Op-Ed: Benjamin Rybeck

8 mins read


This story is pretty absorbing, I guess.  I’ve always liked Anthony Weiner. I’ve been reminded of a lot of other juicy political sex scandals in the last ten days featuring men about whom I knew very little before the scandal broke.  But I have no idea if Weiner’s a good congressman. Unless you live in his district of Brooklyn/Queens, neither do you.  Really, I don’t like this guy cause of his lawmaking: I like him cause of this , and this, and this.  Since his confession Monday, I’ve read countless articles in which people contemplate whether Weiner should retire.  I can only assume these people don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about.  They are considering whether Somebody who does Something Like This should be in Politics – but not whether Anthony Weiner, given his record in his district (whatever the hell that record may be), should continue to be a congressman.  And nobody knows this except the people he affects directly: the people who vote for him.  All of this political punditry about Weiner and should he/shouldn’t he resign is mind-numbingly theoretical, which just reminds me that political commentary is probably the least practical thing in the world.

So, okay: I don’t know much about any of this. But let me pretend, for a moment, that I know something about aesthetics.  And let me say this: when I’m involved in some kind of scandal that involves lewd pictures of me disgracing myself, I want Weiner to be the man who takes these pictures. Let me talk about two in particular.

#1:  Okay. The most erotic scene I’ve ever encountered in a movie is the opening of Bonnie and Clyde, and, like Arthur Penn, Anthony Weiner understands that the most tantalizing thing is what you know is there, but what you just can’t see. This picture is merely SUGGESTIVE, yes, but that’s what makes it so artful. Weiner is too classy for the totally explicit. Also, in terms of the color palette, look at the darkness of the gray shorts, the darkness of the bulge – but the softness of the colors on either side of the bulge: the calming whiteness of his shirt and also his pale, pale leg. But the bulge itself seems to be lighting up just around the edges – seems to be giving off a sort of glow. If Terrence Malick has a cock shot in The Tree of Life, it’s going to look a little something like this. David Gordon Green should hire Weiner to lens his next non-Apatow-related movie.

#2: This photograph tells as relevant and compelling a story about a man’s political downfall as any I’ve ever heard. This is a narrative photograph. Its mise-en-scene is remarkable. First, we are drawn to the chest: the slope of his arms intersects with the slope of his abs, creating a sort of Kanizsa triangle of congressionally sultriness. But to only discuss the bare chest is to miss the point of the story this photograph tells. Weiner is clearly in his office, and scattered in the background of the frame are photographs of political triumph (a photograph of photographs: this is postmodernism at its finest), but we cannot quite make out the triumph, since it is overcome in our vision by the shining abs. We move closer to the photograph to try to see what images of success lurk in the background, but we only get closer and closer to the shame of this congressman. Soon, we know the political triumph is there, but we cannot see it: we can only see the bare chest. And to whom does this bare chest belong? The face is masterfully obscured, the mouth and nose darkened, the eyes out of frame – the only part of his face that’s in the light, his chin, pointing downward to the chest. Weiner understands his own story in this photograph. Triumph lurks in the background, but all we can see is the disgrace of the bare chest – and the head of the disgraced man has been cut off, making him no longer a person, but now merely a commodity of his own making. This photograph is fragmentary, hallucinatory, Lynchian. This is a cubist masterpiece of a sex scandal photograph.

So I dunno. Weiner did some stupid stuff, by his own admission, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn he’s a criminal as well. Should he resign or not? I don’t feel I have the right to say. I won’t have an opportunity to vote for the guy, after all. But what I can say is that, from an aesthetic point of view, I think that we’re looking at the birth of a new master of the visual media.

Matisse, Duchamp, Cartier-Bresson, Adams, Arbus, Kubrick, Malick.


(On a careerist note, I’m looking for a multi-instrumentalist to help me write a musical about all of this called Weinergate! We don’t need to live in the same location; we can do most of our collaborating on the internet. Anyway, I know a guy who knows a guy who knows Tim Roth, and I think he’d make a good Weiner if we do something with his hair. I’m also going to try to get Tobey Maguire to play Weiner’s penis, who will be the primary antagonist in the show. Please get in touch with me through the Sonora Review email if you’re interested in collaborating. And please send a pic, because I only work with hot young women over the internet.)

Benjamin Rybeck carries with him many half-formed opinions about things he doesn’t know much about. He is the editor-in-chief of Sonora Review, a graduate of the MFA program at the University of Arizona, and a teacher of creative writing. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Ninth Letter, DIAGRAM, Natural Bridge, Guernica, and elsewhere.