Anne Bean

I make delicious words. // I make words delicious.

Tag: Stock Photo Hell (page 2 of 3)

Aw, Hell.

So Dante’s Inferno is big, and long, and I need a breath of fresh air, I dunno about any of you. I mean, we’re barely halfway through Fraud.

So I’m gonna distract us this week with Judeo-Christian afterlife imagery in popular culture, a.k.a. OMG SATAN LOL.

tumblr_mn35ho5Grn1rwkrdbo1_500The afterlife/punishment thing was not a new concept for the Christians of Dante’s day. In fact, the New Testament mentions “Tartarus” once and “Hades” about ten times, both of which often get translated to “Hell.” For those of you who don’t have the ancient gods 4-1-1, Hades is the ancient Greek god of the underworld, which was divided up into various sections where you were assigned based on your actions during life. Dante wasn’t coming up with anything particularly new there. In fact, the idea of Hell as a place where you are aware of what’s going on and are stuck there forever was tied in to the Jewish Hell, Gehenna, which comes up in the Torah and thus the Bible. Gehenna was specifically a place where the wicked were sent after death, and was based on a real place on earth.

Dante’s hell melded all those concepts with various thematic twists of his own (not to mention his enemies in hell and his patrons in heaven). The Divine Comedy, like all comedies, is a startlingly political work. That being said, Dante’s concept of Hell has profoundly influenced popular culture, down to little stuff we don’t think of. Here’s a few examples:

“There’s a special circle of hell for…”
“Seventh heaven”
“On Cloud Nine”
And so many more

Personally, I find the phrase “When Hell Freezes Over” pretty funny because the ninth circle in Dante’s hell is literally a lake of Satan’s frozen tears. Gosh.

 

Here are a couple of other notable works that have to do with hell:

Hironymous Bosch’s diptych, Paradise and Hell, 1510.

John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, 1667. This personifies Satan and demons in a concrete way that hadn’t properly been done before. Here’s a rad comparison of the structure of Dante’s and Milton’s hells.

…one, two, skip a few…

…and in the modern era, pop culture comics have had a field day with Satan and Hell imagery. There are far too many things to go into here, but a few of my favorites include:

Lucifer, the comics series by Mike Carey that’s technically a Sandman spinoff, but is amazing and glorious in its own right. Highly recommended.

Hellblazer, the epic comics series starring John Constantine, who stands between the forces of the afterlife and pretty much everything else. There was that truly mediocre movie with Keanu Reeves, who was a terrible John Constantine, and a forthcoming show that seems like it might actually be decent.

Blizzard’s Diablo series of videogames, not because I think it does anything particularly innovative with the mythology, but because it’s interesting to research where all the names of the demons came from in your actual mythology. For example: Nephilim. It’s a Jewish supernatural creature with the power of humans and angels. (And an analog for the heroic characters you play in the game.) Personally I want a Rabbinical wizard character who can raise Golems, but I realize that the hell-world of Diablo is, despite the common imagery, far removed from the various incarnations of Jewish and Christian hells.

And I have not played the “Dante’s Inferno” game, which involves a damsel-in-distress version of Beatrice instead of the reality of Beatrice, which was Dante being a creepy creeper and pining at some length over a married woman whom he then fantasized about in the Divine Comedy after writing a book-length poem about how much of an amazing goddess she was. Dante: a guy with boundary issues.

Also: this?! Yup. Dante for kiddos. Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go.

 

Next time: something approaching coherence

Spoilers: we’ll be headed back to Hell

Stock Photo Hell: Sorcery!

Stock Photo Hell

This guy was the only false prophet I could find.

This guy was the only false prophet I could find.

Circle Eight: Fraud

Bolgia Four: Soothsayers, Astrologers, and False Prophets, Oh My!

…in the valley’s circle I saw souls advancing, mute and weeping, at the pace that, in our world, holy processions take. As I inclined my head still more, I saw that each, amazingly, appeared contorted between the chin and where the chest begins; they had their faces twisted toward their haunches and found it necessary to walk backward, because they could not see ahead of them.”

-Canto XX, Mandlebaum translation

Apparently anyone who purported to have any kind of future knowledge was naughty, so they were punished with, like, literal hindsight, get it?! Their heads are on backwards. Oh, the contrapasso. Dante talks to a whole slew of famous folks from myth and history, including Tiresias, the soothsayer from that whole awkward Oedipus situation. Tiresias, it’s mentioned in the text, had a seven-year stint as a woman, and then changed back into a man. Dante also sees a sorceress called Manto who seemed to have a pretty sweet deal (living on an island, studying the occult, having Mantua named after her) until the whole afterlife/head of backwards thing.

If all of these people are punished for trying to see the future, then I think a modern version of the Inferno would include stock market analysts, meteorologists, and advertising agencies. Overall those folks are causing a lot more trauma in this world than the odd Tarot card reader or psychic.

 

Well, thankfully, Stock Photo Land knows EXACTLY what you need to be a soothsayer or a sorcerer. And it’s balls. By which I mean a large crystal and/or glowing ball. Also possibly a hood. Also some intense fashion and/or makeup choices. And DRAMATIC HAND GESTURES. If you have at least two of those things, you’re set. (Shockingly, none of the actual Tarot card readers, psychics, shamans, or occult dabblers that I know look very much like any of the people below.)

My search terms: “sorcerer,” “false prophet,” “astrologer,” “soothsayer” and then for kicks “sexy sorcerer” a related search that the sites suggested. “Sexy sorcerer” turned out to be mostly cheesy Halloween witches, though, and frankly the rest of my findings were more interesting.

