Marina Warner

Beast as Cyborg Notes

I have been meaning to write this article for you all, lovely lurkers, for a long time, and I haven’t gotten the wherewithal to get beyond a detailed outline. So it hit me today: why fight it? I hereby post the detailed outline of my article about villains and beasts in recent story as cyborg–in other words, why is it that the cyborg is scary today, whereas the scary monster back in the day was a beast?

This idea was inspired by musings about Marina Warner’s excellent academic work, From the Beast to the Blonde, further filled in by looking at old class lectures and materials from my DU course: Villains, Monsters and Foes, and today finally posted as I just watched Blade Runner again (a cut I hadn’t seen), and so the idea of the android “skin job” is still rather on the brain. 

I am hereby inviting you all, lovely lurkers, to add meat to this skeleton in the comments of this post. Any of these mere mentions/notes/premises that spur a thought or a tangent, please do share. Maybe together we can finally get the article written. Oh, and all page #s you see haphazardly cited here are from Warner’s book.


SCARY MONSTERS ARE ROBOTS NOW. THEY USED TO BE BEASTLY. WHY?

Outline by Jenn Zuko

  • Borg (hive mind)
  • Replicant (can’t tell who’s who)
  • I, Robot (existentialism / danger of AI) Also Terminator for both
    • [does Frankenstein’s monster fit here?]

All of the above are potentially uncontrollable.

  • Why so scary?
    • Humanoid but Not Human (uncanny valley)
    • Unstoppable (Tripods)
    • Replaces reality (how to battle?)
  • From the Beast to the Blonde –Marina Warner
    • Latin “monstrare” = to show (p.299)
      • [notes from DU Villains course: *to unveil the monster is to vanquish it*] How to unveil when it’s impossible to tell? (Voigt-Kampf test infallible?)

Replicants aren’t shown: they hide in plain sight (like Dr. Who’s plastic Autons). More difficult to unveil than a beast, as it’s hard to tell who’s the monster, who the human

    • Being Devoured = sexuality
      • “Bestiality, cannibalism, & eroticism are bound up together” (p.302)
    • Ferociousness of being a beast not so scary in this day of us overpowering and overtaking anything truly wild.
      • “Tapping the power of the animal no longer seems charged with danger, let alone evil, but rather a necessary part of healing. Art of different media widely accepts the fall of man, from master and namer of animals to a mere hopeful candidate for inclusion as one of their number.” (p.307)

      • Nostalgia for the wild: nostalgia = regret (also Noble Savage)

        RoyBatty

        …like tears in the rain…

  • The cyborg is leaving the wild at best, eradicating it at worst. Many cyborg monsters live in a world where there is no wild left. That’s terrifying.
    • The Devil:
      • Medieval image: devil has horns, goat legs, fur, tail, etc. Angels are “bloodless, fleshless” in “gleaming armor”
      • Now it’s the other way around
  • Eroticism old school:
    • Used to be: beast as male virility (beauty & the beast; satyrs; centaurs, etc.)
  • Eroticism new school (w the cyborg):
    • Why is the Borg Queen sexy? (or is she? She’s also slimy)
    • Replicants: beautiful female replicant or clone (Leeloo?)(Pris: made for sex but also deadly)
    • “Mudd’s Women” (is Data sexy? [Old Yellow Eyes])
      • Does this have to do with the female as attractive only bc of her body?
  • Scene in American Gods: man gets devoured by goddess (swallowed up literally by her sex); is the allure of the female android connected to the terror of being devoured? [Warner: in old stories, being devoured = sex]

(is eroticism a tangent, or immediately related to what it is to be human?) (another related-to-eroticism tangent in here about the living dead: why are vampires sexy? inhuman that used to be human but now dead; Walking Dead characters having trouble seeing that the zombies aren’t the person anymore. But this is another paper, methinks. Something related to the inhuman as scary here, though…)

  • CONCLUSION: Loss of humanity = terror
    • Animals = subhuman
    • Robots = non-human (or inhuman)

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The Monster

This, from the series of old lecturettes from defunct courses taught at DU. This is from the class called Villains, Monsters, and Foes, which was a writing workshop as well as a literature course. We covered three kinds of villains in the class: the Monster, Fair-Faced, and Villain Within. For this week (Monster Week–rawr!), we read Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, and an article about Star Wars; Phantom Menace. I may have required the movie’s viewing too, but I don’t recall–it was right around the film’s release, I believe…   ~Jenn

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Monsters!                                

