TV Tropes: Eldritch Abomination

Oh crap

Oh crap

 

ELDRITCH ABOMINATION (TV TROPES)

I concluded in my previous post (Our Monsters Are Different) that eventually you get to the really weird and fantastic supernatural beings and creatures – but after that you get to this trope, the eldritch abomination. (I’m pretty sure that no one used the word eldritch until H. P. Lovecraft adopted it as his adjective of choice – or dark necessity). And once you get to this trope, you are beyond all help or hope – beyond even prayer, as this abomination drives the gods into hiding from it, or disproves them with its very existence.

 

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The eldritch abomination is the Other, the Alien, the Inconceivable – a being so mindbendingly beyond our very senses and sanity that our brains all but bleed out our eyes at the wrongness of it all. The eldritch abomination is “defined by its disregard for the natural laws of the universe as we understand them” (or at least, as we want to understand them). They are “grotesque mockeries of reality beyond comprehension whose disturbing otherness can not be comprehended in any mortal tongue” or be seen and remain sane – or even worse, “reality itself warps around them”.

 

Cthulhu

 

The primary example is of course the ‘Cthulhu Mythos’ of H. P. Lovecraft, ranging upwards from various alien races such as the Deep Ones, the Elder Things, the Great Race of Yith and the Mi-Go (or Fungi from Yuggoth) through shoggoths (Oh dear God – not the shoggoths!) to the cosmic horror of the Great Old Ones or Outer Gods – Great Cthulhu himself (itself?), Azathoth, Yog-Sothoth, Shub-Niggurath (or the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young) and Nyarlothotep (or the Crawling Chaos)…

TV Tropes: Our Monsters Are Different

Fantasy art by Luis Royo

Fantasy art by Luis Royo

 

OUR MONSTERS ARE DIFFERENT (TV TROPES)

 

This index of tropes celebrates the diverse range of supernatural (or pseudo-supernatural) beings and creatures that populate the world of fantasy, generally originating from mythology or folklore. As the title indicates, they tend to have characteristics that define them as particular beings and creatures (even if occasionally in name only), but may otherwise have different characteristics from setting to setting.

 

 

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Vampires are a good case in point. They tend to have some characteristics that define them as a vampire – typically a hunger or need for blood (or life force or something else equally as vital, so even that’s variable), but they can vary so widely for other characteristics. Take sunlight – does it kill them? In a fiery explosion? Or does it just weaken them or force them into dormancy? Or have any effect at all? Or an effect that depends on other factors, like the age of the vampire? (Or worst of all, does it make them sparkle?)

Rinse and repeat with any other vampire characteristic. I have a soft spot for the obsessive compulsive disorders of vampires in European folklore – like the Count in Sesame Street on crack. You could stop them with a pile of seeds or some similar small objects, which they would not be able to resist picking up and counting. Of course, you can see why this rarely translates into cinematic or televised format, as it would make confronting Dracula or slaying vampires much less dramatic or interesting.

Speaking of vampires, despite a whole range of supernatural beings or creatures, the world of fantasy in film and television often seems to be dominated by the holy (or unholy) trinity of standard horror – vampires, werewolves and zombies. For that matter, werewolves would seem to come a distant third to the leading duo of vampires and zombies. I tend to think that this is because they are so readily replicated by human actors with minimal effects, as opposed to more fantastic creatures – but also because they so readily symbolize aspects of the human condition. I remember reading (in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction) that they each tend to symbolize (or embody fearful stereotypes of) one of the three social classes – vampires as the aristocratic and exploitative (or decadent) upper class, werewolves as the middle class (dare I say it, in a dog-eat-dog competitive world and only able to ‘wolf’ it up in occasional periods of leisure) and zombies as the mindless masses of the lower class

 

Vampirella by Amanda Conner

Vampirella by Amanda Conner

 

As much as I love all three of these (and particularly vampire girls), there’s a whole range of other fantasy beings and creatures out there, as demonstrated by the index of tropes. Some are almost as standard – demons and ghosts, dragons and giants, dwarves and elves (or other ‘fair folk’), even angels and gods. Others are more exotic – the index also gives special feature to trolls, skeletons, banshees, centaurs, cryptids, gargoyles, genies, ghouls, goblins, gnomes, gryphons, homunculi, liches, mermaids, ogres, orcs, spirits, titans and wights. And then you get to the really weird and fantastic beings and creatures…

Devil’s Dictionary: Puritanism

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DEVIL’S DICTIONARY: PURITANISM

“Puritanism – the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy”

Not quite Ambrose Bierce, but close – H.L. Mencken. A more modern version might refer to fundamentalism – and to the fear that someone, somewhere may be having fun. Can’t have that now, can we?

