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Monday, December 23, 2013

Bigger, Better

Aliens vs. Predator 2 earned a 12% among critics, 31% among viewers, which is pretty amazing considering there really is no human protagonist.  What did the viewers respond to?  It's a very visceral movie--a slightly updated slasher movie with aliens instead of maniacs with knives or chainsaws--with lines that, while expected, still get you.  When Molly sees an alien through the window with her night-vision binocs, she screams, bringing in her parents [quote from IMDB]:
Kelly O'Brien: You know, when I was your age, I used to have these awful nightmares.
Molly: It was real.
Tim: [walks up to window] See? No monster.
[an Alien jumps through the window and attacks Tim]
What would have happened had the daughter been wrong?  We, the viewers, would have been disappointed.  We identify with the girl because we saw the monster, too.  We want the monster.  That's why a hefty third of the viewers enjoyed the movie despite drawbacks--we want something bigger and better than us.  This may be a similar audience to H.P. Lovecraft's universe where the universe, yes, has monsters and yes, they are bigger and badder than you.  Prepare to die.

Here's another example, Darksiders, a video game where heaven battles hell and there appear to be few good guys except the four horsemen of the apocalypse.  Note the size of the enemies to the horseman hero:
Although the hero has incredible size and muscles (not to mention a massive blade), his enemies are all bigger and muscly-er.  Now this only goes to show what prowess he has when he defeats his enemies, but it's the idea that there's always something bigger and better out there.  This is essentially the premise of most comic books in fact, but usually the good guys win.

This bear's a case that shows Lovecraft's not always right--at least many humans are enchanted by a bear that could maul us but instead does this:
Adorable, no?  In part because he could maul but instead waves hello--at least that's what we're trying to attribute to it anthropomorphically.  And it's our response I'm interested in.  What fascinates us?

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