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01 May 2004 @ 10:43 pm
domesticating the monster  
Just watched Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the remake. It's based loosely on Ed Gein, so it has a high gruesomeness factor--Gein was the guy who made masks out of the faces of corpses, and a "woman suit" like the serial killer in Silence of the Lambs, also based on him of course. If I recall, he also had a lampshade made of skin, emulating the Nazis. Both versions of TCM showcase their atrocities in the family living room, the kitchen, etc. Unlike a lot of slasher flicks, where the horror comes in from the outside, invading the previously "safe" fortress of the home, TCM shows a sick kind of familial bonding and neighborliness that makes the point of the movie: that there are monsters among us, next door, down the road, who have homes of their own, and that outward normalcy can hide levels of the grotesque we can barely imagine. The Stepfather, Psycho--these are also examples where the killer is *in* the house to begin with. You can't lock the doors against it--you'd just be locking yourself in with it.

So that's one side of domesticating the monster, where you show the worst excesses of humanity in a setting that viewers usually identify as safe and familiar: a home that's similar enough to our own to make us shudder. A sewing machine used to sew human skin, skulls on bookshelves where someone else might put up bowling trophies, a mother feeding a baby that is actually stolen from a dead woman.

When I watching TCM tonight, I spent a few moments now and then thinking of Spike, which I tend to do during movies like this, because the comparison invites itself in terms of grotesquerie--if we let ourselves imagine the acts of vampires in a realistic way, wouldn't they often be like this? I've always thought it's pretty hopeless and pointless trying to reconcile the two--real serial killers and fictional vampires. But I was thinking about Subtleties, where I have Xander basically take Spike in and give him a home, like a stray cat, and it struck me: here I am taking the monster and domesticating it, rendering it harmless, safe, cuddly, familiar. If you domesticate the monster in real life, the horror becomes even more horrible. In real life, we want to think of the monster as something "out there," something "other." Not something close to home. But with fan-fiction that plays with vampires, we want to invite the monster in and give him a make-over. Invite him to a slumber party, do his nails. Introduce him to our sister or set him up on a date with our gay best friend and shop for housewarming gifts.

I've seen people say that there's something morally suspect about fan-fiction that takes such an approach, but it seems a normal enough impulse. It's not like romance never existed before the Internet. I guess the argument people like is that if you start to romanticize vampires you'll end up sitting in a courtroom one day flinging mash notes and marriage proposals to Ted Bundy, or will fall for the dangerous bad boy who beats the shit out of you. So far though I haven't noticed a lot of overlap between media fans and prisoner's wives.

On the other hand, I try not to browse the offerings at fanfiction.net. I'm afraid I'll find Care Bears raping Girl Scouts, and all my illusions will be dashed.
 
 
 
rubywisp: angel pretty by dellamorerubywisp on May 1st, 2004 10:56 pm (UTC)
On the other hand, I try not to browse the offerings at fanfiction.net. I'm afraid I'll find Care Bears raping Girl Scouts

But they banned NC-17 fic.

Ahem.
Anna S.eliade on May 1st, 2004 10:58 pm (UTC)
You just dropped by to traumatize me with your icon, didn't you?

(Actually it cracks me up. *g*)

I wonder if Angel would actually have enjoyed "West Side Story." I bet he would have, despite the fey men leaping around in tight pants.
rubywisprubywisp on May 1st, 2004 11:00 pm (UTC)
You just dropped by to traumatize me with your icon, didn't you?

I live to freak you out. ;)

I wonder if Angel would actually have enjoyed "West Side Story." I bet he would have, despite the fey men leaping around in tight pants.

See, and here I'm thinking 'because of'.
Anna S.eliade on May 1st, 2004 11:02 pm (UTC)
I bet he has at least *once* caught himself humming "I feel pretty, oh so pretty..." Or, come to think of it, didn't even notice. Ah the dangers of too much solitude. But surely he had occasional moods other than "broody" during the twentieth-century. Like when he was playing golf with Sinatra.
rubywisp: angelus no filler by zyrerubywisp on May 1st, 2004 11:04 pm (UTC)
I'm sure he was happy at least once or twice. Of course, it never turned out well.
Anna S.: angeleliade on May 1st, 2004 11:08 pm (UTC)
I bet he wore a green sweater to golf in.
Herself_nycherself_nyc on May 1st, 2004 11:10 pm (UTC)
Golfing at night? or some sort of indoor putting green, perhaps?
in search of a clever byline10zlaine on May 1st, 2004 11:02 pm (UTC)
Gein was sicker than that. He was obsessed with female genetilia, so skulls weren't the only thing he had mounted...

You just gived me the skeers for nightmares. Now I'll have to grab some book like incorporating the non-profit business to fall asleep to!
Anna S.eliade on May 1st, 2004 11:04 pm (UTC)
Yes, his woman suit had breasts and...other stuff.

You're in Maine, but you aren't in the Maine woods, are you? You should read some smut instead, you know.
in search of a clever byline: sloth10zlaine on May 1st, 2004 11:16 pm (UTC)
There was some movie made about him that I watched when I worked at the video store--some people put up plaques with sports awards on 'em, but not Ed!

Well, I am on a tidal cove (wooded), but it's a private road with 8 year-round residents, and the people who live either side of me are summer folks. So, it can be dead quiet.

Yes, see, smut would be good, but now the sick sexual connection's already been made in my head, so thoughts of bits, no matter how hot, will not extricate the embedded worm.

I hereby lay blame at your feet, and tomorrow to spite you, I shall head up the road to the world's best burger shack/dairy bar which opened March 3, and eat good food. I'll even neener out loud, as well.

