The Hyde in him…

Janet Cooper reviews episodes 6, 7, and 8 of ITV’s period drama series, Jekyll and Hyde in the second part of her three-part review to conclude last year’s spectacular series. Janet is a graduate in English and Creative Writing BA (hons) and is currently studying an MA in English Studies.

Episode 6 brings sadness as it begins with Utterson’s funeral. The character of Utterson will be missed as he has only just accepted that the supernatural exists. He was a clever, quirky character that instilled humour into the series.
Nevertheless, there isn’t much time for mourning as we begin with another action-packed episode. A ripper stalks London, removing body parts from its victims. His nickname is spring-heeled-Jack, and is an obvious interpretation of the notorious Jack-the-ripper.

Of course, Hyde is furious when Bella’s business suffers as a result of the murders and vows to stop him. There is an excellent twist here as spring-heeled-Jack is in fact a vigilante hunting the murderer, rather than the actual murderer. It’s interesting how Hyde always fights to be out when one of his/Jekyll’s friends need rescuing; he certainly conforms to the figure of the anti-hero. He isn’t the conventional, well-behaved hero, yet you have to label him a hero because he constantly rescues people.

The show challenges the ethics of British intelligence here by comparing their tactics with that of their enemy. Kidnapping isn’t the best way to enlist the help of Jekyll or Hyde, but it seems MI0 will stop at nothing. I think it’s interesting that they use very similar tactics to the Tenebrae and even stoop to using Captain Dance’s monocane gun to pull it off. I think that this puts covert intelligence in a negative light, as they were willing to use the same underhand warfare techniques for their own gain. They hold Ravi, and promise that Jekyll may have him back if he works for them. The difference between Edward Hyde, and Robert Jekyll’s, Hyde, is that Edward Hyde is portrayed in a more monstrous light, but Robert Jekyll’s, Hyde, has morals and feelings. When he attacks someone it’s always to protect his friends or family, and it’s his emotion that tends to make him transform into Hyde. I think that seeing Hyde is this light makes accepting him as a monster more difficult. He protects the honour of those he cares for and I prefer his character to that of Jekyll’s. His humour and sarcasm never fails to make me love his character even more, like in episode 6 when he comments on the shininess of the police officer’s buttons on his uniform, when they are investigating Spring-heeled-Jack.

Spring-heeled-Jack and Hyde, set out to find the monster who isn’t so easy to find as it’s a parasite that lives inside humans. Jack becomes the parasite’s new incubator and it connects to his mind and takes over his body. Eventually in episode 7, Jack is killed by MI0 but not before Hyde tries his best to save him. This proves to be a careless act as the parasite then enters Ravi and although Jekyll finds a way to get the beast out of him, Ravi remains sick and ill. MI0’s failed attempt on getting Ravi infuriate Hyde who almost lets the parasite get Bulstrode and partakes in some blackmail himself. Ravi becomes very useful as the parasite leaves him with a psychic link to the Tenebrae in episode 8, and this proves to be extremely beneficial helping to locate the eel-creatures before they get chance to complete the Tenebrae’s bidding.

The backstory happening throughout the episodes and unknown to Jekyll and is friends, is that the body-parts stolen by the parasite are being used to revive Captain Dance in good-old Dr Frankenstein style. This part of the story was interesting as I like the fact that the series recognises other Victorian literature. For instance, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein consists of a fairly eccentric Doctor that trifles with the laws of nature and takes science too far. In this case Fedora, Dance’s lover, will do anything to revive him. There are eel-creatures keeping Dance’s body alive but in episode 8, Fedora agrees to send these out into London so that they can find the body parts Dance needs to regenerate. Sending the eels out is a suggestion of Lord Protheroe who seems to have a hidden agenda and doesn’t seem to want to save Dance.

As one character leaves, another one joins as episode 8 finally means that the character of Olalla is properly introduced. She appears to be a vampire based on a previous short story by Robert Louis Stevenson but although she drinks blood, she uses a blood-drinking device as she is not a true vampire. This is yet another strong female character introduced to the series. Olalla is a Hyde, like Robert, and it turns out that she is his twin sister. Olalla’s story is a sad one, as Louis Hyde, their father, sacrifices Olalla, then only five-years-old, to Tenebrae in order to save Robert as he is the chosen one, prophesised to open the jar.
Olalla has been mentally and physically abused by Tenebrae. She is constantly a Hyde, and hasn’t been her Jekyll persona for many years. She was raised by Dance and there is some possible brain-washing used. There are obvious mental health issues here because of the abuse she has endured and also because of her dependency on the drug mix she has been fed. The Tenebrae have her hooked on a monocane and blood mixture and have kept her exclusively as Hyde for many years. She is scared to be her former self but Robert forces her hand and it is painful for her. She is unable to stay as Jekyll due to the pain it causes her and runs away to find her secret supply of her mixture. She has a strong love for her brother and she turns up to save him when she is needed and seems a little hurt that he doesn’t remember her. In episode 8, she turns up just in time to save Robert and Ravi from the eel-creatures.

