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Monsters and the Monstrous

Myths and Metaphors of Enduring Evil

At the Interface

Series Editors
Dr Robert Fisher
Dr Margaret Snser Breen

Advisory Board

Professor Margaret Chatterjee Professor John Parry

Professor Michael Goodman Dr David Seth Preston
Dr Jones Irwin Professor Peter L. Twohig
Professor Asa Kasher Professor S Ram Vemuri
Dr Owen Kelly Professor Bernie Warren
Revd Stephen Morris Revd Dr Kenneth Wilson, O.B.E

Volume 38

A volume in the At the Interface: project

Monsters and the Monstrous

Probing the Boundaries

Monsters and the Monstrous
Myths and Metaphors of Enduring Evil

Edited by

Niall Scott

Amsterdam - New York, NY 2007

The paper on which this book is printed meets the requirements of ISO
9706:1994, Information and documentation - Paper for documents -
Requirements for permanence.

ISBN: 978-90-420-2253-9
Editions Rodopi B.V., Amsterdam - New York, NY 2007
Printed in the Netherlands

Introduction 1

Section One
Monstrous Origins: Histories from the Deep and Transformed
Humans (Where ever they come from, they keep coming)

Chapter 1
Monster Sewers: Experiencing Londons Main Drainage System 9
Paul Dobraszczyk

Chapter 2
Ontological Anxiety Made Flesh: The Zombie in Literature, 33
Film and Culture
Kevin Alexander Boon

Chapter 3
The Zombie as Barometer of Cultural Anxiety 45
Peter Dendle

Section Two
The Monster and the Political
(Once they get into politics you cant get rid of them)

Chapter 4
Dracula as Ethnic Conflict: The Technologies of Humanitarian 61
Intervention in the Balkans during the 1999 NATO Bombing
of Serbia and Kosovo
Neda Atanasoski

Chapter 5
Kultur-Terror:The Composite Monster in Nazi Visual Propaganda 81
Kristen Williams Backer

Chapter 6
The Anarchist as Monster in Fin-de-Sicle Europe 103
Elun Gabriel
Section Three
Familial Monsters
(Maybe some of them are regular folk like you and me)

Chapter 7
Family, Race, and Citizenship in Disneys Lilo and Stitch 123
Emily Cheng

Chapter 8
The Enemy Within: The Child as Terrorist in the Contemporary 133
American Horror Film
Colette Balmain

Chapter 9
Monstrous Mothers and the Media 149
Nicola Goc

Chapter 10
Of Monsters, Masturbators and Markets: Autoerotic Desire, 167
Sexual Exchange and the Cinematic Serial Killer
Greg Tuck

Section Four
Miscellaneous Monsters
(They can be evil, male, female, but most importantly beware,
they can be cute.)

Chapter 11
Nobodys Meat: Freedom through Monstrosity in Contemporary 187
British Fiction
Ben Barootes

Chapter 12
God Hates Us All: Kant, Radical Evil and the Diabolical 201
Monstrous Human in Heavy Metal
Niall Scott

Chapter 13
Monstrous/Cute: Notes on the Ambivalent Nature of Cuteness 213
Maja Brzozowska-Brywczyska
Welcome to an At the Interface Project

This is a volume emerging from the Monsters and the Monstrous: Myths and
Metaphors of Enduring Evil project. This inter-disciplinary and multi-
disciplinary project seeks to investigate and explore the enduring influence
and imagery of monsters and the monstrous on human culture throughout
history. In particular, the project will have a dual focus with the intention of
examining specific monsters as well as assessing the role, function and
consequences of persons, actions or events identified as monstrous. The
history and contemporary cultural influences of monsters and monstrous
metaphors will also be examined.

Indicative themes for research and development will include;

The monster through history

Civilization, monsters and the monstrous

Children, childhood, stories and monsters

Comedy: funny monsters and/or making fun of monsters (e.g.

Monsters Inc, the Addams Family)

Making monsters; monstrous births

Mutants and mutations; technologies of the monstrous

Do monsters kill because they are monstrous or are they monstrous

because they kill?

human monsters and monstrous acts? e.g, perverts, paedophiles

and serial killers

Revolution and monsters; enemies (political/social/military) and


Iconography of the monstrous; the monster in literature; the monster

in media (television, cinema, radio)

Dr Robert Fisher

Niall Scott
The monster is perhaps one of the most significant creations serving
to reflect and critique human existence. Whether it has its etymological roots
in a demonstration of something (monstrere) or a warning (monere), the
monster as a metaphor continues to be a powerful expression of the
imagination and the rational. Through the imagination monstrosities are
brought into being while the rational seeks to control and explain such
manifestations of literature, art, cinema and biology. The monster gives a
space in which perspectives can be adopted and the permissible and
impermissible can be played with.
Although much can be found on the origins and descriptions of monsters in
histories, cultural theory and bestiaries, the opening chapter of this volume
gives us quite a special view on the evocation of the monster from the
imagination and subterranean depths. This is followed by two contributions
on one the most relentless of all monsters, the zombie, which by contrast
emerges from the human rather than an other-worldly place. The monstrous
that was illuminated in the caverns of the sewage systems of Victorian
London, Paul Dobrazszcyk brings to our attention that there are different
ways of looking at sewers. Providing an analysis of press accounts on the
development of the drainage system and pumping stations, he focuses in on
the metaphorical language used to describe this subterranean world. As an
opening to this volume, Dobrazszcyk demonstrates how the metaphor of the
monstrous can function linking the real and the imagined. He sees this as
generating a stream of monstrous oppositions in the dialectic of the visible
and invisible, the real and imagined. However the monstrous accounts are
conflated with the later presentation of the systems spaces as rational and
magical as well. Dobrazszcyk s analysis shows how these varying
conceptions sit together and questions whether the accounts serve in some
way to manipulate the publics response to a sewage system that carries with
it the monstrous attachment to stench and disgust through to the architectural
marvel and rational goals of sanitation and progress.
In the movement between the imaginary and the real, Kevin A.
Boon, in the Ontological Anxiety Made Flesh, explores the role that the
Zombie plays in the origins of the monster and monstrous as a transgression
of the boundary between being and non-being. Starting with some useful
definitional insights into the monster, Boon like Dobrazszcyk, treats the
relationship between the human and the monstrous as dialectical. Probably
one of the most terrifying monsters, the zombie epitomises the other
presenting a range of oppositions to the human, in giving animation to death,
absence of the self and expressing the opposite of what defines the human as
2 Introduction
living, self reflective and conscious, and sentient. Boon outlines the history of
the zombie in Haitian folklore and the lower Congo through to its place in
literature and cinema. In these fields, he gives the reader seven categories of
zombies as they appear in these art forms and although changing in their
characteristics being responsive to social changes, the essential quality of
monstrosity in the zombie remains, which Boon states is antithetical to
human identity.
Where Kevin Boon has laid out the nature and origin of the zombie,
Peter Dendle proceeds with the demonstrative aspect of the monster, the
function of The Zombie as Barometer of Cultural Anxiety. Taking a journey
through cinematic history, Dendle illustrates the moments at which the
zombie has reflected and measured the temperature of more than 75 years of
American social, cultural political and economic history, most importantly
tracking the anxieties that result from encounters with social change. Like the
preceding pieces he shows the effect of the imagination on the interpretation
of events, such as labour and race relations, the depression, war, and
consumer capitalism to name but a few. A lengthy discussion of one of the
masters of the Zombie cinema, George Romero, follows the updating of the
zombie, becoming more monstrous and violent, re-emerging after a period of
rest to critique the current fears concerning terrorism and possible
apocalyptic futures. With this, Dendle notes that what is to be feared changes
from the homogeneous equalising entity to a creature that is aimless,
uncontrollable and always seems to return from the dead, relentlessly
satisfying its consuming appetite.
A strong current running through this collection is the relationship
between the monster as metaphor and the political, which occupies the
central sections of the book. We move from the directly political with
critiques of the role of the monster in political histories and what can be
learned from these critiques in section two, into the political and the media in
section three. Neda Atanasoski takes the fairly recent Balkan conflict and
draws parallels between the gothic narrative of Dracula and the discourse of
balkanism in NATOs bombing of Serbia and Kosovo. Reading the vampire
as an eternally existing figure that periodically emerges to drink and spill
blood as Atanasoski puts it, so the ethnic Balkan conflict is presented in
western media as constantly re-emerging. Taking Bram Stokers Dracula as
an imperial gothic narrative, Atanasoski argues that certain features of
Western history have not died, such as slavery, imperialism and
institutionalised racism. Indeed the figure of Dracula emerged in the violent
conflict of a culture fearing decline, the novel containing strong overtones of
blood, land and racial purity. The monster of Dracula threatens modernity, in
that it originates in modernity, but reflects the limits of it. The technologies
of documentation have their roles too, cementing monstrous acts and horrific
Niall Scott 3
otherness as a central to the gothic and in the journalistic involvement in the
Balkan war.
The Monster as other, as a deviation from an idea of acceptability is
the monster of Kultur-Terror, Kirsten W. Backers study of Nazi propaganda
in posters that reject all that is not National Socialist. With examples of the
propaganda posters provided, Backer provides us with a shift in emphasis;
the monster becomes an icon and an accusatory figure, and identifier pointing
out otherness. The complexity of these images presents a challenge in itself,
which Backer likens to the composite monster creation of Dr Frankenstein.
On the other hand the anti German propaganda is much more simple in its
depiction and message as are the German anti Bolshevik images. The
composite monster represents in the other, all that is opposed to national
socialist ideals, especially diversity and pluralism-of for example the Klu
Klux Klan, African Americanism and the Native American amongst some of
the many conflations depicted in Leest Storms Poster/image. Above all,
Backer concludes and probably most insightfully, the monster (of American
diversity) and the production of monsters starkly opposes the eugenic ideals
of removing difference from the human population in the creation of the
master race.
Proceeding on a similar theme of monstrous representation, Elun
Gabriels target is damage done to anarchism in the depiction of the anarchist
as monster at the end of the 1800s in Europe. The image of the anarchist as
monster is generated by the imagination at work, and interacting with, the
newspaper media, fiction and the expert. These centre around views of the
anarchist as criminal and views of Russian degeneration at the time. Gabriel
pays special attention to the general fear of anarchism in Europe and the
German case of how the metaphor of the monster was employed. The
elements that Gabriel describes bear a similar relation to Boon and Dendles
chapters on Zombies, where the anarchist is presented as being in total
antagonism to humanity. Although the uncontrollable, prolific nature of
anarchism and its persistence too, has much in common with the zombie,
Gabriel rather, highlights the metaphorical use of the Hydra and this monsters
multiplicity of heads with new ones emerging after one had been severed.
The aim of this metaphor was to be able to encompass anarchism as part of
the German socialist movement. On the one hand the liberal response to
anarchism through academic and expert work laid the blame of the French
and German philosophy of anarchism as having been infected by eastern
violence. On the other hand, the German conservative response to such a
monster, Gabriel points out is to slay it.
Although themes of the political feature strongly in section three,
two additional areas unite these series of chapters, that of the cinematic
media and that of the family. With cinematic art being one of the main arenas
where the monster is communicated to a broad public, Emily Chengs
4 Introduction
analysis of Disneys Lilo and Stich focuses on the alien as monster
encompassing race, adoption and otherness. It gives a study and insight into
narratives of nationhood and family on film. The Conservative Disney
corporations output is tempered by the liberal agenda in this cartoon of
inclusion and multiculturalism, but one where the threatening alien is
domesticated. The source of the threat which is Asian and Asian pacific is
balanced by Hawaii conceived of as paradise and as a component of the
multicultural U.S. that extends into the pacific. The childrens cartoon
monster here transformed into a rather likable figure, a long way from the
child as an agent of horror, the most innocent becoming a metaphorical
terrorist. The notion of the other is juxtaposed with the threat coming from
within in the post 9/11 terrorism era which, Colette Balmain demonstrates, is
reflected in the reactionary interpretation of the family of recent horror films.
The child as monster and agent of horror, has of course a longer history, a
history condensed by Balmain in the opening pages of her work. Balmain
argues that the child as terrorist can be interpreted as having several
functions: it is a monstrous offspring of the Bush eras attempt to return to
family values: it functions as a reactionary it is a figure of progressive change
signifying the demise of patriarchy or it is a figure of becoming. A wonderful
complement to the monstrous child is the monstrous mother. According to
Nicola Goc, mothers have been receiving a bad press. The media image of
the celebrity mother treats maternity as a fashion accessory placed under a
voyeurs gaze, whereas certain features of motherhood remains taboo. These
include breastfeeding, or the experience of postnatal depression. The
contradictions presented of the mother needing to, or showing it even
possible to return to her pre pregnant figure against the real physical
phenomenon of retaining fluid and having stretch marks leads Goc to criticise
unattainable ideals presented in the media to the majority. Goc explores the
monstrous mother- the mother as murderer, as crack addict to expose the
media presentation of mothers at extremes- from the ideal to the monstrous,
such that the regular mother is overlooked in the societal construction of what
motherhood is.
The consumerist market driven forces that exploit and pervert the
image of the natural mother in Gocs article receives further critique in the
context of anxiety of the self pleasuring individual. The social solitude of the
masturbating serial killer that is the subject of Greg Tucks contribution
displays a monster in opposition to community and family. Tuck breaches a
subject that he notes has taken much longer than other sexual behaviours to
become established in cinema. The appearance of masturbation in modern
cinema reflects according to Tuck, changes that have occurred in sexual
attitudes and representing post-modern capitalist experiences of pleasure as a
commodity. This sets the scene for an understanding of the cinematic serial
killer as a masturbatory monstrous metaphor for an anxiety of modernity and
Niall Scott 5
the market economy. Unlike previous presentations of the monster as other,
Tuck suggests that the monster is monstrous in its sameness, in this case very
close to our contemporary experience of promoting autonomy in
In the final arrangement of monster metaphors chapters are brought
together looking at the woman as monster in British fiction, the male as
monster in Heavy Metal and monstrosity and a the surprise of the monster
capable of dispensing a decent hug. Ben Barootes look at monstrosity being
a route to freedom displays that rather than the free woman being demonised,
the embracing of being a monster leads to liberation. This liberation through
an analysis of British fiction is grounded in self acceptance of monstrosity.
That is, the monstrous female is able to exist beyond the constraints of
societal norms. The She-devil can live exiled from, yet within society,
unaffected by male chauvinisms and pacification of women.
The Monstrous male as the main protagonist in Heavy Metal culture
seems to be rather different kind of monster. He is one trying make sense of
being exposed to a world that represents the evil and the satanic, frequently
encountered in Heavy Metal lyrics. Niall Scott explores the question of
whether the pursuit of evil and the diabolical is possible at all by a reading of
the German philosopher Immanuel Kants interpretation of radical evil. The
celebration of the monstrous in Heavy Metal Culture is a route to affirm
identity, yet also appears to try and imitate ideas of identity in religious
histories of evil. Where the songs of bands such as Slayer deal with some
fairly unpleasant views of human behaviour, Scott concludes that it is more
likely that the diabolical monster can only be aimed at. If it were possible it
would likely present the same kind of threat feared in the zombie or
autoerotic serial killer that Tuck writes about- a monster that is able act with
the same self control and conviction as a purely moral being would, but
through a complete and utter subversion of human morality.
It is reassuring to know though that where Chengs work on Lilo
and Stich hinted at the monster as a likable entity, the final word is given to
the monster as a cute and cuddly. However this is not all- the association of
the monstrous and the cute signifies a warning. The profound treatment of the
monstrous cute presents a significant challenge- that cuteness can grow out of
malformation in the exaggeration of desirable physical features, eliciting an
aesthetic response. Yet it can also be a way of tempering things that are not
so easy to accept, providing a sugar coating. Its meaning is ambivalent. Maja
Brzozowska-Brywczyskas argument takes us back to the role of the
monster as a warning- the possibility of associating the cute and the
monstrous opens opportunities for to change and revolution.
This collection of teratologous studies awakens the monster from
being not only myth and metaphor but in a strong sense an accurate
description of features of a world we are not altogether comfortable living in.
6 Introduction
The Monster as Metaphor has transformative power and is ignored at the
readers peril.

Niall Scott
University of Central Lancashire
& The Dog and Partridge, Preston
Section One

Monstrous Origins:
Histories from the Deep and Transformed
(Wherever they come from, the keep coming)
Monster Sewers: Experiencing Londons Main Drainage

Paul Dobraszczyk

Writing in London in July 1861 - at the peak of activity in the construction of
the citys main drainage system - the journalist John Hollingshead (1827-
1904), in All The Year Round, stated that there are more ways than one of
looking at sewers.1 This small but significant observation forms the key to
this paper, which considers press responses to the main drainage system,
focusing on accounts describing the public ceremonies held at the Crossness
(1862-1865) and Abbey Mills (1865-1868) pumping stations, which marked
the opening of the system south and north of the river Thames respectively.
Historians of the main drainage system have conventionally regarded these
responses as uniformly homogenous and celebratory.2 By focusing on a wide
variety of press accounts - illustrated and otherwise - documenting the same
events, this paper will question such a sense of apparent uniformity. Rather, it
will be shown that these accounts embody a complex variety of responses,
characterised by the interplay of the rational, the magical and the monstrous.
The structure of the paper will be as follows: first, I will briefly
outline the function of the pumping stations and their role as important sites
for public awareness of the main drainage system; second, I will examine the
press accounts themselves, drawing out their commonalities and differences
and discussing in turn aspects of the rational, magical and monstrous; finally,
I will assess how the sense of the monstrous relates to the wider context of
mid-Victorian ideas about sewers and interpretations of these ideas by
contemporary scholars.

Rational spaces, Magical spaces, Monstrous spaces, Drainage systems,
Sewers, Victorian, Press accounts, History

1. The Public Role of the Pumping Stations

The Crossness and Abbey Mills pumping stations - the largest of the
four connected with the main drainage system - performed important
engineering functions within that system.3 Londons topography made the
pumping of wastewater necessary at certain points in its new sewerage
system, which consisted of 82 miles of large-scale intercepting sewers
10 Monster Sewers: Experiencing Londons Main Drainage System
running parallel to the river Thames. The architectural features of the
pumping stations were tailored to accommodate the giant steam engines that
made this pumping possible. However, the flamboyant decoration of
Crossness and Abbey Mills points to another important function of these
buildings: as central sites for the promotion and presentation of the new
system to the public - places where the vast but largely invisible sewerage
system could be summed up in a celebratory aesthetic statement.
The ceremonies held in 1865 at Crossness and 1868 at Abbey Mills
marked the operational starting of the main drainage system and both were
intended to be lavish events: the Prince of Wales being invited to Crossness
and the Duke of Edinburgh to Abbey Mills, as well as many Members of
Parliament and other important dignitaries. In the event, Crossness was the
more high profile event, due to the recess of Parliament and the unavailability
of the Duke of Edinburgh in 1868. Six hundred guests attended the ceremony
at Crossness, which began at 11am on 4 April 1865 with special trains laid on
from Charing Cross to the remote site on the Essex Marshes and a steamboat
carrying the Royal party from Westminster. The events of the day included
tours of the underground sewage reservoir, an explanatory lecture by
Bazalgette, a ceremony in the lavishly decorated engine-house (where the
Prince of Wales started the engines), and a banquet in one of the workshops.
The ceremony at Abbey Mills, on 31 July 1868, took place on the same day
as the opening of the Victoria Embankment, a project concurrent and
connected to the main drainage system, and followed a similar, if stripped-
down schedule to that at Crossness. Visits to Abbey Mills also continued
after the main ceremony: during the following fortnight, representatives from
Londons vestries visited the pumping station in a succession of organised
Both ceremonies followed the established precedent of holding
public events to mark the completion of technological projects, especially in
a subterranean context, where large parts were effectively invisible to the
public. When the worlds first underwater excavation - the Thames Tunnel -
was temporarily opened in 1827, the engineer Marc Brunel (1769-1849)
organised a banquet for the workers and distinguished guests inside the
Tunnel itself;4 in December 1851, the Illustrated London News (ILN)
reported on a ceremony held inside a vast underground water reservoir at
Croydon;5 while on 17 January 1863, the same newspaper pictured a
subterranean banquet at Farringdon Street Station to mark the opening of the
Metropolitan Underground Railway.6 The ceremonies at Crossness and
Abbey Mills were similar events, designed to highlight, to dignitaries,
sponsors and the press, the importance of such subterranean technological
development and to give it a visible and striking form. The notable presence
of the press at these ceremonies represented an important interface between
Paul Dobraszczyk 11
those who conceived the project and those whom it impacted, whether in
social, economic and psychological terms.

2. Londons Press
In the days following the ceremonies at Crossness and Abbey Mills,
voluminous articles appeared in London's newspapers. In April 1865, most of
the citys thirty-or-so daily and weekly newspapers drew directly for their
articles on four accounts: the Standard, the Morning Post, the Times, and the
Daily Telegraph, with the Times forming the main source in 1868. Such
obvious plagiarism was common practice in a highly competitive and
burgeoning market for news. Throughout the 1850s and 1860s, particularly
after the repeal of Stamp Duty in 1855 and Paper Duty in 1861, Londons
press, until then dominated by the Times, witnessed a dramatic increase in
competition as new, cheaper newspapers broadened their audience to the
wider middle-classes.7 By the mid-1860s, Londons press consisted of three
distinct types of publication: established and new daily newspapers, such as
the Times and the Daily Telegraph (founded in 1855); weekly newspapers,
published on Saturday or Sunday, including illustrated weeklies like the ILN;
and specialist journals, like the Builder, published weekly or monthly. The
reduction in prices - many to one penny - after the tax repeals stimulated
intense competition, especially amongst the daily newspapers, where the
dominance of the Times, which maintained its price at three pence after 1861,
began to be challenged.8 By the mid-1860s, four main dailies took the
largest share of the market: the Times, with approximately 50,000 readers
every day; the Standard with 60-70,000; and the Daily Telegraph and Daily
News with upwards of 100,000 each.9 In terms of their ideological stance,
both the Times and Standard were largely conservative and appealed to a
more respectable middle-class audience, while the Daily Telegraph
articulated a more radical agenda with vigorous and versatile writing that
had a broader appeal, with the Daily News falling somewhere in between.10
In the context of responses to the ceremonies at Crossness and
Abbey Mills, accounts in the Times and the Standard were the main sources
for other press accounts, with the Morning Post representing a significant
minority wanting a more aristocratic tone to their news;11 accounts in the
Daily Telegraph, the other significant source, lived up to the newspapers
reputation with their florid language and poetic embellishments, as will be
seen below. In the following discussion of the content of the press responses
to the ceremonies, it is important to stress at the outset the key role of these
source accounts, which formed the basis not only for countless articles in
other newspapers, but also for the text and engravings in the ILN, whose
editors, writers and artists would have gleaned descriptive details from these
source accounts. Consequently, that which most widely represents a press
response is embodied in these key source articles.
12 Monster Sewers: Experiencing Londons Main Drainage System
3. Rational Spaces
Large sections of the press articles describing both ceremonies were
effectively technical accounts of the main drainage system and the pumping
stations, drawn from descriptions by the engineer, Joseph Bazalgette (1819-
1891). During the ceremony at Crossness in 1865, Bazalgette gave a lecture
in one of the workshops, drawn from another talk he gave at the Institution of
Civil Engineers in March 1865.12 On 4 April 1865, articles in the Times,
Standard, and Morning Post included long extracts from this lecture, mostly
in the form of a series of precise but impressive facts and figures, such as the
82 miles of new sewers, the 318 million bricks and 880,000 cubic yards of
concrete used, or the three and a half million cubic yards of earth excavated.13
When the ILN published its own account of Crossness on 8 April
1865, it also included a long technical description of the site as well as three
wood-engraved illustrations: a plan of the site (fig. 1); a general view (fig. 2);
and a view of the interior of the subterranean reservoir (fig. 3).14 In its article,
the ILN told its readers that it would be illustrating the ceremony in its next
issue, the engravings still in the process of being prepared. The three
engravings in this issue relate very closely to the technical clarity of the
article, which corresponds with Bazalgettes lecture and accounts published
in the Standard, Times and Morning Post. Indeed, the ground plan of the site
(fig. 1), embedded within the text of the article, is actually a modified version
of one of Bazalgettes contract drawings showing the precise functional
arrangement of the site and its various components: the engine house, boiler
house, the outfall sewers, and the giant sewage reservoir.15 In setting this
precise engineering drawing within the text that describes it, the page layout
suggests an immediate correspondence between text and image, enhancing
the educative and technical role of both. The general view (fig. 2) is a three-
dimensional version of the plan with picturesque additions, such as the
dramatic sky and figures in the foreground, presumably visitors being
transported to the site. The image is rendered along the same axis as the plan
so that the two images can be easily read together, in order to give the
reader/viewer a more comprehensive educational picture. The engraving of
the interior of the reservoir (fig. 3), although much darker than its
counterparts, is nevertheless an image that brings out technical, rather than
dramatic, aspects of its spaces, which, like fig. 2, also complements and
expands upon the plan view: the image emphasises the precise forms of the
brick arches and concrete piers and, prominent in the left foreground, one of
the penstocks, or gates, that separated the four compartments of the reservoir.
All three engravings relate closely both to the text and also to each other with
figures 2 and 3 giving a comprehensible visual form to the technical details
given in both the text and the plan view.
After the ceremony at Abbey Mills in 1868, such technical details
made up the bulk of the press accounts; these were drawn more directly from
Paul Dobraszczyk 13
a descriptive account of the building written by Bazalgette especially for the
occasion and printed and distributed to all the visitors.16 Much of the long
article published in the Times after the ceremony on 31 July 1868 was
directly copied from Bazalgettes account; this article formed the basis for
most of the other press coverage of the event.17 Bazalgettes description of
Abbey Mills focused on the buildings qualities as an engineering
achievement and, despite precisely describing its architectural details, gives
no suggestion as to any symbolic meaning or aesthetic considerations.
Rather, it reinforced, to those who visited its spaces, the notion of Abbey
Mills as a rational, functional building, precisely tailored to fulfil its
engineering duty. In relation to the accounts of the Crossness ceremony,
which were only partly informed by Bazalgettes own descriptions of the site,
press responses to Abbey Mills were much more in line with the engineers
viewpoint. Certainly, there seems to have been a more direct intention on the
part of Bazalgette to inform the press as to the rationalistic principles
underlying his system and, as a consequence, to direct attention away from
the aesthetic impact of the building.
When the ILN published its article describing the ceremony on 15
August 1868, its long description of Abbey Mills was drawn almost entirely
from Bazalgettes account.18 It also included two engravings of the building,
arranged on one page - one showing a general view of the engine-house and
the other, directly below, picturing the interior (fig. 4). Whilst these
engravings highlight the extravagance of the design, both inside and out, their
dramatic visual impact is offset by the technical and prosaic tone of the
accompanying article on the adjacent page. Indeed, such exterior/interior
image combinations were commonly employed by the ILN to
comprehensively depict a particular scene or event in order to educate its
readers/viewers. This documentary role of the images both reflected the
ILNs attitude towards wood engraving as a medium suitable for technical
exposition and Bazalgettes attitude towards Abbey Mills, expressed in his
rationalistic description of the building.

4. Magical Spaces
However, such rational description cannot be considered in
isolation. Alongside, and often because of, such facts and figures, some press
accounts of the ceremonies related a sense of the magical quality of the main
drainage system. The extraordinary statistics19 provided by Bazalgette led
some journalists, especially in 1865, to compare the new sewers with the
wonders of the ancient world.20 According to the Daily Telegraph, the main
drainage system was a project alongside which even the Pyramids of Egypt
and the sewers of Rome paled into comparison.21 In 1868, the Marylebone
Mercury made similar comparisons: the main drainage system is described as
the representation of a mighty civilization - a civilization nobler than
14 Monster Sewers: Experiencing Londons Main Drainage System
ancient Rome because it lacked its despotic power.22 Such comparisons
transformed statistics into myth: the impressive facts and figures provoked
wonder at what many saw as a monument to the future when London,
especially compared with its main rival, Paris, would become the cleanest
and most magnificent city the world had ever seen.23
In relation to the events at Crossness, there were two aspects that
brought out this magical quality most insistently: the interior of the engine-
house and the subterranean sewage reservoir. If, according to the Standard,
an enchanters wand had touched the whole site at Crossness, the interior
of the engine-house - with its elaborate, brightly-painted decorative ironwork
and giant steam engines - was described as a perfect shrine of machinery.24
According to the Daily News, the beautiful octagon in the centre of the
engine-house resembled the interior of a Byzantine church, with the shafts of
the steam engines acting as church galleries - the pulpit being supplied by
the cylinder.25 Press accounts of the Abbey Mills engine-house lacked such
direct religious associations, but some of the articles did refer to the
tremendous engines,26 the wonderful machinery,27 and a sense of deep
wonder and admiration at the sight of the lavish decorative ironwork.28 The
sense in which, according to the Daily Telegraph, the factory becomes
poetical and the furnace, fairy-like strongly relates to the perceived
reconciliation of the artistic and the useful in these spaces; put another way,
the imbuing of the purely functional with symbolism normally reserved for
religious buildings made the prosaic seem magical.
Religious associations were also made during the visit to Crossness
vast underground sewage reservoir, where one of its four compartments had
been kept free of sewage for the visitors. Compared to the gigantic crypt of a
gothic cathedral,29 it was lit especially for the occasion with, according to the
Daily Telegraph, 100,000 coloured lamps, which produced a fairy-like
appearance.30 Some compared the effect to that experienced at night in
Londons pleasure gardens at Cremorne and Vauxhall;31 all were astonished
and pleased by its striking appearance - the Daily Telegraph stating that it
was bewildering in its beauty and comparing the effect, oddly enough, to
that experienced in the piazza of St Marks by night.32 This was truly a
subterranean wonder and was the object of greatest interest to the visitors.
Press accounts of the ceremony at Abbey Mills, three years later, lacked such
dramatic associations, perhaps because there was no comparable
subterranean wonder; the tone of most of the articles was prosaic and
explanatory, like Bazalgettes account that formed their source.
When the ILN published its second account of Crossness on 15 April
1865, it included a further five large-scale wood engravings depicting the
ceremony in the engine-house (fig. 5), the interior ironwork, Bazalgettes
lecture, the banquet in one of the workshops, and the subterranean sewage
reservoir (fig. 6).33 The text of the article on page 342 is largely borrowed
Paul Dobraszczyk 15
from the earlier account in the Morning Post and its tone is both celebratory
and prosaic. However, the engravings, especially when compared to those
published a week earlier by the ILN (figures 1-3), highlight, in visual terms,
the magical quality perceived in some of the press accounts already
discussed. Compared with the technical plan published on 8 April (fig. 1), the
engraving showing the ceremony in the engine-house (fig. 5) pictures both
architectural detail and a theatrical event acted out within its spaces: that is,
the Prince of Wales - shown in the centre-right of the image and surrounded
by a crowd of cheering figures - pulling a lever to start the engines. The
cylinder of one of the engines, seen in the centre of the engraving with three
figures standing on top of it, does indeed resemble a church pulpit, as the
Daily News had remarked on 5 April, with the church galleries behind - in
reality the supporting floors of the steam engines - also crowded with
onlookers. Shown in the extreme right of the engraving is part of the
beautiful octagon, described by the Daily News, with its foliated cast-iron
capitals and entablatures, while on the left, in the arch above the window, is
revealed some of the handsome brickwork praised in many of the press
accounts. The engraving gives a visual form to what the non-illustrated press
accounts had stressed: the synthesis of architecture and engineering (or the
artistic and the useful) in the engine-house and its religious or magical
associations. Furthermore, as a front-page image, this engraving functions as
a dramatic visual introduction to this particular issue of the ILN. As such, it
reflects not only the striking language of the non-illustrated accounts but also
the versatility of wood engraving as a medium, a point consistently stressed
by the editors of the ILN: on the one hand, wood engraving could represent
the sewer system as a technical achievement with engravings copied directly
from Bazalgettes engineering drawings (fig. 1); on the other, it could picture
the magical quality of the spaces inside the engine-house (fig. 5).
In its 15 April issue, the ILN also included a full-page stand-alone
engraving showing the interior of the sewage reservoir on the day of the
ceremony, lit up by the 100,000 coloured lamps described by the Daily
Telegraph (fig. 6). Compared with the engraving a week earlier that depicted
a similar view (fig. 3), this image, like that on the front page (fig. 5), also
gives a striking visual form to the transformed perception of these spaces,
described in the non-illustrated press accounts. This engraving is also much
larger than its counterpart, filling an entire page and separated from the
article that describes it by six pages, further accentuating its dramatic impact
as a stand-alone image. Furthermore, the viewpoint, positioned in the very
centre of the reservoir, stresses the dramatic recess - seemingly infinite - of
the arches lit up by the myriad lamps, while the prominent figures in the
foreground further accentuate the vast scale of the enclosed space. Unlike fig.
3, which concentrates on the technical aspects of the reservoir, such as the
penstocks separating the compartments, this engraving stresses the dramatic
16 Monster Sewers: Experiencing Londons Main Drainage System
qualities of the space itself. In short, it gives a visual form to the sense of
magical sublimity perceived by the press in the accounts discussed

5. Monstrous Spaces
Alongside the perceived magical quality of the underground
reservoir at Crossness was a more disturbing sense of the monstrous. The
writer for the City Press, describing the descent from the warm daylight
into strange dimly defined vistas, confessed to a curious nervous shock
(not disagreeable).34 The appearance of the reservoir - brilliantly lit and
empty of sewage - led the Morning Star to state that this was not what you
would naturally expect in such a place - that is, the foul, filthy and
abominably nasty.35 However, it was the writer for the Daily Telegraph, of
the most poetic turn of mind, who played most strongly on this
disassociation of imagination and reality. If the reservoir was so clean you
could have eaten your dinner off it it concealed, in the parts already filled
with sewage, a repulsive flood. If there was no foul festona or feculent
moisture in this part of the reservoir, then light would soon give way to
darkness, dirt [and] rats when the visitors left and the reservoir was filled
with sewage and shut away from the public gaze forever.36 Indeed, this
writer revelled in such a unique conjunction of the clean and the dirty:
standing in the empty part of the reservoir, with its fairy lights and crypt-like
space, the close proximity of the sewage in other unseen parts of the reservoir
prompted the writer to feel in the very jaws of peril, in the gorge of the
valley of the shadow of death, separated only by bolted iron gates from the
the filthiest mess in Europe, pent up and bridled in, panting and ready to
leap out like a black panther at the turning of a wheel, at the loosening of a
trap, at the drawing of a bolt.37 Why was this writer, in particular, so
affected by the space in the reservoir? Certainly, in general, the language of
the Daily Telegraph tended to be more vigorous than its main
conservative rivals, the Times and the Standard. Nevertheless, compared to
other articles in the Daily Telegraph describing similar events, such as the
opening of the Metropolitan Underground Railway in January 1863, this
account of the Crossness reservoir is singularly extravagant in its poetic
excesses.38 There seems to have be a unique quality of this space that
stimulated an imaginative response on the part of the press, given strongest
expression by this writer.
The sense of the monstrous in the reservoir, for this writer, plays off
both a reality (the proximity of sewage) and also something imagined (the
imminent fate of this magical space - to be forever severed from the world
above in a sea of sewage). It is this dialectic of the visible/invisible and
real/imaginary that generates a stream of monstrous oppositions to the
magical. It is a dialectic that is also confined to the verbal accounts. When the
Paul Dobraszczyk 17
ILN depicted the reservoir in visual form (fig. 6), any sense of the
imaginative impact of the spaces not seen disappears: here, the visual can
only represent what is seen - that is, the lamps and the arches - and not the
invisible sea of sewage that generates monstrous counter associations in the
language of the article in the Daily Telegraph. It is precisely the lack of
visibility in this space that produced a monstrous counterpart to the magical.

6. Sewers and the Monstrous

Press responses to the underground sewage reservoir at Crossness
represent one instance of wider configurations of the monstrous and sewers
in the mid-Victorian period. Contemporary scholars have taken great delight
in highlighting such configurations: Michelle Allen sees some responses to
the London sewers as voicing opposition to the sewer itself - its threat related
to the way in which it invisibly and promiscuously connected the citys
wastes, suggesting a monstrous counter to middle-class yearnings for
individual autonomy.39 In a recent essay on the Paris sewers, constructed at
the same time as Londons main drainage system, Matthew Gandy configures
monstrous perceptions in relation to Freuds notion of the uncanny: the
Paris sewers were imagined by the bourgeoisie with a sense of dread because
they simultaneously represented all that humanity had repressed and the
threat of this repressed material returning to the surface.40 David Pike, in
articles on sewers as London theatre sets in the 1860s and ideas of the sewer
in Paris and London in the nineteenth century, charts all manner of monstrous
associations: criminality, poverty, hell, danger and revolution - all are
literally and metaphorically identified in middle-class culture with the space
of the sewer.41
What all of these admittedly rich and varied accounts lack is a
convincing explanation for the peculiar conflation of the rational, magical
and the monstrous in press responses to the ceremony at Crossness and
particularly to the underground reservoir. The most striking characteristic of
these responses is not that the main drainage system is conceived as
monstrous, but that it is simultaneously configured as rational and magical.
To assess this conflation, I want to return again to the press accounts
In April 1865, anticipating the ceremony at Crossness, the leading
daily newspapers - the Times, Standard and Daily News - published related
articles on the 4th and 5th: the former detailing Bazalgettes main drainage
system and the old sewers and cesspools it superseded; the latter
concentrating on the ceremony itself. Many of the articles on 4 April directly
compared the new system with the old: if Bazalgettes sewers were
stupendous, marvellous and mythic in their importance, they replaced
something starkly different: an ancient, dilapidated system of sewers
overloaded with pent-up refuse42 and cesspools filled with monstrous
18 Monster Sewers: Experiencing Londons Main Drainage System
impurities and symbolised by the disgusting occupation of the nightmen
(workers who emptied the cesspools at night).43 According to these accounts,
the monstrous evil that was the old system was remedied by Bazalgettes
new sewers and pumping stations.44 Here it is old sewers and cesspools that
are configured as monstrous, with the new system replacing such associations
with something far more elevated.
However, in the space of the reservoir at Crossness, some members
of the press, especially the writer for the Daily Telegraph, experienced a
temporary reversal of these conventional associations, when the magical
new took on a monstrous aspect more characteristic of the old.
Furthermore, it was paradoxically the magical quality of the space, provided
by Bazalgette himself, that generated - in this writer - monstrous counter
associations: here it seemed, for a moment at least, old and new were
disturbingly confused.
Such configurations of old and new, often in similar surprising
reversals, are common in other accounts of Londons sewers published
during the planning and construction of the main drainage system in the
1850s and 1860s. Throughout this period, engineers and other experts
challenged the basic principles of Bazalgettes scheme. Pamphlets by George
Booth, George Rochfort Clarke and John Wiggins represent a sample of these
voices of resistance, which continued even after Bazalgette began to
construct his intercepting sewers in 1859. All of these pamphlets reasserted
the importance of recycling Londons sewage - an imperative originally
propagated by the sanitary reformer Edwin Chadwick (1800-1890) and
engineers associated with him but subsequently underplayed by Bazalgette.45
In a dramatic reversal of press perceptions of the main drainage system, these
accounts configure the old sewers and cesspools as safer and sweeter than
Bazalgettes new monstrous main drainage system.46 Clarke proposes that
the old system of sewers be retained, castigating the Metropolitan Board of
Works (the administrative body responsible for the main drainage system) for
simultaneously throwing away a valuable resource and creating a monster
grievance further downriver.47 Bazalgettes intercepting sewers are
variously cast as an unmanageable underground labyrinth,48 an entangled
net,49 or deformed and barren offspring of water-closets.50 With equally
invective language Wiggins and Booth argue along similar lines: Booth sees
Bazalgettes monster sewers as contributing to, rather than eradicating, the
spread of disease; because of their enormous size the pestilential vapours
inside could not be controlled.51 Wiggins echoes these concerns, calling
Bazalgettes plan alarming and deranged.52 Booths main fear is the
concentration of dangerous gases in Bazalgettes enormous sewers and vast
reservoirs, like that visited at Crossness in 1865.53 He goes on to propose
Paul Dobraszczyk 19
Instead of building the Herculean works and stupendous
erections proposed, it would appear that the sewers of
London may, like the city itself, be so constructed in
integral parts, small in their separate divisions yet
effective as a whole.54

Reversing the positive meaning of stupendous in the press accounts, Booth

reasserts an older vision of London and its sewers that had been so effectively
transformed by Bazalgettes main drainage system.
If this inflammatory language might be put down to rivalry within
the narrow confines of Londons engineering community, other responses
suggest a wider disruption of the old and the new in regard to the main
drainage system. The celebrated journalist Henry Mayhews (1812-1887)
encyclopaedic account of Londons underclass, London Labour and the
London Poor, contained a description of the citys sewers, both past and
present that is remarkable for its rich attention to detail:55 it includes
descriptions of all the different types of sewers in the city, their sizes, lengths
and condition, as well as a long account of the exact constituents of the
sewage itself. In a section dealing with the history of the administration of
Londons sanitation, Mayhew directs his invective language against the old
wretched system,56 describing, in straightforward condemnatory language,
the terrible condition of the old sewers of the city and the pressing need for
an entirely new system.57
However, according to Allen, when Mayhew gives a romanticised
account of an evening spent with a gang of London nightmen, he registers
his resistance to a reforming process that sought to obliterate the old system
and its attendant workers.58 Equally ambivalent, according to Pike, is
Mayhews description of other sewer workers, such as the sewer hunters
(known as toshers) and the mud-larks, both of whom exploited Londons old
drainage system by scavenging for discarded valuables in its spaces. In his
descriptions of these marginal social characters, Mayhew implies the
eventual disappearance of these outcast occupations and displays a
Romantic nostalgia for their marginal activities.59 What Allen and others
fail to emphasise enough is the relationship between Mayhews descriptions
and contemporaneous changes within Londons sanitary infrastructure.
Significantly, Mayhews accounts had a long publication history: they were
first collected in the late 1840s and published in the Morning Chronicle, then
republished as three volumes from 1850-1852 and expanded into four in
1862. Throughout this period, Londons main drainage system was first
planned and then implemented; the definitive 1862 edition of London Labour
and the London Poor was published at the peak of activity in its construction.
Yet Mayhew fails to mention Bazalgettes scheme and its huge impact on the
citys sanitary infrastructure.60 Rather, his vivid cast of sewer dwellers and
20 Monster Sewers: Experiencing Londons Main Drainage System
workers - by then very much consigned to the past - remain in his volumes as
real and tangible presences in the citys substructure, emphasised by the
wood-engraved illustrations of these workers included in the volumes and
supposedly based on photographs.61 In short, Mayhew oscillates between
seeing the old London sewers as monstrous but also as a romantic remnant of
a fast-vanishing pre-industrial society.
Ambivalence also characterises what is perhaps the most obsessive
engagement with Londons sewers in the 1860s: John Hollingsheads
Underground London, published in 1862. Following Mayhews journalistic
pretext, Hollingsheads series of essays, originally published in Charles
Dickenss periodical All The Year Round in 1861,62 derived from his self-
confessed appetite for the wonderful in connection with sewers.63 Of the
seventeen chapters that comprised Underground London, nine directly
concern sewers, whether describing the old system,64 journeys within the
sewers themselves,65 or Bazalgettes main drainage system, then under
construction.66 Whilst scholars, such as Lynda Nead, have tended to focus on
the subversive qualities of the chapter titled A Day Below, which describes
a journey through a sewer in the West End,67 Hollingsheads collection of
essays is perhaps more remarkable for the sheer variety of viewpoints
represented. Indeed, he sums up these multiple conceptions of sewers in his
introductory chapter:

There are more ways than one of looking at sewers,

especially old London sewers. There is a highly romantic
points of view from which they are regarded as accessible,
pleasant, and convivial hiding-places for criminals flying
from justice, but black and dangerous labyrinths for the
innocent stranger [and] there is the scientific or half-
scientific way, which is not always wanting in the
imaginative element.68

The subsequent chapters of Underground London present Londons sewers,

old and new, in simultaneously rational, magical and monstrous terms - terms
that play off the supposed oppositions of old and new in more conventional
discourse. In Chapter IV, Hollingshead presents the old sewers as a rational
and therefore legible system, the author providing the reader with a
panorama of their spaces;69 while Chapters V and VI, describing his
journeys within these sewers, configure them as repositories of the monstrous
(dead bodies and ferocious rats) and the domestic (genteel sewer workers).70
If, in Chapter V, Bazalgettes main drainage system is cast as a great
accomplished fact71 and a successful example of the struggle of art against
nature,72 its vast intercepting sewers that dwell in perpetual darkness73
might also be seen by some as volcanoes of filth; gorged veins of putridity;
Paul Dobraszczyk 21
ready to explode at any moment in a whirlwind of foul gas, and poison all
those whom they fail to smother.74

7. Conclusion: Spatial Conflation

The pervasiveness of configurations of old and new in relation to
Londons sewers in the 1860s - in both press accounts of the ceremonies at
Crossness and Abbey Mills and in wider discourse - is not surprising given the
very tangible transformation of the citys sanitary infrastructure that occurred
in this period. Lynda Nead has convincingly argued that the modernising of
London in the 1860s, of which the construction of the main drainage system
played an important part, was both a rationalising process and also as a fertile
stimulus for the imagination.75 If the pumping stations were, according to
Bazalgette, rational icons of the new they were equally, for some, possible
sites for older dreams, memories and fantasies.76 The press accounts
examined in this chapter demonstrate the extent to which the old is perpetually
engaged with the new: in this case in a shifting dialogue between the rational,
the magical and the monstrous.77
The main drainage pumping stations were intended by their creators
to be visible symbols of a vast new underground system of sewers - a system
built at great cost in order to transform the old and monstrous sanitation of
the city. In line with this symbolic status, the pumping stations were
embellished with lavish architectural decoration, elevating their value above
mere utility and imbuing their spaces with a sense of sublime nobility. This
was, in effect, an entirely new vision of sewers, where the magical was
overlaid onto the rational, in order to make the prosaic pleasing. However, in
the particular space of the subterranean reservoir, where even if the sewage
was not visible it was however present in the imagination, older associations
emerged, or perhaps resurfaced - not unconsciously as might be suggested by
the psychological model - but with the writers fully alert to the contradictory
aspects of this experience and the pull of both fascination and fear. It was the
unique character of this space that prompted a conflation of the rational,
magical and monstrous - a point emphasised by the writers themselves, who
knew this was an experience never to be repeated. Indeed, for the writer for
the Daily Telegraph, the new vision paradoxically stimulated these older
associations: in short, old and new were inseparably linked. As if to exemplify
the unique character of this experience, three years later, in the ceremony at
Abbey Mills, visitors also wondered at the lavish decoration and vast
machinery but, guided by Bazalgettes fully rationalised account, did not refer
to any monstrous associations. Indeed, even when presented with the
opportunity of inspecting the sewage pumps below ground, most of the
visitors declined;78 even the Daily Telegraph, whose correspondent had, three
years earlier, been so rampant in his imaginative prose, gave little attention to
these noisome chambers far below the buildings lavish interior.79
22 Monster Sewers: Experiencing Londons Main Drainage System
Were these visitors in 1868 now completely won over to the new
vision of sewers? Or did the engineer more effectively control their
responses? Certainly, the Daily Telegraphs response to the Crossness
reservoir, three years earlier, with its conflation of the new (the rational and
the magical) and the old (the monstrous) demonstrates that at particular times
and in particular places (and perhaps for particular people), rationality and
imagination, and old and new might be configured in unexpected hybrid

John Hollingshead, 1861, 390.
Stephen Halliday, 1999, 91-99 and Owen, 1982, 58 and 60.
The two other main drainage pumping stations were constructed at Deptford
(1859-1862) and Pimlico (1870-1874). Both were situated in built-up areas of
London, were architecturally more restrained than Crossness and Abbey
Mills, and neither were used for public ceremonies.
.Richard Trench & Ellis Hillman, 1984, 111.
.ILN, 20 December 1851, pp. 725-726, Opening of the Croydon water
ILN, 17 January 1863, pp. 73-74, Opening of the Metropolitan Railway.
Richard D. Altick, 1998, 348-355.
Altick, 1998, 19.
Altick, 1998, 34.
H.R.F. Bourne, 1998, 243, 261-262 and 270-271.
Bourne, 1998, 243.
Joseph William Bazalgette, 1865, 280-314.
Times, 4 April 1865, p. 14, The main drainage of the metropolis;
Standard, 4 April 1865, p. 6, The southern outfall; and Morning Post, 5
April 1865, p. 5, The main drainage system.
ILN, 8 April 1865, p. 335, The metropolitan main drainage southern
outfall at Crossness.
London Metropolitan Archives, MBW/2511: Southern outfall works,
buildings, 1862, contract drawing no. 1, general llan.
Bazalgette, 1868.
Times, 31 July 1868, p. 12, The Thames Embankment.
ILN, 15 August 1868, p. 162, The metropolitan main drainage.
Daily Telegraph, 5 April 1865, p. 2, Opening of the main drainage by the
Prince of Wales.
Paul Dobraszczyk 23

Morning Post, 5 April 1865, p. 5; Daily Telegraph, 5 April 1865, p. 2;
Standard, 4 April 1865, p. 5; and City Press, 8 April 1865, p. 9 Completion
and opening of the main drainage works at Crossness.
Daily Telegraph, 5 April 1865, p. 2.
Marylebone Mercury, 8 August 1868, p. 2, The Abbey Mills pumping
Times, 4 April 1865, p. 14 and 31 July 1868, p. 12; Observer, 9 April 1865,
p. 5, Opening of the southern outfall of the main drainage works; Standard,
31 July 1868, p. 3, Opening of the Thames Embankment footway; and City
Press, 8 August 1868, p. 3, The Abbey Mills pumping station of the main
drainage works: visit of the Corporation.
Times, 5 April 1865, p. 5, Opening of the main drainage.
Daily News, 5 April 1865, p. 5, Opening of the metropolitan main drainage
works by the Prince of Wales.
Times, 31 July 1868, 12.
Observer, 2 August 1868, p. 3, Thames Embankment and Abbey Mills
pumping station.
Standard, 31 July 1868, p. 3.
Daily Telegraph, 5 April 1865, 2; Daily News, 5 April 1865, 5; and Times,
5 April 1865, 5.
Daily Telegraph, 5 April 1865, 2.
Standard, 5 April 1865, 3; and Daily Telegraph, 5 April 1865, 2.
Daily Telegraph, 5 April 1865, 2.
ILN, 15 April 1865, pp. 341-348, The Prince of Wales at the metropolitan
drainage works.
City Press, 8 April 1865, 9.
Morning Star, 5 April 1865, p. 5, Opening of the main drainage works by
the Prince of Wales.
Daily Telegraph, 5 April 1865, 2.
Daily Telegraph, 5 April 1865, 2.
On the opening of the Metropolitan Underground Railway see Daily
Telegraph, 10 January 1863, p. 3, Opening of the Metropolitan Railway.
Michelle Allen, 2002, 383-402.
Matthew Gandy, 1998, 34-35.
David Pike, 1999, 102-138 and 2005, 51-77.
Times, 4 April 1865, 14.
Morning Post, 5 April 1865, p. 5.
Times, 4 April 1865, 14.
G.R. Booth , c.1853, 17-18; J. Wiggins, 1858, 11; and George Rochfort
Clarke, 1860, 24-26.
George Rochfort Clarke, 1860, 18.
24 Monster Sewers: Experiencing Londons Main Drainage System

Clarke, 1860, 22-24.
Clarke, 1860, 27.
Clarke, 1860, 28.
Clarke, 1860, 32.
Booth, c.1853, 6.
Wiggins, 1858, 23-24.
Booth, c.1853, 7-8.
Booth, c.1853, 20.
Henry Mayhew, 1862, 388-425.
Mayhew, 1862, 415.
Mayhew, 1862, 424.
Allen, 2002, 387. For the account of the nightmen see Mayhew, 1862, 451-
Pike, 2005, 57-58. For Mayhews descriptions of the sewer hunters and
mud-larks see Mayhew, 1862, 150-158.
Mayhew, 1862, 411-414, Of the new plan of sewerage. Mayhew
describes what would eventually become Bazalgettes scheme, but states that
it is not known whether the plan will be put into action (414).
Mayhew, 1862, plate between pp. 334-335, London nightmen; plate
between pp. 370-371, The rat-catchers of the sewers; and plate between pp.
388-389, The sewer-hunter. All the plates are supposedly based on
Hollingsheads series of essays appeared in All the Year Round as follows:
26 January 1861, no. 92, pp. 453-456, Underground London. Chapter III;
20 July 1861, no. 117, pp. 390-394, Underground London. Chapter I; 27
July 1861, no. 118, pp. 413-417, Underground London. Chapter II; 10
August 1861, no. 120, pp. 470-473, Underground London. Chapter IV; and
17 August 1861, no. 121, pp. 486-489, Underground London. Chapter the
Hollingshead, 1862, 2.
Hollingshead, 1862, 43-56, Chapter IV. Old Channels.
Hollingshead, 1862, 57-72, Chapter V. A Day Below and 73-83,
Chapter VI. A Bunch of Legends.
Hollingshead, 1862, 84-99, Chapter VII. New Channels.
Lynda Nead, 2000, 24-26.
Hollingshead, 1862, 1 and 4.
Hollingshead, 1862, 50-56.
Hollingshead, 1862, 57-72 and 73-83.
Hollingshead, 1862, 88.
Hollingshead, 1862, 98.
Hollingshead, 1862, 87.
Paul Dobraszczyk 25

Hollingshead, 1862, 99.
Nead, 2000, 6-8.
Nead, 2000, 6.
Nead, 2000, 7 and 8.
East London Observer, 8 August 1868, p. 5, Visitation of Abbey Mills
pumping station.
Daily Telegraph, 31 July 1868, p. 2, Opening of the Thames
Embankment footway.

