Metanarrational Monsters, Part Eight – Concluding Thoughts: A Propaganda of Fear – To Understand Our Society, We Must Understand What It Fears and How it Sells the Fears Thereof.

Part 8 of 8

Concluding Thoughts: A Propaganda of Fear –

 

To Understand Our Society, We Must Understand What It Fears and How it Sells the Fears Thereof. 

 

 

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear,

and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”

– H. P. Lovecraft[1]

 

 

 

At their heart, the best monster movies are always about the monsters we see, both in our own selves and around us everyday: the drama queen who lives off “stirring the pot” at the office, the idea of being stranded in the mind-numbing monotony of a help-desk line, or when we hear about an innovative new medicine that has been pulled off the shelves because it has been killing people. To see these fearful things either on paper or on celluloid provides an “instructive and therapeutic escape”[2] for us – and serves as the enticement for us to buy the tickets that let us into the theaters to see the content that has been created for us by the ever-evolving Entertainment Industry. Just as the Depression-era poor[3] watched Bella Lugosi’s Dracula, Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein, or Fredric March’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, today we go to the movies and read books for reasons for very similar reasons.

When Frankenstein first lurched on the screen – the masses were still reeling from the affects of the Industrial Revolution. In many minds – the jury was still out in regards to whether or not society was advancing or retreating in terms of equality and justice. People were actively debating whether all the things that were supposed to help advance society had actually become hindrances to progress and equality. The automation and mechanization that was supposed to become a blessing – was being seen as a curse. Today – we realize these same fears, recontextualized for the fertile imaginations of a new generation that has grown up in the fears of genetic engineering run amok as in the propaganda fears archetypically relegated to both zombie and Frankenstein metanarratives.

Fear is a societal commodity. It informs and maintains the structures and the definitions of both society and the behaviors of those who function within it. At the same time, it unpacks an understanding of both the self and the self’s relation to the outside world. We see these fearful symmetries not just through the essence of their beauty and functionality but also through their potential brokenness and pain. Success and hope are only one form of light that illuminates these things. To see the full picture, only fear and darkness will reveal what the light will always hide.[4] Sometimes these fears are rational. Other times, irrational fears are expressed with equal vibrancy through the rubric of cinematic entertainment and literature. Through the expression of fantasy, we allow the sublimations, reconstitutions and recontextualizations of fears that only the most educated and mature of us may experience. Sometimes, we find catharsis by allowing ourselves to participate in their stories. Sometimes we educate ourselves about the deeper, more rational fears through the discursive employment of the irrational. Both film and literature are sensitive to these dynamics, and in seeking to create a product that will be palatable for mass consumption, they seek it out, and hope to connect with it. Many individuals involved in script writing come from multifaceted backgrounds both vocationally and politically. The Entertainment Industry offers ample opportunities for various ideological agents to ply their ideological wares.   In whatever form they come to us, they both teach us and try to persuade us. They offer us their own dark propaganda. Sometime they offer us a way to ‘punch at the darkness until, for us, it bleeds daylight.’[5] Other times, they offer stark warnings in terms of what may come to pass if we continue on the same directions, politically, socially and economically. Their propositions, however either cheesy or realistic as they may be – if they are well done and connect with our fears – we will seldom fail to purchase tickets to watch, buy the books to read, or endure the commercials to watch on television what has been created for us. Our entertainment – in this sense – becomes a principle venue for an ongoing creational permutation and the  corresponding, ceaseless profligation of creative media-related propaganda initiatives. It is well understood that the more something is feared- the better things related to it will sell -both in the media consumption and tangible consumables.

Sometimes monster metanarratives can teach us more about love than any book or high school relationship experience can. Sometimes, in its shadows, we can find the very building blocks  – perhaps even the cornerstones – of our own society. To not fear the past is to remain oblivious to the potential loss of entire civilizations as they are plowed under along with the rain forests they inhabit. Or, through brazen arrogance, we assume the political demons of past holocausts can never find expression in our wonderful, perfect, modern world. To lose any fear of and respect for the memory of history is to invite the repetition of its worst parts.

