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February 05, 2011


Ken MacLeod



Incubi and Succubi?


Tempting, but werewolves are traditionally a country/city thing - it's about being lost in the wilderness, surrounded by rural folk. DELIVERANCE and DOG SOLDIERS aren't that far apart.


Isn't it possessed people? The family in The Exorcist looks to be fairly middle class, as does Damien in The Omen and Jack Torrance in The Shining.


My attempt at explanation. Zombies are always the other. Likewise the proles. They're out there but you don't know any personally and you can't imagine what it's like to want the things they seem to want (i.e. brains or jellied eels). Possession, on the other hand, is something that might happen to you. Like insanity, or insolvency, or losing your nice professional job. It's all too imaginable.


Ooh, nice. Haunted houses might factor in there too - is there anything more fundamentally middle-class than the desire for home ownership even though it might eat you?


Wait, it's coming ...

... the re-possessed house.


Yes - property that betrays you, a la poltergeist, because it was built on a native American graveyard. Location, location, location!


I think you can make a case for the werewolf as a symbol of the way life within the bourgeoisie represses the natural instinct, which then has to find its release. For some, it's hanging around with young girls and buying a motorcycle, for others its turning into a fur covered killing machine every four weeks before returning to normality.

Let's face it, if given a choice between lycanthropy and the golf club, which would you choose?


Frankenstein's Monster?


Middle class monster? Paul Dacre, surely.

(Well he scares the shite out of me, anyway...)

Chris Williams

Lycanthropy _at_ the golf club? By the way, Pratchett is particularly good on aristocratic vampires.

belle le triste

The middleclass monster is man himself.

Him or aliens.


The vampire classification could be developed a bit as well. You've got your aspiration to become a vampire as in True Blood, or perhaps Interview with a Vampire. Joining the elite is a matter of adopting elite values. But then you've got your smart, capable people who aspire to join an elite, or perhaps even best them, but who in the end get shafted because it turns out that they don't really understand the rules. Movies with this theme aren't explicitly vampire movies but they do feature wealthy predators in mansions. I'm thinking of the slightly dodgy Eyes Wide Shut, or The Skeleton Key.


For some, it's turning round young girls on to the fur covered killing machine, forever, and not hanging about until others return to buy them normal motorcycles.


"The middle class monster is man himself."

As in "the monster among us"? Serial killers and variations thereof (e.g., "Kiss the Girls")?

Richard J

I'm thinking Stepford Wife/Pod People-style variants on the Aggressive Haegomonising Collectives, or whatever Iain M Banks' phrase was.


Mr Hyde?


Jekyl/Hyde. Though again is more fear of being turned into something else. I think your problem here is that horror is largely written for the middle classes.


The Golem - a domestic servant run amok.


The doppelganger, as in Dostoyevsky's "The Double". The fear is that (1) your life is so bourgeois that nobody notices when you get replaced, or (2) you're so boring that they prefer the new person anyway.


What's the middle class pursuit? Commerce. So who's the middle class monster? The dealer in souls himself - the aspirational travelling salesman, Old Nick.


"So what's the middle-class monster? "

Hannibal Lecter? I'll go with Jekyll/Hyde, though. Outward respectability, inner monster. The subversion of professional aspiration. Dr. Harold Shipman.


No, Lecter's upper-class; basically a vampire type, dodgy Old Europe background and everything.

I like Jekyll and Hyde, though. I think the point is that the working-class monsters (ghosts or zombies) become monsters through no fault of their own, and the aristo monsters (vampires) become monsters through their bloodline, but the bourgeois monsters become monsters through their own ambition and folly. The bourgeois, you see, have agency. The aristos just have tradition, and the masses are just leaves in the winds of history.

Which is another aspect of the selling-your-soul story; you're doing it for worldly gain, and you don't realise what a stupid idea it is because your risk horizon is too short. And the guy on the other end of the deal is brighter than you and does you over.

Very bourgeois.


