First images of Paradise
Todo paraíso termina en un cerco de alambre de púas.
Spread over the Western cultures through the Bible, the myth of Paradise has been crucial to define the status of manhood as expelled, due to their disobedience, from the original place that God had created for them. Around this biblical episode, Judeo-Christian religions articulates the idea of “original sin” and derivates from it both the feeling of guiltiness and the desire for a restoration of the Paradise as the previous and happier state. Happiness and perfect social organization, therefore, has been often identified for centuries in our cultures with the values promoted through this mythical Paradise, namely the strict obedience to the hierarchy of patriarchal structure, the heterosexual couple as the origin of society, the endless abundance of natural resources and the subordination and dependence over a supernatural being, which includes the renunciation of individuals to knowledge, embodied in the myth by the forbidden tree. If paradise was meant to be perfect, social life in paradise as described in the Bible should stand for perfect social life.
Restoring Paradise, however, does not only entail this set of values, it also implies the spatial dimension of the Garden of Eden. As Bloch points (2006: 332), Paradise belongs to geographical utopias (as Golden Age belongs to temporal ones) and therefore it is ruled by the principles of spatiality: it has to have a limit, a distinction between the inside and the outside, and it has to be impossible for it to be in two places at the same time.
Even though I am not going to provide here an account of the different geographical places that have once been associated with Paradise it is important to remark that America has been one of the lands that more repeatedly has pointed itself, through its history, as being the earthly incarnation of the myth. In fact, the desire of identifying America with the Eden seems to be the present in the restoration that the American Government and much of the entertainment industry of the 1980’s carried up from a past prior to the anxieties of the Vietnam War and the revolutionary movements of the 1960’s and the 1970’s, as the feminism(s) and those related to the civil rights of the black and the homosexual population. The supremacy of the heterosexual male white and muscle-bound subject allied with a military/patriotic nuclear discourse that neglects the environment and complemented by the rise of individualism, the obsession with money and success and the overwhelming presence of the media are some of the trends of the ideology that the Reagan’s age incorporates to the biblical picture of Paradise as an update of it. These are, as well, some of the key features one can find on the landscape of the American Paradise that John Cheever, Jim Jarmusch and Laurie Anderson reflected about and put into question, with no less irony than creativity, as I will prove in this essay. To do so, I will analyse the three works mentioned on the title paying special attention to the political criticism conveyed on these work as a reaction against the model of American Paradise of the 1980’s and highlight, when possible, the alternative models suggested by the authors.