Although, I guess I'd have to leave the house. So, in the event I don't actually do that, just knowing I can should be effective enough. heh.
I saw you eating ice cream, pal!glossing on May 1st, 2004 11:03 pm (UTC)
But with fan-fiction that plays with vampires, we want to invite the monster in
Do we? (And who's we?)
I mean, I see what you're getting out, and I think the domestication of the external monster is *huge* thread in fanfic, but there's a contending one that stares into the monster's eyes, that even, at times, becomes monstrous itself. Canon source waltzes back and forth between the monstrous as enemy and as internal wellspring, and I think different streams of fanfic respond to these different attitudes.
Anna S.eliade on May 1st, 2004 11:06 pm (UTC)
Well, yeah. "We" is just me. I'm on the schmoopy side of the fence and speak from that position. On the other side is darker and more realistic fiction. If that's what you mean. :)
I saw you eating ice cream, pal!glossing on May 1st, 2004 11:08 pm (UTC)
Hee. If your stuff was schmoop, I'd reconsider my position on the genre, trust me. I don't think darker necessarily equals more realistic. At least, I hope not.

(And apologies for the...not so great English in that original comment. I should have been asleep *hours* ago.)
Anna S.eliade on May 1st, 2004 11:10 pm (UTC)
Am I not schmoopy? If you cut me, do I not...squeak?

(As you can see, I am past my bedtime as well. *g*)
I saw you eating ice cream, pal!glossing on May 1st, 2004 11:16 pm (UTC)
If you cut me, do I not...squeak?
And the sound of a schmoopster falling in the forest is...?

Guh.
I've been thinking about the metaphors of monstrosity and talking about them at delightfully absurd length with kindkit *a lot* recently - particularly the werewolf as a man's inner bestiality (thanks, Marti. not.) - and I keep wondering if there's another way besides hunting vs. taming. If monsters - which are, really, just sports that don't fit extant classification schemes - can slide across false divides, if our fascination with them (expressed in writing fic and watching this stuff) is akin to meta-level queering of gender and sexuality. The scene in the original Ginger Snaps, where Brigitte accepts the blood bond, keeps coming back to me as an expression of this, as an example of the *parliament* of monsters and an entrance into the community.

Wow. That was a lot of dashes and parentheses. *tucks self into bed*
(Anonymous) on May 3rd, 2004 06:55 am (UTC)
[quote] I've been thinking about the metaphors of monstrosity [/quote]

Which would make a Xander takes in Spike fic as a metaphorical representation of him coming to terms with the monster within himself, the potential abuser, the potential drunk, and 'defanging' it by accepting and incorporating it into his life, rather than tossing scorn at it and trying to deny it purchase in his home, in his self?

Or something?

Set

Barb: tarnishedrahirah on May 1st, 2004 11:05 pm (UTC)
The thing is, of course, that fictional monsters are generally metaphorical. They mean what we want them to mean, they act the way we want them to act. They're our fears and night horrors made manifest--but that's exactly why we have to take them in and tame them. If we don't, we're doomed to be ruled by them, forever running scared of ourselves.

I wonder sometimes if killing the monster is a Guy Thing, whereas taming it is the Girl Thing. I hate making generalizations like that, if only because I myself tend towards guythink on a lot of subjects (at least, if one believes those lists of supposedly masculine or feminine ways of communication and problem-solving). Sometimes the monster does need killin'. But for much of history, women haven't had the option of blowing their opponents away. We learn to live with monsters. Sometimes we even love them.

Is the condemnation of this an uneasy realization that the werewolf, the vampire, the monster--this is, to some women on some level, them? A creatue which however desireable is also eternally dangerous and untrustworthy?

Killing the monster is easy, but oftimes their death only breeds new horrors.

Anna S.eliade on May 1st, 2004 11:08 pm (UTC)
Is the condemnation of this an uneasy realization that the werewolf, the vampire, the monster--this is, to some women on some level, them? A creatue which however desireable is also eternally dangerous and untrustworthy?

Oh...wow. I can't believe I never thought of that before. You are so freaking smart! Someone bring me a bottle of Chianti and a chisel, because I love this woman's brain!
tesla321tesla321 on May 2nd, 2004 06:28 am (UTC)
Well, I for one have read "Subtleties" about three times since coming across it last week. It's not that schmoopy.

If Angel didn't have the velcro'd soul and if Spike wasn't sui
generis
, we wouldn't be interested. We wouldn't invite them in.
Spike,in particular, without the soul,started changing. True,there was the whole Chip Factor, but he wasn't the Average Vampire even then. I'm talking about things that are strictly canon*, so the possibilities inherent in Spike's character for redemption caused an explosion of fanfic. Now, Spike has transcended the television character and the Jossverse.



*I cringe whenever I see 'cannon'.
stungunbilly: Considerstungunbilly on May 2nd, 2004 01:22 pm (UTC)
Interesting post: domesticating the monster does cover a lot of fan fiction ground. I'm thinking, though, that part of the reason for this is that the monster, in a sense, is us. And also, our beloved.
It's true that TCM shows an extreme of monstrousness that most folks won't reach, *in regard to our own species*. Viruses, chickens, cockroaches- these might tell a different story. But the potentiality exists, the aspects of personhood that make up the killer are present within every human being.
How do we reconcile our feelings of love and attraction when the dark side of a beloved lover/friend/partner/family member shows itself with greater or lesser degrees of subtlety? When I watch Buffy Season 5, for example, I see *Buffy* as an abusive lover to Spike. How do we reconcile her sexiness and charm with that aspect?
Taking the monster home metaphorically is a great way to test out limits and potentials without actual physical risk.

I'm running on, so I'll fade now.