Robert decides to propose to Lily in episode 8 and with this in mind, he breaks off his relationship with Bella. Bella is certainly more suitable for Hyde as she is feisty, but of course there is a further twist with the character of Lily. Lily seems taken aback by the proposal and tries to put him off. Soon after that it is revealed to the audience that Lily is in fact an MI0 agent, working for Bulstrode and has been tricking Jekyll the whole time. MI0 have been willing to attack Robert physically and emotionally, the emotion being Ravi and now obviously Lily. There is certainly more to Lily than meets the eye as working as a female spy was dangerous business in the 1930’s. I previously thought that Lily was a representation of the Lily that could save/control Jekyll’s transformation but is the term lily now a symbolic term to destroy Jekyll. It makes you wonder what lengths British intelligence will go to and what Jekyll/Hyde will do when he finds out!

Now just two episodes to conclude and I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

 

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Jekyll and Hyde: Episodes 3, 4, and 5  

 

Janet Cooper reviews episodes 3, 4, and 5 of ITV’s period drama series, Jekyll and Hyde as part of a three-part review to conclude last year’s spectacular series.  Janet is a graduate in English and Creative Writing BA (hons) and is currently studying an MA in English Studies. 

Sunday, November 29, 2016,  signified the half way mark for Jekyll and Hyde on ITV by airing their fifth episode.  I was immediately hooked with this ITV drama from the start and I must admit, I wondered if it could maintain momentum.  How could this epic drama become any more enthralling?

Over the 3 episodes we have seen Jekyll’s alter ego, Hyde, becoming more and more powerful.  He desperately tries to find out about his family history and turns detective, whilst still trying to repress the entity of Hyde that lives inside him, desperately trying to claw his way out and dominate Jekyll’s mind and body.  He is assisted by his three comrades: Utterson, Hils, and Garson who, by the time the fifth episode airs, can be safely referred to as both his friends and most trusted advisors.  The series is still keeping with the theme of cultural unrest including the women’s working movement, political issues and Jews seeking refuge in Britain as tensions rise with Germany’s uprising.  Some are great allies to British intelligence whilst others clearly posing to be on the side of the British whilst really being on the side of the Tenebrae, whose values represent Nazism.

The back story of Ravi is an interesting one that carries on throughout the episodes.  After escaping prison, he follows his father’s instructions and finds a hidden, underground room that holds medical information and experiment details that will help with Robert’s medical condition and help restore a balance of the right chemicals needed in his body to keep Hyde repressed.  He manages to travel to England and is so close to Robert, and is then kidnapped.  MI0, the British intelligence department who focus on the supernatural, hold him hostage and Bulstrode, hopes to persuade Hyde to work for them in their fight against the Tenebrae.  Is there no lengths that a patriotic Britain will go to, in order to strengthen their cause?  Somehow, I don’t think blackmail is the way to get someone like Hyde on your side and I can’t wait to see how this unfolds!

Robert is a stranger when he comes to London and he knows if he ever wants to get to the bottom of his condition, he needs to find out more.  The character of Garson has proved a useful friend and resource in tracing Jekyll’s history and shedding some light on what happened to Henry Jekyll and his experimentation with Hyde as he worked as his assistant.  After Jekyll saved his life, their relationship has developed and in episode 3, Garson trusts Jekyll’s intentions enough to feel able to inform him of who his grandmother is.  They start their investigation to find Maggie in episode 3, with the help of Hils, and information from Isabella Charming.  They do locate her in the end, as she lives in hiding but is shot by MI0, after they send in their own conditioned and brainwashed monster to fight with Jekyll.  I think this highlights the brutality of tactics used in war.  The monster is a little hulk-like as he is huge in size and an innocent old lady is injured by a weapon as a result of their attack.

Garson is also extremely useful keeping Lily away whilst Robert’s transformations are erratic, but he also uncovers Henry Jekyll’s potion to help Robert suppress Hyde as a temporary measure.  A key ingredient called monocane is missing and this is only available from a rare lily situated in Ceylon, so they are in short supply of the potion.  It’s good to see their relationship develop throughout episodes 3-5 and I can see the character of Garson becoming a loyal father figure to Jekyll.

