Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ruth Ostrow, vampires, dragons, Armageddon, and a sorbet of wog bashing from Miranda the Devine ...

(Above: the source of incalculable evil in the community?)

It's not often that we stray into the darker, more remote parts of the pond, but this thought was so compelling, so graphic, that we wanted to clap hands with joy at finding it:

We are foolish to overlook evil. Our myths are our truth, the devil is potentially in the nextdoor neighbour who might be raping his daughter and grandkids. Let vampires remain full of bastardry and let us continue to fear them and understand those darker forces within ourselves as a species, rather than castrate their power in naïveté and malignant optimism.

Indeed. Cardinal Pell? The Jensenist heresy at work? Or some wacky, zany fundamentalist Christian who sees evil all around, as the dark forces come on to them like Sauron in Lord of the Rings?

Actually it's Ruth Ostrow, and she's mad as hell, and has opened a window and shouted to the world that she's just not prepared to take it anymore, this softening up of vampires.

Yes, it's you Twilight, it's all your fault, but frankly the rot started as long ago as the deplorable Munsters, which started in the nineteen sixties, not to mention The Addams Family, though to be fair, surely Bewitched, which began in 1964, must shoulder a lot of the blame for the normalisation of witchcraft within women and society at large. Dear lord, each time I look at a woman, I can see them trying on a beguiling wiggle of the nose while patting a black cat, as if it's somehow cute and a normal way of suburban life!

As a result, such has been the decline in standards that poor old Nicole Kidman thought it okay to star in a remake and to marry Tom Cruise.

Ostrow isn't having any of that sitcom chuckle a minute at the silliness of the sixties nonsense. In Evil is all around us, she wants vampires, and the world, to harden the fuck up:

What the hell has happened to vampires lately?

I turned on the TV the other night to see yet another group of happy monsters sitting around a table in London, very hip 20-somethings, like the Brady Bunch of vampires from Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series where the lead character, Edward, lives with his animal-eterian family: nice Mr and Mrs Vampire and their lovely (if blood-challenged) kids. They are do-gooders trying to fight against their base natures, and of course they're winning the war.

Oh right on. That's why I had to ban Sesame Street from the house in the old days, because that damn Count von Count kept on trying to soften the image of vampires by banging on about the concept of counting ... when really he was trying to peddle the notion that a cobweb-infested castle filled with bats named Grisha and Misha and the cat Fatatita is some kind of normal lifestyle. Not to mention the maniacal laughter, and the thunder and lightning and the hypnotic powers. But they stopped all that in the seventies, for fear that younger viewers might become frightened, and turned him into a friendlier Count. Case closed!

Now where else can we find fiendish examples of this kind of sanitisation at work?

The sanitisation of evil in society is not new. As Sydney's Mythic Creatures exhibition shows, there are many examples of the sweetening-up of the dark monsters of our psyche. Dragons were once evil and their slayers heroes; now Hollywood has made them downright cuddly, doing endless good to assist humans. The Kappa, a vile water creature who would devour Japanese children, has since adopted a rather benign and helpful persona to the point that little kids are now playing with Kappa furry toys. The succubus, a beautiful female demon who drained men in their sleep so they could not impregnate their wives, has morphed into a benign she-devil who may also assist in the deposit of sperm, thus helping the little buggers do their job.

Oh no, not even the succubus. Is nothing sacred? Damn you, damn you, Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns and Mermaids exhibition at the National Maritime Museum, running until 23rd May 2010, damn you all to hell.

What possible excuse do you have for upsetting Ruth Ostrow in this way, and don't try to get out of it by saying the exhibition was organised by the American Museum of Natural History. We know that Americans also organise Halloween, surely the most outrageous softening of evil to be found anywhere in the civilised world, and a constant source of anxiety for true believers.