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Halliday, Stephen. (1999). The Great Stink of London: Sir Joseph Bazalgette
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Nead, Lynda (2000). Victorian Babylon - people, streets and images of

nineteenth-century London. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.

Owen, David (1982). The government of Victorian London, 1855-1889: the

Metropolitan Board of Works, the vestries, and the City Corporation.
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Pike, David (1999). Underground theater: subterranean spaces on the

London stage, Nineteenth Century Studies 13: 102-138.

Pike, David (2005). Sewage treatments: vertical space and waste in

nineteenth-century Paris and London. in Filth: dirt, disgust and modern life.
W. A. Cohen, and Ryan Johnson, eds. Minneapolis & London: University of
Minnesota Press: 51-77.

Trench, Richard, and Ellis Hillman (1984). London under London: a

subterranean guide. London: John Murray.

Wiggins, J. (1858). The Polluted Thames: the most speedy, effectual, and
economical mode of cleansing its waters, and getting rid of the sewage of
London. London: J. Newman.
Paul Dobraszczyk 27
Fig. 1: Page layout, ILN, 8 April 1865, p. 335, The metropolitan main
drainage southern outfall at Crossness and Metropolitan main drainage:
plan of the southern outfall works at Crossness, wood-engraved print.
28 Monster Sewers: Experiencing Londons Main Drainage System
Fig. 2: Page layout, ILN, 8 April 1865, p. 325, The metropolitan main
drainage: general view of the southern outfall works at Crossness, wood-
engraved print

Paul Dobraszczyk 29

Fig. 3: Page layout, ILN, 8 April 1865, p. 328, Metropolitan main-drainage

works at Crossness: view in the reservoir, wood-engraved print.
30 Monster Sewers: Experiencing Londons Main Drainage System
Fig. 4: Page layout, ILN, 15 August 1868, General view of the Abbey Mills
pumping station and Interior of the Abbey Mills pumping station, wood-
engraved prints.
Paul Dobraszczyk 31
Fig. 5: Page layout, ILN, 15 April 1865, frontispiece, Opening the
metropolitan main-drainage works at Crossness: the Prince of Wales starting
the engines, wood-engraved print.
32 Monster Sewers: Experiencing Londons Main Drainage System
Fig. 6: Page layout, ILN, 15 April 1865, p. 348, The Prince of Wales
opening the metropolitan main-drainage works at Crossness: the
underground reservoir illuminated, wood-engraved print.
Ontological Anxiety Made Flesh:
The Zombie in Literature, Film and Culture

Kevin Alexander Boon

The etymological roots of the monstrous imply a boundary space between
human and non-human (originally, human and animal)the imaginary space
that lies between being and non-being, presence and absence. The zombie
transgresses this boundary, giving corporeal shape to all that is not spiritthe
remains of our humanity after the loss of any unique soul. Thus the zombie is
the antithesis of our human identity (therefore, monstrous). This paper seeks
to formulate the characteristics of the zombie myth as it is found in literature,
film and culture, tracing its collision with the ghoul (originating in literature
with H.P. Lovecraft and in film with George Romero), and examine the role
identity plays in shaping the reception of the zombie in popular culture.

Zombie, anxiety, film, George Romero, culture, folklore

The term monstrous is grounded in notions of human privilege. Its

Old and Middle French (mostre and monstre, respectively), and Anglo-
Norman derivations articulate disfiguration of the human form, and the
terms evolution from classical Latin (mnstrum) through Italian (mostro),
Spanish (mostro), and Portuguese (monstro) imply a warning (from base
monre - to warn) embodied in the monstrous form. Thus, the etymological
roots of the monstrous imply a boundary space between human and non-
human (originally, human and animal) - the imaginary region that lies
between being and non-being, presence and absence.
Several presumptions underlie the articulation of the monstrous:
one, that distinctions exist between the natural and the unnatural; two, that
these distinctions are clear and perceivable; three, that the natural is a
standard established by some dominate design; four, that the human form is
the privileged form within all that is natural; and five, that the human form
includes elements not found in lower forms (thus, the use of the term
monstrous to define the presence of animal characteristics in the human
form, as in mythological beings such as the centaur, the minotaur, the griffin,
and so on, as well as more contemporary human/animal conglomerations
34 Ontological Anxiety Made Flesh
such as Mary Shelleys creature in Frankenstein, George Langelaans
creature in The Fly, and the werewolf of medieval legend.1
That which is defined as monstrous (and the definition of
monstrous is an exclusively human enterprise) was not supposed to
happen; that is, it is unnatural and as such a malformation of some
universal design. Furthermore, that which is defined as monstrous threatens
the purity of the human form as that form was intended by whomever or
whatever is presumably responsible for that universal design. To articulate
the bias another wayhuman beings are, by divine mandate, supreme in the
universe and anything that threatens human form or status is monstrous.
Examinations of the terms etymological evolution and its application within
literature, culture, and film uphold this interpretation.
It must further be noted that the divide between the human and the
monstrous is inextricably bound to mortalitylife and death, being and non-
being, presence and absence: in the subjective - self and other. Paul de Man2,
in a discussion of Wordsworths poetry, points out that the self never exists
in isolation, but always in relation to entities, since it is not a thing but the
common centre of a system of relationships or intents, an authentic
understanding of a self means first of all a description of the entities toward
which it relates, and of the order of priority that exists among these entities.3
Thus it is that in the dialectic of self and other, both are defined, and in the
dialectic of self and the monstrous, the human self is glorified. This is why
demons are monstrous and ghosts (unless they are ghosts of something
monstrous) are not. Ghosts imply a continuation of human privilege beyond
death while demons imply a decay of privilege in the corruption of the
human soul.
The zombie, as found in literature, film, and culture, is the most
fully realized articulation of this dynamic interdependency between the
human self and the monstrous other. The zombie myth embodies the
monstrous, inhuman other and rightly locates the human instinct for the
survival of self in issues of mortality. In the zombie, death is given agency.
Fear of death is a primary human impulse, because death opposes the human
instinct for survival, thus it is part of the survival instinct, not only because
avoiding that which is deadly perpetuates survival, but also because of the
biological payoff people receive for engaging in survival-related behaviours.
As the ongoing research of Gregory A. Goodwin and Jamie Levison
(Skidmore College) is examining, when animals engage in behaviours related
to survival, their brains secrete opioids. This implies a strong biological base
for the survival instinct. If the same is true for people, then a psycho-
chemical reward for survival behaviours exists, which would offer possible
explanations for the lure of horror in general and zombies in particular.
Zombies are in direct opposition to the living. They embody
physical corruption, thus reminding us of our own mortality. Because they
Kevin Alexander Boon 35
are the animated dead, they represent an even greater danger to survival than
a mere corpse by abbreviating the threat of death. Like physical death,
zombies show no favouritism and exercise no judgment. Because they are the
personification of corruption, zombies cannot themselves be corrupted. The
army of the undead does not vanquish the enemy, it recruits them. To
succumb is to become, and once you have become a zombie, self is lost
irrevocably to the other.
The zombie myth enters western consciousness primarily as a result
of the US occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934. Toward the end of the
occupation, zombies infiltrated American culture, through the publication of
works such as William Seabrooks 1929 piece The Magic Island and John
Huston Craigs 1933 Black Bagdad , which recounts trips to Haiti as early as
1912; through film with the 1932 production of White Zombi; and through
fiction with works such as Theodore Roscoes A Grave Must Be Deep,
serialized in Argosy between 1934 and 1935 (published in book form in
1947); Richard E. Goddards 1936 piece The Whistling Ancestors; and
Roscoes Z is for Zombie, which was serialized in Argosy in 1937.
The zombie has undergone transformations during the past ninety
years, most notably the fusion of the zombie of Haitian folklore with the
ghoul, which introduced flesh-eating into the zombie myth. But flesh-eating
is older than the zombie myth and discussions of cannibalism in Haiti predate
discussions of the Haitian zombie. Nineteenth century writers spoke of
ritualistic cannibalism in Haiti. Sir Spencer St. John writes in 1884 of rites
at which dozens of human victims were sacrificed at a time (Hayti or the
Black Republic vii), but St. Johns work was highly controversial and marred
by racial bias, as were many works of the period. Others, such as J.N. Lger
in Son histoire et ses dtracteurs, which was published in 1907, attempted to
disabuse readers of their belief that Haitians were addicted to cannibalism.
But the myth associating primitive cultures with cannibalisma cultural
taboo among westernershad already been established by the time
Seabrooks accounts of labouring Haitian zombies lumbered into American
In the twentieth century, the Zombie of Haitian legend, the dead
risen to work the sugar plantations and serve the needs of the Nganga
(Haitian medicine men) and farmers, was fused with the ghoul of middle-
eastern origin. The ghoul, which in Arabic is a general term used to refer to
any monstrous creature, equivalent to the English Monster, which is
applied equally to Frankensteins creation, werewolves, vampires, bestial
humans and human beasts, evolved into a term denoting a grave-robber into a
term implying the cannibalistic eating of flesh. It is significant to note that the
ghoul was a living creature eating the flesh of the dead. When zombies
evolved into ghouls, they inverted this relationship they became the dead
36 Ontological Anxiety Made Flesh
eating the flesh of the living. This further characterizes the zombie as
counterpoint to self, the opposite of us, always other.
Like the term Zombi, which originated in central Africas lower
Congo area as Nzambi Mpungu4 with the Bantu and Bakongo tribes, ghoul
originally referred to a disembodied spirit. Both terms were in use as early as
the late eighteenth century: ghoul appeared in William Beckfords Vathek
(written in French in 1782 and published in English in 1786) and zombie,
as Peter Dendle points out, can be found as early as 1789 in the writing of
M.L.E. Moreau de Saint-Mry.5 Beckfords novel includes several references
to ghouls and from these references we can determine that the notion of the
ghoul feeding on the flesh of corpses was already in currency in 1782. At one
point, Carathis describes a cemetery at night as So beautiful . . . [it] must be
haunted by Gouls! Her guides have died and she plans to invite them [the
ghouls] to regale on these fresh corpses.6
By the twentieth century, the term zombie had ceased to represent
spirit and came to represent an absence of spirit. This change is partially a
result of mythology passed down from the Bakongo tribe. In the lower Congo
River area, Nzambi was a term denoting the sovereign Master, the deity
that placed man on Earth and takes him away at the moment of death. Men
were expected to live under the nkondo mi Nzambi, or Gods prohibitions7.
To violate these laws was a sin against Nzambi, or suma ku Nzambi, for
which Nzambi might impose lufwa lumbi, the bad death.
What is absent from the zombie as reshaped during the twentieth
century by western culture, is its essential selfits human soul, those
qualities that make a person unique among others - the very source of human
privilege. A zombie lacks conscious experiences separate from physical
processes, those events that brain researchers refer to as qualia. Zombies
cannot retain a sense of self - a unique, human consciousness. This defining
characteristic is often muddled in literature and film, but it is more central to
the zombie myth than death, as you can have a zombie who is not actually
dead, but you cannot have a zombie that retains its sense of identity. Zombie
literature contains many stories presenting as zombies creatures with little or
no conscious and volitional impairment. Stephen Jones 1993 anthology, The
Mammoth Book of Zombies, for example, contains stories such as Edgar
Allan Poes The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, in which hypnosis traps
Valdemars soul inside his inanimate corpse, and Clive Barkers Sex, Death
and Starshine, in which deceased thespians return to their decaying bodies in
order to perform Shakespeare on the stage. These stories tell of the living
dead or the walking dead, but they are not properly zombie stories. Valdemar
is dead, as are the characters in Barkers story, but consciousness and volition
continue after their physical death, thus they are more properly defined as
ghosts. The reanimated dead are not proper zombies unless they lose some
essential quality of self. If this were not the case, we might rightly refer to the
Kevin Alexander Boon 37
stories of Lazarus and Jesus as zombie tales, a point that makes me titter
every time I pass a church with a sign out front that reads He is Risen. To
claim consciousness in zombies is to eliminate any useful distinction between
zombies and ghosts (spirits that remain ensconced in their human flesh).
Zombies in literature, film and culture fall into seven distinct
categories or types, though all seven categories do not summon the
ontological anxiety associated with the human survival instinct and the
life/death, self/other binary, and thus not all are properly zombies.
Nevertheless, they are labelled zombies and encountered in literature, film,
and culture, and therefore it is necessary to consider them (even if only to
dismiss their relevance to zombie studies). Among these is the zombie
ghost, which I have just mentioneda ghost or revenant that has returned
(or in some cases, such as Poes Valdemar, never left) with either its whole
self intact, or with enough self left to retain functional volition. There are few
novel-length works that revolve around this type of zombie, Piers Anthonys
1998 Zombie Lover, Christopher Moores recent 2004 work The Stupidest
Angel, and Candace Caponegros 1988 The Breeze Horror. The pirates in
John Carpenters 1980 film The Fog and Gore Verbinskis 2003 release
Pirates of the Caribbean, the lovers in the segment Something to Tide You
Over from the 1982 piece Creepshow, and the decaying victims in the 1981
horror American Werewolf in London are all examples of zombie ghosts.
Less frequent in film, but often found in literature, particularly
young adult and childrens literature, is the zombie ruse. A surprising
number of young adult and childrens titles contain the word zombie, works
such as the 1993 work Gorgonzola Zombies in the Park. It is common to
discover by the end of many of these works that the zombies were not
actually zombies at all but the result of misunderstanding or deliberate
misleading. The zombies in Roscoes 1937 work Z is for Zombie are a
zombie ruse, and Harry Harrisons 1991 Bill, the Galactic Hero on the Planet
of the Zombie Vampires doesnt actually have any zombies in it.
The remaining five types of zombies posit the potential loss of self
and volition, thus more properly qualify as zombies. First among these is the
zombie drone, a reanimated corpse brought back for the purposes of aiding
production. These are worker zombies. Lumbering hulks, they bear no
immediate physical threat to people they encounter, but they are a reminder
that the self can be lost while the body continues to labour. Seabrook offers
an early western definition of the zombie drone:

The zombie . . . is a soulless human corpse, still dead, but

taken from the grave and endowed by sorcery with a
mechanical semblance of life - it is a dead body which is
made to walk and act and move as if it were alive. People
who have the power to do this go to a fresh grave, dig up
38 Ontological Anxiety Made Flesh
the body before it has had time to rot, galvanize it into
movement and then make it a servant or slave,
occasionally for the commission of some crime, more
often simply as a drudge around the habitation or the farm,
setting it dull heavy tasks, and beating it like a dumb beast
if it slackens.8 (Dead Men 22)

The earliest zombies of zombie literature and those in stories and

films directly inspired by Haitian mythology are primarily zombie drones.
The earliest film zombies, in films such as the 1932 White Zombie, the 1936
Revolt of the Zombies, the 1941 King of the Zombies, the 1943 Revenge of the
Zombies, and the same years release I Walked with a Zombie, and others, are
also drones who have been reanimated by voodoo to serve the will of their
masters. However, if we remove the necessity to refer to the zombie as a
zombie, and include films that have creatures that qualify as zombies in
character, though not in name, we can date the start of zombie film back to
1919 in the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,9 in which Cesare has been emptied of
self and subjugated to the will of Caligari. The film zombie irrevocably
changed with the 1968 release of George Romeros Night of the Living Dead,
in which Romero fuses the mythology of the zombie and the ghoul into the
zombie ghoul. Romeros Night gave zombies agency, a hunger for human
flesh. The significance of Romeros Night on all the zombie films that follow
cannot be overestimated. Pre-Romero, you cannot find the zombie ghoul in
film; post-Romero, you find very few zombie films that do not contain
zombie ghouls.
Like film, the earliest zombie fiction also deals with zombie drones,
in works such as the 1936 book The Whistling Ancestors. Unlike film,
zombie drones are frequent in literary works into the 1980s, with works such
as Curt Selbys 1982 I, Zombie and Peter Tremaynes 1981 Zombie!. But
under the influence of George Romeros 1978 Dawn of the Dead and the
third film of the Romero quartet, Day of the Dead in 1985, the popularity of
the zombie ghoul took centre stage in literary works, and zombie novels and
stories written in the past fifteen years are primarily about zombie ghouls.
Many of these works take the form of self-published fan fiction, works such
as Vince Churchills The Dead Shall Inherit the Earth, Mark E. Rogers The
Dead, Len Barnharts Reign of the Dead and Apocalypse End, and Gary
Wedlunds Zombies in my Hometown are a few of the more popular self-
published novels. All of these are reflections of Romeros vision.10 Zombie
novels by mainstream presses are less prevalent. Most are published by
obscure or mass-market imprints, works such as Walter Greatshells
Zombies, Briane Keenes The Rising, Philip Nutmans Wet Work, and Carlton
Mellick IIIs edgy The Baby Jesus Butt Plug.
Kevin Alexander Boon 39
Anthologies of zombie-themed stories began appearing in the
second half of the 1980s, beginning with Zombie! in 1985 (edited by Peter
Haining), which was followed by Book of the Dead in 1989 (edited by John
Skipp and Craig Spector, who published a sequel collection in 1992 under the
title Still Dead), The Mammoth Book of Zombies (edited by Stephen Jones)
and The Ultimate Zombie (edited by Byron Preiss and John Betancourt) both
published in 1993, and James Lowders edited trilogy of zombie stories, The
Book of All Flesh, The Book of More Flesh, and The Book of Final Flesh,
which were published one per year from 2001-2003.
The zombie ghoul in literature predates the zombie ghoul in film, its
first appearance occurring as early as H.P. Lovecrafts 1922 tale Herbert
West Reanimator. Though the ghoulish tendencies of the reanimated dead
are subtle, they are unquestionably present, as the following excerpt shows.

There was also that Arkham professors body which had

done cannibal things before it had been captured and thrust
unidentified into a madhouse cell at Sefton, where it beat
the walls for sixteen years.11 (231)

Lovecrafts zombie ghoul appears forty-six years before Night of the Living
Dead. But this early fusion of flesh-eating with the zombie is less global that
the type we find in Romeros films. Romeros tales imply a danger to
civilization. His protagonists struggle against zombie infestation in what has
come to be known as survival horror.
Emerging out of the zombie ghoul stories written since 1985 is a
new type of zombiethe zombie channel. The zombie channel is a result
of the need to breathe new life into what fast became mere rehash of Romero.
Writers, who were unable to leave the survival horror genre without
alienating zombie literatures primary fan base, began to explore the point of
view of the zombie. One of the best of these stories is The Other Side of
Theory by Daniel Ksenych , in which zombies eat the flesh of others in
order to download12 wisdom, to help them metamorphose into enlightened
beings. In Brian Keenes The Rising, the flesh-eating zombies are infested
with a foreign consciousness to replace the self that has been lost to death.
The dead are possessed by entities that have been waiting eons13 (30) for
the opportunity to live through the dead flesh of others. Keenes zombies are
intelligent, coordinated, and purpose driven, but they are not zombie ghosts,
as the entity that infests the dead bodies is not the self original inhabiting
those bodies. A foreign consciousness channels through the corpse. Thus,
Keenes zombies represent the same loss of self as a zombie ghoul. Lucius
Shepards 1984 work Green Eyes is particularly unique in that the spirits
occupying the reanimated dead are other identities shaped by Jungian
40 Ontological Anxiety Made Flesh
The sixth type of zombie is the tech zombie, a zombie under the
control of others, like the zombie drone, only controlled by means of some
technological device or advancement. This category includes the wives in Ira
Levins 1972 Stepford Wives, the Martian army in Kurt Vonneguts Sirens of
Titan. Vonnegut describes the process:

Their memories were cleaned out by mental-

health experts, and Martian surgeons installed radio
antennas in their skulls in order that the recruits might be
And then the recruits were given new names in
the most haphazard fashion, and were assigned to the
factories, the construction gangs, the administrative staff,
or to the Army of Mars.14 (53)

The final category of zombies is cultural zombies. Cultural

zombies are characters that embody the definition of a zombie, characters
who have lost self-identity or the capacity for volition, yet they are not
literally the resurrected dead or the technologically-altered living. They are
characters such as the zombie that Quentin P. in Joyce Carol Oatess 1995
Zombie tries to manufacture - zombies manufactured by culture. Oatess
novel draws from mainstream American culture rather than the Haitian
mysticism or Romeros ghoulish vision. Her cultural inspiration is people
such as Jeffrey Dahmer, who poured acid into holes he drilled in his victims
heads in an attempt to create a zombie he could command as a sex slave. One
of the most literate works dealing with cultural zombies is Brad Goochs
2000 novel Zombie00, narrated by a gay man who considers himself a
zombie, and defines for readers the qualities of submission and selfless
obedience that zombies possess. The man is a drone, subjugated to the will of
others, a product of cultural voodoo.
The zombie drone, zombie channel, tech zombie, zombie ghoul, and
the cultural zombie are all antithetical to human identity, therefore
monstrous. They challenge our most sacrosanct ideas of the self by
transgressing the boundary between self and other. This journey, no matter
how it is framed - in literature, film, or cultural folklore - reminds us of our
ephemeral mortality and throws our cherished notions of human privilege
into question.
Kevin Alexander Boon 41

The term originates around 1,000 C.E. (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v.
Paul De Man, Time and History in Wordsworth, Diacritics (Winter
1987): 16.
Paul De Man, 16.
Where it was the name of a spirit, a high God.
Peter Dendle, The Zombie in Haitian and Southern U.S. Folklore.
(unpublished manuscript)
William Beckford, The History of the Caliph Vathek, Project Gutenberg e-
book, transcribed by David Price from Cassell & Companys 1887 edition,
R.P. Van Wing, tudes ba-kongo (1921), trans and edited by Edwin W.
Smith in Smith, African Ideas of God: A Symposium (1950), p. 159.
William Seabrook. (1985), Dead men working in the cane fields, in: P.
Haining (ed.) Zombie.(Great Britain: Target., 1985) 22
I intentionally exclude Henrik Galeen and Paul Wegeners earlier Der
Golem (1915), because the golem, unlike the zombie, is not formerly human.
And often in need of a good copy-editor.
Howard Philips Lovecraft, Herbert West reanimator, in: Stephen. Jones
(ed.) The mammoth book of zombies. (New York: Barroll and Graf 1993).
Daniel Ksenych, The other side of theory, in: J. Lowder (ed.) The book
of all flesh. (Los Angeles: Eden Studios, 2001), 171.
Brian Keene, (2004), The rising. New York: Leisure. 30
Kurt Vonnegut, (1967), Sirens of Titan. London: Coronet 53

Beckford, William. The history of the caliph Vathek. London: Cassell and
Company, 1887.

Craig, John Huston, Black Bagdad. New York: Minton Balch,1933

De Man, Paul, Time and history in Wordsworth, Diacritics. 4-17(1987)

Dendle, Peter. The Zombie in Haitian and southern U.S. folklore.

Unpublished manuscript. 2005.
42 Ontological Anxiety Made Flesh

Goddard, Richard. E. The whistling ancestors. London: Stanly Smit, 1936.

Gooch, Brad. Zombie00. New York: Overlook, 2000

Haining, Peter. ed. Zombie! Great Britain: Target, 1985

Jones, Stephen. ed., The mammoth book of zombies. New York: Barroll and
Graf, 1993.

Keene, Brian . The rising. New York: Leisure, 2004.

Ksenych, Daniel. The other side of theory, in: J. Lowder (ed.) The book of
all flesh. Los Angeles: Eden Studios, 2001

Langelaan, G. The fly, Playboy (July, 1957).

Lger, J.N. Son histoire et ses dtracteurs. New York: Neale Publishing Co.,
Lovecraft, Howard Philips, Herbert West reanimator, in: S. Jones (ed.)
The mammoth book of zombies. 207-234. New York: Barroll and Graf, 1993..

Oates, Joyce Carol. Zombie. New York: Plume, 1995.

Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989 (ed. J. A. Simpson and E. S. C.

Weiner), Additions 1993-7 (ed. John Simpson and Edmund Weiner; Michael
Proffitt), and 3rd ed. (in progress) Mar. 2000-(ed. John Simpson). OED
Online. Oxford University Press. http://

Roscoe, Theodore. A grave must be deep. Starmont House, 1989.

Roscoe, Theodore. Z is for zombie. Starmont House, 1989

Seabrook, William. Dead men working in the cane fields, in: P. Haining
(ed.) Zombie. Great Britain: Target, 1985.

Seabrook, William. The magic island. New York: Harcourt Brace,1929

Smith, Edwin W., (ed.) African ideas of God. London, 1973.

St. John, Sir Spencer. Hayti or the black republic, London, 1889.
Kevin Alexander Boon 43

Van Wing, R.P., tudes ba-Kongo, 1921, in: E.W. Smith (trans and ed.)
Smith, African ideas of God: A symposium, 1950.

Vonnegut, Kurt. Sirens of Titan. London: Coronet, 1967.

The Zombie as Barometer of Cultural Anxiety

Peter Dendle

Although it has usually enjoyed cult rather than mainstream attention, the
zombie has nonetheless proven a resilient staple of the twentieth-century
American pantheon of cinematic monsters. Through almost seventy-five
years of evolution on the big screen, the zombie can be read as tracking a
wide range of cultural, political, and economic anxieties of American society.
Born of Haitian folklore and linked from its earliest periods to oppression,
the zombie began as a parable of the exploited worker in modern industrial
economies and of the exploited native in colonial nations. Through decades
marked by concerns over environmental deterioration, political conflict, the
growth of consumer-capitalism, and the commoditization of the body implicit
in contemporary biomedical science, the creature has served to articulate
these and other anxieties in ways that are sometimes light-hearted and witty,
sometimes dark and cynical.

Zombie, folklore, anxiety, America, movies

Zombie movie fans have been pleased to witness the recent

resurgence in the popularity of zombie movies either as major studio
productions or as movies enjoying first-run theatre distribution (28 Days
Later, 2002; Dawn of the Dead, 2004; Shaun of the Dead, 2004; Land of the
Dead, 2005). This resurgence has merely rekindled mainstream attention
once again to a unique and layered creature that, in fan websites and cult
circles, has never lost popularity. Comprehensive lists of zombie movies can
run to well over three hundred titles (depending on how a zombie is
defined) - with something like a third of these appearing since 2000 or so.
Most of the more recent titles are amateur, direct-to-DVD productions. But
the vibrant fan culture surrounding zombie fiction, videogames, and movies
attests to the enduring power and relevance of a mythological creature that
has proven itself consistently resonant with shifting cultural anxieties for over
seven decades.
Despite the efforts of some folklorists such as Elsie Parsons to
conduct legitimate research into native Haitian beliefs, the zombie first
became known to the broader American public through a handful of
sensationalistic accounts of native superstitions used to pad popular travel
literature - William Seabrooks The Magic Island being among the most
46 The Zombie As a Barometer of Cultural Anxiety
notorious.1 America was engaged in a prolonged occupation of Haiti from
1915-1934, an occupation marked by increasingly vocal and sometimes
violent resistance from the native population. Many of the marines stationed
in Haiti, upon returning to the States, freely levelled charges of cannibalism
and reported native superstitions such as the zombie. The creature was
quickly adopted by the entertainment industry following a Broadway play
and the subsequent Bela Lugosi 1932 movie White Zombie. Circumventing
the usual literary channels that gave the Frankenstein Monster and Dracula
critical legitimacy, the zombie nonetheless emerged in the 1930s as a
cinematic monster uniquely suited to address many of the social tensions of
Depression-era America.
Ghosts and revenants are known world-wide, but few are as
consistently associated with economy and labour as the shambling corpse of
Haitian vodun, brought back from the dead to toil in the fields and factories
by miserly land-owners or by spiteful houngan or bokor priests.2 In West
African religions, the original zombi was not a single concept: the term
covered a wide range of spirits and demi-god like beings, both good and evil.
This diversity survived into Haitian vodun and even into the lore of the
American South.3 The slaves who had been long supplanted from their
homelands and who eventually overthrew French colonial oppression in Saint
Domingue did so, in part, by recourse to the shared African identity evoked
by vodun. The zombie, a soul-less hulk mindlessly working at the bidding of
another, thus records a residual communal memory of slavery: of living a life
without dignity and meaning, of going through the motions.4 This image
may also have struck a chord in Depression-era America. Since its earliest
periods, America had forged individual and social values around a perpetual
shortage of available labour and the valorization of hard work, initiative, and
industry; now for the first time it was suddenly faced with a catastrophic
surplus of labour, of hands without work to do. The burned-out souls
standing in lines at soup kitchens or fruitlessly waiting in employment lines
are zombies of a sort, shells of human beings.
The 1932 film White Zombie deploys the zombie compellingly in
portraying alienation of the worker from spiritual connection with labour and
from the ability to reap reward from the product of labour. Such
mechanization of the worker in an industrialized economy fuelled the labour-
management tensions of the early decades of the twentieth century. Ongoing
struggles and rapidly expanding union membership eventually resulted in
such legislation as the 1935 National Labour Relations Act and the 1938 Fair
Labour Standards Act, following massive strikes in 1933 and 1934. It was in
this environment that zombies were introduced to the wider American public.
In White Zombie, Bela Lugosi plays Murder Legendre, a Haitian factory
owner and sorcerer who raises the dead to slave silently in his sugar cane
factory. The scene in which Beaumont (Robert Frazer) first visits the unholy
Peter Dendle 47
factory is among the most memorable of the film. The gaunt, sinewy workers
with sunken eyes shuffle in production assembly lines and around the large,
central milling vat. They are reifications of despair and hopelessness, no
more than cogs in the mighty machine themselves. A number of them drive
the central axle of the milling vat by turning the spokes of a large wheel,
plodding in perpetual circles, while all around them machine parts move
slowly and creak malevolently. For several minutes the camera lingers on this
Sisyphus-like vision of hell and futility. When confronted with the
unnaturalness of this production plant, Legendre coldly and sardonically
replies to Beaumont, They work faithfullyand they do not worry about
long hours. The film paints him as a Baron of Industry, a god-like master of
life and death who views all human relations, at the fundamental level, as
transactions to be conducted in an economy of power relations.5 At a time
when trade unions, mine and factory conditions, and fair employment issues
were central to the evolving ethic of the worker and the American workplace,
the character of Legendre must have seemed haunting indeed.
Power dynamics between owners and labourers also resurface in
other first-generation zombie movies such as the 1935 feature Ouanga (a
ouanga or wanga is a vodun charm). In this fascinating but virtually
forgotten movie - one of the few zombie movies ever to be shot in Haiti, in
fact - white plantation owner Adam (Philip Brandon), looking for his
abducted fiance, looms over two black Haitian zombies in a scene charged
with racial and historical tension. Cracking a whip after them, he orders the
helpless revenants to do his bidding, in order to consolidate his nuptials and
continue amassing his dominions. He is a foreign national come to the island
to own, to appropriate, to civilize, to command. Even native mulatto Clelie
(Fredi Washington), lighter skinned than the unfortunate revenants, orders
them around in a servile, demeaning tone. The primary plot tension results
from her inability to understand that even though her skin appears fully
white, she still has black blood in her veins and so does not merit the same
social and economic rewards as the white colonial characters. Her black
foreman, who loves her but whom she considers beneath her because of his
own native blood, tries to talk her into the sort of the sense apparently
reflective of the movies underlying ethos of miscegenation anxiety and
possession: Clelie, forget this madness. Your white skin doesnt change
whats inside you. Youre black, do you hear me, youre black. You belong
to usto me The script itself does not seem very self-conscious of the
ideologies it lays bare with such refreshing and disturbing innocence, yet in
the midst of it all the zombie stands out clearly as symbol of the
disempowered, the abject, the truly native.
The essence of the zombie at the most abstract level is supplanted,
stolen, or effaced consciousness; it casts allegorically the appropriation of
one persons will by that of another. It is no coincidence that the creature
48 The Zombie As a Barometer of Cultural Anxiety
flourished in the twentieth century, a century whose broad intellectual trends
were preoccupied with alienation. Existentialism vividly brought out
problems of solitude, of the possibility of true connections betweens
individuals, and of the very nature of the self. Zombies, as Jane Caputi puts
it, bespeak a monstrosity of consciousness.6 Zombification is the logical
conclusion of human reductionism: it is to reduce a person to body, to reduce
behaviour to basic motor functions, and to reduce social utility to raw labour.
Whether zombies are created by a vodun master or by a mad scientist, the
process represents a psychic imperialism: the displacement of one persons
right to experience life, spirit, passion, autonomy, and creativity for another
persons exploitative gain. In this sense, the zombie has served variously as a
tool of empowerment and social change, as well as one of complacent
reinforcement of the status quo, in its 75-year history as a cinematic icon.
In Depression-era and wartime zombie movies, for instance, the
zombie arguably served as a cinematic mechanism for raising awareness of
gender issues and empowering women. Zombie movies of this period
consistently depict zombified women ostensibly subservient to a
domineering male, yet not fully conquered.7 Madeline (Madge Bellamy), the
white zombie of the movie by that name, stands out from all the other
zombified natives because her will is not fully conquerable by Legendre or
by Beaumont. Beaumont has stolen her from the grave and keeps her in his
mansion, where she must go through the listless motions of an unwilling
wife. However, her soul is still connected with that of her fianc Neil (John
Harron), as revealed in a scene when two native servants observe her pining
away at the balcony. One maid comments to the other: Perhaps she
remembers something, characterizing this behaviour as unusual for a
zombie. Certainly the other zombies in the movie - all natives and all men -
do not display such resilience of spirit. The follow-up to White Zombie, the
1936 film Revolt of the Zombies, pursues the motif of an inviolable core at
the centre of female autonomy. With regard to a similar love triangle, a
knowing character informs zombie lord Armand Louque (Dean Jagger),
You fool yourself with the delusion that you can make this woman love you.
You cant do it.
Though the theme of a zombie woman under the control of a male
love interest appears in a number of early movies such as the 1943 I Walked
with a Zombie and Voodoo Man dating from 1944, it is pushed to its furthest
in Revenge of the Zombies released in 1943. John Carradine plays Dr. Von
Altermann, a Nazi spy conducting zombie-raising experiments in the
Louisiana bayou on behalf of the Third Reich. He hopes to raise an army of
invulnerable living-dead soldiers to carry Germany to victory, but so far has
only practiced the technique on a handful of sorry locals and - much to the
surprise of a visiting Nazi emissary - on his own wife. Lila (Veda Ann Borg)
is now a mindless automaton, who wanders around the surrounding swamp
Peter Dendle 49
aimlessly in a mesmeric stupor. He announces imperiously, What greater
destiny could my wife have than to serve me - and through me, our country.
He is surprised, however, to find that she nonetheless utters some faint words
of resistance (Nono), and he unabashedly responds, Whats this?
Your brain works independently of mine? Von Altermanns shock was
perhaps shared, at a certain level, by many thousands of American soldiers
who, even before returning from the war, no doubt sensed that their wives
were becoming accustomed to autonomy and (through their participation in
factories, offices, and other mobilization efforts) financial independence. At
the movies climax, Lila leads the native zombies in a domestic revolt against
Von Altermann, and when he proclaims with patriarchal distain, You dare to
set your will against mine? she responds, in a mocking caricature of her
wedding vows, I doyou cant control me. These movies as a whole deny
the possibility of complete containment; the repressed anima of the zombie
woman surpasses its prescribed boundaries, just as women in society were
surpassing traditional gender roles.
Wartime zombie movies (ca. 1941-45) largely defused the potential
for horror by casting the zombie as window dressing in horror-comedies.
Hollywood had coped with the Depression by making movies of the rich and
glamorous singing and dancing, and it coped with the war by making upbeat
movies of unequivocal tactical victories brought about through plucky
American savvy and grit. The zombie had little place other than atmospheric
backdrop in the wartime horror-comedies such as 1940s The Ghost Breakers,
1941s King of the Zombies or 1945s Zombies on Broadway. Here they
become the butt of jokes - such as the endless stream of quips by talented
African-American actor Mantan Moreland in King of the Zombies and
Revenge of the Zombies - and thus they serve essentially the same scapegoat
function that African-Americans do in Hollywood movies of the same period
and that the Japanese do in wartime cartoons: to show how incompetent and
self-defeating non-white, non-Americans are. A notable exception is RKOs
1943 piece I Walked with a Zombie, a sensitive and poetic vision of a
European colonial aristocracy atrophying amidst its own corruption on a
small Caribbean island.
By the 1950s, the zombie was well poised to embody Americas
worst fear: invasion from within. Invaders from Mars-1953 and Invasion of
the Body Snatchers-1956 portray middle-class American households
suddenly turned on themselves, as intruders from other worlds have occupied
the human bodies, annihilated their personalities, and modelled their outward
behaviours on alien ideologies of homogeny (ideologies that are, not
coincidentally, reminiscent of popular caricatures of communism). Likewise,
the corpses raised and animated in Creature with the Atom Brain-1955, Plan
Nine from Outer Space-1958, and Invisible Invader -1959 are frightening for
the very reason that they do not look like enemies at all, from the outside:
50 The Zombie As a Barometer of Cultural Anxiety
they look disturbingly like our co-workers, neighbours, friends, and families.
The script tells us that radiation, aliens from outer space, or some other cause
is to blame, but what we actually see on the screen as the monsters
throughout most of the film are middle-class Americans, dressed in suits and
ties, with unthinking unity of purpose and identity. Fear of the authentic
Haitian zombie, as Maya Deren explains it, here enjoys one of its last gasps:
While the Haitian does not welcome any encounter with a zombie, his real
dread is that of being made into one himself.8 After the 1960s, the zombie
(progressively monstrous in appearance and behaviour) deviated
increasingly, in certain respects, from the conceptual foundation that made
this existential symbol such a provocative icon in the first place. It had other
places to go, however.
George A. Romeros 1968 offering Night of the Living Dead, a
chilling parable of society in civil collapse and of the nuclear family in a state
of intestinal warfare, almost single-handedly re-defined the zombie. Along
with Romeros follow-up Dawn of the Dead, Night has continued to enjoy
critical and academic attention unparalleled by any other zombie movies.
Night has been commonly read, for instance, as encoding such issues as racial
tension, Vietnam-era military critique, and nuclear age anxiety.9 Even beyond
the broader social perspectives, however, what stands out about Night is its
aesthetic of the domestic space and its ethos of individual human relations.
Ben (Duane Jones) struggles to barricade a rural farmhouse against the
escalating zombie apocalypse by breaking furniture down, foraging through
closets and drawers, and boarding up all the doors and windows. Much of the
narrative attention is thus devoted not to attacks or human-zombie conflicts,
but to re-examining the middle-class household of heartland America. Every
household object is scrutinized functionally, its old significance forgotten and
a new, purely instrumental, one inscribed based on the drear re-envisioning
of the house as a besieged shelter. Following the suburbanization of America
in the 50s and 60s, houses have become defensive: they keep the neighbours
out, they conceal, they separate. (In his fourth zombie film, Land of the Dead
[2005], Romero pushes this theme further when he takes a swipe at affluent
gated communities.) Here the domestic space has no more cultural
significance than a cave does to a troglodyte or a shell to a barnacle. In the
desperate microcosm of the farmhouse in Night, people are viewed as
objects, to be evaluated on the basis of immediate utility rather than on
sentimental traditions of family attachment or the value of social
interconnections. It is this stark Nietzschean allegory in which people are
reduced to functionality, and in which individuals are exposed as monads of
self-interest in perpetual, feverish struggle with one another, that remains
among the strongest running threads of zombie movies throughout the latter
half of the twentieth century.
Peter Dendle 51
Romero reinvigorated the genre again with Dawn of the Dead in
1979, a movie whose social commentary has been lost on few critics.10 The
shopping mall setting proves fertile ground for the aimless milling about of
hundreds of zombies, now recast as mindless consumers, window shoppers,
and trend remoras. It is not the domestic household that is under fire here, but
American consumer-capitalism itself. The seer concrete mall edifice, filled
with the lavish bounty of a hundred unguarded stores all for the plundering,
proves solid enough against zombies for a time, but is ultimately barren of
meaning or broader context. The small band of refugees hole up in the mall
and enjoy its rich variety of department stores and boutiques: they ice skate,
try on clothes, stage formal dinners, ransack the cash registers, and even
propose marriage to each other, but it becomes apparent how vacuous all
such gestures are in the absence of a genuine audience: there is no dynamic
network of friends, family, or society. Their pageant of affluent abundance
and stability is a farce. In a capitalist economy fuelled by the pathological
need for continual growth - as periodically brought to popular attention
through the reporting of holiday-season sales figures, for instance - stability
comes across rather as stagnation, and it becomes clear that the characters
will only survive the rat race they are inadvertently mimicking by staying
on the move. The closing shot of the movie shows them leaving the mall in a
helicopter, commenting bleakly that they are low on fuel. Like many highly
mobile professionals of the late 1970s, theirs is a state of being perpetually
uprooted, encouraged to leave one place and move to another as soon as they
feel half-way comfortable and settled (an anxiety compounded, in both the
movie and in 1970s America, by concerns over fuel availability and the
increasingly evident trap of dependence on a non-renewable resource). The
third instalment of Romeros 1985 series, Day of the Dead, even ends with
the heroes fishing and relaxing on a pristine beach, as though finally reaping
the reward that travel agencies peddle and that investment firm commercials
promise to hard-working Americans for their golden years.
Dawn instantly sparked a torrent of delectably slow-paced zombie
apocalypses, especially in France, Spain, and Italy. Audience expectations of
horror in America, however, were rapidly changing: by the mid 1980s, movie
goers wanted flashy special effects, intense violence and gore, lively scoring,
witty one-liners, and a tongue-in-cheek attitude. Michael Jacksons 1983
Thriller video helped usher in this period, whose most notable successes are
Return of the Living Dead-1985 and Re-Animator-1985. Countless campy
spoofs appeared with tedious frequency, also, sporting outlandish titles such
as Chopper Chicks in Zombietown-1989 and The Gore-Met Zombie Chef
from Hell-1986. In these narratives, the zombies are (as in the 1940s) often
relegated to secondary roles, serving as the butt of jokes and playing comic
relief. This may suggest that much of the zombies cultural work has
diminished in significance during this period. However, the fact that mid-80s
52 The Zombie As a Barometer of Cultural Anxiety
splatter horror focused specifically on gore - on fragmenting bodies into their
component tissues and organs - meant that the zombie leant itself particularly
well to some of the most enduring and memorable cinematic themes of the
If Romero established the principle that zombies can only be
deanimated by destroying the head, Return of the Living Dead and Re-
Animator problematized that notion. In those movies, all the separate
fragments and tissues are independently animated, and by shooting, hacking,
pummelling, gouging, slicing, and puncturing a zombie, all one really
accomplishes is to increase the number - and the total surface area - of the
enemy. Much of the fun in zombie movies by this point is, after all, to come
up with creative new ways of offing them in the messiest way possible. There
is notable relish, in fact, in directing violence against the human body in its
clinical aspect (many of these movies are set in sanitized, institutional
settings like hospitals rather than misty graveyards). Since the audience
knows that the zombies are usually not sentient and in most cases do not feel
pain, it is free to enjoy the spectacle of wanton destruction of human bodies
rather than human beings. The Weekend at Bernies franchise (the second of
which stars a zombie) capitalized on this source of entertainment; the comedy
derives from watching a corpse placed in unlikely situations and then seeing
it abused creatively. It is a curious spectacle implying a curious sort of
audience enjoyment. By the 80s, it was becoming clear that medical advances
were creating new challenges for society: such technologies as prosthetic
limbs, artificial hearts, and organ transplants were increasingly raising
questions of what it is to be human. The fear of being kept artificially alive
beyond health, happiness, or social utility became more and more vivid in a
population with a stable retirement age but ever-increasing life expectancy.
What Linda Badley notes of Romeros films becomes a fortiori relevant for
zombie movies of the late 80s and the 90s:

Romeros metonymy in part responds to anxieties about a

health care system of seemingly reversed priorities when
the old and the wealthy (the dead) cannibalize the young
and powerless (the living) for healthy organs or fetal

These anxieties resonate throughout zombie movies such as The Chilling

(1989), in which a cryogenics lab intended to keep the terminally frozen alive
until such future time as they can be resuscitated turns into a veritable zombie
factory. In the midst of a materialistic decade whose profit-seeking,
individualistic values are evident in Michael Foxs ambitious character Alex
from the 1982-89 series Family Ties, in the pimping-for-Junior Achievement
plot of Risky Business-1983, and in the popular bumper sticker Live Fast,
Peter Dendle 53
Die Young, and Leave a Beautiful Corpse, the zombie perhaps summed up
everything that was unacceptable about the human body to DINKs, yuppies,
and other 80s overachievers: aging, skin issues, unwanted body fluids,
limited mobility, a failing mind. It is not death that people are afraid of any
longer, it is impoverished appearance, old age, and ugliness.
Following the 80s, the zombie rapidly dropped out of mainstream
cinema. The details of zombie lore were by now well known and thus fair
game for parody in The Simpsons and South Park, but major studio offerings
centering on zombies or on a zombie invasion virtually ceased. The zombie
had established too strong a cult following to suffer much from this hiatus,
however: it was kept alive by new media, most notably through online
communities and through video games such as Resident Evil. Furthermore,
the wide-scale availability of affordable filmmaking (e.g., home videography
equipment and desktop video editing software) and the possibilities afforded
by the internet for marketing DVDs created an opportunity for the
proliferation of low-budget, backyard movies. This is testament to the
enduring folkloric importance of these narratives to a community of fans and
filmmakers who appreciate the austere apocalypticism and the minimalist
aesthetic of mindless, nameless hordes assaulting a few sane individuals in
the middle of a world gone horrible.
It is in this context that survivalists and gun fetishists have found a
protective narrative cover amidst the zombie fan community. Gun
enthusiasts proudly post jpegs of their arsenals to other interested parties on
online message boards, and discuss strategies for defence and fortification in
an imagined post-apocalyptic countryside. The line between reality and
fiction often seems blurred in some of these individualistic communities,
which (drawing inspiration from Max Brooks successful and imaginative
2003 book The Zombie Survival Guide) argue about ranged vs. close-quarter
weapons, fuel types, and defensible terrains. The Zombie Squad, for
instance, hosts online forums, survivalist workshops, and even an annual
outdoor retreat to sharpen skills and share techniques. Many of these
enthusiasts scour headlines for possible reports of potential zombie
outbreaks, such as suspicious media accounts that mention unusual bite
marks or other unexplained wounds, that can be read as implying government
or media cover-ups, or that refer to toxic or biochemical material leakages.
While most of these zombie fans state explicitly that zombies do not really
exist at the current time, they admit that zombie outbreaks are a possibility or
at the very least represent a useful model for general emergency
preparedness. As one member posted online, I dont believe in supernatural
zombies but I think plague mutants are a definite possibility. Under the
rubric of zombie preparedness, members discuss the relative virtues of Glock
19s vs. SIG 2009s, the utility of pole arms or trench spike knives (in arms
length vs. locked melee situations), and useful items for a complete first aid
54 The Zombie As a Barometer of Cultural Anxiety
kit (including dental pulling and filling gear, body stapling/suturing
equipment, and laryngoscope with endo-tracheal tubes). It is clear that the
zombie holocausts vividly painted in movies and video games have tapped
into a deep-seated anxiety about society, government, individual protection,
and our increasing disconnectedness from subsistence skills. In twenty-first
century America - where the bold wilderness frontier that informed American
mythic consciousness for four centuries has given way to increasingly
centralized government amidst a suburban landscape now quilted with strip
malls and Walmarts - there is ample room to romanticize a fresh world
purged of ornament and vanity, in which the strong survive, and in which
society must be rebuilt anew. Post-apocalyptic zombie worlds are fantasies of
liberation: the intrepid pioneers of a new world trek through the shattered
remnants of the old, trudging through the shells of building and the husks of
It is not without some justice, then, that the resurgence of zombie
movie popularity in the early 2000s has been linked with the events of
September 11, 2001. The world may have breathed a collective sigh of relief
following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, but apocalypticism has always
been engrained into the archetypal psyche of any society defining itself - as
all mortal endeavours must - in the context of history and time. The
possibility of wide-scale destruction and devastation which 9-11 brought
once again into the communal consciousness found a ready narrative
expression in the zombie apocalypses which over thirty years had honed
images of desperation subsistence and amoral survivalism to a fine edge.
By this point, though, the zombie has come a long way from the
robotic automaton of early cinema. No longer deadpan, stolid, and unfeeling,
the zombie is not an image of humanity stripped of passion, soul, or spirit.
The zombie has become enraged, feral, frantic, and insatiable: it is a gutted,
animalistic core of hunger and fury.12 It is not homogeneity - not the
levelling of individuality - that scares us anymore, then, if this image is read
symptomatically: it is rather the lack of control, dignity, direction that scares
us. The contemporary zombie embodies a wanton, unfettered pursuit of
immediate physical cravings, a fear of raw power. There has always been a
strong existential component to the zombie figure, but it has become, in
recent years, increasingly nihilistic. It is the sign of an over-leisurely society
lacking in broader spiritual or communal purpose, left to the impulses of its
unchecked power and its desires for consumption.
Peter Dendle 55

William Seabrook; for folklore see Parsons.
As Maximilien Laroche writes, The figure of the zombi represents the
African view of death as it was transformed within the Haitian context. He is
the symbol of the slave, the alienated man robbed of his will, reduced to
slavery, forced to work for a master. This explains his double economic and
religious significance (55).
. For West Africa and Haiti, see Hans-W. Ackermann and Jeanine Gauthier.
Mimi Sheller meditates on the evolving exploitation of the zombie image
from folklore to film and back again: from a dread memory of slavery into a
new idiom of forced labour, and then from a ghoulish monster in Hollywood
movies they slip back into Haitian understandings of the US occupation
(146). For American imperialism and White Zombie see also Williams.
Edward Lowry and Richard deCordova observe, The zombie film enacts
quite literally what in other films is represented only by implication: the link
between character alliances and property relations (351).
Jane Caputi, Films of the Nuclear Age. Journal of Popular Film and
Television 16 (1988): 100-107.
See Ellen Draper. Zombie Women when the Gaze is Male. Wide Angle 10
(1988): 52-62.
Maya Deren, Divine Horsemen: Voodoo Gods of Haiti (1953). (New York:
Chelsea House, 1970), 42. Wade Davis states the point more bluntly: the
fear in Haiti is not of zombies, but rather of becoming a zombie (9, and cf.
For zombie movies and late-60s social tensions such as race and war
protest, see Hoberman and Rosenbaum, ch. 5; for race in particular see
Lightning; for Vietnam, see Higashi; and for nuclear anxiety see Caputi.
For a sustained reading of Night as well as Dawn, see Gregory Waller.
Badley, 75.
For a more detailed overview of the cinematic zombies evolution in
appearance and behaviour, see the Introduction to Peter Dendles chapter in
this volume.

Ackermann, Hans-W. and Jeanine Gauthier. The Ways and Nature of the
Zombi. Journal of American Folklore 104, 1991.
56 The Zombie As a Barometer of Cultural Anxiety
Badley, Linda. Film, Horror, and the Body Fantastic. Westport, CT:
Greenwood Press, 1995.

Caputi, Jane. Films of the Nuclear Age. Journal of Popular Film and
Television 16, 1988.

Davis, Wade. Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie.

Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988.

Dendle, Peter. The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia. Jefferson, NC: McFarland &
Co., 2001.

Deren, Maya. Divine Horsemen: Voodoo Gods of Haiti (1953). New York:
Chelsea House, 1970.

Draper, Ellen. Zombie Women when the Gaze is Male. Wide Angle 10
(1988): 52-62.

Higashi, Sumiko. Night of the Living Dead: A Horror Film about the
Horrors of the Vietnam Era. In From Hanoi to Hollywood: The Vietnam
War in American Film, ed. Linda Dittmar and Gene Michaud, 175-188.
Rutgers University Press, 1990.

Hoberman, J. and Jonathan Rosenbaum. Midnight Movies. New York: Harper

& Row, 1983.

Laroche, Maximilien. The Myth of the Zombi. In Exile and Tradition:

Studies in African and Caribbean Literature, ed. Rowland Smith, 44-61. New
York: Africana Publishing Co./Dalhousie University Press, 1976.

Lightning, Robert. Interracial Tensions in Night of the Living Dead.

Cineaction! 53 (2000): 22-29.

Lowry, Edward and Richard deCordova. Enunciation and the Production of

Horror in White Zombie. In Planks of Reason: Essays on the Horror Film,
ed. Barry Keith Grant, 346-389. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1984.

Parsons, Elsie. Folk-Lore of the Antilles, French and English, 3 vols. New
York: G.E. Stechert & Co., 1933-43.

Seabrook, William. The Magic Island. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Co.,
Peter Dendle 57
Sheller, Mimi. Consuming the Caribbean: From Arawaks to Zombies.
London and New York: Routledge, 2003.

Waller, Gregory. The Living and the Undead: From Bram Stokers
Dracula to Romeros Dawn of the Dead. Urbana: University of Illinois
Press, 1986.

Williams, Tony. White Zombie: Haitian Horror. Jump Cut 28 (1983): 18-
Section Two

The Monster and the Political

(Once they get into politics you cant get rid of them)
Dracula as Ethnic Conflict: The Technologies of
Humanitarian Intervention in the Balkans during the
1999 NATO Bombing of Serbia and Kosovo

Neda Atanasoski

This article considers the U.S.-led NATO bombing of Serbia and Kosovo in
1999 and suggests that the gothic novel provides the narrative within which
the U.S. role in Eastern European affairs is represented. U.S. political and
media discourses surrounding NATOs Operation Allied Force recast the
Dracula narrative to locate the threat to Western military and media
technologies in the primordial ethnic conflicts of the Balkans, while
inscribing the U.S. as a space of human rights. Highlighting political and
media representations of ethnic conflict in the Balkans, the article connects
the U.S. self-understanding of having overcome its past of racial inequality
and of being a democracy rooted in diversity to its foreign policy that
establishes its right to intervene in regions troubled by ethnic intolerance
thereby displacing domestic racial anxieties through its humanitarian
projects around the globe.

