Unveiling the Secret of the “Seductive Stare”: Saint Teresa, Santiago Cabrera, and Desire – Part Two

By Loraine Haywood

***Click Here to read Part One!

The Musketeers, Season 1, Episode 9: “Knight Takes Queen”

In this episode, Aramis, the virile romantic hero, (Santiago Cabrera), Queen Ann (Alexandra Dowling), and Athos (Tom Burke) seek shelter in a monastery as Porthos (Howard Charles) and D’Artagnan (Luke Pasqualino) go for reinforcements. Under siege by paid assassins, they use various stratagems to play for time. While enlisting the help of the Nuns at the convent Aramis meets Agatha his estranged lover. When she is killed saving Aramis, he agonises over her death. The impact of the imagined importance of their relationship was an illusion and coming to terms with his misperception causes him anguish. This reflection is broken by the Queen and the reality of her desire for a child and him. As Aramis and the Queen are secluded in part of the monastery for her protection, the privacy allows Ann to give way to her desire. In this scene, it is feminine desire that carries the narrative, just as Saint Teresa and her desire is the central theme in her memoirs.

In the convent, Aramis finds himself in the place of god as the one who is desired by the woman. As in Saint Teresa’s account, Queen Ann initiates the encounter. The fire that is ignited in Ann is the real of her desire that is set against the law as prohibition, as in the story of Adam and Eve. Aramis fulfils her fantasy of a child enticed by feminine desire and she conceives. Is not that god in the creative act? God creates a symbolic invisible screen between human beings and sexual knowledge (procreation). God is the producer of the drama in Genesis and in the New Testament in the mystery creation of the Son of God as a secret conception. Like Mary’s divine one night with God, Ann transgresses her marriage in a secret immaculate conception after only one night with Aramis.

God’s “fantasy provides a rationale for the inherent deadlock of desire: it constructs a scene in which the jouissance we are deprived of is concentrated in the Other who stole it from us” (Žižek The Plague of Fantasies 32). Dylan Evans considers that jouissance “…sustain[s] the neurotic illusion that enjoyment would be attainable if it were not forbidden. The very prohibition creates the desire to transgress it, jouissance is therefore fundamentally transgressive” (92). The viewer enters the Queen’s transgressive desire for Aramis, as an “intersubjective drive… mediated by the other” (Žižek “‘In His Bold Gaze My Ruin Is Writ Large'” 229), Ann finds in Aramis “the signifier of her own desire in the body of the one to who she addresses her demand for love” (Lacan Feminine Sexuality: Jacques Lacan and the Ećole Freudienne 84).

The Look or Gaze – Knight takes Fans

Santiago Cabrera (Aramis) is both subject and object of the look: man, as God and God as man. Joseph Campbell’s notion of God is as a presence that “explodes harmony, order and ethical conduct” (Žižek The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity 67), the notion being that in the Christian narrative everything is permitted under the gaze of God. This is mirrored in the penetrating look or “the stare” upon the other when Aramis looks at Queen Ann. The power of this look is repeated in “The Seductive Stare” that reveals the secret of the embedded trauma, the encounter with the gaze, is designed for religious paratextual consumption in the work of the actor to “reproduce desire” (Evans 37).  This is the important functioning of the paratext in fuelling desire at its most fundamental level. The religious nature of the text of The Musketeers is the “male gaze project[ing] its fantasy onto the female figure” (Mulvey 19) and ‘the look’ which is transgressive. This is fundamental in the paratext of “The Seductive Stare” as an exposé of textual intent. This highlights the obvious truth of film; it teaches us how and what to desire. It places the actor as avatar in the object of film, “the ultimate object of our desires in its unbearable intensity…” (Žižek How to Read Lacan 43). These images of the actor in “The Seductive Stare” demand our attention as a demand for obedience to desire. Žižek states “Performatives are, at their most fundamental, acts of symbolic trust and engagement” (How to Read Lacan 45). The paratext transgresses these boundaries of “the word” or the script as text, as it bleeds into the performance space.

The paratext builds on what Laura Mulvey considers to be film’s main offering, pleasure in looking, scopophilia. Building on Freud’s theories, she notes two ideas that “The Seductive Stare” employs on viewers: “desire to see the private and forbidden” (Mulvey 16), and the “erotic basis for pleasure in looking at another person” (Mulvey 17). Lacan considers that “between the gaze and what one wishes to see involves a lure… the subject is presented as other than he is…” (The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis 104). The viewer sees what it lacks and “at the scopic level, we are no longer at the level of demand, but of desire, of the desire of the Other” (Lacan The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis 104).

Conclusion

Desire in terms of paratextual engagement, seen in the public epitext of The Musketeers, involve quasi-religious forms of worship and tap into feminine jouissance and male fantasy (Restuccia 201). Santiago Cabrera being the chief example of the paratextual narrative that takes him from Aramis as God in the immaculate conception of the Queen, in the televisual text; to the paratexts of iconic worship and encounter with the “imago dei.” This visual interest in eroticism, sexploitation, and desire allows total immersion in the star as image.

Nothing brings the desired object closer than the religious paratext. Access is granted outside the scripted “word” into the mystery encounter with the object of desire. This contextualises and situates belief in a personal revelation, the icon as image in a type of religious encounter as exclusive visitation that delivers “the thing,” the secret. The lure of the image, however, is still mediated through a veil or (television) screen. Saint Teresa’s sexuality is likewise mediated through a veil of devout Christian faith; as a Nun that enables the fulfillment of her desire, using God for erotic pleasure. She moved from the textual word of God, to a personal paratext of her experience caught in the fire of feminine desire. In Saint Teresa’s life was an obsession with the ‘imago dei’. She was the ultimate fan obsessed by the image of God. God was an actor in her drama that aroused her desire and became a sexual partner in her fantasy. What better way to describe ‘fandom’? This is the missed reality of an obsession that shares in the divine power of the image. Like Saint Teresa, the viewer partakes in a communion with the vision of the sacred image that transcends the filmic screen.

Santiago Cabrera is master of “the look” in a penetrating gaze as sexual performance. His star image evokes desire that is the business of film, but this is also the business of theology. Enabling our engagement, his image is faith in an individual experience as a theological fantasy. In Santiago’s religious paratext is a continuation of the coding of desire, the exposé in the seductive manipulation of viewers revealed as author intent. The religious paratext offers to the viewer the insight into the act of creating the world of the text. The religious paratext is an initiation into the higher mysteries as an assurance, found in religious belief, that the workings of God, and his image, supplies the human need for love and recognition: to desire and be desired.

Loraine Haywood is an Honorary Associate Lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Newcastle, Australia, where she also completed her Master of Theology. She is an interdisciplinary Higher Degree Research Candidate in Classics, Human Geography, and Film. Her research focus includes embedded trauma and psychoanalytic geography, as outlined by Paul Kingsbury and Steve Pile. She has contributed to the Theology and Game of Thrones volume for the Theology, Religion, and Pop Culture series.

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