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Posts Tagged ‘William Faulkner’

Let me tell you a little something about me. I am one of those people possessed by what I will call “wandering thoughts.” And by wandering thoughts, I refer to the tendency to begin with one thought and, via a series of tangents, end with a seemingly unconnected one. I cannot count how many times I have had to retrace my steps, wading through an hour’s worth of thought and discussion, before being able to remember just what the heck I was trying to figure out that got me started on this whole little journey to begin with. This post is the product of one such tangent.

I began by thinking about a post I have been considering writing about an anime series I recently finished, Bakemonogatari. And while I still intend to eventually get around to writing this post, during my brainstorming today, I got pulled way off track. Perhaps due to the nature of Bakemonogatari‘s subject matter, I suddenly began thinking about zombies and our culture’s obsession with these disgusting and horrifying creatures. Another post I will probably try to write at some point. So, as I was trying to figure out just why exactly people are obsessed with zombies, and why they have such an impact upon us, my thoughts diverted yet again, to none other than William Faulkner’s delightful short story, “A Rose for Emily.” And while this is not where my tangential thoughts ended, it is here that the main content of this post (and tons of spoilers) will begin:

For those of you who have yet to read Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” let me just go ahead and say that it’s worth your time to read it. In the meantime, though, let me go ahead and give you the briefest *spoiler-filled* summary possible, straight and dirty: “A Rose for Emily” is about a crazy old bat who, after dying, is discovered to have been sleeping with the skeleton of her thought-to-be-thirty-years-long-gone fiance. Now, of course, there is far more to the story than what I have just given you, but for the purposes of the points I wish to make, that’s all I really need to say about the plot.

Next I must go into a very intriguing interpretation of this story I once heard. One suggesting that “A Rose for Emily” is a symbol of the South’s refusal to let go of the past. Now…before I continue…let me go ahead and say I am not a fan of symbolism. I choose to believe that most of the bull English teachers throw at you about what Faulkner or Hawthorne or Twain wanted their readers “to get” from their writings is just that: bull. Yeah, that’s right. You heard me. Coming straight from the mouth of someone who has studied English for more than six years (including graduate school). Probably 95% of all that symbolism your teachers tried to stuff down your throat was pulled straight from their derrieres. Of course they don’t believe that…but I do. And we all know that my opinion is the only one that really counts. 😛

So…getting back on track…in spite of my hatred for symbolism, especially the kind that is forced into existence outside of the author’s will…this particular interpretation of “A Rose for Emily” that I heard really caught my interest. Somehow I liked the whole image of this old necrophiliac being a symbol of the Deep South’s inability to let go of its pre-Civil War past. Perhaps it’s because, at the time, my innocent self needed a way to reconcile the fact that I had just read a story about a necrophiliac. Accepting the story as being a pure symbol, rather than literal, would certainly have been an easy way to do that. Or maybe I just found it interesting. Who knows.

Anyways…this whole connection between “sleeping with the dead” and “being unable to let go of the past” really stuck with me for a long time. And when it popped into my head earlier, for some reason, I suddenly thought of the ongoing series I have been following from one week to the next: Mawaru Penguindrum. (Which, by the way, I am still head over heels for.) I believe, at the time, it was merely coincidence. If I remember right, I was trying to remember why my previous post on the series had gotten so many views (compared to my other ones), and was trying to figure out a way to write something about Bakemonogatari that would generate as much interest. And it just so happened that, at that moment, I had jumped to thinking about this from my reminiscing about zombies and “A Rose for Emily.” As it turned out, the timing was perfect, for it was then that I was blessed with that extraordinary moment some people like to call the spark (a.k.a. inspiration).

Amidst analyzing my previous post on Mawaru Penguindrum, I suddenly thought to myself rather jokingly in what I imagine to be my mock-snooty intellectual inner voice, “Ha! Speaking of zombies and obsessions with the dead…” Followed, of course, by that oh-so-dramatic pose: hand over chin, lips spread in a smirk, and eyes gazing knowingly into the distance. And just as I was about to move on from that thought, dismissing it as another tangent, I paused and thought to myself: “No seriously. Speaking of zombies and obsession with the dead…you have got to be kidding me.”