In fact, you're guilty as charged, and by the words right out of your own exhibition mouth:

Today these creatures, from the powerful dragon to the soaring phoenix, continue to thrill, terrify, entertain and inspire us. We seem to catch glimpses of these creatures all around us: hiding beneath the ocean waves, running silently through the forest and soaring among the clouds. Some symbolise danger. Others, we think, can bring us luck or joy. Together mythic creatures give shape to humankind's greatest hopes, fears and dreams.

Luck and joy? Hopes and fears and dreams? Oh come on, good dragons? What next? Nice kind blue creatures who love trees and go dragon riding? Outrageous. Sheesh, no way that deserves an Oscar up against a decent war movie.

Surely what we need in this situation is a complete mis-reading of Hannah Arendt's notion of the banality of evil, and thankfully Ostrow is on hand to provide it:

And all is good with the world. Even though some bad vampires exist, the good ones will fi x 'em up. Sound familiar? But there's a serious problem with negating the existence of evil, or rather - as German political theorist Hannah Arendt described it - the sheer "banality of evil" existing in normal life, being that everyday people have throughout history been conditioned by inhumane social norms.

Yep, somehow we can breach Godwin's Law, by conflating Nazis in suits going about the workaday business of organising the Holocaust with the taming of dragons and vampires. Is it any wonder that Ron Rosenbaum called the phrase 'the banality of evil':

the most overused, misused, abused pseudo-intellectual phrase in our language.

Arendt was of course arguing that great evils weren't done by fanatics or sociopaths, but by ordinary people doing what they thought was right and proper, solving technical problems involving the processing of bodies and such like.

Diddly squat to do with vampires or dragons, but curiously often involving the concept of Satan, who is curiously not mentioned by Ostrow by name. Never mind, if you want pan theistic fear, Ostrow is available to conflate myth and reality:

By sanitising our underbellies and the true capacity for cruelty in each of us - as underpinned by myths such as the werewolf and other half-man, half-beast creatures of the sky, earth and sea - we immunise ourselves from, for instance, the possibility that the smooth-looking president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, may well be capable of launching a nuclear weapon that will begin Armageddon.

Oh god, does that mean that as a result of liking Wolverine and the other mutants in X-Men, we're all doomed to Armageddon? I mean, there's logic, and then there's the leap from the werewolf to Ahmadinejad, which made me begin to fear my sanity. Could the notion of evil and the true capacity for cruelty just be the result of the excessive outpouring of nuttiness from the likes of Ostrow?

As if to answer that question, Miranda the Devine turns up to remind us that evil is all around us in The warning that we ignored, wherein she manages to indulge in her most spiteful, malicious, vengeful, petty, inflammatory, redneck racist pastime, by explaining that all Sydney's problems are due to "the poorly managed immigration in the disproportionate number of problems that have emerged from some Lebanese families who arrived in 1977 and integrated poorly into south-west Sydney". And that Malcolm Fraser is to blame.

There's a lot more, and a couple of exculpatory pars at the end designed to soften the blow, wherein the Devine nauseatingly rabbits on about an inclusive multicultural society, and working together to reject ideologies that promote violence, and working to reduce disadvantage, real or perceived grievances, and encouraging full participation in Australia's economic and social life. And even a note that "home-grown terrorism is as much a threat to the vast majority of law-abiding Australian Muslims as anyone else".

But she's much more at home at wog bashing, with a verbal baseball bat, so that the pious cant about efforts to "suppress the facts" being counterproductive and ultimately leading to distrust and disharmony is just specious Hansonism at its worst. Since I can't imagine a column more designed to introduce distrust and disharmony, and from someone who regularly likes to bash all religions, from Muslim through Christian to Calathumpian, that takes some imagining ...

Why it's almost up there with Ruth Ostrow and the banality of the evil of nice vampires and cuddly dragons and cute dinosaurs ...

Who are these loons and how do they get a regular gig writing tosh for tree-killing newspapers?

(Below: fun flying dragons? You've got to be kidding. Stone them, stone them, or at least deny them best picture Oscar! Or else nuclear armageddon will be on us, and it'll all be James Cameron's fault. Or have you already forgotten Miranda the Devine's Hit by the leftie sledgehammer?)

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