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  • Writer's pictureAtomicRakshasi

Mars Argo and the Exploitation of Female Artists in Romantic Creative Partnerships

There’s a story that repeats itself through myth and history, that woman is formed of clay, bone and ivory, evolving into a life-size automaton of gears and springs and finally, in the present day, a robotic imitation of flesh and blood, where her first breath is gifted to her by her male creator. Shaped into some unearthly hybrid, she doesn’t possess any imperfections of flesh and blood and doesn’t protest her imprisonment. Her perfection lies in what she lacks in humanity, but the spectre of her original still haunts her creator: the ex, the girl who rejected him in high school, the look-alike that he stalks and feeds on---like Ted Bundy, drawing on her breath to feed his own.

This tale isn’t new, but cyclical. The stubborn, ugly harridan had her day and paved the way for a more acceptable version of the original, a liberated version with the choice to be submissive, free, sexual, powerful and dare I say more ‘empowered’ with every incarnation of womanhood. The fable asserts its hypothesis yet again--Pygmalion, Dr Coppélius, Henry Higgins and Adam himself are done proud. They told you so.

Picture a woman, locked inside a room by her husband. As a member of his literary factory, she is forced to write, at his prodding, racy versions of her schoolgirl days. He takes all credit for her work and keeps all the royalties. She finally has his name legally removed from the credits but he retains the copyright, and she sees none of the earnings.

Picture another woman, crippled with arthritis from an early age, with a love for painting every surface in the abode she shares with her husband. When he realizes the potential for sales of her works, he takes charge of her talent and makes her produce a requisite number of artworks a day. Being diminutive, hunched and frail, and also burdened with housework, she can barely protest her imprisonment and does what is asked of her. When her work is discovered and her reputation soars, he keeps her profits in jars hidden in the ground, refusing to improve their living conditions despite her debilitating illness. She doesn’t see any of the money she has earned until the day she dies.

Picture another woman who has a unique artistic style, who meets another artist and marries him. He convinces her to put his name on her artworks because a woman artist will not be taken as seriously as a male one. He makes a small fortune selling cheap copies of her work, and soon they are rich. He keeps her isolated in their mansion where he bullies her into painting sixteen hours a day. She sues to have her name back, and it is soon revealed to the world that he was a plagiarist all along. She too never sees any of her earnings because he had spent it all.

It was a story I’d heard many times when I came across the Mars Argo drama. I wasn’t a fan of the pretentious, artsy, repetitive, and almost annoying videos, but the wide-eyed, childlike cyborg won my heart. The music is addictive if you’re into nineties spillovers, psychedelic waves and moody rhythms merging with acoustic backgrounds. The duo created some fantastic songs with what seemed like alchemical magic, a successful blend of styles with repeated themes of falsities, personas, authenticity, dissatisfaction and suicide. They're not appreciated enough because you can’t find any actual way to pay them for their work. And she's disappeared. So what happened?

He acquired a new muse, one he uses as a tool to prod his ex with peevish references to their past relationship. The frankensteined automaton is a timely reinvention, it speaks to a new crowd before they realize yes indeed, the new persona is a more efficient, shinier, and falser version of the original.

So where is the original? Where is Mars Argo?---they demand.

Welcome to the modern day, where a woman dares claim the fruits of her labour. She’s a Creatrix on equal footing with the Creator. She sues and wins rights to her work and name and goes into hiding, taking her work with her.

The cat is out of the bag and public ire rains down on the Creator. Although her persona was created with her tacit approval, the Muse leaves him too. The Creator is left bereft without her air. He can’t be her, and she doesn’t want to be his (he can’t come). Can he do this for the third time? Or can we just call this oft-repeated romance what it is: abuse?


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