Monday, August 26, 2013


I don't want it to sound like I have an answer to this; I don't.

I drove by an add for Insidious 2 today. I'm not a fan of scary movies, probably because I'm easily scared.  Also, they seem to get bloodier and bloodier. I started wondering about fear, about collective versus individual fear.

While I was driving, I was listening to a Radiolab piece about a child being born prematurely, and fighting for life. When I was born, scary movies were Rosemary's Baby or The Exorcist.  Now they are Insidious, or Saw.  Now, I'm not saying horrible or scary things didn't happen before, and our fear is commensurate with things that are happening in our world. I don't know if that's true - awful, disturbing things happen in any age, and we know from history that we haven't invented anything.  I'm just wondering how more and more disturbing our images are getting is a reflection of who we are, if we need that kind of catharsis.

I was also thinking what it must be like to be born into that world. I'm sure my parents thought the same things of the time I was growing up in, but I wonder if there is some kind of collective unconscious that pushes us further and further, and that is what a child born today is born into.  Even though that child is a blank state, their experience will be one where seeing something like Insidious is par for the course by the time they are a young adult. They will perhaps even push it further.

It makes me wonder, even with all the self-help books and seminars about getting rid of and past your fear, that we will keep finding things that will scare us.  That's the basis of catharsis - to relieve us of those feelings. So perhaps we will never be free of them, we will just push further to find things that scare us more.

I'm not talking about the fear inherent in vulnerability, or trying something new.  I'm talking about old-fashioned wolf at the door fear. Since our movies get crazier and crazier, I have to wonder. I wonder if these kinds of movies will seem old fashioned, or if (grabbed from today's headlines!) Miley Cyrus simulating sex while basically wearing underwear will seem sadly old fashioned to any random 3 year old 20 years from now.  Perhaps then we'll be going to watch surgeries.

I digress.  While we're talking about fear, though, here's one of my favorite poems about it: Desert Places, by Robert Frost.

Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast In a field I looked into going past, And the ground almost covered smooth in snow, But a few weeds and stubble showing last. The woods around it have it--it is theirs. All animals are smothered in their lairs. I am too absent-spirited to count; The loneliness includes me unawares. And lonely as it is that loneliness Will be more lonely ere it will be less-- A blanker whiteness of benighted snow With no expression, nothing to express. They cannot scare me with their empty spaces Between stars--on stars where no human race is. I have it in me so much nearer home To scare myself with my own desert places.


Elizabeth said...

So interesting -- when I'm stumped about things like this, I resort to my instinctive feeling that there's nothing new under the sun.

Criticlasm said...

That's a great solution.