In terms of the gendered things I always look for, I found that sorcerers were likely to be portrayed as either male or female, whereas soothsayers were overwhelmingly female. Usually, they were white women with some vague cultural appropriation going on.

man-good-luck-excited-caucasian-men-grinning-crystal-ball-reading-lady-31245136

“Even I don’t know what culture she’s supposed to be from. Egyptian? ‘Gypsy’? Gosh! She’s so mysterious!”

OMG a picture of an older woman. Since older women can't be sex objects or business multi-taskers, here's a place for them in Stock Photo Land... It's this or "doting grandmother"...

OMG a picture of an older woman. Since older women can’t be sex objects or business multi-taskers, here’s a place for them in Stock Photo Land… It’s this or “doting grandmother”…

"Man, the Balls section of my sorcery final is gonna be rough. I better study."

“Man, the Balls section of my sorcery final is gonna be rough. I better study.”

It's not ALL balls. Sometimes it's skulls. This one is a special skull because it has a tribal tattoo. Which tribe? I dunno. Sort of generally...tribal.

It’s not ALL balls. Sometimes it’s skulls. This one is a special skull because it has a tribal tattoo. Which tribe? I dunno. Sort of generally…tribal.

...and this guy.

…and this guy is actually just having a hard time playing Egyptian Rat Screw. That’s why he’s holding a full hand of cards. His evil eye isn’t making him faster, either, so he’s feeling a little frustrated.

My third favorite result came up under “astrologer”:

I mean, Johannes Kepler was more into astronomy than astrology... although he was trying to map the shape of God as a reflection of the shape of the solar system, so that's pretty hard core. He apparently put a bunch of biblical passages that supported heliocentrism in his text "Mysterium Cosmographicum."

I mean, Johannes Kepler was more into astronomy than astrology… although he was trying to map the shape of God as a reflection of the shape of the solar system, or vice versa, so that’s pretty hard core. He apparently put a bunch of biblical passages that supported heliocentrism in his text “Mysterium Cosmographicum.”

My second favorite result came up for “sorcerer”:

I love how their expressions seem to say "UGH we aren't sorcerers, we're WIZARDS. Get it right, gosh."

I love how their expressions seem to say “UGH we aren’t sorcerers, we’re WIZARDS. Get it right, gosh.” Especially Ron. He has had it with your Muggle crap.

My favorite result, though, has to be the picture of the actual sorcerer that was sort of slipped in between the endless parade of balls. It’s an “editorial” stock photo, which loosely translates to “has more to do with the real world than stock photo land.” But anyway, here’s a sorcerer:

...and his family. Hanging out, with no wacky hand gestures or crazed expressions or anything.

…and his family. Hanging out, with no wacky hand gestures or crazed expressions or anything. Of course, the site didn’t deign to tell me which part of Africa he’s from, but you can only ask so much of Stock Photo Land.

Stock Photo Hell: Simony

Stock Photo Hell

SYMBOLISM

Actual title: Church of Matchbox

Circle Eight: Fraud

Full disclosure: Later on there is a picture of a butt. Technically it is clothed, but it is a corrupt butt. This may or may not be safe for your workplace/viewing area. Then again, you are looking at illustrations of Hell through stock photos, so…

Bolgia Three: Simony

Out from the mouth of each hole there emerged a sinner’s feet and so much of his legs up to the thigh; the rest remained within. Both soles of every sinner were on fire; their joints were writhing with such violence, they would have severed withes and ropes of grass. As flame on oily things will only stir along the outer surface, so there, too, that fire made its way from heels to toes.”
-Canto XIX, Mandlebaum translation

Gosh, I feel silly. I mixed up who is lying in what made of fire when. In the City of Dis in Circle Six, the heretics lie in *coffins* of fire. The Simonists lie headfirst in a baptismal font filled with fire. Gosh. I totally mis-fired earlier, as it were.

Simony is named after Simon Magus, who was a Biblical dude who was selling a sort of “lay on hands” holy spirit healing experience. Which was a problem, because apparently it’s naughty to sell the spiritual. Tell that to the guy in a white suit selling Bibles on TV, or the energy healing seminar for a mere few grand. In general, Simony means the selling of spiritual favors. Dante tuns into Simon Magus as well as several popes as he goes through this bolgia. And yes, they are head-down in baptismal fonts filled with fire, but pop up to chat with Dante a bit. And by “chat” I mean “Dante freaks out and goes off on them in a huge rant”: “You’ve made yourselves a god of gold and silver; how are you different from idolaters, save that they worship one and you a hundred?”

So, simony is not relevant to modern times in the way that it was in Dante’s day. Remember, Europe didn’t  have a really proper go of the “countries” thing until the 1800s. The Kingdom of Italy wasn’t officially founded until 1861; before that it was a bunch of nation-states. The Church was a major political force. So we can draw some parallels between the simony of 1300s “Italy” and the political corruption of today’s Europe and America. That’s not to say that religious corruption isn’t still a thing, just that the separation of church and state is more often a thing. Still, I chose to go with a religious angle in my searches.

You know what’s not relevant to stock photo searches? “Simony.” There’s a horse racer whose name is Simony and a hut in the alps also called Simony. So instead, I tried “corruption” and “religious corruption.” Also, for kicks, “corrupt woman.”

