If you’ve read my bio, you know that I am a lover of B-movies, comic books, and Pulp. I still remember very clearly coming to my parents one day at the age of maybe 13 or 14 and announcing, “I’ve just watched the best movie ever.” Of course they inquired as to what this cinematic gem might be, and I replied, “Swamp Thing”.
Needless to say, they were not overly impressed with my choice, and I think, if I’m remembering correctly, I got a lecture on the representation of women in film. But that didn’t stop my love for classic B-movies…or comic books, or Pulp in general.
You see, the thing I love about these art forms is that they probe the deeper, darker, scary reaches of our minds (Freud’s id, Stephen King’s primitive alligator brain, etc.). Furthermore, they provide a snapshot, not just of an individual’s demented thoughts, but, to misuse another psychological term, a kind of collective unconscious of different sectors of society at particular times. These forms of entertainment like to theorize about what is bubbling just beneath the surface of polite society. They luridly fictionalize the anxieties people harbor (whether they be gender, racial, financial, or technological, to name just a few)…or worse, the fears they fear other people harbor (I think this is what makes zombie apocalypse stories so compelling. I consider myself civilized, but if society breaks down, will others stay civilized? Will I have to become a monster to survive? I don’t even own a gun…I’m Canadian! It’s a bit of a paranoid loop that ends in mass destruction.) I should also mention that part of the appeal of these art forms is not just the thrill/fascination that comes with fear, but the psychological reassurance they provide. I also clearly remember reading Stephen King as a teenager and thinking, Oh thank God, I’m not the only one who has these thoughts. In fact, this guy may be worse than I am. And he is a bestseller! So lots of people must think in less than civilized ways…at least some of the time. Essentially, the message I received was I’m not alone, and I’m not bad.
Now, herein lies the danger. Critics of these movies, magazines, books rightly argue that consumers shouldn’t consume these deviant messages, feel the reassurance, and take that to mean that it’s not only okay to have these thoughts, but it’s okay to act on them. I agree. I did love Swamp Thing, but when I try to recall the actual movie all I can really remember is Adrienne Barbeau running in a tight fatigue top while screaming. Not a great aspiration for a young lady (although to be fair, I think she was a running, screaming scientist). So perhaps impressionable children shouldn’t be allowed to have at these forms of entertainment…at least, not without their critical thinking caps on. But I also believe that art is the perfect forum to express anxieties, to theorize about the make-up of society, and to put a thought out there to be torn apart. And I will continue to consume, deconstruct, and enjoy these genres with great vigor.
Hmm, I wonder where I can get a copy of Swamp Thing?
Thanks for reading!