I was reading my bloggy friend Debby's wonderful tirade about Ann Coulter the other day and it made me think about Godzilla and the other monsters on Creature Double Feature on Boston's Channel 56. Well, not exactly in the way you think. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that she isn't a venomous reptilian fire breathing succubus, but thinking about Ann Coulter got me thinking about fear and how we deal with it.
We all have "monsters" that frighten us as kids, haunt our thoughts. I won't admit how old I was before I stopped taking running leaps off the bed so the monster underneath couldn't grab my ankles. As a group or a nation, our fears can be distilled into powerful metaphors. The ancient Greeks feared the unpredictability of nature — the hostile winds, a mercurial and uncharted sea — and these fears coalesced into the menagerie of sea creatures that slithered across mosaic walls and amphoras. From the 2nd century AD onwards people began their attempt to catalogue these fears, the unknown in the world and make sense of them with respect to their faith. The Hydrus in the Workshop Bestiary (the pages of which I've had the pleasure of touching) at the Morgan Library is shown being eaten by a crocodile.
These were used as moral lessons for an illiterate public. The crocodile represents death and hell and the Hydrus is a symbol for Jesus who descended into hell, then burst out dealing a blow to death itself. For later artists perhaps their monsters were the less tangible fears of human passion as they delighted in rendering the eroticism of the helpless Andromeda and the destructive force of the beast.
Joachim Wiewael, Perseus and Andromeda, 1630
Perseus and Andromeda, Frederic Leighton, 1891
For me and my young contemporaries near the greater Boston area, our monsters were Godzilla, Mothra (my favorite), Megaguirus or Orga who would duke it out every Saturday afternoon at the Creature Double Feature. Of course I just found the cheezy effects, delayed voice-overs and over-the-top narratives funny and campy, but on another level they were pretty potent symbols for their age. They represent the angst of the nuclear age. Japan, having felt the effects of nuclear war generated these powerful and moralizing symbols of the destructive power of the hydrogen bomb through the medium of film. Maybe we should've taken more notes when we watched the smog monster. He's still apparently lurking about:
I know, I know I'm getting back to Ann Coulter. Blicky's been a little worried about Ann and her pals lately. How will they fare now that the inauguration has renewed our pesky sense of hope? Fear is their bread and butter. A lot of us got the scary, specious emails during the run up to the election. Obama Hussein (subliminal fear) is a secret Muslim and the world is going to be destroyed (subliminal fear) by his evil plots. Their warnings are starting to go unheaded as the country watches him being a pretty good guy, nice dad.. cute kids. I know Blicky's really worried now. What will Ann do? Rush will enjoy a fine roll with this he-didn't-really-get-sworn-in nonsense. Blicky's been hard at work creating a new beast for his muse, Ann, the lovely (vitriol spewing) Andromeda. What monster could be so foul, so fiendish as to reawaken the fears and angst of a nation?
Not buying it? I know. I told Blicky the same thing. Maybe he should have written that Al "wants wants to eat Christmas and outlaw your money" instead. I don't know. We'll let Blicky worry about that. On Debby's suggestion, here's one that we're all scared of: