Human Beings & Their Imaginary Monsters

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Take-Home Exam – Human Beings & Their Imaginary Monsters

Question One

It was common ton notice (goeng si / jiang shi) when watching Hong Kong films during the 1980s and 90s. The monster, as commonly referred to in the West was common in films such as Mr. Vampire (1985) by Sammo Hung and Crazy Safari that has four sequels, with The Gods Must Be Crazy being the most viewed of the four. However, one may wonder why the image of the hopping vampire reoccur in many jiang shi films. The truth is that the reemergence had significant cultural meaning at the time the production was made, which also enlightens into the complexities that confined people to particular ways of thinking about life and film production.

It is apparent that inclusion of the ‘hopping vampire’ provides much insight into the complexities impacting on Hong Kong’s cultural practices and beliefs at the time the film was produced. The inclusion of this cast affirms the claim that a monster is born only an embodiment of a particular cultural moment – of place, feeling, and time. Including the character in films during the era affirmed that the Chinese believed in the existence of monsters, a notion that entirely depends on the cultural perceptions of a particular group. Moreover, the ways the casts in the various film relate to the hopping vampires reaffirm that the Hong Kong culture places much emphasis on the existence of such monsters and their existence. For example, the culture adheres to a set of regulations that the Chinese believe that would help to defeat the hopping vampire should one encounter the creature. The guidelines inform that some of the possible ways for defeating the monster include flinging a sticky rice at them because this will remove the evil spirit in them, freezing them in a definite location with a dab of blood in their forehead, or attacking them sword produced from lucky Chinese coins.

The people of Hong Kong, as manifested in the films where the hopping vampire featured, regarded and related with the monster with much reverence and fear. The jiangshi is largely not similar to the vampire as perceived by the West in the way it does not consume blood but rather focuses on absorbing life forms from human beings or what in Chinese is referred to as qi. The other factor that shows how the people of Hong Kong treated the monster with reverence is that whereas one could proceed to talk at considerable lengths about the features of jiangshi, its weak and strong aspects and its position in a supernatural order, the key point they stress on is that the being of the jiangshi was only introduced wholly to the into the popular imaginary of China via Hong Kong films produced in the 1980s and 90s. The refined view with which the people of Hong Kong regard jiangshi and their closeness with this being is the reason why the West relate the films in this genre with occultism.

Furthermore, the existence of jiangshi in the Hong Kong films produced in the 1980s and 90s showed depicted a sense of cultural nationalism, which refers to a situation where the people of a particular nation abide by specific cultural practices and beliefs. The inclusion of the monster in various films produced during the period depicted an intermediate position between civic and ethnic nationalism, which focused on creating a national identity influenced by cultural traditions, but not necessarily based on a common race or ancestry. Thus, the appearance of the hopping vampire served as a means of reinstating cultural nationalism in Hong Kong.

Question Two

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) presents a story that allows viewers to understand the sexuality of the monster (vampire) that features in the film. The video reveals that the reproduction practices of the vampire are unique and likely to astonish human beings who are accustomed to engaging the opposite sex. Like human beings, vampires have the desire for self-preservation, which creates the urge to indulge in reproductive acts with the motive of preserving life. However, what makes the vampire different is the fusion of sexual intercourse, eating, and conversion. Another unique feature of the reproductive practices of vampire is that it can turn to a member of the family or siblings. Besides a vampire is bisexual, which means that it can act as a male or female, a scenario that is possible with humans but not rampant. The question of loyalty is another concern for a vampire because a victim tends to give in more easily and are more likely to be convinced to indulge in sex as opposed to humans who are relatively principled when it comes to sexual matters.

Thus, it is possible to argue that the reproduction of Dracula is as threatening as colonization because each of these could have adverse effects on the victims. For example, the vampire gives in easily to sexual proposals without much consideration, which makes them vulnerable to attacks or possible infections. The same happens with colonization where a colony may give in to the appealing promises by the colonizer such as access to modern technology and better infrastructure not knowing the potential forthcoming shortcomings such as loss of large tracts of land. Thus, it is possible to identify considerable threats in both how Dracula indulges in sexual practice and colonization that seeks to establish domination over others.

The film has many depictions of the human condition, but the illustration has one evident exclusion – sex; and what features appears threatening. The film shows Frankenstein’s engagement to his foster sister known as Elizabeth. However, viewers hardly see the two together, and their interaction does not show any sign of intimacy. The film does not pay much attention to romantic relations and does not give any indications of any affair leading to marriage. This is threatening to the safety and well-being of both characters because often it is expected that close relatives associate quite often and help each other in times of problem. Besides, the protagonist, Frankenstein, is sterile and almost rigid. His stern rebuttal of sex-related activities reflects the nature and attitude of when the film was set. The portrayal is also threatening because this could deter the reproduction process and possibly result in extinction. Besides, sex and sexuality fall among the breathtaking horrific illustrations of the film. Most notably, the unique creature is born with human senses, sexuality included. In his desire for a mate, the monster Frankenstein creates shows more evident human feelings that the developer. However, it is still apparent that Frankenstein’s sexuality is unlike of normal people who increasingly associate with different sexes. However, this may only be threatening if it neither relates to the opposite sex nor indulges in copulation.

