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  • Showing only topics in ~humanities with the tag "18th century". Back to normal view / Search all groups
    1. Anyone have any interesting facts or wild stories to share about strange characters in history? I can start - with Marquis de Sade.

      My contribution: It's 2:17am on a school night, you're a teenager, and you're googling "most disturbing movie ever made" - because you can. Among mentions of films like A Serbian Film and...

      My contribution:

      It's 2:17am on a school night, you're a teenager, and you're googling "most disturbing movie ever made" - because you can. Among mentions of films like A Serbian Film and Audition, you also notice that a film with two names is commonly mentioned: Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom. Huh, even the name sounds creepy. After looking behind you to make sure no one's watching, a brief glance at a summary of the movie explains enough to make you want to forget about the whole thing forever. Regardless, you fall further down the Wikipedia hole... (or in my case, you really do forget about it for 10 years, only to unfortunately stumble across it again yesterday.)

      Salò was made in 1975 and is based on a novel written by Marquis de Sade in 1785. It is known as one of the most disturbing films ever made, but as I learned recently, the film and novel somewhat pale in comparison to the real life of the author. Sade was a French guy who committed all manners of wild, outrageous, and terrible behavior throughout his life, and his Wikipedia page is a crazy ride. You know the word "sadism?" This man is literally the etymological origin of sadism. (Also, practically his whole existence requires a content warning. In this case, it seems that the art has never been separate from the artist.)

      In 1763, Sade was charged with "outrage to public morals, blasphemy and profanation of the image of Christ," which at first makes him seem pretty cool. Alas, it all goes downhill from here, as he was known as a nuisance and danger to every community he lived in.

      TW: Sadism, sexual abuse, physical abuse, child sexual abuse

      He once locked a woman in a room and went on a ultra-cringe atheist tirade that would make even the most condescending neckbeard blush, screaming about how God doesn't exist while simultaneously masturbating, urinating on things, stomping on a crucifix, and ordering the woman to beat and whip him. He locked another woman in his home, whipped her, and poured hot wax in the wounds. He was arrested, then let out of jail because he wrote letters and whined to the King about it. He was such a creep that the local police started warning sex workers not to visit him. He fell in love with his wife's sister when she was 13, and eventually ran away with her. He committed absurd acts of pedophilia, including forcing groups of children to perform "erotic plays" while trapped in his home for weeks on end.

      Later, when Napoleon Bonaparte issued a warrant for his arrest after being offended by his novels, Sade was imprisoned, then had to transfer prisons because he was being such a disgusting sex pest to other prisoners at the first one. His family had him declared insane and moved to an insane asylum. While in the asylum, he was permitted to direct and perform his plays, using the other patients as actors. Somehow, even when living amongst the most underprivileged members of society in prisons or insane asylums, it seems that Sade was never fully prevented from promoting his ideas and art to the world, even though the subjects he explored were universally horrifying to society - then, as well as now. I found this fascinating.

      TW: child sexual abuse

      This man spent his whole life committing weird, gross, violent sex crimes at every turn, and no one ever really stopped him from doing that either. His life is one long cycle of rapes, arrests, assaults, kidnappings, and imprisonments, and he keeps on going until the very end. When he was 70, he entered a four year long sexual "relationship" with a 14 year old daughter of one of the asylum employees, and then died at the age of 74.

      Sade wrote The 120 Days of Sodom on scraps of paper while in an insane asylum in 1785, and lost it in the Storming of Bastille during the French Revolution. It was somehow rescued (eternally unbeknownst to him,) and was finally published in 1904, to eventually be adapted into the film that sent me down this whole rabbit hole.

      While reading about Sade's life, I was surprised not only by the major events in history he was present for, but the lasting impact he had on philosophy, art, and culture. As mentioned above, the word "sadism" has its roots in his name. The Surrealists adopted him as an inspiration in the 1920s, dubbing him the "Divine Marquis" and praising his ideas about "sexual freedom." (Side note: I love surrealism, but I swear, I never stop discovering new, unsettling facts about Dali and his ilk.) Along with Surrealism, he is said to have had great influence over Modernist art. Some consider his work to be a precursor of nihilism. Sade also influenced Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, and at least one serial killer.


      Learning about this guy left me astounded, and I just needed to share with someone. Could I have just posted the Wikipedia article? Yes, but that's not as fun as writing down this crazy story and some of my feelings about it. (Note: I did not link sources excessively in this post, as it generally follows the structure of the Wikipedia article and sources can be found there.)

      I couldn't believe I didn't already know about Marquis de Sade before today (maybe because I've never taken a philosophy class?) It also got me thinking that I'd like to hear about any other outrageous, controversial, or just plain strange characters in history that you might know of. Even the other historical figures mentioned above have pretty wild lives themselves. (And on the other hand, I suppose there's so much here to chew on that we may just discuss Sade in general. If so, have at it. I'm particularly fascinated by how such a sick individual has heavily influenced significant parts of our culture, and how to feel about that.)

      Fun facts are welcome, considering I certainly didn't bring any.

      66 votes