The episodes also highlight the importance of female progression in the 1930’s, and women who had aspirations to do what would have been labelled as a ‘man’s’ job in Victorian times.  Hils, Utterson’s daughter takes part in detective work, she drives (quite quickly in fact), and she does a lot of work for her father’s firm.  The significance of the lily being the key ingredient in a potion that stabilizes Hyde symbolises the importance of Lily Clark, his love interest, being able to save Robert Jekyll from evil.  Lily is not all that she seems as she shows Robert Jekyll her laboratory and it turns out that she was training in biochemistry at University before her mother became ill.  She helps to save Maggie’s life in episode 3 by studying Hyde’s blood and working with Garson.  Is Lily the character and the lily flower the key to saving Robert Jekyll from making a permanent transformation into Hyde?  What’s interesting here is that the lily is in fact a known symbol of death.  So will Lily be the key to saving Jekyll or effectively the killing of Jekyll?

The character of Hyde also has a love interest in Isabella Charming, the feisty nightclub owner. The female characters play important roles in helping Robert and unravelling the mystery of his past.  Lily and Isabella are alike in some ways but opposites in others, and I wonder what will happen when they cross paths.  I think that they both show traits of being strong, intelligent women which makes them similar. Lily is middle-upper class matching Robert Jekyll’s status.  She conforms to social normalities of a lady by giving up her studies to care for her mother.  Although she lives in a nice home, speaks and behaves properly, she shows intelligence and has aspirations too.  She recognises that Robert has a medical condition and could be the key in treating this condition, enabling Robert to control and repress Hyde.  Isabella owns a nightclub and is a very tough woman.  She fights, drinks, and is quite capable of handling drunken men, unafraid to throw them out of her establishment.  Isabella matches Hyde’s character, as he proves to be ungentlemanly, while she shows herself to be un-ladylike, yet she plays such an important role helping to unravel the mystery of Robert’s family as she has knowledge and information on Maggie’s whereabouts.  Without her Maggie wouldn’t have been traced.

The Tenebrae also have a strong female figure as Captain Dance’s accomplice and lover.  The story of Captain Dance and the Tenebrae continues through episodes 3 and 4.  In episode 3, he arrives in England hot on Robert’s heels, along with a huge amount of monocane (the ingredient Robert needs from the rare Lily), in an attempt to control Robert.  He is in fact inhuman, a monster himself and he is a key part of a Tenebrae: a ruthless leader.  It isn’t entirely clear what their intentions are but it seems as if the Tenebrae are on some sort of take-over-the-world type mission and this certainly reflects Nazism.  They want to recruit and use Robert Jekyll by any means necessary and even resort to kidnapping and blackmail, as they threaten Utterson’s life.  Note that even though Tenebrae and MI0 are on different sides they both have a hidden agenda and are prepared to do whatever it takes (including blackmail) to get Hyde, who they view as an ultimate weapon, on their side.  They introduce Robert to the Tenebrae entities that appear physically more monstrous than human.  Dance is obviously a higher class member of Tenebrae, whereas the more monstrous creatures who appear zombie like skeletal figures don’t speak and attack on his command.  He insists that Robert opens a stone jar (as a prophecy foretold that only Hyde can open this).  MI0 snipers stand by on the roof as they cannot allow for the jar to be opened, yet Robert is in a predicament as Dance threatens Utterson’s life.

Even the change into Hyde can’t protect him as the Tenebrae have used what seems to be a force-field to keep Hyde at bay.  They even hold the power to control when Robert Jekyll is himself, or changes to Hyde.  Dance’s attempt to recruit and use Hyde means certain death for Dance.  He was the ultimate bad guy of the story and it’s difficult to imagine what happens now without his character.  He was ruthless for his cause and it made me wonder, who will replace him as the bad guy and how bad will he/she be?  Maybe his lover will come back and seek revenge – a woman scorned!  Another character is introduced by the name of Olalla, the name of another Gothic story by Robert Louis Stevenson, but we are still to see the significance of this.  She was not with Dance, but she was with Tenebrae and managed to escape as a result of Dance’s death. I don’t know what the significance of this character is but I do hope that this is another strong and knowledgeable female character.

What’s interesting here is that the two opposing forces resort to the same tactics. The Tenebrae and MI0 all recognise the power of Hyde, and they want to use it to their own advantage.  Robert is treat as an inferior creature because both gangs feel the need to blackmail him into helping them rather than treating him as an equal.  Attempting to dominate the dominating force is only going to create further conflict because they don’t just want him, they want to control him and Hyde is never going to be treat like that.  The only possible explanation here is that they are afraid of what it will mean if Hyde is unleashed.  This behaviour is only likely to antagonise Hyde and it will certainly not entice him into helping them!

