Teaching Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: Fate and Free Will, Determinism and Destiny

There are probably a lot of reasons why Wicked was my favorite book to read with my students during my Reading the Monster course.  This assertion may be surprising, on the one hand, because Wicked doesn’t fall under the traditional “horror” umbrella like many other texts on the syllabus.  And, as is obvious from reading this blog, I’m an avid fan and proponent of what might be called, more specifically, “art-horror”—the creation of fictional horrific events, morphed into cinematic and literary experiences.  Conversely, there’s so much imagination, and so much problematization (a la fiction) packed into Wicked, that Gregory Maguire’s book provides plenty of fodder for speculation, discussion, and debate, even as it delights, challenges, and entertains—all on a fairly consistent basis. What’s more—and this may be a far from ancillary point—I taught Wicked after my dreaded comprehensive examination was (more or less) over, so I had more time to put toward lesson planning and making the text particularly engaging to students.  The emerging result, for me, was a stronger interest in a text that I already enjoyed, but that I didn’t fully appreciate until reading a second time.

Continue reading “Teaching Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: Fate and Free Will, Determinism and Destiny”
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Teaching Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: Fate and Free Will, Determinism and Destiny

Escaping the Atypical Monster in Escape Room

Well, unsurprisingly, it’s three in the morning and I’ve decided to write a blog post.  You see, I was reading On Monsters: An Unnatural History of our Worst Fears by Stephen T. Asma, and his writing is so fluid, his stories so interesting, his points so insightful, that I got inspired to write.  In general, I find that as I read more for my comprehensive exams, I tend to get so enthusiastic that I feel I absolutely must release some of my excitement through writing.  And, I have the perfect fodder for a blog post this evening.  Michael and I went to see a showing of Escape Room tonight, and we both really enjoyed the film.  Given that I’ve been reading about monsters and horror non-stop over break, my mind started playing with the movie in light of what I’ve been reading, and I jotted down some thoughts earlier.  So, here’s what will probably be a fairly short little post on Escape Room.  I’m not one for rating or grading movies, so while I won’t give it a rating, I’ll say it’s an interesting example of a horror archetype we’ve been seeing a lot of recently, and it’s a genuinely engaging film with (my favorite!) mostly likable characters!  As such, I highly suggest you check it out.  But…I’m no good at writing without spoilers, so those will inevitably follow this paragraph.  Beware!! 

Continue reading “Escaping the Atypical Monster in Escape Room”
Escaping the Atypical Monster in Escape Room

Objects of Abjection: The Mad Monster in Stephen King’s Misery

Misery book 1I read Stephen King’s Misery earlier this summer for my comprehensive exams.  Then, I let the book rest for a while and didn’t do much with it.  It juxtaposes fascinatingly with the film, which depicts an Annie Wilkes who’s incredibly true to King’s story, courtesy of the monumentally talented Kathy Bates.  And, like the film, it explores concepts like female madness, and madness depicted as monstrosity, but in more depth than the film does.  Wilkes is at least a somewhat complex character who King—and his protagonist, Paul Sheldon—come close to virtually humanizing at times, despite her atrocious actions.  But the fact remains: Annie Wilkes is a madwoman, and she’s depicted as a monstrous madwoman.  I thought I’d use this post to look at more of Annie’s personality, and what the madwoman—and the monster woman—is, if we take Annie as an example of both.  So, let’s do this. Continue reading “Objects of Abjection: The Mad Monster in Stephen King’s Misery”

Objects of Abjection: The Mad Monster in Stephen King’s Misery

Cruisin’ With Christine: Attack of the Monster Car

Christine Oen
Christine before the fix-up

A few nights ago, I decided to enjoy a little casual viewing of a horror classic.  Christine, the story of the monster car, is a horror staple that, with a well-written script and believable characters, delivers ample entertainment without ever really terrifying the viewer—at least, if the viewer is me.  Because Christine doesn’t situate itself in the realm of the typical horror movie, rife with ghouls and vampires and traditional monsters of all sorts.  Christine – if you don’t know this, and you probably do – is about a vicious, killer car with unusual superpowers.  I chose the film, as I’ve insinuated, because I think it’s a fun watch for a low-key night – nothing as scary, say, as watching Sinister.  And unsurprisingly, as I watched the film, a few thoughts came to mind that made me ponder. Continue reading “Cruisin’ With Christine: Attack of the Monster Car”

