Tuesday, October 29, 2013
The Other: Pure Horror or Misunderstood Outcast
Halloween approaches. Normally, I wouldn't write anything about Halloween. Or horror. Or monsters. It would have been a waste of my time. Thanks to posts like this I've begun to rethink these topics. I still believe most horror is crap, but there a few gems out there that are worth discussing. If you disagree, check out the articles on Mystagogy, start with this one.
I recently finished reading the classic Bram Stoker's Dracula. I must say I really enjoyed this book. In the shadows of recent adaptations of Dracula and popular developments with the vampire (Twilight series), there were three things that struck me.
1) Dracula was a monster. He was evil. A type of anti-Christ. There was no empathy or even sympathy for him.
2) The story was rife with religious imagery, themes, and motifs--more than just the use of a crucifix.
3) There was no romanticism or sex appeal.
Monsters often reflect our fears collectively. Over time these fears change some and the monsters that reflect these fears change, as well; which would explain why there are monster trends in the horror genre. Zombies are huge right now. They reflect our rampant over-consumption. We must feed. We must voraciously consume. Americans consume more resources than any other nation in the world. Besides physical needs, we are extremely narcissistic: social media has become a way to brand, to create a virtual image, of ourselves. With repetitive updates and posts and profile views we self-consume. The postmodern Western individual perpetually devours his or her surroundings. We are like zombies. Those who have sounded the alarm that one day we could irrevocably deplete natural resources has caused a fear in most people. We've realized that we are our own worst enemy. And we can't stop.
Now back to Dracula. He was evil. The one who is other is feared; Dracula, in Bram Stoker's novel, is pure horror. Most classic horror and even adventure novels typified their fears as foreigners, uncivilized, barbarians, non-Western--they were others. Writers like Lovecraft, Machen, Haggard, etc all did this. In contemporary society we're told that we fear what we do not understand. And this is often true, which is why our fears are personified in horror. Like I said, zombies are popular. Vampires were more popular several years ago but they weren't portrayed as monstrous beings like they were once.
When Twilight was released to DVD--out of curiosity, since a lot of girls were reading the books, and I was single and thought I should at least be able so say I saw the movie--I rented it. Now this movie has been given a lot of crap--and rightly so!--but lets not dismiss it too quickly. Taking into account that monsters reflect our societal fears, what's being said in the Twilight series? The vampire is not necessarily a monster, not pure horror, like the classic Dracula. This recent development of the vampire has taken the diabolical and tamed, repackaged, and represented it to a naive culture. The contemporary vampire can not reveal its true self to society because it will not be accepted. We fear what we do not understand. Once we understand the other...they're not much different than we are. They may be strange and different, but they're just misunderstood. They're beautiful too, just in a different way. The monster is not evil per se...because after all he's not a monster. He sparkles in the daylight. We just have to stop oppressing the other and let them be the way they were born. This thought process shapes the contemporary social consciousness: accept anyone and everyone just the way they are.
This has some value.
We as Christians should not fear others, should not alienate those who are different from us. However, what may seem benign and misunderstood may be a potential monster. Society tells us that we need to be more open-minded and accept everyone just the way they are; however, there is a reason why the Church has set boundaries on certain practices and behaviors. Yes, all need to be accepted into the Church but if you choose to stay you'll never be the same. That monster that lurks deep down in your soul will be brought to light by the Light of Christ, and the damages your monstrous self has caused will be healed. Kyrie Eleison