Every period in history has its own demons, monsters and cursed places, reflections of their worst nightmares and fears. Looking to the shows of the present day, what can we tell about the dark side of our postmodern society?
Knowledge would be fatal. It is the uncertainty that charms one. A mist makes things wonderful. – Oscar Wilde
In the XIX century, Mary Shelley was, on the surface, afraid of the unstoppable development of science; but at the core of her fears was the indefinite, that which has not visible limits. The basic concepts of previous centuries were falling apart, and the Victorian society appeared like a world lost in the middle of the London fog.
Instead, our time is disappearing under the intense flow of immense information networks, a light of “rational knowledge” that disperses all the mist. Demons, like us, are victims of the chronic overexposure of our present. There won’t be more witches hidden in the night.
This is a blog about TV, so let’s talk about that. Think about American Horror Story for example: in Ryan Murphy’s show the fears of the American society are all mixed in a fragmentary and multireferential text that could be use as a encyclopedia of postcapitalist anxieties: sex and STDs (Rubber Man), money (the gay couple who hate each other but live together because they can’t afford anything else), narcissism (Elsa Mars), dysfunctional families (so many…), marginalization (the base of the third and fourth seasons), etc.
The horror that AHS brings to our screens is not about witches, ghosts, haunted houses or evil nuns, is about the inherent degradation of repetition. We understand our fears, we can make lists or seasons about them, we know their origins, their historical development, etc., but we can not escape them. In a world that worship the instant there is no tomorrow and, thus, no resolution.
AHS is not the only case in television: Penny Dreadful and its blend of Victorian culture, True Blood with its mythological creatures or even the self-conscious horror in Helix, aren’t just a collection of cultural references about fantasy and horror; they are the light that clears the mist of uncertainty. But this time this light is burning us.
There is a character in Penny Dreadful that perfectly embodies this phenomenon: Mr. Dorian Gray. The greatest fear of this eternally young dandy is not how corrupted his life is, but actually seeing it. Neither the blood nor the wound but the picture.
Although is not about horror, The Booth at the End shows another contemporary fear: that all our networks, knowledge and connections are just a weak spiderweb, that there is something behind that we would never be able to fully manipulate or even understand: the uncanny. The always present but never seen shadow of a memory, something that has always been there but we can’t remember.
The punishment from the Gods, death or Frankenstein aren’t our fears anymore: the real trauma of our time is being aware of being afraid.
The Homecoming Queen