The Tenebrae certainly represent the Nazi regime but the British intelligence will also stop at nothing to grow their own forces and this was a desperate time in history.  Everyone wants the most powerful weapon on their side and are trying to control it through any means necessary.  This would certainly be the case during the war and some supernatural beings are already recruited on MI0’s side, so they have already been able to infiltrate others into joining their cause.  This represents a whole world of spy tactics such as double agents, and Jews or non-Nazi Germans’ helping British intelligence to be rid of a common enemy.

In all of these episodes, Robert always turns into Hyde conveniently, at the right moment in order to protect Jekyll’s friends and family.  In episode 1, he rescues a young girl and then Lily. In episode 2 he rescues Garson, in episode 3 he saves everyone, making sure they escape – including Maggie who he goes on to save in episode 4 with Hyde’s blood.  In episode 4, he saves Utterson from Captain Dance and the Tenebrae.  If Hyde is such an evil entity then why does he appear when it’s time to save Robert Jekyll’s friends? Why does Hyde care?  Robert Jekyll is a fumbling, yet intelligent, young gentleman, yet his transformation into Hyde is refreshing.

Hyde has no fear, he is witty, strong and manly, even his demeanour, expressions and body language become more appealing when Hyde takes over.  The interesting point here is that Hyde is the protector of Robert Jekyll’s friends and family, and even Robert Jekyll himself.   Maybe Hyde’s persona hasn’t reached its full potential yet but I certainly see his character as an anti-hero.  He is very much a rounded character in comparison to the flat characterisation of Robert Jekyll.  Dare I say he is the better half?  He is certainly someone I would like to have on my side and Tom Bateman plays both characters very well indeed.

Episode 5 seems to step away from the conventions of the other episodes.  Just when it seems that there is no hope, a hint of a name of a distant family relative is traced: the Jezequiel family.  On arrival at a pub, Robert and Utterson receive a less than warm welcome and are warned of the legend of a mysterious and murderous black dog that stalks the countryside.

Renata Jezequiel lives remotely in the countryside in a very periodic and grand home, yet it is unkempt, with no outside communication.  There is a very Gothic atmosphere, and it’s a spooky place with their own little down-trodden chapel for good measure.  Her husband died just a year previous and there is talk of her son but she states he is at University, but there is something very unwelcoming about her.  She is a very strange woman and leaves the house during the night, in her bare feet.  After Robert finds some letters from her son’s University saying he hasn’t been attending and will be thrown off his study course, he suspects Renata is Tenebrae and that she is the murderous black dog legendary to the area.

The introduction of the legend of a family and a mysterious hell-hound, start to remind me of Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles.  The Jezequiel’s house is in the middle of nowhere and is surrounded by woods and fields.  The twist here was that the dog can appear in human form and defends a weapon that could potentially destroy the Tenebrae.  The introduction of different kinds of monsters is slowly introducing the viewers to an extensive range of supernatural beings.  We have already seen a shape-shifter in previous episodes but the animal transformation was different to the types of monsters seen in the city.  There are certainly all kinds of monsters in the world! Utterson grows to like Renata and when she explains she has never killed, he believes her.  They race to save Robert as it is, in fact, her son who now has a taste for human blood and she has been trying to protect him by slaying sheep and feeding him to prevent him killing innocent people.

The weapon is going to be most useful to Robert but this quest ultimately results in the death of his friend and estate lawyer, Max Utterson.  The character of Utterson has been a journey to say the least because out of all characters introduced to the supernatural, he was the one who maintained that there must be an explanation for all of the supernatural happenings but it’s this episode, after his run-in with Captain Dance, that he becomes a true believer.  He even suggests to Jekyll not to drink his grandfather’s potion and that he might need his Hyde against the hell-hound creature.

Renata becomes Jekyll’s ally and gives him the sword he needs to help him defeat the Tenebrae.  This is another powerful woman aligned with Jekyll.  By this point of the series it’s admirable to see Jekyll’s determination to find out how he fits into this supernatural world.  It was good to take a break from the domination of the Tenebrae and MI0. Robert has learned so much yet has so much more to learn and I wonder what Hyde makes of the fact that his brother Ravi is alive and being held captive in hopes to gain his allegiance.  That notion didn’t go well for Captain Dance and I can’t see the character of Hyde backing down and joining their good-old patriotic cause so I’m certainly looking forward to the next episodes.

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Happy New Year!

Welcome back after the holidays.

Just to keep you updated, submissions are now being taken from visionaries for both this blog and Spectral Visions: the Creative Journey.

After our excessive intake of mulled wine and mince pies, business has resumed!

Please stay tuned for more amazing articles, poetry and more!