War and the Monstrous, Technologies of the Monstrous, Media and
Monstrosity, Dracula, Imperialism, Balkanism, Humanitarianism, Ethnic
conflict, Ethnic cleansing, Multiculturalism

We are pledged to set the world free. Our toil must be in silence, and our
efforts all in secret; for in this enlightened age, when men believe not even
what they see, the doubting of wise men would be his greatest strength. It
would be at once his sheath and his armour, and his weapons to destroy us,
his enemies, who are willing to peril even our own souls for the safety of the
one we love - for the good of mankind, and for the honour and glory of God.
- Van Helsing in Bram Stokers Dracula, 279

This article will pursue the uncanny associations between the

Western racializing discourse of balkanism and the deployment of gothic
imagery in the U.S. figuration of the Balkans as a space of perpetual ethnic
conflict during NATOs March 24-June 10 1999 bombing of Serbia and
Kosovo, dubbed Operation Allied Force. I argue that U.S. political and
62 Dracula as Ethnic Conflict
media discourses recast the gothic narrative exemplified by Bram Stokers
19th century British novel Dracula to locate the threat to Western rationality
and progress in the undead ethnic conflicts of the Balkans, while inscribing
the U.S. and the West as spaces of universal human rights that have
overcome the problem of racial strife with modernity. My analysis of
contemporary U.S. political and media discourses on humanitarian
intervention in Serbia and Kosovo highlights the parallels between these
discourses and Draculas privileging of new technologies and documentation
as the narrative modes of imperial modernity.
NATOs Operation Allied Force was a war based in the extreme
technological disparity between NATO airpower and Yugoslav ground
forces.1 Because NATOs campaign was exclusively aerial, in spite of flying
over 31,000 missions, there was not a single Western alliance casualty. While
NATO pilots undertook minimal risk by maintaining a safe distance at
15,000 feet and deploying smart bombs and missiles, about 10,000 Yugoslav
soldiers and 1,500 civilians were killed.2 Additionally, NATO bombings so
exacerbated the dire situation of the ethnic Albanian refugees in Kosovo that
by May of 1999 over half a million people were displaced.3 NATO made use
of the U.S. Department of Defense Advanced Concept Technology, relying
on remotely piloted unmanned surveillance aircraft such as the Predator,
systems designed to detect camouflaged enemy targets through Precision
Targeting Identification, and Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites that
guide missiles to designated enemy targets.4
The daily televised spectacle of primordial ethnic violence in the
Balkans not only depicted the region as monstrous, but it called upon
Western spectators to save the Balkans from further bloodshed by availing
themselves of the superior technologies available to them. I suggest that
humanitarianism in this sense enacts the imperial gothic narrative in that it
generates monstrous otherness (ethnic conflict) through its own cultural
discourses even as it proclaims the desire to vanquish it.5 During NATOs
bombing of Serbia and Kosovo, the contradictions inherent in Western
attempts to seamlessly merge humanitarianism and imperial violence
exploded, recalling the unhallowed dead that haunt Western modernity. The
vampire, who refuses to die for good and periodically re-emerges from the
dead in order to drink and spill blood, is a figure around which I develop my
reading of dominant Western political and media discourses that narrated the
1990s civil wars in the Balkans as the ancient and unfinished ethnic
violence that has always troubled this region. Furthermore, the concept of the
undead centrally informs my understanding of contemporary justifications
for the emergent formation of U.S. imperial sovereignty, for which
Operation Allied Force set a precedent; the contemporary manifestation of
U.S. imperialism makes evident that the Western desire to violently civilize
the pre-modern world also has not died.
Neda Atanasoski 63
In his article Vampires Like Us, Tomislav Longinovi has pointed
out that as a creature of history, the unfortunate count [Dracula] is formed
by the colonial gaze of the West, which senses its own bloodthirsty past.6 He
argues that in the contemporary context the gothic imaginary functions as a
time-delayed reflection of past traumas of European collectivities, and this
image is then projected onto the serbs through the narratives of global news
networks as they recount their Balkan histories in real time.7 Longinovi
concludes that the emergence of the serbs is a sign of the new racism
without race, a racism that is couched in the progressive language of
human rights, but one that nevertheless perpetuates the enemy within an
Other Europe.8 Maria Todorova has shown that Western popular and
political discourses have over time relegated the Balkans to the status of the
other in Europe as a region that represents the incomplete self that has
yet to be enlightened.9 In the Western imaginary, the Balkans have come to
permanently embody the im/possibility of transition from East to West, from
primitive to enlightened, and from barbaric to benevolent. Western depictions
of the Balkans during the transitional post-Cold War period thus reveal
more about shifts in the Euro-American self-perception than they do about
the human landscape in the countries of the Balkan Peninsula. Drawing on
Longinovis insights into the gothic re-figuration of the Balkans in the
1990s Western imaginary, as well as on Todorovas work on balkanism, I
argue that the U.S. justified its imperial sovereignty during Operation Allied
Force by displacing its own racist history in its racializing discourse about
the Balkans.
In the 1990s, U.S. politicians and the media promoted a post-Cold
War vision of race as a sign of cultural diversity that functioned in tandem
with the discourse of ethnic conflict and Western humanitarianism in the
Balkans to underwrite U.S. global interventionism as a moral force that
spreads freedom and democracy. The emergence of multiculturalism as the
predominant mode through which to envision a pluralist democracy during
the 1980s and 1990s in the U.S. differed from the earlier European concept of
the ethnic nation state. In the aftermath of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, when
citizens in the U.S. were granted equality under the law, the racial narrative
in the U.S. became one of progress in which the nation had supposedly
overcome its past of illiberal racial prejudice and in which racial difference
was re-written as cultural diversity. The development of the U.S. self-
understanding as a multicultural democracy in the 1990s also depended on
contrasting U.S. diversity, a symbol of civilization, modernity, and
freedom, with the so-called primordial ethnic conflicts in the Balkans, a
symbol of pre-modern, tribal, and violent formations based in blood and
belonging.10 In this context, the monstrosity of ethnic conflict that reminded
the U.S. of its own past of Native American genocide, slavery, and nativist
violence could be overcome by deploying the civilizing technologies of the
64 Dracula as Ethnic Conflict
U.S.-led Western humanitarian imperialism to stop the bloodshed in the
The focus on ethnic conflict as the foremost sign of non-Western
violence in the 1990s exemplified the displacement of anxieties about
unresolved racial tensions at home that continued to visibly erupt, as they did
during the L.A. riots in 1992. Tim Allen has argued that the popularity of
ethnicity as a concept that could explain the motivating factors of post-
Cold War conflicts in the non-Western world followed the trends of official
multiculturalism in the West, which promoted the idea of cultural difference
based in geographic descent while eschewing the concept race, which
implied biological hierarchy.11 While the language of ethnicity and culture
clash used to explain ethnic conflict in the Balkans certainly borrowed the
terms of Western multiculturalism, there was nevertheless an important
difference in their connotation. As John Bowen suggests, the cauldron
image of bubbling ethnonationalist sentiments that were sure to boil
over unless suppressed by strong states contrasted with the image of the
American melting pot.12 At the same time that ethnic difference was
naturalized and essentialized in the context of non-Western conflicts, in
which difference amongst peoples was seen to be rooted in blood and the
wild landscape, ethnic or racial diversity in the context of the
multicultural West was seen as a sign of cultural progress and of civilization.
What distinguished NATOs Operation Allied Force from earlier
humanitarian interventions to end ethnic conflict such as those in Bosnia
and Rwanda is that, for the first time since the Third World independence
struggles, the use of Western military force was explicitly understood to have
imperialist objectives. In his recent book Empire Lite, Michael Ignatieff, a
Harvard Professor of Human Rights and a prominent North American public
intellectual, described empire as the necessary precondition for democracy in
the contemporary global order.13 Relying on Bosnia, Kosovo, and
Afghanistan as his case studies, Ignatieff argues that present-day empire is
justified in taking a humanitarian guise. In his view, modern U.S.
imperialism embodies the moral and spiritual force that brings about
reconciliation amongst former enemies.14 Ignatieffs enthusiastic
interpretation of war technologies, which, in his words, allowed for the first
time military means [to be] used to create a humanitarian space, validates
Western violence as enlightened.15
In my reading of imperial gothic narrative based on Stokers
Dracula that framed the Balkans as pre-modern I suggest that Western
civilization continues to be troubled by its own histories of slavery,
imperialism, and institutionalized racism whose legacies have not died.
Indeed, these histories are constitutive of modern Western epistemes through
which the West apprehends the rest of the world. As Avery Gordon has
observed, the post-modern, late-capitalist, postcolonial world represses and
Neda Atanasoski 65
projects its ghosts or phantoms in similar intensities, if not entirely in the
same forms, as the older world did.16 Haunted by legacies of their racist
past, the U.S. and its Western European allies displaced ongoing racial
anxieties by opposing their humanitarian presence in the Balkans to the pre-
modern barbarism of ethnic cleansing by which the region came to be
known. Yet even as Western politicians and the media repressed and
projected their own past of racism, violence, and even the Holocaust onto
the Balkans through their rationalizing political, media, and military
technologies, the failure of these mechanisms to completely bury the
memories of Western racial violence demonstrated that, to cite Bram Stokers
Dracula, the old centuries had, and have, powers of their own which mere
modernity cannot kill.17

1. Gothic Technologies of Race and Empire in Bram Stokers

Bram Stokers 1897 novel Dracula is the foremost gothic narrative
that imagines the Balkans as a dangerous space of racial mixture and
impurity that threatens the British imperial metropole. Stokers novelistic
representation of the Transylvanian Count who encroaches on European
modernity dramatizes the imperative to use science and technology, the
cornerstones of the Western idea of civilization, in order to enlighten,
develop, and command pre-modern spaces represented in the Balkans. While
Stokers Dracula can be read as contributing to British imperial discourses
that justified British expansion into Asia and Africa as benevolent, his novel
also portrayed the ambiguity inherent in modernizing imperatives. In Dracula
the ideal of Western civilization is disrupted by the vampire, the figure for
Eastern European tradition and pre-modernity. The undead vampire refuses
to remain dead and constantly re-emerges at the very heart of the modern,
civilized West. This unhallowed interference is both spatial, since Dracula
passes unnoticed into London, and temporal, since ancient superstitions and
non-modern forms of knowledge have the power to interrupt scientific and
technological progress. Ultimately Stokers tale does affirm Western progress
through Draculas destruction at the hands of Jonathan Harker and the
alliance of British, Dutch, and American vampire hunters. The Western
alliance prepared for their eventual victory by deploying modern scientific
methods to forever bury the pre-modern horrors represented in the figure of
Dracula. However, as numerous Dracula scholars have pointed out, the
adaptability of the Dracula narrative, which has been made into countless
literary, stage, and filmic adaptations, is a testament to modernitys
unfinished project that has kept the West ever-vigilant of others that might
re-emerge from the dead to strike at the heart of civilization.18
In Stokers Dracula, the Counts vampirism originates in the
violence of imperial conquest and the clash of civilizations in which the
66 Dracula as Ethnic Conflict
peoples and races of the Balkans have become hopelessly mixed. The
Counts story of his race, which he recounts to Jonathan Harker, tells of a
people who have unsuccessfully attempted to defend their frontiers against
multiple invaders and who have ultimately fallen under the Islamic yolk.
Stephen Arata situates Stokers Dracula in the context of British politics of
1880s and 1890s; at this time, the Eastern Question became prominent in
the British imaginary through extensive newspaper coverage of the Turkish
genocide of Armenians and the gradual decline of the Ottoman Empire. Arata
argues that the historical context in which Stoker imagined the Transylvanian
Count Dracula suggests that in the novel, vampires are intimately linked to
military conquest and to the rise and fall of empires.19 He points out that
since Draculas very existence as the monstrous undead follows in [the]
wake of imperial decay, Stoker makes the vampire myth bear the weight
of the cultures fears over its declining status.20 Since the rise of the modern
British Empire coincided with Ottoman decline, the British fear of racial
intermixture was projected onto the Ottoman space and understood as the
cause of Eastern troubles. Arata further explains that in Dracula, racial
intermixture, which was symbolized in the vampires need to drink and
exchange blood, follows in the wake of imperial conquest. This is confirmed
by the Count himself who proclaims that [in] his homeland there is
hardly a foot of soil that has not been enriched by the blood of men,
patriots or invaders.21 In this connection, the strength of the British Empire
hinges on maintaining racial purity.
Stokers Dracula can be read dramatizing the merging of technology
and documentation as the narrative modes in the Western imperial
methodology for comprehending, apprehending and producing modernitys
monstrous others. Stokers Dracula takes the form of multiple narrative
voices that gradually reveal the full horror of the undead Counts threat to the
British Empire and, in particular, to British womanhood upon which he
preys. The novel assembles a collage of journal entries originally written in
shorthand, newspaper accounts, telegrams, and phonograph dictations, all of
which are transcribed by the competent new woman Mina Harker on her
typewriter. Without the new technologies of the Victorian era, such an
extensive collection of textual evidence would have been impossible; for
instance, shorthand notation used by both Mina and Jonathan Harker was a
new efficient method of notation, the Dictaphone into which Dr. Seward
dictated his journal entries represented the technological capability to record
voices, and the typewriter allowed Mina, even when on the road, to speedily
collate evidence of Draculas existence and evidence that legitimized his
ultimate destruction. In addition to these technologies of documentation, the
technologies of communication, such as the telegraph, and transportation,
such as the efficient British rail system, represented the possibility of
instantaneously transmitting knowledge and information as well as of the
Neda Atanasoski 67
Western ability to master great distances. The vampire hunters use of these
modern technologies enabled them to gain insight into ancient superstitions
and to pre-empt the Count in their race back to Transylvania. Their defeat of
Dracula therefore enacts the technological vanquishing of the centuries-old,
undead, and inhuman Count.
Draculas narrative is structured as a set of documents that provide
evidence of the Transylvanian Counts undead existence and of the horrors
he commits. The collected texts derived from the vampire hunters method of
keeping detailed journals and transcripts of their experiences serve as a
weapon by which modern knowledge banishes the supernatural, or that which
it cannot explain away. Thomas Richards has noted that textual archives were
central for building and imagining empire in Britain.22 He argues that because
in a very real sense, theirs was a paper empire, turn of the century British
fiction both (re)presented and (re)produced the unprecedented alliance
between power and knowledge.23 The assembled papers in Stokers novel
need to first document the vampire hunters knowledge of Dracula in order to
justify his destruction in the name of protecting Western modernity against
the horrors of the past. The documents thus exonerate the vampire hunters
and legitimize their vigilantism.
The technological advances and textual documentation dramatized
in Dracula provide an interpretive frame through which the modern Western
subject apprehended the monstrous other. By producing and reproducing the
monstrous, however, the Western subject could see the horrors of its self
reflected in the other. The vampire hunters ultimate recourse to superstition
and tradition, which Van Helsing declares is the only way to defeat the
Count, reflects the limits of their new technologies. Furthermore, their
triplicate copies of textual evidence documenting Draculas attack on
Western civilization end up reproducing the monster they sought to eradicate.
In other words, Dracula is a threat to the modern imperial order because his
monstrosity is a product of modernity itself; both fundamentally modern and
horrifically pre-modern, Dracula is a reflection of the limits of European
power, knowledge, and authority.

2. Multicultural Humanitarianism: The Politics of Enlightened

Addressing the nation on his last night as president, Bill Clinton
asked U.S. citizens to remember the successes of NATOs air strikes against
Serbia and Kosovo. He said: We achieve our aims by defending our values
and leading the forces of freedom and peace We must remember that
America cannot lead the world unless here at home we weave the threads of
our coat of many colours into the fabric of one America.24 Clintons
reminiscences about the U.S. leadership of Operation Allied Force not only
interpreted U.S. national interests to stand for universal values such as
68 Dracula as Ethnic Conflict
freedom and peace, but his thoughts on Kosovo reaffirmed that over a decade
after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the U.S. still held its rightful position as
leader of the world. Using a common metaphor for multiculturalism, the
image of the interwoven threads of many colours, Clintons justification of
U.S. global interventionism defined and upheld a contrast between U.S.
domestic race relations and ethnic conflict abroad. In this way, U.S.
multiculturalism re-wrote U.S. militarism as a benevolent force that spreads
diversity and tolerance around the globe.
Affirming the U.S. as a space of racial harmony that had earned the
right to lead the free world by overcoming its own racist foundations through
capitalist development meant, first and foremost, locating the Balkans as a
space of conflict that represented the antithesis of contemporary U.S.
multicultural ideals. In a series of speeches and commentaries designed to
raise U.S. public support for Operation Allied Force, Bill Clinton stressed
that ethnic conflict in the Balkans had its roots in the topography of the
region. At the start of the bombing campaign, Clinton took it upon himself to
educate the U.S. public about the geographic location of Kosovo, explaining
that it was fertile ground for festering ethnic hatreds. Like Jonathan Harker in
Stokers Dracula, who pores over the map of one of the wildest and least
known portions of Europe in order to locate Draculas castle, during his
press conference Clinton instructed the camera to zoom in on a map of the
Balkans so that U.S. audiences might take a closer look at U.S. strategic
interests in this obscure but volatile region.25 In Clintons interpretation of the
map, Kosovo is a small place, but it sits on a major fault line between
Europe, Asia and the Middle East, at the meeting place of Islam and both the
western and orthodox branches of Christianity All the ingredients for a
major war are there: Ancient grievances, struggling democracies, and at the
centre of it all, a dictator in Serbia who has done nothing since the cold war
ended but start new wars and pour gasoline on the flames of ethnic and
religious division.26 According to Clinton, ethnic and religious division in
the Balkans is geographically determined and spatially fixed, erupting, as
Samuel Huntington famously elaborated in the Clash of Civilizations?, at
the great fault-line between Christianity and Islam.27 Clintons interpretive
frame implies that while a rogue dictator such as Milosevic can aggravate the
flames of ethnic hatred, he certainly didnt start the fire. Yet, like a modern
day vampire hunter who wants to end the pre-modern bloodshed, Clinton
argues that it is within the Wests technological power and moral know-how
to put down the fire of primordial hatreds and spread democratic and
multicultural ideology.
Clintons deployment of geographical and geological metaphors to
depict the Balkans as an originary space of racial, cultural, and civilizational
clashes relied on and reproduced the discourse of balkanism and gothic
Neda Atanasoski 69
imagery. In Stokers Dracula, vampirism emerges in the fault lines of the
Balkan Peninsula. Dr. Van Helsing explains to the vampire hunters that,

The very place, where [Dracula has] been alive, Un-dead

for all these centuries, is full of strangeness of the geologic
and chemical world. There are deep caverns and fissures
that reach none know whither. There have been volcanoes,
some of whose openings still send out waters of strange
properties, and gases that kill or make to vivify. Doubtless,
there is some magnetic or electric in some of these
combinations of occult forces which work for physical life
in strange way.28

Stokers geological explanation for the origins of vampirism in the Balkans

has hauntingly reverberated in the contemporary discourses that explain
balkanization as the fragmentation of political units along the lines dictated
by wild landscapes and ethnic blood lines. The overlapping discourses of
land and blood point to the ways in which contemporary explanations of
ethnic conflict implicitly made recourse to the essentializing biological
explanations of racial differences. Furthermore, these explanations recall that
European imperialism was justified through racial narratives of Western
superiority. Paralleling the European imperial narratives that legitimized
Western expansionism, Clintons op-ed piece in the New York Times referred
to the Balkans as a region that need not remain the heart of European
darkness if the U.S. and its allies continue to pursue the just and necessary
war.29 Vesna Goldsworthy has made the case that Western horror at what
is going on in the Balkans contains, like Gothic horror, a frisson of pleasure
that is difficult to own up to - an opportunity to re-enact the imperialist
fantasy of drawing frontiers and sorting the troublesome natives out without
being accused of racism (because all the people involved are white).30
Clintons allusion to Conrads critique of European imperialism (a critique
that ultimately upholds the work of empire) demonstrates the paradoxical
desire to symbolically distance Balkan barbarity from Europe-proper by
mapping it onto the original heart of darkness, Africa, and to save the
region precisely because it will always remain at the edge of Europe,
threatening the rest of the continent through its pre-modern violence.
The Balkans European location also provided the context for
numerous comparisons of NATOs air strikes with the Western Alliance of
WWII. Throughout the 1999 NATO campaign, numerous articles addressed
the fact that for an American generation who had grown up opposing the
Vietnam War, including Bill Clinton, Kosovo was the first chance in which a
clear moral choice between right and wrong presented itself - it was the baby-
boomers turn to be heroes and to save the embattled Albanian minority in
70 Dracula as Ethnic Conflict
Kosovo. The NATO air strikes were therefore presented as the first moral
war since WWII. Clinton made the sweeping statement that Sarajevo, the
capital of neighbouring Bosnia, is where World War I began. World War II
and the Holocaust engulfed this region. Indeed, according to Clinton, the
U.S. and NATO were moved to action by remembering the history of the
Holocaust in Europe. Recalling the horrors of the civil war in Bosnia, Clinton
elided historical complexity, arguing in his presidential address that this was
genocide in the heart of Europe, not in 1945 but in 1995, not in some grainy
newsreel from our parents and grandparents time, but in our own time,
testing out humanity and our resolve. Though numerous historians criticized
Clintons use of the Holocaust to justify the NATO campaign in Serbia and
Kosovo, this particular historical comparison invoked the imperative to
intervene militarily more clearly than any other could have.31 Re-enacting
saving the Jews by saving the Albanians, a unified West demonstrated to
itself that it had, once in for all, overcome its own histories of prejudices and
violence, which have in the second half of the 20th century been epitomized
in the Western imaginary by the Holocaust.
Like Count Dracula, the Serbian people could ultimately not escape
the humanizing forces of Western technology. In Stokers Dracula, Van
Helsing tells his fellow vampire hunters that the major advantage they hold
over the count is their power of combination, which is denied to the
vampire kind.32 According to the learned doctor, in the Western alliance we
have resources of science; we are free to act and think; and the hours of the
day and the night are ours equally ... We have self-devotion in a cause, and
an end to achieve which is not selfish.33 The powerful force of the alliance
between Western technology and humanitarianism against primitive forces
was echoed in the contemporary representations of NATOs attacks on Serbia
and Kosovo. For instance, it was reported Belgrade authorities, while
deciding now that it is safer to keep Belgrades street lights on, still insist that
curtains be drawn after 6 P.M., as if NATOs modern weapons still depended
on illuminated living rooms to find their targets.34 Though Milosevic could
use what medieval tactics he had to oppress his own people, these tactics
ultimately could not help him to hide from the enlightenment of Western
Ironically, the technologies of Western humanitarianism in the end
mirrored Milosevics own drive to destroy, especially when it became
evident that NATO bombings severely increased the number of refugees in
Kosovo. The day after the air strikes began, NATOs Supreme Allied
Commander, the American General Wesley Clark, declared that

The military mission is to attack Yugoslav military and

security forces and associated facilities with sufficient
effect to degrade its capacity to continue repression of the
Neda Atanasoski 71
civilian population and to deter its further military actions
against his own people. We aim to put its military and
security forces at risk. We are going to systematically and
progressively attack, disrupt, degrade, devastate and
ultimately destroy these forces and their facilities and
support, unless President Milosevic complies with the
demands of the international community. In that respect the
operation will be as long and difficult as President
Milosevic requires it to be.35

In Clarks assessment, it is humanitarianism that motivates NATO to attack,

disrupt, degrade, devastate, and destroy. Not unlike Van Helsings
conclusion that, in the end, science must give way to superstition in order to
destroy the undead, so NATOs humanitarianism seemed to need to give in
to violence in order to force Milosevic to comply. Furthermore, like
Ignatieffs flawed conclusion that without imperialism the West cannot
spread democracy, NATO understood its mission to degrade, devastate,
and destroy Serbia and Kosovos social and economic infrastructure as an
integral part of bringing the Balkans into Europe and spreading the values of
tolerance and democracy to the peninsula.

3. Media Warfare: Documenting the Horrors of an Humanitarian

I have suggested in my reading of Stokers Dracula that the drive to
document monstrous acts and horrific otherness is one of the central
technologies of the gothic. Journalistic documentation, as a genre of Western
modernity, has been seen as having the unique challenge of maintaining
objectivity and independence from state control in the face of war-time
horrors.36 According to the Society of Professional Journalists:

It is the journalists who are in the unique position of being

able to combine reports from combatants and civilians, non-
governmental organizations and government officials into a
coherent and compelling account and to disseminate that
account to a large audience. It is each journalist's
responsibility to make that account as complete and as
accurate as possible.37

Attempts to redefine the U.S. medias role in the 1990s as an unbiased

witness to humanitarian crises elided the collusion between media
technologies that enable instant transmission of news and images and new
military technologies in the construction of modern wars. This was especially
the case in Operation Allied Force in which the Western media took on the
72 Dracula as Ethnic Conflict
role of documenting war crimes for use by the International Criminal
By presenting NATOs military perspective of a benevolent
intervention from the sky, the U.S. media confirmed President Clintons
rhetoric that this was a war of human values fighting the vestiges of Balkans
barbarity and covered over U.S. interest in developing Eastern Europe and
pursuing its own economic interests there. In the 1990s, academic
considerations of the Western medias interaction with the state centred on
the extent to which media documentation of humanitarian disasters
influenced their governments to intervene in troubled regions. For instance,
Piers Robinsons work on the CNN effect relies on Somalia, Iraq, Bosnia,
Kosovo, and Rwanda as case studies for examining the extent to which the
print and televised medias attention to the human consequences of distant
civil wars led to intervention.38 While Robinsons media-state model only
considers the effects of the media on state intervention, his study ultimately
reduces the state-media relationship to that of unidirectional influence.
Instead, the contradictions inherent in the concept of militaristic
humanitarianism underscore the complexities of the ways in which media
technologies of documentation and political and military technologies of
warfare are co-constitutive.
The Western medias empathy-framed coverage - which raises the
question of who becomes the object of Western empathy - not only
contributes to Western intervention, but it also justifies Western military
presence in non-Western regions. Marjana Skoco and William Woodger have
shown that since the 1991 Gulf War, the U.S. military has strategically
shifted its policy towards the media and has begun to share its operations
details with journalists in order to satiate the demands of twenty-four hour
news coverage. The military now provides the media with good stories but
continues to exclude sensitive information from the public domain.39
Relying on military publications and military academies course descriptions,
Skoco and Woodger conclude that since the end of the Cold War, the U.S.
military has increasingly relied on the media to sell its policy to the public
through compelling stories of human values.40 Media coverage of the
1990s humanitarian crises cannot simply be seen as the objective
documentation of horrors that worked to generate public empathy and urge
governmental intervention, but the crises themselves must also be understood
as media events that were produced in conjunction with Western militaristic
During Operation Allied Force, the ideal of an independent
Western media that objectively documented the horrors of ethnic cleansing
was central to justifying NATOs military aggression as a humanitarian
intervention based in universal human values. Conversely, NATO
demonized the Serbian media, arguing that it was a tool used by Milosevic to
Neda Atanasoski 73
indoctrinate his own people. One of NATOs humanitarian aims, therefore,
became installing a free and independent press in Serbia. Jamie Shea,
NATOs primary spokesperson during Operation Allied Force, argued that
Radio-Television Serbia was spreading hatred and creating this political
environment of repression.41 NATOs depiction of Serbian media as illiberal
and repressive legitimized its targeting of RTS in the middle of its campaign.
On April 23, NATO bombed the RTS building in downtown Belgrade while
there were at least 120 civilians working inside.42 Even though 16 civilians
were killed in the attack, NATO officials insisted that RTS was part of the
national command network and that our forces struck at the regime
leaderships ability to transmit their version of the news by taking out the
source of propaganda.43 By destroying RTS, the alliance affirmed that it
recognized the media as a weapon during times of war - though,
paradoxically, they only acknowledged it to be a weapon in the enemys
hands. In NATOs perspective, the Serbian media was turned into a
legitimate military target because it was biased and therefore a tool of
Milosevics regime. Rather than expressing concern over NATOs
destruction of a media network, as they had over being expelled from
Yugoslavia at the start of the war, U.S. journalists echoed NATOs rhetoric
that the destruction of RTS had hit the heart of the propaganda machine.44
By distinguishing propaganda from journalism, the U.S. media affirmed its
own supposed role as an independent and unbiased source of news that
documented global horrors for the Western public.
In Operation Allied Force the Western media tended to represent
the war from the point of view of the new military technologies. Cable and
network news sources broadcast cockpit scenes from fighter jets that
deployed night vision technology and computerized target demolition, a
common practice since the 1991 Gulf War. The aerial campaign provided a
war fit for Western eyes, in which NATOs mistakes and collateral
damage were justified by footage of the Albanian refugees.45 The media
interpreted the scenes of burning villages and streaming refugees as evidence
of the medieval methods of warfare used by the Serbs. These scenes provided
a contrast to NATOs technological warfare, which appeared to be
enlightened and humanitarian. Although after the campaign it became evident
that the majority of Kosovar refugees were displaced due to NATO air
strikes, during the war the images that mostly focused on displaced women,
children and the elderly, provided the visual alibi for U.S. and NATO
intervention by establishing a national narrative about U.S. power and
political good.46 NATOs ambitions in Serbia and Kosovo were never
simply, or even primarily, to stop Serbian violence against Kosovar
Albanians. My emphasis here on the U.S. medias adoption of NATOs
military perspective juxtaposed with scenes of the refugees highlights the
way that the media contributed to erasure of NATOs role as one of the
74 Dracula as Ethnic Conflict
warring parties with its own interests in securing economic and political
control over the last rogue nation in Europe.
The U.S. media represented military technology not just as a
technology of war, but as a technology of human rights that could gather
evidence of ethnic cleansing. Just as Stokers novel depicted new
technologies of the Victorian era through which the vampire hunters
documented Draculas vampirism, so the Western media replayed images
from satellite and reconnaissance photographs that revealed mass graves as
evidence of Serbian war crimes. In her analysis of the satellite view of mass
graves in Srebrenica photographed during the civil war in Bosnia, Lisa Parks
argues that U.S. officials interpreted the images as objective and omniscient,
claiming that they had acquired evidence of genocide.47 In the context of
the international communitys passivity during the war in Bosnia, Parks reads
the satellite images as indicators of distant technologised monitoring,
passive voyeurism, and the refusal to acknowledge (put into discourse) the
complex political, socio-historical, economic and cultural conditions that
have given rise to the recent conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.48 Though in
Operation Allied Force the satellite technologies continued to function
reductively, they no longer proved Western passivity, but instead the
photographs of unconfirmed (and in many instances never confirmed) graves
were used as evidence to fuel support for NATOs civilized humanitarianism
against Serbian barbarity. Indeed, claiming that it is more difficult to argue
with satellite images than with eyewitnesses, the U.S. media explicitly
recalled the Bosnia images to construct a timeline of Serbian atrocities and to
uphold the imperative for Western intervention.49 As one reporter put it,
along the blood-spattered timeline of Slobodan Milosevic, Kosovo is merely
the hideous Now.50
The emergent paradigm of humanitarian intervention and
imperialism establishes Western capitalism as a system that provides for its
citizens through democracy, liberalism, and tolerance, and opposes its
system to the horror and barbarity of ethnic conflict in non-Western and
underdeveloped regions. The prominent journalist Roger Cohen, who has
written on the former Yugoslavia, described this disparity in his assessment
that modern American life is untethered to place, unlimited by distance,
mostly untouched by horror. Not so in the Balkans, where real or imagined
past Serbian suffering was the stuff of Mr. Milosevics invective.51
According to Cohen, U.S. military aggression offers the Serbs democracy:
communism promised equality. Hitler promised the 1,000-year Reich.
Milosevic promised glory. All the West offers, alongside the prosperity of
this boardwalk, is the rule of law.52
Neda Atanasoski 75

In 1999, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia consisted of Serbia and its two
provinces, Vojvodina and Kosovo, and the republic of Montenegro.
Hit Smarter, Not Harder?,, 18 February 2001, (30 June 2005),
Michael Mandel, in Yugoslavia Unraveled: Sovereignty, Self-
Determination, Intervention, ed. Raju G.C. Thomas (Lanham: Lexington
Books, 2003), 287-316, 293.
Joseph J. Eash III Harnessing Technology for Coalition Warfare in the
NATO Review (Web Edition) 48.2 (2004): 32-3, (25 October 2005),
I wish to be more than clear that I am not proposing to exonerate Milosevic
as a chief player in the destruction of Yugoslavia; nor am I suggesting that
the world should have passively observed the conflict in the region escalate.
Instead, I am attempting to assess the media and military technologies and
the political and legal narratives through which the U.S.-led West of the post-
Cold War order has been able to establish its often violent imperial interests
as universal, benevolent and humanitarian.
Tomislav Longinovic Vampires Like Us: Gothic Imaginary and the
serbs, in Balkan as Metaphor: Between Globalization and Fragmentation,
eds. Duan Bjeli and Obrad Savi (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002), 45.
Ibid., 51.
Ibid., 55.
Maria Todorova Imagining the Balkans (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1997), 18.
I cite the term blood and belonging from the title of Michael Ignatieffs
book on the new nationalisms of the 1990s, which exemplifies the
essentializing logic in dominant explanations of ethnicity and conflict. Blood
and Belonging: Journeys into the New Nationalism (New York: Farrar,
Straus and Giroux, 1993).
Tim Allen Perceiving Contemporary Wars, in The Media of Conflict:
War Reporting and Representations of Racial Violence, ed. Tim Allen and
Jean Seaton (New York: Zed Books, 1999), 11-42.
John Bowen The Myth of Global Ethnic Conflict in Journal of
Democracy 7.4 (1996): 3-14, 3.
Michael Ignatieff Empire Lite: Nation Building in Bosnia, Kosovo and
Afghanistan (London: Vintage 2003), 24.
Ibid., 24.
Ibid., 59.
76 Dracula as Ethnic Conflict

Avery F. Gordon Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological
Imagination (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 12.
Bram Stoker Dracula, The Norton Critical Edition, eds. Nina Auerbach
and David J. Skal (New York: Norton, 1997), 41.
Auerbach and Skal, xii.
Stephen Arata The Occidental Tourist: Dracula and the Anxiety of
Reverse Colonization in Auerbach and Skal, 463.
Ibid., 465.
Ibid., 463.
Thomas Richards The Imperial Archive: Knowledge and the Fantasy of
Empire (New York: Verso, 1993).
Ibid., 4-5.
Speech: Ill Leave the Presidency More Idealistic in the New York
Times (Late Edition, East Coast) 19 January 2001, A.24.
Stoker, 10.
In the Presidents Words: We Act to Prevent a Wider War, in the New
York Times (Late Edition) 25 March 1999, A.15.
Samuel P. Huntington The Clash of Civilizations?, in The Globalization
Reader, eds. Frank J. Lechner and John Boli (Malden: Blackwell Publishing,
2000), 27-33.
Stoker, 278.
William Jefferson Clinton A Just and Necessary War in the New York
Times (Late Edition, East Coast) 23 My 1999, 4.17.
Vesna Goldsworthy Invention and In(ter)vention: The Rhetoric of
Balkanization, in Bjelic and Savic, 25-38, 29.
Ethan Bronner Historians Note Flaws in Presidents Speech in the New
York Times (Late Edition, East Coast) 26 March 1999 A.12.
Stoker, 210.
Ibid., 210.
Belgrade Targets Find Unity From Heaven, in The New York Times
(Late Edition, East Coast) 30 March 1999 A.1.
NATO Press Conference, 25 March 1999, (25 October 2005),
See Stuart Allen and Barbie Zelizers Rules of Engagement: Journalism
and War in Reporting War: Journalism in War Time, eds. Allen and Zelizer
(New York: Routledge, 2004), 3-21. Allen and Zelizers introductory
remarks demonstrate that while recent reporting of the U.S. war in Iraq, in
which the practice of embedding journalists with combat troops provided
an explicit and visual instance of the necessary cooperation between national
medias and the military to raise public support for the war, media images
Neda Atanasoski 77

have always been crucial for raising public support for military actions and
Society of Professional Journalists Reference Guide to the Geneva
Conventions, (25 October 2005), <>.
Piers Robinson The CNN Effect: The Myth of News, Foreign Policy, and
Intervention (New York: Routledge, 2002), 1.
Marjana Skoco and William Woodger The Military and the Media in
Degraded Capability: The Media and the Kosovo Crisis, ed. Philip
Hammond and Edward S. Herman (Sterling: Pluto Press, 2000), 79-87.
Ibid., 81.
NATO Press Conference with Jamie Shea on 23 April 1999 (25 October
2005), <>.
Amnesty International Collateral Damage or Unlawful Killings?:
Violations of the Laws of War by NATO during Operation Allied Force
(New York: Amnesty International USA, June 2000), 41.
Cited in Amnesty International, 42.
CBS Evening News 21 April 1999.
Tony Weymouth The Media: Information and Deformation in The
Kosovo Crisis: The Last American War in Europe, ed. Tony Wymouth and
Stanley Henig (London: Pearson Education, 2001) 143-162, 153.
Wendy Kozol Domesticating NATOs War in Kosovo/a: (In)Visible
Bodies and the Dilemma of Photojournalism, Meridians 4(2) 2004: 1-38,
Lisa Parks Satellite Views of Srebrenica: Tele-visuality and the Politics of
Witnessing, Social Identities 7.4 (2001): 585-611, 589.
Ibid., 589.
ABC Nightly News, 10 April 1999.
Blaine Harden What It Would Take to Cleanse Serbia in the New York
Times (Late Edition, East Coast) 9 May 1999, 4.1.
Roger Cohen From Bosnia to Berlin to the Hague, On a Road Toward a
Continents Future in the New York Times (Late Edition, East Coast) 15 July
2001, 4.7.
78 Dracula as Ethnic Conflict


Allen, Stuart and Barbie Zelizer. Rules of Engagement: Journalism and

War. In Reporting War: Journalism in War Time, edited by Allen and
Zelizer, 3-21. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Allen, Tim. Perceiving Contemporary Wars. In The Media of Conflict: War

Reporting and Representations of Racial Violence, edited by Tim Allen and
Jean Seaton, 11-42. New York: Zed Books, 1999.

Amnesty International. Collateral Damage or Unlawful Killings?:

Violations of the Laws of War by NATO during Operation Allied Force.
New York: Amnesty International USA, June 2000.

Arata, Stephen. The Occidental Tourist: Dracula and the Anxiety of

Reverse Colonization, 462-469. In Auerbach and Skal.

Auerbach, Nina and David J. Skal, editors. The Norton Critical Edition of
Dracula. New York: Norton, 1997.

Bjeli, Duan and Obrad Savi, editors. Balkan as Metaphor: Between

Globalization and Fragmentation. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002.

Bowen, John. The Myth of Global Ethnic Conflict. Journal of Democracy

7.4 (1996): 3-14.

Eash, Joseph J. III. Harnessing Technology for Coalition Warfare. NATO

Review 48.2 (2004): 32-3.
<> (25 October 2005).

Goldsworthy, Vesna. Invention and In(ter)vention: The Rhetoric of

Balkanization, 25-38. In Bjelic and Savic.
Gordon, Avery F. Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological
Imagination. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.

Huntington, Samuel P. The Clash of Civilizations?. In The Globalization

Reader, edited by Frank J. Lechner and John Boli, 27-33. Malden: Blackwell
Publishing, 2000.
Neda Atanasoski 79

Ignatieff, Michael. Empire Lite: Nation Building in Bosnia, Kosovo and

Afghanistan. London: Vintage 2003.

Kozol, Wendy. Domesticating NATOs War in Kosovo/a: (In)Visible

Bodies and the Dilemma of Photojournalism. Meridians 4(2) 2004: 1-38.
Longinovic, Tomislav. Vampires Like Us: Gothic Imaginary and the
serbs. In Bjelic and Savic.

Mandel, Michael. Illegal Wars, Collateral Damage, and International

Criminal Law. In Yugoslavia Unraveled: Sovereignty, Self-Determination,
Intervention, edited by Raju G.C. Thomas, 287-316. Lanham: Lexington
Books, 2003.

Parks, Lisa. Satellite Views of Srebrenica: Tele-visuality and the Politics of

Witnessing. Social Identities 7.4 (2001): 585-611.

Richards, Thomas. The Imperial Archive: Knowledge and the Fantasy of

Empire. New York: Verso, 1993.

Robinson, Piers. The CNN Effect: The Myth of News, Foreign Policy, and
Intervention. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Skoco, Marjana and William Woodger. The Military and the Media. In
Degraded Capability: The Media and the Kosovo Crisis, edited by Philip
Hammond and Edward S. Herman, 79-87. Sterling: Pluto Press, 2000.

Society of Professional Journalists. Reference Guide to the Geneva

Conventions. <> (25 October 2005).

Stoker, Bram. Dracula. Norton Critical Edition, edited by Auerbach and

Skal. New York: Norton, 1997.

Todorova, Maria. Imagining the Balkans. New York: Oxford University

Press, 1997.

Weymouth, Tony. The Media: Information and Deformation. In The

Kosovo Crisis: The Last American War in Europe, edited by Tony Wymouth
and Stanley Henig, 143-162. London: Pearson Education, 2001.
The Composite Monster in Nazi Visual Propaganda

Kristen Williams Backer

Nazi propaganda posters frequently used the image of a monster to represent
nationalities, ideologies, or ethnicities that were considered outside the
narrow bounds of acceptability in the totalitarian regime. National Socialism
attributed monstrous qualities to groups that were despised, denied, feared, or
repressed; this often translated visually to the artistic depiction of Jews,
Eastern Europeans, Bolsheviks, or Allied nationalities as giants, unearthly
spectres, or subhuman beasts. One of the most over-reaching characteristics
of these depictions is the propagandists tendency to conflate unrelated or
only scarcely related groups into a single form; composite monsters were
often used to represent and vilify multiple groups.
Leest Storms 1944 poster, Kultur-Terror, represented the threat of
encroaching American culture as a composite monster, a giant creature
whose body and appendages represented various aspects of American life.
Though the creatures overall conception and visual form were undeniably
rooted in the existing tradition of monster propaganda that predominately
sought to obfuscate the boundaries between Jews and Bolsheviks and
simultaneously condemn both, Kultur-Terror reflects specific critiques of
American culture rather than ascribing nebulous, negative qualities. This
essay argues that Storms poster can be seen as the fullest realization of the
composite monster tradition, as American culture so accurately fits with the
characterization. The United States defines itself through variety, and
examination of Kultur-Terrors iconography demonstrates that this aspect of
American culture was especially threatening to National Socialism. The
inclusiveness of American culture made it the perfect foil for the singularity
of Nazi totalitarianism, and it was particularly suited to portrayal as a
composite monster.

Germany, Nazi, Bolshevik, communism, African American, poster,
propaganda, stereotype

