Post-9/11 Horror and the Gothic Clash of Civilisations
Kevin J. Wetmore
Twentieth century cinema involving monster conflict featured solitary monsters in combat (Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, for example). The writing of Anne Rice and the RPG Vampire: The Masquerade by White Wolf Games introduced the idea of Gothic communities and civilisations in conflict. It was not until after the terror attacks of 11 September that the idea of a clash of civilisations between supernatural societies fully emerged into the mainstream of popular culture. This essay explores the construction of a clash of civilisations between supernatural communities as a form of using the Gothic as a metaphor for contemporary terrorism in film and television series such as Underworld, Twilight, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries. Inevitably, it is the lycanthropes that are the disempowered and disenfranchised society and are alternately exploited by and rebel against the dominant vampire civilisation grown decadent and on the verge of collapse. Post-9/11 Gothic posits a world in which vampire society is the new normal, and werewolves represent a hidden danger within. Lycanthropes must be controlled, profiled and/or fought and defeated. Through close readings of the cinematic and televisual texts, I explore the vampire/werewolf clash as metaphor and metonym for the war on terror.
mould. Red fangs have torn His face. God’s
blood is shed. He mourns from His lone place His
children dead. O! ancient crimson curse! Corrode,
consume. Give back this universe Its pristine
Isaac Rosenberg, ‘On Receiving News of the
War’ (written in 1914
Trauma realities defy easy access to comprehension and thus require alternative discourses to understand them. This article looks at Pat Barkers employment of the Gothic tropes in the examination and explication of war trauma in her Regeneration trilogy. More pertinently, it scrutinizes the complex relation between Gothicized landscapes and trauma by analyzing three specific sites – Craiglockhart War Hospital, trenches and England as ‘Blighty’ – in the Regeneration trilogy. This article shows traumas destabilizing impact by examining how landscapes become imprinted with trauma. The physical disempowerment of landscapes is further complemented by a psychological disempowerment by examining traumatized patient-soldiers mindscapes and dreamscapes. It further examines how Barker employs tropes of haunting, dreams and nightmares, staple Gothic emotions of fear, terror and horror, Freuds Unheimlich to dispossess the owners control and locates trauma realities lurking therein. Thus Barkers Regeneration narrative bears witness to the phantom realities of war trauma by privileging the uncanny personal histories of traumatized soldiers.
At the end of his remarkable
elegiac poem in praise of war, ‘1914’, Rupert Brooke
expresses the wish that, ‘If I should die, think only this of
me:/That there’s some corner of a foreign field/That is for
ever England’ (Roberts, 1996 : 71). On first view, this image of a
soldier’s grave seems to have little to do with gothic
On first glance, M*A*S*H (1972–83) might not be the ideal text for Gothic analysis.
Aesthetically, the traditional dark castles surrounded by black forests in the moonlight
are replaced by muted khaki and green canvas Army tents, and the tinny canned laughter
punctuating the sardonic jokes echo longer than the terrified screams in the night. Gothic
and war are uneasy bedfellows; it is the inclusion of comedy, however, that determines
just how horrific the result can be. Using M*A*S*H as a primary example to explore what I
refer to as Khaki Gothic this paper will explore how, utilising Gothic tropes, comedy can
disguise, diffuse and intensify the horrors of war.
American zombie Gothic films have changed markedly in their tone, style, and structure
since September 11, an evolution that expands the Gothic mode to include the mobility of
the narratives protagonists, a popularisation of the movies, and an increased engagement
with a multi-ethnic international community. To remain timely, relevant, and commercially
viable, such alterations must occur, and these shifts in particular can best be explained
by the changing cinematic marketplace, the influence of videogames, and the policies and
anxieties resulting from the (inter)national trauma of 9/11 and the War on Terror. This
essay examines the film version of World War Z as a key text for exploring the current
transition from a localised siege narrative to an international kind of road trip movie, a
shift largely tied to the popularity of zombie-themed videogames.
This essay argues that Stephen King‘s 2006 novel Cell explores the age of terror with the aid of two concurrent Gothic discourses. The first such discourse belongs to the tradition that Patrick Brantlinger has termed Imperial Gothic. As such, it imagines with the War on Terror that the threat that the (Gothic) Other constitutes is most usefully managed with the help of massive, military violence. The other, and more traditional, Gothic discourse radically imagines such violence as instead a War of Terror. The essay then argues that Cell does not attempt to reconcile these opposed positions to terror. Instead, the novel employs the two Gothic discourses to describe the epistemological rift that terror inevitably creates.
Neoconservative Hunters and Terrorist Vampires in Joe Ahearne‘s Ultraviolet (1998)
A consideration of the ways in which the discourse of monstrosity, once deployed against a political enemy, closes off open debate and undermine the values of those who argue that the ends needed to defeat them justify any means used. This article explores the parallels between the neoconservative rhetoric of the War on Terror with that of the vampire hunters in Joe Ahearnes television show Ultraviolet (1998), as both deny their enemies the status of political subjects. It offers a reading of the show in light of Slavoj Žižeks call to evaluate the arguments of both sides in such moralised conflicts.
Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me and the Crooked Game
of Post-World War II America
Though presenting itself as pulpy example of hardboiled American fiction, Jim
Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me opens up in important and
unexpected ways when read as a subversive Gothic novel. Such a reading sheds
light on a range of marginalized characters (especially women and rural peoples)
who often remain shadowed by more conventional readings. Reading the novel as
Gothic also highlights thematic concerns which counter the halcyon image of
post-World War II America as a golden age and reveal instead a contemporary
landscape fraught with violence, alienation, and mental instability.