Jenah

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Dead End

As part of our contemporary media portfolio, this is the final part of Connor Taylor’s four-part review of American Horror Story.  The review continues to address certain aspects of fear that relate to the show and this time, it’s metathesiophobia.  Connor is studying his final year in English and Creative Writing.

 

We have reached it. This is our final descent into the exploration of fears behind AHS’s early episodes, concluding with Episode 6. These episodes are perhaps the most terrifying as they unnerve us, twist us, and break those expectations and scepticism coming from a state of ‘ordinary’. Nothing is ordinary here, nothing is the norm. Everything is different, everything is beautiful, everything is, feared.

 

Our fear this week, and our last one in this series, is one which taps very deeply into the human psychological condition.

Metathesiophobia

“This specific phobia can reduce one’s will to live; Metathesiophobes often feel that they have no control over their lives owing to constant changes. People with this phobia tend to live in the past and may also be depressed. The fear of change is evolutionary in humans. Since times immemorial, man has liked routine. Our internal predispositions (heredity and genetics) teach us to resist change mainly to ‘always feel in control’.” (www.fearof.net, 2015)

 

As a fear which arguably sprouts from our deepest, cavernous, sections of ourselves.  It isn’t surprising that at some point, everyone fears a branching path that takes us away from a state we have come to call normality. This norm does not have to be serene, picturesque, or in any way associated with a state of safety.  It is just the ones we find ourselves so tightly nestled in. What AHS has brought to light are the extremes of these states.  The aspects of our lives when we simply exist and feel no need to surpass or change because we have grown comfortable.  Even the thought of shifting away from that, away from the stagnancy of our existence, is one which can be quite terrifying.

 

Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) is by far one of the most interesting characters within American Horror Story. It is interesting to see how O’Hare has progressed across the American Horror Story seasons: a small and frankly peculiar role in season one as a frightful and deranged burn victim, a minor ‘set dressing’ and terrifyingly unsettling mute butler and eventually a character as graciously endowed as he was tediously villain-ish. In season 5, however, O’Hare has finally stepped up to the mark. In earlier episodes Liz brought nothing but a selection of witty and snappy remarks, yet unlike other characters within the show Liz’s development has not come from multiple episode exposures. We have seen O’Hare in scene after scene and yet the ambiguity of interest has allowed our eyes to slip away to find a focal point elsewhere. Yet the accumulation of gradual change and insight has had us seeking out the best until we were granted an audience with a true queen.

 

Liz of course is the first transgendered character to step foot into American Horror Story and offers us such reality about the human mental process. Of course Liz would suffer with metathesiophobia and fear change.  Fear of moving out of that internal true self and exposing to the world, as equally for judgment as for praise, a true exterior. Most of us cannot understand, or even adequately comprehend the courage and fear one must feel having to go through this.  To overcome such a change and combat their fear is redeeming and allows us to realise that everyone deserves that one true love.

 

Consider however comparing one Queen to a Countess

Episode 6 showers us with a parallel.  The meeting and relationships of, Liz and the Countess. Within this parallel we see how true stagnancy is inhuman, in fact it’s vampiric. To exist without moving, adapting or changing whilst clinging on without feign of forgetting makes us more than human, it makes us a monster. It makes us appear human, when we are not. We see in the episode Gaga’s portrayal of the Countess as a mother and witness how beyond everything else it is those inner most human of qualities that are monstrous. I have to hand it to the director for not turning the Countesses malformed murderous child into a cheesy 80’s joke but instead giving us a true reflection into the macabre. To put it simply, we see how the Countess mothers her child, yet they both are equally as gothic. They are removed so far from the actual, from the ‘true’ and subverted and at the point of being ludicrous. We get a very classic gothic feel here which comes from that stark comparison, duality if you will, of the episode. Liz’s softness and reality is brought into a dark light with an inhuman mother and twisted child. Without one element to balance the other it would be nowhere near as frightening.

 

We see one aspect passed through metathesiophobia and one entirely consumed, defined, by it.

It’s all brought to a close however when these two threads meet. Tristain (Finn Wittrock), Liz’s true love and the Countesses current toy, comes to a cut-throat close and the shock of the scene is wrenched deeply within us. In true AHS fashion, we are reminded here that vampires are not human and that life is not fair. It’s all so terribly drab and sad. But we have come to expect it.

 

We look forward to this each and every time and continue to do so from one episode to the next. What more can this season bring? What can top a tragic love and an inhuman maternity?

 

***

 

To say farewell to this little venture I’d like to share with you a quote which summed up a universality in all people. Regardless of our crisis, of the monsters we run from or search out, we are one in the same.