The U.S.A. would rescue Europes culture from doom with a Kultur-
Terror, a beast both absurd and terrific, a gigantic monster who brings the
American way of life to the European continent and leaves only destruction
in his path. This is the message of a 1944 poster by Leest Storm, designed for
audiences in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands.1 In the image, the great creature
82 Kultur-Terror
is composed of wildly incongruous body parts, each of which represents
some facet of American culture that was anathema to the ideals of National
Socialism. From the waving Old Glory, to the Indian chief headdress, to the
figure of the Statue of Liberty in the background and the textual label in the
foreground, the monster is unmistakeably a visual amalgamation of all things
American. Ostensibly, the poster warns viewers against the dangers of
listening to Allied radio broadcasts. The small foreground figure with
exaggerated ears was a frequent component of posters in that particular
propaganda campaign, and in this case he suggests that the American
salvation of those in occupied territory might be more akin to cultural
The artist could easily have described the virulent danger of
American culture with a far less complex image; instead he chose to picture
Americanness as a composite terror, a monster made up of spare parts in
Frankensteinesque fashion. While analysis of each of the constituent parts
reveals that the monster was intended to connote both general notions of the
ills of American culture and point to specific persons, events, or ideas,
examination of the context (both historically and within the totality of Nazi
visual propaganda) of the poster points to a long and deeply-rooted tradition
of monster imagery.
Previously, the monster had been reserved for depictions of
communism in National Socialist propaganda. Bolshevism was seen as
posing a significant threat to ideologies worldwide, and as such it was often
given the most vilifying of treatments in visual propaganda. In posters and
other ephemera, the Bolshevik monster, snarling and lumbering, armed with
weapons both crude and modern, left only misery in his wake. He was both a
simian giant, devastating cities with a single footfall or swing of his hammer,
and a skulking, skeletal fiend guilty of more personal, insidious crimes, but in
each case he was identifiable as the communist menace by his red cloak or
shaggy red pelt, or, in some cases, by hands, arms, and torso bathed in blood.
In a 1956 interview, infamous F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover called
communism a many-faced monster, endeavouring to gain the allegiance of
[American] citizens.3 Indeed, the figuring of Communism and the
communist world as a hideous, venomous creature, capable of injecting
poison into the bloodstream of nations on both sides of the Atlantic was
commonplace in both the textual and visual rhetoric of the first half of the
twentieth century.4 Nowhere is the image of the Bolshevik monster more
fully exploited than in German propaganda of World War I, the Interwar
Period, and the Second World War. Visual media that promoted National
Socialism throughout occupied Europe portrayed Bolshevism as a frightening
beast that threatened not only the ideals and livelihood, but also the very life
of the viewer.
Kristen Williams Backer 83
The origins of the monstrous form can be traced to multiple sources.
Socialism had been depicted in European caricature as a skeleton since the
nineteenth century, and the Orthodox Church used a furry red (and
comparatively rather benevolent-looking) beast to represent the destruction of
religious tradition by the revolutionary forces in Russia.5 Even today, the
Internet is rife with the work of conspiracy theorists, armchair eschatologists,
and hate group mouthpieces who trace the roots of both the Global Zionist
Conspiracy and the Bolshevik movement to the Biblical Esau, who was
characterized by his ruddy, hairy body and lack of refinement.6
Perhaps the most directly influential antecedents to the Bolshevik
monster were derogatory personifications of Germany created by Allied
propagandists in World War I. Following the German invasion of Belgium,
whose neutrality, previously guaranteed in the Treaty of London of 1831 and
1839, was dismissed as a Scrap of Paper, Germany was increasingly
portrayed as the Hun.7 Public opinion snowballed from outrage among
intellectuals over a broken treaty, to the notion that Belgium was a virgin
territory symbolically raped by Germany, to the belief that German soldiers
were the perpetrators of atrocities and that no civilian was safe.8 Writers like
William Le Queux, who compared the German army to one vast gang of
Jack-the-Rippers, published sensationalized tales of German troops
ravaging both the landscape and the women and children of Belgium.9 As
these accounts of horrific acts of unchecked violence and sexual depravity
were circulated among the British and American public, anti-German visual
propaganda increasingly centred on the barbarism of the Hun. In iconic
images such as Ellsworth Youngs 1918 Remember Belgium, and to a greater
degree, H.R. Hopps' Destroy This Mad Brute, also of 1918, the only codified
markers of German-ness are the helmet and moustache.10 The cudgel-
wielding gorilla, whose stooped posture is echoed even in the most human
portrayals of the Hun, threatens to bludgeon America with Kultur as he
carries an innocent (yet titillatingly bare-breasted) victim off to her
unspeakable fate. While such images encouraged enlistment among young
men who saw military service as a means of defending American
womanhood, a contemporary poster by Norman Lindsay reminded
Australians that the Huns bloody stronghold of Western Europe could easily
spread to their insular nation.11 In Lindsays poster, the iconography was
further reduced, leaving only the helmet to distinguish the beast as German.
The looming threat of his dripping claws, however, would have left little
confusion as to who was the enemy.
In almost no time, German propaganda artists appropriated the
figure of the beast for their own means. Perhaps the most iconic of all images
depicting the Bolshevik monster is Julius Ussy Engelhards 1918 drooling,
fanged primate accompanied by the text, Bolshevism brings war,
unemployment, and famine.12 The posters subject matter is clearly
84 Kultur-Terror
modelled on the earlier images by Hopps and Lindsey, given the generally
ape-like figure with slumped shoulders, a full pelt, and elongated arms and
fingers. Its style, however, represents a distinct departure from that of the
previous two images. Unlike the painterly style of Hopps and Lindsey, so
rooted in illustration tradition, Engelhard effectively utilizes the flat planes of
colour, negative space, and bold text of graphic design. For Germany, a
country whose official self-identity rested squarely on nostalgia and tradition,
use of a technique so tied to commercialism and modernism may have been
an additional critique of the future-driven ideology of communism. That the
monster carries not only a knife, but also a smoking bomb, reinforces the
critique of modernization, especially when contrasted with the message
conveyed by the rude club in Hopps work. Though Engelhards poster is
unmistakably related to (and possibly even a direct reaction to) the atrocities
propaganda that depicted Germany as a terrifying beast, it is important to
note that German propaganda artists did not simply turn the characterization
onto their own enemies. The monster embodied the potentially destructive
powers of Bolshevism; it was not a hideous visual form representing actual
monstrous acts committed by soldiers.
The rise of communism across Eastern and Central Europe
following the war added a new dimension to the visual language of the
Bolshevik monster. Not simply a fiendish skeleton or a subhuman ape,
particularly in Hungarian propaganda surrounding the establishment of Bel
Kuns Soviet Republic, posters increasingly depicted the Bolshevik as a
giant. Possibly taking its initial cue from favourable Soviet propaganda that
depicted the noble worker as superhuman, the red giant motif was used by
all sides. In works commissioned by the Social Democrats, for whom a
coalition with the far left was a government power play, he was the
sympathetic, even heroized giant, triumphing as he painted the parliament
red. For counter-revolutionary forces, he was the oversized red oaf, unaware
of his own strength until he had crushed the nation.13 Perhaps the most
damning characterization of the red giant in Hungary appeared in a 1919
poster, along with the message, They Wash Themselves.14 In the
background, blood streams from the windows of the Parliament building and
gushes into the Danube below. In the foreground, the giant bends over to
bathe himself in the sticky pool, and as he turns his head to gaze at something
beyond the picture plane, the audience is given a glimpse of the still-wet
knife clenched in his teeth and understands that the bloody river is of his own
making. If the vision of the giant revelling in his own destructive powers was
not sufficiently horrifying to viewers, then perhaps his sheer size was.
Significant scale discrepancy between huge aggressors and their tiny victims
became a hallmark of Bolshevik monster iconography.
By far, the most impressive quality of Leest Storms compositional
scheme in Kultur-Terror is this same manipulation of scale. The giant
Kristen Williams Backer 85
monster, both tall and wide (owing to his multiple, spread arms and
wingspan), occupies nearly nine-tenths of the picture plane. Diminutive
buildings crumble underneath his feet, and antlike humans flee the scene in
the lower right hand corner of the poster. The size of the Statue of Liberty
and skyscraper dotted cityscape in the lower left hand corner and the body of
water directly beneath them suggest distance; perhaps the figure has just
emerged from the Atlantic Ocean and stepped onto land to begin his carnage
and destruction. Kultur-Terror could even have borrowed this symbolic
narrative from H.R. Hopps work.15 In Destroy this Mad Brute, the apelike
Hun stands on a slab of ground labelled America, having left ripples in the
reflective water behind him. Across the pond lies the burned out carcass of
the European landscape.
A giant monster devastating a tiny civilization was also the central
theme of Bolschewismus ohne Maske, (Bolshevism Unmasked) a 1937
poster by Herbert Agricola advertising a didactic exhibit of the same name.16
Like the earlier Eternal Jew and subsequent Degenerate Art exhibitions,
Bolshevism Unmasked was meant to provide Germans with the visual and
ideological tools to recognize the monster from the east.17 The monster
depicted in Bolschewismus ohne Maske is so large that he dominates the
composition, and a small skeleton of a city burns behind him, the flames
creating an eerie, lurid glow that dramatizes the images oppressive palette.
At his feet, his victims lie in a grotesque heap. The leftmost figure, the grey
pallor of whose skin suggests he may already be dead, is the very
embodiment of abjection. He lies with his face turned upward to reveal a
gaping mouth and empty, bloody eye sockets. The other prone figure cowers
and tries vainly to shield his head from the next blow, which, given the
perpetrators dynamic pose and bloodied whip, will no doubt be fierce. This
is atrocities propaganda at its most horrific, and it has been reserved for this
later incarnation of the Bolshevik monster. Compared to earlier images, for
example Engelhards bomb-toting ape, the communist identification is more
clear-cut than ever. Instead of relying solely on text or colour iconography,
Agricola has clothed the monster in a long dark coat and belt reminiscent of
Soviet military garb, and to remove all doubt has given him a red hat with an
easily visible star.
Given that Storms Kultur-Terror makes no reference, either explicit
or veiled, to communism as a facet of the marauding American beast,
comparison to the corpus of Bolshevik monster images may at first glance
seem inappropriate; however, in both its total conception, the composite
monster that links seemingly unrelated elements into a unified whole, and in
the use of specific visual tropes to describe the enemy and Other, Kultur-
Terror draws heavily on the tradition of the Bolshevik monster. Indeed, it is a
direct offspring of the Bolshevik monster, a form that conflated Nazi fears of
the Red Menace, the global Jewish conspiracy, and various Slavic
86 Kultur-Terror
Untermenschen into the single form of Bolschewismus, sometimes
seemingly indiscriminately (a trend that paralleled other forms of Nazi
The conflated beast that brings cultural terror to Europe warns
viewers to be wary of an ungainly culture characterized by paradox and
hypocrisy. The monsters head is that of a hooded Klansman. The Ku Klux
Klan was established in 1865 as a social club for southern men
disenfranchised after the American Civil War, but it soon became more
known for its penchant for vigilante justice.18 The group all but disbanded
less than a decade later, but it regained strength in the early twentieth
century, and by the 1920s was more than two million strong.19 This new
incarnation of the Klan was primarily focused on keeping African Americans
out of the positions of power in the government and workforce to which they
were beginning to gain access following the First World War. Its tactics
included mob violence and lynching, a fact alluded to by the presence of the
noose looped around and hanging from one of the monsters arms. Storms
inclusion of the pointed hood was a visual element designed to frighten; it
suggested to the viewer that the intrusion of Americanism into European
culture was akin to the approach of an angry, out of control lynch mob.
The hood, whether worn by American Klansmen or by the monster
in Kultur-Terror, is a device primarily intended to instil fear in those who
encounter it. Because the hood, effectively a mask, hides the face and identity
of the perpetrator, the victim is left to wonder about and fear the unknown
enemy. This tactic appears in Agricolas Bolschewismus ohne Maske as well.
Instead of choosing a face from among those already codified in the visual
record (a skull, a red man, a stereotyped Jew or Slav, or a fanged ape, among
others), he chose a face that was utterly non-specific. If the terrifying figure
represents Bolshevism unmasked, then beneath its mask, Bolshevism is
something unnameable and inhuman. With its sunken eyes and snarling
mouth, the monsters face unquestionably intends to inspire only negative
identification, but since it fails to allude specifically to any one person or
group, it can effectively encompass any or all persons or ideas execrated by
the Nazis. The Klan hood allows the same blanket identification with
American culture.
Leest Storm might also have intended the hooded head to stand in
stark contrast with the monsters body. Though the creature is led by what
might be considered the face of American racism, its torso, its very heart, is a
cage that contains two grossly stereotyped African American figures. Their
enclosure is labelled Jitterbug - Triumph of Civilization, but the figures
movements barely resemble the popular partner dance. Instead they are
exaggerated steps that combine with the figures elongated arms and partially
nude bodies to approximate the racist caricatures that had been appearing
since the early nineteenth century and were rampant in Jim Crow America.
Kristen Williams Backer 87
By juxtaposing signifiers of both African American culture and the Ku Klux
Klan, the poster creates a paradox. The United States is a country defined
both by its intolerance for minorities and by its co-opting and celebration of
minority culture. This paradox, in the context of a persuasive image, speaks
of just one facet of the cultural hypocrisy that purports to deliver Europe
while clearly annihilating it.
The centrality of the jitterbugging figures, as well as their position
in the monsters body (inside the ribcage, serving as the heart), arguably
suggests that African American culture is foremost among the monstrous
aspects of Americanism.20 Additionally, though the creature is almost wholly
characterized by slapdash, comical asymmetry, some of its parts are paired.
Significantly, there are two muscular black arms and two bomber wings.
These limbs spring from the monsters trunk in the most anatomically correct
places; they can be read as the truest parts of its body and thus the most
pregnant carriers of symbolic meaning. The black arms are clearly the most
menacingly positioned of all the limbs, and when combined with the cage
torso, they assert that African American culture is the most fearsome
characteristic of American civilization.
Individuals of African heritage living in Germany and in occupied
Europe were subject to many of the same systematic eradication policies
perpetrated by the Nazis against other minorities, and blackness was an
integrated part of the visual scheme of that which was denied, despised,
feared, or targeted in National Socialist propaganda.21 Visitors to the 1937
Degenerate Art Exhibition were urged to judge for themselves the
depravity of Modernism in a show that jumbled primarily Expressionist and
cubist art with seemingly innocuous art chosen because its artists were
Jewish or Eastern European, and art by so-called primitives and the clinically
insane. Pieces were grouped so as to obliterate their original contexts and for
maximum ideologically instructive effect, including wall texts that either
used Nazi rhetoric to critique the art or that mocked the manifestoes and
statements of the artists themselves.22 An exhibit of Emil Noldes work,
which was heavily influenced by arts of Africa and the South Pacific, as well
as by his desire to paint Old Testament scenes with authentically Jewish
models, was accompanied by wall text that decried the Verniggerung or
niggerization of music, theatre, and the visual arts. The paintings were
arranged with no heed to chronology but rather traced a supposed evolution
from whiteness to blackness in Noldes expressionist paintings. 23
The next year, Hans Ziegler, master architect of the Degenerate Art
show, also staged an exhibition of Degenerate Music and designed the
guides cover. Though pieces by composers like Mendelssohn, Mahler, and
Schoenberg were among those condemned, visually, Degenerate Music is
reduced to a single iconic figure, a caricatured man who, though clearly
wearing a Star of David on his lapel, is unmistakably black. And although the
88 Kultur-Terror
white hoop ring in his ear might be meant to allude to an iconography of
tribal Africa, his dapper suit and top hat make clear that he is the African
American performer: the blackface Minstrel showman, or, more likely, a jazz
Both American and German racist propaganda and caricature had
used similar features and iconography to derogate those of African descent
for decades prior to World War II. While the jitterbugging figures in Kultur-
Terror conform to this established tradition of visual slur, the powerful black
arms connote a more specific recent history. With its right hand, the monster
waves a record album over its head; the arm seems poised to hurl the record
like a discus into the small city. The musical allusion serves as both a visual
parallel to the caged dancing figures, unifying the composition, and to
connote the presence of African Americans in the music industry. Degenerate
jazz culture is but one of the weapons with which the U.S. batters Europe.
The monsters left hand is sheathed in a boxing glove and grasps a bulging
In the United States, boxing had begun as an underground sport, but
by the Jazz Age it had not only achieved mainstream recognition, but had
become extremely popular. It was glamorous and exciting, and spectators
from the full spectrum of race and class in America enjoyed the sport. In the
mid-1930s, boxing became a forum for political bouts as well. In 1936,
German boxer Max Schmeling had beaten the seemingly unstoppable
Brown Bomber, African American Joe Louis, in New York to gain the title
of world heavyweight champion. He was given a heros welcome; he
returned to Germany on the Hindenburg and a film of the fight, pointedly
titled Max Schmelings Sieg- Ein Deutscher Sieg (Max Schmelings Victory- a
German Victory) was shown throughout Germany and seen by more than
three million fans in the first four weeks after release alone.25
Two years later, on June 22, 1938, the two met again to settle the
score, as both held the world heavyweight champion title on opposite sides of
the Atlantic, but had not faced off due to increasingly hostile political
relations between the U.S. and Germany. The fight was hyped in the press as
a bout not only between the two nations, but between black and white, and
more specifically between the Nazis and all the minorities they sought to
eradicate. In contrast to the first fight, wherein Schmeling had studiously and
carefully knocked Louis out in the twelfth round, in the politically charged
rematch, Louis practically pulverized Schmeling with an unrelenting
onslaught and after only two minutes and four seconds, the match was
called.26 Louiss furore in the ring was characterized in the press as so
terrifyingly violent that it was half human, half animal, and even
Schmeling himself contested Louiss blows to his kidney as illegal.27
The 1938 Louis-Schmeling fight served as fodder for visual
representations of America like Kultur-Terror in two distinct ways. Firstly,
Kristen Williams Backer 89
the fight itself was a national embarrassment. Unquestionably, German
politicians, boxing fans, and sporting insiders all expected Schmeling, whose
physique fit perfectly with a Germanic body aesthetic of the ideal and whose
career (marked by several dramatic comebacks) had come to embody the
Nazi vision of a renascent Reich, to win.28 The ferocity with which Louis
had pummelled Schmeling allowed a convenient excuse for the loss, and it
added fuel to inflammatory Nazi rhetoric that associated blackness with
brutality and inhumanity. The American composite monster that incorporates
black boxers arms would, like Joe Louis, show absolutely no mercy.29
Secondly, the moneybag that the monster holds like a bomb, ready
to drop, relates to Germanys sour grapes attitude toward American boxing.30
While the prominence and easy identification of the dollar sign surely points
to a critique of American capitalism, a system equally as reprehensible as
Bolshevism to National Socialism, it is in the combination of the boxing
glove, the moneybag, and the small figure that clings to and peeks around the
bag that the full message is expressed. The clinging figure has an oversized
and exaggerated down-turned nose, perhaps the most recognizable marker of
Jewishness in the visual vocabulary of anti-Semitic propaganda, and his large
glasses and striped pants suggest that he is a businessman.31 Nazi propaganda
played on fears of Jewish financial success with sociology; posters in
Vichy France announced that 98 percent of American bankers were Jewish
and that 97 percent of the U.S. press was owned by Jews.32 While such
numbers were no doubt inflated for sensational effect, boxing was an industry
that was, in New York at least, dominated by Jews. Managers and promoters,
trainers and doctors, and a large part of the constituency of boxing fans were
Jewish. Schmeling, himself, even employed a Jewish trainer when fighting
outside Germany. When Schmelings Nazi association became undeniable in
the public eye, Jews in New York decided to boycott his fights.33 Boxing
provided Nazi propagandists with a convenient means of logically tying
multiple enemies into a single homogenous form; warnings against African
Americans, Jews, capitalism, and American violence are all encoded into the
monsters single muscular appendage.
The Kultur-Terror monsters second set of arms, just beneath the
main, muscular arms, does not match. On his left, an arm inside a dark suit
and white cuff holds a mallet and strikes the drum that forms the creatures
abdomen and hips. On his right, the arm, clothed in chain gang stripes and
with a manacle dangling from its wrist, aims a Thompson submachine gun
(the Tommy Gun) at the city below. This iconography links deadly
violence and criminality, and it ascribes a criminal character to the United
States. The Tommy gun had a reputation as a favourite weapon among those
involved in organized crime (a reputation gained primarily through films),
and anti-American propaganda in the Second World War frequently
connected American soldiers with gangster culture. Both German and Italian
90 Kultur-Terror
propaganda characterized American pilots as gangster pilots who
indiscriminately bombed civilians. In a poster from Italy, a sneering, cigar
smoking thug, dressed not in military fatigues but in the double-breasted suit
and derby hat of a mafia hoodlum, points a Tommy gun at a dead child while
an American bomber flies overhead.34 This gangster pilot identification
may even be the motivating impetus behind the inclusion of the airplane
wings and blood-spattered bomb leg on the Kultur-Terror monster.
Race and gangsterism intersected in the Nazi medias coverage of
riots that broke out in Detroit, Michigan in June 1943. Racial tensions had
boiled over in cities across the U.S. in the preceding months, but the
breakdown of law and order in Detroit was particularly severe. After several
days of mob violence, 34 people were dead and costs of property damage
totalled over two million dollars. German-controlled radio broadcasts in
Vichy France reported that the riot revealed the internal disorganization of
a country torn by social injustice, race hatreds, regional disputes, the violence
of an irritated proletariat, and the gangsterism of a capitalistic police.35 The
monster in Leest Storms poster seems to embody this characterization of
The Kultur-Terror creatures left leg, with its enormous bomb that
dwarfs the city over which it hangs, supports the images critique of
gangster pilots; indeed it hovers just above a city square, not a military
installation. The right leg conveys an entirely different message. It is the
Worlds Most Beautiful Leg, complete with measuring tape to prove that it
conforms to the perfect feminine proportions. The leg, along with the two
flag-waving and trumpet blasting figures that ride on the monsters shoulders
connote All-American womanhood. The woman riding on the beasts right
shoulder wears the headdress of a Plains Indian and the one on its left, the tall
hat and boots of a marching band drum major. Both costumes are distinctly
American and yet distinctly non-specific (the Plains headdress, for example,
is notoriously misused in images of Native Americans). The women
themselves have the curvy physiques and scant attire of pinup girls. The two
women and the perfect leg imply that the feminine side of the Cultural
Terror, the face of American womanhood that takes part in the cultural
redemption of Europe, is American femininity as filtered through American
G.I.s. The monster brings not only the American way of life, with violence,
militarism, and business, but also its own brand of genuinely American sex.
The monster in Storms poster is marked by the absurd
combinations of its ludicrous anatomy. Despite the beasts utter incongruity,
the poster is formally unified by visual and connoted rhythm. Repeated
elements (stripes, bars, feathers, etc.) give the image a cadence, a visual
rhythm that, since it recurs throughout the monsters body, links unrelated
elements into a whole. The regularity of repeated elements might also remind
viewers of the unrelenting rhythm of approaching ground troops. While the
Kristen Williams Backer 91
visible rhythm created by the repetition of formal elements may have been
designed to scare the viewer (probably on a subconscious level), the
monsters unseen rhythm is more frightening, more dangerous to National
Socialist ideology. The sound connoted by the beaten drum, the jitterbugging
African Americans, and the trumpet and record is the primitive beat of
American popular music.
Jazz, noted for its flexibility and openness to improvisation, was
foremost among musical styles designated by the Nazis as degenerate. Its
African and African American roots no doubt made jazz an easy Nazi target,
but the very structure (or seeming lack thereof) of the music was a cultural
threat. Jazz is an expressionist art form; it lends itself to outpouring of
emotion and is not governed by the rational mind. This quality, perhaps the
most defining and most celebrated characteristic of the medium, was
abhorrent to the cold intellect championed by Nazism.36 In Kultur-Terror,
jazz can be thought of as a metaphor for the United States itself. Just as jazz
borrowed from multiple sources to create a hybrid musical form and allows
for multiplicity of styles and injection of musicians own idiosyncrasies, the
American official ideology is one of inclusion, of melting pots and salad
bowls, and of personal freedoms outside the bounds of government control.
The Kultur-Terror monster furthers this metaphor. Like America, a
powerful whole made up of multiple different states, ethnicities, and
(ostensibly) points of view, the monster comprises unrelated parts to create a
terrifying complete anatomy. This inclusiveness stands in opposition to the
exclusivity of Nazi ideology. Whereas Nazis rejected otherness with a
paranoiac vehemence, the United States claims an origin that celebrated
otherness and equality.
The opposition of exclusive and inclusive, of singularity and
multiplicity, is arguably at the root of all Nazi monster propaganda. Because
National Socialism excluded so many, indeed defining itself through
exclusion and homogeneity, its best visual definition of otherness was
inclusion and heterogeneity. Thus, groups as different as Jews and
Bolsheviks became indistinguishable from one another, Americas diversity
became an unwieldy conflation, and all were lumped together into the feared
Other. The monster was the perfect form for this composite Other, as
teratogeny essentially opposes eugenics; the making of monsters exploits
difference, whereas the Nazi-championed quest for a master race depends on
eliminating it. As the frequent monster combination of Bolshevik and Jew
makes clear, the composite terror was a fundamental strategy of defining
otherness in Nazi propaganda; however, Kultur-Terror reveals its
Frankenstein quality like never before. As the inclusiveness of American
culture was perfectly anathema to the eugenic ideal of National Socialism, so
the composite freakery of Kultur-Terror was perhaps the Nazis perfect
92 Kultur-Terror

Figure 1.
Peter Paret, et al., Persuasive Images: Posters of War and Revolution from
the Hoover Institution Archives (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University
Press, 1992), 173.
J. Edgar Hoover, J. Edgar Hoover on Communism (New York: Random
House, 1969), 64.
Ibid, 153 and Cyndy Hendershot, Anti-Communism and Popular Culture in
Mid-Century America (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2003), 1.
Paret et al., 122 and Vladimir Neviarovich, Revolutions and Diabolism,
PRAVOSLAVIA.RU, 9 February 2004, (4 April 2005).
< 040209190208>.
See, for example, Esau / Edom in Russia, The End Times, 27 January
2002, (19 April 2005). <
.htm>; this is but one of many websites dedicated to the subject. An
abundance of websites, even some with scholarly writing, can be easily found
using any search engine.
In an August 4, 1914 interview with British ambassador to Germany Sir
Edward Goschen, Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg said, We
are at war todayjust for a word neutrality a word which in war-time
has so often been disregarded just for a scrap of paper. A. Pearce Higgins,
The Law of Nations and the War (London and New York: Oxford University
Press, 1914), 13, quoted in Nicoletta F. Gullace, Sexual Violence and
Family Honour: British Propaganda and International Law during the First
World War, The American Historical Review, Vol. 102, No. 3 (1997): 720.
Gullace, 714-747 traces this progression of public opinion in detail.
William Le Queux, German Atrocities: A Record of Shameless Deeds
(London: G. Newnes, 1915), 45-121, quoted in Gullace, 714.
Figure 2. For a reproduction of Youngs poster, see Paret et al., 21.
For a reproduction of Lindsays poster, see Peter Stanley, What did You do
in the War Daddy? A Visual History of Propaganda Posters (Melbourne:
Oxford University Press, 1983), 37.
Figure 3.
Paret et al., 110.
Figure 4.
Figure 2.
Figure 5.
Paret et al., 131.
Kristen Williams Backer 93

The Indiana Historical Research Foundation, A Brief History of the
Original Ku Klux Klan: 1865-1869, An Educational, Historical Study of the
Ku Klux Klan, 30 August 2005, (24 October 2005).
A Brief History of the Ku Klux Klan, The Journal of Blacks in Higher
Education 14 (1996): 32. The Indiana Historical Research Foundation
website (op. cit.) puts the membership number at over eight million.
A parallel can be found in an Italian poster series from circa 1941-45. The
American soldier is figured as a looter who would rob Europe of its
centuries-old treasures; in one example, he fills his lap with riches while
guarding a stockpile of religious art and liturgical instruments, and in
another, he drunkenly gropes the Venus de Milo, who has been sarcastically
marked with a price tag of only two dollars. Significantly, in each of the
posters that portray Americans as thieves, the soldier depicted is a
stereotyped African American. For reproductions see Zbynek Zeman, Selling
the War: Art and Propaganda in World War II (London: Orbis Publishing,
1978), 115, and Toby Clark, Art and Propaganda in the Twentieth Century
(New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1997), 113.
Particularly brutally targeted were the so-called Rhineland Bastards
(Rheinlanbastarde), biracial children of relationships between white German
women and French colonial troops that occupied the Rhineland after the First
World War. For more on the situation of the African diaspora during the Nazi
era, see Robert W. Kestling, Blacks Under the Swastika: A Research Note,
The Journal of Negro History Vol. 83, no. 1 (1998): 84-99.
Neil Levi, Judge for Yourselves!- The Degenerate Art Exhibition as
Political Spectacle, October 85 (1998): 41.
This wall text is clearly legible in photographs of Reich officials visiting
the exhibition following its 1937 opening in Munich.
See Hans Severus Ziegler, Entartete Musik: Eine Abrechnung (Dsseldorf:
Vlkischer Verlag, 1937) for reproduction.
David Margolick, War of the Worlds, Vanity Fair 541, September 2005,
Ibid, 378.
Peter Wilson, British boxing commentator, quoted in ibid, 377.
Ibid, 374.
Schmelings manager, Max Machon tried repeatedly to end the one-sided
match by symbolically throwing in the towel, but this gesture of surrender
was not observed in New York, so Louis continued to batter Schmeling even
though his side was attempting to concede the fight. Ibid, 378.
Compare to Figure 3.
94 Kultur-Terror

Nazi visual propaganda obsessively repeated the oversized, misshapen
nose as a feature of the Jewish, Bolshevik, or Slavic face; such examples are
too numerous to mention. It even appears on images that make no other
reference to Jewishness, for example Figure 4, wherein the red giants face
has been turned to the side to provide an unobstructed view of the
stereotyped nose, and his neck and shoulder have been awkwardly
manipulated to accommodate the turned head.
Zeman,102-103. The monster in Kultur-Terror wears a banner decorated
with the Star of David as a loincloth; this might be a similar suggestion of the
pervasiveness of Jewish power in America.
Margolick, 374.
See Zeman, 114.
People and Events: Detroit Race Riots 1943, The American Experience,
Eleanor Roosevelt, 1999 (2 May 2005).
For more on the situation of jazz under the Third Reich, see Michael H.
Kater, Different Drummers: Jazz in the Culture of Nazi Germany (Oxford
and New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).

A Brief History of the Ku Klux Klan. The Journal of Blacks in Higher
Education 14 (1996): 32.

Clark, Toby. Art and Propaganda in the Twentieth Century. New York:
Harry N. Abrams, 1997.

Esau/ Edom in Russia. The End Times. 27 January 2002.

< .htm> (19 April 2005).

Gullace, Nicoletta F. Sexual Violence and Family Honour: British

Propaganda and International Law during the First World War. The
American Historical Review Vol. 102, No. 3 (1997): 714-747.

Hendershot, Cyndy. Anti-Communism and Popular Culture in Mid-Century

America. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2003.
Kristen Williams Backer 95

Higgins, A. Pearce. The Law of Nations and the War. Oxford and New York:
Oxford University Press, 1914.

Hoover, J. Edgar. J. Edgar Hoover on Communism. New York: Random

House, 1969.

The Indiana Historical Research Foundation. A Brief History of the Original

Ku Klux Klan: 1865-1869. An Educational, Historical Study of the Ku Klux
Klan. 30 August 2005. < briefhist.htm>. (24 October

Kater, Michael H. Different Drummers: Jazz in the Culture of Nazi Germany.

Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Kestling, Robert W. Blacks Under the Swastika: A Research Note. The

Journal of Negro History Vol. 83, no. 1 (1998): 84-99.

Le Queux, William. German Atrocities: A Record of Shameless Deeds.

London: G. Newnes, Limited, 1915.

Levi, Neil. Judge for Yourselves!- The Degenerate Art Exhibition as

Political Spectacle. October 85 (1998): 41-64.

Margolick, David. War of the Worlds. Vanity Fair 541, September 2005,

Neviarovich, Vladimir. Revolutions and Diabolism. PRAVOSLAVIA.RU. 9

February 2004. < 040209190208> (4
April 2005).

Paret, Peter, Beth Irwin Lewis and Paul Paret. Persuasive Images: Posters of
War and Revolution from the Hoover Institution Archives. Princeton, New
Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1992.

People and Events: Detroit Race Riots 1943. The American Experience,
Eleanor Roosevelt. 1999. <
filmmore/index.html> (2 May 2005).

Stanley, Peter. What did You do in the War Daddy? A Visual History of
Propaganda Posters. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1983.
96 Kultur-Terror

Zeman, Zbynek. Selling the War: Art and Propaganda in World War II.
London: Orbis Publishing, 1978.

Ziegler, Hans Severus. Entartete Musik: Eine Abrechnung. Dsseldorf:

Vlkischer Verlag, 1937.

Kristen Williams Backer is a Ph.D. student of art history in the Henry

Radford Hope School of Fine Arts at Indiana University, Bloomington,
Indiana, U.S.A. She specializes in Twentieth Century Art.
Kristen Williams Backer 97

Figure 1. Leest Storm, Kultur-Terror. NE224, Poster Collection, Hoover

Institution Archives.
98 Kultur-Terror

Figure 2. H. R. Hopps, Destroy This Mad Brute. US2003A, Poster

Collection, Hoover Institution Archives.
Kristen Williams Backer 99

Figure 3. Julius Ussy Engelhard, Bolschewismus Bringt Krieg,

Arbeitslosigkeit, und Hungersnot. GE1858A, Poster Collection, Hoover
Institution Archives.
100 Kultur-Terror

Figure 4. Mosakodnak! HU384, Poster Collection, Hoover Institution

Kristen Williams Backer 101

Figure 5. Herbert Agricola, Bolschewismus ohne Maske. GE975, Poster

Collection, Hoover Institution Archives.
The Anarchist as Monster in Fin-de-Sicle Europe

Elun Gabriel

In an 1894 pamphlet titled Anarchism and Its Cure, the pseudonymous author
Emanuel described rabid beasts and poisonous reptiles in the shapes of men,
who call themselves anarchists, seeking by means of violence to bend the
world to their personal desires. Five years later, a professor of criminal law
in Bonn described anarchists as rapacious beasts in the shape of men. The
figure of the monstrous anarchist, common at the end of the nineteenth
century, distilled Europeans fears of political radicalism, biological
degeneration, and common criminality. In this paper, I will describe the
production of this image in the popular imaginationthrough newspapers,
popular fiction, and expert accountsand examine the social and political
work that it performed in explaining political radicalism for late-nineteenth-
century audiences. Two interconnected narratives about the anarchist
monsters origins articulated Europeans fears about the dangers menacing
their society. One perspective presented the anarchist as biologically
defective. In the words of Cesare Lombroso, the pioneer of criminal
anthropology, "the most active advocates of this anarchist idea are. . . for the
most part either criminals or insane, or sometimes both together." By reading
the physiognomies of famous anarchists, Lombroso descried an unusually
high rate of men he classified as born criminals. The other interpretive
framework linked anarchist monstrousness to a specifically Russian form of
degeneration. In this telling, anarchism, a philosophical doctrine invented by
French and German thinkers, had been infected by an Eastern thirst for
blood: the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, wrote one author, pressed the
dagger and the dynamite bomb into the hand of anarchism, inspiring it with
the sinister fanatical lust for destruction and murder which continues to burn
today and which has made anarchism into a nightmare abhorred by the entire
world. Like the fictional monster Dracula, the anarchist embodied fears that
an eastern European corruption had come to haunt the West.
The construction of the anarchist as monster obliterated the option of
understanding anarchist acts as rational or political, substituting dread of the
alien and unknown for an analysis of the social context that gave rise to

Anarchism, Germany, Conservatism, Liberalism, Dracula, degeneration,
104 The Anarchist as Monster in Fin-de-Sicle Europe
In an 1894 pamphlet titled Anarchism and Its Cure, the pseudonymous
German author Emanuel described rabid beasts and poisonous reptiles in the
shapes of men, who call themselves anarchists, seeking by means of
violence to bend the world to their personal desires.1 Five years later, a
professor of criminal law in Bonn referred to anarchists as rapacious beasts
in the shape of men.2 After the stabbing death of Austrian empress Elisabeth
II in September 1898, a German newspaper inveighed, The anarchists . . . do
not deserve to be dealt with as human beings [Menschen], they may in no
way lay claim to the name of human [Mensch].3 By using metaphors of
monstrousness, anarchisms opponents obscured the movements political
claims, instead placing anarchists beyond the pale of the human community
as manifestations of ominous evil. Though denying anarchisms political
character, these authors offered distinctly political answers to the question of
the monsters origins and the means to its elimination.
The immediate context of this anti-anarchist narrative outpouring was
the rise of anarchist terrorism known as propaganda of the deed in the two
decades before the turn of the century. Anarchist assassins claimed the lives
of the president of France in 1894, the prime minister of Spain in 1897, the
empress of Austria in 1898, the king of Italy in 1900, and the president of the
United States in 1901. The terrorism of Russian populists (commonly
referred to as nihilists), who felled Tsar Alexander II in 1881, was also
popularly associated with anarchism. In addition to the spectacular killings of
crowned heads and political leaders, the era saw dozens of failed attentats
(political assassination attempts), as well as frequent bombings in cafs, train
stations, and other public venues. Though anarchist terrorism took few lives,
its ubiquity and unpredictability provoked public alarm and demanded
interpretation. Politicians, journalists, social scientists, and novelists all
sought to explain anarchism in such a way as to make its threat coherent to
the public.
This essay will contextualize the image of the anarchist as monster
within late nineteenth-century European fears of degeneration, and then focus
on the particular ways this discourse was mobilized for political purposes in
the German Empire. While Europeans shared a generalized fear of the
anarchist menace, its manifestations entered the political sphere in distinct
ways within each national context. The German case offers simply one
illustration of how metaphors of monstrousness were put to political use in
this era.
The popular discourse of the anarchist as monster was rooted in the late
nineteenth-century idea of degeneration, the belief that humans were prone to
the atavistic resurgence of savage or animalistic qualities, as well as to
biological decline through moral corruption and the over breeding of unfit
human specimens.4 For instance, the field of criminal anthropology,
pioneered by the Italian Cesare Lombroso, set out to develop a scientific
Elun Gabriel 105
understanding of criminalitys biological roots, in hopes of being able to
discover the degenerate born criminals among the populace and so
eliminate them. Lombrosos magnum opus, L'Uomo delinquente, originally
published in 1878 but revised multiple times, laid out the theory that crime
was caused by biological deficiencies of a hereditary nature that could be
detected through close observation. In the skulls and brains of criminals, but
also in other parts of the skeleton, in the muscles, and in the viscera,
Lombrosos German follower Hans Kurella explained, we find anatomical
peculiarities, which in some cases resemble the characters of the few
authentic remnants of the earliest prehistoric beings.5 For Lombroso, the
task of unmasking the criminal types that walked among the populace
depended heavily on reading their physiognomy, as well as discovering other
tell-tale biological signs of degeneracy. The enormous jaws, frontal sinuses
and zygomata, thin upper lip, huge incisors, [and] unusually large head of
one criminal suspect led Lombroso to characterize him as in fact the most
perfect type of the born criminal.6 The physical markers of degeneracy he
saw in his subject painted a portrait of the monstrous.
Lombroso believed that most anarchists could be clearly categorized as
degenerates of this type. In his 1894 study devoted entirely to anarchists, he
asserted that the most active advocates of this anarchist idea are . . . for the
most part either criminals or insane, or sometimes both together.7 The
anarchists Ravachol and Pini, he wrote, present the most complete type of
born criminal, and not only in their faces, but in their attitudes toward crime,
in their delight in evil, in the complete lack of an ethical sense, in the hatred
which they show for family, in their indifference toward human life.8 The
degenerates physical grotesquery, which the trained observer could easily
descry, was matched by a moral wickedness. What made the anarchist truly
monstrous was a total rejection of the institutions and values of human
society, a repudiation of the essential qualities of humanity.
The depiction of the anarchist found in Lombroso was also evident in a
variety of other texts from the period. A London Times correspondents 1894
description of Ravachol as a brute, resembling a hyaena rather than a man,9
suggests the physiognomic interest in the anarchist as degenerate. In his two-
volume study of anarchism from 1894, Italian police inspector Ettore
Sernicoli described political criminals as what modern science calls
disharmonious, or degenerate.10 As such, anarchism is not, Sernicoli
posited, anything other than a very new manifestation of a pathological state
as old as the world.11 The idea of the anarchists implacable hostility to
humanity was captured by a character in E. Douglas Fawcetts 1893 novel,
Hartmann the Anarchist, who refers to anarchists as the Frankensteins
monsters of civilization which are born to hate their father.12 In these
sources, the anarchist appears as both physical degenerate and embodiment
of a cosmic destructive fury. Both physical degeneracy and the renunciation
106 The Anarchist as Monster in Fin-de-Sicle Europe
of social institutions and values set anarchists apart from the human
This view of the anarchist as monster found expression in two of the
most well-known novelistic depictions of anarchists from the era. mile
Zolas 1886 novel about a miners strike, Germinal, offers a portrait of the
Russian anarchist Souvarine as feminized and wild, possessing both a
magnetic seductive power and a capacity for savage violence. Though
lacking obvious physical signs of deformity, Zolas anarchist thirsts for
violence and shuns human sympathy. This depiction of the anarchist fit
within Lombrosos taxonomy as well, as the criminal by passion, whose
criminality stemmed from hypersensitivity and lack of self-control, suggested
in Zolas first lengthy description of Souvarine. In addition to his slim,
blond build and delicate features, the anarchists white, pointed teeth, his
small mouth and thin nose, and his rosy complexion all gave him the
appearance of a determinedly sweet girl, while the steely glint in his eye gave
periodic glimpses of a more savage side.13 The novels protagonist tienne
finds himself unnerved by his fair complexion and those dreamy eyes that
would occasionally turn red and assume a look of wild savagery. In some
curious way they seemed to sap his will . . . . tienne felt as though he were
gradually being absorbed by him.14 tiennes curiosity to know more about
the cult of destruction that Souvarine only rarely and darkly referred to,
leads him to ask the anarchist about his political goal. To destroy
everything, responds Souvarine. By fire, sword and poison . . . . What we
need is a whole succession of horrific attacks that will terrify those in power
and rouse the people from their slumber. Zolas description of the
enraptured Souvarine emphasizes his inhuman, supernatural aspect: While
he spoke, Souvarine presented an awesome sight. As though in the grip of an
ecstatic vision, he almost levitated from his chair; a mystic flame shone from
his pale eyes, and his delicate hands clenched the edge of the table as though
they would crush it. tienne watched him, afraid. Though the anarchists
hypnotic power nearly seduces tienne, the hero ultimately rejects
Souvarines project of total destruction as monstrous and unjust,15 and
instead adopts social democracy.
At the end of the novel, when the miners strike has failed, Souvarine
finally turns his monstrous pronunciations into acts. To punish the miners
capitulation, Souvarine sets in motion the mines destruction by weakening
the supports that hold back an underground river. Working inside the
bottomless chasm of blackness of the mine, he was seized with fury. He
was exhilarated to feel the breath of the invisible on his skin, and the black
horror of this rain swept abyss drove him to a frenzy of destruction. He
attacked the tubbing at random . . . . with the ferocity of a man plunging a
knife into the living flesh of a person he loathed.16 Having ensured that the
mine will collapse on the miners who have chosen to return to work,
Elun Gabriel 107
Souvarine coolly watches them pass by, counting them as a butcher might
count his animals as they enter the abattoir.17 After waiting to make sure the
flooding has begun, Souvarine disappears into the night:

He threw away his last cigarette, and, without a backward

glance, walked off into the darkness which had now fallen.
In the distance his shadowy figure faded from view and
melted into the blackness of the night. He was headed
somewhere, anywhere, off into the unknown. In his usual
calm way he was bound upon extermination, bound for
wherever there was dynamite to blow cities and people to
smithereens. And in all probability, when the bourgeoisies
final hour arrives and every cobble is exploding in the road
beneath its feet, there he will be.18

In this passage, Zola completes the description of Souvarine as an avatar of

destruction rather than a man with a political creed.
Joseph Conrads novel The Secret Agent, published twenty-one
years later, offers a remarkably similar description of a German anarchist,
known only as the Professor, who builds bombs for anarchist terrorists. At
the novels end, most of the central characters have perished, but the
Professor remains, eternal as Souvarine. The last lines of the novel are
devoted to his final description:

And the incorruptible Professor walked . . . averting his

eyes from the odious multitude of mankind. He had no
future. He disdained it. He was a force. His thoughts
caressed the images of ruin and destruction. He walked
frail, insignificant, shabby, miserableand terrible in the
simplicity of his idea calling madness and despair to the
regeneration of the world. Nobody looked at him. He
passed on unsuspected and deadly, like a pest in the street
full of men.19

As in the case of Souvarine, the Professor is a malignant figure with no trace

of human sympathy, a being totally bent on societys obliteration.
No less than novelists, journalists depicted anarchists in monstrous
terms. In his account of President William McKinleys assassination, Murat
Halstead referred to McKinleys assassin, Leon Czolgosz, as a ghastly little
fiend, an infernal expert in killing who kept a hungry, fiendish watch
for the president, exhibiting a bloodhound keenness.20 Halstead labelled
anarchism a litany of the Devil which feeds on . . . the rankling poisons
that envenom reptiles, and wrote of Czolgosz having visited, before his
108 The Anarchist as Monster in Fin-de-Sicle Europe
murder of the president, the lurking places of his fellow-serpents where they
coil in infernal communion. Halstead cautioned that Czolgosz should not be
allowed to come into contact with those of his kind that they may be
sympathetic and hatch more snakes eggs.21 Halstead saw anarchists as
vicious creatures that threatened to spread their contagion throughout the
human world.
Though the accounts discussed above differ somewhat in their
characterizations, all of them share the notion of anarchists as a danger to
humanity. Gustavo Tosti expressed this general fear of anarchism concisely:
If the suggestions of this theory were to be carried out by a great number of
men, the unchecked spread of murder and crime would soon bring the body
social to an end. Hence, the theory is poisonous and must not be left to exert
its tremendous power of contamination.22 In all of these authors works, the
depiction of the anarchist entirely effaces anarchisms political content,
instead placing the anarchist in total antagonism to humanity.
The anarchist monster represented not only a response to fears of the re-
emergence of the atavistic within the body politic, but especially fears of the
foreign invader common in Western narratives in the age of imperialism.
Stephen Aratas analysis of Bram Stokers Dracula as a tale of the anxiety
of reverse colonization offers a useful perspective for understanding popular
fears of anarchism as well.23 In Dracula, Arata argues, Stoker questions the
boundaries between civilized and primitive, colonizer and colonized,
victimizer . . . and victim. By problematizing those boundaries, Stoker probes
the heart of the cultures sense of itself, its ways of defining and
distinguishing itself from other peoples, other cultures.24 Works about
anarchism, wrestling with the same fear of darkness in the heart of the west,
and the consequent blurring of the lines between savage and civilized, sought
to reinscribe these boundaries rather than interrogating them. Fin-de-sicle
works that figured anarchism as monstrous not only removed the ideology
from the realm of the human, but also projected a foreignness into it that
further distanced it from civilized lands. Although Leon Czolgosz was born
and raised in Michigan, Murat Halsteads contemplation of his name denied
his American identity: Czolgosz . . . offers a lingual problem to nine-tenths
of those who attempt to pronounce it. . . . It is one of those names . . . which
the average English-speaking person stumbles over in trying to express after
hearing it spoken by a Russian. Though Czolgosz was of Polish descent,
Halstead linked the name to Russia, understood in the West to be irrevocably
Eastern, the site of oriental despotism and savage brutality. Again eliding
Czolgoszs US citizenship, Halstead insisted, It is time to classify the
anarchist as an outsider, an invader . . . . he is the product of the worst of
foreignism.25 In the same fashion, Zola made his anarchist a Russian, while
Conrads anarchists were Russian or German. Though Lombrosos anarchist
Elun Gabriel 109
subjects were frequently Italians, they were understood to be a product of
Southern Italys foreignness and backwardness.26
The portrayal of anarchists as degenerate, foreign monsters reveals
something about European cultural anxieties at the end of the nineteenth
century, but it also had implications for politics. Those who wrote about the
anarchist threat believed that it could only be contained if it could be revealed
and combated in the proper manner. The ultimate goal of Lombrosos
enterprise, according to Daniel Pick, was to produce a science of social
defence against atavism and anarchy. It was deemed pointless to pontificate
on the moral responsibility of atavistic individuals, but crucial to separate
them out from the rest of society.27 Criminal anthropology promised through
studies of physiognomy and other physical traits, to discover the face of the
anarchist who might pass unnoticed among the masses. Writers on political
matters offered political rather than scientific solutions to the problem of the
anarchist monster.
Though Europeans shared a broadly defined image of the anarchist, its
import differed depending on national context. Here I will consider in more
depth how the generic figure of the monstrous anarchist was mobilized in
German political culture. In late nineteenth-century Germany, the attempt to
explain anarchisms significance intersected with a debate about whether the
nation should preserve the political system which granted the Kaiser
extraordinary power to govern in a semi-authoritarian manner, or whether it
should more fully embrace parliamentary democracy and the rule of law. I
will focus on two contrasting political discourses about anarchism in fin-de-
sicle Germany, one issuing from the monarchys conservative backers, the
other from the proponents of liberal democratic reform in the empire. In the
conservatives eyes, the toxic influence of the increasingly bold socialist
movement had given birth to the anarchist monster, which liberal
governments (Britain in particular) further nurtured through their aversion to
the use of political force. Liberals, on the other hand, depicted anarchism as a
monster that naturally thrived in the Eastern soil of autocracy and Slavic
barbarism, but had stolen into Western Europe thanks to the illiberal policies
of governments that failed to live up to the standards of civilization. These
contrasting discourses clearly illustrate some of the ways the narrative of the
monstrous anarchist could be mobilized for different political ends.
For conservatives, the metaphor of the hydra (the multi-headed serpent
of Greek mythology) proved particularly compelling for describing
anarchism. No sooner had the head of one anarchist been severed than
another seemed to appear in its place. This picture had some basis in reality:
for example, both the French anarchist Emile Henry, who exploded a bomb
in a Paris train station caf, and the Italian Sante Caserio, who slew Frances
president Sadi Carnot in 1894, acted to avenge the recent execution of the
anarchist Auguste Vaillant. After Luigi Lucchenis assassination of Austrian
110 The Anarchist as Monster in Fin-de-Sicle Europe
Empress Elisabeth in 1898, a German government report endorsed a Russian
newspapers description the assassin as a member of the anarchist party, this
blot on our time, this noxious [schaudlichen] hydra that had now shed the
holy blood of an innocent, suffering woman.28 The image of the hydra
rhetorically connected all anarchist attacks to each other, while also rejecting
any political logic in the anarchists acts. Though all of the anarchist
terrorists of this era acted alone, and most had no connection to the organized
anarchist social movement, the metaphor of the hydra evoked the image of
collaboration among the anarchist heads of the hydra, while also intimating
that these heads were attached to a larger body.
Ultimately, the target of the hydra metaphor was the powerful and
growing German socialist movement. Conservatives sought to conflate
democratic, parliamentary Social Democracy with violent anarchism, seeking
to tar the former with the crimes of the latter. Portraying anarchist attentats as
facets of a larger, horrifying danger promoted a rhetorical intertwining of
socialism and anarchism, by suggesting socialism as the body of the
metaphorical hydra. During the successful battle to renew German anti-
socialist legislation in 1886, Prussian Interior Minister Robert von Puttkamer
resorted to the hydra image when he spoke to the Reichstag: Behind every
large labour movement, which . . . calculates by means of force and agitation
. . . to bring about an increase in wages . . . lurks the Hydra of violence and
anarchy.29 Though the labour movement might appear harmless, the
insidious menace of anarchy lurked within. A year later, a police inspector
promising to reveal The Secret Organization of the Social Democratic Party,
wrote of the arduous struggle to subdue the hydra of socialism.30
Representing the entire swathe of the Left (never mind the many anarchists
who acted without any intellectual imprimatur at all) as part of a single multi-
headed monster justified the persecution of Social Democrats, regardless of
their disciplined and peaceful behaviour and their repeated repudiations of
If the image of the hydra suggested something about the nature of
anarchism and its relation to socialism, it also directed the listener or reader
toward a particular solution to the problem, namely slaying the beast. After
two would-be assassins attacked the German Kaiser within three weeks of
each other in 1878, conservative historian Heinrich von Treitschke urged
sweeping governmental measures to crush the German socialist movement.
In a pamphlet on Socialism and Assassination, he claimed that after the first
attack, he had believed that the hour had arrived for an open struggle against
anarchy, but the liberals in the Reichstag had refused anti-socialist measures
proposed by Bismarck on the grounds that they violated the principle of the
rule of law. Treitschke argued that the Reichstags rejection of this package
of laws had emboldened the socialist revolutionaries, asserting, The nation,
and particularly the anarchists, remained under the impression that the parties
Elun Gabriel 111
of order had not opposed the storming waves of social revolution with a firm
decision or unanimous will. Treitschke insisted that only a decisive use of
state power would stop anarchic movements since they understand only
the language of violence.31
Two decades later, after the Austrian empresss murder, the conservative
Deutsche Tageszeitung was still drawing on the image of the anarchist
monster to demand strong action, writing, Such ghastly, bloody deeds shall
continue to occur until we pull ourselves together and cut off the head of this
poisonous serpent.32 At this same time, a petition to the Reichstag
demanding the reintroduction of the lash explained that bestial crimes
against women and children must be met with the only form of punishment
that the degenerate fiends [Unmenschen, literally un-humans] still fear.33
The Berliner Politische Nachrichten commented that only with a feeling of
horror could one look into the abyss of bestialization [Verthiertheit] from
which anarchism of the deed conjures up such devils in the shapes of men as
Luccheni to its service. The paper insisted that a misconceived humanism,
a mawkish conception of good and evil, right and wrong, the entirely
arbitrary demand that the human dignity of even the most corrupt
perpetrator of outrages be respected imperilled society, which could not
survive without strong means of force against the surreptitious [heimlich]
deeds of revolution.34 Shortly after anarchist Gaetano Bresci slew Italian
King Umberto in 1900, the National-Zeitung urged that every means which
might produce a beneficial effect must be seized, since the fight against
anarchism was not a political struggle, but a struggle between civilization
under the state [staatlichen Civilisation] and its murderous enemies, who
were akin to wild beasts.35 By portraying anarchists as monstrous and
inhuman, conservatives could advance a draconian war on anarchist terrorism
as the only appropriate response to the danger. Liberals concerns about the
rule of law and democracy were cast as misplaced and foolish in the fight
against poisonous serpents, degenerate fiends, devils in the shapes of
men, and wild beasts. The complaint that liberals were too soft on
anarchist criminality is captured in an illustration from the satirical
conservative magazine Kladderadatsch indicting Britain for its asylum laws
[figure 1]. Utilizing the standard reptilian metaphor for anarchism, the
illustration and accompanying poem show anarchist crocodiles sheltering
112 The Anarchist as Monster in Fin-de-Sicle Europe

Image 1. English Right of Asylum. From Kladderadatsch 47, no. 34, 2nd
supplement (26 August 1894). This illustration shows England as a hen (with
the face of liberal prime minister William Gladstone) whose nest shelters the
anarchist crocodiles.

The poem reads:

The dear little crocodiles
Have at their disposal a secure nest
Where they can live splendidly
And where they are free from discomforts.
And when the little creatures become bigger
They are filled with thankfulness
To have known merry old England.

In Britains warm nest, where they can multiply and eventually return to
terrorize the continent.
Even moderate conservatives unwilling to support an all-out war on
socialism saw anti-socialist measures as having a useful moderating effect by
driving the lurking anarchists from the socialist party. In 1898 the National
Elun Gabriel 113
Liberal leader Ludwig Bamberger argued that governments anti-socialist
measures had had an ameliorative effect on Social Democrats, as evidenced
by the current genial behaviour of their parliamentary representatives. He
compared this era favourably with the Reichstag two decades earlier (before
the laws) when such beasts as [socialists turned anarchists] Hasselmann,
Most and their consorts were raging in its chambers.36 Conservative
politicians, academics, and newspaper editors insisted that the Kaiser and his
ministers had the right and the duty to use the full force of the governments
institutions to stop an insidious menace that threatened civilization itself.
Only by slaying the anarchist beasts could the social order be protected.
German liberals saw the situation rather differently, drawing on a
different trope of the monstrous to explain anarchisms origins and the
appropriate remedy for it. During the height of anarchist terrorism in the
1890s, a spate of scholarly works appeared in Germany, purporting to offer
expert knowledge of the phenomenon. Many of these works included
prefaces recounting how the author was inspired to write his book after
delivering a public lecture to a packed audience of ignorant citizens eager for
someone to make sense of the anarchist threat.37 Leaving aside the function
of establishing the authors authority and the works interest for readers,
these prefaces suggest the real level of citizens desire for an explanation of
anarchist terrorisms meaning. The interpretive framework offered by these
liberal academics (mostly professors of law and jurisprudence) linked
anarchist monstrousness to the fin-de-sicle anxiety about the dangers of
Eastern degeneration invading Western Europe discussed earlier. In this
liberal telling, anarchism, a philosophical doctrine invented by French and
German thinkers, had been infected by an Eastern thirst for blood. Instead of
British liberalism nourishing the monster of anarchism, the blame lay with
Eastern savagery.
Ernst Viktor Zenker, a German expert who wrote a tome on anarchism
in 1895, began his history of anarchism with the philosophical writings of the
Frenchman Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and the German Max Stirner in the mid-
nineteenth century. According to Zenker, it was the Russian Mikhail Bakunin
(and his discipline Sergei Nechaev, author of a well-known call to violence,
the Revolutionary Catechism) who perverted this benign philosophy of
individual freedom into a creed of murder. By the 1860s, times and men had
changed, he commented. The philosophic period was passed, Stirner was
dead, and Proudhon near his end; Russian godfathers stood round the cradle
of modern Anarchism. The men who gave anarchism the sanction of the
dagger, the revolver, petroleum, and dynamite . . . were neither Frenchmen
nor Germans, but the half-civilised barbarians of the East. Modern
anarchism, thus branded by the semi-civilized culture of Russia, had
adopted the tactic of terrorisman idea, he insisted, that does not spring
from the logical development of Proudhons and Stirners ideas.38 In this
114 The Anarchist as Monster in Fin-de-Sicle Europe
way, Zenker explained anarchist violence in Western Europe as the product
of a Slavic contagion.
Others conformed to the same pattern, arguing that Russian savagery
alone accounted for the anarchist turn to violence. Writing in the popular
German family magazine Die Gartenlaube (The Arbour), C. Falkenhorst
claimed that Proudhons contemporaries had considered him merely a
philosopher, a brooder, and a thinker, whose clever points only the educated
could understand. No one took him seriously, and after his death, his ideas
appeared to fade away. But today the world thinks differently about the
consequences of Proudhons ideas, Falkenhorst continued, for the news of
criminal attentats pours in from all sidesattentats that scoff at all humanity
and must no longer be interpreted as signs of a political struggle, but as the
excrescences of a dark destroying fury. Falkenhorst cited Sergei Nechaevs
alleged declaration, Our work is terrible, total, unrelenting destruction, as
evidence of the murderous attitude Russians had introduced into anarchism.
Like Zenker, he attributed the tactic of assassination entirely to this Russian
influence: Not until the Frenchmans cleverness was mated with the
Russians brutal violence was the world surprised with the monstrous
creation of todays anarchism.39 Another scholar of anarchism, Hermann
Tobias, observed that Proudhon and Stirner never gave the slightest thought
to pursuing agitation for their ideas with the violent criminal means which
todays terrorists use. Despite all obstacles, they had faith in the victorious
conquering power of the idea.40 In contrast, their degenerate Russian
descendants, Bakunin and Nechaev pressed the dagger and the dynamite
bomb into the hand of anarchism, inspiring it with the sinister fanatical lust
for destruction and murder which continues to burn today and which has
made anarchism into a nightmare abhorred by the entire world.41
This concern with anarchist terrorisms Eastern origins reveals an
anxiety about the Wests inability to keep itself free of dangers from the
periphery in a world ever more interconnected. Just as Bram Stokers Dracula
takes advantage of the bustling shipping trade to penetrate the heart of British
civilization, so Russian anarchists such as Mikhail Bakunin easily made their
way West, where they could spread their infection to the weak-minded and
ravage the innocent. For these Germans, there was also a particular concern
with drawing the line between East and West to their east. It is not
insignificant that these authors placed France and Germany together in
representing Western civilization. Though Germans traditionally saw
themselves as Western, in opposition to the inferior Slavs of the East, the
French and British did not always see them the same way. By stressing
anarchisms Russianness, they defended their own status as fully civilized.
German liberals attempts to understand the significance of the anarchist
scourge did not stop with their expressions of fear about the spread of Eastern
degeneration. As in the case of conservatives, the question of what exactly
Elun Gabriel 115
brought the monstrous anarchist into European society was inevitably
political. Liberals attributed the spread of the anarchist nightmare to the
brutality of repressive governments in the West, which had in a sense invited
the anarchists in. For instance, Emanuel, whose description of anarchists as
rabid beasts and poisonous reptiles in the shapes of men I cited at the
opening of this essay, went on to rail against ignorance clothed in the robes
of state authority wielding force [Gewalt] instead of knowledge in an attempt
to cure murder through murder.42 Zenker likewise complained that
Germanys harsh anti-socialist laws passed in 1878 had ensured the spread of
anarchism, which suddenly raised its Gorgon head aloft in places where it
had never previously existed.43 Like the Gorgon Medusa, something once
beautiful had become a terror, in this case transformed by the German
governments brutality. Liberals not infrequently complained that the
presence of anarchism in Germany resulted from the Kaisers government
fostering a political atmosphere of Eastern barbarism. Ultimately, all of these
scholars, along with liberal politicians and publicists, urged that social order
could be secured only on a foundation of legal equality and political
Myriad cultural and political perspectives on the anarchist danger flowed
from the starting point of depicting anarchists as monsters, and therefore
enemies of civilization and humanity. The examples outlined here suggest
some of the ways in which the idea of the monster could take on a profound
political meaning. The construction of the anarchist as monster in fin-de-
sicle writings resisted the possibility of understanding anarchist acts as
rational and political, substituting dread of the alien and unknown for an
analysis of the social context that gave rise to anarchism. Attributing
monstrous qualities to the perpetrators of political violence helped to explain,
and therefore manage, the threat they posed. Yet addressing the menace of
anarchist violence in this way also allowed, and even necessitated, the kind of
further interpretive acts that both German conservatives and liberals
undertook to pinpoint the origins of the anarchist danger, and to suggest
remedies to it.