By far the most coherent search I did was “religious corruption.” (Which was also the source of the header image.) I got a lot of results that were more or less what I expect. None of the sites had any results for “corrupt nun,” incidentally, which Sister Mary Ann Fuckoff was rather disappointed about.

stock-photo-catholic-priest-receiving-bribe-from-businessman-189099950In the way that violence produced a lot of images of abused women (oftentimes with the angle of “stop violence”), corruption was mostly pictures of men, sometime with the angle of “stop corruption.” In fact, the role of women in the images I found was interesting. When I searched “corruption” most of the images of women were businesswomen who seemed to be trying to stop corruption:

Because women must be the moral high-ground, Stock Photo Land reminds us. Business women must have BUSINESS PURITY. Or greed-face. Y'know, so we can tell if they're good or evil.

Because women must be the moral high-ground, Stock Photo Land reminds us. Business women must have BUSINESS PURITY. Or greed-face. Y’know, so we can tell if they’re good or evil.

Occasionally there was a woman aiding a corrupt man:

corrupt-politician-7683860

I’m not going into political corruption too much here, because there’s a whole bolgia just for the politically corrupt (and laywers!) farther down.

And when I actually searched “corrupt woman” I got a lot of business women with greed-face.

greedy-woman-holding-cash-closeup-portrait-young-corporate-business-employee-worker-student-dollar-banknotes-tightly-isolated-37974305

fig. 1: GREED-FACE

And a lot of this:

So many images of women with their mouths covered by money. I'm actually not sure what this means. Corruption silences women? Women are paid not to speak in instances of corruption? I'm not sure.

So many images of women with their mouths covered by money. I’m actually not sure what this means. Corruption silences women? Women are paid not to speak in instances of corruption? I’m not sure.

I also got a few images of one of our other stock photo tropes, the Sex Object. “Corrupt” is one of the key words for this image, which is entitled simply “BUTTOCKS”:

CORRUPT BUTTOCKS

fig. 2: CORRUPT BUTTOCKS

Corruption: 90% money, 10% sex. Thanks for clearing that up, Stock Photo Land.

 

Next time: Sorcerers! Astrologers! False prophets!

Spoilers: There’s body horror. Because sorcery.

Stock Photo Hell: Flattery

Stock Photo Hell

You'll *never guess* what Sister Mary Ann Fuckoff has to say to these two.

You’ll *never guess* what Sister Mary Ann Fuckoff has to say to these two.

Circle Eight: Fraud

stock-photo-angelic-bird-insult-7561147Bolgia Two: Flattery

We heard the people whine in the next pouch and heard them as they snorted with their snouts; we heard them use their palms to beat themselves. And exhalations, rising from below, stuck to the banks, encrusting them with mold, and so waged war against both eyes and nose. The bottom is so deep, we found no spot to see it from, except by climbing up the arch until the bridge’s highest point. This was the place we reached; the ditch beneath held people plunged in excrement that seemed as if it had been poured from human privies.

This is a very brief section in the Inferno; it takes up less than half a canto. The flatterers sit around in a big pile of human excrement with shit on their heads so that “one could not see if [they] were lay or cleric.” Literal shitheads, they are. Dante talks to some guy he used to know and they discuss one other person who’s there, but pretty much Dante’s like, “yeah, I’m done here” and moves on. Personally, I think he was a little bit grossed out.

Search term: flattery, flatterer

I may have also searched the term “shitheads” but somehow I didn’t get any results. Also I tried “people covered in shit” but gosh, I mostly got pictures of people holding their noses. Also this duck:

a duck in water, pooping

Because as sometimes violent and often sexual as Stock Photo Land is, there are very few grody poop images. Y’know. Because we have standards. …

The images I got for “flattery” and “flattering” can be divided into a few categories. First, the BUSINESS FLATTERY images, which were mostly people giving big cheesy thumbs up.

derpy white business guy giving a thumbs up

THIS GUY

THAT GUY

THAT GUY

black businesswoman gives cheesy thumbs up

NOT JUST WHITE GUYS

young black woman gives thumbs up with neutral expression

…and, well, she’s not so sure. Yay?

Next, the SEXY FLATTERY images.

Not sure who is flattering whom or really how "flattery" turned into "lots of artistic photos of couples almost kissing"...but there you go.

Not sure who is flattering whom or really how “flattery” turned into “lots of artistic photos of couples almost kissing”…but there you go.

It should be noted that there was the occasional image of a same-sex couple as well:

gay-love-13272398

This is titled “gay love,” which may further confuse those who can’t conceive of such a thing to begin with. Also I am unsure of what licking has to do with flattery. Perhaps he is really delicious.

"Hey look, Gina, it's the male gaze. Huh. Right there. Staring at us as we intimately lie in bed."

“Hey look, Gina, it’s the male gaze. Huh. Right there. Staring at us as we intimately lie in bed.”

There were also images of Cape Flattery, images of women in long flowing dresses on Shutterstock because THERE ALWAYS ARE, terrible stock vectors of stars and signs that said “GREAT JOB” (because praise is flattery? I guess that’s not too far off), and people trying way too hard:

Your flattery has gone full scheming, dude.

This guy was a “flatterer.” Your flattery has gone full scheming, dude.

[flattery intensifies]

[flattery intensifies]

Yep. This.

TRYING SO HARD

"But don't you worry," Stock Photo Land coos into your ear, "It's all a lie. Women really hate each other. They're competitive and horrible. Here, have a salad."

“But don’t you worry,” Stock Photo Land coos into your ear, “It’s all a lie. Women really hate each other. They’re competitive and horrible. Here, have a salad.”

Finally, this one wins the Most Relevant To Dante Award because it’s got a poop icon:

stock-vector-business-man-trying-to-flatter-boss-156625790Interestingly, when I typed in “flattered,” I got images of men and women more or less equally, and multiple ages and races as well. I guess the moral of the story is flattery: more universal? less bigoted than other things in Stock Photo Land? Hooray?