It is possible to interpret the threatening nature of Frankenstein’s sexuality in accordance with the historical context in which the film was produced. It is possible to argue that the social issues that people faced at the time such as the effects of the Great Depression deprived people the interest to indulge in sexual affairs. Most people emphasized on how they would overcome the troubling situation. Thus, Frankenstein’s towards sex could reflect the perception people had at this time.

Question Three

Philip Kaufman’s 1978 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers (a sci-fi horror film) retells the story of a 1956 film of the same title, which is based on Jack Finney’s novel produced in 1956. The film revolves around a health officer in San Francisco and his coworker who over the course of their operations realize that aliens appear in place of real humans with a duplicate appearing for each affected person. Each of the production is an exact copy of the one being replaced, but does not depict human emotions. The entire incident involving the exchanges creates an experience of the uncanny, which is likely to evoke other feelings because suddenly, what is familiar or heimlich as Sigmund Freud puts it, transforms and becomes less familiar or unheimlich. In other words, what seemed ordinary and less threatening now becomes extraordinary and threatening.

Hodgkins refers to a quote by Anneleen Masschelein to describe his view of what uncanny means. The quote is “The uncanny is in constant transformation and cannot be pinned down.” As Masschelein puts it, Hodgkins argues, the uncanny is a particularly complicated approach to describe, a claimed supported by Nicholas Royle when he noted that due to the fact that the uncanny is something that cannot be restricted or pinned down, it is expected to exhibit mastery. The claims surrounding the definition compelled Susan Bernstein to contend that the uncanny brings into question the possibilities of the definition itself, and thus is apparently intricate to give the tem a befitting description. Freud viewed the uncanny as evidently connected to what frightens or what invokes horror and dread. Overall, uncanny revolves around describing scenarios that take an immediate twist causing people to wonder.

One of Kafka’s renowned works, Metamorphosis describes the account of Gregor Samsa, who upon waking up one morning, finds himself significantly changed into a large insect. He strives to put up with his new condition but it is evident he must put up with significant constraints. The statement alone already affirms the claim what once appeared to be good and less threatening transforms into an extraordinary feature. However, similar to the maker of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the composer of Metamorphosis deploys the uncanny effect to start the story on a high note and keep readers elated. Using the approach in both instances encourages other composers and filmmakers to consider using the technique in their productions in an attempt to appeal to more viewers. Besides, the approach works best with those who seek to create an element of horror in their production. Consequently, it is essential to seek information from scholarly works that expound on how the technique works to be able to incorporate it effectively.

Another way in which metamorphosis’s creepiness relate to Hodgkins’ views on uncanny becomes apparent by exploring how the newly transformed creature attempts to lead its normal life. The creature cannot move yet that was possible when in the form of a human being. For instance, the creature cannot roll over because of its body that has changed all over a sudden. The monster cannot also scratch his stomach because of his new appearance. However, what astonishes about this uncanny portrayal is that the monster is still able to reflect on its life as a human and how it operated as a salesman. The intricacy surrounding the whole metamorphosis affirms the claim by Hodgkins that uncanny is not only difficult to describe but also hard to understand. 

Question Four

One of Cohen’s arguments on arguments on monsters is that they usually escape. According to the author, monsters cause much damage when seeks to escape. The monster will get away but the track it leaves behind will tell the havoc caused. The monster will reappear safely elsewhere. Besides, the statement concurs with the argument that follows, which the author retrieves from a religious book. The statement states that regardless of the number of times a king tried to kill an ogre coming from Mt. Saint Michael, the monster reemerged in another chronicle. Not considering the number of times Ripley damages the alien that keeps following her, its nature comes back, ready to haunt her again on a larger scale in another larger sequel. The feeling that monsters may return regardless of their past experiences is more evident in Ishiro Honda’s 1954 fil, Godzilla. In the production, Godzilla, the monster in the story always reappears in sequels even after it had been put to death. The revelations in the film evidently counters the claims by Cohen that the likelihood for a monster to return following a violation is minimum. The contrast could suggest that monster vary in their thoughts, acts, and feelings. How a particular monster is likely to respond to a particular situation is not the same way a monster of another kind will respond to a similar scenario. The behavior of monsters are reflected in this case signifies how humans also respond to situations. How a person reacts to a particular issue may not be the same with how another person reacts or views a similar scenario.

The conflicting information on how monsters are likely to react when violated creates the urge to do more research into this area to come up with a real presentation of what could happen. Scholars need to clarify whether a monster chooses to disappear in case of an attack or could reappear. They also need to make it clear on whether it is possible to witness both scenarios. Other than authors who will be of significance in creating awareness in this area, filmmakers need to contribute as well towards showing people how monsters would respond to attacks or violations such as presented in this case.  Nonetheless, stopping at that may only create confusion when parties have contradicting views regarding the matter.

However, it is essential to acknowledge that the meaning and interpretation of Godzilla has changed since the first film was produced in 1954 and the last in 2021. An evident transformation based on Noriega’s argument is in the physical structure. The initial portrayal showed a much larger figure that has lessened over the years. The view has transformed from being an allegory for evident effects of the America’s attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII to a portrayal in film depicting weapons of mass destruction.Each film developer, therefore, tries to attach a similar meaning to their Godzilla film.

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