Moneyed Monster Metanarratives: Selling The Monsters Within – An Exploration of Existential & Cultural Metanarrational Archetypes and Their Use in Modern Movie Marketing & Propaganda

Introduction, Part 1 of 8

The core thesis of this essay is that many horror films and stories relate back to an understanding of existential[1] and cultural meta-narratives, or the ‘big ideas’ behind the respective stories that they each seek to tell and that they purposefully capitalize upon these feeling and essentially ‘monetize’ them – or ways to make money utilizing them. These ‘Monster Metanarratives’ must be understood – if an understanding of how of they are used to sell movies is to be gained. Integral to this, then, is a subsequent understanding of what might be considered Entertainment Propaganda – or how you are sold the entertainment that the typical American consumes daily, in movies, books, television, and radio. The substrate or subject matter for Entertainment Propaganda is limited only by the imagination of the Creator and the appetite of the Consumer. However, for systematizational/reproducibility (marketing) purposes – these follow general patterns, and one of the commonly appropriated dimensions is Fear. What follows may potentially be regarded as a ‘teleological exploration of a proposed ontology of Fear’ put more simply – we will explore the sources and the ‘ins and outs’ of the forms that Fear takes,  both culturally and existentially – and (for the purposes of exploration) how it relates to the content that we are then sold containing it.  A mummy movie, for instance, is not just about a dead pharaoh’s curse, but more about our own fear of the past. A movie about a werewolf is less about how innocent people die when there is a full moon, and more about our own fear of what we may feel is the potential uncontrollability of our own human nature. A vampire movie may tell the story of an immortal being living off the lifeblood of victims, but in a real sense, watching such a movie may help the viewer both process and understand the reality that they themselves (or people they may know) may have fallen prey to real-life psychological abusers who thrive off of “sucking the emotional life” out of people around them.

 

Each of these ‘monster meta-narratives’ provides lenses into both the micro-personal human condition, and that of the larger, extended, macro-cultural/social as well. These typically take the forms of archetypes (a type of an ideological[2] model), which serve to embody either types of fear, or understandings of truth or truths as they are expressed within the types of stories that they represent. In this sense, the genre of Horror serves as a kind of modern ‘mythological cannon[3]’ where meta-narratives, or ‘big truths’ about life, love, personhood, and culture are explained in the form of cautionary tales or cathartic works that seek to ease both personal and larger aggregate, communal psychological pressures and frustrations, often by reinterpreting them either directly as horror stories, or even horror-comedy narratives.[4]  In gaining a better understanding of these monster meta-narratives, we may potentially realize that the ‘monster’ we are seeing on the big screen – in the ‘big picture of life’  – may actually be none other then our own fears or, more surprisingly, our own selves.

 

In analyzing a story it is important to look at various aspects of its plot. Two important aspects, according to the famous scriptwriter Robert McKee, are the Structure and Genre[5] as well as The Inciting Incident.[6] In looking at horror films and determining exactly what the metanarratives are at work, these are the first things that we should examine. In each monster metanarrative that we will examine, the ‘big idea’ behind the movie is sometimes overt and at other times hidden in the structure of the film and the genre; in others it is the event that starts the story in motion. In many cases, this ‘big idea’ is something that hides in the background and is only seen by an adult. It can be though of as ‘symbol’ that carries meaning and is authoritative to speak to the viewer regarding a content of which is carries authority regarding.[7] These symbols can be both beautiful – or frightening, and the effect that they have is mediated by both age and a deeper understanding of how the world seems to work, once one moves into adulthood. The five years may be scared by a vampire or a zombie, but it is the 50-year-old who will be scared by what he sees in the shadow of the character of the monster.

 

The archetypes that each of these monsters represent, are distinctly representational of our personal fears and those that we both know and understand about ourselves in terms of our relations with both ourselves and the world around us. This is critical to understand – because in the Entertainment Industry, fear is only one of the many ‘substrates’ that its content creators utilize when they set out to create a story that will sell books, movie tickets, and generate entire franchises (if they are successful) that will generate sources of revenue for them. The more contextually relational a horror films ‘fear pretext’ is – the more likely that it will connect with its respective audience in a concrete way, and build the sales momentum to not just recoup its developmental and production costs – but earn generous additional receipts. In today’s media saturated world – this is only one of many ways that Entertainment Content Producers deliver marketable and franchiseable content. Let’s take a looks at some of these ‘moneyed monster metanarratives’ and the archetypical fears both historically and culturally rooted with them in terms of the fear that they attempt to sell us through propaganda dynamics.

 

 


[1] As it is used here, ‘existential’ is defined as being related to the sum of that which relates back to an understanding of what defines ‘the self’ and also including all of that which represents the self’s relations to everything around it. In other words, to speak ‘existentially’ is to speak regarding the whole of who you are, and then to include with that all of the relations you have to everything and everyone around you. Or – more simply put: what consists of your existence.

[2] ‘Ideological’ essentially means: of or relating to both the substance and structure of ideas and their consequences; those both direct and indirect.

[3] A cannon, here, is representational of an assumed set of ideas (or archetypes) that carry authority in the minds of those who accept them as being traditionally authoritative and representative of their implied content. For instance, all of the biblical scriptures that are accepted as being in the bible, are represented in their whole by the terms ‘scriptural cannon.’ The ‘catholic’ cannon, includes the apocrypha (a collection of books that are accepted  in Catholic theological tradition as being divinely inspired and spiritually authoritative), whereas the ‘protestant’ cannon does not.

[4] Monsters and Mad Scientists, pg. 81.

[5] Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting, pg. 90.

[6] Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting, pg. 181.

[7] The Anatomy of Story – 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller, pgs. 221-227 & 243,244.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About hollerscholar

I'm a theology & philosophy student, writer, web developer, and medical laboratory professional.
This entry was posted in Cinema Studies, Cultural Mythology, Dystopicism & Fear, Existentialism, Frankenstein, Horror (Classic), Philosophy Studies, Propaganda Studies and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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