 

Next up: Simony

Spoilers: It is not about a guy named Simon.

 

Stock Photo Hell: Panderers, Seducers, and Flatterers

Stock Photo Hell

female demon looks over shoulder of priest with open Bible

Yeah, Lady Demon, I don’t think much of that translation either. What they did to the meter of the original text is shameful.

Circle Eight: Fraud

There is a place in Hell called Malebolge, made all of stone the color of crude iron, as is the wall that makes its way around it. Right in the middle of this evil field is an abyss, a broad and yawning pit, whose structure I shall tell in its due place. The belt, then, that extends between the pit and that hard, steep wall’s base is circular; its bottom has been split into ten valleys.

–Canto XVIII, Mandlebaum translation

So the first half of The Inferno covers everything up until the eighth, and the entire second half of the text is devoted to the final two circles of hell, Fraud and Betrayal. The circle of Fraud, Virgil explains to Dante above, is subdivided into ten little “evil pockets” (literal translation of Malebole), each focusing on a different aspect of fraudulent behavior.

Bolgia 1: Panderers and Seducers

Both left and right, along the somber rock, I saw horned demons with enormous whips, who lashed those spirits cruelly from behind. Ah, how their first strokes made those sinners lift their heels! Indeed no sinner waited for a second stroke to fall or for a third.

–Canto XVIII, Mandlebaum

Yep, these folks are forced to walk around being constantly whipped forward by demons. Demons, whom have been startlingly sparse in earlier circles, and pretty much all over the Malebolge. I wonder if that’s some kind of contra passo (ironic punishment) thing…the fraudulent tried to use other people, and thus spend eternity being used by demons. Hmm.

Anyway, what exactly are panderers and seducers? Well, Dante meets an old friend of his, Vendico Caccianemico, who apparently sold his sister to some Marquis for political favors. Incidentally, we see Dante’s becoming more of a jerk: he’s pretty much like: “Hey. You with the face in the mud. You’re Vendico. What did you do to get yourself landed here?” (literally he says “in such a piquant sauce”) Their conversation is kept short, because a few moments later a demon comes by and is like “Hey jerkface, keep moving: no women for you to con here.” So, some texts call “panderers and seducers” instead “pimps and seducers.”

Among notable folks Dante also encounters: Jason, of the Argonauts. I appreciate this, because I always thought Jason was a major asshole, and that Medea got waaay too much crap. Apparently Dante thought so too, because he says here “for Medea, too, revenge is taken.”

Personally, I imagine this is where all the asshats on the internet who are total bastards to women will go when they die. I’m not putting any links here or anything. But I’m sure you can imagine a few folk (denizens of the comments section, harassers of geek girls, all of 4chan) who deserve to end up here.

Search terms: panderer, pander, seducer, pimp

WELP apparently all my sites know just what a panderer looks like, and it’s this guy:

douchey guy in a fedora hangs out drink in hand in front of a mirror

DANG IT PANDERERS WHY MUST YOU RUIN FEDORAS FOR EVERYONE?!

However, the sites had markedly different results when it came to seducers. Shutterstock was about 80% images of women seducing men or isolated sexy women. Dreamstime was vastly more entertaining with its 80% isolated seductive men, many of whom were…well…

popped collar guy with ridiculous grin giving a thumbs up

SOOOO SEDUCTIVE

For review, culturally, this is a “seductive woman”:

woman sits in deeply silly revealing evening gown on a fancy chair

Actually she has to stick her chest out like that or her dress will implode.

Somehow none of the women were wearing shirts with popped collars, gosh.

Somehow none of the women were wearing shirts with popped collars, gosh.

This is a “seductive man”:

Suit? Check.  Flower? Check. Wink that would make most reasonable people run for the hills? Check.

Suit? Check.
Flower? Check.
Wink that would make most reasonable people snort their drink? Check.

Sometimes a cigar is just...wait...whaa...

Sometimes a cigar is just…wait…whaa…

And as for this, well, I am not actually sure what’s going on with this guy:

This is titled "seducer on vacation." I can only assume that he went on vacation from Mardi Gras to the lake...?! I guess even seducers gotta go fishin' sometime?

This is titled “seducer on vacation.” I can only assume that he went on vacation from Mardi Gras to the lake…?! I guess even seducers gotta go fishin’ sometime?

As for “pimp”…sigh. Lots of scummy dudes in terrible suits. Not all black scummy dudes, though, yay? And sometimes scummy women apparently pimping other women? Oh, wait, there’s the white scummy dude in an afro wig what the actual hell.

ALL ABOARD THE NOPE TRAIN

ALL ABOARD THE NOPE TRAIN

I had to know who could have possibly thought this was a good idea. Turns out this is from a stock photo company out of the Netherlands. Which says something about how American culture is globalized? Or in any case, is pretty weird because this is a white guy dressed up as a racist stereotype of an American pimp in a culture in which prostitution is legal and regulated by the government? Not sure if that makes more sense, or less sense. All in all it makes me feel weird and scummy for having downloaded the image. Well done, Inferno. Now I feel squicky.

 

Next up: Flatterers

Spoilers: Their punishment in the afterlife is…shitty.

Stock Photo Hell: Violence, Part Three

Stock Photo Hell

Road signs for Heaven and Hell

Gosh. Dante, you could have just asked for directions.