Emanuel, Anarchismus und seine Heilung (Leipzig: Verlag von Wilhelm
Friedrich, 1894), 7-8.
Hermann Seuffert, Anarchismus und Strafrecht (Berlin: Verlag von Otto
Liebmann, 1899), 2.
116 The Anarchist as Monster in Fin-de-Sicle Europe

Cited in Die Ermordung der Kaiserin von Oesterreich, Frankfurter
Zeitung, 13 September 1898, 2.
Two of the most important scholarly works on the idea of degeneration are
Robert A. Nye, Crime, Madness and Politics in Modern France: The Medical
Concept of National Decline (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984)
and Daniel Pick, Faces of Degeneration: A European Disorder, c.1848-
c.1918 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989). On the use of
Lombroso by German criminologists, see Richard F. Wetzell, Inventing the
Criminal: A History of German Criminology, 1880-1945 (Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 2000).
Cited in Randy Martin, Robert J. Mutchnick, and W. Timothy Austin,
Crimonological Thought: Pioneers Past and Present (New York: Macmillan,
1990), 29.
Cited in Pick, 145.
Cesare Lombroso, Gli Anarchici (1894; reprint, Millwood: Kraus Reprint,
1983), 21.
Lombroso, 25.
Cited in Auberon Herbert, The Ethics of Dynamite, Contemporary
Review (May 1894), reprinted in The Right and Wrong of Compulsion by the
State, and other Essays, ed. Eric Mack (Indianapolis, Indiana: Liberty Fund,
Ettore Sernicoli, LAnarchia e gli Anarchici: Studio Storico e Politico, vol.
2: Fisiologia degli Anarchici (Milan: Fratelli Treves, 1894), 28.
Sernicoli, vol. 2, 199-200.
E. Douglas Fawcett, Hartmann the Anarchist: or, The Doom of The Great
City (1893; reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1975), 82, cited in Noel Patrick
Peacock, Constructions of Anarchism in British Fiction, 1885-1914 (Ph.D.
diss., University of Western Ontario, 1994), 43.
mile Zola, Germinal, trans. Roger Pearson (1886; reprint, London:
Penguin Books, 2004), 141-142.
Zola, 244.
Zola, 245.
Zola, 462-463.
Zola, 466.
Zola, 483.
Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale (1907; reprint, New York:
Signet Classic, 1983), 237.
Murat Halstead, The Illustrious Life of William McKinley, Our Martyred
President (N.p, 1901), 25, 67, 68.
Halstead, 26, 27. For more on Halsteads depiction of anarchists, see
Peacock, 42.
Elun Gabriel 117

Gustavo Tosti, Anarchistic Crimes, Political Science Quarterly 14, no. 3
(September 1899), 416.
Stephen Arata, The Occidental Tourist: Dracula and the Anxiety of
Reverse Colonization, Victorian Studies 33, no. 4 (Summer 1990). Arata,
623, notes that in this fear Dracula resembles the innumerable invasion
scare and dynamite novels of the 1880s and 90s, many of the latter
featuring anarchists.
Arata, 626-627.
Halstead, 70, 26.
The Southern Question was the occasion of considerable anxiety and
political tension in newly-unified Italy. Northerners regarded the South as a
primitive, savage land some were unsure could ever be made truly Italian.
Pick, 126.
Petersburgtija Wiedomojti, 11 September 1898, cited in Dieter Johannes,
Manahmen gegen die Anarchisten im Deutschen Kaiserreich (1871-1918),
Materialsammlung 2 (Frankfurt: Archiv fr libertre-historische
Hermeneutik, 1999), 8.
Cited in Vernon L. Lidtke, The Outlawed Party: Social Democracy in
Germany, 1878-1890 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966), 274.
W. Krieter, Die geheime Organisation der sozialdemokratischen Partei, 3rd
ed. (Magdeburg: Verlag von Albert Rathke, 1887), 3.
Heinrich von Treitschke, Der Socialismus und der Meuchelmord (Berlin:
Druck und Verlag von G. Reimer, 1878), 6.
Cited in Die Ermordung der Kaiserin von Oesterreich, 2.
Cited in Frankfurt, 20. September, in Franfurter Zeitung, 20 September
1898, Abendblatt, 1.
Berliner Politische Nachrichten, 12 September 1898; 13 September 1898.
National-Zeitung, 11 August 1900, Morgen-Ausgabe, 1.
Ludwig Bamberger, Wandlungen und Wanderungen in der Sozialpolitik
(Berlin: Rosenbaum & Hart, 1898), cited in Guenther Roth, The Social
Democrats in Imperial Germany: A Study in Working-Class Isolation and
National Integration (Totowa, N.J.: The Bedminster Press, 1963), 93-94.
Rudolf Stammler, Die Theorie des Anarchismus (Berlin: Verlag von O.
Hring, 1894), Foreword; Naum Reichesberg, Sozialismus und
Anarchismus (Leipzig: Verlag von August Siebert, 1895), Foreword; E. V.
Zenker, Der Anarchismus: Kritik und Geschichte der anarchistischen
Theorie (Jena: Verlag von Gustav Fischer, 1895), v.
E. V. Zenker, Anarchism: A Criticism and History of the Anarchist Theory
(London: G. P. Putnams Sons, 1897), 144, 145.
C. Falkenhorst, Die Anarchisten, Die Gartenlaube, 1892, no. 10, 311,
118 The Anarchist as Monster in Fin-de-Sicle Europe

Hermann Tobias, Der Anarchismus und die anarchistische Bewegung,
Volkswirtschaftliche Zeitfragen: Vortrge und Abhandlungen herausgegeben
von der Volkswirtschaftlichen Gesellschaft in Berlin, vol. 163 (Berlin:
Verlag von Leonhard Simion, 1899), 36.
Tobias, 12.
Emanuel, 7-8.
Zenker, 279-280.

Arata, Stephen. The Occidental Tourist: Dracula and the Anxiety of
Reverse Colonization. Victorian Studies 33, no. 4 (Summer 1990): 621-645.

Bamberger, Ludwig. Wandlungen und Wanderungen in der Sozialpolitik.

Berlin: Rosenbaum & Hart, 1898.

Conrad, Joseph. The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale. 1907; reprint, New York:
Signet Classic, 1983.

Emanuel. Anarchismus und seine Heilung. Leipzig: Verlag von Wilhelm

Friedrich, 1894.

Falkenhorst, C. Die Anarchisten. Die Gartenlaube, 1892, no. 10: 309-311.

Fawcett, E. Douglas. Hartmann the Anarchist: or, The Doom of The Great
City. 1893; reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1975.

Halstead, Murat. The Illustrious Life of William McKinley, Our Martyred

President. N.p, 1901.

Herbert, Auberon. The Ethics of Dynamite. 1894; reprinted in The Right

and Wrong of Compulsion by the State, and other Essays, ed. Eric Mack.
Indianapolis, Indiana: Liberty Fund, 1978.

Johannes, Dieter. Manahmen gegen die Anarchisten im Deutschen

Kaiserreich (1871-1918), Materialsammlung 2. Frankfurt: Archiv fr
libertre-historische Hermeneutik, 1999.

Krieter, W. Die geheime Organisation der sozialdemokratischen Partei, 3rd

ed. Magdeburg: Verlag von Albert Rathke, 1887.
Elun Gabriel 119

Lidtke, Vernon L. The Outlawed Party: Social Democracy in Germany,

1878-1890. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966.

Lombroso, Cesare. Gli Anarchici. 1894; reprint, Millwood, N.Y.: Kraus

Reprint, 1983.

Martin, Randy, Robert J. Mutchnick, and W. Timothy Austin.

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Reichesberg, Naum. Sozialismus und Anarchismus. Leipzig: Verlag von

August Siebert, 1895.

Roth, Guenther. The Social Democrats in Imperial Germany: A Study in

Working-Class Isolation and National Integration. Totowa, N.J.: The
Bedminster Press, 1963.

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anarchici, le nuove leggi e i rimedi. Milan: Fratelli Treves, 1894.

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Liebmann, 1899.

Stammler, Rudolf. Die Theorie des Anarchismus. Berlin: Verlag von O.

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Tobias, Hermann. Der Anarchismus und die anarchistische Bewegung.

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von der Volkswirtschaftlichen Gesellschaft in Berlin, vol. 163. Berlin: Verlag
von Leonhard Simion, 1899.

Tosti, Gustavo. Anarchistic Crimes. Political Science Quarterly 14, no. 3

(September 1899): 404-417.
120 The Anarchist as Monster in Fin-de-Sicle Europe

Treitschke, Heinrich von. Der Socialismus und der Meuchelmord. Berlin:

Druck und Verlag von G. Reimer, 1878.

Wetzell, Richard F. Inventing the Criminal: A History of German

Criminology, 1880-1945. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,

Zenker, E. V. Anarchism: A Criticism and History of the Anarchist Theory.

London: G. P. Putnams Sons, 1897. Originally published as Der
Anarchismus: Kritik und Geschichte der anarchistischen Theorie. Jena:
Verlag von Gustav Fischer, 1895.
Section Three

Familial Monsters
(Maybe some of them are regular folk like you & me)
Family, Race and Citizenship in Disneys Lilo and Stitch

Emily Cheng
My paper addresses the themes of family, adoption (of the alien monster),
and multiculturalism in Disneys 2002 animated film, Lilo and Stitch. I argue
that the film portrays the setting of Hawaii as a multicultural paradise
through both the visual representation and the narrative of domesticating the
monstrous alien, Stitch, by assimilation into a native Hawaiian family and
the cultural pluralism of the nation. While the alien monster poses a threat to
the American family and civilization, in his incorporation into the family, and
allegorically, into the U.S. nation, he goes through a process of becoming a
model citizen and a proper subject of the law. I connect this narrative of
inclusion into the liberal contract to the films embeddedness in the neo-
liberal tourism industry that produces Hawaii as an exotic other available for
mainland consumption.

Monsters in Animation, Family and Monsters, Alien Monsters, Disney,
Tourism, Hawaii

This paper looks at Disneys 2002 film, Lilo and Stitch as a site of
visual culture that engages with narratives of the family and adoption (of the
alien) in relation to the U.S. nation. One starting point of this discussion is to
situate it in the context of the recent history of Disney films, such as Mulan
(1998), Aladdin (1992), and Pocahontas (1995) that have been criticized for
their participation in imperialist narratives, and racism and sexism.
According to Eleanor Byrne and Martin McQuillan, the release of The Little
Mermaid in 1989 was a turning point for Disney films, both stylistically and
thematically. They posit a relationship between Disneys productions and
their left critics in which the text offers an overt reading that the audience
can easily identify and make an obvious critique that allows Disney to then
defend and construct its conservative ideological messages, for these
denunciations of Disney are precisely what keeps Disney going.1 Along
these lines, in Lilo and Stitch, Disney has stylistically responded to recent
critiques of the anglicized features of the women of colour of by returning to
their earlier styles, for instance, flattening the noses of the indigenous
characters while increasing the womens physical brawn.
While discussions of Disney have often focused on the relationship
between the corporation and the critic, in this paper my method is to address
the multiple and often contradictory meanings produced by the film by
124 Family, Race and Citizenship in Disneys Lilo and Stitch
considering its reception found in print and online reviews, production, and
the text itself. My reading of the film is situated in these material contexts of
production and reception, particularly through a consideration of its form as
animation and its marketing as family entertainment. I focus particularly on
how in both its production and filmic narrative the film upholds U.S. claims
to being a multicultural nation that are projected onto Hawaii as an imagined
racial paradise, a process which is embedded in the neo-liberalist tourist
economy. More specifically, this idealization of the nation takes place
through a double narrative of domesticating the alien in both the family and
the nation that also raises and resolves the contradictions of Asian
immigration and fears of the Asiatic alien threat to the nation, particularly
represented as a threat to the Pacific Coasts of the geographic U.S.
This is a movie about aliens, but also one in which the alien can be
assimilated, through its inclusion into a family (composed of himself and two
orphaned native Hawaiian sisters). The movie opens on the alien planet of
Turo, governed by the futuristic society of the Galactic Federation, where an
evil genius scientist, Jumba Jookiba, has secretly created Experiment 626,
a monstrosity that is programmed to destroy, in particular to seek out cities
to attack. When his existence is revealed, the Galactic Federation orders
Experiment 626 to be destroyed and his creator to be imprisoned for life.
However, 626 escapes and flees to Earth, where he lands in Hawaii, and his
creator is sent to retrieve him. This representation of Stitch as a monstrous
alien whose only purpose in life is to wreak havoc is figured as an alien threat
to the U.S. nation-state staged in the Pacific and as a threat to civilization
Along with this narrative of the alien threat to the planet and nation
is the story of the family that is formed when 626 is mistakenly adopted as a
dog by two indigenous orphaned sisters. Having escaped imprisonment on
Turo, 626 is taken in by an animal shelter, as a stray dog, in Hawaii. Now
named Stitch, the alien is adopted by Lilo, and her older sister, Nani, who
have been recently orphaned by the death of their parents in an accident.
While Nani originally gets Stitch for Lilo to have a companion, he turns out
to be a threat to the family as his destructive ways keep her from getting a
job, and he destroys the house itself. Before they get Stitch, the social worker
known as Mr. Bubbles, whom they call when things go wrong, already has
threatened to remove Lilo and put her under state care, and Stitch exacerbates
the situation.2 The figure of Mr. Bubbles who represents the state not only as
a social worker, but also as a former CIA agent specializing in alien
encounters, ties family to the state explicitly. Indeed, his command that the
two conditions for Nani and Lilo to stay together as a family are that Nani get
a job and that Stitch become a model citizen links the proper form of
family to citizenship and participation in the nation.
Emily Cheng 125
Reviews of the film help to illuminate the dominant understanding
of this film and help to situate the film in popular culture and dominant
ideologies. One common way of evaluating the film in reviews was in terms
of its suitability for both parents and children, in that it teaches important
lessons about family and love, while also being witty and sophisticated
enough for adults. This double billing seems to delineate two overt levels on
which the meaning of the text may be read. On the one hand, what makes the
film suitable for children is its overriding theme of ohana, or family, which
as Calvin Trager notes, this trope is too expository to be missed.3 On the
other hand, it is the multiple ways in which the film references other popular
culture sites that appears to be an important component of what makes the
film interesting for adults.
Many of these reviews also provide a way to understand the film as
a popular cultural text that is a corollary to the national project of building a
multicultural citizenry. As several reviewers have pointed out, the film
references many popular culture sites, for instance, Steven Spielbergs E.T.
and Elviss music as well as the Kings legacy of impersonations, however,
the list of references extends much further, to include The Ugly Duckling,
Frankenstein, Godzilla, Men In Black, Star Wars, and Gremlins. These
references and the thematic content of the film also draw on other dominant
narratives of the nation, especially regarding the figure of the Asian other and
the Asia-Pacific as frontier. Specifically, the setting, content, and production
of the film serve to reaffirm Hawaii as a part of the U.S. as a multicultural
nation. I read the setting of the film in the liminal U.S. space of Hawaii as
pointing to the contested boundaries of the nation in the Pacific as well as
referencing lost-standing fears of the alien other of the Asia Pacific that is
resolved through a national projection of multiracial paradise. While Stitch is
mandated to become a model citizen, in a way, the movie also portrays
Hawaii as a model national space.
This construction of Hawaii as a racial paradise relies specifically
on its form that allows for the animation of the physical space. Interviews
with co-writers and co-directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois on the
DVD bonus material explicitly state their desire to properly portray the native
Hawaiian culture, in order to show their respect as well as accurately
represent it in cartoon form. This insistence on the realism of the animated
form is interesting in its masking of the films alliance with dominant cultural
values and narratives; while animation might have the potential to
defamiliarize such narratives by disrupting the reality effect of the film, the
intent at least of this film is to use animation to produce a hyper-real Hawaii.
While of course the intention of the filmmakers is not prescriptive of
the films meaning, this goal of realism was taken up and circulated in
discourses about the film in the context of tourism. A link found on the
website of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) to a review
126 Family, Race and Citizenship in Disneys Lilo and Stitch
found in about.coms Hawaii/South Pacific for Visitors travel section
suggests the films relationship to the tourism industry. While in some overt
ways the films content, production, and reception may seem to serve as
media for a transnational tourist industry, it also sets up a discussion of the
entwinement of the tourism industry with representations of exoticized
culture as well as universal family values. The rhetoric of a real Hawaii in
the review posits the work of the film as a text complicit in tourism that is
directed at and constructs a mainland audience. The review suggests that the
animation form and attention to the films production are two important
locations to consider in this function: it will come as a shock to many that
the film that best captures the true spirit of Hawaii and the meaning of
'ohana is an animated motion picture, thus linking the desire to know
Hawaiian culture as multicultural difference to both the theme of family and
the animation form. Indeed, the review cites Disneys return to the 1940s
watercolour, which hadnt been used since Bambi in 1942, as the best way
to re-create the island visually.2
Going further, the review explicitly connects watching the film and
physical travel in its discussion of the production of the film in establishing
the producers dedication to properly portraying Hawaii for the audience, so
that the film performs a tourist experience of exploration and getting to know
the native. To establish the great lengths to which the film goes in
representing Hawaii for the tourist, the review points out the directors
research efforts in discovering Hawaii:

The production team spent weeks in Hawaii studying the

geography, buildings, vegetation, and even the way the
light falls from the sky at different times of the day. They
painted and photographed houses, businesses, mountains,
bridges and sea coasts, and incorporated many actual
locations into the film.4

This empirical research thus seems to ensure that the team has done the work
of exploring for the viewer and packaging the real Hawaii for
consumption. I suggest that this kind of verisimilitude signals a kind of
epistemological conquest of the other in the Pacific.
In his book Reimagining the American Pacific, Rob Wilson
discusses the processes of producing an image of Hawaii as an authentic and
indigenous Pacific space in the transnational tourist economy. As he notes,
the Hawaii Visitors Bureau is the organization that was responsible for
packaging aloha spirit as a multicultural self-image of Hawaii designed to
ensure an authentic Pacific experience for the tourist. While he situates
Hawaii within a transnational tourist apparatus within the Pacific Rim, I am
particularly interested in Hawaii in relation to a larger U.S. imaginary. What
Emily Cheng 127
I find especially interesting for my paper is his articulation of Hawaiis
appeal as not only indigenous, but as gendered: he identifies the renewed
focus on the island lifestyle and the push globally to market Hawaiis
special appeal as a beautiful, multiculturally appealing, and world-class
Pacific woman (italics in original) are copresent.5 At the same time as
Hawaii is gendered, it is the idea of native spaces that are protected from, or
at least resistant to, capitalism that is packaged for appeal to the tourist. In
this film this gendered construction morphs into an infantilization of Hawaii
and a narrative of woman-centred family formation.
Perhaps we can understand the function of this film in relation to
tourism as both what Joseph Roach calls vicarious tourism as well as an
enticement for real travel following a viewing of the film that rests on the
exoticization but also the containment of difference as well as historical
memory.6 Significantly, the article notes that not only did the HVCB sign a
$1.7 million deal with Disney to promote Hawaii in conjunction with the
movie, but notes the importance of this deal to attract children (and their
parents) in the wake of the losses in tourism dollars after September 11.
Here, the films management of memory and history in the service of
neoliberalist business practices is made clear in its management of national
mourning for profit. Further, if we take the figure of the dog, and U.S. pet
culture in general, as a sign of an emergent neoliberal structure of feeling, in
which the ownership of a dog performs a normalizing function across
difference, then Stitchs adoption by the sisters as a dog significantly locates
the films narrative and its construction of a national multicultural citizenry.
Within the narrative of the film, visual images serve an instructional
function that models the modes of viewing the film discussed above. Indeed,
Stitchs education about national belonging takes place through his
comprehension of visual culture. For instance, Lilo instructs Stitch about
being a model citizen through the example of Elvis. Holding up a photograph
of Elvis, Lilo tells Stitch: Elvis Presley was a model citizen. Ive compiled a
list of his traits for you to practice. Number one is dancing.7 Here,
citizenship is performed through culture, such that national belonging seems
to be defined primarily through culture as well. She sequentially holds up
pictures of Elvis when enumerating each point about Elvis. Certainly, Elvis is
an apt figure for a consideration of model citizenship and historical
memory and popular cultural representations of Hawaii, given his
affiliations with Hawaii through tourism, mass media, and entertainment. A
frequent visitor to the islands between the 1950s and 70s, Elvis made three
movies there, Blue Hawaii, Girls Girls Girls, and Paradise, Hawaiian
Style, in addition to performing several times, including the first live concert
televised world-wide, Elvis, Aloha from Hawaii. Elvis famously served in
the U.S. Army from 1958 to 1960 as a regularly drafted solider and was
heralded by the media and public for his patriotism in serving like other men
128 Family, Race and Citizenship in Disneys Lilo and Stitch
and refusing to allow his celebrity to garner him special treatment. Elviss
love of a state whose iconography in the popular imagination relies heavily
upon exotic images of a tropical paradise and upon the military (signified in
Pearl Harbour) is suggestive of the implications of Lilos idealization of Elvis
as a model citizen in his dual relationship of experiencing and producing
Hawaii for popular consumption and his performance of a masculinized,
military patriotism. In 1961 these two aspects came together when Elvis held
a fundraising concert for the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbour that
was crucial to enabling the construction of the memorial. Though the Navy
had been attempting to raise funds for 20 years, they had only reached half of
their goal of $500,000, and the proceeds of the concert allowed them to
actually surpass their goal.8 Through this appropriation of the figure of Elvis,
the film suggests the relationships between official state historical memory,
citizenship, and the cultural production of Hawaii as a consumable product.
How does the film make use of visual images to portray its message
about travel, family, and memory? Stitchs understanding of family and
national belonging based on his education through visual images parallels the
promotional articles suggestion that watching the movie can encourage
families to actually travel to Hawaii. Further, throughout the film, Lilo takes
pictures of tourists (whose overly tropical dress, clueless expressions, and
white bodies comically code them as mainland tourists) and puts them on her
bedroom wall. While these pictures, which often catch the tourists in typical
poses - on the beach, eating ice cream, etc. - appear to be overtly humorous,
they also serve to make a relationship of tourism and fascination with other
cultures visible, for while tourists go to Hawaii to experience aloha spirit,
the locals find the white mainlanders equally exotic. In positing this
relationship of equal exchange, the film seems to elide the unequal political
and economic power, and histories of settler colonialism and violence that
mark Hawaii as a U.S. state.
However, by the end of the movie, Lilos wall collection of
photographs of tourists give way to pictures of her family, now made up of
Nani, Stitch, and herself, along with the other characters in the film. So, if the
double domestic narratives of family and nation are intertwined, this
replacement can be read to indicate that both the larger mediation of Hawaii
as a U.S. multicultural space and the family are about ways of managing
personal and collective memories. As the family mantra of ohana suggests,
family is defined through memory: ohana means family, and family means
no one gets left behind or forgotten.9 The series of photographs at the end
of the film seem to document the future of the family, by providing new
memories in a photo album. The content of these photos is also significant,
showing the family celebrating U.S. national holidays such as Thanksgiving
and travelling to Graceland, former home of the model citizen himself. That
they have become tourists to the mainland seems to suggest that flows
Emily Cheng 129
between Hawaii and the U.S. mainland are commensurate. The final image
suggests that a new history of family is being made, in that Lilos picture of
her biological family at which she has stared nostalgically throughout the
film has been reconstituted so that a picture of Stitch is attached to the
corner. Stitch, who previously has no memories, according to Jookiba and
therefore was all alone, now has family as demonstrated through the
documents of their memories.
Further, the final sequence in which the aliens have captured Stitch
makes most explicit the entanglement of law, family, and nation. When Stitch
interrupts the Grand Councilwomans speech to ask if he is allowed to say
goodbye, he identifies himself as Stitch, signalling his transformation from
being the generic experiment 626 to having a name, as part of a family, in
contrast to the opening scene in the planet Turo when he is given a chance to
speak on his behalf before being sentenced to prison and instead verbally
insults his audience. It is the subjectivity expressed in this act that shows the
alien leader that Stitch can no longer be destroyed as a prisoner who
transgresses his rights, for he is not longer a monstrous other to the citizen
Stitchs identification as a member of a family represents his
newfound affective bonds that not only redeem him and render him suitable
for life on earth, in Hawaii, but this formation of the family is also what
transforms the two sisters into a viable family under the law. The non-nuclear
family here then suggests the films message of validating other family forms
through the figure of the alien, though what exceeds the directors appeal to
family is also the appeal the unity of the homogeneous nation through the
narrative of domesticity. The legality of the family is again tied to a national
narrative that categorizes normative subjects under the law, specifically
through the competing legality of the alien Galactic Federation and the U.S.
state that frames the alien law as overly rigid, and human (U.S.) law as
morally right. Mr. Bubbles points out this inflexibility when he says that
aliens are all about the law, and Grand Councilwoman laments that their
laws are absolute and do not allow deviation even when the will of the law
would allow for change.
In the end it is the Euro-American rule of law grounded in the
market that takes primacy. Mr. Bubbles, again representing the state, instructs
Lilo to show her title to Stitch she received when she adopted him at the
shelter. Her adoption and her claims to him are framed, then, in terms of
property rights, such that taking him away is an act of theft. The rules of the
market sanctioned by the U.S. state become a justification for the Galactic
Federation to submit to the sovereignty of the U.S. so that the liberal contract
accords with what is morally right, which in this context is leaving the family
intact. Stitchs earlier transgression of the alien rules by escaping
confinement then can be figured as an act of freedom from authoritarian law,
130 Family, Race and Citizenship in Disneys Lilo and Stitch
as a flight from government grounded not in the liberalism and universal
humanism, but in rigid non-human rules. Supporting a teleological narrative
of the assimilation of the alien then, the film upholds the U.S. as a space of
freedom, in which the alien can go from destroying civilization to become
civilized as a member of a family and of the nation.
What I have suggested in my reading of the film is that it seems to
be embedded in a neo-liberal structure of feeling in representing Hawaiis
relationship to the larger U.S. nation in terms of tourism and a celebration of
indigenous culture, as well as through calling attention to the liberal market
as upholding the family and nation, in a sense. However, as in the film as a
whole, this ending scene also carries an ambiguity that re-articulates the kind
of earlier histories that I argue that the film mediates through its attention to
personal and collective memory. So, for instance, when Mr. Bubbles and the
Grand Councilwoman recognize each other from the 1973 Roswell event,
which Bubbles had investigated for the CIA, they note the ongoing
relationship of alien threats to the globe that the U.S. must hide, and manage;
the Grand Councilwoman warns, well be checking in now and then, to
which Bubbles responds, I was afraid of that.10 The continued presence of
the alien articulated here can be connected to the alien threat performed by
Stitch in his earlier destruction of the model of San Francisco.
By portraying Hawaii as a site of cultural difference, which is
equally as available to the mainland, as vice versa, the film further locates
Hawaii within a national discourse of difference under multiculturalism. At
the same time however, the setting of the islands, which almost become a
character as the reviews imply, also invite consideration of the kinds of
narratives and memories that the film asks us to forget, for instance, the alien
threat figured historically in the Asiatic threat to the American Pacific and the
U.S. nations need to constantly re-inscribe the Pacific as a U.S. site. This
forgetting is ambivalent, however, as we can see in the instability of the
closure of the domestic narrative of family formation that is so intertwined
with the narrative of the nation in the film. Though in the end Stitch does
learn to dance the hula, the primary sign of the indigenous in the film, and
would thus appear to have achieved model citizenship, the superficiality of
this definition of inclusion into the nation looms in the background as Stitch
remains alien to the family. His transition in the context of family from
object/dog to productive family member (the images during the credits show
Stitch doing the familys household chores, such as cooking and laundry)
signifies the trace of the other in both family and nation, as his role now
resonates with histories of labouring alien bodies central to Hawaiis
development as a state.
Emily Cheng 131

Eleanor Byrne and Martin McQuillan. Deconstructing Disney (London:
Pluto Press, 1999), 3.
Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, Lilo & Stitch (Burbank, Calif.: Buena
Vista Home Entertainment, 2002), videorecording.
Calvin Trager, Lilo and Stitch review, Box Office Prophets, 24 June 2002,
(10 July 2005). <>.
John Fischer, Lilo and Stitch and the Spirit of Hawaii,
Hawaii/SouthPacific for Visitors, 25 May 2003, (May 25, 2003).
Rob Wilson. Reimagining the American Pacific (Durham, North Carolina:
Duke University Press, 2000), xvi.
Joseph Roach. The Enchanted Island: Vicarious Tourism in Restoration
Adaptations of The Tempest, in The Tempest and Its Travels, ed. Peter
Hulme and William Sherman (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania
Press, 2000), 62.
Sanders and DeBlois, 2002.
Burl Burllingame. Elvis Shook It Up 40 Years Ago for the Arizona
Memorial, Honolulu Star-Bulletin Online, 23 March 2001, (1 October
2005). <>.
Sanders and DeBlois, 2002.

Burl Burllingame. Elvis Shook It Up 40 Years Ago for the Arizona
Memorial. Honolulu Star-Bulletin Online. 23 March 2001.
<> (1 October 2005).

Byrne, Eleanor and Martin McQuillan. Deconstructing Disney. London:

Pluto Press, 1999.

Fischer, John. Lilo and Stitch and the Spirit of Hawaii. Hawaii/ South
Pacific for Visitors. 25 May 2003.
<> (25 May 2003).

Roach, Joseph. The Enchanted Island: Vicarious Tourism in Restoration

Adaptations of The Tempest. In The Tempest and Its Travels, edited by Peter
132 Family, Race and Citizenship in Disneys Lilo and Stitch

Hulme and William Sherman, 62. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania

Press, 2000.

Sanders, Chris and Dean DeBlois. Lilo & Stitch. Burbank, Calif.: Buena
Vista Home Entertainment, 2002. Videorecording.

Trager, Calvin. Lilo and Stitch Review. Box Office Prophets. 24 June 2002.
<> (10 July 2005).

Wilson, Rob. Reimagining the American Pacific. Durham, North Carolina:

Duke University Press, 2000.
The Enemy Within: The Child as Terrorist in the
Contemporary American Horror Film

Colette Balmain

In this chapter, I consider the re-emergence of the monstrous-child sub-genre,
in the contemporary American horror film and its relationship to the
traumatic events of 9/11. In particular, I focus on the manner in which the
representation of the monstrous child can be understood as a metaphorical
terrorist in that it, threatens the bourgeois, patriarchal familythe family as
symbolic of the nation as a wholefrom within. I suggest that child as
monster can be interpreted as signalling fears around the loss of boundaries-
political, economic and cultural-as inscribed within the demonic figure of the
child (the other/not-America/outside), which turns against the parent (the
self/America/Inside). The child is not only abject - signalling in Freudian
terms the return of the repressed - but is a place of becoming, in Deleuze and
Guattaris terms, which places the hegemonic ideology of patriarchal
capitalism under threat: articulated through the threat to the bourgeois family
as the embodiment of its values. In these terms, the child as metaphorical
terrorist highlights the fragility of the symbolic order in the face of the threat
of the other: a fragility, which was only too obvious in the light of the
horrific events of 9/11.

Terrorist; Deleuze; Guattari; Horror Film; National cinema; 9/11; 7/7; The
Ring Two; The Amityville Horror; monstrous-child; urbaniod horror film;
cloning; reproductive technologies.

1. Introduction
Drawing on Stephen Heaths argument that, nationhood is not a given, it is
always something to be gained,1 in his article, The Concept of National
Cinema, Andrew Higson contends that national cinema functions as one
form of internal cultural colonialism, which works to:

[P]ull together diverse and contradictory discourses, to

articulate a contradictory unity, to play a part in the
hegemonic processes of achieving consensus, and
containing difference and contradiction.2
134 The Enemy Within
It is no coincidence that post World War II, it was seen that the new
bludgeoning and dominant form of cultural representation, the film, had an
important part to play in the [re]construction of bourgeois cultural
imperialism at a time when national, economic and geographical boundaries
had been placed under threat, and therefore as a mechanism for re-
establishing those boundaries. As the editor of Film Daily, noted, in his
comments on the American Film Industry:

Whether one calls is propaganda or information, it is

evident that as a result of World War II, the motion picture
from this day must be regarded as an instrument of public
policy as well as a great popular medium of entertainment.3

And writing about questions of national identity and cultural

representation[s] of that identity, James Donald contends that questions of
boundaries are at the centre of the formation of the national self:

Manifest in racism, its violent misogyny, and its phobias

about alien culture, alien ideologies and enemies within is
the terror that without known boundaries, everything will
collapse into undifferentiated, miasmic chaos, that identity
will disintegrate.4

As the horror in the horror film comes about through the breaching of
boundaries, it is pertinent to consider how the American horror film, as
ideological apparatus of the state, has reconfigured itself in the light of the
shocking events of 9/11 in which the colonial invader became the invaded, as
the impenetrable boundaries of America as nation-state were breached by the
Other. In his new preface to his 1978 seminal text, Orientalism, Edward
Said talks about the proliferation of media texts on the war against terror:

[A]ll of them re-cycling the same unverifiable fictions and

vast generalizations so as to stir up America against the
foreign devil, from experts who have supposedly
penetrated to the heart of those strange Oriental peoples
over there who have been such a terrible thorn in our

In the aftermath of 9/11, and subsequently in the weeks after 7/7, this was
expressed in terms of them and us: the Us [the Other/The East/The racially
inscribed Object] as a potential threat to the Western democratic way of
life [the Self; The West; The White subject]. In the UK, as in the US, this
was simplified into political and media hysteria around the evil ideology of
Colette Balmain 135
the Other. Binary distinctions were solidified and re-established between
the Good West and the Evil East, and the threat within was expressed
utilising the language of apocalypsism.
In The Idea of Apocalypse in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,
Christopher Sharrat argues that the development of apocalypticism in horror
is distinct to the tradition of catastrophe and utopia in science fiction.6 He
cites Tobe Hoopers The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, US:
1974), made at a time of crisis in American politics-the Watergate era and the
Vietnam war-as one of the forerunners of the apocalyptic tradition in the
horror film: a tradition which as Robin Wood points out in An Introduction
to The American Horror Film, suggests that annihilation is inevitable,
humanity is now completely powerless, there is nothing anyone can to do to
arrest the process.7 Wood contends that the negation of the apocalyptic
horror filmthe idea of the end of the world can be seen in positive rather
than negative terms: the end of the world as the end of patriarchal capitalism
within the recognition of the very instability of dominant ideology. However
more recently, but before the events of 9/11, in his preface to Freuds Worst
Nightmares8, Robin Wood mourns the loss of the progressive features of the
1970 horror film, asking whether there are any horror films which could be
championed as making some sort of radical statement about contemporary
life, in the manner in which he saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Dawn
of the Dead (George Romero, US/Italy: 1978) as doing9.
In light of the events of 9/11, it is no surprise that the apocalyptic
horror film has emerged as the dominant trend in American horror cinema
within two distinct strands: the post-modern urbanoid horror film10: Dead
End (Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa, France/USA: 2003), Cabin
Fever (Eli Roth, USA: 2002), Wrong Turn (Robert Schmidt, USA/Germany:
2003) and the remake of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Marcus Nispel,
USA: 2004) and or the monstrous-child horror film: such as Godsend (Nick
Hamm, US: 2004) Blessed (Simon Fellows, Romania/UK: 2004) Hide and
Seek (John Polson, US: 2005), Exorcist: The Beginning (Renny Harlin, USA,
2004)11, The Amityville Horror (Andrew Douglas, US: 2004) and The Ring
Two (Hideo Nakata, Japan/USA: 2004). Whilst both types of familial horror
originally emerge within what Robin Wood contends is the progressive
trends the 1970s, their reconfiguration and reinterpretation in the light of the
events of 9/11 seems to offer a more reactionary interpretation of the family:
one that needs to be understood as articulating cultural anxieties and fears
over the Enemy Within: the repositioning of the Other as inherently
threatening to the American way of life and its sense of a divinely-ordained
In this chapter, I concentrate on the second of these familial horror
genres, the monstrous-child film, focussing in particular on the positioning of
the child as metaphorical terrorist-as a direct response to the traumatic events
136 The Enemy Within
of 9/11-and examine the mechanisms through which it allows the restoration
of national and political boundaries in face of the threat from the Other.

2. The Enemy Within

[T]he father is dead, its my fault, who killed him? its your
fault, its the Jews, the Arabs, the Chinese, all the sources
of racism and segregation12

In Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Deleuze and Guattari

contend that The familial determinations become the application of the
social axiomatic.13 And since Psycho (Hitchcock, USA: 1960) according to
Robin Wood, American cinema has implicitly recognized Horror as both
American and familial14 The monstrous-child sub-genre, emerged, in the late
1960s, with Rosemarys Baby (Roman Polanski, USA: 1968) quickly
followed by films such as Night of the Living Dead (George A Romero,
USA: 1968), The Exorcist (William Friedkin, USA: 1973) and Its Alive
(Larry Cohen, USA: 1974). These pre-oedipal children would subsequently
grow up, as mapped out in films such as, Carrie (Brian de Palma, USA:
1976) and The Fury (Brian de Palma, USA: 1978), before finally being
punished repeatedly for their transgressions in the slasher film, by their
mirror image, Michael Myers: a sub-genre which refuses to die out, just as
the central male antagonists in Halloween (John Carpenter, USA: 1978) and
Friday 13th (Sean Cunningham, USA: 1980), even after being repeatedly
stabbed, beheaded, electrocuted, and blown into pieces, return for the next

From the early to mid-1970s and coincident with bourgeois

societys negative response to the youth movements and
drug culture of the late 1960 and early 1970s, generic
emphasis was on the child not as terrorized victim, but as
cannibalistic, monstrous, murderous, selfish, sexual.15

In An introduction to The American Horror Film, Wood contends that the

child as monster in the horror film or the Terrible Child is a product of
the family, whether the family itself is regarded as guilty (the psychotic
family films), such as in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or innocent as in
The Omen (Richard Donner, UK: 1976)16. It is relevant that in the
contemporary monstrous-child horror film, the family unit itself is figured as
innocent rather than psychotic, and that more often that not the child is a
product of another irreducibly different world whether historically, or
geographically-the old world in Exorcist: New Beginnings and The Amityville
Horror and the Far East in The Ring Two. An alternative method of
Colette Balmain 137
producing and or re/producing the monstrous-child is through the use of new
scientific technologies such as in vitro fertilisation and cloning as in Godsend
and The Blessed. At the same time, the father figure is either missing as in
The Ring Two, ineffectual and/or murderous in Exorcist: New Beginnings,
and The Amityville Horror. The death of the father figure, or its monstrous
reinvention, is contemporaneous with the birth of the child as terrorist who
disrupts the familial structure, as articulation of the wider nation-state, from
within. Indeed in Hide and Seek, the monstrous father gives metaphorical
birth to the monstrous-child, as implied by the end sequences in which we see
Emily Calloway (Dakota Fanning) drawing a picture of herself in her new
home. As she exits the door with her new surrogate mother, Elizabeth
(Elisabeth Shue), the camera pans back into the room and onto the drawing,
which Emily has left on the table: in the picture, Emily has painted herself as
a Janus figure with two heads17. Earlier examples are the primal father in the
Nightmare on Elm Street Series18 and stepfather in The Stepfather series19 of
films in the 1980s. There are few examples of the monstrous or archaic
mother in the American horror film, although these are much more common
in European horror.20
The traditional function of the child within bourgeois mythology is
the perpetuation of the past into the future, the propagation of the same rather
than the embodiment of difference, and a promise of the continuation of the
dominant ideological order. In Sobchacks words: The infant and the child
as sign invoke nostalgia.21: a nostalgia perhaps most clearly demonstrated in
Stanley Kubricks 2001 (USA: 1969) with the birth of the star child. In
opposition to this is the figuration of the monstrous-child, which is:

[F]igured as uncivilized, hostile, and powerful Others who

like their extra-cinematic counterparts refuse parental
love and authority and mock the established values of
dominant institutions. They are changelings the
horrifically familiar embodiment of difference.22

The events of 9/11 dented Americas fantasy of itself as narcissistic ego-

ideal, propagator of democracy and freedom [and/or colonial invader]: an
imaginary fantasy shared by the Western world as repeatedly performed
through the propaganda of its systematic ideological cultural representations
that have come to dominate Western culture. These monstrous-children,
figurations of the terrorist threat, function as signifiers of instability and
uncertainty from within, collapsing boundaries between self and other,
exercising in Sobhacks words a powerful deconstructive force dangerous to
patriarchal bourgeois culture.23 Their apocalyptic destruction is generated
by familial incoherence and paternal weakness.24 In The Ring Two, the father
figure is absent, leaving the hysterical mother, Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts)
138 The Enemy Within
as a sole parent of the young boy-child, Aidan (David Dorfman), whilst in
The Amityville Horror, the biological father is dead and the stepfather,
George Lutz (Ryan Reynolds) is incapable of protecting his stepchildren, Bill
(Jesse James); Michael (Jimmy Bennett) and Chelsea (Chloe Mortez), from
the dangerous forces that lurk in the basement of the house.

3. It was You: You Let the Dead Get in!

The horror in these films is generated through the fact that these children
threaten the family from within: though demonic and possessed, they are part
of rather than apart from the familial unit and thus much more frightening
than the alien invader as envisaged by science fiction cinema, or the
monstrous male killer of the slasher film, who has come to function as
patriarchal avenger of capitalist bourgeois ideology.25
In Godsend and Blessed, the monstrous-child is the product of new
scientific and reproductive technologies. In Godsend, after losing their son in
a terrible accident, Paul (Greg Kinnear) and Jessie Duncan (Rebecca Romijn-
Stamos) take up the offer by maverick scientist, Dr. Richard Wells (Robert
De Niro), to replace [clone] Adam (Cameron Bright), only to discover that
this new Adam is a changeling, containing DNA material from both the
Adam and Zachary, the dead son of Dr Wells. Zachary, as we discover from
flashbacks, killed his mother and subsequently died in the fire that he set in
order to destroy the evidence of his crime. Similarly in Blessed, IVF
technologies give birth to a monstrous child. Unable to naturally reproduce,
struggling writer, Craig Howard (James Purefoy) and his schoolteacher wife,
Samantha (Heather Graham), are offered the opportunity for free IVF by the
mysterious Spiritus Research Clinic. Samantha becomes pregnant at the
first attempt, only to discover to her horror-along the lines of Rosemarys
Baby- that her husband, Craig, has literally sold his soul, and that of their
children (Samantha gives birth to twins) to the Devil in order for material
success. In a twist, Samantha gives birth to two angelic blond girls, whose
outer mask of beauty, hides their inner demonic selves, as they are literally
the spawn of Satan himself.26
The production of cyborg babies through IVF and cloning
technologies itself brings into question the whole concept of the bourgeois
nuclear family and traditional relationships between parents and child. In
Cyborg Babies and Cybergods: The Baby Makers' New Origin Stories,
Mette Bryld explores the two contradictory discourses that have emerged
alongside these new reproductive technologies. The liberal view in which
questions of the normal family adapt in relationship to its surroundings-as
expressed in Remaking Eden (1998) by Lee M. Silver-and the more
conservative, reactionary wing through which sees these technologies as
against nature. As Mette Bryld writes:
Colette Balmain 139
[F]ear of techno-monsters, whether concealed or not, is
outspoken both in the discourses of some IVF parents3 and
in the Danish legislation on assisted reproduction. In both
cases, the practice of in vitro fertilisation is perceived of as
so contrary to "nature", to normality in the sense of
heterosexual essentialism, that the cyborg child is more or
less expected to reflect the monstrosity of its origins in one
way or other.27

This doubling between the monstrosity of origins and the

monstrosity of the child can also be seen in figure of ghostly and deadly
Samara in The Ring (Gore Verbenski, Japan/USA: 2002). In The Ring the
narrative implies that Samara is brought to America from abroad, and more
specially originates from the East. 28 In The Ring, based upon the cult
Japanese film Ringu (Hideo Nakata: 1998), a mysterious videotape is
discovered by a group of young adolescents, whose unexplained deaths,
forms the central narrative enigma of the film. Upon watching the video, the
viewer is left with just seven days to live before he/she is literally scared to
death. At the centre of the narrative is Rachel, a newspaper reporter, and her
young son, Aidan. Aidan becomes exposed to the video-virus leaving Rachel
just seven days to solve the mystery of the video and save her childs life.
Articulating media hysteria over the links between violence and the visual
image, patriarchal fears around the demise of the nuclear family and the
working within the traditions of conventions that demonise woman and single
mothers in particular in horror cinema, The Ring places at least some of the
blame for the deaths that ensue as a consequence of the absence of the father
figure and the failure of the maternal: Rachel fails to prevent [protect] her
child from the videotape by leaving it lying around the house. Crucially in
The Ring, the origin of the horror is emerges from outside of America as
embodied within the figure of Samara, whose presence in the urban
backwater to which she is brought leads to mayhem and murder. Here
monstrosity is both racial and sexual difference. And it is in order to suppress
this racial threat Samara is murdered by her [adoptive?] mother, Anna
(Shannon Cochran): her body disposed of down a well. The cursed video is
thus Samaras revenge - an unholy alliance that conflates the oriental other
with alien technologies and a curse, which can only be avoided by its
transmission to another.
The sequel, The Ring Two, clearly foregrounds the manner in which
the child as terrorist embodies contemporary American fears around the
invasion of borders: the national as mapped onto the personal. Significantly,
The Ring Two, rather than continuing Samaras [Sadakos] story as the
Japanese sequel to Ringu does29, transforms the cursed video theme into a
changeling narrative, in which the young-boy child of the first film, Aidan
140 The Enemy Within
(David Dorfmann), becomes possessed by the vengeful spirit of Samara
(Kelly Stables). In this sense, the threat moves from outside to the inside,
from the external to the internal, and projection becomes introjection30.
Moving to Oregon in an attempt to flee from Samaras vengeful ghost,
Rachel discovers to her horror that Samara has followed her, and is intent in
inhabiting the body of her son, Aidan.
In a number of places in the film, the responsibility for Aidans
possession is blamed on his mother, Rachel: It was You: You Let the Dead
Get In! says Samaras biological mother (Sissy Spacek) to Rachel [The Ring
Two contradicts the narrative of the first here], apportioning fault to a lack of
female parental authority and simultaneously mourning the loss of the
authority as embodied within the missing father figure.
In order to free Aidan, Rachel is repeatedly told to listen to the
child. Here the good child Aidan is situated in direct opposition to the bad
child Samara, in effect reinforcing the hierarchy of traditional binaries:
male/female, outside/inside, self/other, innocence/corruption and West/East.
Disturbingly Rachel has to become monstrous herself in order to defeat
Samara, condemning Samara to eternal darkness and solitude by trapping her
in the well. Here the foreign threat is contained and diffused and the white
male American subject privileged over the racially coded female other.
Further, national boundaries become projected onto gender
boundaries, racial difference is sexual difference: female identity and the
racial other are both situated as monstrous in their otherness. In Trying to
Survive on The Darker Side: 1980s Family Horror, Tony Williams writes
that the authoritarian bourgeois family is an organization attempting to
repress its subjects into being conformist products.31 And it is the failure of
the family leads to the designation of its products or children as
monstrous. The conformation of children as patriarchal products necessitates
a stable gender identity: An authoritarian patriarchal structure, the family
attempts to produce a convenient gendered product within capitalist
society.32 When this fails, as it does in The Ring Two and the boundaries
between genders are transgressed: the horror of difference results.33 This is
also the case in Hide and Seek with Emily possessed by the monstrous father
figure in the final sequences as discussed earlier. In the remake of The
Amityville Horror, as in the original version, the previous family of the
cursed house are murdered brutally by the oldest son, who is being controlled
by the spirit of an authoritarian Preacher who experimented on and murdered
native American Indians in the basement of the house in the distant past.
However it is the ghost of the youngest girl-child, Jodie, who appears
periodically to the Chelsea Lutz in the present time in which the narrative is
set. In key sequences, the girls are visually framed as doubles of each other,
one such example is a long shot of the girls from the outside, framed by the
Colette Balmain 141
attic windows, highlighting both the similarities and differences between
The function of the doppelganger here, as elsewhere in horror, is to
foreground the conflict between the civilized and the uncivilized, the rational
and the irrational: Chelsea, the blond good child as opposed to Jodie, the
dark bad child. Further with their long dark hair, and pallid features,
Samara in The Ring Two, Emily in Hide and Seek and Chelsea in The
Amityville Horror signal the collapse of racial onto sexual difference. In
addition to this, the cinematic techniques utilised to frame Jodies
appearances, and indeed as emphasized through the use of costume and
make-up, in The Amityville Horror are very similar to those associated with
the Japanese Horror Film, in particular Ringu as already mentioned, but also
are techniques utilised to great effect in Ju-On The Grudge (Takashi Shimizu,
Japan: 2003).
Evil in these films, even if it originates from the past primal father
figure, is both feminine and feminised as encapsulated in the figuration of the
monstrous female child. The monstrous Other coded as either foreign
and/or primitive, undermines the stability of the family through threatening
the gendered status of the childmultiplicity replaces/displaces unity-
demonising the Other with its connotations of racial and sexual difference.
And in the monstrous-child sub-genre, the narratives conclude either with the
reassertion of the good child over the bad; Whiteness over Darkness,
codifying conventions around sexual and racial difference as monstrous.

4. Conclusion: You Have to Send it Back

In the demonization of an unknown enemy, for whom the

label terrorist serves the general purpose of keeping
people stirred up and angry, media images command too
much attention and can be exploited at times of crisis and
insecurity of the kind that the post 9/11 period has

Tony Williams contends the more repressive the society, the more monstrous
the repressed.35 In the light of this, the monstrous-children of The Ring Two
and Hide and Seek can be seen as the monstrous progeny of The return to
family values as articulated by Bush which repeats that of the earlier
Reagan-Bush era of American politics in the aftermath of 9/11. On one
hand, the figure of the child as terrorist within the family can be seen as
progressive as it functions in its apocalyptical capacity as signifier of the
demise of a repressive, patriarchal capitalism in Woods terms. Or in Deleuze
and Guattaris terms articulates a notion of becoming which undermines
fixed categories and boundaries, constituting what Conley sees in
142 The Enemy Within
Becoming-Woman Now, the possibility of transition towards a non-
phallocentric and non-capitalist space outside of a deadly and reappropriating
However, the allusion in The Ring Two to letting the dead in and
the need to send them back functions as a barely veiled metaphor for the
reassertion of boundaries against incoming immigrants. This gives credence
to the monstrous-child as a reactionary figure. The reassertion of the
patriarchal family unit at the end of The Ring Two and The Amityville Horror
can be read as an attempt to reconcile Americas internal fantasy with her
outward projection of reality. The fact that sequels for both The Ring Two
and The Amityville Horror are in production suggests that the monstrous-
child sub-genre will be around for some time.

Stephen Heath cited in Andrew Higson, The Concept of National Cinema,
in The European Cinema Reader, ed. Catherine Fowler (London and New
York, Routledge: 2002), 139
Andrew Higson, The Concept of National Cinema, in The European
Cinema Reader, ed. Catherine Fowler (London and New York, Routledge:
2002), 139
Jill Forbes and Sarah Street, eds, European Cinema: An Introduction,
(London: Palgrave, 2000), 17
James Donald, How English Is It? Popular Literature and National
Culture, New Formations 6 (1988), 32
Edward Said, Orientalism, Western Conceptions of the Orient, (London:
Penguin Modern Classics: 2004), xv
Christopher Sharrat, The Idea of Apocalypse in The Texas Chainsaw
Massacre, in. Planks of Reason. Essays on the horror film, ed Barry Keith
Grant (London: Scarecrow Press, 1996), 255
Robin Wood, An Introduction to the American Horror Film, in Planks of
Reason. Essays on the horror film, ed. Barry Keith Grant (London:
Scarecrow Press, 1996), 187
Steven Jay Schneider, ed., Freuds Worst Nightmare (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2003)
Robin Wood, What Lies Beneath, Senses of Cinema, 2001:
<> (17th
September 2005)
Colette Balmain 143

Carol Clover, Men, Woman and Chainsaws: Gender in the Contemporary
Horror Film (London and New York: Routledge, 1992
Since writing this paper, another version of this prequel to The Exorcist has
been made released (2005) on DVD and Video. Renamed Dominion:
Prequel to the Exorcist, this is the original version as directed by Paul
Schrader, which the studios deemed as unmarketable and brought Renny
Harlin in to shoot an alternative version, which was released cinematically in
2004. Originally Schraders version was to have been part of the DVD
features on the release of Exorcist The Beginning, however the box-office
failure of Harlins film has meant that Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist did
receive a limited theatrical release as well as being released on a separate
DVD to Exorcist The Beginning. However for the purposes of this paper, I
am discussing Exorcist: The Beginning
Carl Clover, Men, Woman and Chainsaws, 269
Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and
Scziophrenia, tr. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane, (London:
Athlone, 1984), 264
Robin Wood, An Introduction the American Horror Film, 185
Vivian Sobchack, Bringing It All Back Home: Family Economy and
Generic Exchange in The Dread of Difference: Gender and the Modern
Horror Film, ed. Barry Keith Grant (Austin: University of Texas Press,
1996), 150
Robin Wood, An Introduction to the American Horror Film,181
This is one of the four possible endings to Hide and Seek, including one in
which Emily is locked up in a mental institution. Audience reactions to
previews of the film, led to this ending being substituted for the less overtly
horrific drawing scene. However, all four endings make it clear that
Emilys status as monstrous-child.
Audiences were first introduced to the monstrous figure of Freddy Kruger,
as primal father, in Wes Cravens Nightmare on Elm Street (US: 1984) which
so far has run to 6 sequels, ending with Cravens return to the franchise, and
postmodern parody, with New Nightmare in 1994. It may be of some
significance, that Robert Englund has returned to the role of Freddy Kruger,
even if it is only as presenter, for the television series A Nightmare on Elm
Street: Real Nightmares. Directed by Rick Ringbakk, the series is presently
in postproduction.
The series began in 1985 with Joseph Rubens seminal critique of the
American dream, The Stepfather, with Terry OQuinn as Jerry Blake, the
eponymous and psychotic stepfather of the title. Two sequels followed
quickly. Stepfather 2 (directed by Jeff Burr), in 1987, in which Terry
OQuinn once again reprised the role of the murderous stepfather, still
144 The Enemy Within

searching fruitlessly for the perfect family, with the made for video
Stepfather 111 (Stepfather 3: Fathers Day, Guy Magar) followed in 1992:
this time with Robert Wightman instead of Terry ONeill in the lead role.
One of the few monstrous-mother as psychotic killer films is Mothers
Boys, directed by Yves Simoneau in 1994, with Jamie Lee Curtis playing
against type as the murderous Judith Madigan. The archaic mother may be
alluded in iconography and mise-en-scene, as in the Alien series of films, but
she is rarely the visible psychotic killer. The failure of Casey Becker to
correctly identify the mother rather than the son as the identity of the killer in
the original Friday 13th at the beginning of Scream (Wes Craven, 1996)
functions merely to stress that the murderous mother as killer is the exception
that proves the rule. This of course is not the case in many European horror
films, for example, in the giallo of Dario Argento, woman are almost always
the killer. For a discussion of problematic status of woman-as-killer in
European Horror, see Donato Totaros article The Final Girl: A Few
Thoughts on Feminism and Horror, Offscreen (January 31, 2002),
<> (17th
September 2005)
Vivian Sobhack, Bringing it all back Home: Family Economy and
Generic Exchange, 149
ibid, 151
ibid, 151
see Robin Woods discussion of Michael Myers in Halloween in An
Introduction to the American Horror Film
Blood from Satan injected during the fertilization process.
See Mette Bryld, Cyborg Babies and Cybergods: The Baby Markers New
Origin Stories (2000) <>
(17th September 2005)
As I have argued elsewhere, the Japanese characters than can be seen on
the margins of Samaras birth certificate imply that she comes from the
Orient. See Colette Balmain, Lost in Translation: Otherness and
Orientalism in The Ring. Diagesis: The Journal of the Association for
Research into Popular Fictions, Special Horror Edition, 7 (Summer 2004):
This is true of both the sequels. Rasen (The Spiral, Jji Iida, Japan: 1998),
which opened as part of a double bill with Ringu on its premiere in Japan,
and Nakatas own sequel Ringu 2 in 1999. Although closer to Japanese writer
Kji Suzukis second book in the trilogy (Ringu, Rasen, Loop), also named
Rasen, the film Rasen was not successful at the box-office. The prequel to
Ringu, Ringu 0: Bsudei (Ring 0: Birthday, Norio Tsuruta, Japan: 2000)
Colette Balmain 145

constructs Sadako as a sympathetic figure, and narrates the events leading up

to her demise.
Explain introjection
Tony Williams, Trying to Survive on the Darker Side: 1980s Family
Horror in The Dread of Difference: Gender and the Modern Horror Film,
ed. Barry Keith Grant (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996), 169
ibid, 169
ibid, 169
Edward Said, Orientalism, xx
Tony Williams, Trying to Survive on the Darker Side: 1980s Family
Horror, 170
Constance Conley, Becoming-Woman Now in Deleuze and Feminist
Theory, eds. Ian Buchanan and Claire Colebrook (Edinburgh: EUP, 2000), 25

Balmain, Colette. Lost in Translation: Otherness and Orientalism in The
Ring. Diagesis: The Journal of the Association for Research into Popular
Fictions, Special Horror Edition, 7 (Summer 2004): 69-77

Bryld, Mette. Cyborg Babies and Cybergods: The Baby Markers New
Origin Stories (2000) <>
(17th September 2005)

Clover, Carol. Men, Woman and Chainsaws: Gender in the Contemporary

Horror Film, London: Routledge, 1992.