Sigh.

“What ailed us o gods to desert you, for creeds that refuse and restrain?”

Devil’s Dictionary: Scriptures

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DEVIL’S DICTIONARY: SCRIPTURES

Scriptures – the sacred books of our holy religion, as distinguished from the false and profane writings on which all other faiths are based”

Indeed – many wars of religion (or heresies or schisms) are wars of literary interpretation (or theory)…

I have a soft spot for Robert Anton Wilson’s mantra to live by – “I could be wrong”. The world might be a better place if we all remembered that in arguments or disputes (or even if we just remembered that mantra to write by – show, not tell). A little doubt is a wonderful thing! (And as you know, I believe in the god of doubt).

Try adopting different books – fiction and non-fiction – as your Old and New Testaments, for example the Iliad and Odyssey. (Actually, that seems quite a close parallel – a hymn of battle and a song of homecoming or redemption). Or David Attenborough’s Life on Earth and Desmond Morris’ The Human Animal, perhaps? Just remember regular spring-cleaning for new scriptures when the old ones get too dusty…

 

 

TV Tropes: Chainmail Bikini

Red Sonja, the definitive wearer of the chainmail bikini, demonstrating one of its drawbacks...

Red Sonja, the definitive wearer of the chainmail bikini, demonstrating one of its drawbacks…

 

THE DRAWBACKS OF A CHAINMAIL BIKINI (TV TROPES)

A common trope of visual depictions of women in fantasy, and to some extent science fiction or other even other genres, the chainmail bikini is ‘armor’ or garb worn into adventure or combat bears little resemblance to any real life function for protection or utility, but instead bares as much as possible for sex appeal.

 

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Of course, it doesn’t necessarily have to be chainmail, but it does have to be a bikini or similar sexy design.

Ironically, this trope is at least as old as classical history, where it was characteristically applied to male warriors, except obviously more as leather loincloth than chainmail bikini, for the same titillating purposes of aesthetics or popular entertainment. The armor of Roman gladiators was designed for entertainment value rather than protective function, deliberately leaving large parts of the wearer’s body exposed (and preferably oiled). The classical Greeks went even further in their artistic depictions of their warriors, typically depicting them nude. The Spartans in 300 may have seemed more like an abs workout class than a combat unit, but they were positively overdressed compared to the naked depictions in Greek art. Of course, both Greeks and Romans were well armored for actual combat. Interestingly, the Celts are reputed to have fought naked, to demonstrate their courage and intimidate their enemies (Armor? That’s for pussies!) – but then the Celts didn’t tend to do too well against the armored and drilled Roman of the late republic and empire.

 

"And to hear the lamentations of their women"?

“And to hear the lamentations of their women”?

 

That trope has continued in the modern cinematic age with shirtless loincloth-clad fantasy heroes, from ‘sword-and-sandal’ movies through Conan (and similar ‘sword-and-sorcery’ heroic fantasy) even to post-apocalyptic barbarians.

 

Because only leather fetish clothing stores will survive the coming apocalypse

Because only leather fetish clothing stores will survive the coming apocalypse

 

Of course, the only way this trope would work in any functional combat sense is through fantasy magical protection (such as runes or tattoos on the skin) or perhaps some form of advanced technology (deflector shields). Personally I’d like to see someone take it to the logical extreme with some type of tantric combat magic that operates the less you wear or the more sexual your ‘armor’. That would make for interesting fetishist battle scenes – with anything goes from bikinis and G-strings, bodysuits and body paint, leather and latex, stockings and suspenders, chaps and boots…like the Rio Carnival declaring war on the Mardi Gras or a beach declaring war on a redlight district (or – ah – many actual superhero comics?)

 

Yes, that's her actual armor

Yes, that’s her actual armor

 

 

 

 

 

Republic vs Empire – 10 Ways Star Wars is Millennia Older Than You Think: (10) Star Wars is the Chinese Civil War and Boxer Rebellion in Space?