“I can see the pain in your eyes. It’s very familiar. You’ve lost something. And now you’re frozen in time. Can’t move forward. Can’t go back.” (AMH, 2015)

We are all trapped in the coil of existence, stuck so tightly within a temporal gap. But the best of us, well you fight hard you inspire, you create… you live on beyond your time.

 

Reference List

Room 33“. American Horror Story. Loni Peristere and John J. Gray. November11,2015

http://www.fearof.net/fear-of-change-phobia-metathesiophobia/ accessed: 07/12/15

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The Postmodern Prometheus

Science gnaws at the boundaries in Jurassic World, as Katie Watson looks at the movie from a Marxist perspective in The Postmodern Prometheus.  Katie is an English Studies MA student who previously graduated with a BA in English and Drama.

With the velocity of progress in modern society, so, too, have our fears and anxieties changed dramatically since the ghosts and ghouls of the previous centuries.  This social anxiety, though developing from the works of Karl Marx in Das Kapital with Marx’s discussion of the blood sucking nature of capitalist society, is something that manifested in this form for the first time in 1993 and predates the stereotypical feudal monster by about… 65 million years.

The 2015 release of Jurassic World revealed to us not only that the fourth film in a series doesn’t have to be awful, but also social apprehensions about our culture that perhaps we had not uncovered. I’m the first to admit, I wouldn’t traditionally categorise Edward Hyde and a T-Rex together but I couldn’t help noticing the monstrosity present in this movie, especially considering the help of the multiple characters who frequent the term ‘monster’…

This is the age of consumption. We see, we want, we buy. Isn’t that what the Indominus Rex – the films monster – represents? She consumes without any intention of stopping. Just as we purchase beyond what we need, succumbing to our wants and desires every time we see an advert for a cute new skirt, the Indominus Rex goes on killing even when she’s past eating (past consuming what she needs) and begins killing for sport (consuming what she wants). This is all emphasised by the ludicrous amounts of memorabilia available to the park’s visitors: t-shirts, posters, cups, the list goes on. This non-stereotypical Gothic monster has begun to develop a rather Gothic disposition. She represents contemporary fears, just like her Gothic predecessors: Dracula, Dorian Gray, Dr Jekyll and his less friendly counterpart, Mr Hyde. I think my favourite metaphor was when the two defenceless children were in the glass ball, roaming around the jurassic plains. The sense that they were staring up to a glass ceiling, symbolic of their belief that they are in control of their own consumption, when really they’re completely vulnerable to the manipulation of consumer culture, a.k.a everything the park represents.

Not only that, but just as the Indominus Rex feasts on her victims so, too, does capitalism feed on the lives of its workers; exhausting them for pecuniary gain. This is very much like Marxist readings of Dracula (1897) that the Count drains his victims in a similar fashion to the capitalist machine described by Marx in Das Kapital (1867). And need I even mention her Gothic sublimity, or does she explains that well enough when she screams horrifyingly into the camera?

Another interesting and remarkably Gothic tendency this film takes is that of the mad scientist, Dr. Henry Wu, a brilliant comparison to Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Both combine the parts of different creatures to create a being of their own, with a life spark thrust upon them by a human, not divine, hand. The film’s unsettlingly white laboratory is a stark contrast to the dark work of its scientists. Where Frankenstein is the Modern Prometheus, creating a beast that can destroy the individuals that cross its path, Wu is the Postmodern Prometheus, inventing a beast that destroys in the masses. Frankenstein’s monster can be reasoned with, he expresses wants, he negotiates with the doctor the terms upon which he will cease his rampage. Wu’s creation does not care for negotiations, she is completely out of our control and can only be destroyed by creatures of her own design, creatures that the humans still possess no control over and could, after the destruction of the Indominus Rex, turn round and devour the handsome hero, the swooning heroine and the two innocent boys. Luckily, however, it’s still an American family film, and the Gothic sublimity slowly fades as the credits role and we realise we are safe from the monsters in our television.

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Devil’s Night Service

Connor Taylor has brought the third instalment of his American Horror Story review, to life.  The review continues to address certain aspects of fear that relate to the show.  Connor is studying his final year in English and Creative Writing.

Halloween may have come and gone but the impact it had upon us is one which radiates outward with an air of awe. American Horror Story left us shaken over two weeks in October with the intrigue and surprise that amassed over us in the witching hour, and those few hours which fell within the harsh light of a swollen and mournful dawn.

On our third descent into the consideration of fear and phobias we will be looking over something which once again haunts us may we know it or not. This is beyond the fear of being alone and wider than the fear of being single: both of these strike a majority of people but not the outlying extremes. Our next fear however, slips over us all, but some people merely feel it earlier than others.