Fear is its own propaganda. It is not the big house that we don’t want to enter but the one that holds the key to staying out of the houses in our cultural and ideological neighborhoods wherein we would find genuinely unspeakable horrors. Fear is the instructional public message that speaks from an existential place and nudges us from the safety of adolescence into the fearful territory of adulthood. Fear speaks of itself constantly until its voice is not so much feared as respected. It convinces us of this. We are enjoined to the opinion that that which most terrified us can be in some regard enjoyable. Driving our car. Seeking out new relationships. Starting a new job. Learning a new trade at an unexpected time in our lives. Learning a new culture or a new language from the inside out. Embracing new forms of technology as they constantly evolve without becoming a slave and losing our own stability or identities. A rationally fearful society is by its inferred, subsequent state, an advanced society by nature of its own self-reflection, embracing and participating in the risks of community, art, spirituality, and politics. Terrible and fearful things will happen, such as the recent tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan. The fears of these things will echo in the collective imagination of the world. Some will react poorly; others wisely. But all will react, and all will respond to the provocation of fear. A culture that can understand and appropriate correctly the fears that inform its existence sets the foundation for its own potential resilience. [6]

But for all its strengths –it must also be understood that the dynamics of fear and the selling of fear-derived consumable media (movies, books, and related items) related to its various Monster Metanarratives – is far from a perfect guide. In fact – fear-based commodities may be among the most distrusted social narratives. Because, while various Monster Metanarratives may in fact resonate with the predispositions of the given potential audience,[7] they may be far from being suitable examples for rational discourses on the topic. Despite their appeal to Source Credibility, Group Norms, Reward and Punishment and the related Visual Symbols of Power[8] often associated with the archetypical fears related to respective Monster Metanarratives – the fears may be fully unfounded, if not fully irrational. Fear potentially functions as a better Excavator of Knowledge[9] –then it does Foundation for it. It functions more so as a discursive agent – one that probes the relationships between various dichotomies; not as much as ontological rule for derivationally-teleological expectations.  Any scriptwriter worth their salt will understand that fear alone cannot carry a movie. There has to be quality in the acting, the production, and even the editing. What is true for movies and books – is also true for life itself. To consider “media” desirable for consumption – it has to do more then just appeal or resonate with any given Monster Metanarrative. Such a given archetype, generally speaking – can serve best only as springboard towards greater interest made manifest through other dimensional attributes of the given media type. After all – by nature of being consumable media – it is understood to be objectively detached from true reality; it’s masquerading itself as being real – part of the enjoyment and potential cathartic basis for it its respective consumption.

In his book The Technological Society, the French sociologist Jacques Ellul writes of what may be tantamount to the precursor of the before mentioned Zombie Fear Archetype aspect of that of an emotionally disconnected society: the overly systematized society. In describing man’s position within it he writes –

When the economy becomes exact and technical, it cannot tolerate the intervention of the workingman’s desires. Certainly, there is such a good thing as benevolent and rational regulation of labor, human industrial relations, hygiene, and so forth. But this is the internal regulation that a good technique supposes and requires.[10]

 

Perhaps this is the pivotal role that Monster Metanarratives serve in Popular Culture and its various respective Media Forms – and more importantly – why it is crucial that there be a voice ready to persuade us of all of their inescapably validities. Perhaps they are the true voices of reason – speaking against the machines of an entrapment of our own making. Perhaps in being persuaded to take temporary ventures into exploratory venues of our own deepest and most articulateable fears, we assure a less fearful future for the real world. Perhaps we can find a degree of security – ironically so – amidst the soul-rendering terrors that it so eagerly proffers to us. Lest our own lives become so systematically routinized and predicable – we suffer ourselves to be subject to a renewal of Fear that may actually functionally serve a form of Charisma[11] – by nature of initially presenting itself in a form of anti-Charisma, or outright Fear. If this is true – then it is the monster that really does transform us, and then consequently serves also as our actual savior. And that – is perhaps the greatest metanarrative of all.


[2] The Monster Show – A Cultural History of Horror, pg. 130.

[3] Skall quotes Gilbert Seldes who aptly noted, “The rich could still go to the South Seas Islands; the intellectuals went to Mexico; the poor went to the movies” The Monster Show – A Cultural History of Horror, pg. 115.

[4] “To understand a culture – you must know what it fears.” From the cover of The Monster Show – A Cultural History of Horror.

[5]  A somewhat culturally ubiquitous, poetic saying – traceable back to the lyrics of Bruce Cockburn’s song – Lovers In A Dangerous Time (http://cockburnproject.net/songs&music/liadt.html).
“When you’re lovers in a dangerous time
Sometimes you’re made to feel as if your love’s a crime —

But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight —

Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight

When you’re lovers in a dangerous time

Lovers in a dangerous time

And we’re lovers in a dangerous time

Lovers in a dangerous time.”

[6] “It has been hard to watch what is happening to that ancient island population. But as Hannah Beech – our China bureau chief, who is half Japanese – writes, Japan’s culture is one of deep resilience. Adversity defines who the Japanese are.” Rich Strengal, Managing Editor, Time Magazine. Editor’s Letter, Time, March 28, 2011, pg. 4.

[7] Propaganda and Persuasion, pg. 279.

[8] Propaganda and Persuasion, pgs. 280-283.