Cruisin’ With Christine: Attack of the Monster Car

How We Construct the Monster: Thoughts on Evil Genius, Parts One and Two

Evil Genius OneWhoa.  I’m writing for my blog.  Gasp.  What a strange phenomenon this is—something I haven’t had time to do for months.  I almost forget how.  How do I start?  What do I say?  Gahhhh!!! The pressure weighs on me so.  (Searching brain for an apt metaphor to describe this feeling – coming up with nothing).  This blog-writing business is, indeed, a weird sensation, after such a long hiatus.  It is, loosely stated, my summer vacation, and so I have time to write again.  But having not written recreationally in quite some time, the task seems a little daunting.  Of course, I write papers all the time, but blog-writing is a different beast, all together.  Still, like I said, it’s my sorta-summer vacation (I still have lots to do) and Michael and I sat down earlier today to watch the first two episodes of Evil Genius.  The show got me to thinking… … …so I decided to take a break after the first two episodes to write about it.  Continue reading “How We Construct the Monster: Thoughts on Evil Genius, Parts One and Two”

How We Construct the Monster: Thoughts on Evil Genius, Parts One and Two

Evil is as Evil Does: Five of Horror’s Vilest Villains

Deadpool Freddy TwoIn a rare turn of events, I got off work early today (woo-hoo!) and had to decide how to occupy my time.  I was thinking about a post I could write without re-reading anything, or re-watching anything – so I could just start writing for the sake of writing, and get a post up today before my plans tonight.  And it occurred to me that while I’ve talked about evil a lot on this blog, there is a rich pantheon of evil horror characters I’ve never discussed.

One thing is for certain: not all villains are made alike, and not all behave similarly.  I thought about this when considering the difference, in Star Wars, between a Vader and a Palpatine.  Vader becomes pure evil, but he becomes evil because he falls; the prequels tell us that he was once the promising Jedi, Annakin Skywalker.  And ultimately, Vader is redeemed.  Palpatine, on the other hand, is more or less bad to the bone, as the cliché song goes.  So I started thinking about all the evil horror characters who are insane, who are sympathetic, who have at least strands of humanity that sometimes surmount the darkness and show themselves a bit.  And then, I thought of the horror characters that don’t have any of that – no really human tendencies, no back story, few redeeming qualities.  For the purposes of this post, these are the characters I’ll label “truly evil,” and I’ve chosen five of them.  I couldn’t put these five characters in order, because they’re all pretty damn malicious, but here’s the list, nonetheless, with my explanation: My five favorite truly evil horror characters: Continue reading “Evil is as Evil Does: Five of Horror’s Vilest Villains”

Evil is as Evil Does: Five of Horror’s Vilest Villains

Of Monsters and Men in The Shape of Water

shape of water twoIt is a truth well-known – well known to would-be writers, to stressed humanities students, to anyone who writes or blogs – that some projects seem more formidable, more demanding than others.  For me, some are also more exciting than others.  What I am about to attempt – the film analysis, if I can call it that – that I’m about to write, sits at that complex nexus of those two statuses, at the point of conjuncture between tantalizing and daunting.  All of that is, of course, a credit to the film I’m about to write about, a film that re-configures the monstrous and re-imagines the monster movie with delicate, aesthetic aplomb and attempts to alter, completely, what “monster” means – what it means to be a monster, to be close to the monster, and to use the term “monster” at all.  Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water inspires me with a sort of excitement and terror, because there’s so much to write about in this rich, innovative film, but because I’m writing about such a unique piece, I want to proceed carefully and, to quote Aerosmith, “I don’t wanna miss a thing.”  In some strange ways, I suppose it is far easier to write about a mediocre movie than a really fantastic film, especially when some time has passed, when one is afraid – if that one is me – that she’ll forget critical parts of this film.  Which is all to say that I write this piece three days after seeing The Shape of Water and I write with the personal belief, as a student of film and “the monster,” so called, that this film’s probably doing more than I can write gracefully and cohesively about in one blog post.  Nevermind that; I take this project seriously enough that writing about The Shape of Water has been nagging at me since I saw it, infiltrating all of my free moments, and so I’ll give it a try.  And I’ll start by saying The Shape of Water was nothing like what I expected it to be, and it’s a really phenomenal film – one that says surprising, complex things about what it means to be a monster. (P.S.: Spoilers to follow) Continue reading “Of Monsters and Men in The Shape of Water”

Of Monsters and Men in The Shape of Water