Friday, February 1, 2008

leviathan in the closet

the new movie "cloverfield" is about a monster that attacks new york city. it comes from deep in the ocean. i noticed in the movie's ad in the austin chronicle (one of my weekly musts) a reviewer's tag line that said "cloverfield" is like the 50s horror films "it came from beneath the sea" and "the creature from the black lagoon." both monster movies about a monster from deep in the seas.
monsters have always been out there, in the darkest or most dangerous places. places where human beings have a tougher time surviving, physically - or can't survive: the deep ocean; the dark places in the forest; the desert.
leviathan is the sea monster in the bible that's so scary that god says to job that only god can control leviathan.
ancient myths have all sorts of monsters - grendel, the minotaur, the dragon, medusa, the kraken. they come from the wild places. even the gods are monsters sometimes - they're out there, somewhere, watching, and show up to screw with human beings.

there's the witch in the forest who lures children into her gingerbread house. or the wolf. or the giant.
there's the giant shark in "jaws." or the other big monsters just beyond the borders of our village.
there's the devil and his demon servants, ready to pounce.
or it's the japs, or the injuns, or the commies, or the terrorists, out there, threatening us good people. we must destroy them so that we can be safe.
they all represent something "out there" that can get us. so we have to make sure we're safe within our village, and when we're threatened, that a hero will come and rescue us or a king will protect us.
superman and batman and spider-man step in to help; they're heroes who look like us and protect our cities. or, at least, as in "war of the worlds," we find people with whom we work to survive the attack of the aliens who are coming to take over our world and drive us out.
there's also the wicked step-parent - snow white has one; so does cinderella. (what is it with walt disney and female villains; did he have a mean mom or something?) (and what about "the wizard of oz" - it's another freakin' witch.)
in the age of the rise of science, mary shelley writes about a monster created by a scientist - but, as in jurassic park, the monster reflects back to us that we shouldn't've fucked around with something we don't understand. (this is godzilla, too, and the monster movies of the 50s in which a giant somethingorother emerges because nuclear energy stirred something up.) zombies, too.
but increasingly through the 20th century, and especially since the 1970s, the monster isn't out there. the monsters, the dangers, the secrets ... they aren't far out in the wild places.
to use sirius black's phrase, "the devils are inside the walls."
in modern monster movies, where we live is the wild places. the monsters are under the bed. in the closet. on the other side of the patio door. whispering our names when we pick up the phone.
freddy kruger ("nightmare on elm street") lives in our dreams. michael myers *"halloween") comes into the house. the killer in "scream" chases us and won't stop. the ghosts are in the house in "poltergeist" - and they steal your little girl and try to get rid of the rest of you.
we're in our spacecraft with our crew, and an alien shows up. inside. with us. or - inside us. we've been violated. raped. trapped. it's "alien" or the hal section of "2001: a space odyssey."
count dracula who sneaks into your bedroom, and snuggles up, and exchanges your blood - your life's essence - with his. zombies take a bite of your friend, and your friend beomes a zombie. not dead, not alive. ugh.
then there are hannibal lecter in "the silence of the lambs" and anton chighur in "no country for old men." they have no conscience. they will simply kill whomever they need to. no guilt. they're not normal.
their presence tell us that what we fear the most, is ourselves. a part of ourselves we can't control. we want to kill it and destroy it, but it is a part of who we are.
so, these myths, stories, movies, are our cultural dreams for repeatedly looking into the darkness, and then defeating it, or at least keeping it far away. we need to do this. the human experience is full of fear - of what will harm us. of what's scared or threatened us, from way back in our childhood. so, we have to tell these stories, so that we can look at it, and survive. we can dress as a monster on halloween and end up taking off the costume and eating candy.

it would be lovely if there were no such dark side to the human being. but then what would we dream and sing and talk and make movies about?
and yet ... jesus keeps saying, "don't be afraid." i'd love to be that highly evolved, but i'm not there yet.


Melinda Hasting said...

Monster = Invisible body-snatching flu that has overtaken everybody in Austin!

grifp54 said...

SO glad to find your blog...I was looking for you in the old and here you are....

Hope all is well and that are you are gettin some freaking New years resolutions figured out (now that it is too late...)

It's all good here on the Left Coast....

Peace, Grif

Rick Diamond said...

great to hear from you my brother! keep me informed ... say hi to cali!!!!

Melinda Hasting said...

Shout out, Grif! It's Melinda! Where you been, brotha?


Anonymous said...

We may readily allow that human beings have a "dark side" which may become personified and embodied into the "monsters" we all know so well. Those "monsters" may be the evil ones we see and touch (or touch us, ouch!), or the evil impulses and/or "demons" we wrestle with.
Rick, you have authored a wonderful chronicle of how we may "Wrestle with God" to obtain more depth and faith in our relationship with God.
How are we to depict and process "Wrestling with Satan?"
Serious business; maybe we look at the Christ temptation story. Maybe we ask what wounds Jesus may have sustained to be victorious?
We must recognize the monsters and demons and muster our goodness and Godliness. We must resist the temptation, as Jesus did, to follow their impulses even as we would attempt to avoid or evade them...