[9] The Archaeology of Knowledge by Michel Foucault (http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/arch/section3.rhtml)

 

[10] The Technological Society, pg. 210.

[11]  The Theory of Social and Economic Organization by Max Weber, from the chapter The Routinization of Charisma. http://books.google.com/books?id=-WaBpsJxaOkC&pg=PA363&lpg=PA363&dq=max+weber+routinization+of+charisma&source=bl&ots=4lWIX0Gx72&sig=ky45tVGWkuWc7TGkwp1Ea4sOtw8&hl=en&ei=YYm_TYqiJMz0gAfL-eDWBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=7&ved=0CEgQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q&f=false

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—. World War Z – An Oral History of the Zombie War. 2011, 12-April <http://www.randomhouse.com/crown/worldwarz/index2.php&gt;.

 

—. Zombie Survival Guide Scanner. iTunes. 2011, 3-April <http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/zombie-survival-guide-scanner/id382278774?mt=8&gt;.

 

Puget Sound Blood Center. Blood Component Therapy | Fresh Frozen Plasma (FFP) and Thawed Plasma . 2011, 2-April <http://www.psbc.org/therapy/cryo.htm&gt;.

 

—. Blood Component Therapy | Platelets . 2011,  11-April <http://www.psbc.org/therapy/platelets.htm&gt;.

 

—. Blood Component Therapy | Fresh Frozen Plasma (FFP) and Thawed Plasma. 2011, 12-April <http://www.psbc.org/therapy/ffp.htm&gt;.

 

Putnam, Robert D. BOWLING ALONE: THE COLLAPSE AND REVIVAL OF AMERICAN COMMUNITY. The Saguraro Seminar. 2011, 11-April <http://www.bowlingalone.com/&gt;.

 

Sabin, Bruce M. ALCOHOLIC PROHIBITION IN SOUTHERN BAPTIST CHURCHES AND ITS IMPLICATION ON THE PRIESTHOOD OF BELIEVERS. 2011,  2-April <http://www.brucesabin.com/alcohol.html&gt;.

 

Schlozman, Steven. “The ‘Secret’ about zombies.” USA Today 2011, 25-March: 14D.

 

—. “The ‘Secret’ About Zombies.” 2011, 25-March.

 

Selzter, Sara. “Twilight”: Sexual Longing in an Abstinence-Only World. Huffington Post. 2011, 12-April <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sarah-seltzer/twilight-sexual-longing-i_b_117927.html&gt;.

 

Seventeen. Are you team edward or team jacob? 2011, 16-April <http://www.seventeen.com/fun/quizzes/celebrity/team-edward-team-jacob-quiz&gt;.

 

Silberman, Steve. The incredible case of Phineas Gage. 2011, 18-April <http://neurophilosophy.wordpress.com/2006/12/04/the-incredible-case-of-phineas-gage/&gt;.

 

sinistercinema. Bela Lugosi – The Invisible Ghost – Trailer. 2011, 18-April <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QDKv7SX7og&gt;.

 

Skal, David J. The Monster Show, A Cultural History of Horror. New York: Farber and Farber, Inc., 2001.

 

Skloot, Rebecca. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. New York: Broadway Publishing, 2011.

 

Song Facts. I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) by Meat Loaf. Song Facts. 2011, 18-April <http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=2952&gt;.

 

Spartacus777. Return Of The Living Dead 3: (1993)Trailer. 2011, 1-April <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQ4xGaLzpvI >.

 

Stego, Andy. An American Werewolf In London Trailer. 2011, 18-April <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESh4t57L4Xs&NR=1 >.

 

Stewart, Sara. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES A LOVE THAT WOULDN’T DIE Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/books/item_8HKdrSoayUX2v0xyuTIuoM#ixzz1K1vjpDSn. 2009, 5-April. New York Post. 2011, 11-April <http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/books /item_8HKdrSoayUX2v0xyuTIuoM>.

 

Strengal, Rich. “Letter From The Editor.” Time Magazine 2011,  21-March: 4.

 

Strengal, Richard. “Tragedy and Resilience.” Time Magazine 2011,  28-March: 84.

 

Talecris Biotheraputics. Role of Antithrombin: The Coagulation Cascade. Talecris Biotheraputics. 2011, 14-April <http://www.thrombate.com/html/hereditary-coagcascade.htm&gt;.

 

The American Red Cross. Give Blood. The American Red Cross. 2011, 1-April <http://www.redcross.org/donate/give/&gt;.

 

The Assemblies of God USA. Alcohol, Tobacco & Drugs. The Assemblies of God USA. 2011, 12-April <http://www.ag.org/top/beliefs/charctr_08_drugs.cfm&gt;.