 Violence, Part Three: Violence Against God (and/or Nature and/or Art)

I saw so many flocks of naked souls, all weeping miserably, and it seemed that they were ruled by different decrees. Some lay upon the ground, flat on their backs; some huddled in a crouch, and there they say; and others moved about incessantly. The largest group was those who walked about, the smallest, those supine in punishment; but these had looser tongues to tell their torment. Above that plain of sad, distended flakes of fire showered down; their fall was slow as snow descent on alps when on wind blows.”
-Canto XIV, Mandlebaum translation

So what is violence against God, exactly? Some describe the subcircle as “Violence against nature, God, and art,” which I find an interesting conflation of three things. In modern society, one might describe, say, cutting all funding to middle school art programs as violence against art. One might describe drilling for oil as violence against nature. One might not have such a dogmatic and unified view of God as Dante and his 14th century folks did, and therefore opinions may differ as to what, exactly, counts as violence against God.

Virgil’s official definition of what counts as Violence Against God consists of three sins: blasphemy, sodomy, and usury. I’d like to point out that by that definition, all those college loans with absurd interest rates would be considered violence against God/nature/art. But of those three sins, there’s one that sticks in my craw, at any rate, more than the others.

Let’s talk about sodomy a tad, shall we?

The word comes from the Biblical tale of Sodom and Gomorrah, that naughty city of perverts where Lot and his wife were like “augh no must escape this giant orgy because God’s gonna scour it off the face of the planet. Quick, throw our daughters into the orgy so we can scarper.” They run away, Lot’s wife looks back when she’s not s’posta could, gets turned into a pillar of salt. Cue sad trombones. Out of this came the word sodomy, which was at one time considered any nonstandard sexual practice or sexual taboo, everything from oral sex to bestiality. (T-Rex interrupts: “Who has no thumbs and can’t come up with a working definition of sex? THIS GUY.” True, T-Rex, sex is hard to define. Good point.) Anyway, in the fullness of the Victorian Age, sodomy became synonymous with butt stuff. And that led to connotations, in the 20th century, of homosexuality. As a reminder, in Dante’s day, homosexuality wasn’t a word that people used. It wasn’t even an identity. There were some terms surrounding homosexual behavior (and some sassy medieval nuns who had a very nice time, I suspect), but not until the 1800s was there a concept of homosexual identity even being a thing. So perhaps I am being a Dante apologist, but dang, sodomy sure seemed to be more about, as medieval art scholar Bob Mills “a range of sexual activity deemed unacceptable to Christians […] every sex act that wasn’t aimed at human reproduction within the bond of marriage.” Focault called sodomy “an utterly confused category” and I tend to agree. Anyway. On to the canto:

The main person Dante talks to in this canto, actually, talks not of God but of Jove, because he’s a Roman warrior/asshole who mainly got his kicks off standing on hills and taunting Jupiter. Turns out he died by being struck by a bolt of divine lightning, gosh. Capaneus, as he is called, is sort of the honey badger of this circle, lounging around in the burning desert and being like, “What? Come at me bro.” The ironic thing is that he’s so determined to not let the Gods have the pleasure of torturing him in the afterlife that he does a pretty good job of tormenting himself. Self-torture out of arrogance. Huh. I bet if you go to the bro-iest bars in your area on a Saturday night, you might see some self-torture out of arrogance. Just saying.

The other person Dante talks to in this circle is his former mentor, Brunetto Latini. Apparently he was more into sodomy than usury? Mostly I find him interesting because he’s a respected friend of Dante’s who’s being punished in Hell.  Dante-the-author put a ton of people he knew–patrons, friends, enemies–all over the afterlife. And yes, that means he put the people who were paying for him to write his epic poems in Paradise. So think about that before freaking out about selling out, you artist types. Ironic thoughts, for this circle.

Gosh, stock photos. That’s a part of this mess. My search terms: violence against God, violence against art, violence against nature, sodomy, usury, blasphemy.

Sodomy wins the “most relevant to medieval times” award:

stone frieze of a dude having sex with a horse

I know, this carving is from a temple in India and actually has fuck-all to do with medieval Catholicism. My other choices were an illustration of two men holding hands, an illustration of a lady making out with a dog, or a terribly cheesy CGI guy who is naked and presumably wanking. I mean, bonus points for covering all the bases, I guess?? Frig.

Usury wins the “silliest acting” award:

guy signs a contract in front of moneylender with suspiciously raised eyebrow

Gotta watch for that evil eyebrow, dude. This is the sort of moneylender you’ve gotta go all Christlike on, i.e. flip the table and walk out.

Blasphemy wins the “sort of nonsensical” award. Lots of pictures of pentacles, the Bible, and political violence. One good picture of the last Pope with a Hitler ‘stache drawn on him. And this:

Jesus flipping the bird.

For reference, this is the incarnation of Christ that Sister Mary Ann Fuckoff worships.

On to the violences. Firstly, “violence against god” got very few results. The silliest and best one was this:

scales with a bible on one side and money/guns on the other side

Perhaps aside from the crack, I feel like these things end up on the same side of the scales in America. Just saying.

“Violence against Nature” got me lots of pictures of leaves, dudes with guns, ladies with swords, barbed wire, and this little gem:

A tree with a crime scene outline of a body taped on it.

I mean, what is this, Daphne: the crime scene?

“Violence against art” was perhaps the most interesting of the three violences, with more results and some pieces of art that stood against violence. (And yes, there were a couple of references to violence against women, but that’s oh so difficult to avoid.) It also wins the “oh god the racism whyyy” award. There were a lot of pictures of women with guns: a white woman and a black woman in photo studio poses with handguns. Perhaps they were more artistic violence than the violence I was searching for earlier? But boy howdy, there sure were some interesting differences between the two models’ poses:

"A middle aged, white, female business woman or teacher holds a semi automatic pistol during this dark photo shoot against black."

“A middle aged, white, female business woman or teacher holds a semi automatic pistol during this dark photo shoot against black.”