Werewolves are egalitarian horror; the potential is within everyone. It's no accident that they're associated with the North.

I wonder if zombies aren't actually more like D^2's arsehole tendency - the reactionary mob. Central Security promised them brains, so they turned out. In the last reel the military show up and shoot them in the head after they've served their purpose.

Vampires can be aristocratic, but they make a good allegory of capitalism as well. They're here to drink our blood. They have a certain style and some people will always aspire to join them...in drinking everyone else's blood. Because they can't drink each other, they must always seek new markets...

Serial killers are the skilled working class/scholarship boy element - permanently slightly out of place and really keen on their side projects and shiny gadgets.

I like the haunted house as a fundamentally middle-class form of horror. No wonder it was cheap...

What about the Lovecraft mythos? What class is Cthulhu?

Richard J

I'm not sure the petty squabbling concerns of humanity matter to Cthulhu. To him, we are all food.


However, here's an example of crossing the boundaries. These zombies/arseholes were promised apartments, and now they've discovered that they're just zombies after all.


To him, we are all food.

Capitalism, again. But he has followers, remember.

Richard J

Which makes Economics Departments "men of a very low, mixed-blooded, and mentally aberrant type", I think.

(God, he was a charmer, wasn't he.)


Cthulhu's a Marxist sort of a monster: huge and impersonal and ineluctable. Doesn't matter what you as an individual do or say or believe, you're going to get squashed anyway when the stars are right. Not even eaten; the point about Cthulhu is that he doesn't care about humans, not even as food. He has his own motives and goals that mere humans could never understand. Our getting squashed is just an unintended side-effect.


Werewolves are egalitarian horror; the potential is within everyone. It's no accident that they're associated with the North.

Are they? I always thought of them as more Germanic.


I think that counts? A sort of well-organised, egalitarian society with a lot of wooden buildings, dark forests, blonde hair, beer, Protestants, and a past of absolutely nightmarish, genocidal violence, paranoia, and devastation.


Also, the rise of the machines/the Frankenstein story. What could be more bourgeois than being eaten by your own brilliant labour-saving invention?


Being replaced, I think, rather than being eaten.

Though a lot of the rise-of-the-machines stories also have overtones of proles/slaves revolting against their bosses.


Replaced, or transcended. The robot is posher than you'll ever be. (This could also be to do with your kids. There's a subgenre of horror movies where the monsters are your children. Come to think of it, the little girl in The Exorcist's dad is a career diplomat.)

Chris Williams

Steptford Wives raising Midwitch Cuckoos.


While you work away at United Fish Oil, or whatever the company name was in The Day of the Triffids, or the EBC from The Kraken Wakes.

The answer with John Wyndham is that it's the whole of society. The answer with J.G. Ballard is that it's *you* - you already are the monster.


My favourite part about the Day of the Triffids is the explanation for the triffids' origin. I suspect that this was glossed over in the film, but in the book it's made quite clear that they were the result of a Soviet breeding programme, aimed at making oil-bearing crop plants that could grow in the harsh conditions of Siberia - a classic example of the dangers of writing too vague a project spec.

"Well, Comrade Director, here are our three most promising cultivars. A-62 will survive down to minus 12, and produces 450 litres of oil per hectare - when given adequate nitrogenous fertiliser supplements. A-71 is hardier - it can survive down to minus 20 and doesn't require artificial fertiliser - but it only produces 380 litres per hectare."
"Not good enough, Comrade Academician. The Plan calls for 400 litres per hectare as a minimum."
"Well, there's also A-90. It produces 470 litres per hectare, doesn't require fertiliser and survives down to minus 18. However, it does also have a slight tendency to hunt and kill agricultural workers..."
"And so?"
"...which I suppose doesn't matter too much in the broad scheme of things. A-90 for full rate production, then, Comrade Director?"
"I'm glad you see it my way, Alexei Nikolayevich. Na zdorovye."


So write in the official records that you produced 400, and pay somebody else either for the excess or to believe it.


Or just threaten to feed them to the triffids.

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