Stock Photo Hell
Circle Eight: Fraud
Bolgia Five: The Grafters
Confession: This is my absolute favorite part of hell. Why, you ask?
- There is a demon whose name, literally translated, is “Badass.”
- This bolgia consists of a boiling lake of pitch filled with corrupt politicians, lawyers, and probably used car salesmen. When I think of hell, I think of this and cackle.
- This section contains my favorite quote in the entire Inferno:
And their leader made a trumpet of his ass.”
-final line of Canto XXI, Pinsky translation
This phrase is emblazoned in my brain forever. It’s the demon leader’s signal to his followers as they are leading Dante and Virgil through the bolgia. Demon fart jokes aside, this canto is notable because Dante and Virgil interact with this band of wacky demons called the Malebranche, who are the most talkative of the…uh…employees of hell so far. The Malebranche seem like pretty typical demon fare, as in wings and pitchforks. Pitchforks in this case is a very literal term, because the Malebranche seem to spend most of their time shoving the various grafters (a catch-all term for those who cheated others out of money and power) back down into the lake of boiling pitch whenever they attempt to escape. Dante and Virgil spend two entire cantos in this bolgia. They spend the first canto hiding from the demons, then negotiating with them for safe passage. During the next canto, they make it through, and talk to a sinner on their way who tells them a little more about who’s in the lake of pitch with him. But frankly, it’s not the sinners that stick with me from this section, it’s the demons.
I really like the Malebranche. They’ve got personality, and verve, and they all have names. There are twelve named Malebranche, which are often left in Italian but are pretty hilarious when idiomatically translated into English. The Italian names roll nicely off the tongue: Malacoda, Cagnazzo, Scarmiglione… but there’s something kind of awesome about a troupe of demons named Badass, Nasty Dog, and Troublemaker… I really just want a Wacky Adventures of the Malebranche spinoff series. Or perhaps a Sister Mary Ann Fuckoff vs The Malebranche series…hmm….
Let’s talk about translation ever so briefly. I’ve been using the Alan Mandlebaum translation, which is a 20th century standard, and conveniently available online. There are a bazillion translations of Dante, everything from literal to poetic to modern. My favorite is the poetic and lovely translation by Robert Pinsky; however, I am super-excited for a new translation of the Inferno that I just got. It’s a modern, colloquial translation by Mary Jo Bang. She does some, for lack of a better term, localization of references and names, making some things more relevant to the 21st century. For example, she translates the Malebranche’s names as things that are strongly suggested by the Italian but are more relevant to modern history, such as Qaddafi (in Italian Libiccoco) and Killer Clown (Alichino, a clown character in commedia puppet shows). Mary Jo Bang translates my favorite bit at end of Canto XXI as “each [demon] used his tongue to signal their leader with a raspberry; He, in turn, responded with a toot from his bugle-butt.” Epic. The text has great notes, too, and I am excited to read it an use it as a resource for the rest of our trip through Stock Photo Hell.
Speaking of, Stock Photos!
Search terms: corrupt politician, demon with pitchfork, lawyer, corrupt lawyer
Frankly, a lot of the “corrupt politician” stuff was boring and similar to the “corruption” stock photos from Bolgia Four. So I’m going to skip it and instead focus on two things.
One: a brief discussion of Demon With Pitchfork.
I was actually pleasantly surprised at Commedia Mask Guy, who appeared at the beginning of this post. He’s very Malebranchian.
The rest of the results were cheesy vector images of demons with pitchforks, terrible CGI images of demons with pitchforks, and of course sexy lady demons with pitchforks. Because we can’t not have that in Stock Photo Land.
Two: I have discovered another Secret Trope of Stock Photos (see also: women laughing alone eating salad). I found this one when searching “lawyer.” Stock Photo Land certainly does have both male and female lawyers, they sure do! There were some shots of just one female lawyers, which were pretty much what you’d expect.
But, at least at Shutterstock, in a business deal that involves three or more people, there will be a token woman who is at the meeting but not necessarily active, maybe watching or listening. I call this trope “women watching men shake hands“:
Jeezy creezy. I need a lake of boiling pitch, stat. And it’s the stock photographers that are getting dumped in it.
Next up: Hypocrites!
Spoilers: Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?