Gerascophobia

“Growing up and growing old is a fact of life. Growing old also isn’t promised, and if you’re lucky you can experience it. Some people don’t look forward to growing old and actually dread this stage of life. People who suffer from Gerascophobia have a fear of growing old. Being a little uneasy about growing old is completely natural.”

Perhaps the fear of growing old is in some way universal. AHS explores this universality and finds at its core this phobia revolves around an irrational detachment from reality.
In both episode four and five we felt the universality of this fear and the exploration of it through two channels.

Those who have already had their life pass by:

Saying that a collective bunch of, arguably, the most surreal serial killers known to the Cortez are relatable to us as the wider audience will probably be taken as an insult by some: yet it comes from the most rational thought. We have all felt at some point that we have wasted a day, wishing that we could go back and just occupy that empty space with something a bit more meaningful. We all want to be remembered and the thought of being obsolete, forgotten or a burden can be damaging to the psyche. So why not kill to be remembered?

Lily Rabe, as the very distinct and noticeable Aileen Wuornos, does an amazing job of sterilising our perception of twisted women. It is oddly refreshing to see her inhabit a character whom has a low and gritty mask, removed in some way from the cleanliness of a soft spoken voice. One of the best moments in Devil’s Night is our second run in with a drill shaped drill. This one however, is pressed firmly through a man’s skull, recreating the starkness of the Jeffrey Dahmer (Seth Gabel) case. John Wayne Gacy (John Carroll Lynch), The Zodiac Killer Richard Ramirez (Anthony Ruivivar) all lead a sinister cast towards a rather gruesome escapade and the death of another ‘low life’ type who by this point seem conveniently in plentiful supply without any accurate reasoning, other than it ‘just being a hotel guest’.
The thought of living solely to avoid the finality of ageing can be alien to some, however, draining.

Those who have their whole life to fear:
Both those who haven’t lived and those feeling like they’re at the end of their tether do not fear growing old; one from naivety and the other longevity.

Away from the extreme and the combat of Gerascophobia, AHS also can be regarded as exploring what occurs when the boundaries caused by the entrapment of human age is removed. Ep. 5 is a mash up of story at best. In honesty this episode seemed to simply shoe-horn relevant points which until a much later episode will most likely continue to be rife with tedium. It did raise interest though and created a precise contrast between Iris (Kathy Bates) and the primary conglomeration of newly immortal children.

Iris has had as much as she can take and is incapable of continuing simply because she has lost her drive and purpose. Unlike the serial killer guests, she does not turn to murder for escape and catharsis away from the fear. Until, the fear is removed.

Immortality is transcendent, removing us quite literally from the thing which unifies all of us: be it serpent or saint. In this state, removed from what holds and unifies us she is free, she lives and she overcomes, even if it is by slaughtering two pompous guests who, in all fairness deserved it (We apologise Darren Chris but you were a bit of a jerk).

Overall there appears to be a development in the most unusual characters and from what it appears this season of AHS has the leading role snatched away by our very own runner up Kathy Bates. Without the lingering storm of Jessica Lange she has stepped up to the mark and shines just as brightly, if not brighter than Gaga who we expected at least in part, to be something different to the cool and emotionless Countess.
The cast which had previously taken a back seat have finally rose to the forefront and the later we get into this season the more we question why they didn’t have a much larger presence and weight before.

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Roald Dahl’s The Witches: Feminism and the Fairy-tale

Helping to further the succession of our Children’s Gothic portfolio, Janet Cooper has shown a keen interest in Roald Dahl’s The Witches, where she details fine points from a feminist perspective. Janet is currently studying an MA in English Studies.

The figure of the Witch is an excellent example of a Gothic monster. Usually the character of a witch represents a dominant female figure. I recently watched Roald Dahl’s The Witches. I had read the book and watched the film as a child and loved it. This was the first time I took an interest in the world of Gothic. The Witches was something I could engage with and the film really brought it to life.

From an adult perspective, it was a very different experience altogether. The character of the Grand High Witch seems to represent the trickster, yet also the shadow, when compared to Carl Jung’s archetypal characters discussed in his works: The Archetypes and Collective Unconscious (1968). She is the ultimate trickster and appears to be a regular person, when she is hiding her true identity. There is irony in her claim to work for the RSPCC (the Royal Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Children) when in fact she plans to dispose of them by turning them into mice.

After taking a particular interest in the folk and fairy-tale genre, I noticed apparent messages and warnings in both the text and film. The message here lets children know that people are not always what they seem and that it’s quite possible for evil to appear in the most unlikely person, someone who can at times appear as an upstanding and respected member of society. This is a stranger-danger message similar to Red Riding Hood and tells children to be on guard.