"A young beautiful african american female holds a semi automatic pistol during this dark photo shoot against black."

“A young beautiful african american female holds a semi automatic pistol during this dark photo shoot against black.”

 

I tried to pick two poses that were similar: both women are looking at the camera, pointing the gun at the camera while holding it sideways. This is par for the course for the rest of the photos: the white woman looks neutral or pleasantly happy. The black woman looks angry and/or sexual. The captions tell you that the white “woman” is a “business woman or teacher.” The black woman is “beautiful,” “african american” and “female.”

 

Urg. I’m dropping this mic. It got icky again. I’m out.

 

 

Next up: Fraud!
Spoilers: It’s more fun than Violence?!

Stock Photo Hell: Violence, Part Two

Stock Photo Hell

stock-photo-darvaza-turkmenistan-staring-into-the-flaming-gas-crater-known-as-the-door-to-hell-in-darvaza-115727914Circle Seven: Violence, Part Two

Okay. Real talk:

As Dante progresses through Hell, he becomes more and more of an asshole. He stops feeling sorry for the sufferers: he’s all sympathetic to the lost sad lovers in Circle Two, and by the time he’s down in Circle Nine he’s kicking people’s heads and stuff. He is corrupted by Hell, as he is slowly saved in Purgatory and becomes closer to God in Paradise. He is affected by the territory in which he walks, as are we all. As are we all.

I am not immune to this. Whether or not I like it, treading these murky cultural waters affects me. My goal is to not actively be glib at others’ suffering, though, at least not to Dante-like levels. I get to control what I write here. I do not get to control the dumb shit on the stock photo sites, nor the new and exciting searches that now lead to my page. (For example: “man looks at womans breasts,” “fat black woman in lingerie,” or my personal favorite by someone who clearly does not understand how search engines work, “play sex games queen elsa play or sex or games or with or queen or elsa.” There’s a whole lot going on there. Not gonna touch that one.) I am corrupted by this territory, whether or not I want to be. That being said, I’m not gonna be the head-kicker of someone else’s hell.

So here’s the deal: The circle of violence is subdivided into three sections, viz. violence against others, violence against self, and violence against God. Today’s photos are a little non-standard in that I’m just going to post pictures that illustrate the landscape of Dante’s Inferno. Searching “violence” on stock photo sites was traumatic enough; searching “suicide” is not the sort of thing I need to show you. Just know that it’s mostly white men portrayed in the photos and illustrations. There are cheesy illustrations. There are “concept” pieces, including one by that horrible stick figure illustrator. There are images of suicide by a variety of means. If you feel the need to go there, go for it. I don’t. Holy Boundaries, Batman!

All right, on to Dante…

 

From every side I heard the sound of cries, but I could not see any source for them, so that, in my bewilderment, I stopped. I think that [Virgil] was thinking that I thought so many voices moaned among those trunks from people who had been concealed from us. Therefore my master said: If you would tear a little twig from any of these plants, the thoughts you have will also be cut off. I stretched out my hand a little way, and from a great thornbush snapped off a branch, at which its trunk cried out, Why do you tear me? And then, when it had grown more dark with blood, it asked again: Why do you break me off? Are you without all sentiment of pity? Once we were men, but now are arid stumps.”
-Canto XIII, Mandlebaum

So that’s a tad more Dante than the usual, I realize, but I wanted to show more of the description of his encounter with this particular soul in Circle Seven, Part Two. The “Violence Against Self” part of Circle Seven is a forest of trees that bleed and speak and tell their stories, but only when you break a part of them. I fear this is a good metaphor for the dark voiceless places that depression and suicidal thought can take a person. So much of what stoppers people up are unspoken words, secrets, untold tales.

Here is a picture I got by searching “depressed tree,” and two very good resources for unstoppering depression and suicidal thought:

PostSecret: A community art project and a great way to release your secrets.

Hopeline: Direct help from real humans by phone or online chat. Specific help for veterans, sufferers of postpartum depression, & more.

stock-photo-a-dark-tree-is-alone-in-the-woods-with-large-roots-growing-on-an-old-dry-landscape-against-a-full-130213481

Yep. That’s all I’ve got today.

Next up: Violence Against God and Nature
Spoilers: It’s less distressing than this subcircle. But still kinda f’ed up.

Stock Photo Hell: Violence, Part One

Stock Photo Hell

stock-vector-abstract-scream-background-eps-183257417

Spoilers: this is how I felt while writing this post.

Circle Seven: Violence, Part One

But fix your eyes below, upon the valley, where those who injure others violently, boil. O blind cupidity and insane anger, who goad us on so much our short life, then leave us to steep in grief eternally!”

The circle of violence is divided into three subsections, the first of which is those who were violent towards others. In a contrapasso sort of fashion, these souls hang out in a river of boiling blood. For those with more violence to their names (like Alexander the Great), the blood reaches to their throats. For those who, I suppose, were a tad less violent, other blood options include to the waist (Attila the Hun) and just ’round the ankles (a couple of highwaymen from Dante’s day). This river is also guarded by centaurs, including Chiron. So, sorry, any Percy Jackson fans out there, Chiron’s job in the Inferno is guarding violent people who eternally boil in a river of blood. Which is a far cry from teaching middle school (as the Chiron character does in the books). Er…right…?

“Gee,” you might be thinking, “We’re at circle seven out of nine. Clearly we must be near the end.” That’s the thing about the Inferno: the closer you get to the bottom the more suddenly complex and packed things are. Considering that Dante’s vision of hell is shaped more or less like a funnel, that means the Lower Hells are jam-packed. I may combine sub-sections at some point, but for now, we’re slogging right along.

