Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Halloween and a theory of fundamental evil

Just in the past few days I saw the new 2018 Halloween with Jamie Lee Curtis, and directed by David Gordon Green,  and while much has been made about the survivor trauma aspect of the film (and as a bi product of our “Me Too” climate), there were a number of layered themes to be found. The review by our friend John Kenneth Muir set off of train of thought about the film that left me mulling over a number of issues. Let’s address the major changes, the dispensing of all of the established mythology that began with Halloween II in 1980. Laurie is no longer a relation of Meyers, which re-directs to focus on the idea that The Shape has no motive; the film also avoids humanizing him, a mistake that even Rob Zombie made with his re-imaging. Thus, the audience is forced to ponder something a little deeper. One thought came to mind where I flash backwards to Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight, when Alfred shared a story to Bruce which lead to him describing The Joker as someone who just wanted to ‘see the world burn’. Watching Halloween left me with the inkling of the same idea about The Shape / Boogieman / Michael Meyer, that he too just wanted to ‘see the world burn’, that Michael’s interest in watching his victims in their final moments of writhing agony, this child like curiosity in their final moments, might not represent anything most people understand as anything ‘rational’, but could just be the desire to ‘see the world burn’. He, like the Joker, just is.

We cling to notions of morality, or understanding psychosis through diagnosis, or the accepted rule of justice, to explain something that simply exists, that can’t be correlated or defined. Thus is the basis for an idea that I am coining; ‘fundamental evil’, that evil is something that is tangible and concrete, and there’s a very small percentage of individuals throughout history, aberrations that truly fit my working definition of the term ‘fundamental evil’. The working definition of ‘fundamental’ is ‘serving as a basis supporting existence or determining essential structure or function’, and ‘evil’ as in ‘willful harm’. Of course, The X-Files explored the same theme or tenant of fundamental evil in such episodes like “Irresistible”, but the series Millennium was very specific in dealing with this theme, for example, the season two episode “Monster”.

But the uncomfortable truth is, Fundamental evil cannot be negotiated with, it cannot be reasoned with, it has to be obliterated, either through psychical violence, or the destruction of the ideals it espouses. There have been figures from Caligula to Adolph Hitler, and onward, that I would define as representing ‘fundamental evil’. 

Yet the Halloween film in fact offers up ideas about the solution over how to overcome it, FAIR WARNING (Spoilers), but one has to recognize it, and get past hubris, and preconceived notions, before one can face it and redefine the terms to defeat it. Laurie Strode resets the terms in her preparation to defeat Michael, while others insist on finding a rational motive or explanations for his actions. Those who insist on finding ‘the answer’ do so with fatal results. Other’s see Laurie as someone who has created a prison, due to her trauma, and she is characterized as unstable, ridiculed for her obsession, and she has been ostracized by her daughter, and kept at bay with her granddaughter. But it is often those who can see the forest through the trees that can see something for what is it.

Let’s look at the theme of something being predestined for a moment, the back story about Laurie and Michael having no sibling connection does refocus their relationship, but it also implies a notion, an inkling that there’s some kind of psychic connection, or predetermined fate that leads back to their encounter. This might be nothing more than the fact she was the one victim that got away. One visual motif that opens the film suggest a related idea, in the yard sequence with the chained inmates where Michael stands mute, there’s a checkered pattern. Which one could read as ‘whom is playing whom’, either a game a checkers or chess, and this mirrors the themes at the end. Is everything predestined, or is that fate determined by one’s actions, or fate based on wish fulfillment ? Your choice in that point of view, might help decide how one can defeat this fundamental evil.

The desire to find a rational answer to Michael Meyers past actions leads two misguided bloggers / journalists to not only seek out Michael, and insist on an explanation over his actions, which leads to their brutal demise. Michael’s psychologist Dr. Sartain, ‘the new Loomis’ as Laurie calls him, not only goes so far to defend him, but kills a police officer to gleam an understanding of what the kill must feel like, only to have Sartain face a grim demise when the shape refuses to offer an answer . The hubris of all three characters assume there’s something left that is human, but fundamentalist evil operates on its own set of rules.

Laurie, in spite of the troubles she has faced with her daughter and grand-daughter and has grown to understand all too well that such evil works outside the bounds of convention, and she sets up a profound trap that evades understanding to those who cling to convention.

The prey has become the hunter, but the motive is to fight for her family, whereas the shape just kills for selfish reasons and to perpetuate the desire to ‘see the world burn’. The final moments of Halloween enforces the truth about such fundamentalist evil. Laurie has set up a series of ingenious traps throughout her home to isolate Meyers, and even misdirects him to the basement, while seeing her family to safety. While the shape is burning in that basement, it utters no screams for mercy; it remains mute and unapologetic for its nature. This level of evil works outside the bounds of reason, one has to set the terms to a new adjustment to deal with this evil.

It seems fitting that this film would come out at one of the most heightened and unstable periods of society, both in the United States and the globe when you consider the uptake in right wing nationalism. Fundamental Evil shrouds the truth, it misdirects, and indulges people to engage in relativist arguments, and make false equivalent points. I have seen countless examples of people in the last few years that have intellectually contorted themselves into arguing that something right in front of their eyes isn’t happening. They have deconstructed mythology and archetypes, and revised past social history to suite their present agenda, and often all for the sake of clouding the issue of right or wrong. Often hiding their head in the sand to ignore what is self evident – it is folly to do so, and will lead to their demise.

Evil is unrelenting, due to its true nature it doesn’t blink, but Fundamental evil grows like a cancer, and it’s ripple effect continues long after its impact is seen. Very often, trauma creates new forms of traumas in other areas. We are reaching a period where we will have to create those very traps that Laurie understands, I don’t know what such traps will be, or the solution myself, but we might want to consider being very clear eyed and hardened for what will be needed to face which we have to face.

Films like Halloween might be a timely blessing at the moment; all story telling can often be a tool to help navigate the world we live in. These warnings might need to be heeded.