Be afraid…be very afraid…[1]

The wolf is carnivore incarnate; and he’s as cunning as he is ferocious; once he’s had a taste of flesh, then nothing else will do.[2]

The word ‘monster,’ from the Latin monstrare, to show, even suggests that monstrousness is above all visible. But monstrousness is…subject to historical changes in attitudes.[3]

…and I am…cute, too![4]

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The monster is terrifying because it is other. The ugly, bestial, unnatural, not of “our” tribe, what-have-you is potentially harmful and therefore decried.

Beasties

Back in the day, when you lived in a hut on the edge of a wild forest, when winter came, you’d better believe the Wolf was your enemy. Livestock, children, and even adults could fall prey to hungry predators coming too close to the village in search of food. Here enters the Big Bad Wolf, savage Bear, Man-Eating Tiger, and the rest. Beasts also act according to instinct, unlike humans who have rationality to repress certain urges and behavior, so animals came to represent the “bestial” side of human nature as well. In this era of urban living and conservation, animals as such aren’t considered monstrous. In fact, we are so separated from our past struggle with animals that now beasts are cute-ified out of nostalgia. As Marina Warner says, “Tapping the power of the animal no longer seems charged with danger, let alone evil, but rather a necessary part of healing. Art of different media widely accepts the fall of man, from namer and master of animals to a mere hopeful inclusion as one of their number.”[5]  This being so, what is the Beast in recent myth and fairytale?

Beast as Cyborg[6]

The artificial intelligence, living mannequin, the constructed, man-made creature is unnatural, outside of what should be. This is a different tack on the monstrous—the robot monster “represents the apocalyptic culmination of human ingenuity and its diabolical perversion.”[7] Frankenstein’s Monster, the Borg of Star Trek, HAL from 2001-A Space Odyssey, those scary living mannequins in that one Twilight Zone episode, the rogue robots in I, Robot—all these characters are examples of the Beast as Cyborg, the man-made monster.

Our Sample Literature

Mr._G.M._Dark

Mr. Dark continues to scare the hell out of me, to this day.

Hyde is a monster because he is the distilled, separated “beast” half of Jekyll. He has none of Jekyll’s civilized restraint or rational choice of behavior, therefore he unsettles everyone he meets even before they know he’s a murderer. He represents (he is) everything Jekyll despises about himself, everything humans do that is ‘bad’ according to Victorian English society.

Mr. Dark (a yellow-eyed, pockmarked vampire himself) heads a whole sideshow circus out of monsters he has created out of human fears. The Witch, Dwarf, Mr. Electrico and the rest all used to be “normal” humans integrated with their inner darks, but Mr. Dark takes each person’s neurosis and transforms the person into a physical metaphor of that neurosis. In a way, Mr. Dark has refined what Dr. Jekyll clumsily tried. And what exactly are the “autumn people?”

Darth Maul, with his red-and-black facial tattoos, horns, black cloak, and menacing yellow teeth, was obviously designed with old illustrations of the Devil in mind: Maul the monster in this case is the less powerful villain: “the monster who terrifies, who gets what he wants through brute strength and violence.”[8]

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[1] This is from The Fly, right? Is it also older than this, or is that it? Yes, she’s showing her ignorance…J

[2] Angela Carter, from “The Company of Wolves” in The Bloody Chamber.

[3] Marina Warner, From the Beast to the Blonde, New York, Noonday Press, 1996.

[4] Grover Monster as Super Grover, Sesame Street, the place where live the biggest population of friendly and cute monsters in the world.

[5] From the Beast to the Blonde again

[6] Warner’s phrase—love it! You will be assimilated…

[7] Ibid. So it’s a good book. Go read it.

[8] Shanti Fader. “In Sheep’s Clothing: the face of evil in the Phantom Menace.” Parabola Winter 1999,p. 88-91.