Things have been pretty lighthearted in the Upper Hells, but in the same way that Dante gets slowly corrupted by his journey downwards, so, gentle readers, are we. By which I mean to say, shit’s about to get real. By which I mean to say, this is a pretty depressing circle, stock photo-wise. Because when I type in “violence,” I automatically get a ton of pictures of battered women, or women being hit by men, or domestic violence type images. Sometimes there are children being battered or scared by threat of violence. Interesting, then, that in the weird cultural bubble that is Stock Photo Land, the first thing associated with violence is the victims of violence (who are women and children). The perpetrators of violence are almost invisible.

violence-against-women-woman-victim-domestic-abuse-focus-hand-32487795domestic-violence-young-man-abused-woman-25670916This was one of the only examples I saw of adult male-on-male violence in my search:

And suddenly it's all cheesy instead of serious/dramatic editorial. Shows you what we take seriously and what we don't.

And suddenly it’s all cheesy instead of serious/dramatic editorial. Shows you what we take seriously and what we don’t.

And this was the most, perhaps, thoughtful image, or at least the most relevant to Dante’s Inferno image:

Red Sea? River of Blood? Eh?

Red Sea? River of Blood? Eh?

When I type in “violent woman,” on the other hand, I am suddenly surrounded by the cheeseball stock photography we have grown so oddly fond of: the tropes I have termed the Four Chambers of Stock Photo Women are alive and well. (The abused women pictures drop down to only about 20% of the results.) However, it is important to note: multitasking mothers and dieters cannot be violent. Only business women and sex objects can be violent.

BUSINESS VIOLENCE

BUSINESS VIOLENCE

"beautiful young woman in a costume suit with gun trying to kill time" ... Yep. Somewhere, someone said, "Go with it, yeah, that seems like a great idea."

“beautiful young woman in a costume suit with gun trying to kill time”

Yep. Somewhere, someone said, “Go with it, yeah, that seems like a great idea.”dangerous-woman-15627560

Actually, this was the closest we got to “violent mother,” which was a very short search with lots of irrelevant results:

angry-mother-frying-pan-8683851Well, there you have it. Stock Photo Land is doing an excellent job supporting the horrible culture of violence against women.

This is the only one of these images that came up in my "violence" search, although the creator of it has a whoooole series of equally inane stick figure violence sequences, including "abusive wife/weak husband," "massacre," and "pervert/stalker." I know you're making some money on the side, O Vector Artist, but I am giving you some serious side-eye.

This is the only one of these images that came up in my “violence” search, although the creator of it has a whoooole series of equally inane stick figure violence sequences, including “abusive wife/weak husband,” “massacre,” and “pervert/stalker.”
I know you’re making some money on the side, O Vector Artist, but I am giving you some serious side-eye.

Blecch. Let’s move on.

Next up: Violence against self, a.k.a. suicides.
Spoilers: It’s depressing, and weird, and serious, and I feel kinda icky.

Stock Photo Hell: Heresy

Stock Photo Hell

Admittedly, heresy is much more about the ones *with* the church and the Bible who still can't get along.

Admittedly, heresy is much more about the ones *with* the church and the Bible who still can’t get along.

Circle Six: Heresy

We made our way inside without a struggle; and I, who wanted to observe the state of things that such a fortress guarded, as soon as I had entered looked about. I saw on every side, a spreading plain of lamentation and atrocious pain. […] here the sepulchers were much more harsh; for flames were cattered through the tombs, and these had kindled all of  them to glowing heat; no artisan could ask for hotter iron.”
-Canto IX, Mandlebaum

The City of Dis, where Dante describes these fiery tombs, is heretic central in Hell. Epicureans and other sects of heretical Christianity are all hanging out in tombs on fire. Virgil comments wryly, “These tombs are far more crowded than you think.” Two points of irony: 1. Those who thought “the soul dies with the body” are now condemned to being wrong in a really painful way for a long time, and 2. The pièce de résistance of the whole city is a heretical Cardinal, who is upside-down in a baptismal font filled with fire. So opposite. Such irony. Wow.

stock-photo-strange-row-of-people-illustration-design-over-a-white-background-173964149

This one wins the Most Relevant to Dante’s Inferno award!

I think it’s only natural to, while reading the Inferno, calculate where you’d end up in Hell. And me? My best guess is that I’d end up in the City of Dis with the heretics. In high school and college I was a semi-active member of the Unitarian-Universalist Association, which stemmed from two heretical Christian sects. Unitarianism was declared heresy at the Council of Nicaea in 325AD, which is pretty old school in terms of heresy. (Unitarians didn’t believe in the trinity, thus the name. Instead, they believed in “a unity of God and Nature”.) Universalism wasn’t declared heresy until the fifth ecumenical council of 533AD, but I think had the far more punk-ass ideology: the doctrine of universal salvation. Everybody is saved. No matter what. It’s almost like, by extension…morals…become a secular thing… huh. Anyway, since the 1950s, the UUA has officially divorced itself from Christianity and now is a creedless faith where you can believe whatever you damn well please but still get together to sing songs from a variety of faith traditions. There are Seders, and Pagan rituals, and Buddhist meditations. I’m sure Dante would have had a field day with the UUA; Garrison Keillor jokes about “fundamentalist Unitarians” burning giant question marks on people’s lawns.

…And at this point in my life, my religious life consists of celebrating the Wheel of the Year with a coven of queer Pagans. It’s like going to church for Christmas and Easter, except with a far higher percentage of lesbians and witches.