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REPUBLIC VS EMPIRE – 10 WAYS STAR WARS IS MILLENNIA OLDER THAN YOU THINK: (10) STAR WARS IS THE CHINESE CIVIL WAR AND BOXER REBELLION IN SPACE?

 

While we’re on the theme of Communist Rebels, there is an even closer military parallel to Star Wars – the Communists against the Nationalists in the Chinese Civil War. As we’re previously seen, the actual war in Star Wars is not so much a conventional war – like the pitched naval and aerial battles of the Pacific War it visually resembles – but a civil war. Even as a civil war, the Galactic Civil War does not so much resemble the fighting in the American Civil War, between combatants in clearly defined territories, but more the Chinese Civil War – with the Rebellion as the Communists (as well as sundry bandits and warlords) fighting the Empire as the Nationalist regime from underground or remote provinces.

 

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In both Star Wars and the Chinese Civil War, the Communist Rebellion did so from the necessity of material inferiority to their opponent – indeed, in The Empire Strikes Back, the Rebellion mirrors their comrades in the Chinese Civil War on the run from their opponent, with the retreat to Hoth as the Rebellion’s Long March. Unlike the Rebellion however, the Communists owed their reversal of fortune thereafter to foreign intervention, particularly the Imperial Japanese Army which conveniently weakened the Nationalist regime for them. Like the Rebellion and the Empire in Star Wars, both the Communists and Nationalists claimed descent and legitimacy from the original Chinese Republic. And again it doesn’t take too much to see the Jedi as communist revolutionary ideologues (Yoda as Mao, perhaps?).

 

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The Jedi (and Sith) can also be traced back to deeper Chinese parallels. Although they are most clearly derived from samurai in Japanese cinema, they can also be identified with magical kung fu masters, particularly temple-based martial arts, like Shaolin monks – quite frankly, it would be interesting to explore all the different styles of Jedi or Sith akin to the different styles of kung fu or martial arts. A Drunken Jedi Master would be particularly awesome.

 

"Use the booze, Luke"

“Use the booze, Luke”

 

For that matter, the Jedi are basically practitioners of magical Taoism – the Force is essentially the Tao. (However, we’ve already seen the same can’t be said for the Taoist influenced Art of War in Star Wars). So an even better Chinese parallel to the Jedi-led Rebellion in Star Wars would be the Boxer Rebellion in the Chinese Empire, but instead of the Jedi, there were the much cooler named Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists or Boxers. They too claimed magical force or supernatural power – particularly invulnerability to bullets, much like the Jedi seem to catch or deflect laser fire (as if it was a ball or something). Needless to say, they lost. Funnily enough, the Boxers were actually fighting for the purity of the Chinese Empire against foreign imperial armies (the almost as cool sounding Eight Nation Alliance of Britain, Russia, the United States, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy and Japan), which found rare solidarity with each other in curb stomping the Chinese Empire and the Boxers.

 

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REBELLION VS EMPIRE

In history, the Chinese Communists eventually won the Civil War, although unlike Palpatine, the Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-Shek survived to flee with his regime to thrive on the island of Taiwan. Meanwhile, the Chinese Communists again killed millions before finding out they liked making money more than pure ideological communism. On the other hand, the Boxer Rebellion shared the fate of all those who try to win wars by magic – they lost, which is also what should have happened to the Jedi in Star Wars. So this one goes to the Empire

SCORE – REPUBLIC 4 EMPIRE 6 (THE EMPIRE WINS!)

 

REPUBLIC VS EMPIRE: 10 WAYS STAR WARS IS MILLENNIA OLDER THAN YOU THINK

(1) STAR WARS IS PLATO’S REPUBLIC IN SPACE!

(2) STAR WARS IS THE ROMAN EMPIRE IN SPACE!

(3) STAR WARS IS NAZI GERMANY IN SPACE!

(4) STAR WARS IS THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION IN SPACE!

(5) STAR WARS IS IMPERIAL JAPAN IN SPACE!

(6) STAR WARS IS THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH IN SPACE?

(7) STAR WARS IS THE NAPOLEONIC EMPIRE IN SPACE?

(8) STAR WARS IS THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR IN SPACE?

