Sunday, April 27, 2008

Senior Seminar

Well, this is going to be a good deviation from any normal post that I'd put here. This one is dedicated to my Senior Seminar, and thus will be used purely for my "presentation" occurring Tuesday. What is this all about, then?


Well, for me, just one monster...or monster type, I should say. This semester's Senior Seminar deals with monsters, monstrosities, and everything demon-ish in between. Now, I've been in the hospital for the past week, as some of you may recall, so while my paper isn't even close to finishing itself, at least I can briefly discuss what my monster is here.

My monster is, well, there isn't really a name for it. It's The Thing. Literally the monster from John Carpenter's 1982 film The Thing, I've chosen to examine the creature in-depth and, hopefully, with a bucket or two of intelligence.

What is The Thing?

Well, it's a monster. Duh. But more importantly it's a monster that deviates from the normal things (ha ha!) you tend to see in scary films and literature. This monster is one who appears to be exactly like either you or someone you know. Meaning that until it is exposed (or kills you), there is no way of knowing what is and isn't a Thing.

Why is this monster awesome?

Good question. There is an exorbitant amount really interesting stuff surrounding this monster. From the psychological point of being a possible victim, to the philosophical point of its ability to redefine who you consider yourself to be as a human or a person, this monster absorbs you, literally, and infects everyone surrounding it with total, absolute fear.

Where did it come from?

In the movie, (and the 1938 novella Who Goes There? that the movie is based on) outer space. Yes, that means it's an alien. But before all of the "modern" adaptations of this monster, there had to be something "old" that it came from. Enter the medieval period. Back then, they had a monster known as the Donestre (pictured), which was essentially the building block for The Thing creature. Only the Donestre was clearly monstrous (a unclothed creature with the head of a lion) and thus did not appear to be like a human in any way. So then how is really it a monster? The Donestre would approach travelers and immediately start to speak their language. This calmed the travelers into putting their guard down, at which time the Donestre would attack, devouring all of its victim save for the head. Then, and here's the really odd thing, it would weep and feel sorry for the act it just committed, crying over the lonesome head of its victim.

In my paper, I explore the psychology of this monster, coming to some nifty points about what it is to be a human, and how this monster's remorseful weeping is able to actually thrust it back into the realm of humanity, thus preparing it for whatever victim might come along next -- after all, if it killed someone and kept crying, how would it kill again? How would it re-dignify its humanity? Very interesting stuff.

Back to The Thing.

The Thing, after a nice examination of The Donestre and other monsters slowly spawned from it (friendly werewolves in Bisclavert and friendly giants in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight), I can say with complete certainly that The Thing is completely lacking in all humanity, but yet its very survival depends on the ability to be human.

This means that it is a reflection of our selves in respect to the monsters we consider each other to be. Essentially, The Thing is a physical representation of our fear of ourselves. Rapists, murderers, and people who betray us are perhaps the most feared and hated people in existence. The Thing is all of those things wrapped up in a nice, horrific package. It rapes you by absorbing everything about you and psychically entering your body against your will. It murders you by, well, murdering you. And then it betrays you by turning on every friend and other person around by -- and this is the kicker -- looking like you. Rinse and repeat. Until, of course, it's exposed. Then it looks something like this:

Pretty scary stuff, isn't it? It either looks like you, or...something undefinable. Truly a high form of terror.

Anyway, that's what my paper is on, this is what I'm exploring, etc. So, let me end with two nifty clips that deal with The Thing.

First, a clip from the movie. The clip explains itself nicely, but I'll add some minor comments. At this point in the film, everyone has turned against each other, no one really trusts one another, and MacReady (the leader, played by Kurt Russel) has figured out a primitive test to weed out who is and isn't The Thing. The tension in the air is thick enough to cut with a knife, and the paranoia is very, very rampant. Enjoy:

Second, a clip from Aliens vs Predator 2, the PC game. In this game, you can play as either an Alien, Predator, or human Marine. This can be tied to The Thing because you are placed into the role of the monster. You enter someone as the alien and for the rest of the game are killing humans -- biting their heads off and ripping them to pieces. Yet at the same time, you can switch to the same humans you are drawn to kill and fight off the monsters. It's a very cool game if you've never played it, but here's the opening sequence as the Alien (fast forward to 1:45):

So, there you have it. I'm still doing the paper, but this is what I've been looking at. Pretty cool, isn't it? Especially for a 30-page research paper, anyway.