 

BUT ANYWAY we’re not here to talk about me, we’re here to talk about what Stock Photo Land considers heretical!

My search terms: heresy, heretic, female heretic (I find it worth noting Dreamstime’s “related searches”: wrath, witchcraft, british national flag, thanksgiving turkey, cute hot woman sexy cleavage.)

Yes, “heresy” was a kind of confusing search. I got the following sorts of things, from most to least logical:

Pictures from the walls of Torquemada's torture chambers

Pictures from the walls of Torquemada’s torture chambers

Statue of Giordano Bruno

Giordano Bruno, heliocentrist, burned at the stake in 1600, a “martyr for science.”

People shopping at outdoor markets in Europe...? Maybe they're actually Epicureans...! (Actually, I think it's in that same square with Bruno's statue.)

People shopping at outdoor markets in Europe…? Maybe they’re actually Epicureans…! (Actually, I think it’s in that same square with Bruno’s statue.)

Various castles of Carcassonne that defended the Spanish/French border. Let me know if that makes sense to anyone. Are the meeples actually heretics? I don't know!

Various castles of Carcassonne that defended the Spanish/French border. Let me know if that makes sense to anyone. Are the meeples actually heretics? I don’t know!

This pregnant lady...? Is she pregnant with the Antichrist or something...?!

This pregnant lady…? Is she pregnant with the Antichrist or something…?!

 

All that being said, searching “female heretic” in Shutterstock and Dreamstime each produced only one result, and both are SOLID GOD-DAMN GOLD:

black nun flipping of the camera while smoking a cigar

“Hey,” growled Sister Mary Ann Fuckoff, all the while chewing the end of her cigar, “Jesus thinks you’re an asshole.”

truly ridiculous pale woman with long black nails and bloody makeup

Bloodonica, having gone in for a fresh Evil Manicure, had to now say the entire Evil Rosary without the skull falling off her head.

Stock Photo Hell: The Wrathful and Sullen

Stock Photo Hell

I got lots of demons and  also Thor for some reason when searching for wrath. Fire demons aren't til the 8th circle. Psshaw.

I got lots of demons and also Thor for some reason when searching for wrath. Fire demons aren’t til the 8th circle. Psshaw.

Circle Five: The Wrathful and Sullen

When it has reached the foot of those malign gray slopes, the melancholy stream descends, forming a swamp that bears the name of Styx. And I, who was intent on watching it, could make out muddied people in that slime, all naked and their faces furious. They struck each other not with hands alone, but with their heads and chests and with their feet, and tore each other piecemeal with their teeth.

So there are cantos and circles that are probably more stereotypically hellish: demons, pitchforks, lakes of fire, rivers of blood, etc… but I argue that the swamp of the wrathful and sullen is in fact the most metal of the cantos. Here’s why: The place is more or less a giant mosh pit, where angry metalheads rage upwards and sullen emo kids sink downwards. As Virgil explains, “underneath the water are souls who sigh and make this plain of water bubble.” So, this circle is like if a swamp and a mosh pit combined for an Iron Maiden/My Chemical Romance double bill… for one, both groups totally want to kill each other because they hate the others’ taste, but the emo kids are too sad to do anything and the metalheads are too angry to do anything other than froth and churn to the surface of the pit.

And now you all know my Level Five Dante’s Inferno headcanon. Have some theme music while we explore Stock Photo Land’s version of the wrathful and sullen:

Search terms: wrath, wrathful woman, sullen, sullen woman

Unsurprisingly, these two concepts get conflated, particularly during any search with “woman” involved. My “sullen woman” searches, in particular, always turned up some wrathful-looking women as well as a lot of sad women touching the sides of their heads. The point remains, though: wrath and sullenness may well be flip sides of the same coin. That’s why they’re in the swamp together.

I was thinking of dividing my results into The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, but instead I picked a trio a little more suited to the situation:

The Blasé
"emotions-headache-young-woman-screaming-pain" Yes, all of those things are the same thing. Headaches and emotions and screaming, all because of hysteria, I'm sure.

“emotions-headache-young-woman-screaming-pain”
Yes, all of those things are the same thing. Headaches and emotions and screaming, all because of hysteria, I’m sure.

"crazy business worker under explosive stress"

“crazy business worker under explosive stress”

The Four Chambers of Stockphoto Women
Housewife/multitasker!

The housewife/multitasker!

The dieter! "Angry fat woman with hammer and scale"

The dieter!
“Angry fat woman with hammer and scale”

The Sex Object!

The Sex Object!

The...businesswoman?  "Mad Business Housewife" Seriously, what does this mean. What.

The…businesswoman?
“Mad Business Housewife”
Seriously, what does this mean. What.

The Accidentally Transgressive
"sullen young girl red" Yes, I am also frustrated with the socially prescribed icons of gender performance. Sullen young girl, let's go read some Judith Butler and feel better.

“sullen young girl red”
Yes, I am also frustrated with the socially prescribed icons of gender performance. Sullen Young Girl, let’s go read some Judith Butler and feel better.

Rachel Pollack once told me a story about a discussion of an ideal weapon for women. Someone suggested poison, someone else suggested the stiletto: sneaky weapons. In the end, though, it was decided that the best weapon for a woman was a hurricane: her wrath become the landscape, her destructive force immense.

Rachel Pollack once told me a story about a discussion of an ideal weapon for women. Someone suggested poison, someone else suggested the stiletto: sneaky weapons. In the end, though, it was decided that the best weapon for a woman was a hurricane: her wrath become the landscape, her destructive force immense.

 

Next up: Heresy!
Spoilers: What Stock Photo Land considers heretical alternately is logical and makes no damn sense.

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