Anna S. (eliade) wrote,
Anna S.

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 I'm afraid I'll find Care Bears raping Girl Scouts, and all my illusions will be dashed.
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