Conley, Constance. Becoming-Woman Now In Deleuze and Feminist

Theory. eds. Ian Buchanan, and Claire Colebrook, Edinburgh: EUP, 2000.

Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and

Scziophrenia, tr. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane, London:
Athlone, 1984.

Donald, James. How English Is It? Popular Literature and National

Culture. New Formations 6 (1988), p. 32
146 The Enemy Within

Forbes, Jill and Street, Sarah Street, eds. European Cinema: An Introduction.
London: Palgrave, 2000.

Higson, Andrew. The Concept of National Cinema In The European

Cinema Reader. ed. Catherine Fowler. Routledge: London and New York,

Said, Edward. Orientalism, Western Conceptions of the Orient. 3rd Edition.

London: Penguin Modern Classics, 2003.

Sharrat, Christopher. The Idea of Apocalypse in The Texas Chainsaw

Massacre. In Planks of Reason. Essays on the horror film. ed. Barry Keith
Grant. London: Scarecrow Press, 1996.

Schneider, Steven Jay, ed., Freuds Worst Nightmare. Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Totaro, Donato. The Final Girl: A Few Thoughts on Feminism and Horror,
Offscreen (January 31, 2002),
<> (17th
September 2005)

Sobchack, Vivan. Bringing It All Back Home: Family Economy and

Generic Exchange. In The Dread of Difference: Gender and the Modern
Horror Film. ed. Barry Keith Grant. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996.

Williams, Tony. Trying to Survive on the Darker Side: 1980s Family

Horror. In The Dread of Difference: Gender and the Modern Horror Film.
ed. Barry Keith Grant (Austin: University of Texas Press), 1996.

Wood, Robin. An Introduction to the American Horror Film. Planks of

Reason. Essays on the horror film. ed. Barry Keith Grant. London:
Scarecrow Press, 1996.

___. What Lies Beneath. Senses of Cinema. 2001.

<> (17th
September 2005)
Colette Balmain 147

The Amityville Horror, directed by Andrew Douglas, US: 2004
Dawn of the Dead, directed by George Romero, US/Italy: 1978
Dead End, directed by Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa,
France/USA: 2003
Cabin Fever, directed by Eli Roth, USA, 2002
Wrong Turn, directed by Robert Schmidt, USA/Germany, 2003
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, directed by Marcus Nispel, USA, 2004
Godsend, directed by Nick Hamm, US: 2004
Blessed, directed by Simon Fellows, Romania/UK, 2004
Hide and Seek, directed by John Polson, US: 2005
Exorcist: The Beginning, directed by Renny Harlin, USA, 2004
Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist, directed by Paul Schrader, USA: 2005
The Amityville Horror, directed by Andrew Douglas, US: 2004.
Ringu, directed by Hideo Nakata, Japan: 1998
The Ring Two, directed by Hideo Nakata, US/Japan: 2005
Psycho, directed by Alfred Hitchock, US: 1960
Rosemarys Baby, directed by Roman Polanski, USA: 1968
Night of the Living Dead, directed by George A Romero, USA, 1968
The Exorcist, directed by William Friedkin, USA,1973
Its Alive, directed by Larry Cohen, USA, 1974
Carrie, directed by Brian de Palma, USA, 1976
The Fury, directed by Brian de Palma, USA, 1978
Halloween, directed by John Carpenter, USA, 1978
Friday the 13th, directed by Sean Cunningham, USA, 1980
The Omen, directed by Richard Donner, UK, 1976
Nightmare on Elm Street, directed by Wes Craven, USA: 1984
New Nightmare, directed by Wes Craven, USA, 1994
The Stepfather, directed by Joseph Ruben, USA: 1985
Stepfather 2, directed by Jeff Burr, USA: 1987
Stepfather 111 (Stepfather 3: Fathers Day), directed by Guy Magar (tv)
(USA: 1992)
Mothers Boys, directed by Yves Simoneau, USA:1994
The Ring, directed by Gore Verbinski, USA/Japan, 2002
Rasen (The Spiral), directed by Jji Iida, Japan: 1998
Monstrous Mothers and the Media

Nicola Goc

Both the idealising and the demonising of mothers has reached an apex in
media discourses of recent years positioning mothers as either Madonnas or
Medeas. Contemporary media discourse places the ideal mother within
celebrity news construct where she regains her svelte figure within weeks and
seamlessly returns to her career; at the other end of the spectrum the deviant
mother is portrayed within news texts as wicked and cruel, the antithesis of
motherhood. Mothers have been receiving bad press since that mythological
monstrous mother Medea, killed her children. The Cruel Mother motif has
been a recurrent representation in plays, ballads, poems and novels for
centuries and continues to survive in the monstrous mother motif of
contemporary media infanticide and child abuse discourses. Through the
individualising of deviance within the monstrous mother paradigm the
media audience, and society, is absolved of responsibility through the actions
of the individual. Using contemporary media texts I will examine the role the
media plays in creating the social space in which motherhood continues to be
constrained within a patriarchal ideology where women as mothers continue
to be categorised, idealised and demonised, and where deviant mothers are
understood as monstrous.

Infanticide, celebrity culture, motherhood, media discourses, master
narrative, public opinion, dominant ideology, representation.

1. Celebrity Mothers
In the 21st century, newspaper column space is increasingly being
devoted to manufactured celebrity news, displacing political and social news.
As Julieanne Schultz says, celebrity news is no longer the obsession of trashy
magazines and tabloids; all print media has been sucked into the celebrity
vortex and its profitable promise.1 James Autry has observed in America
what he calls celebrity journalism increasing in all forms of media,
including news. 2
Hand in glove with this celebrity news focus is what Anne Summers
calls the breeding creed, a powerful new ideology that defines women
first and foremost as mothers.3 Celebrity mothers are news, and as Summers
notes, womens magazines are doing their bit to promote motherhood. But
what is the message?
150 Monstrous Mothers and the Media
In a world of mediated voyeurism, text has now been displaced by the
image and the celebrity object is there to be seen and recognised, its value
lying in our need for something to look at, admire, envy, and talk about.
Photographic images as negotiated interpretations of reality, grounded in
particular social and cultural contexts, are increasingly influential in creating
public opinion in a world which is experiencing the collapse of conversation
and the rise of the image.4
Photographs of pregnant celebrities feed our quest for voyeuristic
pleasure; the image is the essence of visual entertainment that requires no
reciprocal communication or feedback to the person observed. The celebrity
news image, usually capturing intimate moments, reduces issues, such as
motherhood in the 21st century, to the personal, individual level, displacing
social and political issues with our voyeuristic interest in the personal lives of
those inhabiting the world of celebrity. Calvert argues that one of the social
forces fuelling voyeurism is that we are an increasingly hedonistic, self-
absorbed society in which we get our pleasure from watching others lives.5
In a world of mediated voyeurism, discourse has been reduced to the public
gaze, displacing public discourse on such issues as childbirth, child care,
parental leave, post partum depression, levels of community support, abortion
and infanticide. Political and social discourse has become the shadow of
celebrity news. In terms of female newsworthiness, the pregnant celebrity or
royal now sits at the top of the hard news agenda. Maternity is not only the
new fashion accessory for the female celebrity, but it also defines
womanhood and the maternal in news culture.
In any given week tabloid stories on celebrity mothers abound.
Maternity is the new must have; must do, for the female celebrity in
contemporary parlance motherhood is wicked. In the week of April 25
Womans Day and Who magazines both ran front-page features on Britney
Spears pregnancy. Who displaying a bikini-clad Spears with the heading
Im pregnant! followed by a four-page spread of scantily-clad Spears
relaxing on a Florida beach with friends under the oversized heading: Shes
having a baby!6
According to the tabloid Spears has been transformed from mean and
lean to soft and sensual. Turn to the next double-page spread and you
have the baby clues: The hair, the clothes, the, um, expanding body of
evidence and the cravings - chilli con carne, baked potatoes and burgers.
And then of course the obligatory drama - celebrities cant have
straightforward pregnancies or births. Womans Day, under Pregnant
Britneys hospital dash told its readers:

The star spent two nights fearing for the life of her
unborn baby in a leading Florida clinic after experiencing
stomach cramps and severe bleeding.
Nicola Goc 151
She was in a terrible amount of distress and her husband
was at her side, an insider said. Kevin, 26, and a group
of bodyguards were later seen pacing outside the medical
facility fearing the worst. But on Sunday the young singer
was given the all clear and Kevin took her home.7

Celebrity motherhood copy is not just the realm of tabloid magazines;

now mainstream news discourses are occupied with celebrity motherhood
stories beside serious news. The London Times, the Guardian, the Observer,
the New York Times, the Washington Post, all ran the story of Spears
pregnancy as a hard news story. The Houston Chronicles headline said it all:

Britney prepares for motherhood - and we cant take our

eyes off her. Our little Mouseketeer is all grown up now
and ready to start a nest of her own.
On Tuesday, Britney Spears confirmed what so many of
the tabloids and celebrity-obsessed Web sites had mused:
the pop star is pregnant with her first child.
The pregnancy is just the latest headline for Spears, who in
the past 16 months had married and divorced a childhood
friend, wed dancer Kevin Federline, gotten a new dog, and
welcomed a new stepson.
We wonder what Madonna, the queen mum of music,
would think of her bussing buddys launch into
motherhood. Madonna was 38 when she gave birth to her
first child, Lourdes. Spears is 23.
At this rate, Spears could be a grandmother by 40.8

Thirty years have passed since Helen Reddy empowered women with
her song I am Woman I am invincible; now we have Britneys celebrity
motherhood status appropriating the public news agenda as she sings:

My loneliness is killing me
I must confess I still believe
When Im not with you I lose my mind
Give me a sign
Hit me baby one more time.

Womans Day continues with the celebrity motherhood trope with a front-
page photograph of Nicole Kidman wearing a high-waisted Givenchy dress
that sparks pregnancy speculation that:
152 Monstrous Mothers and the Media
she may already be pregnant with the baby she so
desperately wants. While the star continues to deny she is
expecting she has gained some new curves, and even
admitted to wearing maternity clothes. And, like a little girl
struggling to keep a big secret, shes been blurting out
increasingly personal details about her longing to have a
baby and her past struggle with miscarriage.9

Kidman reportedly said, Ive hormones running through my system as I sit

wriggling on my chair.
The issue here is not the sagacity, the truth, of these tabloid magazine
texts, but the fact that they appropriate public discourse in such a way that
news outlets, driven by the profit imperative, now feel compelled to enter
into this vacuous motherhood discourse. This is in part due to the cross
promotion concomitant with cross-media ownership a subversive way of
promoting tabloid magazines through elevating their soft stories into the
realm of serious hard news texts.
In the same week the tabloid magazines brought us Nicole and Britney
under the rubric of celebrity mothers, the iconic symbol of modern
motherhood, Demi Moore, came under the tabloid radar at the other end of
the motherhood spectrum, as a bad mother. Moore created the idealised icon
of motherhood in 1991 when, heavily pregnant to Hollywood action man
Bruce Willis, she appeared nude on the front cover of Vanity Fair. This
iconic image is credited with starting the media obsession with celebrity
motherhood, and the sexualization of the pregnant woman. Fourteen years on
and the icon of modern maternity is now the monstrous maternal. In a glossy
paparazzi spread the headlines admonished: Demi - pregnant and smoking?

Demi Moores cigarette habit has landed her in

hot water as shes caught on camera smoking while thought
to be 11 weeks pregnant. These snaps of the star puffing
away led one US magazine to exclaim, Demi, you should
be ashamed!10

Keep turning the pages and you come to a full-page advertisement for
face cream depicting a pretty young model smiling at the camera as she
pushes a pillow underneath her blouse, and the tag: Now you dont have to
be expecting to have that radiant glow everyday.11
If pregnancy is the new beauty product, then why not pregnancy as the
ultimate TV reality game show? According to Endemol, the makers of Big
Brother, the next reality TV programme will be Make Me A Mum. In July
2004 the producers launched the concept of a new show that would see 1,000
men vie for the chance to father a child. Make Me A Mum will whittle down
Nicola Goc 153
the candidates until two hopefuls are selected to compete against each other,
press reports said:

The childless woman will choose the man she believes

makes the best father judged on sex appeal, personality,
wealth and fitness. A second man will be picked on the
basis of genetic compatibility and sperm quality.12

The proposal is to screen a sperm race using new technology, which

would allow viewers to see which of the two finalists sperm reaches the
womans egg first.
Meanwhile the originators of the reality TV show pushed the
maternity-as-entertainment concept one step further featuring a pregnant
contestant in the 2005 Dutch version. The woman, known only as Tanja, was
seven months pregnant when she entered the house in August. While the
Netherlands government was grappling with whether to grant a work permit
allowing the baby - essentially a child actor - to make an appearance on the
show, Endemols spokeswoman Cathelinjne Nijssen said that the producers
had not decided exactly what the program would show when the pregnant
woman goes into labour. She may be voted off the program first,
Cathelinjne Nijssen said.13 She wasnt and in mid October, according to a
BBC report, the Dutch version of the reality TV show Big Brother has
broken new ground broadcasting a contestant giving birth.14 The Irish
Examiner reported:

The cameras were whirring when Tanja gave birth today to

a healthy daughter, in footage that the new mother hopes
will boost her chances of winning a 366,000 prize on the
reality program Big Brother.15

According to CBC Arts local critics accused the Dutch Big Brother producers
of exploiting the birth to boost ratings.16
And if pregnancy is the new reality TV game show and the new
beauty product, then childbirth is the new art form. A recent global news
story Performance The Art of Birth told of Berlin artist Winfried Witt
inviting 30 people to witness the birth of his child in the DNA-Galerie. Witt
claimed Its a gift to humanity, a once a lifetime thing.17 He and fellow
artist and partner Ramune Gele wanted to challenge artistic norms, gallery
owner Joann Novak told Germanys Bild newspaper. The gallery, known for
its installations and video art, would be closed during the birth. Invited guests
would be summonsed as soon as Geles contractions became regular. The
private aspect will be maintained, Noval said. Reuters reported another
gallery owner in the street as saying I find it mad. An AFP story quoted the
154 Monstrous Mothers and the Media
artist as saying the spectators, who registered for the exhibition via the
Internet, would participate in an exceptional experience. According to the
artist, Man, because he is unique, is an existential object of art. Witt
wanted to show living people, perceived at the same time as object and
subject through a kind of magnifying glass and to expose man in the
situations of his personal life.18
While man, because he is unique may be an existential object of
art, pregnant woman, in the form of Ramune Gele, remains mute. As the
existential object of this living art she does not need a persona beyond that
of a pregnant human. Gele is in fact the perfect parturient woman, silent and
submissive, captured for the voyeurs gaze in the throes of childbirth as an
artistic fetish. Through the female form Witt projects himself as the winner of
the ultimate sperm race. The birth was due to take place in May 2005, though
nothing further was publicised about the proposed artistic performance.
Motherhood as living art and prime-time TV may be the extreme, but
the idealisation of motherhood through the representation of celebrity
mothers in tabloid news and magazines is now accepted unquestioningly as
the crucial ingredients of a daily media diet.

2. Breast Nazis
Post delivery, a glamorous, fur-draped, scarlet-lipped and sultry Jerry
Hall was featured on the front page of Vanity Fair in 1999 offering her infant
son a full, pendulous breast. This provocative image caused a divisive debate
about mothers breastfeeding in the public, a debate which still holds news
currency today. In August 2004 Washington Post columnist, Roxanne
Roberts, wrote a column Do Me a Favor, Keep a Lid on Your Double Latte
in which she claimed her right to a peaceful cup of coffee was being
undermined by women breastfeeding in Starbucks.19 Her attack was on one
particular mother, Lorig Charkoudian, a Silver Spring woman

who not only wants to breast-feed her daughter at

Starbucks whenever she likes but expects me to avert my
eyes or leave if I dont share her enthusiasm for double
breast milk latte.
Its not enough that a new Maryland law supports
her right to lactate in public - no, she wants Starbucks to
issue a nationwide corporate policy supporting her position.
Speaking for the school of not letting it all hang out, let me
say: Dont. Please, please please. Just dont.

The demonising of women who breastfeed in public, branded by

Roxanne Roberts as Breast Nazis, is a core concept of societys expectation
that motherhood is sacred. Women who openly breastfeed in public push us
Nicola Goc 155
to acknowledge that breast-feeding is simultaneously sacred and sexual, thus
creating an anxiety in Western culture which continues to inform debates
about motherhood.
On the one hand the new mother is vilified for breastfeeding her baby
in Starbucks and on the other hand she is pressured to get back her pre-
pregnancy figure, to make herself sexually attractive, or run the risk of being
vilified as fat and frumpy. Celebrity mothers, as personified by the gorgeous
Liz Hurley, so the tabloid magazines tell us, lost all of the 24 kilos she gained
during her pregnancy within ten weeks, create an ideal which the average
woman - without the personal trainer, the nanny and the villa in Gibraltar -
can never live up to.
Journalist Dominique Jackson posed in a recent article:

While it is clear that glamour, social life and

career do not have to be casualties of motherhood, what of
the downside of the celebrity approach? The women who
cant live up to the expectations? What if you dont feel
like exercising a week after giving birth? What if you cant
re-emerge, Liz-Hurley-like, more gorgeous than ever?20

Psychologist Helen Skouteris, a lecturer in the School of

Psychological Sciences at La Trobe University, Australia, is researching the
impact of body image on post-natal depression, and thinks the medias
creation of celebrity mothers can be both damaging and reassuring.

On the one hand, the models in the media make it

look like you can regain this amazing figure weeks after
having a baby; on the other hand, even famous, wealthy
women, when they have babies, have fluid retention and

What effect does the marketing of pregnancy as sexy, and of babies as

the latest must-have fashion accessory have on public opinion? How does the
formation of public opinion on the status of motherhood play out in the
general community? This distorted representation of motherhood, from the
idealised Madonna to the evil Medea, does influence the way society
conceptualises motherhood. The publicity attendant with celebrity fame puts
celebrity women under the unrelenting scrutiny of the media gaze, as we
have seen with the transformation of Demi Moore from perinatal sex goddess
to deviant mother, but it also presents an often unattainable ideal for the
majority of mothers. Importantly such discourse colonises the column space
once taken up with the discussion of social, welfare and judicial issues
relating to parenting.
156 Monstrous Mothers and the Media
3. Sporting Mothers
Successful sportswomen of child-bearing age regularly find
themselves as news copy, not for their sporting achievements, but because of
their maternal status athleticism and motherhood, like sexuality and
breastfeeding, are an uncomfortable mix and the dominant media ideology
projects the female athlete who is a mother as within the sporting mum
rubric. When Australian diver Chantelle Newbery won gold at the 2004
Olympics she was immediately projected out of the sporting shadows into the
media spotlight as Gold medal mum Chantelle Newbery thus foregoing Ian
Thorpes sponsorship dollars, fast cars and luxury boats and in the moment
of her greatest sporting achievement she became the subject of media
speculation as to whether this mother of a two-year-old would continue on
in her sporting career or choose to give it up to be a full-time mother.22
The British have seen corresponding coverage with Paula Radcliffe:
Radcliffes longing for motherhood put on hold, readers of the London
Times were told, with Radcliffes supposed admission that she has delayed
starting motherhood while she concentrates on her running career.
When Alison Hargreaves became the first British woman to climb
Everest unsupported by oxygen or Sherpas, the media wanted to know how
she could go off climbing mountains when she was the mother of two
children? When Hargreaves tragically died on a subsequent expedition to K2,
the media turned on her in an unprecedented manner. While male sporting
elites who are struck down in their prime are afforded heroic status,
Hargreaves was immediately vilified as a bad mother and accused of being
irresponsible to leave her children behind as she attempted her life-
threatening climbs. Hargreaves partner, Jim Ballard, later told an Observer
journalist: There were some very hurtful things said in the press after Alison
died. 23

4. Monstrous Mothers
In their bid to entertain and increase profits for shareholders, the
media idealise motherhood in the form of celebrity mothers, but also seek out
the equally newsworthy and highly saleable darker side of motherhood in the
representation of the monstrous mother.
While Medea news stories entertain their audience, they also inform
on many levels, and significantly impact on the ways in which society views
motherhood. GQ magazine in 2002 managed to package sex and infanticide
into a highly disturbing media discourse. Illustrated with a full-page colour
photograph of a beautiful topless model with her back to the camera, Robert
Drapers article A Prayer for Tina Marie begins: Gentleman, here is your
child, 22, with a soft round face you could hold in one hand and chew like a
peach muffin She will have sex with you on the first night. The subject
of the article was a young Texan woman, Tina Marie Cornelius, who is
Nicola Goc 157
serving a life sentence for murdering her two young children. According to
Draper, Cornelius turned to prostitution and drugs after unwanted attentions
from her former stepfather.24
Kathleen Folbigg in Australia, like Andrea Yates in America, became
the media icon of monstrous motherhood when in 2003 she was convicted of
the murder of her four infant children. The Daily Telegraph published a
running banner: Monstress: the diary of a child murderer as they
catalogued Folbiggs record of infanticide through the publication of her
incriminating diaries. 25 One chilling entry:

January 16 1998
The gym was pivotal (sic) part of me, and now because I
cant go without taking Laura its (sic) put a damper (sic) on
everything. Ive had my one and only escape taken away
from me.

Judith Warners book, Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of

Anxiety, examines the American condition she has coined the mommy
mystique. Warner, who interviewed 150 well-off Manhattan mothers, says
mothering has gone from an art to a cult, with devotees driving themselves to
ever more baroque extremes to appease the goddess of perfect motherhood.
Warner fails, however, to acknowledge the other end of the spectrum where
poor mothers are under the increased economic, social and psychological
pressure that saw one young American Mother, Christina Rigg, with no food
in the house for her children, smother her babies. She was executed in
2001.Warner believes our neurotic quest to perfect the mechanics of mothers
can be interpreted as an effort to do on an individual level what weve
stopped trying to do on a society-wide level.

5. Crack Mothers
In the mid to late 1980s a moral panic emerged in the US from Ronald
Reagans war on drugs which saw crack-addicted mothers demonised. In
1985 Susan Spencer reporting for CBS News used as her source a New
England Journal of Medicine study claiming that cocaine had just as
devastating an effect on pregnancy as heroin, that it caused spontaneous
abortions, and that babies born to mothers who used coke went through
withdrawal.26 Amidst the media hype that followed Spencers story, one of
the authors admitted the research was a limited but important study
designed to raise questions and concerns about using cocaine while
pregnant.27 Spencers story focused on the health warnings for all pregnant
women, but the media campaign picked up on the compelling narrative of
drug-addicted mothers, quantified by the statistic reported by CBS that 15%
158 Monstrous Mothers and the Media
of all babies born had mothers who abused drugs.28 This focus quickly saw
the media direct the spotlight to black or Latino women.
According to Douglas and Michaels in their recent publication, The
Mommy Myth: The idealization of Motherhood and How it had Undermined
Women, the news networks documented the epidemic by showing the
requisite premmie in a neonatal ICU, then routinely showed dozens of
bassinettes lined up side by side in maternity wards, all of which allegedly
contained crack babies.

All kinds of estimates were thrown out that anywhere

from three to five hundred thousand crack babies would be
born that year alone, that 15 percent of babies born were
crack babies, that five years hence the, that five years hence
the schools would be overrun by a tidal wave of crack
kids who would be handicapped in all kinds of ways.29

There was, however, no epidemic of underweight babies damaged for life,

destined to become a menace to society because their mothers were smoking

Crack babies were a media creation, a hyping and

misrepresentation of medical studies
It turns out that the symptoms the news media attributed to
crack use as often as not were the effects of alcohol,
tobacco and, most importantly, poverty and lack of prenatal

The crack babies moral panic may have dissipated, but drug-using
mothers are still headline copy. In a recent case of neglect in Australia a 19-
year-old drug-injecting mother whose third baby was born by emergency
caesarean five weeks premature due to her drug use was found guilty of
neglect when it was revealed that the 10 month-old infant weighed just 6.82
kilograms. The court heard how the mother was spread thin and was under
the pressure of poverty and lack of support in parenting her three children.
Nowhere in the press discourse is there a mention of the responsibilities of
the father. John Hartley argues that:

A community fear of child-abuse is news; teaching how

to sustain a culture of child-care is not. The consequence is
that news rarely reports what may be learned from
instances of child-abuse by parents, carers and children
themselves. There is no editorial urgency about
preventative policies.31
Nicola Goc 159
6. A Master Narrative - Murdering Mothers and the 10-point-
Triple Back Flip
In the UK in recent years four mothers, Sally Clark, Angela Cannings,
Trupti Patel and Donna Anthony were part of a highly newsworthy master
narrative of murdering mothers. These women each became collective fodder
for a media feeding frenzy on deviant motherhood, which has recently been
forced to do a complete turnaround.
Sally Clark, convicted of the murder of her two infant sons Harry and
Christopher in 1999, was portrayed in the media as a selfish, career-driven
drunk who resented her babies for the loss of her pre-pregnancy figure. The
Daily Telegraph ran an article Against the Odds after Clarks conviction
and when the public discourse - outside of the media - was questioning her
conviction. This Telegraph article illustrates the medias agility in being able
to spin a story 360 degrees without missing a beat, but also the way a media
organisation can be at one and the same time part of the pack and apart from
the pack. The Telegraphs Bob Woffinden in a 2001 article claimed the
media had treated Clark poorly. Sally Clark, he said, had been portrayed as
enjoying a champagne lifestyle in a luxurious cottage in the stockbroker
belt of Cheshire and was portrayed as:

a selfish, alcoholic, grasping, depressive, career-obsessed

woman who liked pretty clothes, and who first abused and
then murdered her children because they ruined her figure
and stood in the way of her lucrative future.32

As Sally Clarks husband, Steven, reminds us, in the pursuit of sensation, no

media, at the time of her trial, pointed out that the prosecutions medical
evidence was flawed and discredited, even by the Crowns own witnesses.
Another of these murdering mothers, Trupti Patel, was portrayed in a
negative light as a career-driven, cold and uncaring mother. Patels case is
doubly disturbing because her media misrepresentation continues. Unlike the
other women, Patel was never convicted of murdering her children, she was
found innocent of all charges; she never spent time in gaol. And yet British
newspapers in 2005 were running news stories in the new master narrative of
martyred mothers wrongfully convicted of murdering their babies, in which
all of these women, including Patel, were convicted and gaoled for murder.
Donna Anthony, who spent six years in gaol for the murder of her two
children, was labelled by the press a baby-killing bitch and evil mother
who killed her son to get sympathy and to make her estranged husband feel
guilty after an argument.33 Angela Cannings was portrayed as a dull and
ordinary woman who couldnt cope with motherhood so she serially
smothered her children.
160 Monstrous Mothers and the Media
So, what does the media do when the women they so energetically
vilified as monstrous Medeas are found to be innocent after all, the victims of
faulty expert medical evidence? They seamlessly perform a 10-point-Triple
Back Flip and recreate these women in another sensationalised news
construct as the martyred mothers, and at the same time find a new monster
in Professor Sir Roy Meadow, the medical expert witness whose evidence
has since been found to be misleading in Sally Clarks trial. In June 2005
Meadow was struck off by the General Medical Council after his misleading
evidence in the Clark case.
Dr Theodore Dalrymple wrote in a 2003 Daily Telegraph profile on

Professor Sir Roy Meadow is the villain of the week, the

man we all love to hate. This once highly-respected indeed
world-famous, emeritus professor of paediatrics at Leeds
university, now 70 years old, has been called the child-
snatcher-in-chief by The Daily Mail, a sobriquet that will
probably further confuse the part of the population that has
difficulty distinguishing between paediatricians and

What Dalrymple got wrong was the calculation that Meadow would be
villain for a week, that his newsworthiness would be transitory. Meadows
expert medical evidence in hundreds of criminal and family court cases over
the past decade is now under scrutiny. News audiences have a new monster
narrative and are now lapping up the demon doctor narrative with the
voracious appetite of a gallows pack. The martyred mothers narrative, I
suspect, with its symbiotic relationship to the demon doctor, will be
consumed within this new master narrative, allowing the deviant mother
narrative to survive in its many manifestations.

7. Conclusion
The media has clearly identified motherhoods news values as coming
from the two extremes: from the idealised to the demonised: from the sex
goddess whose perfect body has been transformed by the seductive fecundity
of maternity, to the monstrous mother who murders her own babies. In
terms of media attention, outside these disparate constructs, regular mothers
can only register on the news values radar when they are perceived as super
mothers with ten kids under eight, give birth to quintuplets, or deliver on the
right calendar event - Christmas Day, New Years Day or Mothers Day.
Anything in between these extremes holds little or no news value. While
regular sleep-deprived mothers, struggling to nurture their babies amidst
household debt, social isolation, ill-health, stretch marks and flabby
Nicola Goc 161
stomachs, continue to be absent from the media motherhood discourse,
societys expectations of mothers and motherhood will remain trapped into a
damaging circularity, shutting out important social discourse on issues such
as poverty, social isolation and child-care which impact directly on womens
mothering experiences.
Jennie Lusk recommended in her 2001 study of Mexican neonaticide
that consideration be made to the societal implications of our impulse to
shun neonatidical mother.35 Motherhood discourse itself has been reduced to
simplistic news narratives that seeks to entertain with stories about celebrity
Madonnas or monstrous Medeas. In an increasingly Huxleyan world where,
according to Neil Postman, culture is becoming a burlesque and the
population is distracted by trivia:

when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of

entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes
a form of baby-talk, when in short, a people become an
audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a
nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear

Public opinion is formed in part by media discourse; individual

opinions and knowledge of crime and health issues, such as infanticide, are
rarely base on direct experience. Instead highly abstracted and tenuous
opinions are formed from and based upon media discourse. Contemporary
motherhood news narratives continue to polarise complex issues into
melodramas of good and evil.
Michelle Oberman writing about the medias coverage of women
who kill their children says parents, social service agencies, and the legal,
medical, and mental health communities have stumbled in their responsibility
to address the complicated, myriad issues that smoulder beneath a layer of
public indignation over the lurid details that surround these killings.37 While
mothers in their various constructs are defined as newsworthy or not
newsworthy, women are rarely the definers of news. Newsroom culture and
practice means that few women, few mothers reach the upper echelons of
gate-keeping. When they do the pressure is on to keep the winning status
quo, to maintain the ratings, to increase the circulation figures - and as we all
know the highest rating newspapers are tabloids with their diet of bare-
breasted page-three girls, of celebrity mums, and monstrous and deviant
Public opinion is informed by media coverage, decision makers, from
policy makers to parliamentarians, from judges to juries, are all informed in
part by a common-sense knowledge of the world which is informed by
public opinion. The demonising of certain mothers and the idealisation of
162 Monstrous Mothers and the Media
others creates a pattern of representation which negatively impacts on the
way society constructs motherhood.

Schultz, Julieanne, Stars, lies and propaganda, Griffith Review 5 (2004):
Anna Gough-Yates, Understanding Womens Magazines, Publishing,
Markets and Readerships. (London: Routledge, 2003), 136.
Anne Summers, The End of Equality, Work, Babies and Womens Choices
in 21st Century Australia (Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2003 ), 7.
Clay Calvert, Voyeur Nation Media, Privacy, and Peering in Modern
Culture (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 2004), 73.
Ibid, 74.
Anonymous, Shes Having a baby! Who Weekly, 25 April 2005, 34-35.
Anonymous, Pregnant Britneys Hospital Dash, Womans Day, 25 April
2005, 10.
Lana Berkowitz, Britney prepares for motherhood and we cant take our
eyes off her, Houston Chronicle, 15 April 2005, sec. HLF.
<http://www.Houston> (24 April 2005).
Anonymous, Nicole Reveals Im in baby mode,
Womans Day, 5 April 2005, 14-15.
Anonymous, Demi pregnant and smoking? Womans Day, 25 April
2005, 8-9.
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164 Monstrous Mothers and the Media

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Of Monsters, Masturbators and Markets: Autoerotic Desire,
Sexual Exchange and the Cinematic Serial Killer

Greg Tuck

Of all the sexual behaviours to gain cinematic visibility since the
liberalisations of the 1960s, masturbation seems to have taken the longest to
establish itself. However, rather than this increased visibility reflecting either
a simple relaxation of attitudes, or a postmodern, ironic attitude to sexuality,
many if not most direct representations continue to promote a negative view
of masturbation. This paper argues that this attitude is informed as much by
the anti-masturbation hysteria of the eighteenth and nineteenth century as by
contemporary attitudes to the practice. In particular, it will discuss why
representations of masturbation are employed to demonstrate the perverse
sexuality of the serial killer, a lone individual caught in a spiral of ever
increasing insanity, alienation, sadism and masturbation. What seems
particularly monstrous about their masturbation is the total consumption and
objectification of the victim by the serial killer is merely an activity that
facilitates a consumption of the self. A reading of the behaviour of Carl
Stargher (Vincent DNofrio) the serial killer of The Cell (Tarsem Singh,
USA, 2000) will be presented, which maps the alienated and monstrous
autoeroticism of the serial killer. It will suggest that rather than exceptional
these masturbating serial killers are merely an extreme reflection and
metaphor of a more general anxiety regarding the autonomy of the self-
pleasuring lone individual of both modernity and the market economy.
Likewise, rather than suggesting an emergent postmodern attitude to sexual
autonomy, this anxiety is as old as the free market itself.

Key Words:
Masturbation, Autoeroticism, Serial-Killers, Insanity, Alienation,
Consumption, Individual, Market Economy, Postmodernism

As much scholarly work over the last thirty years or so has

demonstrated, sexuality, both in terms of human sexual behaviour and
representations of that behaviour, has a history. At different times and in
different cultures what counts as normative and what counts as deviant,
which forms of sexual pleasure are socially accepted or celebrated and which
forms are considered problematic or even outlawed and vilified has shown a
wide degree of variation. However, at the same time, the actuality of the
human body and the sites and pleasures available to it are materially limited,
168 Of Monsters, Masturbators and Markets
so despite the censure, people throughout history have often enjoyed many of
the same types of wrong sex. Indeed, as the archaeologists, Timothy Taylor
has claimed, as soon as there are written records, from around 5,000 years
ago in the Near East, we find references to many of the sexual practices -
homosexuality, male and female transsexualism and transvestism,
masturbation - familiar to us today.1 So there appears to be a profound split
or gap between what people do and what the ruling patriarchal, economic and
theological classes wish us to do, or not to do. Undoubtedly this gap reflects a
variety of social concerns over the split between our pursuit of sexual
pleasure and the material actualities of our procreative function or capacities
and the perceived need to bring the former under the control of the latter. In
crude terms there are social forces that want us to make babies rather than
make whoopee. However while issues of paternity, title and property offer
the primary motive for the policing of sexuality, rather than the prevention of
pleasure per se, it is the pursuit of sexual pleasure outside codified and
socially sanctioned systems of reproduction that most commonly stands as
the object of censure and control. However, in our contemporary historical
situation, that is post the so-called sexual revolution of the late 1960s and
1970s, many would argue that this historically typical censure against
pleasure seems to be on the wane. Furthermore, in the West, at least, the
material reality of contraception has for decades allowed sex to be non-
reproductive, whilst the recent developments in IVF have now freed
reproduction from sex. No more would this change in attitudes appear to be
visible than in attitudes towards, and the representation of, masturbation.
For much of western history masturbation has been overwhelmingly
and often hysterically vilified for being a sexual practice that is not simply
not-reproductive, but anti-reproductive. Beyond the mere denial of a
procreative event, the solitary rather than the intersubjective nature of the act
has been seen as anathema to social solidarity in general. Nowadays
however, especially in self-help literature, one is more likely to find
masturbation widely recommended as a major source of sexual pleasures,
and actively encouraged as a mode of improving sexual responsiveness on
the part of both sexes.2 Furthermore, according to surveys of sexual
behaviour virtually 100% of men and 70% of women now admit
masturbation at some time, with the figure for female masturbation according
to more recent surveys by the likes of Shere Hite, rising.3 This would
suggest that the sexual-political articulation of masturbation is undergoing a
revolutionary change, not least in the closing of the gap between actual
human practice and social/theoretical belief. An acceptance of the
overwhelming harmless and often beneficial effects of masturbation in
conjunction with the admission of its ubiquity seems to be negating previous
anxieties. The willingness to represent masturbation in mainstream cinema, a
mass art form that tends to follow and reflect rather than lead or challenge
Greg Tuck 169
changes in social and sexual attitudes, could therefore be read as part of these
changes. As the following selection from amongst many demonstrates,
masturbation is now widely portrayed. The multiple Oscar winner American
Beauty (Sam Mendes, USA, 1999), the critical successes Happiness (Todd
Solondz, USA, 1998), Pleasantville (Gary Ross, USA, 1999), Mullholland
Drive (David Lynch, France/USA, 2001), and Secretary (Steven Shainberg,
USA, 2002), and the box office hits Theres Something About Mary (Bobby
and Peter Farrelly, USA, 1998), and American Pie (Paul Weitz, USA, 1999),
all contain explicit representations of masturbation explicit not in the strict
proto-medical sense of pornography, but explicit in that (within current
censorship regimes) the act is simulated rather than merely inferred, implied
or suggested, and explicit in the sense that the scenes explicate pivotal
narrative moments. They are not merely incidents, horrible, humorous or
otherwise, but central to the portrayal of a particular subjectivity, a form of
lived embodiment, that is thrown into relief by this particular embodied
activity. While in comparison with earlier periods of film production this
would suggest that masturbation has become representable in the
mainstream the question is, why now?
Well, one possibility, following Fredric Jameson analysis of our
contemporary cultural situation, is to suggest that these representations are
related to and symptomatic of a wider social transformation - namely
postmodernity. While something of a disputed term, from Jamesons
essentially historical materialist position, postmodernism describes a cultural
and aesthetic formation that can be read as a marker of the cultural style of
late, or more specifically consumer, capitalism.4 In crude terms Jameson
attempts to articulate the broad periodisations offered in the work of the
Marxist economist, Ernst Mandel with Raymond Williams notion of cultural
structures of feeling to suggest that different economic modes express
different modes of culture. In addition to the obvious differences between
massively different economic formations such as the slave-based economies
of classical antiquity, medieval feudalism and industrial capitalism, one can
trace periodisations within these periodisations, such that developments
within capitalism can be identified. While not necessarily in pure synchrony
let alone a relationship of linear determination it is claimed that the specific
way we make and consume commodities and the specific way we make and
consume wider cultural formations inform one another. While obviously
something of a broad brushstroke, the coal, steam and iron phase of
nineteenth century capitalist production can be analysed in terms of a
particular dynamic relationship with realism, while the petrol, electric and
steel phase of the first half of the century occupies a similarly structured
relationship with modernism. Now we have entered a new stage of electronic,
nuclear and plastic production a new cultural logic, postmodernism, has
emerged to accompany it. Postmodernism is therefore another word for late
170 Of Monsters, Masturbators and Markets
capitalism. Jameson is at pains to argue that the boundaries between these
phases are wide and diffuse and again, following Williams, residual,
dominant and emergent economic and cultural formations exist side by side.
Likewise, rather than a crude claim for the economic determination of
cultural production (let alone as in our case of sexuality itself), this is simply
to suggest that economic, aesthetic and sexual ideas and practices are
mutually co-determining. How we produce and how we reproduce, our
experience of commodity pleasure and of sexual pleasure, are not as separate
realms as they might at first appear to be. As Frederick Engels described it,

According to the materialistic conception of history, the

ultimately determining element in history is the production
and reproduction of real life. More than this neither Marx
nor I have ever asserted. Hence if somebody twists this into
saying that the economic element is the only determining
one he transforms that proposition into a meaningless,
abstract, senseless phrase.5

So, rather than grading each of these inseparable spheres of human

life, the point is to grasp how in real life the sexual and the economic
actually share an underlying model or schema of both human embodiment
and of value. What counts as true and permissible in each field, that is, the
underlying logic through which their different interpretations and patterns are
built, identified and proceed are actually more similar than they are different.
Despite or indeed prior to any claims made regarding whether it is our sexual
or our economic lives that, in Althussers famous phrase, determine in the
last instance6 the fact is they both rely at a fundamental level on the same
axioms and assumptions. Hence the ideological attitudes promoted in the
economic sphere inform the sexual sphere and vice versa and therefore the
postmodern turn should be recognisable at the level of sexual, as well as,
cultural and economic practice. It is in this respect that, the re-evaluation,
indeed the promotion of masturbation both as an actual behaviour as well as a
cultural metaphor seems both, a motif for the sexual style and a privileged
site of analysis for the sexual logic, of late capitalism.
As with Jamesons description of the postmodern turn more
generally, the masturbatory turn could therefore be read as equally reflecting
the key markers of postmodernism, but within the sexual rather than the
economic or the aesthetic sphere. These markers were, first, and most
obviously, a sense that every aspect of life, even those previously beyond or
less touched by market relations such as sexuality were now coming under
their sway. Secondly, a growing distractedness and depthlessness both within
art and the subject, in essence a waning of affect, and a concomitant distrust
of any grand or overarching narrative (with the exception of the market itself)
Greg Tuck 171
that would claim to return us to a state of meaning. Third, the promotion of
consumption over production as the key economic and cultural descriptor,
which both seemed to promote the interest of the individual while at the same
time channelling and limiting them to serve interests other than their own.
When applied to the field of sexuality, masturbation and more importantly
the new commodities (such as sex toys, home consumed pornography and
erotica via video, DVD and now the internet, cable and satellite television,
phone sex etc) associated with masturbatory pleasure would seem to clearly
demonstrate the final penetration of commodificatory dynamics into the
realm of social and sexual relations. First, we no longer simply partake of
masturbatory pleasure directly, we manufacture distribute, exchange and
consume masturbatory pleasure, such that it is mediated through market
forms. Furthermore such industries and consumer goods would support the
idea of a certain degree of reversibility with regard to the vector of
determination between the sexual and the economic. That is, while these
commodities helped facilitate masturbation their economic success and
expansion were equally driven by masturbatory desires, a model that suggests
the inherently masturbatory pleasure of commodity consumption more
generally. With the masturbatory commodity, consumer goods seem to have
reached an apotheosis, an almost pure form. However, even if we would do
well to not collapse or homogenise consumption and sexual pleasures quite
so fully or so easily, such an analysis does at least suggest that in both cases
(the general consumer commodity and the sexual commodity) the political
locus seems to have shifted from productive classes to single and
autonomous consuming subjects. We now live in a social formation where
self-pleasure has become the paramount driver of economic activity so it
becomes untenable for this economic logic not to effect our understanding of
sexual logic. More specifically masturbatory satisfaction mimics commodity
satisfaction in that it is both fully heterogeneous, it is based entirely on a
conception of the monadic free individual, and fully homogeneous at the
same time in that all these individuals consume the same thing, despite the
individual packaging. Indeed if not entirely outside of the notion of sexual
difference, masturbation does seem in excess of it as both genders and all
sexualities can partake of it.
As with capitalism generally however, the effect of such sexual
abstraction and sexual reification are both ambiguous and paradoxical as they
are lived as catastrophe and progress altogether.7 In the emergence of a
sexually autonomous subject in whom sexual desire can finally break free of
the tethers of sexual function, it suggests a progress. This is where the sense
that masturbation is in excess of sexual difference should not be read as a
simple claim for masturbatory androgyny. For example, the role of
masturbation in the development of second wave feminism, in particular its
vital role in the development of the bodysex workshops of Betty Dodson in
172 Of Monsters, Masturbators and Markets
the early 1970s cannot be underestimated. Dodson developed a new
discourse on masturbation that came to define female masturbation as a right
and a form of self-love rather than self-abuse. In 1974, the womans
magazine Ms. ran an article that widely publicised Dodsons views and which
later became the groundbreaking book, Liberating Masturbation: A
Meditation on Selflove. This promotion of a womens right to self induced
orgasm, their autonomous control over their own bodies, undoubtedly
rendered masturbation a political act. Yet at the same time and again
following Jameson postmodernism thesis, in the potential alienation of the
subject not merely from a specific other, but any other, the promotion of
masturbation could equally suggest a catastrophic waning of affect. Literally
nothing, beyond ourselves, can touch us. From this perspective the sexual
consumption of the self suggests the deepening reification of the sexual body,
an objectification of sex, a process indexed through the growing profits of the
atomising entertainment industry generally and the pornography sector in
particular. Even from a more neutral standpoint however, somewhere
between either of these utopian or dystopian readings, the promotion of
masturbation as a model of both commodity consumption and sexual
autonomy certainly suggests at least the blurring of the sexual the economic
and the cultural. The ethical and social use-value of sexuality is either being
replaced by an aestheticised and privatised exchange-value, or the boundary
between them has become so fluid as to render their separate existences
However, again following Jameson, to accept the recent
appearance of representations of masturbation within contemporary cinema
as actually signifying such a truly radical change or break with the past, as
marking shifts and irrevocable changes in the representations of things and
of the way they change,8 is to do more than note, a mere lessening of the
previous censure. As is often lost in discussions of Jamesons position there
is a danger here of eliding the difference between postmodernism as an
analytical description of a social formation and a political proscription of a
social formation. Indeed, for all of its radical claims of ultra modernity, the
celebratory reading of postmodernity is actually typical of the centuries-
established liberal models of bourgeois modernity. What must be resisted
here is the liberal (if not specifically Whiggish) desire to read such change in
terms of historical progress, or in terms that suggest or support an ideology
of moral evolution. Jameson himself attempts to avoid this pitfall by insisting
that while 'distracted' by the process of variation at work in the surface
multiplicity, one must assign no distinction of value to these different
registers. The main claim is more that sexual practices and sexual desire are
no longer anchored to a referent in nature, but instead mark a world in which
culture has become a veritable second nature.9 That is, in the rejection
of the liberal notions of historical tendency or progress as well as any
Greg Tuck 173
substantive content to our sexual identity the masturbatory turn marks a move
from an ethical to an aesthetic analysis of sexuality. However, while the
above description would seem to offer a number of useful theoretical tools
through which to analyse the representation of masturbation we would do
well to pause before pursuing it further. I would argue that it is questionable
whether we should accept the recent appearance of such representations,
particularly within contemporary cinema, as actually signifying such a radical
change or break with the past in the first place. First, how far sexuality has
ever been so simple or directly anchored to a referent in nature is a moot
point. Second, as is so often the case for arguments in favour of the
newness of postmodernity (whether as active celebration or even neutral
observation), they tend to suffer from a certain degree of historical and
theoretical amnesia in which ones own theoretical aporias are misinterpreted
as social symptom. In simple terms, there is not that much which is actually
new, or radically so, in these representation of masturbation.
To begin with the majority of contemporary cinematic
representations of masturbation are clearly critical of the practice and critical
in ways that, as we shall see, are not particularly postmodern. For most
representations of masturbation, particularly but not exclusively male
masturbation, the masturbator remains, as they have for much of the last three
centuries, a sad, bad or mad subject. The characters involved in teen caught-
masturbating scenes, such as in American Pie (Paul and Chris Weitz, USA,
2000), are usually portrayed as anxious and often physically feeble. The
masturbating paedophile Bill Maplewood (Dylan Baker) and obscene
telephone caller Allen (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) of Happiness (Todd
Solondz, USA, 1999), the police Lieutenant (Harvey Keitel) in Bad
Lieutenant (Abel Ferrara, USA, 1992) and the writer Melvin Udall (Jack
Nicohlson) in As Good As It Gets (James L. Brooks, USA, 1997) are all
represented as in some sense, not only morally bankrupt, but caught in a
masturbatory self-reflexive critical loop with their own sense of personal
degeneracy. However, it is in the common linkage between masturbation and
insanity that any postmodern interpretation of these representations meets its
strongest challenge. For what seems particularly striking in these
representations of the mad (and more often than not, criminally insane)
masturbator, is the persistence of a distinctly eighteenth century, an early
modern rather than twenty-first century, or postmodern, attitude and
Before turning to the origins of this eighteenth and nineteenth
century anti-masturbation attitude, if not hysteria, it is worth noting the
prevalence of these representations of mad masturbators within mainstream
cinema, representations which seem almost the antithesis of the ironic, and
unaffected attitude associated with postmodernity. Indeed, cinematic
representations of mad masturbators are common and include both men and
174 Of Monsters, Masturbators and Markets
women; men such as Miggs (Stuart Rudin) in Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan
Demme, USA, 1991), Norman Bates (Vince Vaughn) in the remake of
Psycho (Gus Van Sant, USA, 1998), and Carl Stargher (Vincent DOnofrio)
in The Cell (Tarsem Singh, USA, 2000), and women such as Hedera
(Jennifer Jason Leigh) in Single White Female (Barbet Schroeder, USA,
1992), Joanna (Ashley Judd) in Eye of the Beholder (Stephan Elliott, USA,
1999), Betty/Diane (Naomi Watts) in Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, USA,
2001) and Marie (Cecile De France) Haute Tension Switchblade Romance
(Alexandre Aja, France, 2003), to name but a few. In these films
masturbation not only indexes, but is also presented as in some sense causal
of madness, the madness of a lone individual who is caught in a spiral of
ever-increasing insanity, social separation, violence and intensifying
masturbation. For these text, to masturbate is to commit a crime against
reason, the self, society, indeed, life itself.
Furthermore, the semiotic clarity of these representations not only
suggests the madness of the character, but also equally tends to suggest the
madness of masturbation per se. That is, there is no distance between the
characters behaving like that, masturbating, and being like that, insane. Both
act and state are manifestations of the same thing, the subjects separation
from any externally mediated or determining agency or authority. Theirs is a
mad, alienated sexuality through which as a direct result of the attempt to
achieve primacy in matters of sex and/or sense via purely intra-subjectively
generated unilateral notions of totality, that is via a desire for the self as total
authority, the subject loses all contact with the other. Consequently the very
fortification of the self against the authority of the other blocks the possibility
of a genuine encounter and hence the possibility of establishing both the
other as object and the self as subject in the first place. Indeed whether the
insane masturbator is properly self-conscious at all is in some dispute and
these particular types of representation of masturbation often present an
ambiguous position that wants these characters to be both less than human,
yet still culpable. They are denied both the innocence of animality and the
subjectivity of a properly self-conscious, ethical subject.
This combination of both a metaphoric and causal relationship
between the separation of the psychotic from social intercourse and the
separation of the masturbator from sexual intercourse has a long heritage.
That is, one can identify an epistemological break in attitudes towards
masturbation, but it occurred, or started to occur not under postmodernity, but
about three hundred years. As a number of medical historians have noted,
among them, Peter Lewis Allen,

Around 1700 [...] the concept of self-abuse leapt over the

dividing line between religion and medicine, as doctors
warned for the first time that masturbators were
Greg Tuck 175
endangering not only their souls, but their bodies as

