Monsters: The Origins of Horror Fiction
Nobody who watched the film Alien will ever forget the scene
that takes place when the astronauts are having dinner: A lizard-like creature
comes bursting through a crewmans torso and scurries away. Talk about heartburn!
Its one of the scariest films ever made. But the story behind the horror
genre is even scarier.
In his newly re-issued book Horror: A Biography,
professor E. Michael Jones advances a fascinating thesis. Horror fiction, he argues,
grew out of the sexual decadence of the Enlightenment.
Few people embraced
the sexual decadence more eagerly than the English poet Percy Shelley. Shelleys
first wife killed herself after he abandoned her to live with Mary Godwin. Shelley
then victimized his new wife, Mary, even encouraging her to sleep with his friends.
As tragedy followed tragedy, a remorseful Mary became disillusioned with
radical ideals. But she could not relieve her conscience, Jones writes, because
she didnt understand repentance. "Literary catharsis seemed the only way" to
purge her soul.
So Mary began writing Frankenstein. According to
Jones, Marys experience explains the genesis of horror films. We recognize, as
she did, that the moral order is true, but if we suppress that, it comes back
in our imagination as an avenging monster.
This was evident in the story
of Frankenstein. Dr. Frankenstein wants to play God, to create life on
his own termsjust as Percy Shelley had created an Enlightenment sexual ethic.
But instead of designing a superb new species, Frankenstein gives life to a murderous
The avenging monster from the id, as Jones calls it, took new
form during the second phase of the Enlightenmenta time when syphilis had contaminated
European blood. Tragically, adulterous husbands often infected their innocent
wives. Draculaa novel about a vampire who infects the blood of innocent girlssymbolizes
this deadly plague. Draculas author, Bram Stoker, had syphilis himself.
with Frankenstein, the true story of horror in the authors lifethat is,
sexuality divorced from the moral law"is repressed and replaced by a monster
who points to the [truth]."
A century later, another vengeful monster emerged
in the wake of the modern sexual revolution: that is, the creature in the 1979
film Alien. The man chosen to create the monster, H. R. Giger, claims he never
procured an abortion for his mistress. And yet, Jones notes, "his art is full
of images of abortion and dead babies." In any event, Jones writes, Gigers thwarting
of child-bearing, through either contraception or abortion, "is so morally significant
that it embeds itself onto his consciousness."
And Gigers conscience sought
relief by creating a fetus-monster for Alien. At the films end, a female
astronaut kills the monster in a manner that strikingly resembles a suction abortion.
The warning of these films is that "sex disconnected from the moral order
is horrifying," Jones writes.
This Halloween, when your kids want to rent
a horror film, dont let them. Instead, sit down with themand with the neighbors
kids, as welland explain where horror films really come from and why they are
perverse. Its a great way to expose the cultural lies that are at the root of
our societys celebration of horror.
the October 31, 2002, Breakpoint Online Commentary. Copyright 2002 Used with
permission, Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint
with Chuck Colson" is a radio ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted
with permission of Prison Fellowship, P.O. Box 17500, Washington, DC, 20041-0500."
Heard on more than 1000 radio stations nationwide. For more information on the
ministry of Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship visit their web site at http://www.breakpoint.org.
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