 

The Cockburn Project. Bruce Cockburn – Songs – Lovers in a Dangerous Time. Bruce Cockburn. 2011, 20-4 <http://cockburnproject.net/songs&music/liadt.html&gt;.

 

The Literature Network. Bram Stoker. 2011, 14-April <http://www.online-literature.com/stoker/&gt;.

 

—. Bram Stoker – Biography and Works. Search Texts, Read Online. Discuss. 2011, 1-April <http://www.online-literature.com/stoker/&gt;.

 

The Phillip Glass Ensemble. “La Belle et la Bete.” An Opera By Phillip Glass – based on the film by Jean Cocteau. cond. Michael Riesman. By Philip Glass. Prod. Kurt Munkacsi. New York: Nonesuch Records, 1995.

 

Trailers. Twilight – Official Trailer [HD]. 2011, 12-April <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2T7d8j6I5I >.

 

Truby, John. The Anatomy of Story. New York: Farber and Farber, Inc, 2007.

 

Tudor, Andrew. Monsters and Mad Scientists – A Cultural History of the Horror Movie. Cambridge: Basil Blackwell, Inc., 1989.

 

twilightnovice.com. Team Edward VS Team Jacob. 2011, 15-April <http://twilightnovelnovice.com/specials/contests-projects/novelnoviceprojects/team-edward-v-team-jacob/&gt;.

 

Web MD. Aspergers Syndrome – Symptoms. 2011, 18-4. <http://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/tc/aspergers-syndrome-symptoms&gt;.

 

Weber, Max. The Theory of Social and Economic Organization. google books. 3 May 2011 <http://books.google.com/books?id=-WaBpsJxaOkC&pg=PA363&lpg=PA363&dq=max+weber+routinization+of+charisma&source=bl&ots=4lWIX0Gx72&sig=ky45tVGWkuWc7TGkwp1Ea4sOtw8&hl=en&ei=YYm_TYqiJMz0gAfL-eDWBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=7&ved=0CEgQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q&f=false&gt;.

 

WebMD. Web MD – Rabies. 2011, 2-April <http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/rabies-symptoms&gt;.

 

wichitaorpheum. YouTube – YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN trailer. 2011, 12-April <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOPTriLG5cU&gt;.

 

Windling, Terri. Beauty and the Beast by Terri Windling: Summer 2007, Journal of Mythic Arts, Endicot Studio. http://www.endicott-studio.com/. 2011, 18-April <http://www.endicott-studio.com/rdrm/forbewty.html&gt;.

 

http://www.bloodbook.com. TRANSFUSION TRANSMITTED DISEASES BLOODBOOK.COM. 2011, 3-April <http://www.bloodbook.com/trans-tran.html&gt;.

 

http://www.Draculas.info. Vlad the Impaler (Vlad III Dracula). http://www.Draculas.info. 2011, 14-April <http://www.draculas.info/vlad_iii_dracula&gt;.

 

http://www.draculas.info. http://www.draculas.info. 2011, 12-March <http://www.draculas.info/vlad_iii_dracula/&gt;.

 

http://www.eltonography.com. Sad Songs (Say So Much). 2011, 3-April <http://www.eltonography.com/songs/sad_songs_say_so_much.html&gt;.

 

http://www.iw_chameleon.co.uk. Howard Carter. 2011, 19-April <http://www.iw-chameleon.co.uk/history/ancient_egypt/4cart.htm&gt;.

 

http://www.lyrics007.com. Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah Lyrics. 2011, 2-April <http://www.lyrics007.com/Jeff%20Buckley%20Lyrics/Hallelujah%20Lyrics.html&gt;.

 

http://www.theoi.com. PROMETHEUS: Greek Titan god of forethought, creator of mankind; mythology; pictures. 2011, 3-April <http://www.theoi.com/Titan/TitanPrometheus.html&gt;.

 

Yapp, Nate. Invisible Ghost (1941) | Classic-Horror.com. Classic Horror. 2011, 18-April <http://classic-horror.com/reviews/invisible_ghost_1941&gt;.

 

YouTube – THE WOLF MAN – 1941 – TRAILER. 2011, 18-April <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTNQEd8D4pg&gt;.

 

Zito, Zach, Mel Neuhaus and Michael Lederman. Monster Madness – King Kong, Godzilla, and Other Classic Creatures of the Silver Screen. New York: Smithmark Publishers, 1998.

 

zombiereviews. Dead Alive – Trailer. 2011, 12-April <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIsLSj-z4UM&gt;.

 

Zweig, Connie and Jeremiah Abrams. Meeting The Shadow – The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnma, 1990.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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, Horror (Classic), Philosophy Studies, Propaganda Studies and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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