Concurrent with both the age of reason and rise of market relations
an anti-masturbation hysteria began that ragged across both Europe and
America for over two hundred years. Whilst history rarely offers us clear
dates for such shifts, with the anonymous publication in 1715 of a pamphlet
entitled Onania, or The Heinous Sin of pollution and All its Frightful
Consequences, in Both Sexes considered, with physical and spiritual advice
to those who have already injured themselves by this abominable practice, 11
the idea that masturbation was not only sinful but that it caused physical and
mental disease was establish. Onania combined the absolutist morality of the
bible, particularly the condemnation of Onans spilt seed (Genesis 38 4-10),
with the quasi-empirical Ancient Greek model of the bodily humours
developed between 500BCE to around 200 AD, to imply that the loss of vital
fluids, in both male and female masturbation, was both bad and dangerous.
Unlike the emphasis on balance inherent to the humoral model as it had
previously been understood, any loss was now considered dangerous.
Accumulation of fluids, not their balanced expenditure was the key to a
healthy life and the body was more and more viewed as an ideal rather than
material system, something that was owned rather than lived, lost rather than
By 1750 the support offered to these ideas by the eminent Swiss
physician, Tissot had established the dangerous effects of masturbation as a
medical fact. Even that arch rationalist Immanuel Kant defined Onanism as
an abuse of the sexual faculty [by which] a man sets aside his person and
degrades himself below the level of animals [] and no longer deserves to
be a person. 12 By Victorian times this hysteria had reached epidemic
proportions. Now the cures on offer were no longer limited to potions and
pamphlets but included forms of bondage clothing, toothed anti erection
rings, genital cages and even barbaric surgical intervention such as suturing
closed the foreskin, cauterisation of sensitive tissue, and even castration and
clitoridectomy. There were obviously a number of factors involved in this
phenomenon. The rise in literacy and the growing popularity of sexually
explicit literature, the development of singular rather than collective
bedrooms, the fear of sexually transmitted diseases, all undoubtedly
contributed to the ideological notion that masturbation was on the increase.
However, as with Jamesons insistence on the mutually determining role of
economic, social and sexual logic, of particular note was the rise of the
market economy, which developed and promoted a notion of the free
individual that was difficult to confine to the economic sphere. As the
historian Thomas Laqueur has suggested,
176 Of Monsters, Masturbators and Markets
the debate over masturbation that raged from the
eighteenth century onwards might best be understood as
part of the more general debate about the unleashing of
desire upon which a commercial economy depended and
about the possibilities of human community under these
circumstances - a sexual version of the classic Adam
Smith problem.13

In simple terms, the problem identified by Adam Smith in his

Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) was how do social and moral notions
survive the self interest unleashed by a market economy? Smith held that our
ability to put ourselves in the position of a neutral observer tempered our
natural economic selfishness and allowed an acceptable level of self-interest
to drive capitalism. As with the majority of Enlightenment thinkers Smiths
appeal is to the developing notion of reason. However, whilst such
neutrality was presented as possible in matters of economic logic this
ontological model seemed less capable of restraint when it came to matters of
sexuality which seemed beyond or outside such reason. The notion of a
neutral sexual body, one outside affect, makes little sense. The problem
would seem to be that the development and promotion of the bourgeois
individual concurrent with the rise of capitalism and the ideological role of
this individual in the mechanics of a free market, developed an ontological
model of the subject that is specifically vulnerable to the contradictions and
limitations of masturbatory logic. That is, as the dominant object of political
ontology under capitalism became the monadic human body, the prosaic if
not ridiculous counterpart of the newly dominant and sublime Cogito, the
ideological attack on masturbation increased in severity precisely as the
practice became more logically viable. This is the paradox at the heart of the
consumer capitalist model of embodiment that continues today.
The insane masturbator materialises this paradox. First they are
conceived of as lone individuals who live outside of both social and sexual
community, yet they equally want to have absolute sexual mastery and
ownership of others. Simultaneously they cannot have relations with persons,
only things, that is they must literally objectify their victims. However an
object cannot confer the sense of mastery they seek, it does not of itself have
value, so the object must be revalued or fetishised in some way so as to
demonstrate the sense of mastery the serial killer believes to be the source of
pleasure that they seek. This is why the serial killers masturbations are not
represented as solitary acts, but usually involve an abused if not murdered
other. They present a notion of the free/isolated individual and then imagine
how (yet fear the impossibility of), reincorporating such monads into a social
or intersubjective sexual formation. Hence while the victim is reduced to
little but a masturbatory prop, they are fully objectified, they have only a
Greg Tuck 177
limited use value in this state, one that seems incapable of conferring the
sexual mastery the serial killer seeks. To be seen to be master, to be
recognised as master, the object must have some degree of subjectivity that
can be mastered in the first place, so they must be further fetishised. The
object must be reinvested with some degree of subjectivity in order to offer
recognition. It is in this act of fetishisation that the victim gains not merely a
use value but an exchange value and can no longer be understood as simply
objectified, but more specifically commodified. By exchange is meant the
precise sense in which the serial killers act buys recognition rather than
simply consumes or uses the victim. Furthermore, rather than the fetishisation
actually being premised on the individual and perverse desires of the
individual killer, the fetishisation renders the victims as both
interchangeable and exchangeable in an objective manner. Indeed, it is this
paradoxical demand for objective recognition, a form of recognition that
can only be conferred by a subject, which demonstrates how the serial killer
is no more divorced from or beyond the sexual/social intersubjective matrix
than anyone else. They are, in effect, trying to find a way out of the Adam
Smith problem, without giving up their selfishness. However as the market is
an intersubjective social relation masquerading as an objective and monadic
one, this absolute selfishness is self-defeating. Without some social
confirmation of the value of their victim they can never receive the absolute
confirmation of their mastery they seek. Yet to accept this need for
intersubjective and socially determined notions of value requires them to give
up on their mad dreams of total mastery. This is why they are condemned to
repeat, as the object of consumption is logically incapable of delivering the
satisfaction that it promises.
So while such sexual fetishisation is most commonly read in
psychoanalytic terms, it is in Capital that Marx offers a model of fetishisation
(specifically in relation to commodity fetishism and to the fetish object par
excellent - money) that allows us to analyses this process in a way more
amenable to these scenes of sadistic, consumption driven, masturbation. First,
as with his notion of the market itself, no one is free of it, second it is not
premised or reliant on notions of sexual difference and hence the
masturbatory nature of the act can remain the central focus and third, it
explicitly analyses the conversion of use value to exchange value.14 Indeed, it
is in their perversion of an intersubjective sex act, even an abusive one into a
masturbatory event that much of the anxiety and moral censure around these
mad masturbations seems to stem. Hence the cinematic serial killer as
opposed to their real life counter part is rarely represented as a rapist. Instead
they are more often than not represented as specifically incapable of rape,
which while a negative and exploitative act, is after all still a direct
intersubjective encounter. Instead the sexuality of the serial killer is
specifically described as paradoxically a desire for absolute sexual mastery
178 Of Monsters, Masturbators and Markets
over the other, but a mastery that demands such a high degree of mediation to
protect them from a truly intersubjective sexual encounter, it inverts and
becomes a quest for masturbatory-mastery. It is the perilously similar logic
of commodity consumption and masturbatory mastery, their shared reliance
on modes of objectification, mediation and fetishisation, that is the
underlying horror of these representations.
For example, the Sadeian masturbation of Carl Stargher (Vincent
DOnofrio), the psychotic serial killer of The Cell, which occurs over the
brutalised corpse of his mechanically drowned victims, would at first seem to
offer a perfect description of a self-consciousness in search of such absolute
sexual mastery. Both narrative and mise-en-scne draw on virtually all the
major themes, concepts and anxieties of the anti-masturbatory hysteria of the
last three centuries, not least in the narratives promotion of murder, madness
and masturbation as activities that are logically homologous. All three are
presented as determinedly anti-intersubjective phenomena that express an
active desire for the subjects total or absolute domination of the other and
mark the subjects attempt to negate his dependence on the mutuality and
reversibility of human contact and the priority of our social interdependence.
Furthermore, although Carl is in one sense heterosexual in that he
specifically abducts and murders young women, he does not rape them, not
even necrophilically, and in this respect his masturbatory priorities place him
both inside and outside the normative sexual binary. Indeed, he is specifically
represented as incapable of having any direct sexual/physical contact with
them at all as even the death of Carls victims is brought about remotely, in
the absence of Carl.
After their abduction in which they are rendered unconscious, Carls
victims wake to find themselves alone in a prison cell, which has a glass
front and side. After a short time, a powerful shower comes on and the cell
automatically, but very slowly, begins to fill with water until after a long and
terrifying ordeal to stay afloat, they drown. The cell is located underground in
an abandoned industrial unit in the desert. Carl is not present at the
drownings although, crucially, he does video the event. This video evidence
of his mastery is one level of mediation with the resulting video acting as one
of the main fetish objects that Carl seems to truly value. We witness Carls
horror, indeed fear, of the other as a live person when we first meet him as he
comes to collect his latest victim. As he passes the cell, the young female
victim shudders and kicks in either her last gasp of life, or merely in an
automatic nervous reaction. Either way, rather than enjoy the unmediated
spectacle, Carl retreats in horror and hides behind a desk. Of note is the fact
that to comfort himself he clutches his penis, holding himself like a little boy
for reassurance rather than pleasure.
After she is killed and as with his numerous previous victims, Carl
takes the corpse home and bleaches it in a bath full of chemicals until the
Greg Tuck 179
body is white and doll like. The cadaver is now the second form of fetish
object with the bleaching process ensuring that all these individual young
women have been rendered physically interchangeable. An individual live
woman has been mediated into an interchangeable dead thing. The prepared
body is then laid out on a slab in his cellar. Using a mechanical hoist and
thick chains connected to large metal piercings down his back, upper arms
and legs, Carl then body suspends himself above the corpse and masturbates
over them while watching the video tape of their terrified reactions to their
ordeal, timing his own orgasm for the moment of their deaths. The videotape
is a second order level of fetishisation in which the dead universal thing has
been reinvested with the particularity of a specific victim, but in such a
mediated form that no direct encounter is risked. It is therefore the objective
knowledge of a subject that Carl seeks. As with Marxs description of
commodity fetishism in general and the specific value of money, the
fetishized value of money, like the fetishised value of Carls doll and video,
is not merely a facilitator of exchange, her death is simply exchanged for his
orgasm, but it is created in the very act of exchange itself.15 It is her
mediation into a pornographic prop, not her direct death or suffering, that is
the locus of value. Indeed, her unique (use) value must be processed into an
interchangeable (exchange) value, via a process that first objectifies and then
fetishises her. Carls victims have therefore been through a process that
extracts value and then fetishes that extraction in a way that is uncannily
close to Marxs description of the factory system.
Beginning with the cell itself, it is not merely a machine for killing,
but better conceived as a factory for extracting the life from his victims in
order for Carl to then consume this extraction. The mediating agency of
technology exposes both an intersubjective distance and creates an
opportunity for exploitation. The cell is designed not merely to cause and
record death, but vitally to record/capture and maximise the labour of life qua
resistance to death. It is the production and consumption of this resistance
that adds value to the materiality of Carls victims deaths. This is, after all,
the only evidence that the particular subjectivity of his victim, that only
quality of being that is capable of offering Carl recognition as master,
actually exists. However the material process involved in this abstraction of
such essential humanity also transforms that humanity into something not
quite human, something more cybernetic - in short, a commodity. As Marx

In the factory we have a lifeless mechanism independent of

the workman, who becomes its mere living appendage []
Every kind of capitalist production, in so far as it is not
only a labour-process but also a process of creating
surplus-value, has this in common, that it is not the
180 Of Monsters, Masturbators and Markets
workman that employs the instruments of labour, but the
instruments of labour that employ the workman.16

Furthermore what Carls methods make clear is that the process of

production actually relies on the victim/worker being doubly consumed. First
the maximum amount of labour in the form of her trying to stay afloat and
stay alive is extracted from her. Unlike the usual factory system however
none of this labour need be reinvested in keeping her alive so her labour can
be fully extracted, she can be fully reified or totally transformed into surplus
value and as such she has been fully commodified. A person has been turned
into a thing. This is the first moment of consumption. However both the
evidence of resistance and the objective truth of her death does not of itself
demonstrate Carls mastery until he fully confirms his mastery by
recombining her actual death as universal body and her specific individual
death as mediated through the video. This is when the thing is reanimated; it
is literally fetishised such that it can be (mis)recognised as a person. Indeed
as Carl is not present at the actual death of his victim it is only in its mediated
form that it is available to him. It is only when their deaths are consumed the
second time, not during the production of their death but during Carls act of
consumption that the value of his victims subjectivity becomes known to
This consumption of the victim by the factory system (her use value)
leads to her transformation into a commodity, which may then be consumed
again but remotely from the production of this commodity (her exchange
value). It is then in this commodified form as both corpse and video, that Carl
consumes her, as something killed and dead that has subsequently been
anthropomorphised and reanimated. Carls mode of production mimics the
capitalist mode of production more generally, in that the object of production
has been simplified in order for it to become amicable to mass production,
whilst the value of the production, the value of the commodity, rests on the
amount of dead consumed labour necessary to produce it. This is the role of
the factory apparatus in creating the paradoxical ontology of alienated labour
that both fetishises and abuses the workers body. Likewise Carls victim
who seems to be both sexualised and economised by his psychopathology.
Not only are they rendered the other of an alienated masturbatory sexuality,
but they are also commodified by a factory system.
However, it is not merely Carls victim that is reified through their
insertion into a mechanical apparatus, but Carl as well. The only way he can
consume this abstracted value is by his own insertion into the apparatus.
Hence as with the capitalist mode of production more generally, whilst
capitalists benefit from their exploitation of the proletariat they can do so
only at the price of their own alienation. This similarity but inequality must
be stressed. That is, against the general appeal to process of reification and
Greg Tuck 181
subjective destitution at the hands of a mechanised instrumental logic, the
usual appropriation of a Marxist model of alienation within cultural studies, it
is the unevenness of the relationship that remains paramount. Beyond the
generalised philosophical alienation of modernity the specific political
exploitation of capitalism demands analysis. However, from within the class
position of the bourgeoisie, it is not Carls alienation that seems the primary
cause of anxiety, but his own consumption of the object of production. It is
his perversion of the factory system that reveals the two-fold bourgeois
anxiety at the heart of the Adam Smith problem. First, as with the Sorcerers
apprentice, while endless production is on the surface an attractive fantasy,
once the forces of mechanisation have been unleashed, there is little to
prevent means totality dominating ends, leading to a crisis of over-production
and a collapse in value. It is the democratic availability of masturbatory
pleasure that seems horrifying. Without scarcity, the logical benefits of
ownership are negated. Indeed beneath the purely instrumentalist appeal of
the factory system as a rationalisation of production, lies a notion of
competition that demands the uneven ownership of this production. This is
why the free market is in effect always a demand for inequality. Second, if
production is self-consumed, the market is likewise done away with and once
again capitalist value is obliterated. It is the profligate heart of masturbation
that both mimics and mocks commodity production that seems at issue here.
In demonstrating and demanding a subjective and individual rather
than collective or even hierarchical terminal point of ownership and
consumption the notion of masturbation both requires and supports a
capitalist notion of the subject as a free agent capable of such individual
having. It is no longer a commonwealth but individual wealth that indexes
notions of value. Yet in being an activity outside or beyond a system of
exchange, masturbation is equally anathema to such a model, as it reveals the
self-subverting and inherent negativity of the logic of market freedom. It
demonstrate the ideological limit of the free individual of capitalism as the
one freedom capitalism cannot offer such an individual is of course freedom
from the market, the right to withdraw or opt out of market relations. In this
respect it is the metaphoric power of insane masturbating serial killer
conceived as secession from both the sexual market and social relations that
articulates this paradox. Masturbation stands as a concrete materialisation or
demonstration of the moment when freedom conceived as a property of
monadic individuals becomes isolation and the logic of consumption
disintegrates due to the absence of value outside social systems of
accumulation and exchange. It reveals that for all the ideological attention
paid to the individual under the capitalist mode of production, it is only an
individual suspended within the matrix of the market (rather than over the
body of a victim) that can enjoy such rights and pleasures. Furthermore, as is
the case of all commercial markets, the inherent abundance or availability of
182 Of Monsters, Masturbators and Markets
masturbatory pleasure causes its own inversion into worthlessness. That
which cannot be exchanged or circulated cannot attract value and so despite
the promotion of individual desire encouraged by capitalism, the value that
underpins that system only occurs at this social level.
In conclusion, the addition of the logic and ideology of the free
market from the beginning of the eighteenth century onwards to existing
religious and medical attitudes to masturbation created a new synthesis, or
mode of address towards the practice that revealed a fundamental ideological
aporia within the ontology demanded by market logic. As a moment of sheer
consumption masturbation seems to generate exactly the type of monadic
consuming subject required by capitalism, but in its inversion of the
protestant work ethics injunction to accumulate masturbation equally
negates the ideological desirability of its own logic. This ambivalence at the
abstract or theoretical level is also visible at the concrete level of capitalist
practice. That is, whilst on the one hand many direct representations of
masturbation, particularly on film continue to be negative, on the other, a less
direct but positive appeal to masturbatory pleasure pervades consumer
culture. Indeed, the promotion of consumption at an individual level, that is
representation that offer positive portrayals of solitary pleasures, are
commonplace. Furthermore, in the rise of branded goods, the role of
fetishised modes or recognition within commodity culture is becoming more
and more obvious. In this respect whilst rejecting any notion that there has
been an arrival of masturbation in mainstream culture, a boundary that
marks a postmodern scission or definitive new historic period, it does suggest
that the current emphasis on consumption reveals a facet of capitalism that is
particularly sensitive to both the pleasures and the costs of a masturbatory
As always, our monsters are not monstrous in their alien otherness,
but in their sameness and the masturbating serial killer of much
contemporary cinema is not so much exceptional as an extreme reflection
and metaphor of a more general anxiety regarding the autonomy of the lone
individual of both modernity and the market economy. That such
representations of masturbation eschew the possibility of presenting
masturbation as a cost-free, exploitation-free form of sexual pleasure
available to all, a demonstration not only of the generosity of the flesh, but of
our ability to escape endless desire and achieve moments of sated pleasure, is
probably the clearest demonstration of the madness of the market rather than
the masturbator.
Greg Tuck 183

Timothy Taylor, The Prehistory of Sex, (New York: Bantam Books, 1996),
Anthony Giddens, The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and
Eroticism in Modern Societies. (Cambridge: Polity Press. 1992), p.16.
Shere Hite, Women as Revolutionary Agents of Change: The Hite Reports,
1972-1993. (London: Bloomsbury, 1993), p.54.
Frederic Jameson, Postmodernism: or, The Cultural Logic of Late
Capitalism. (London: Verso, 1991)
Engels, cited in Jameson, Fredric, The Ideologies of Theory: Essays 1971-
1986 Volume 2, Syntax of History (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota
Press 1988).
1988, p.211.
Louis Althusser, For Marx. (London: New Left Books, 1977), p.113.
Fredric Jameson Postmodernism: or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism.
(London: Verso, 1991) p.47
Ibid., p. ix.
Ibid., p.ix.
Peter Lewis Allen The Wages of Sin: Sex and Disease, Past and
Present.(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000) p. 80.
Anonymous, Onania, or the Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution, and all its
Frightful Consequences, in Both Sexes, Considered. 8th Edition. (London:
Thomas Crouch Booksellers,1723) 1.
Immanuel Kant cited in: Sobel, Alan. Philosophies of Masturbation, <-
http://> (29 November 2000).
Thomas Lacquer, The Social Evil, the Solitary Vice and Pouring Tea, in:
P. Bennett and V. A. Rosario, (eds) Solitary Pleasures: The Historical,
Literary and Artistic Discourses of Autoeroticism. (London: Routledge,
1995) p.157
Karl Marx, Capital, Volume One. (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing
House, 1961)pp.71-84.
Ibid., 422-423.
184 Of Monsters, Masturbators and Markets


Anonymous, Onania, or the Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution, and all its

Frightful Consequences, in Both Sexes, Considered. 8th Edition. London:
Thomas Crouch Booksellers, 1723

Allen, Peter Lewis, The Wages of Sin: Sex and Disease, Past and Present.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000
Althusser, Louis, For Marx. London: New Left Books, 1977

Giddens, Anthony, The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and

Eroticism in Modern Societies. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1992

Hite, Shere, Women as Revolutionary Agents of Change: The Hite Reports,

1972-1993. London: Bloomsbury, 1993

Jameson, Fredric, The Ideologies of Theory: Essays 1971-1986 Volume 2,

Syntax of History. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988

Jameson, Fredric, Postmodernism: or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism.

London: Verso, 1991

Laqueur, Thomas, The Social Evil, the Solitary Vice and Pouring Tea, in:
P. Bennett and V. A. Rosario, (eds) Solitary Pleasures: The Historical,
Literary and Artistic Discourses of Autoeroticism. London: Routledge, 1995

Marx, Karl, Capital, Volume One. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing

House, 1961

Sobel, Alan. Philosophies of Masturbation,

<-http://> (29 November 2000).
Section Four

Miscellaneous Monsters
(They can be evil, male, female, but most importantly
beware, they can be cute)
Nobodys Meat: Freedom through Monstrosity in
Contemporary British Fiction

Ben Barootes

A free woman in an unfree society will be a monster. Thus spake Angela
Carter. On the surface, this statement seems to suggest that a free woman is
demonized by her unliberated society. A different reading, however, reveals a
deeper truth: in order that a woman may be free within an unfree society, she
must first be monstrous. It is her monstrosity that which separates and
distances her from society that enables the woman to escape her social
shackles. As Fay Weldons The Life and Loves of a She Devil demonstrates,
an ugly woman is not bound to a society that values beauty and the
helplessness of women. Carters fiction, specifically the short stories
contained in The Bloody Chamber, addresses how monstrous women
vampires, tigresses, and werewolves are freed from such bonds as time and
sexual characterization. Carter further explores this concept in her novel
Nights at the Circus wherein she examines how even the seemingly
monstrous female can find not only liberation but also power and control.
Jeannette Wintersons Sexing the Cherry warns of those who go too far: a
monstrous woman whose expressions of her free will amount to death and
destruction. Freedom through monstrosity is not limited to women alone
other marginalized groups and individuals can also achieve sovereignty by
embracing their (often imposed) monstrous nature. This is the case for both
Saladin Chamcha and the non-Anglo-Saxon youth of London in Salman
Rushdies The Satanic Verses. Whether the monster is a woman or an
immigrant, natural or constructed, these texts all argue that freedom is gained
through the acceptance and celebration of ones own monstrosity.

Woman, womanhood, freedom, literature, she-devil, vampire, autonomy

In The Sadeian Woman and the Ideology of Pornography, Angela

Carter writes, A free woman in an unfree society will be a monster.1 On the
surface, this statement seems to suggest that a free-acting or -thinking woman
is demonized by her unliberated society. This is not a surprising
interpretation - it is one we have all seen and heard time and again. Michel
Foucault tells us that in a disciplinary society such as our own, a person who
188 Nobodys Meat
deviates from societal norms is portrayed as a thing unnatural - or, at least,
bestial. As the Carter short story In the Company of Wolves warns: if you
stray from the path for one instant, the wolves will eat you.2 If one deviates
from the straight and narrow, one will fall prey to the wild carnal hunger of
the licentious lupus - one will lose the human element (civilization) and
become no more than a rough beast. A different reading, however, reveals a
deeper truth: in order that a woman may be free within an unfree society, she
must first be monstrous. It is her monstrosity - that which separates and
distances her from society, that which singles her out - that enables the
woman to escape her social shackles. As Fay Weldons The Life and Loves of
a She Devil demonstrates, an ugly woman is not bound to a society that
values beauty and the helplessness of women. Carters fiction, specifically
the short stories contained in The Bloody Chamber, addresses how monstrous
women - vampires, tigresses, and werewolves - are freed from such bonds as
time and sexual characterization. Jeannette Wintersons Sexing the Cherry
further examines these concepts as well as the death and destruction that
often go hand in hand with monstrous realizations of freedom. Of course,
freedom through monstrosity is not limited to women alone - other
marginalized individuals and groups can also achieve sovereignty by
embracing their own monstrous natures. This is the case for both Indian expat
cum British citizen Saladin Chamcha and the non-Anglo-Saxon youth of
London in Salman Rushdies The Satanic Verses. Whether the monster is a
woman or an immigrant, natural or constructed, these texts all argue that
freedom is gained through the acceptance and celebration of ones own
Fay Weldons The Life and Loves of a She Devil is the story of a
woman scorned and her consequential quest for vengeance (with its auxiliary
benefits of wealth and success). You can be sure that Ruth Patchett, the
housewife turned she-devil, hath Hells Fury at her disposal every step of the
way. Ruth certainly is a woman who bursts the boundaries of her society. She
belongs to a culture (reminiscent of our own) that places a high value on the
physical beauty and helplessness of a woman. The beauty so treasured and
praised by Ruths society is rigidly defined and categorized: petite, preferably
blond, fair of skin, effeminate. Likewise, this idealized woman should be lost
in the world if not for her man - he who is her child, her father, her
everyone, her everything.3 This ideal is embodied in Ruths arch-nemesis,
the romance novelist Mary Fisher, who, as Ruth describes her, is small and
pretty and delicately formed, prone to fainting and weeping.4 Ruth, of
course, is the antithesis of this ideal. She stands over six feet, with broad
shoulders and hips. She is swarthy and has a quatrain of moles upon her chin
- a trio of which sprouts hairs.5 Ruth is clumsy, lacking in all womanly
graces.6 She is not, in fact, considered a woman in the least. As Ruths
Ben Barootes 189
husband walks out on her, he shouts, You are not a woman at allwhat you
are is a She-Devil.7
Because of her departure from her cultures definition of
womanhood, Ruth is not bound by the restraints that are regularly applied to
women in her society. It is her monstrous nature that allows her to transcend
gender stereotypes and roles. Ruth is no longer jailed in her home, tethered to
the stove, watching over her brood. As she says herself: she-devil and mother
are mutually exclusive terms. Following this, she abandons her children on
the doorstep of her husbands mistress, the romance novelist Mary Fisher.
Unencumbered by maternal and spousal duties, Ruth can ambitiously embark
on business ventures: she owns and operates the highly successful Vesta
Rose Employment Agency, which specializes in finding secretarial work for
women coming back into the labour market - either from choice or from
necessity and also provides courses in assertiveness training to counter
the lack of worldly confidence[caused by] years of domesticity.8
Through her business, Ruth is able to increase her personal agency -
extending her sphere of influence to that other world of power - of judges
and priests and doctors, the ones who tell women what to do and what to
think.9 She places her operatives in strategic positions throughout the
working world - she sets up typists, secretaries, and office temptresses as
pawns in her game - as pieces of her puzzle of power. Having gained
sovereignty, Ruth can not only enter this world, she can (and does) come to
dominate it.
It is not only so-called ugly women whose monstrous natures
permit them to exist unbound. The Lady of the House of Love, an eternally
young and beautiful vampiress and the title character in one of Angela
Carters short stories from The Bloody Chamber collection, provides an
example of monstrosity enabling an exochronic existence. At the height of
modernity, she lives alone in her ancient mansion, above a timeless town
devoid of citizens. (This estate is, of course, built on that side of the Danube.)
In her castle, the Lady is for ever cartomancing - day and night her
inevitable tarot endlessly reveals the same fate.10
She leads a life three times as tense as our own: she lives
simultaneously in the past, present, and the future. In The Philosophy of
Symbolic Forms, Ernst Cassirer discusses what he terms the absolute past.
This is the time to which mythic beings and events belong. It is, in a sense,
engaged with the historical past and yet is removed from it. As such, it is not
subject to the ravages of Chronos - it does not fade, dissipate or erode.
According to Cassirer, this absolute past is directly connected to a perpetual
present. The unfading constant of the absolute past is just that: constant. It is
perpetually occurring. Herakles is continuously slaying the Hydra; Ahab is
for ever hunting Moby Dick; and Medusa the Gorgon is endlessly confronted
with her own monstrous image.
190 Nobodys Meat
The Ladys above-mentioned inevitable Tarot perhaps best
illustrates the concept of the whole of time - past, present, and future - as a
single and all-encompassing point. The cards exist in the past: [t]he Tarot
always shows the same configuration.11 The Tarots synonym, the arcana,
itself suggests something out of the depths of time, a thing veiled by the mists
of time - something ancient, antique, arcane. However, the cards also
demonstrate the perpetual present. The spread is a construction in the present
- a construction that is perpetually the same. Each time she cartomances, the
Lady creates the past in the present. So too is her future contained within the
Tarot. The very nature of the arcana is to reveal the future. It is a means of
constructing the future in the present. But her cards always fall in the same
pattern.12 Thus her future is also her past, both of which are continuously
assembled in the present. She is not only bound to a future which is
irreversible, but also to a past which endlessly recurs.13 For this femme
fatale, all is as it has always been and will be.14
As a vampire, the Lady is relegated to the timeless Gothic
eternity, to the absolute past of the mythic being.15 Her subsequent perpetual
present is an endless reflection of her past. The ever-repeated spread of her
tarot deck is a self-fulfilling prophesy of her future - a future as bleak and
dreary as the dilapidated castle she inhabits. Her freedom from temporal
shackles is further attested to by her absence of menses. As she is not subject
to the cycles of days, of seasons, or of years, so too is she liberated from the
monthly cycle. The Lady has never seen her own blood before.16
Physically, she is in the prime of her life - a beautiful young woman. And yet
she is both pre-menarchal and post-menopausal. She is both maiden and
death:17 she is spring and autumn, dawn and dusk, past and future. The
Ladys vampiress identity causes her to be a singularity - a lone figure in who
all temporal periods are contained. And yet her existence is one of stasis - an
unending nightmare from which she cannot awake. She does not participate
in Times forward march. The Lady is a closed circuit running beyond
Times mother (or should I say father?) board.18
Both Ruth and the Lady of the House of Love dwell on the
thresholds of their societies: they are beings beyond its boundaries but are
also - to varying extents - engaged with the society. In fact, all of the
monstrous female characters discussed herein live a liminal existence.
Throughout her monstrous pursuit of vengeance, Weldons She-Devil, Ruth
Patchett, dwells in the shadows, on the periphery of her society. She lives in a
seedy motel, servants quarters, a Prison for the Criminally Insane, a shabby
office building on a narrow street, the back room of a council flat, a
dilapidated clergy house, and a separatist feminist commune.19 As Vesta
Rose, employment agency entrepreneuse, Ruth never fully presents herself to
the society in and for which she works. She declines photographs and grants
interviews only by telephone;20 she remains disembodied, an ethereal being
Ben Barootes 191
of the fringe. So too does the Lady of the House of Love. She roosts in a
castle perched above a ghost town: beyond civilizations reach, she remains
within sight of it. Similarly, although she is outside of the regular flow of
time, the time-bubble of her singularity is - like a boat on a river - surrounded
by it. As a vampiress - an undead (un)being - she stands the threshold
between life and death; she hovers in a no-mans land between life and
death, sleeping and waking.21
As Hlne Cixous explains, the other can never truly, entirely be
other for it would be elsewhere, outside: absolutely other.22 If the other
were entirely divorced from that to which it is opposed - monster from
normal, for instance - it could not be discussed and analysed; it cannot be
theorized.23 Thus, we arrive at the border-straddling existence of the
monstrous women discussed herein. Although they are removed from
society, it is necessary that the female monsters and the monstrous females
maintain a connexion, an interaction - contact - with that society. They are its
frame of reference. We keep the wolves outside by living well,24 and we
know how to live well because the wolves are outside. We can find this
concept in the early days of the Western literary and philosophic traditions,
as found in Greek mythology. The Amazons, a matriarchal society comprised
of strong, proud warrior women, are set up as a foil to Hellenic society. As
such, their homeland is located on the very fringes of the known Greek world
- in Scythia or, less commonly, in Ethiopia.25 The idea being that the further
one goes from the centre, the stranger (more unnatural, more monstrous) all
things become.
We see a similar construct in Jeanette Wintersons Sexing the
Cherry. This is the tale of a woman of monstrous proportions (her weight is
enough to catapult an elephant into the stratosphere),26 her experiences and
adventures as she raises her adopted son, Jordan the banana-inspired
explorer-to-be, in 17th century London. Throughout the course of the novel,
the Dog-Woman (thus named for she breeds and raises a host of hounds of
the Hyde Park fighting variety) encounters Puritan uprisings, civil war,
regicide, bananas and pineapples (the latter discovered by her son on his
first expedition). The Dog-Woman too inhabits a liminal space. She is
gigantic of body, almost too big for her society - she does fit in physically, or,
as we shall see, sexually. As a Royalist, she is out of place in the Interregnum
period of Cromwells Commonwealth. The Dog-Woman lives littorally: her
shack lies on the banks of the Thames, between London and the wild world
Monstrous figures, like wolves skulking just under the eaves of the
forest, dwell on the threshold. However, these monstrous characters are
likened to beasts in more ways than this liminal existence. Deviants are often
not seen as something fully human; they are not viewed as something supra-,
but rather sub-, human. Contemporary British fiction is fraught with the
192 Nobodys Meat
opposition of the human and the beast and its subordinate binaries: the
prudish and the lusty, civility and abandon, repression and assertion, reason
and passion. The oft-reproduced and reinterpreted story of Beauty and the
Beast best categorizes such a contrast. Beauty, the female, is virginal and
self-controlled. The male Beast, on the other hand, represents unbridled
sexuality - an utter lack of restraint. Traditionally, Beauty and her social
mores win, transforming the Beast into a fine gentleman of suppressed urges
and desires. However, if the young woman opts to embrace her sexuality - if
she gives in to her desires and becomes master of her flesh - it is she who is
transformed. This is indeed the case in Carters The Tigers Bride (one of
her many takes on the Beauty and the Beast story). Upon seeing La Bestia
naked bare as is, the unnamed heroine recognizes a part of his animal nature
within her self. She admits this seemingly monstrous sexuality is a part of her
being, embraces it, and permits herself to revel in it. She decides to release
her lamb-self and run with the tigers.27 Each lick of her tiger-lovers tongue
rends her human skin, removes the veil of so-called civilization to reveal a
nascent patina of shining hairsbeautiful fur.28
In the Company of Wolves also addresses this idea of sexual
liberation via an acceptance and celebration of ones own bestial (or
monstrous) nature. In this riff on the Little Red Riding Hood theme, the
heroine refuses to be raped; she ridicules, refutes, and razes the aggressive
advances of the carnivore incarnate29:

What big arms you have.

All the better to hug you with
What big teeth you have!...
All the better to eat you with
The girl burst out laughing; she knew she was nobodys
meat. She laughed at him full in the face, she ripped off his
shirt for him and flung it into the fire, in the fiery wake or
her own discarded clothing.30

She realizes that she is no mere morsel; she is more than breasts and rump.
Having accepted her monstrous assertive role, she takes to her hysteric helm.
She becomes one of the women who grab their sexuality and fight back;
her sexuality becomes active (rather than passive or suppressed
altogether).31 Dead, passive, inert meat is transformed into living, lively
flesh. The passive voice gives way to the active: rather than being forced, she
chooses to spend her nights between the paws of the tender wolf.32
In the Company of Wolves symbolizes the suppression of
sexuality by the clothing worn by each. It is the veil society places over the
characters (both female and male) sexual (animal, monstrous) natures.
Carters Red Riding Hood first tears off her own clothes, throwing them into
Ben Barootes 193
the fire to be followed by the wolfs wear. She thus liberates her sensuality,
her sexuality, her desire. Shirking passivity, she becomes - if not aggressive -
assertive. She confronts the devouring sensuality (both the interior and
exterior wolves) and laughs at it full in the face.33 Rendering the threat null,
she embraces it and gains power, strength and a new awareness of both self
and other.34 After gaining sexual autonomy, the heroine, as an active
subject, can help the wolf to lose the false skin that covers his (true) self. Her
newly gained freedom is passed on to her (former) assailant - he too is
released from the bonds of phallocentric hegemony. She transforms the initial
(traditional) sexual relationship - male aggressor and passive female - into
one of mutual desire. By levelling the sexual hierarchy, the heroine slays the
carnivore incarnate. She rids the situation of carne - transform[s] meat
into flesh35 - and, removing the socially fabricated role of the male,
renders tender the wolf, makes him her companion rather than her attacker.
Throughout these tales, we are reminded that the road to
emancipation can be littered with the corpses of the oppressors, paved with
the cobble-bones of the unfree. The Marquis de Sade (who found freedom in
his own monstrous way) wrote that the only way to gain complete freedom is
through the utter domination and obliteration of the other.36 This is reflected
in the sexual practices of these women - one of the primary means whereby
these devilish dames actualize their freedom. To engage in an act of sex with
these women leads to the end of ones own self: as Carter puts it they only
[know] one kind of consummation.37 Ruths romp with Carver, the half-wit
groundskeeper, causes the senior citizen to have a fit and she leaves him lay
in a pool of his own excrement.38 The man is entirely debased by Ruths
process of release.
Wintersons Dog-Woman follows suit; she devours the two men
with whom she has sexual contact. At one point, an intrepid lover attempts to
mate with the mongrel matron. Her vastness proves an impediment. In an
effort to improve the situation, she flexes her sexual muscles; as a result the
man is sucked entirely within her, balls and everything.39 Consummation
indeed. When a Puritan hails the Dog-Woman and requests that she perform
oral sex upon him, she obliges him as best she can. However, her physical
characteristics - her mountainous body, her flat nose, heavy eyebrows, her
scarce and broken teeth, all surrounded by a deeply scarred face - have led
her to an existence outside the realm of human sexuality (repressed or
otherwise).40 Understandably, she does not comprehend the practices and
motions of a sexual relationship: she believes the phallus becomes detached
during copulation and produces the new life in the womans body.41 She thus
assumes that the male member, once having been chomped and detached,
will simply - though slowly - grow anew.42 The Dog-Woman terminates any
future fuckery for her fellated fellow.
194 Nobodys Meat
Echoing the Marquis, Carter stresses the necessary subjugation of
the other so that a woman may achieve and further her own liberation:

[The free womans] freedom will be a condition of personal

privilege that deprives those on which she exercises it of
her own freedom. The most extreme kind of this
deprivation is murder. These women murder.43

Wintersons Dog-Woman certainly does. She does not find herself a

slave to the social taboos against murder, taking no more though of the act
than she does of caring for her dogs. The Dog-Woman has a natural capacity
for murder.44 Throughout the course of Sexing the Cherry, she slays at least
a bakers dozen of men,45 including her father and her nemeses and
oppressors, Preacher Scroggs and Neighbour Firebrace.46 The act of murder,
however, need not be a literal one. The Red Riding Hood figure of In the
Company of Wolves kills the aggressive sexual tendencies of the wolf; she
does not destroy the body. If we return to the Dog-Womans act fellatio/feast,
we see this idea fleshed out more fully. She does not kill the mans physical
being, she slaughters the psychological one. She debases his concept of self;
she undermines the self-admiring, self-stimulating, self-congratulatory
phallocentrism.47 By removing the mans member, she succeeds in
decentralizing the phallus. She reduces the man to a disembodied phallia
depersonalised prick,48 a lonely penis without a point of reference, without a
self to empower - an inconsequential object which can be spat out and tossed
to the dogs.49 The Dog-Woman carries out the opposite act from Carters Red
Riding Hood: she renders the privileged flesh of the man into nothing more
than a hunk of meat. She does so through the very act of biting: one does not
eat flesh, one eats meat. The Dog-Woman robs the flesh (the living phallus)
of the skin (social constructs of gender and sexual roles). To use Carters
formula: flesh minus skin equals meat.50 She ends the Puritans
(traditional) sex life; she takes the liveliness (the flesh-nature) out of the
phallus - she carries through the act of predation, deadening the flesh, making
meat. In this sense, she commits murder.
Thus far female protagonists have been the subject of discussion.
Freedom through monstrosity is certainly not limited to females alone. All
marginalised groups - all demonized persons - can realize freedom by
accepting and embracing the monstrous images imposed upon them by the
dominant powers of society. One such group - an oft-treated subject of recent
British fiction - is the varied immigrant population of London. Salman
Rushdies infamous novel, The Satanic Verses, is - among a great many other
things - an examination of the demonized immigrant. Upon returning from a
trip to his resented homeland of India, Saladin Chamcha is mistaken to be an
immigrant and thus demonized by anti-immigration Thatcherist Britain.
Ben Barootes 195
Chamcha is quite literally demonized - transformed into a behooved creature,
complete with the requisite tail. With horns wreathing his head, he is long of
beard, hairy of body, foul of breath and has the ability to fill the room with
dense and sulphurous smoke.51 He spends the better part of two hundred
pages in this Pan-ic state. That is, until his seething anger and hatred come to
a boil. (Im not one to advocate the Dark Side but) when Chamcha gives in to
his hatred, when he submits to his anger - when he allows himself to be
what he has become - he is transformed.52 Or, to use Rushdies term, he is
humanized.53 In this form (which one may find it helpful to imagine the Al
Pacino-style devil: sporting both a well-tailored suit and glowing red eyes to
match), Chamcha is free: free to leave his temporary prison, the Shaandaar B
and B; free to interact with fellow human beings (and Londoners); free to
carry out his revenge. This rubric is reminiscent of Ruth Patchetts
experience. Once she comes to grips with her true and terrible identity, Ruth
is free to pursue her goals, wants and desires: revenge, power, money and the
one-way street of unrequited adoration.54
Saladin Chamcha is not the only character in The Satanic Verses to
be granted freedom via an acceptance of the labels and images others enforce
upon him. Rushdie has his version of the Prophet assume a derogatory alias.
He is neither Mahomet or MoeHammered - he takes on the identity of the
medieval baby-frightener, the Devils synonym, Mahound.55 This is the
way, according to Rushdie, that the marginalized and demonized - woman or
immigrant or other - gain autonomy. They adopt the names they were given
in scorn.56
The acceptance of monstrosity and the freedom it enables is not
restricted to the individual level. The Satanic Verses shows the second-
generation immigrant youth of London - those of the tinted persuasion as
one character puts it - adopting this same strategy. Rather than rail against the
half-devil label the dominant culture applies to them, these half-children
revel in their chthonic characteristics. The image of the horned beast appears
on button-badges sweatshirts postersthe chests of young girls and in the
windows protected against bricks by metal grilles.57 The Asian youth - like
many before them: Whigs, Tories, Blacks - turn insults into strengths.58
This tactic culminates with a sub-cultural fad of wearing rubber and plastic
devil-horns upon their heads: a final physical manifestation of the demonic
characteristics attributed to them by the powers that be. In doing so, they free
themselves of the shackles of characterization, of definition-by-the-other -
they create a group identity, one founded firmly upon their shared monstrous
Contemporary British fiction gives us a great many monstrous
characters: vampires, giantesses, lupine ladies, maternal mongrels and impish
immigrants. These monstrous figures demonstrate Carters assertion: those,
as monsters, who are made to dwell beyond the boundaries of society are not
196 Nobodys Meat
subject to its limitations. A she-devil is not confined to the idealized passive
role of womanhood; as an unwoman, she is free to enter and succeed in the
world of male powerbrokers. A vampiress, an unnatural (and undead) female
is beyond the reach of Father Time. Similarly, those who cease denying their
monstrosity - those who embrace their true nature, who proudly proclaim I
am that I am - are granted release from the bonds of hegemony. The
monstrous are exiles. Adrift or incarcerated, they are made to dwell on the
fringes of society - in the liminal spaces; thus they become peripheral
figures that no authority can ever subjugate.59 Freedom is not the cause of
monstrosity - it is the effect.

Angela Carter, The Sadeian Woman and the Ideology of Pornography (New
York: Pantheon, 1978), 27.
Angela Carter, In the Company of Wolves, The Bloody Chamber
(London: Penguin Books, 1979), 111. According to Hlne Cixous,
patriarchal Western society encourages woman to avoid putting oneself in
such a position: Above all, dont go into the forest (Cixous, Sorties, 68).
Fay Weldon, The Life and Loves of a She Devil (Chatham, Kent: Sceptre,
1983), 144.
Ibid., 8.
Ibid., 11.
Ibid., 24.
Ibid., 47.
Ibid., 131-3
Ibid., 130.
Angela Carter, The Lady of the House of Love, The Bloody Chamber
(London: Penguin, 1979), 94.
Ibid., 95.
Ibid., 97.
Ibid., 95.
Ibid., 97.
Ibid., 97.
Ibid., 106.
Ibid., 93.
Weldon, 88, 93, 121, 130,178, 198, and 213.
Ben Barootes 197

Ibid., 131-2.
Carter, The Bloody Chamber, 103.
Hlne Cixous, Sorties: Out and Out: Attacks/Ways Out/Forays, The
Newly Born Woman, trans. Betsy Wing (Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, 1986), 71.
Carter, The Bloody Chamber, 115.
Elizabeth Vandiver, Female Monsters and Monstrous Females, Classical
Mythology (Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company, 2000).
Jeanette Winterson, Sexing the Cherry (Toronto: Vintage, 1989), 19.
Angela Carter, The Tigers Bride, The Bloody Chamber (London:
Penguin, 1979), 64.
Ibid., 67.
Angela Carter, In the Company of Wolves, The Bloody Chamber
(London: Penguin, 1979), 110.
Ibid., 118.
Merja Makinen, Angela Carters The Bloody Chamber and the
Decolonization of Feminine Sexuality, Feminist Review 42 (Autumn 1992):
3 and 4.
Carter, The Bloody Chamber, 118.
Carter, The Bloody Chamber, 118.
Makinen, 10. Cf. Cixous argument that the other is necessarily connected
to, associated and interacts with the self (Cixous, Sorties, 71).
Ibid., 11.
Carter, The Sadeian Woman, 117.
Carter, The Bloody Chamber, 103.
Weldon, 60.
Winterson, 109.
Ibid., 29 and 17.
Ibid., 38.
Ibid., 37.
Carter, The Sadeian Woman, 27. Hearkening back to Classical foundations:
the Greek historian Herodotus refers to the Amazons as androktones -
killers of men - from the Scythian oiropata (Histories, 4.110.1).
Winterson, 133.
Ibid., 62-3.
Ibid., 88.
Hlne Cixous, The Laugh of the Medusa, trans. Keith Cohen and Paula
Cohen, New French Feminisms, ed. Elaine Marks and Isabelle de Courtivron
(New York: Schocken Books, 1981), 249.
Carter, The Sadeian Woman, 90.
198 Nobodys Meat

Winterson, 37.
Carter, The Sadeian Woman, 138.
Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses (Toronto: Vintage, 1988), 283-5.
Ibid., 298.
Ibid., 304.
Weldon, 49.
Rushdie, 95.
Ibid., 295.
Ibid., 95.
Hlne Cixous, The Laugh of the Medusa, 253.


Carter, Angela. The Bloody Chamber. London: Penguin, 1979.

Carter, Angela. The Sadeian Woman and the Ideology of Pornography.

New York: Harper Colophon Books, 1978.

Cixous, Hlne. The Laugh of the Medusa. Translated by Keith Cohen

and Paula Cohen. In New French Feminisms, edited by Elaine Marks and
Isabelle de Courtivron, 245-65. New York: Schocken Books, 1981.

Cixous, Hlne. Sorties: Out and Out: Attacks/Ways Out/Forays. The

Newly Born Woman, translated by Betsy Wing, 63-78. Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 1986.

Herodotus. Histories. 4.110.1.

Makinen, Merja. Angela Carters The Bloody Chamber and the

Decolonization of Feminine Sexuality. Feminist Review 42
(Autumn 1992): 2-15.

Rushdie, Salman. The Satanic Verses. Toronto: Vintage, 1988.

Vandiver, Elizabeth. Monstrous Females and Female Monsters.

Classical Mythology. Audio CD. Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company,
Ben Barootes 199

Weldon, Fay. The Life and Loves of a She Devil. Chatham, Kent:
Sceptre, 1983.

Winterson, Jeanette. Sexing the Cherry. Toronto: Vintage, 1989.

God Hates Us All: Kant, Radical Evil and the Diabolical
Monstrous Human in Heavy Metal

Niall Scott

The recent release of Metallicas documentary Some Kind of Monster and
the proclamation of the bands identity as This Monster Lives provides an
explicit statement of a familiar theme of monstrosity in the culture
surrounding Heavy Metal. This notion of monstrosity is linked to conceptions
and images of human evil evident in lyrics and art work amongst other Metal
themes. In this paper I will explore Kants conception of radical evil and the
evil in human nature in relation to discourses of evil and human nature in
Heavy Metal culture. One of Kants discussions on evil In Religions within
the boundaries of pure Reason alone sees it in terms of a vice in the
predisposition to humanity. He describes this as the human inclination to
create a worth for oneself in the opinion of others occasioned by the attempts
of others to gain a hated superiority of over us. Releases by bands such as
Slayer (God hates us All), Deicide, Metallica , Hatebreed and Marilyn
Manson to name but a few, provide opportunities for an exegesis of Kants
conception of the evil in human nature as well as a critique of it. I argue that
the commitment to the celebration of the monstrous in Heavy Metal lyrics is
ambiguous. It can be read as a positive pursuit of human identity, or is
dependent on human identity in the religious history of (satanic) evil. The
possibility of a genuine commitment to the diabolical is examined in the light
of Kants theory of evil.

Kant, evil, Heavy Metal, Metallica, Slayer, diabolical, Satan satanic.

