The suffering of a Suffragette and the Monsters of the Patriarchy

We welcome back, Olivia Metcalfe who writes about the suffering inflicted on the Suffragette activists in a patriarchal Britain.  Olivia graduated with a BA Honours in English Language and Literature and is now studying an MA in English Studies.

In British history women were rarely given equal status, their voices often unheard over the loud roars of men. The suffragettes changed this ideology, transforming Britain forever. The suffragette movement was the campaign for the right to vote for women, aiming to obtain equality for women in political representation. By challenging archaic patriarchal views the suffragettes would have been viewed as monstrous women, those who transgressed the boundaries of how a woman was expected to behave. They left the domestic sphere, caused a commotion in public and fought for change in a time of conformity. This article will discuss the suffragettes in relation to the anxieties they represented to the patriarchy. It will also focus on the adverse treatment these women experience at the hands of our government and law system, fighting for rights that women in the twenty-first century generally take for granted. It is vital to not just remember their accomplishments but their suffering too.

Mary Wollstonecraft, in her Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) attacked the domestic homely image of women ‘the weak elegancy of mind, exquisite sensibility and sweet docility of manners, supposed to be the sexual characteristics of the weaker vessel’ (p.76). Wollstonecraft, an early influential activist, believed that women should share the same rights as men due to their common humanity. The suffragettes, both women and men, have been immortalised in both media and literature, remembered for acts of valour and courage, paving the way for equality. By achieving this, women were given a voice in not just the political sphere but in the domestic environment too. Angela Smith of the University of Sunderland speaks about the inspirational legacy the suffragettes have left us, ‘What I was left with was a very strong sense of admiration for the courage these women must have had to campaign publicly for these rights.’ They reshaped the identity of women by becoming strong and empowered, encouraging others to follow, modernising archaic views in a pursuit for equality.

 The spheres of society were now changing, women were realising that they were not confined to the domestic household and were exploring new ventures. However this did not come without a price, suffragette activists were brutalised by the authorities and subjected to inhumane methods of torture, this included being beaten and squalid prison conditions. Perhaps the most common was the method of force-feeding; this was to limit hunger strike casualties and to discourage the image of a suffragette martyr. This method was seemingly medieval, the individual was strapped down and force fed through the nostrils or the stomach. This caused short-term damage to the circulatory system, digestive system and nervous system and long-term damage to the physical and mental health of the suffragettes. Geddes (2008) states the long term effect this brutality had on some women, ‘Some suffragettes who were force-fed developed pleurisy or pneumonia as a result of a misplaced tube.’ This method was carried out with little consideration for health or comfort, thus resulting in further injury or death.

Lady Constance Lytton was an influential British suffragette activist, writer and campaigner for votes for women, prison reform and birth control. Her account of her experiences as a suffragette is instrumental in understanding the horrific treatment many were subjected to. She gives her shocking account of her experiences as a suffragette. Within this, she includes her medical report revealing the extent of her injuries received while in Holloway prison. ‘The patient’s look of extreme illness, malnutrition and bad colour led me to examine her heart carefully’ (p.301). The concern of her examiner warranted a final examination, which revealed sinister news: ‘The most superficial examination of the heart cannot fail to reveal the grave risk to health and life to which the patient was exposed during the forcible methods of feeding’ (p.302). Women who challenged the patriarchy were in danger of losing their lives, thus gives a disturbing message from the British authorities: fight for reform and be silenced. These women were seen as monstrous females, those who transgressed the boundaries of society in order to obtain a fairer future. We owe our freedom to these activists, those who created a fairer Britain and expose the horrors of the patriarchy. Society was the monstrous force, not the women who opposed it. Lady Constance Lytton’s premature death was most likely caused by the trauma she experienced at Holloway Prison, however, her passion captures the spirit of the suffragette movement. This is clear in her account which describes her self-mutilation ‘I had decided to write the words “Votes for Women” on my body, scratching it in my skin with a needle’. Like many other suffragettes, she was willing to wear her pride not just in her heart but on her skin, proudly on display to show her passion could not be broken under mental or physical torture. The future of Britain was carved through the admirably resilient spirit of the suffragettes; these remarkable characters disregarded their own safety in order to ensure future generations. In a society where free thinking and wild passion were limited to only one sex, change was inevitable, we thank these women for the opportunities our mothers, ourselves and our children have been given.