Luke is left in his Grandma’s care after his parents die. Grandma warns him of Witches and he becomes able to spot them. Another similarity is that the Grand High Witch preys on the Grandmother just like the wolf in Red Riding Hood. The Grand High Witch interferes with her health by using magic to send her into a deep sleep, and putting sugar in her drinks when she is diabetic. Little Red Cap by the Brothers’ Grimm has both a happy ending in which Red and Grandma are safe, and a sad ending in which they are eaten. I get a similar idea with The Witches when comparing the book with the film as the book portrays a harsh warning as Luke is a mouse for life and will only live for around 9 years, whereas in the film he is turned back into a boy by a good witch who doesn’t even appear in the book at all. Original European folklore often had sad endings because they were used to warn children of the dangers in the world: for instance the Wolf eating Grandma and Little Red Cap could signify the danger of an actual stranger if you stray from the path, or it could even represent the danger of wild animals too in certain parts of the world.

I found myself comparing the Grand High Witch to other monsters. I could compare her to the wolf because of her transformation, the wicked step mother because of her scheming and scolding of others with her evil plans of annihilating the children of England. Fortunately her scatty English witches idolise her, but they are useless and just her minions or followers, who are used to do her bidding. All of the witches are women which brings us nicely into the feminism argument.

The English witches come across as having very little intelligence, and their success rates of getting rid of children is not acceptable to their leader. The Grand High Witch is Norwegian and travels in to instruct her English followers. This could suggest that feminism was moving more rapidly in other countries and England had to play catch up. No English witch could ever hope to be as powerful and successful as the Grand High Witch, and I think there is a clear message here that feminism progression was still a key UK issue in the 1980’s as women attempted to move into powerful position, that were often taken up by men and deemed unsuitable for women. Of course, a lot of critics find The Witches political too, and recognise the Grand High Witch to be a representation of Margaret Thatcher. The novel was written and published, and the movie was made, during her time as Prime Minister. It is quite possible that the author had a political agenda here and used the Grand High Witch to represent a country ruined by its political leader. Bird (1997: p.126) discusses this theory well and also refers to the Grand High Witch annihilating a fellow witch who doesn’t agree with her and also suggests that women in the 1980’s were still demonised if they didn’t conform with societies rules and patriarchal structures.

The Grand High Witch is a ruthless figure of ultimate female power. She manipulates those around her yet even though she has all of this power, there is a strong anti-feminist message here. The fact that an all-powerful woman meets her demise because of one little mouse/boy is almost unbelievable. This suggests that when The Witches was written in 1983, there was still a feminist struggle in society and how women struggled to secure certain positions in society and jobs. As a woman of 2015, it’s insulting to think she was outsmarted by a seven-year-old boy/mouse. Clearly women were trying to take up leadership roles during the 1980’s, but there is a clear Victorian idea suggested that power will in fact lead to their destruction. Luke’s Grandmother, an avid witch hunter has searched out the Grand High Witch for years without success. Yet it’s still the young boy Luke who concocts the plan, and does most of the work, with a little help from Grandma.

The film especially takes a Gothic turn when Anjelica Huston removes her mask and reveals her true face as the Grand High Witch. This scared me as a child, yet I loved it. The Grotesque site of her long, crooked nose, spindly fingers and her lumpy back was gross, to say the least.
The book doesn’t have a happy ending as Luke remains a mouse which reduces his living years, yet he is content with this as his Grandma is elderly and his only family. They spend their days hunting witches from other countries using information stolen from the Grand High Witch. Luke is satisfied and he just makes the best of the best of the situation. In the movie, Jane Horrocks plays a good witch who mends her ways and returns both Luke and Bruno to their human selves.

Overall, The Witches is an interesting text that highlights political and social issues from the 1980’s. It suggests a lot about feminism of its time and the certain use of a fairy-tale style genre is particularly useful to engage well with children – making it a memorable text. Using a theme that children know and understand also gives the story an edge as the children are familiar with this type of story. It’s certainly worth both reading the book and watching the movie – as long as you (or your children) aren’t too afraid!

References
Bird, A 1998, ‘Women Behaving Badly: Dahl’s Witches Meet the Women of the Eighties’, Children’s Literature In Education, 29, 3, pp. 119-129, Professional Development Collection, EBSCOhost, viewed 30 November 2015.
Dahl, R. (1983) The Witches, Harmondsworth, Penguin.
The Witches (Movie adaptation), (1990) Directed by Nicolas Roeg, Warner Bros.
Young, C.G. (1968) The Archetypes And The Collective Unconscious, 2nd Eds, London and New York, Routledge, Taylor and Francis.

 

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