Body Genres: Crimes of the Future (David Cronenberg, 2022)
Meet the new flesh, same as the old flesh.
Recently, I have begun to realize that I am my body. I always knew it, but I didn’t feel it until now.
What I mean is: Last summer, my husband and I took our kid to play at the lake. I remember sitting on a worn beach towel, leaning on my husband from behind, with my forearm pressed up against his shoulders. I could feel the point of contact precisely — humming, warm; beginning just below my elbow, and ending a few centimeters short of my wrist — and I realized: This sensation isn’t just data. This isn’t something happening outside of me that I need to observe. This sensation, this body, is me.
The entirety of my self is contained in the body that felt his shoulderblades against my forearm at the lake that afternoon. Every emotion I’ve ever had, every memory, every opinion, started somewhere as a physical reaction or impulse inside that body. I start somewhere and I end somewhere; I exist only when this body does, and when it eventually stops existing, there will be no me.
Like I say: This should have been obvious. It wasn’t, and I had to subject my body to a whole lot of fairly extreme experiences before I figured it out. I tested the limits of my body with drugs, with sex, with pain consensually and non-consensually and self-inflicted; I tested it with hormones and with surgery. At every step, I expected to hit some limit, to run up against some intolerably uncomfortable experience that would tell me I was done changing.
I haven’t hit it yet. Every step has made me a little more comfortable; a little more willing to identify myself with the meat and bone and blood that carry me around. My body is mine; my body is me. What my body is not — to me, anyway — is shocking. This is not the universal reaction.
Crimes of the Future is David Cronenberg’s intentional trans allegory. I specify “intentional” because trans people have spent decades reading allegories into his work. I had a huge Cronenberg phase in college, although my favorites (Naked Lunch and Existenz) wouldn’t make most people’s top ten list. I changed my major from philosophy to creative writing after watching Naked Lunch, and at the time, it didn’t even strike me as a weird reaction.