Walter Mencken 11:31 a.m., Feb. 1
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- Normal Heights Through the Blue and White
No Amount of Candy in the World
Cooling off with a can of Fat Tire after a hard night's racing, I have identified the Runner-Up for the day. Coming as I do form a land where rust never sleeps, seeing old cars with rust free bodies is sort of a joy to me. While I don't approve of cars, I do approve of beautiful things which have lost their place in the world.
As far as the big winner for the day goes, here be dragons:
Single most horrifying Halloween prop ever? If not, damn strong contender to the throne! Imagine the kids trick or treating the house with "Very Scary Doll On real Wood" guarding the front entrance. No amount of candy in the world is worth risking the horrid leer on this babe's face. Seriously, it's eyes are downright hateful. And look at the way the blood's spattered on: is the Devil Baby covered in it's own blood or the blood of its victims? Maybe it had to be nailed there to end the rampage. It's really and truly spooky.
Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever actually seen a Halloween prop that was so bone-chillingly creepy. Halloween props aren't supposed to be actually scary, they're supposed to be campy scary, the scary-that-actually-isn't-scary-because-it's-clearly-trying-to-be-scary kind of scary. It's the un-horror of the known1, the tamed, packaged, department store horror that we can recognize and comprehend. Halloween isn't supposed to actually scare you.
But, hey, maybe it should. Why not? Maybe "Scary Doll Halloween Prop Cemetery" is exactly the kind of spooky we need. Living as we do in a world where fear is de-feared and marketed to ratchet up seasonal shopping trends, perhaps a little blood-curdling, stomach turning horror is just the thing to shake up all the things so badly in need of shaking.
There's a certain take on that which is grotesque which puts a tremendous amount of power in things that transgress normal social mores by forcing the constraints of reality to beyond the bursting point.2 Halloween traditions have their roots in this sort of outpouring of transgressive thought. In the costuming and distortion of the "normal" human figure, in the reveling and festivities, and in the flaunting of that which is socially acceptable. The Halloween masquerade was, in antiquity, a time when social barriers come crashing down and the radical inequality which characterized (and still characterizes) life was, even just temporarily, shaken up a bit. Of course, there is a distinct horror in the whole process of making the world unrecognizable for what it is. The basic idea is that when everything is unbounded, taken to excess, and pushed to the limits of that which is grotesque, the result is simultaneously horrifying and edifying. Gripped in the throes of terror, we become something more than ourselves.
Is this thesis credible? Perhaps, perhaps not. Regardless, the sanitized, fear-less fear of contemporary Halloween is hardly the terrifying, culture shocking, grotesque horror which might or might not level social boundaries. This is where "Scary Doll Halloween Prop Cemetery" comes in. As we look in queasy horror at this tremendously macabre spectacle, we can't help but wonder what Halloween would be like if everything about the holiday had the capacity for gut-wrenching fear that "Scary Doll Halloween Prop Cemetery" so proudly displays, nailed as glaring witness to lost traditions upon its homemade "real Wood cross." Ripped from safety and the control of daily life, what might we learn about ourselves while gripped by primal terror?
Whatever it is, it's highly unlikely that it would involve free candy.
As opposed to the horror of the unknown, that which is truly horrific.
See Mikhail Bahktin's Rabelais and His World for a more authoritative take on this than mine.