Freud, Lacan, Leviticus, and Vincent Price

I am blessed with a hip and talented family. In addition to my UFO-hunter father written about below, I will now brag about the following other men in my family*:

  • My father-in-law. ‘Nough said.
  • My brother-in-law Matt can make a flawless Billy Idol sneer (additional points for difficulty when doing so while wearing a sombrero.) He’s also bringing punk to mod, at long last.
  • My step-brother Sam owns three Unimogs, and can select which of several different welding rigs from his arsenal to use for any particular job. When I first met him (we were both teenagers), he did this thing where he put the family cat on his head like a Napoleon hat and strutted around muttering about Jena and Waterloo.
  • My step-brother Oliver is an artist who moved out of Hollywood when his growing reputation and the whirlwhind of parties and starlets, interfered with his art. Now he lives in Milwaukee on the floor of his studio and paints legit. He also doesn’t have a driver’s license.

Today, however, the crowning male achievement in my family is my brother-in-law Tony’s Master’s thesis, “Abject Thriller”, a scholarly work examining the role of the abject in Michael Jackson’s famous werewolf video:

“Within the chorus of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” a certain ambiguity quickly asserts itself. Who is fighting for their life inside a killer tonight? Who is the beast about to strike? It is precisely because of this ambiguity that it would be difficult to find a more apt subject than Michael Jackson’s video “Thriller”, in order to explore notions of abjection. Little did one realize in 1982, that Jackson’s own career and iconic status would acquire much of the dark transformational tone that his ground-breaking video established.”

Now, while offbeat theses written by your relatives is one of the things a blogger prays for, Tony’s thesis has way more than entertainment value. He makes the following excellent points:

  1. These days, parts of Thriller can be seen as a metaphor for Michael Jackson’s subsequent life and career. Certainly, the themes in the video seem to be the central themes in Jackson’s life.
  2. Abjection is a desparate, transformative state, breaking the bounds of culture, social norms, even mental organization. It’s like being…. a werewolf!
  3. There are zombies in the video, but where are the vampires? Nowhere, probably because vampires tend to be self-controlled. Zombies and werewolves have no control over themselves or their urges

Tony does a great job of examining the role of gore in the video (and in pop culture), even quoting Leviticus to examine the dichotomy between “clean” and “unclean” and how Jackson’s gross, nail-growing transformations represent a cathartic (and repeated) breach of this divide. And then Jackson looks over his shoulder at us, the viewer, with glowing zombie eyes, asking for our tacit — or active — participation.


* Limiting to the men will keep it shorter.


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