I had been searching and searching for Gregory Crewdon’s Untitled (Ophelia) ever since I stared at it for minutes at Chicago’s Art Institute. I was eighteen, only just discovered phallologocentrism, and was captivated with the idea of woman drowning in domesticity. I thought of all the objects in this photograph that were essentially feminine.
I thought of women who only talk about their children. I thought of women dying in childbirth, particularly after their fifth child. I thought of the fifties and women forced to douche with Lysol. Now I think of Polly Mitchell who was locked inside her home, with tinfoil covering the windows. How Yellow Wallpaper can become hypnotic through forced bed-rest. How men thought hysteria emanated from the uterus.
I also think of how I admired Ophelia. How I wanted to be Ophelia. How I wanted to fuck Hamlet and go mad with pain and longing.
Much like Claudia from Interview with the Vampire, Ophelia can never grow up, not just because she died, but because she was forever in Gertrude’s shadow. She was forced to remain a child, tight as a bud, secondary, unable to stand to her full height. She was a vestal woman, pure, not yet scorned. Hence Hamlet’s insistence that she join a nunnery. (Though, in secret I like to think she and Hamlet did the Mommy-and-Daddy Dance. Same with Cathy and Heathcliff.) But, she was bat-shit crazy. Only through her craziness did she become sexy. Until then, Gertrude was the sexpot of the play.
Only at Ophelia’s hey noni-noni moments did she actually eclipses the queen, and, briefly, also Hamlet. But such limelight is short lived. She must die. She must remain pure, clean.
And what’s cleaner than drowning? What’s more feminine than water?
I think of Joan Bevelaqua‘s Ophelia, how sleek and modern it is. How clean, as if Ophelia drowned in her wedding dress and popped out of existence like she was shot with a Phaser. How pristine.
Lakes, oceans all are too large for the young Ophelia. Besides, most suicides happen in the home.