Reference List

Geddes, J. F. (2008). “Culpable Complicity: the medical profession and the forcible feeding of suffragettes, 1909–1914”.

Lytton, C. L., Lytton, L.C. and Warton, J. (1976) Prisons and Prisoners: Experiences of a Suffragette. Wakefield, England: Charles River Books.

Smith, A (2016)

Wollstonecraft, M. (1792) A Vindication of the Rights of Women. London. J. Johnson.

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The Darkness Within: Vampirism in Dracula (1897) compared to 21st century vampirism with reference to American Horror Story ‘Hotel’ (2015)

In conjunction with our contemporary media series, Olivia Metcalfe has studied vampirism as a virus in Dracula and American Horror Story: Hotel. Olivia graduated with a BA Honours in English Language and Literature and is now studying an MA in English Studies.

The Vampire is a monster which has existed in our culture for centuries. We are fascinated by its beauty, strength and, more importantly, insatiable thirst for human blood. These factors rarely change, however, it is evident that the image of the Vampire has evolved. In this article I will examine the evolution of the Vampire in popular culture, focussing upon Stoker’s archetypal figure of Dracula and American Horror Story’s Countess.

I will concentrate on gender and the contrast in the vampirism virus in both characters.
Gender is an important factor to consider in this comparison. It would be unlikely for a female of the late Victorian period to command the fear and control that Dracula exerts and therefore, it is relevant that Dracula is male in the novel to represent a true picture of Victorian society. Although there are female vampires present in the novel, they are submissive to Dracula and under his control. The three vampire brides are predatory, yet they are unable to hunt for their own prey relying on Dracula to provide victims.
American Horror Story chooses a female vampire figure to lead and this demonstrates that women can also be dominant and monstrous. The owner of the Hotel Cortez, Countess (Elisabeth), is a century old vampire who is reliant on a diet of blood and sex. The Countess chooses and disposes of her lovers frequently to fill the empty void caused by the loss of her true love, Rudolph Valentino. By exerting violence and control in a seemingly emotionless manner the Countess is a remarkable character. She commands her victims with her sexuality and charm, unlike Dracula who controls with supernatural power. The Countess confesses: ‘I was drawn to the darkness I felt within him. I ached to be consumed by it.’ (Episode 7, Flickers). We can all be attracted to the darkness within ourselves and have the capacity to do monstrous deeds. American Horror Story shows us that supernatural attributes are not necessary; this need may exist in everyone.

Vampirism can be seen as a blood virus. Both Dracula and The Countess embrace their monsters, however, it’s clear that their viruses differ as vampirism has now evolved to suit a new audience. Dracula uses blood to link him to his victims, spreading the disease in order to multiply his race. The infected blood is used as a portal for the disease of vampirism to spread, similar to that of an STI. Dracula is the prototypal foreign other. The spread of vampirism coursing through England is used by Stoker to show the social anxieties of the late Victorian period. On of the anxieties being the idea of the foreign migrant overtaking England, attempting to change the face and cultural values of the country.

