Feral, animalistic joy....
The following is reprinted from The San Francisco Gate.
"Ready to eat your face and scream:
Zombies and vampires and evil viruses, and nary a divine awakening in sight
We are, apparently, right on the cusp.
I mean right now, as we speak, as you read these words, as we race through this awful-beautiful world with our coffee and our angst and our adorable artificial gods, we are, each and every one of us, just on the verge, the edge, the very tippy lip of complete and total madness, chaos, murder, anarchy and complete, raging insanity. And not in a good way.
Have you noticed? Have you fully acknowledged the trend, the relentless pattern running throughout time and culture?
The nasty little notion is everywhere. In every thriller or horror movie, in every panic over a new global pandemic, in every viral outbreak or alien invasion or conspiracy-theory novel, it's the same: we as a species are mere inches, millimeters, a hairsbreadth away from total meltdown, from pounding each other with clubs and stabbing pitchforks into myriad soft tissue and laughing maniacally, and then going back for more.
This is how we're portrayed -- and I suppose, how we think of ourselves -- over and over again: as ultraviolent, feral animals who, through some bizarre, tenuous combination of brain chemicals, drugs and faltering morality, are barely held back from doing what we all really want to do, which is of course to rape farm animals, rip off our own skin with pocketknives and beat each other to death over diamond-encrusted Bamm-Bamm cartoon medallions. Oh wait.
It's a ruthless trope that struck me as I was happily clicking through a pile of new clips over at Apple's movie trailers page, watching snippets of films I have zero desire to actually see and stumbling across the disturbing trailer for "The Crazies," a creepy remake of an old George Romero horror flick about -- can you already guess? -- a small American town whose perky citizens, after something nasty infects the water supply, begin falling into murderous madness and start mauling each other with axes and pitchforks. Sort of like the Republican National Convention, but with better makeup.
This is when the larger question hit me: Why is this ridiculous set-up always basically the same? Why is there no real breadth of imagination at play? And why, most of all, do we never see the exact reverse of this brutal, preposterous scenario?
In other words, where is the book, the movie, the fictional device wherein, say, the town's water supply is indeed contaminated by some peculiar viral organism and suddenly ... well, suddenly, everyone becomes really f--king happy and nice.
Can you imagine? The trees release their kooky little spore, the secret military experiment goes hopelessly wrong, aliens land in Kentucky and begin zapping everyone with giant laser transmogrifiers and suddenly, well, suddenly, everyone begins to feel really, really good.
Their fears and anxieties subside, their best intentions dance to the fore, a deep sense of peace overwhelms their being as wild amounts of bliss comes over for a booty call and there is, above all else, this mad desire for love. To make it, to eat it, to dive into it, to pour it over your body like honey and reach inside and lick God in all his/her forms. And then have a giant pool party.
I know, boring, right? Who wants to watch some smarmy crap like that? Besides, isn't it obvious our natural instincts are to murder and pillage and bleed? Hasn't millennia of war, religious fundamentalism and unchecked paranoia taught us that we are, deep down, a rather repulsive, sadistic species, a million steps removed from Angry Judgmental God? You bet it has.
I mean, we adore violence, mayhem, the id unleashed. We are eternally fascinated by our own decay and demise, enthralled by our most disturbing fantasies, everyone not so secretly wishing they really could turn into a zombie, vampire, werewolf or a hundred other misunderstood mutant monsters because, well, that's what we all like to think we are, right? Some noble, misunderstood beast? Hey, I get it.
What's more, fear is where the money is. Fear is where the power is. Who wants to hear a tale where everyone wakes up to their divine natures, where suddenly everyone in town starts channeling the Dalai Lama and no one steals anything or molests anyone or calls the president a commie socialist Nazi whilst humping their Bible and quoting their gun? Oh wait, that's backwards. Or not.
Even the laughable "Left Behind" series of apocalypse porn books written for undereducated Christian paranoids traffics in the same violence-drenched, juvenile chyme as your average dimestore horror flick. Turns out even Christian euphoria and enlightenment are bathed in gunfire and blood. After all, everyone knows Jesus loves nothing more than a good, flesh-rending massacre, right?
Then again, maybe not. Maybe there is a flipside, a reverse/inverse idea that says no, we actually are not borne of such primitive brutality, we are not such base and stupid animals -- or rather, a small part of us might have been, but we are also something else, actually a cosmic emanation, part of a much larger, more fluid consciousness, more on the verge of leaping beyond such primitive definitions, such childish religious dread than ever before. Possible?
We know it's out there. Our best art hints at it. Poetry leans into it. Great sex makes it sticky and palpable. True spiritual awakenings rest at its feet. Meditation sometimes lets you hear it breathe.
I did read one fairly decent novel a few years back that tapped a similar idea: it was Tony Vigorito's underground hit "Just a Couple of Days," wherein the viral-induced madness unleashed upon the unsuspecting world manifested not as mutant, flesh-eating violence, but rather as a sort of feral, animalistic joy. Not bad at all, despite a completely unlikable main character, and the fact that everyone still goes more or less insane.
Tom Robbins' early stuff happily splashes around the same sort of blissed-out pool of humankind's dizzying spiritual potential. I'm sure there are a few others, cult authors and unusual movies buried under a dorky miasma of Twilights and Dan Browns and Saw VII. But lo, they are too few and far between. And not nearly as popular as they should be.
How long do you think it'll be before we get a Hollywood script, a book deal, a cultural movement that flips the entire notion on its head? I know, it won't sell lots of copies. No one will be eating anyone's oozing kidneys. No one will be mutilating anyone's BFF with a chainsaw and a rusty machete. The mysterious airborne toxic event (thanks, Don DeLillo) will only result in everyone suddenly stopping in the street and enjoying the mass epiphany that God's actually been here the entire freakin' time, at which point the entire world population will collectively slap itself in the forehead, laugh wildly and take off its pants.
And then, blip, this reality winks out completely, ready to start all over again. I'm starting my book proposal right now.
Column by Mark Morford.