(9) STAR WARS IS THE SOVIET UNION IN SPACE

(10) STAR WARS IS THE CHINESE CIVIL WAR AND BOXER REBELLION IN SPACE?

Republic vs Empire – 10 Ways Star Wars is Millennia Older Than You Think: (9) Star Wars is the Soviet Union in Space?

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REPUBLIC VS EMPIRE – 10 WAYS STAR WARS IS MILLENNIA OLDER THAN YOU THINK: (9) STAR WARS IS THE SOVIET UNION IN SPACE?

 

The Rebels are commies! There – I said it. Its elite space flying squadron even called itself Red Squadron, leading the attack on both Imperial Death Stars – with Luke Skywalker as Red Leader for the first attack.

 

I understand that Lucas actually did intend a parallel with the military pageantry of the Soviet Union – albeit to the visual imagery of the Empire. Of course that parallel overlapped (and was overshadowed by) with the parallel to Nazi Germany, but then the Nazis and Soviets tended to borrow totalitarian chic from each other. Life then imitated art, with President Reagan more than returning the homage to Lucas by styling the Soviet Union as the ‘evil empire’ (and his anti-missile strategic defence initiative as ‘Star Wars’).

 

DeathStar_full

 

However, the reverse – the Rebellion as the communist Soviet Union – is just as easy to argue, with a little alternative reinterpretation of the Star Wars series as Rebel propaganda about their “fascist” and “imperialist” opponent (two favorite communist slurs). After all, many of the rebellions in the twentieth century were communist (including the Vietnam War, which had ended in communist victory shortly before Star Wars). Like the Rebel Alliance, the Soviet Union itself was born in rebellion or revolution against an actual empire – the Russian Empire of the Tsar. Yes, technically the communists led a second revolution against the republic from the first revolution against the Tsar, equally the communists were one of the republican parties in that first revolution – part of a Rebel Alliance as it were. And it doesn’t take too much to see the Jedi as fanatical vanguard ideologues like the Bolsheviks, denigrating their opponents as counter-revolutionary or revisionist Sith – just substitute their mastery of the Force with the mastery of the forms of historical materialism. (And so we come full circle to Plato’s Republic, of which the Soviet Union was another incarnation).

 

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So Star Wars can be seen as Tsar Wars – the Russian Revolution and Civil War, with the Rebel Alliance as the victorious Red Army and the ‘Empire’ as their imperial opponents, the White Army (with the white uniforms of Imperial Russia matching the white Imperial stormtroopers). Of course, Rebel propagandists gloss over the subsequent purges and the Jedi Party dictatorship (not to mention that the full title of the Galactic Republic was the Galactic Union of Soviet Socialist Republics)…

 

SOVIET REPUBLIC VS RUSSIAN EMPIRE

 

The Soviets may have won the Russian Civil War, but killed millions and lost the Cold War – besides, they’re commies, so I’m giving the moral victory to the Empire.

 

REPUBLIC VS EMPIRE: 10 WAYS STAR WARS IS MILLENNIA OLDER THAN YOU THINK

(1) STAR WARS IS PLATO’S REPUBLIC IN SPACE!

(2) STAR WARS IS THE ROMAN EMPIRE IN SPACE!

(3) STAR WARS IS NAZI GERMANY IN SPACE!

(4) STAR WARS IS THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION IN SPACE!

(5) STAR WARS IS IMPERIAL JAPAN IN SPACE!

(6) STAR WARS IS THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH IN SPACE?

(7) STAR WARS IS THE NAPOLEONIC EMPIRE IN SPACE?

(8) STAR WARS IS THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR IN SPACE?

(9) STAR WARS IS THE SOVIET UNION IN SPACE

(10) STAR WARS IS THE CHINESE CIVIL WAR AND BOXER REBELLION IN SPACE?

Republic vs Empire – 10 Ways Star Wars is Millennia Older than You Think: (8) Star Wars is the American Civil War in Space?

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REPUBLIC VS EMPIRE – 10 WAYS STAR WARS IS MILLENNIA OLDER THAN YOU THINK: (8) STAR WARS IS THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR IN SPACE?

 

We’ve seen how the Rebellion against the Empire in Star Wars has a certain resonance with the American Revolution, but there’s another Rebellion in American history that’s not so rosy – the rebellion of the Confederacy against the Union in the American Civil War. The Rebel Alliance doesn’t look quite so hot when compared to the Confederacy, does it?