American Horror Story reinvents the typical vampire, focussing on vampirism as a similar virus, yet with different symptoms and results. ‘I prefer the term “ancient blood virus,”’ co-creator Ryan Murphy tells EW. ‘It’s not vampires,’ he adds, ‘It’s really a form of hemophilia [SIC] in a way. There are no capes and fangs.’ By drinking the infected blood the virus is spread, however, the modern vampire moves among us using blades instead of the typical razor sharp fangs. This questions the supernatural aspect of the vampire. American Horror Story shows that monstrosity is not solely limited to the supernatural. Although these creatures possess qualities that differ from mortals such as perfect health, vitality, and everlasting life, the vampires are made more human and relatable to us than Dracula ever was. The Countess is the perfect example of this. Although she commits atrocities, she emulates motherhood and female tendencies by creating her own family unit. This questions whether the maternal instinct is embedded into every female being, even those who are monstrous. This is not limited to her barely human child Bartholomew, but to the children and the adults she turns. The Countess states ‘I saved him, like I save all my children’ (Episode 5, Room Service) she claims to have saved her chosen victims from a wasted life allowing them to use their full potential. The vampire children in the basement are treated as her own; she feeds them, provides them with shelter and even entertainment. There is a notable maternal aspect in the Countess which is not present in the character of Dracula. She possesses human aspects such as kindness and mercy, be it rare, it is there. This can be seen with her relationship with Liz Taylor, a trans-woman trapped in a double life filled with self-hatred and despair. The Countess saves Liz and transforms her into the woman she was born to be, allowing her to live and work in her hotel.

Our view of vampires has been shaped and changed. They are no longer archaic ancient beings with uncontrollable bloodlust, they are made more acceptable. It is evident that they are not human but by giving these characters human attributes we are allowed to sympathise and even admire.
Chapman, E. (2016) [Online source] [Accessed 13.3.16]
‘Flickers’ (2015) American Horror Story: Hotel. Series 5, episode 7, FX, date of transmission
‘Room Service’ (2015) American Horror Story: Hotel. Series 5, episode 5, FX, 4 November.

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‘This is not a democracy anymore’ –Capitalism and Consumption, the 21st century Zombie metaphor

In conjunction with our photo shoot, Degeneration: The All American Nightmare, Jennie Watson has contributed with an article on consumerism and zombie culture. Jennie graduated with a BA Honours in English and Drama and is currently studying an MA in English Studies. She also works closely with Spectral Visions Press as Deputy Editorial Team Leader.

The American Dream is the ethos of the Land of the Free, but what does it really represent? Does it mean prosperity for all who work hard regardless of social order, or is it a materialistic ideology that enslaves rather than emancipates? Are the fast cars and the big house with the white picket fence really just around the corner? In truth, the representation of the American Dream is different for every American. With racial discrimination still rife, is the American Dream not a meaningless platitude used by the middle-class white American to give others hope of attaining the unattainable? Does it encourage the unfortunate to reach out for wealth, then place chains around their grasping hands? The picket fences cannot protect those dwelling inside from the decay at the very core of this mindless ideology.

Three students from the University of Sunderland: Rosie Hordon-Clark, Rachael Coady, and James Hogg were able to capture the essence of this ideology in their photo shoot Degeneration: The All American Nightmare, with photographer David Newton. Jenah Colledge, the Creative Director, wanted to bring the perception of the all-American Dream to life, with a Stepford Wife 1940’s ideology, juxtaposed with a horrifying zombie reality.


The Stepford Wives


When you study the photos of our 1940’s models in the image above, it is disturbing for two reasons: firstly, because of the grotesque nature of the two juxtaposing images that exhibit the idyllic all-American family with the horror of the Zombie. Secondly, it highlights the real social anxieties that decay the ethos idea mentioned earlier, that strives for progress. These social anxieties created a society in which the aimless, wandering, zombie became the terrifying, yet pertinent monster prevalent in today’s culture. This capitalist ideology thrusts the zombie metaphor into twentieth and twenty-first century culture.

