Panel 2: Otherness, Intersectionality and (Un)acceptance

 

Intersectional Gothic and My Favorite Thing is Monsters. Volume 2
Stephen Shapiro (University of Warwick)

Emil Ferris’s Eisner-award winning graphic narrative, My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Volume 1 exemplifies the new turn in Gothic and Horror towards female, queer, and BIPOC creators and audiences. Both at the level of form and content, Ferris’s work upends centrist liberalism’s dependence on the binary opposition between the citizen and the socially undead (ethnic) monster. In their vision, monstrosity not only becomes a feature of (maternal) embrace, but also a viable symbolic language and affective medium to construct an new intersectional community. This new sociality echoes 1930s Cultural Front work to bring together different racial, ethnic, and working class groups together to form a new commons. Ferris, however, understands that that the classic Hollywood Horror, especially those written by the Jewish exile from Nazi Germany, Curt Sidiomak (The Wolfman, I Walked with a Zombie) belongs to, rather than distances itself from, non-White presence in a left-wing collective society. In this paper, I plan to be one of the first to mediate the planned February 2021 publication of the second volume of My Favorite Thing is Monsters. Here I want to look backwards on my claims for Ferris’s deployment of BIPOC Horror published last year (“Speculative Nostalgia and Media of the New Intersectional Left: My Favorite Thing Is Monsters”), and consider how the new second volume further extends Ferris’s creative project.

 

The Outsiders’ Cities of Gothic Discontinuity
Maria-Ana Tupan (Doctoral School of Alba Iulia University)

The present paper discusses a particular instance of the century-long tradition of encounters with the unknown and lapse into gaps of time or fault lines of what is taken to be normative reality. The outsider may sometimes be a self-exiled person whose return to a rapidly changing world makes him feel a stranger. The America whose skyscrapers dwarfed St Patrick Cathedral in Manhattan made Thomas Wolfe think one can never return home. His contemporary, Henry James, whose journey through a racially mixed America gave him a sense of estrangement in his native land, employed Gothic imagery in “The Jolly Corner” to body forth the idea that the socially produced space of a future-oriented civilization had created an unbridgeable gap between the new and the old world. Unlike Henry James, screenwriter Richard LaGravenese, whose father was Italian, and Mircea Eliade, writer and historian of religion and professor in the University of Chicago, who had migrated from Romania, use racial icons to convey their sense of living in a space of deadly cultural conflicts. Eliade’s protagonist of his short-story “At the Gipisies’” is a musician who walks into a magic space inhabited by gipsies, wherefrom he returns the same day, as it seems to him, to a future world where all his acquaintances are dead. The final image of the carriage taking him to the cemetery is reminiscent of the final scene in Borges’s Il Congresso. The same pain of being separated from the umbilical cord of one’s identity in space and history seems to have inspired LaGravenese’s nightmarish New York, where terrorist attackers are assimilated to fiery dragons in the protagonist’s imagination, and where the cultural myths of his European origins – the Grail (salvation), the romance of Blanche Fleur (love) or Pinocchio (the becoming-man) are blighted, replaced by a mock-mythology of a “light” Gerschwinian Arcadia in New York City. “The Land Was Ours Before We Were the Land’s,” Robert Frost famously said. The physical environment is everywhere the same, but emigrants and immigrants belong to the storied land of the culture of origin or of adoption.

 

Celebrating a Forbidden Love: The Shape of Water as a Protest Love Story
Elizabeth Abele (University of Cologne)

When Guillermo del Toro saw The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) as a child, he thought it was a romance, so the two would end up together. With The Shape of Water (2017), he corrected the ending: “The ideas I wanted to put in the movie, the reversal…to make the image of the creature carrying the girl a beautiful one, as opposed to a horror image.” Del Toro’s films have always been steeped in the gothic, revealing the marginalized and the past that infect the visible present. With The Shape of Water, he presents a fable of crossing ethnic, national, gender and species boundaries – embracing instead love and acceptance. Del Toro strategically placed this fairy-tale romance in 1962 Baltimore, at the intersection of the government, civil rights, and the Cold War. Mixed race marriages were criminal in Maryland until 1967. In 1962, the setting of this film, Baltimore’s Civic Interest Group were actively organizing protests in Cambridge on the Eastern Shore, which was still largely segregated – del Toro places these civil rights protests within the film’s background. The film also features a Soviet undercover agent, with the escape of the Asset to southern waters roughly coinciding with the Cuban Missile Crisis. This historical context adds gothic undertones to the forbidden love story at the center. Like his hero, Del Toro’s “princess” defies expectations: Elisa is a foundling and mute, bearing the scars of her early abuse. Yet she finds joy in her life, with her two friends, her shoes, and her daily orgasm. Her friendships likewise cross-boundaries: Zelda is Black and Giles is gay, yet both accept her as she is, ably reading her sign language. Working as a night cleaner in a government lab, she is first to recognize the man within the Asset. She courts him – before organizing his escape to her apartment, with the help of her friends and the Soviet agent. Drawing on gothic tropes, Del Toro presents invisible figures that defy the restrictions of 1960s Maryland to celebrate an unimaginable love, giving hope to all.

 

Bloodletting: An Overview of Thematic Alienation and Xenophobia in Fromsoftware’s Bloodborne
John Marc Wilson Borrell (Southeastern Louisiana University)

The pervasive influence of the Western gothic tradition cannot be overstated, influencing the videogame industry changing company Fromsoftware in numerous significant ways. Perhaps their most notable entry that has been influenced by the Western gothic tradition is Bloodborne (2015), directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki. Miyazaki, though drawing from several other key authors in the field, primarily pays homage to themes and concepts present in H. P. Lovecraft’s relatively niche oeuvre. The player-character controls an avatar referred to as a “hunter” during their sojourn in the oneiric, perverse world called Yharnam. The various inhabits of Yharnam range from beastly in nature to unfathomable to the human mind, referred to as Eldritch Great Ones or kin of the Great Ones. Lovecraft’s mythos is repurposed in the context of both the narrative and in game mechanics. “Insight,” a measure of one’s exposure to the hidden horrors residing in their world is also an indication of one’s madness. This measure of greater occult knowledge in regards to inherently unknowable entities enables the ability to see Eldritch horrors that are not necessarily hidden in plain sight: they coexist on the other side of the veil. The hunter is perpetually an outsider in Yharnam; the Yharnamite traditions are foreign, alien, and appear savage. This is related to how some ethnicities are treated by dominant cultures, yet, paradoxically, the hunter is more of an ethnic other in this Gothic setting as they can never be fully integrated into the culture of Yharnam nor can they fathom the Great Ones. Ultimately, that is the quest the hunter undergoes: to ascend to the level of a Great One. While for Lovecraft the Eldritch horrors display humanity’s insignificance in the cosmos, in Bloodborne they may be understood as the impossible integration or acceptance amongst a dominant race, class, or, in this case, species for an outside other. The Doll, a character that assists the hunter, often states at the end of her interactions, “May you find your worth in the waking world.” This can be attributed that while in the liminal realm of Yharnam, between waking or consciousness and dreaming or unconsciousness the hunter must reconcile their outsider role in a continuous struggle for survival, asserting their own identity in the process.