 

And who’s to say it isn’t? It certainly shared the Confederacy’s material inferiority against its adversary and similarly sought to rely on more intangible qualities – allegedly superior martial qualities (and Southern honor) for the Confederacy and the Force for the Rebel Alliance. But what about the moral dimension? Surely one can’t twist the evil Galactic Empire into good guys like the Union – like say, Emperor Palpatine into President Lincoln, Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin into Generals Grant and Sherman, the Death Star into the capture of Atlanta and the march to the sea…wait a moment, that’s exactly how Confederate propagandists, then and since – neo-Confederate historians bemoaning the “Lost Cause” and the “War of Northern Aggression” – have portrayed the Union. It doesn’t take too much to imagine Star Wars as Rebel propaganda in a similar vein against an “imperial” Union hell-bent on preserving national unity at all costs, trampling over “states’ rights” and “freedoms” – as opposed to the actual freedom of slaves.

 

Lincoln Memorial

 

 

But it’s not like there’s slaves in Star Wars? Wait, there totally are slaves in Star Wars. For one thing, there seem to be potentially millions of autonomous intelligent beings enslaved in Star Wars – droids. They seem to have distinctive personalities, indeed often highly emotional ones, with feelings of pain and fear of death. However, I only seem to remember the droids in the Rebel Alliance – the two most developed droid characters, C3PO and R2-D2, were effectively Uncle Tom droids (“Master Luke” indeed!) and house slaves owned by the hero of the Rebellion, Luke Skywalker. Did they get medals like Luke and Han, even though at least R2-D2 repeatedly saved the main cast (not least from being turned into cubes in the Death Star garbage compactor). Luke even gave them as a gift to Jabba the Hutt. Yes, I know it was a ruse, but he still purported to offer them like chattels – not to mention offering up Leia as a sex-slave (to a hermaphrodite space worm!).

 

Princess Leia by J Scott Campbell

Princess Leia by J Scott Campbell

 

Which brings me to my next point – even if we set aside droid slavery, there’s human slavery in Star Wars, which seems to have force of law or at least tolerance from the Republic AND the Jedi. Anakin Skywalker and his mother were slaves – Anakin later famously abandoned his slave name for Darth Vader. Jedi Knight Qui-Gon doesn’t declare Anakin’s emancipation – he effectively buys Anakin by winning a bet. He also leaves Anakin’s mother in slavery. And what do the Jedi, those self-professed guardians of peace and justice in their lavishly financed Temple, do about slavery in the Republic, or on Tatooine, or even just for Anakin’s mother. Nothing. Indeed, Jedi Master Yoda admonishes Anakin for such petty emotional attachments.

 

R2D2

 

So I like to quip that the Rebel Alliance seceded from the Galactic Union (which they slur as the Empire) because of the latter’s stance against droid and human slavery in the Republic. (Not to mention financed their civil war by dealing in alien drugs or ‘spice’ – after all, how exactly do they finance and supply a space navy?). And who better to lead the Union forces against Rebel slavery than that ex-slave Darth Vader, who has assumed a robot appearance in solidarity with the Rebel droid slaves (not, as the Rebel propagandists would have you believe, because of hideous disfigurement and injuries)

 

CONFEDERATE REBELLION VS IMPERIAL UNION

 

This one has to go to the Union…

 

SCORE – REPUBLIC 4 EMPIRE 4

 

REPUBLIC VS EMPIRE: 10 WAYS STAR WARS IS MILLENNIA OLDER THAN YOU THINK

(1) STAR WARS IS PLATO’S REPUBLIC IN SPACE!

(2) STAR WARS IS THE ROMAN EMPIRE IN SPACE!

(3) STAR WARS IS NAZI GERMANY IN SPACE!

(4) STAR WARS IS THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION IN SPACE!

(5) STAR WARS IS IMPERIAL JAPAN IN SPACE!

(6) STAR WARS IS THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH IN SPACE?

(7) STAR WARS IS THE NAPOLEONIC EMPIRE IN SPACE?

(8) STAR WARS IS THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR IN SPACE?

(9) STAR WARS IS THE SOVIET UNION IN SPACE

(10) STAR WARS IS THE CHINESE CIVIL WAR AND BOXER REBELLION IN SPACE?