revenge is rage without restraint.
But Sue’s anger melts as blood splashes her face like a refreshing rain. No longer enraged, she smiles and laughs. A bit to her own surprise, too. Sue has found pleasure in excess. All that blood and vomit — they are excesses, traces of the body escaping itself, like the scream of a Francis Bacon painting. Excess is a vitality that loosens the organization of a body. Dancing is an excess that frees the body from the stagnant rhythms and mechanical movements induced by work. This is why Sue turns on a stereo; as the philosopher Gilles Deleuze notes, music “strips bodies of their inertia, of the materiality of their presence: it disembodies bodies.” And Sue disembodies bodies, all right, literalizing the philosophy she reads in her down time. But she’s not content to enjoy the signs of excess gushing from others; she wants to feel an excess flowing through herself, to disembody the body shaped by her job, to enliven her postures, her facial expressions, her gait. So Sue dances, in reverie.
And instead of further hacking away, she tries to get the wrongdoers to dance with her; she toys with them to share in the pleasures of the moment (but they don’t seem to get it). Sue is generous, not sadistic or resentful; her soul doesn’t squint. She doesn’t have a taste for bloodshed per se but for the vitality therein — a vitality expressed most in dancing.
Of course, nothing proves that the revenge episode is an event rather than a fantasy. The diner’s dull hues contrast with the hazy lights that hint at a dream state. Sue doesn’t dream big; she knows her bucket symbolizes the American Dream, an empty container except when it holds a load of crap. And Sue disregards the bucket’s demand to “Invest in America,” knowing that hard work won’t save her from a douchebag boss, rid of an asshole clientele, and bring her happiness. Instead of working hard, Sue hardly works. She is startled when the cop enters, as if snapped back to reality from a tiny daydream. And when the cop spots the finger, he doesn’t react with shock but annoyance; the finger points less to a crime than an offense, the gag of a waitress who finds pleasure in dreams of excess that become little gestures.
As if winking, Sue smiles with satisfaction when she sets down the mug of coffee. Without waiting to see the cop’s reaction, she walks away. In her revenge fantasy, Sue doesn’t walk away; she enjoys watching the reactions of her victims. That pleasure is thus not quite her own, dependent as it is on the pain of others. Fantasizing, on the other hand, is a little pleasure of its own, created by oneself and independent of boss and customer. Daydreaming is a lateral pleasure that sidesteps the slumps of everyday life. For a moment, it keeps Sue afloat.
Revenge is a pleasure defined by wounded attachments. Fantasy is a dream pop pleasure of one’s own dance. The juice of my heart is an excess that vitalizes my life, joyfully.