In the opening cacophony of Slayers 2001 musical presentation to

the world comes the proclamation: God Hates Us All, God hates us all. The
lyrics in the second track Disciple, display a vehement and aggressive
rejection of Christian theism, followed by what Kerry King writes as his
own philosophy: I hate every one equally, you cant tear that out of me/ No
segregation-separation/ just me in my world of enemies/ I never wanted to be
Gods disciple/ Ill never be the one to blindly follow/ Ill never be the one to
bear the cross- disciple/ I reject this fuckin race/ I despise this fuckin
202 God Hates Us All
This portrayal of a character (perhaps a Job like figure), both
accepting of and promoting a supreme misanthropy, opens up a portal into
the monstrous - the subject of hate and the eulogising of a venomous
dissemination of hate. The album/cd sleeve has more of such lyrics,
concerning subjects ranging from genocide to witch execution, through to
proclamations against Christianity and expressions of individual hate written
out in red ink, as additions to the book of Job. This text is presented with
passages crossed out, circled and annotated. However, the album moves to a
rather different conclusion from the biblical Job, rather than reconciliation, it
advances themes of separation, gladly accepting rejection and revelling in it.
One may think that these themes characterise evil- hatred, anti Christian
sentiments, violence, human depravity, as the German philosopher Immanuel
Kant would have it.
In the same musical genre, but on a different theme, Metallicas
recent contribution in the title track of their album St Anger an image is
presented of the monstrous male. Furthermore the whole album identifies the
band, its music and identity as a monster. This culminated in the release of a
documentary film titled Some Kind of Monster, and an accompanying book
This Monster Lives. In the title track of the album, Frantic James Hetfield,
the bands singer identifies directly with the male monster as a tormented
individual caught in a state of addiction and self loathing, yet needing to be a
family man: you live it or lie it/my lifestyle determines my deathstyle2
The family, the Metallica Family, treats the band, and its followers as a
member of society and the part of the successful corporate identity that is
Metallica. The monster is individual and corporate. It expresses itself in hate-
hatred of others, but a depressed hate, a one of being tired of monotony and
boredom. In deep need of a therapeutic solution in this crisis, the
Documentary film Some Kind of Monster3 follows a sort of healing process
to allow the corporate goal and creative force to drive on. The use of the
monster metaphor identifies not only the band in crisis, the band as a living,
breathing leviathan, but also heavy metal as monster and in the title of book
narrating the making of the documentary, the film project is treated as
monster: This book is about a period when the monster had three heads. It
was a time when Metallica, Phil Towle and Berlinger Sinofky were all
struggling to produce something in conjunction with the others4 The
monster here is the band trying to make an album, Phil Towle the therapist
working with the band and the documentary film being made of this process.
In the world of heavy metal culture, the use of themes and metaphor
of evil, the monster, the monstrous and monstrosity will be common
knowledge to those who partake as well those who observe from afar.
Consider one of the key festivals- Monsters of Rock, founded in 1980 at
Castle Donington, England or names of bands, lyrical content and imagery,
such as Iron Maidens Eddie or Marilyn Mansons celebration of the
Niall Scott 203
grotesque5 that show that monsters, evil and metal go together like vegetables
and vegetarians. This paper has it origins in teaching Kants concept of
radical evil in a course on Kant and Kantian ethics for final year
undergraduate students at the University of Central Lancashire. In an attempt
to explore a more creative approach to teaching Kants conception of radical
evil, heavy metal lyrics provided a superb illustration of some of Kants ideas
concerning evil in human nature, but also throw open the opportunity to
critique the conceptions of evil and male monstrosities that heavy metal
lyrics and its culture have to offer.
Robert Walsers careful study of Heavy Metal culture provides a
balanced analysis of the relationship between Heavy metal discourse and
conceptions of evil. Homing in on the sensationalist and unsupported attacks
that usually come from nervous Christian academic writing he quotes
Raschke, a theologian associating Heavy Metal with having a genuine
commitment to Satanism: Heavy metal does more than dissolve the inherent
inhibitions against violence. It actively fosters, configures, anneals, reinforces
and purifies the most vicious and depraved tendencies within the human
organism6 Walser does well to point out that such links that are attempted
are based on anecdotal associations and insinuation, and there is no casual
evidence to suggest participation in Heavy Metal and satanic/evil human
behaviour. This is certainly true for the most part, but some readers may want
to question this with regard to the predominance of misogynistic,
misanthropic themes that are repeated and do suggest a secular evil prevalent
in the genre. My interest however is to use the lyrical content and imagery of
this genre which does play with these ideas, drawing on literature, art, human
history and religious history to gain an insight into Kants theory of Radical
evil for the benefit of teaching undergraduate university students.7 Along the
way, however there will be opportunities to critique some of these lyrics as
Kants theory can provide some philosophical depth to a genre that deserves
attention. So what do these and other examples in metal culture and lyrics
have to do with Kant theory of radical evil?
Kants theory of radical evil supposes that humans have a propensity
to evil, expressed through the capacity to the incorporation of maxims that
lead to evil. He provides us not only with a theory concerning the nature of
evil in the human, but also, in combination with his moral theory, an account
of human nature itself. Kant sees evil as a feature special to human beings as
rational beings. As such, it is not related to a natural state, which would be an
animal state. Evil is thus as much a product of reason and the will as morality
is. It needs to be freely chosen. The incorporation of maxims that lead to evil
refers to the motivational structure of relating principles of action to actions
themselves. In tracing back an action to a grounding principle, there are those
that can lead to moral action, which follow the Categorical Imperative, and
those that can subvert moral action or deviate from it. In Kants moral theory,
204 God Hates Us All
the Categorical Imperative is a universal moral command that he held to be
binding on all rational agents. In its most common form, it states that one
should: Act only according to that maxim through which you at the same
time will that it should become a universal law (G 4:421)8 This provides us
with a formula against which a maxim can be tested. For example, Kant asks
whether we can make false promising a universal moral law; in other words
to make promises knowing that one has no intention of keeping them. For
example borrowing money and giving a verbal promise to pay it back , but
having no intention of doing so. If this were done a nonsense would be made
of making promises- no one would trust anothers word. It then becomes
clear that such a principle could never become a universal law, and logic
dictates it would be immoral to do so- it goes against human reason.9 In the
same way, the proposal that a maxim of lying to others whenever the
situation arises as universally acceptable flies in the face of reason. One
would never rationally will that such a principle could take hold. This is
because one would be committed to anyone becoming the victim of lying,
including oneself. This is something we would never rationally consent to.
One can use this formula to assess whether an action would stand up to a test
of universalisability, in other words, whether it is something that all could
rationally consent to. It is important to note here that Kant considered
morality to be a feature of rationality: to be moral is to be rational. At a
deeper level, Kants formula demands respect for humanity in general, in
respecting other humans, we do not only respect their individual worth as
humans, we also respect the concept of humanity in people.
An evil act according Kant is one that attempts to base actions on
principles that corrupt this moral reason. It is a sophisticated alteration of
moral principles. For Kant humans have a propensity to good and evil. This
propensity is partly a product of human free will. We can choose to adopt
good or evil maxims and act on these. He defines it as the predisposition to
desire an enjoyment which when the subject has experienced it, arouses
inclination to it.10 In this sense the propensity, which Kant thinks is
universally present in humans further means that all human beings are
actually evil.11 He identifies the propensity with an innate capacity to desire
more of the same, despite only needing a single encounter with it. To
illustrate his point, Kant in rather racist language of his time, refers to the
desire for alcohol: Thus all savages have a propensity for intoxicants; for
although many of them have no acquaintance at all with intoxication, and
hence no desire for the things that produce it, let them try these things once
and there is aroused in them an almost inextinguishable desire for them.12
a rather apt illustration for the excesses in rock and Metal lifestyles.
Metallicas song Master of Puppets personifies heroin in this way: Im your
source of self destruction/Veins that pump with fear, sucking darkest
clear/Leading on your deaths construction/Taste me you will see/More is all
Niall Scott 205
you need/Youre dedicated to /How Im killing you13. Kant divides the
propensity to evil into three areas (grades) with regard to basing our actions
on principles (maxims) that lead to immoral behaviour. The first is the least
serious, the last the most corrupt:

1. the general weakness of the human heart in complying with the

adopted maxims (the frailty of human nature);
2. the propensity to adulterate moral incentives with immoral ones;
3. the adoption of evil maxims expressing the depravity of human
nature or the human heart.14

These propensities emerge from a view of the human being predisposed

to three definitional spheres, two of which can lead to good or evil, the third
only generates good:

1. The predisposition to animality - where the human as a living being is

capable of evil by behaving according to what Kant says are vices grafted on
of savagery, those bestial vices of gluttony, lust and wild lawless ness

2. The predisposition to humanity- where the human is a rational being. Here

evil acts can occur when for example self love leads to a comparison with
others and the inclination to gain worth in the opinion of others is sought.
This generates vices of culture: envy, jealousy, rivalry, ingratitude, and joy in
others misfortune. These are diabolical vices

3. The predisposition to personality- the human as a responsible being, where

reason provides the incentive for action and respect for the moral law means
that evil maxims cannot be grafted on15.
It is thus in the first two predispositions that we can locate the
human propensity to evil. Here Kant does not permit a total commitment to
evil, in that such a state is reserved for a diabolical being. It is interesting to
ask whether the purely diabolical being is a possibility at all for Kant.
Certainly the idea of the diabolical is frequently entertained as a metaphor in
Heavy Metal Lyrics, with some pretenders expressing a genuine commitment
to it through satanic inferences such as in the Scandinavian Black Metal
genre. The first propensity to evil, the general weakness of the human heart,
is rather neatly illustrated in the Metallica documentary Some Kind of
Monster Here we are reminded of radical evil in human nature as pathetic- a
game played of posturing, but ultimately highly self destructive and, for Kant
irrational). It is an expression of weakness, as Kant reminds the reader,
quoting Pauline scripture: What I would, that I do not!16 (Rel. 6:29). Or as
Metallica write in the struggle within, a song about motivational weakness
206 God Hates Us All
and boredom: So many things you dont want to do/ What is it? What have
you got to lose?17 The comparative weakness of moral motivation compared
to inclination, is not only illustrated throughout the documentary in the
constant struggle to reconcile 4 creative egos in the pursuit of the making of
Metallicas St Anger, it manifests itself in the goals that are aimed at-
financial incentives over friendship and creativity, such incentives providing
enough impetus for engaging a 40,000 dollar a day therapist to sort out the
bands problems and for James Hetfield to enter into rehab. The documentary
explores these themes of mixed motivation, bringing out that which is weak
(in the male) monstrous behaviour of its protagonists: This is captured
cynically by a journalists comment: In the end, when Ulrich claims "the
band has proven that it can make aggressive music without negative energy,"
one can only laugh, as the film has been a wallow in the negative energy
created by big egos that can't get along but must find ways to make their
business entity function.18
The second propensity evil is to adulterate moral maxims with
immoral ones - in other words, to mix moral incentives with non-moral ones,
affecting the purity of the motive. An additional bribe as Henry Allison puts
it, is needed to be able to do what the moral, Categorical Imperative
commands. At work here is also the possibility of self deception, that ones
motivation is purely moral. An example of this is the hero who is out to save
the day, but is motivated not by the need of others primarily, but the
possibility of basking in success. They cannot be heroic unless there is
something in it for them. Metallica gives us a character in My Friend
Misery, but this time, the saving figure wallows in self pity and guilt for his
heroic deeds: Youre out to save the world/ Misery/ You insist the weight of
the world should be on your shoulders/ Misery. This gives us an indication
of the third propensity to evil where moral motivation is left behind. This
intentional guilt that is psychologically self destructive is rather different
from the more convincing commitment to evil which we can find in Slayers
expression of hatred of mankind. Kant mentions in a quotation taken from
LaRouchefoucauld, an expression of the worst of all vices- that which is
hidden under virtue he quotes La Rochefoucauld: dans ladversite de nos
meilleurs amis, nous trouvons toujours quelque chose qui ne nous deplait
pas,: In the adversity of our best friends, we find something that is not
altogether displeasing in us19 This human depravity in the case above
involves taking enjoyment in the suffering of others. It is also captured by the
strong misanthropy nicely illustrated, not just in Slayers God Hates Us All,
I despise everyone equally but also in the song South of Heaven from the
same named album: The root of all evil is the heart of a black soul/ A force
that has lived all eternity/ A never ending search for a truth never told/ The
loss of all hope and your dignity.20
Niall Scott 207
This third propensity although the most serious commitment to evil,
does not open the way to the human being a diabolical being. Kant explicitly
denies the possibility of this. He thinks that even the most morally corrupted
agent still requires a recognition of or a commitment to moral reasoning to be
able to subvert it. A diabolical will Kant defines as one that explicitly denies
the authority of the (moral) law.21 This is neatly illustrated in Mercyful
Fates lyric From the song Evil the 1983 album Melissa: You know my
only pleasure/ Is to hear you cry/ Id love to hear you cry/ Id love to feel you
die/ And Ill be the first/ To watch your funeral/ And Ill be the last to leave/
Id love to hear you cry.22 If the rise to a diabolical being is not possible, or
incoherent as an idea, we can raise the question of whether this Heavy Metal
monstrosity as a manifestation of evil in the human is only ever going to be
an imitation of the diabolical. The claim that Kant makes regarding the
propensity to evil can be neither purely diabolical nor animal. This is because
in a purely sensuous, animal nature there is not the moral content available in
behaviour, nor the capacity for free choice that would allow the rejection of a
moral maxim. In a purely diabolical being, there would be a total
commitment to evil, and no moral content whatsoever in their action.
However it is interesting to question whether such a diabolical state can be
chosen for. Radical evil involves the recognition of the rational capacity to
adopt and act according to maxims that conform to the moral law (the
categorical imperative), but the evil person adopts maxims that are contrary
to the moral law and chooses freely to act according to them. Any reader of
Kant is likely to not be content with Kants lack of attention given here to the
possibility of the human rationally choosing to become a diabolical being. I
would like to challenge the view that the truly diabolical is not possible in
human affairs by raising the question of whether there can be such a thing as
a diabolical categorical imperative- a principle of action that can be rationally
chosen, promotes the self and provides its own incentive to resist moral
reasoning. The third propensity to evil is then the first step to the fully
fledged diabolical human. Thus an agent could initially choose to perform an
immoral act grounded in a freely chosen principle, knowing full well what
the status of the action is as immoral. Kants response to this would be that
human freedom is inextricably bound with morality, so the very capacity to
choose requires a logical commitment to the moral. However, one can
recognise the origin of the first position and then depart from it. One could
then continue to pursue a lifestyle that followed such. Such a choice I think
would be rational but incredibly difficult to fulfil, to hate everyone equally
as Kerry King of Slayer writes, reinforcing the choice that rejects the origins
of a Christian morality: I reject all the biblical views of the truth/Dismiss it
as the folklore of the times/I wont be force-fed prophecies/from a book of
untruths for the weakest mind/I keep the bible in a pool of blood/So that none
of its lies can affect me/This is the new faith/A different way of life23
208 God Hates Us All
A human being with evil reason itself (diabolical) might well be
something different altogether than a human person, but may well have a
rationale to the structure of its reasoning that is categorically evil. However
Kant does not expand on this further, other than that an absolutely evil will
would contain too much, because resistance to the law would itself thereby
be elevated to incentive (for without any incentive the power of choice
cannot be determined)24 According to Kant, the evil will follows the
choice that is made available to it, disregarding the exercise of choice that
others have. Seriol Morgan notes that the evil will concerns outer freedom,
being the absence of restraint on willing25, although the grounding of this evil
is not empirical. This is a difficult aspect of Kants doctrine to grapple with-
the relationship between inner freedom and outer freedom in the context of
radical evil, where free choice is a feature of the expression of inner freedom.
So to exercise free choice, and be capable of performing radical evil, its
grounding must be located in inner freedom. However the effect of evil
willing is that it concerns itself and limits itself to outer freedom.
Thus in the context of the portrayal of evil in Metal culture, we can
use it as tool for understanding Kant, but it presents us with an interesting
possibility of not just the evil, diabolical human being rationally committed
to this approach to life. If we can ignore for a moment the use of discourses
of as a marketing gimmick to woo an interested audience into purchasing its
product (for example as a vehicle of an expression of rebellion against
parental, sometimes Christian morality in western culture) and look at these
songs, images and lifestyles pointing towards a more sinister character in
human nature. It is worth noting as well that Kerry King says of his lyrics
that Theyre just stories, like making up your own kind of thing and dont
reflect on me in any way26 Nonetheless they are stories that refer to
something- something rather unpleasant concerning human experience and
human behaviour
However, it is more likely that the presentation of monstrosity as
evil in the human, in the examples from Metal culture is only ever going to
be an imitation of the diabolical. That is if we accept the Kantian line of
reasoning above. There will never be a thing possible in the human realm
such as the truly diabolical, only a reflection of it. This can be put against the
attempt in Black metal to embrace the diabolical and express it through
human agency. The history of the Scandinavian and more specifically the
Norwegian metal scene is notorious for its links with violent events that
include associations with church burning, murder and suicide, grounded in
Odinism and Satanism27 The problem with the diabolical is fairly apparent in
the attempt in Black Metal where it has attempted to embrace the diabolical
and express it through human agency, through acts of violence. But although
there are serious pretenders to embrace Satanism of various kinds, for
example in bands such as Deicide, Ackercoke, Mayhem, Merciful Fate, this
Niall Scott 209
genre usually descends into a parody of itself, projecting with irony the
incoherence of a truly diabolical being in the place of a human being. Either
this or, To play with the most dangerous ideas but never be defined by them,
or by anything or anyone else is an aesthetic philosophy with much more
artistic potential that the shriller naive pronouncements of certain Black metal
bands. Listen to the best black metal of today and youll hear the sound of
the true, but the sound of those who know how to play with fire without
getting burnt.28
Things dont look to good for Metal then in either state: not only is
the possibility of the truly diabolical not very convincing, the freedom
demanded and sought after is probably better suited to an existential analysis,
rather than a Kantian one. Faced with Nietzschean existentialism that
demands supreme self discipline and a rejection of the kind of morality that
Kant advocated we may find the diabolical here. But that requires a different
paper. There are of course serious problems in the comparison with, or
treatment of, Kants theory in the context of Metal. One could hold that
because the leaning here is towards an existential conception of evil, we are
at cross purposes, because we are talking about an entirely different thing
from the Christian conception of evil. However, there is of course a fair
amount of incoherence in the Metal scene- there is no philosophy as such
being presented. When we take interpretations of reason for metals
emergence we find differing views: Walser: the emergence of Metal
coincides exactly with the period of the greatest popularity of horror films
and books29 and that the metal audience is a generation of people in America
that believes it will be worse off that their parents, suggesting that this dark
side of heavy metal is intimately related to the dark side of the modern
capitalist security state: war greed, patriarchy, surveillance and control30,
where as Weinstein sees it as a response to oppression, where the metaphors
of the underground, darkness and hell reflect such a culture in the dark31.
These themes although projecting an existentialist approach to
human life, are quite dependent on the Christian legacy for its imagery and as
a target against which to rebel. Again, as commented on in The Black/death
metal Terroizer magazine: So Satanism tends to be expressed in the Boyd
Rice sense of an extreme form of individualist anarchism. Again this is often
paradoxically expressed: on the one hand the ideal Satanist celebrates the
animal, the lustful, the instinctive, the true. On the other hand, Satanism is a
paragon of self-control, of discipline and self sufficiency.32 If the latter part
of this quotation serves to highlight the Kantian notion of vice parading as
virtue, the former demonstrates (if we consider Kants argument as to why
one cannot be evil and animal) the more incoherent position of trying to
relate animality and humanity in the evil in the same breath.
Furthermore, let us not forget that we are dealing with a record
industry here too. As review of the Metallica documentary scornfully makes
210 God Hates Us All
the point underlying the impossibility of the being truly diabolical in the
human: Berlinger and Sinofsky, with their knack for penetrating the
diabolical pretensions of weak and disaffected human beings, have brought
Metallica to its knees.33 It seems that with this we cannot get much further in
human monstrous behaviour in Metal than Kants first propensity.

Kerry King, Slayer, Disciple God Hates Us All American Records, (2001)
James Hetfield, Metallica, Frantic, St Anger, Creeping Death Music &
EMI Blackwood music (2003)
Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, Metallica, Some Kind of Monster (Los
Angeles California: Paramount Home Video, 2005) DVD recording
Joe Berlinger and Greg Milner, Metallica, This Monster Lives, (London,
England: Robson Books, 2004)
Marilyn Manson The Golden Age of Grotesque (Nothin/interscope Records
Carl A. Raschke, Painted Black: From Drug Killings to Heavy Metal- The
Alarming True story of How Satanism Is Terrorisuing Our Communitites.
(New York: Harper and Row,1990) 175, quoted in Robert Walser, Running
with the Devil Power Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music (Wesleyan
University press: Middletown, Connetticut 1993) p.142
I am full aware that there is limited space here so I will not be dealing in
detail with the vast subculture that exists in Scandinavian Black Metal which
some may think deserves more attention. For those readers wanting to
investigate this further, I recommend the text Lords of Chaos, The Bloody
Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground Michael Moynihan and Didrik
Soderlind, (USA Feral House, 2003)
Immanuel Kant, Groundwork to the Metaphysics of Morals, 4:421, Ed. by
Laura Denis, Ontario, Canada: Broadview editions 2005)
There is much more to this issue, but here I just want to introduce the
Categorical imperative in order to demonstrate its relationship to radical evil.
For a detailed discussion and critique on Kants universal law, I recommend
Allan Woods Kants Ethical Thought (Cambridge University Press:
Cambridge 1999),
Immanuel Kant, Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason,
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1998) 6:29, footnote. (henceforth
cited as Rel.)
Seiriol Morgan The Missing Formal Proof of the Universal Human
Propensity to Evil in Kants Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason
Philosophical Review, 114, 1, (2005) forthcoming. I strongly recommend
this article to any reader interested in looking deeper into the contradictions
Niall Scott 211

and deep problems in Kants argument on radical evil. I do not dare delve too
far into this territory here, as it takes this piece beyond my original aims.
James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Cliff Burton and Kirk Hammett, Master of
Puppets, Master of Puppets (Polygram Records 1988)
Rel 6:29-30
Rel 6:26
Rel 6:29
The Struggle Within, Metallica (The Black Album)
Bill White, Metallica Doc Strips Down Monsters of Rock to Egomaniacal
Pussycats, Seattle Post Special to the Post-Intelligencer, July 30, 2004.
Immanuel Kant Rel.6:33
Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King South of Heaven South of Heaven
Slayer:Def Jam Records (1988)
Henry Allison, Idealism and Freedom, (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1996 ) 175
King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, Evil Melissa, Roadrunner records (1983)
Kerry King, New Faith, God Hates Us All, Slayer: American Recordings,
Rel 6:35
Morgan The Missing Formal Proof of the Universal Human Propensity to
Evil in Kants Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason
Philosophical Review, 114, 1, (2005) forthcoming
Author and date unknown (14 January 2005)
Chris Campion In the face of Death The Observer, Feb 20, 2005
Keith Kahn-Harris Black Metal Philosophy Terrorizer magazine, 128,
February 2005.
Robert Walser, Running with the Devil Power Gender, and Madness in
Heavy Metal Music (Wesleyan University press: Middletown, Connetticut
1993), 161
Walser, 163
Deena Weinstein, Heavy Metal The Music and Its Culture (DA Capo Press
For further Discussion on the discourse of heavy metal see the article:
Adorno and Metal by Thomas C. Gannon at: (06/08/03)
Bill White, Metallica doc strips down monsters of rock to egomaniacal
pussycats Seattle post special to the post intelligencer, Friday, July 30, 2004
212 God Hates Us All

Allison, Henry. Idealism and Freedom, Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1996

Berlinger, Joe and Milner, Greg. Metallica, This Monster Lives, London,
England: Robson Books, 2004

Berlinger, Joe and Sinofsky, Bruce. Metallica, Some Kind of Monster Los
Angeles California: Paramount Home Video, 2005, DVD recording

Campion, Chris. In the Face of Death The Observer, Sunday Feb 20, 2005

Kant, Immanuel. Groundwork to the Metaphysics of Morals, 4:421, Ed. by

Laura Denis, Ontario, Canada: Broadview editions, 2005

Kant, Immanuel. Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason,

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Kahn-Harris, Keith. Black Metal Philosophy Terrorizer magazine, 128,

February 2005.

Morgan, Seriol. The Missing Formal Proof of the Universal Human

Propensity to Evil in Kants Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason
Philosophical Review 114,1, (2005).

Raschke, Carl A. Painted Black: From Drug Killings to Heavy Metal- The
Alarming True story of How Satanism Is Terrorisuing Our Communitites.
New York: Harper and Row, 1990, quoted in Robert Walser, Running with
the Devil Power Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music, Wesleyan
University press: Middletown, Connetticut 1993.

Walser, Robert. Running with the Devil Power Gender, and Madness in
Heavy Metal Music, Wesleyan University Press: Middletown, Connetticut,

Weinstein, Deena. Heavy Metal The Music and Its Culture, U.S.A.: DA Capo
Press, 2000.

Wood, Alan. Kants Ethical Thought, Cambridge University Press:

Cambridge, 1999.
Monstrous/Cute. Notes on the Ambivalent Nature of

Maja Brzozowska-Brywczyska

The paper focuses on the ambivalent power of cuteness and offers a
preliminarily sketched map indicating some of the possible intersections of
cuteness and monstrosity. The main idea is that these two - seemingly distant
and contradicted - realms can be read/understood one through the other. The
basis for such an assumption is to be found both in cuteness ambivalent
aesthetics and multidimensional ethics. With respect to aesthetics, cuteness
can be found both in the anatomy of a child and a freak (cuteness involves a
certain malformation and exaggeration of infantile aesthetic diagram). As for
ethics, cuteness can be thought of as a sweet coating that makes it easier to
swallow bitter pill; it is in other words able to change meanings of
ambivalent and simply negative issues, like violence or sexuality. Question
that arises in the light of the above-mentioned inconsistencies of cuteness is:
Can we define the nature of cuteness as transformative - shifting the
monstrosity not even to the realm of beauty (for a cruel beauty is something
within the spectrum of monstrous emanations), but to the very space that is
thought of as absolutely pure and sweet?

Cuteness, monstrosity, otherness, popular culture

1. Words, Words, Words

According to common-sense definitional coordinates, cute and
monstrous seem to inhabit distant and mutually exclusive realms. The Alien
is by no means sweet and loveable, and you possibly couldnt call Winnie the
Pooh shockingly cruel. We can tell a monster when we see it. On the same
terms we almost automatically identify the cute. We carefully separate the
monster from the cutie and the very notion of tracing similarities between the
two seems highly improper. Yet what is most fascinating about cute (and it is
this fascination that brought me to the following notes in the first place) is its
ambivalent nature, its certain hybridity that actually allows to link it to the
monster. The very source of such monstrous potential happens to be the cute
214 Monstrous/Cute. Notes on the Ambivalent Nature of Cuteness
The word cute is aphetic from acute, and the Latin word acutus -
which provides an etymological base for the adjective - roughly means sharp.
Thus the first set of cute meanings revolves around sharpness of senses and
of mind, around cleverness and wits. It is not that far from cute to cunning.
And cunningness involves scheming that may be potentially dangerous. Cute
is also attractive, very pretty and charming, yet these attributes can be
manifested not only by innocent, sweet looks and behaviour, but also - as if
synchronizing with the abovementioned psychical traits - by self-conscious,
and even excessive sex-appeal. Dictionary definition of cute leads us
therefore to conclusions quite contrary to its ostensive counterpart, with
puppies, kittens, little chubby cherubs, and fluffy mascots as the ultimate
icons of cuteness.
The monstrous has also some secrets to reveal. And again - starting
from the Latin etymology - we embark on a linguistic adventure. Originally
monstrum was a synonym of something marvellous, a divine portent or
warning. It thus first and foremost belonged to the sphere of sacrum, yet this
meaning seems to be obsolete in contemporary understanding of the
monstrous. A typical monster does dwell the realm of the Unknown, but his
sacred potential vanishes from the common-sense definition being replaced
by more down-to earth signs of monstrosity. Rather than of strange and
prodigious, monstrous is equivalent of immoral, wrong, unusually large and
ugly. Still, I would like to use this marginalised vision of the monstrous in
making a comparison between the monstrous and the cute, which otherwise
would be hazardous. And so - in the light of porous structure of definitions
- the title-slash separating the monstrous from the cute, serves simultaneously
as a bridge linking these two. Monstrous cute is - following this trait - a cute
as read through its thesaurus (endearing, loveable, delightful, darling, pretty)
and then re-read through the notion of strangeness and marvel (something
that is not as it seems, something that suffers from innate contradictions); to
read cute as monstrous is - in brief - to read it as an other.
Such a suspicious (though interesting) linguistic operation can be
possible due to the very nature of definitions. Definitions, originating from
Latin definire: to limit, to describe, to explain, serve both as descriptions and
examples of proper usage of a headword in question and as such can be
deemed legends - literally this is what should be read. Definitions yet work as
open texts, and their (only) seeming obviousness/non-paradoxical nature
enables aberrant readings, that question the original descriptions giving birth
to their ambivalent versions.
Popular culture - seen from the poststructuralist perspective as the
site of semiotic battle over meanings - is the most immediate and natural
human environment and it is there, where the creation, reading, re-reading,
acceptance, denial and destruction of most of our everyday definitions take
Maja Brzozowska-Brywczyska 215
place. Popular culture can be thought of as a library of texts which contradict,
overlap, enrich, and disempower each other.
Popular cultures text is a mixture of what R. Barthes referred to as
writerly and readerly texts1 - accessible and easy in form but still open to
multitude of interpretations. As such,

it offers itself up to popular production; it exposes,

however reluctantly, the vulnerabilities, limitations, and
weaknesses of its preferred meanings; it contains, while
attempting to repress them, voices that contradict the ones it
prefers; it has loose ends that escape its control, its
meanings exceed its own power to discipline them, its gaps
are wide enough for whole new texts to be produced in
them, and it is, in a very real sense, beyond its own control2

Such text has two main features - it is excessive and obvious, and
the seemingly paradoxical mixture - of overflowing semiosis and refuse of
in-depth analysis - makes popular culture text practically bottomless well of
meanings (within the limits set by intentio operis). My general assumption is
that both the cute and the monstrous can be read as such popular texts.
Different and unexpected usages of these two concepts add to their
definitions, challenging the cleanness of the boundary raised between the
cute and the monstrous. How much cute can the monster bear to maintain his
monstrosity and escape from blurring into virtual nonexistence? How
monstrous should the cutie become to turn amusement into terror and cross
the boundary of monsters realm? Are the possible meaning transitions some
signum temporis revealing the very ambiguities of our culture? These are
only some of possible questions that the suggestion of certain cute-monstrous
reciprocity evokes. And it may be so that the specifics behind the popular
culture can shed some light on the curious nature of cuteness/monstrosity.
Common definitions of cutie and monster (as extracted from the
most recognizable icons of both these species - say Hello Kitty and Cthulhu)
reveal the human tendency to assume aesthetic/ethic coherence and disclose
the innate inclination to structure the world arranging the elements of it in
sets of binary oppositions. Pure-type monster, though horrifying and
abominable, though occupying the other side of the norm, the grotesque,
impenetrable and dangerous through the looking-glass world, still has got
more in common with the order than with the chaos. By taking place (being
placed?) on the edge, on the boundary, the monster protects us from crossing
it by the simple fact of showing (Latin monstrare) where it lies. Due to the
assumed coherence between monstrous looks and behaviour, monster as such
is predictable, mainly because of his being a portent of danger. The same,
216 Monstrous/Cute. Notes on the Ambivalent Nature of Cuteness
though aiming at opposite direction, applies to cute. Cute is (or maybe should
be?) predictable because its safe aesthetics connotes harmless ethics.
The openness of cute concept enables us to read its aesthetics, its
surface without linking it to prescribed cute ethics. It can be otherwise.
Monstrosity of cuteness may be concluded either on the basis of its
appearance or its behaviour leading - moreover - to disturbing as well as
ironic conclusions (monstrous cutie can be thought of either as a threat or a
trifle). In order to welcome the cute as a multivocal discourse we need a set
of its readings where the sacred harmony between looks and behaviour is
hardly ever sustained.
Cute is first and foremost a circular concept. Frances Richards, in
her Fifteen theses on the Cute3, noted that as a means of softening,
neutralizing the sharp, threatening concepts it works inevitably as a sort of
pendulum swinging to and fro, and thus being able to play its role only up to
a certain point, where the sweetness becomes a mock and a pitiful or ironic
alter-ego of itself. Cute can therefore serve as multipurpose
descriptive/interpretative tool endowing its objects either with more positive
or ambivalent connotations. To make cute a multifaceted concept we need the
following instruction:

Draw a circle, and ray out from it the abject, the

melancholic, the wicked, and the childlike. Now in the
zones between add the erotic, the ironic, and the kitsch.
Inter-sperse the Romantic/Victorian, the Disney/
consumerist, and the biologically deterministic. At the
centre of this many-spoked wheel lies a connective empty
space. Label it CUTE.4

2. Aesthetical Incongruity: Cute as Freak

The aesthetics of cuteness could be identified with the anatomy of a
human (animal) baby, except for the fact, that in the process of making the
cute, this infantile diagram serves as a raw material rather than final product.
Manufactured cute (for this kind of cuteness is of main focus here) is
stylized, perfected (de-naturalized) babyish appearance and behaviour.
Infantile features are often (involuntarily or purposefully) caricaturized and
exaggerated during the process of making the cute and the outcome is thus at
the same time sweet and pathetic, pretty and ugly, and most of all
anatomically incorrect.
It seems that a certain degree of both physical and psychical
weakness and disability can be seen as sub-types of childishness and both are
essential parts of cute aesthetics and general sweet appeal. Cute and pitiful
are often interchangeable concepts, says Sharon Kinsella.
Maja Brzozowska-Brywczyska 217
Cute characters like Hello Kitty and Totoro have stubbly
arms, no fingers, no mouths, huge heads, massive eyes -
which can hide no private thoughts from the viewer -
nothing between their legs, pot bellies, swollen legs and
pigeon feet - if they have feet at all. Cute things can't walk,
can't talk, can't in fact do anything at all for themselves
because they are physically handicapped.5

Japanese term for cute is kawaii, a derivation of kawayushi -

principally shy and embarrassed as well as vulnerable, small and darling. As
Kinsella notices, contemporary usage of kawaii reveals some traits of pity -
kawaii applies both to small babies and frail old women - and the term
kawais derived directly from kawaii means pathetic, poor, and pitiable in a
generally negative if not pleasing sense.6
Daniel Harris7 goes further linking the aesthetics of cuteness with
that of deformity and dejection. Cuteness - in his opinion - makes a weird
category of mutants and malformed outcasts which deserve our attention
mainly by arising feelings of pity and sympathy. We could possibly trace
numerous similarities between the species of cuties and that of freaks. In his
Pathetic Manifesto, Kurt Brereton stated:

There is a good slice of the pathetic in cuteness. Wrapped

up in the cute are the sentimental appeal and the abject
repulsion. The cute little doll is a watered down and
stylized version of carnivalesque puppet - half monster half
innocent happy face.8

Freak - an embodiment of monstrosity - is usually recognized by his

unusual physiology that transcends the norms of the body, and is referred to
as lusus naturae. In bodily terms, general attributes of freaks are: too few (or
none) or two many limbs growing out of most inappropriate parts of the
body; the absence or distortion of body proportion leading to monstrous
forms and abnormal size; contradictive (or unspecified, multiple) genders,
and strange colour of skin, eyes, hair. Now lets take the absolute cute idol -
Hello Kitty, loveable white kitten. Wouldnt she be an astoma, a mouthless
freak? Couldnt we interpret her lack of fingers (claws? hands?) as an actual
sign of physical monstrosity? Wouldnt her large head be a symptom of
hydrocephalus? How can she see and smell having three dots instead of eyes
and nose? One thing leaves no doubt - no matter how long this litany of
questions would be, Hello Kitty remains an icon of cuteness. And it will
rather be a pink, big-headed, button-eyed and chubby teddy bear, that wins
children (and adults) hearts, than its natural-size, clawed and sharp-teethed
counterpart. So more important than to prove the physical monstrosity of cute
218 Monstrous/Cute. Notes on the Ambivalent Nature of Cuteness
(though it seems an intriguing task and quite plausible argument) is to ask
where does the (nonnegotiable) boundary between cuteness and monstrosity
lie? Harris statement becomes helpful here - for it is the emotion evoked by
cuteness aesthetics that delimitates Hello Kitty from malformed monster. It is
the disempowering feeling of pity and sympathy (aligned though, as Harris
insists, to that of superiority and even certain cruelty) that deprives a monster
of his monstrosity.
Both monstrous and cute are concepts susceptible to change. This
change may be understood twofold. It can be seen as the possibility to add
unusual/unexpected/controversial meanings to both of them. Cute monster,
for example, isnt usually enclosed within the definition of a typical monster,
but a typical definition of a monster can be (in the light of numerous
examples) enriched with a creature with monstrous looks and sweet nature.
Secondly, such hybrids are in position to change other definitions -
monstrous cutie possesses a hard to overlook potential to change a meaning
of cruelty, whereas cute monster adds new meanings to the concept of
goodness. Among various ways of extracting the cute monster (bearing in
mind the multiple meanings of monster) the techniques proposed by H. R.
Greenberg make a useful tool. In Heimlich Maneuvers: On A Certain
Tendency of Horror and Speculative Cinema9 he shows the metamorphosis of
unheimlisch (uncanny, distanced) into heimlisch (homely, intimate) taking
form of the following transformations of pure monsters: making them
figures of fun, friends/protectors of children, mascots requiring protection
and friendship on the part of children, and (least relevant) mankind saviours.
All these serve as means of rehabilitating the coherent monster.
The work of Australian artist, Patricia Piccinini - The young family10
can be thought of as another example of combining cuteness and monstrosity
in a way that disturbs common understandings of these concepts. The title-
sculpture depicts a mother lying on her side and suckling pups. And there
would be nothing disturbing in such warm, touching setting, wasnt it not for
the fact, that the mother belongs to unknown species, she is a hybrid creature
combining human and animal elements, she is a monster. Yet Piccinini refers
to her as beautiful, for she is not threatening, but a face you could love, and
a face in love with her family.11
The general impression is that though cuteness seems to be above all
an aesthetical phenomena, its definition holds (only?) when it is embedded in
emotional response. Cute is when it instils in the viewer an impulse to touch
it. Cute therefore marks its presence by oozing positive feelings. Of warmth,
safety, innocence and sweetness.

3. Ethical Twist: Cute as Monster (?)

Sweet side of cute is only one of its multiple faces. Porn cute and
wicked cute - for these two are the most prominent examples of cute ethical
Maja Brzozowska-Brywczyska 219
paradox - can be embraced by a more general cute-genre, namely the anti-
cute.12 Anti-cute seems to be more self-conscious, more ironic and closer to
cute original definition (as cunning, clever and not lacking wits) than its oh-
so-lovely kawaii counterpart. Anti-cute is the empowered cute. Anti-cute
reveals the cute in disguise.
The traits of such malformed readings of cute can be found in two
main icons of techno: the Lolita and the Peter Pan, which both base on
transgressing the cute/monstrous opposition, stretching the limits, setting new
rules based on ambivalence. Their clothes well fit kawaii trends, but here the
babyish, pastel tee shirts, braids, teddy bears and dummies do not connote the
longing for childhood utopia, but work - paradoxically - as sexual attractors
and means of manifesting the maturity (in various areas of life) via the
physically immature body and childish arsenal.13 Japanese erotic-porn anime,
better known under the hentai term in the western world, features sweet, cute,
big-eyed, lovely-faced girls turned victims of sexual abuse or sexual abusers
themselves taking part in orgies involving not only men and women of
different age, but also animals and aliens of various kind.
Chucky in Childs Play could make a paradigmatic figure of
monstrous cute. Gremlins would fit the schema as well. True. Yet the
combination of sweet form (a doll) and monstrous behaviour (slaughtering) is
followed here by aesthetical transformation which signalizes the ethical
change; Malicious and murderous Gremlins, quite contrary to their cute
initial Mogwai from, are scaly, slimy and clawed. Quite fair. Chucky and
Gremlins thus represent the evil potential in harmless beings. As Richards
puts it: cute emerges as a ritualized and declawed sublimation of violence, a
pantomime or parody neutralizing mortal threat.
The schizophrenic nature of cute allows it to be used as a sugar-
coating layer for ideas and behaviour overstepping social rules and entering
the realm of this, what is forbidden.
Jamie Rap14 noticed a very important quality of cute, namely its
being a power of

transforming an objects emotional power or value as well

as the meaning. This transformative ability allows cute to
act as a whitewash veiling an unfortunate reality or to
comment on social taboos. Cute can also be played against
itself in one form, for example acting as the cute icon and
the scary monster simultaneously.

The fascinating metamorphosis of cute into anti-cute reflects the

above-mentioned circularity of the cute concept - for when cute acquires
wicked features it in fact goes to the excess of cuteness, exploiting and
parodying the sweetness to its very limits, poisoning itself while retaining the
220 Monstrous/Cute. Notes on the Ambivalent Nature of Cuteness
artificially loveable texture. Cute becomes grotesque. One question becomes
vital. Is monstrous cute really monstrous? By ridiculing the possible,
potentially present aggression it seems to simultaneously give rise to
dejection and fascination. As such it seduces the viewer using the very
arsenal of otherness as described by Michel Foucault (1967) of Jeffrey Cohen
Cute is always about a play.
Happy Tree Friends (to be found on are
little, cute, cuddly, funny and sugary sweet cartoon characters15 that we are
bound to love, but what awaits them in each of short episodes is sudden and
terrible yet still cartoonish death (none of Happy Tree Friends dies for real,
they posses a wonderful ability to regenerate, an ability typical for almost all
cartoon characters). Each cartoon starts with an innocent set-up we see
Happy Tree Friends playing in the park, shopping, watching movies - safe,
pleasant daily activities. And yet in each cartoon this harmony is destroyed
by some catastrophe, some incident that turns a Disneytopia fable into
splutter. Happy Tree Friends stories are referred to as gory and above all
funny situations including sewing off limbs, decapitations, burnings,
poisonings and hang ups to mention just a few examples of possible slaughter
scenarios. Very often the lethal weapons are of cute origin themselves take
for example a lollipop or ice cream poked in the eye. Yet the characters do
not hurt each other intentionally. The ruthless logic of Fate works here most
of the time. The stories are set together by the everyday sayings that parents
use on kids like dont play with matches! except that here the possible
outcome of disobedience is staged.
Happy Tree Friends define death as a funny thing happening to
others. It is a game which rules you accept not necessarily having to accept
the context which gave life to it.16 Cute engages no responsibility neither on a
part of viewer nor the cute itself. Happy (Freaky?) Tree Friends Smoochies
announce: You have just adopted a HTF of your very own. Love it to death.
Literally, to death. Isnt there - apart from a sufficient amount of horror - a
campish hint of upturning conventions? The ultimate Camp statement: it's
good because it's awful. The case of Happy Tree Friends can also be utilized
as a proof supporting Daniel Harris findings on the curious nature of cute,
which - by exactly the same sweetness that triggers maternal responses -
enables a certain degree of monstrosity on the part of its creator/user/viewer.

Because cuteness aestheticizes helplessness and

deformity, it almost always involves an act of sadism on
the part of its creator, who makes an unconscious attempt
to maim, hobble, and embarrass the thing he seeks to
Maja Brzozowska-Brywczyska 221
The claim of cutie owners monstrous behaviour can be a bit too far-
fetched, but nevertheless it is worth mentioning because the asymmetric
relation between the cute and the owner leaves a potential for exercising such
power. Marco Evaristtis controversial work, Goldfish in blenders aptly
depicts this paradoxical cute-viewer relation: when there is an option of
turning the blender on, the question arises of power we do have over animals
and other inferiors.
The anti-cute genre, though emerged as a protest against too-sweet
aesthetics and ethics, a critique of infantilisation of society and reality, seems
to end up swallowed by cuteness. For if cuteness is about surface,
appearance, form, it can be read as sweet, innocent and loveable against
ironical artists attitude providing a preferred interpretational tool. Both
cuteness and anti-cuteness operate within the frames set by popular culture.
Readings of the anti-cute may thus involve both anxiety aiming at the fatal
consequences of tainting the pure cuteness with violence and brutality, and a
feeling of relief, that the sacred sugary-sweet childhood-utopia has been
finally breached with the more down-to-earth understanding of what does it
mean to be a child in an instantly accelerating and ever strange world of
contradictions and transgression. And both these interpretations are important
as far as they enable more profound understanding of the monstrositys
enduring presence in the multiplicity of forms.

4. Scheming Cute
The main source of cute transformative potential seems to lie - as
suggested above - in its aesthetic features, so the main strategies of
evoking/revealing the monstrosity in cuteness will also base on its
appearance. The assumption of the ethic/aesthetic coherence allows here to
create not always cute scenarios telling stories not only about the monstrosity
of cute but also of its creator.
In his Biological homage to MM, Stephen Jay Gould18 sketched the
transformation of MM stating that: as Mickeys personality softened, his
appearance changed. The change at work is progressive juvenalization.
Gould draws on the concept of Kindchenschema proposed by a
German ethologist, Konrad Lorenz. According to this idea, features of
juvenility serve as a trigger releasing the mechanisms for affection and
nutrition in adult humans.19 Among the Kindchenschema releasers are:

a relatively large head, predominance of brain capsule,

large and low-lying eyes, bulging cheek region, short and
thick extremities, a springy elastic consistency and clumsy
222 Monstrous/Cute. Notes on the Ambivalent Nature of Cuteness
The power of Kindchenschema lies in the fact that, apart from its
obvious adaptive function - sort of self-preservation programme for babies,
we tend to seek this set of features not only among the infants of our own
species, but in other animals and inanimate objects as well.21 The cute
aesthetic being so much dependent on our feelings towards it is thus easily
intersected with cute ethics. Kindchenschema is a code easy to decipher -
cute is in a need for protection and affection. It is subservient, tame and mute.
Oozing cuteness disempowers its source.
When do we most often say Awww approaching something cute?
Daniel Harris insists it is when the object of Awww does something stupid
and embarrassing, when it will show lack of coordination, lack of brains -
appearing more helpless that it in fact is. Harris states:

Adorable things are often most adorable in the middle of a

pratfall or a blunder: Winnie the Pooh with his snout stuck
in the hive; the 101 dalmatians of Disney's classic
collapsing in double splits and sprawling across the ice;
Love-a-lot Bear in The Care Bears Movie, who stares
disconsolately out at us with a paint bucket overturned on
his head; or, the grimmest example of the cruelty of
cuteness, the real live fainting goat, which has acquired of
late a perverse chic as a pet (bred with myatonia, a genetic
disorder, it coyly folds up and faints when you scream at

Kindchenschema can yet serve as a manipulative tool revealing the

hidden power of cuteness.

From a Darwinist point of view, cuteness is constructed as a

means for survival, in this case not of genes but of the
object that it has been assigned to: if cuteness is wrapped
around a certain object that has an image with unwanted
qualities, for example war, it is more likely to survive a
cultural selection process.23

In this reading, cute becomes a deceivingly positive container for meanings

with negative or ambivalent connotation. Cuteness can thus be understood as
a selfish gene, as a virus.
According to Lori Merish cited by J. Raap,

cuteness is a highly conventionalized aesthetic,

distinguishable both by its formal aesthetic features and the
formalized emotional response it engenders.24
Maja Brzozowska-Brywczyska 223
It is the softening, the watering down sharp, problematic areas that -
through the work of cutesification - reveals the potential monstrosity of cute
becoming a camouflage for meanings far from sweet, and in consequence
denying, ridiculing, disempowering and disarming the taboo, the monster.25
Cutesification is a consequence of realizing the sweet appeal of cute.
Cute can work as such one-size and user-friendly form for
conveying a multitude of diversified information exactly because it seems an
object devoid of any malicious traits as well as potential self-distanced
approach taking the form of, say, irony. Cute, a perfectly manufactured
innocent naturalness, happiness and spontaneity, connotes safety. It makes
you hug it and love it. Would any pure-type monster be able to evoke such
a response? I very seriously doubt it.
The following may be deemed a linguistic game only, making the
whole monstrous-cute argument a joke. I leave it open to interpretation.

Cute might be thought of as a watered-down version of

pretty; which is a watered-down version of beautiful; which
is a watered-down version o sublime; which is a watered-
down version of terrifying. In this regard, the cute is akin to
the ridiculous, which is a watered-down version of the
absurd, which is again a watered-down version of that
which terrifies. By extension, this suggests that all
representation, whatever its stylistic bent is tinged with the
experience of terror: the terror of the convincingly ersatz,
the killing disjuncture of the otherized, the pseudoreal.26

5. Framed Cute
The domain, where most of the definitional play and counter-play
take part is popular culture, or - more correctly - various cultures of popular
culture seen as a heterogenic whole, an open text, a pleasure machine. Much
has been said about popular culture, but what I would like to stress as a
possible trait in grasping the paradox of cute/monstrous division, is that its
nature is that of parasite in an endless search for a new feeder. It sounds like
a clich that postmodern culture is all about transgression and ambivalence,
but these two come not only as a threat. The elements of social life exorcised
so frantically beyond the boundaries of shared - comprehensible -
community, are now welcomed back. The uncanny, the unthinkable, the
other, the paradoxical seem to construct a strange whole becoming a method
of copying with the reality (quite similar in nature).
The most natural environment of monstrous readings of cute seems
to be a culture of alien-nation.27 It emerges as a result of fascination with
strangeness, freakiness, otherness and ambivalence. It is a site of combining
224 Monstrous/Cute. Notes on the Ambivalent Nature of Cuteness
together this, what seems to be mutually exclusive, of familiarizing this,
what cannot be neither understood nor accepted within the existing socio-
cultural frames. Still, it would be a mistake to equal these techniques of
embracing otherness with a birth of new global morality. The reading of
alien-nation culture as a cultural crusade against intolerance and xenophobia
is only one of the possibilities and not necessarily the most correct one,

alien-nation culture is as much a political culture of general

tolerance and love, as a decadent popular culture, that
exploits the motif of the Other and simultaneously reduces
it to the aesthetical dimension.28

The notion of reducing the otherness to the surface is an important

one. The very essential ingredient of postmodernity, the aesthetization - as
described by Mike Featherstone is in position to turn the reality we inhabit
into configurations of signs which can be perceived without any ethical
afterthought and gazed at with the eyes of flneur, who is always just passing
by, lured by the new and unexpected, devouring the images as they flow.
This fascination with transgression and ambivalence can be read as
Jeffrey Cohen (1996) reads the culture - through the monsters it gave life to.
His proposal goes along the lines of Michel Foucaults idea of negative
structure of society - finding answers to such questions as whom does the
society reject? Whom does it exclude? What is the system of prohibition?29

This refusal to participate in the classificatory order of

things is true of monsters generally: they are disturbing
hybrids whose externally incoherent bodies resist attempts
to include them in any systematic structuration.30

The extraordinary is the fabric of the most fundamental legends we

base our ordinary world on. Curious mixture of fascination and repulsion
defines Foucauldian seduction and this seduction best describes the status of
the Other. Due to its borderland ontology, it threatens to break structuring
and sense securing binary thinking while simultaneously promising
transgression which catapults us from one-dimensional world to the realm of
Uncanny and Unexplored. If monsters should be indeed treated as indicators
of our conditio as a culture, would the presence of hybrids such as cute
monsters and monstrous cuties explain the transgressive and ambivalent faces
of postmodernity? The cute (especially as cho kawaii) and the monster are
both Others not belonging to the realm of This, What Is Normal. The
transformative nature of monstrous cute/cute monstrosity is deeply embedded
in its power to shift and even annihilate the binary distinctions separating the
Maja Brzozowska-Brywczyska 225
well known orbis interior from the orbis exterior of Them, whatever they
are. Monster incorporates the Out There, yet thought of in terms of
Lovecraftian Outer Dimensions where nothing good awaits us. Cute - on the
opposite side of the continuum - serves as a tangible extension of another,
intangible Outerspace - the fluffy, light-hearted, sugary childhood (purged
from bogeymen and monsters).
The ambivalence is the word that makes it possible to position both
cute and monstrous in one dimension, the space that Michel Foucault called
heterotopia, the place outside the norm, the site of revolutionary potential to
change, to pose an alternative order, where the coherence between words and
reality is no more possible, where the paradox is the structuring rule. The
fifth principle of heterotopias: heterotopias always presuppose a system of
opening and closing that both isolates them and makes them penetrable.31
Beware the Cute.

Dedicated to Basia Pawowska and Morelka

Readerly text is - in brief essentially passive, receptive, and demands
acceptance of the meanings provided, although is quite undemanding of its
reader, while the writerly text challenges its reader to make sense out of it on
his own, to try to decipher it, to take part in the meaning construction. John
Fiske refers to popular culture texts as producerly texts; John Fiske,
Understanding Popular Culture (London & New York: Routledge, 1995)
Ibid, 104
Frances Richards, Fifteen theses on the Cute, [article on line] Cabinet
Magazine 4 (2001), accessed 14 February 2005; available from:
Sharon Kinsella,Cuties in Japan, [chapter on line] in Women, Media, and
Consumption in Japan, eds. Lise Skov and Brian Moeran (Richmond, Surrey:
Curzon Press, 1995), accessed 14 February 2005, available from:
Daniel Harris, Cute, Quaint, Hungry and Romantic: The Aesthetics of
Consumerism, Cambridge: Da Capo Press, 2001 p. 4
Kurt Brereton,The Pathetic Manifesto, 2000, (15 April 2005).
226 Monstrous/Cute. Notes on the Ambivalent Nature of Cuteness

Harvey Roy Greenberg,Heimlich Maneuvers: On A Certain Tendency of
Horror and Speculative Cinema, PSYART: A Hyperlink Journal for the
Psychological Study of the Arts, 1 October 2001 (31 December 2001).
Linda Michael, We are family
More examples of anti-cute: Jamie Raap, Cute: a container insensitive to
content and context, 2004 (14 February 2005).
See: Marek Krajewski, Kultury kultury popularnej (Pozna: Wydawnictwo
Naukowe UAM, 2003)
Though two of them are thieves, one plays a playboy, other is psychopath,
yet another suffers from terrible dandruff; one happens to be completely
nutty and has a glass eye, other has serious dental problem, and yet another
seemingly mechanic lacks hands, although is equipped with most necessary
tools. Cruelty? Camp? Funny? Freaky?
People watching HTF are often aware of the ambiguity of this cartoon
gore/splutter, but equally often express the following opinions: it is so unreal
and the cartoons dont die for real, so why worry; its funny seeing
maltreated Cuddles, no one will cry for him after all, its just a parody of
nice, neat Disney fables. People watching HTF supposedly arent a group
sadists or psychopaths. It is (again supposedly) the ironic gaze, knowing the
games name and distanced attitude towards reality that makes it possible to
laugh at eyeballs dangling from the sockets, scorched fur and twisted limbs.
Or isnt it?
Harris, 5
In: Stephen Jay Gould, Niewczesny pogrzeb Darwina. Wybr esejw
(Warszawa: Prszyski I S-ka, 1999)
I (following Goulds argument) leave aside this presentation the issue of
whether or not this affectionate response to babyish features is truly innate or
learnt through the process of socialization. It is suffice to say that the so
called cute response applies to most of us.
Ibid, 261
Unfortunately the issue of selling cute is to complex and dense to be
sensibly encompassed within this short sketch, but it is worth stressing that a
whole fancy goods industry exploits the emotional response the cute things
achieve from their viewers and owners - for it has the potential to change an
act of buying into an act of adopting the cute product. And this shift has
important consequences. See e.g. Jamie Rapp, Sharon Kinsella and Daniel
Harris (references)
Maja Brzozowska-Brywczyska 227

Harris, 6
Which, when confronted with the title: myths and metaphors of enduring
evil makes a very promising metaphor indeed and a very dangerous
transformation of monster and its definition.
Krajewski, 105
Krajewski, 105-106
Michel Foucault, Filozofia, historia, polityka. Wybr pism (Warszawa-
Wrocaw: PWN 2000), 78
Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Monster culture (Seven Theses) in Monster
Theory: Reading Culture ed. Jeffrey J. Cohen (Minneapolis & London:
University of Minnesota Press, 1996) 6
Michel Foucault, Of other spaces , Diacritics, 31 (1986): 27

Brereton, Kurt Pathetic Manifesto 2000.
<> (15 April 2005)

Cohen, Jeffrey J. Monster Culture (Seven Theses) In Monster Theory:

Reading Culture, edited by Jeffrey J. Cohen, 3-25. Minneapolis & London:
University of Minnesota Press, 1996

Foucault, Michel Of other spaces. Diacritics, 31(1986): 22-27

Foucault, Michel. Filozofia, historia, polityka. Wybr pism, Warszawa-

Wrocaw: PWN. 2000

Gould, Stephen J. Niewczesny pogrzeb Darwina. Wybr esejw, Warszawa:

Prszyski i S-ka, 1999

Harris, Daniel. Cute, Quaint, Hungry and Romantic: the Aesthetics of

consumerism. Cambridge: Da Capo Press, 2001

Kinsella, Sharon. Cuties in Japan In Women Media and Consumption in

Japan, edited by Lise Skov and Brian Moeran, 220-254. Richmond, Surrey:
228 Monstrous/Cute. Notes on the Ambivalent Nature of Cuteness

Curzon Press, 1995 [chapter on line] available from: (14 February 2005)

Krajewski, Marek. Kultury kultury popularnej, Wydawnictwo Naukowe

UAM, Pozna, 2003

Raap, Jamie. Cute: a container, insensitive to content and context? 2004

<> (14 February 2005)

Richards, Frances Fifteen Theses on The Cute. [article on line] Cabinet

Magazine, 4 (2001); available from: (14 February 2005)