Hi, this is my second post for this meme. I’m not exactly sure if I’m supposed to post every day of this meme, but I’m going to because I can, and because I enjoy the subject. 🙂
Here’s the first:
Visit me between 11th and 17th May for interesting posts about monsters.
Yesterday I talked about the five basic fears from which all other fears manifest. Today I’m talking about the two kinds of reactions or stages of fear and ask, ‘Why do we love monsters?”
The two stages of fear
Fear is a dominant and primeval human emotion. Its primary function is to alert us to danger, and was once crucial to our ancestor’s survival.
It can be split into two phases; biochemical and emotional. The biochemical response is general, whereas the emotional response is highly personal.
1 ) Biochemical Reaction
When we sense danger, our bodies react. Fear makes us all sweat, our hearts beat faster, and our adrenaline levels spike. This is universally known as the “fight or flight” response, where the body prepares to either fight the rabid dog, or run away from it (personally, I’d run!) screaming.
This biochemical effect is an automatic response to danger and is crucial to the survival of all species.
Imagine standing without this physical reaction, while a stranger runs toward you wielding a 6 inch knife. Sure, he may run past you after the screaming blonde, dressed in very little, but the chances are you’ll be his next victim. We need our biochemical reaction to propel our decision-making, and to fire up our limbs in preparation for escape or defence.
2 ) Emotional Response
Naturally, our emotional responses to fear are highly individual. Adrenaline junkies, for example, thrive on fear-inducing experiences. Horror lovers enjoy being scared out of our wits, as long as we know WE are not in danger. Then, we have others who hate the feeling of fear, and evade fear-inducing situations completely.
Although our biochemical reactions are the same, fear is experienced quite differently.
Ignoring those who hate and avoid all kinds of fear, and those who throw themselves out of aeroplanes for fun, let’s look at yummy horror lovers. Specifically, those among us who, for some bizarre reason, love monsters!
Why do we love monsters?Olga Baclanovaas Cleopatrain Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932). (Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.)
There has always existed a fascination with the weird, the bizarre, the freaks, the monsters. The Freaks, genuinely freaked me out years ago, when I first saw it. I had already watched Romero’s zombies by then, and I have to say, they had nothing on the Freaks in that movie. The weird, the grotesque, all came stumbling or slithering or shuffling straight out of my nightmares. Perhaps because I have a womb and cringed at the idea of creating something so utterly imperfect (there is shame in that fear, but it’s genuine and not unusual). What truly horrified me was finding out that those ‘actors,’ who wore little make up had been hired to entertain, not only in this movie, but in real life circuses. Their only income came from actually being thought of as a monster! Awful.
Upon its release in 1968, George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (Millennium Edition)
redefined not only the idea of “zombies” but the entire horror genre. A completely new category of horror arrived and transformed the way in which people were scared by movies, and their monsters.
- Patricia Donovan said:
“Monsters that scare us—vampires, zombies, witches—help us cope with what we dread most in life. Fear of the monstrous has brought communities and cultures together over the centuries and serves us as well today as it did in the Dark Ages.”
This makes sense, fear of Hell keeps people praying (yeah, and faith and God and all that), fear of the apocalypse keeps people building shelters, etc. But let’s face it, there are many forms of cultural monstrosity, including vampirism, incest, child sexual molestation, cold-blooded and /or multiple murder, and cannibalism; all disgusting behaviours that horrify people. All characteristics/behaviour we find in various monsters.
John Edgar Browning is the author of many ‘monster’ books, including Speaking of Monsters: A Teratological Anthology, and said:
“Vampires and monsters—they’re just us. They’re what we aspire to be, what we’re told to hate most about ourselves, what we secretly yearn for, but shouldn’t.”
We love them, perhaps because all have dark sides? Tomorrow I’ll talk about a few of my fave monster movies.
Which is your favourite monster? What did you think of The Freaks, The Night of the Living Dead? Are you participating in this meme?
PS: I seem to have random strike-through appear on links, ignore them. 🙂