Whenever there is a time of social unrest or change, or when great accomplishments are made in science and medicine, this progress is often haunted by the ever-resurgent gothic monster.  The fin de siècle, for instance, was a progressive era, and here we see the creation of monsters like Dracula and Mr Hyde, whereas the twentieth century brought us the zombie. The zombie narrative exploded into twentieth century culture and spread its pervasive infection into literature, media and academia. We need not look far to see it in action. We turn on the television or open a newspaper and all around us the capitalist and consumerist ideology is forced upon us. The media drives us to consume, to want a faster car, a bigger house, and a higher fence. The potential prosperity of the individual is now the driving factor. Community cohesion and solidarity is no longer of value.   Marx (1992) says that ‘In bourgeois society capital is independent and has individuality while the living person is dependent and has no individuality’.  The zombie is the conspicuous consumer, yet it is also the victim of consumption. Capitalism and consumerism work hand in hand to produce the ideal society and the zombie metaphor thrives on this. ‘Capital is dead labour, which vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour and lives more, the more labour it sucks’ (Marx 1976). The zombie metaphor depicts the struggle of the proletariat against the culture which consumes it.

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It’s not all black and white


George Romero exhibits this culture in his 1978 movie, Dawn of the Dead. The zombies have an intrinsic instinct leading them to the shopping mall, which in turn is where the survivors run for refuge. The movie questions our own sense of individuality; has the society of control insidiously altered our instincts to such an extent that we now instinctively consume? If so, the driving force of capitalism is not merely shown to be individual monetary gains, but forced consumption brought about by subliminal control. The zombies are not only the proletariat, they are the state themselves, and they are a superstructure embodying the vicious circle of the capitalist world and man’s perpetual thirst for power. The zombie is the monster that mirrors the failings of the twenty-first century. It serves as a stark reminder of the consequence of capitalism and mindless consumers.

The notion of control is prolific in Stephen King’s Cell. King’s first real venture into the zombie genre comes at a time of great technological advancements in mobile phone technology and the rise of the social media monster. Cell depicts a virus that infects the victim through their cell phone.  Technology is another area of progress in the twentieth century, and thus a cause of social anxiety. The differing changes create contraptions which free us from the burden of thought. We no longer need to think for ourselves because the answer to any question is at the end of a 9-inch screen. The desensitisation of human beings towards each other and their surroundings are shown through the new forms of media, which are a kind of technological anaesthetic. This itself, is another form of control and consumption. Even the most basic human function of communication is now reliant on the newest technology.

When looking at the zombie culture, we must also look at the survivors and what they represent. These fortunate few are the proletariat fighting back against the exploitative system, as Marx exhorts them to do: ‘The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workingmen of all countries unite!’ (Marx 1992). The band of survivors are fighting against consumption and live in a world of political and social freedom. As we see in the majority of zombie apocalypse literature and movies, the survivors always regress to a more primitive society.

In Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, the survivors form their own societies within a farm. Living off the land is imperative to their survival. We see small communities such as Alexandria and The Hilltop striving to build a small society where there is no forced labour. Those who work, work to build up a community. They know if mankind is to genuinely prosper, it must be as a collective. Rather than compete with one another, members of these societies work for the benefit of all. The idea of this communal living is in stark contrast to the culture of individualism we find ourselves in today. Although it is the survivors who are judged to be living the primitive lifestyle, the pernicious all-consuming ideology rife in today’s society is arguably more primitive as it highlights selfishness, not befitting a social animal such as man. What makes a society a peaceful and righteous one is its return to communal living, where people live in small communities without forced labour. The democratic societies that profess a belief in the modern notion of freedom, free speech and free will are the very societies that enslave us into the mass of mindless controlled zombies, that society has become.

Degeneration: The All American Nightmare – Photo shoot (x)

A full album of the photo shoot can be found here (x)

Reference List
MARX, K., ENGELS, F., MOORE, S., & MCLELLAN, D. (1992). The Communist manifesto. Ox-ford, Oxford University Press.

Marx, K Mandel, E (1976). Capital: Critique of Political Economy v. 1 . London: Penguin Books Ltd.



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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!


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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.


“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’.” (, 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 accessed: 07/12/15

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