Lo and behold! What do we have in Mawaru Penguindrum? Some not-so-gross, but definitely creepy zombies (*coughHimaricough*) and people obsessed with the dead, (*coughRingocough*). Now wait a second, you may say, I’m pretty dadgum sure that Himari was alive and kicking until the last five minutes or so of the latest episode. And I say, why yes, she does appear to be that, now doesn’t she? I mean, it’s not like her skin is rotting off her skeleton, right? And she seems to be able to have intelligent conversations with her peers. But if we look beyond the seemingly-ok surface of Himari’s current existence, an ugly truth rears its head:

Since the first episode, Himari has, for all-intensive purposes, been dead.

And so...she dies.

With the help of a certain penguin hat (and the mysterious persona “who comes from the destination of Fate”) , though, Himari is miraculously returned to life!

I LIVE!!!

As wonderful as it is that Himari has been returned to life, we have been told on multiple occasions that this resurrection is conditional. And for those of you who could not believe this to be the case, you, along with Shouma and Kanba, found out the hard way in Episode 5:

Kanba's epic rescue scene...

 So, to put it all together, what does this all mean? That Himari is only alive thanks to the power given to her via the penguin hat by the mysterious someone possessing her. See where I’m going yet? If not, let me spell it out for you: Zombies are humans living a not-truly-alive existence due to powers given them by someone or something else. In the tradition of Romero, it’s some strange disease. With a more fantastical twist, it’s the result of a necromancer’s spell. In reality, it is, rather than a revival of life, a reduction of one, thanks to being injected by a psychosis-inducing drug. Different from each other though they may be, these many types of zombies are all the same at their core. The circumstances may be different, but they are the same in the end. And going with this most basic of principles, we could say that Himari qualifies as a zombie.

Strange, I don't seem to be myself...

So, if we continue with this thread of thought, we then find ourselves with a very interesting and deeply disturbing situation. Because if, indeed, Himari is existing as what is equivalent to a zombie, then what were already some questionable scenes…

Incest?

…have suddenly become oh-so-much-more disturbing:

Starting to see the connection?

Ok, ok, ok, so let’s move past the necrophilia and zombies and whatnot and move on to the second point I brought up (and began to touch upon with Kanba): obsessions with the dead. For this, I bring in Case Study #1: Ringo.

I'm going to grow up and be my dead sister!

Here we have a young lady whose desire to repair her broken family has combined with and been horribly warped by her loved ones’ (as well as her own) inability to let go of Momoka, her dead older sister. Brought up surrounded by people (specifically, her parents and Momoka’s best friend, Tabuki-sensei) who have been unable to move on from the loss of their loved one, Ringo has been raised in a situation that has left her feeling inadequate. Having heard Momoka-this and Momoka-that her whole life, Ringo has developed a severe inferiority complex, being forced to follow in the footsteps of a sister she can literally never hope to catch up to. And being forced to watch as her family crumbles into shambles (probably largely due to their inability to get past Momoka’s death), Ringo feels that the only way she can possibly save what matters most to her is by becoming the very thing that caused it to fall apart: her sister.

The sacrifices we make for those we love...

And after ten to fifteen years of living with this disturbingly twisted mindset, we wind up with this:

She's starting to look a bit zombie-ish too, don't you think?

Beyond her obsession with becoming Momoka, Ringo is an empty shell that has only recently begun to show signs of life.

Though I could go on and on about all of this, I am getting tired of writing, and so I am going to go ahead into my final example. For in Mawaru Penguindrum, not only do we have the living dead and the dead living, we also have a prime example of a person who is trapped by the past:

Case Study #2: Shouma:

Forced to shoulder the burden of his parents’ decisions, Shouma must live the rest of his life, knowing that his birth triggered a terrible event which resulted in the injury and death of many innocent people. Innocent people including Ringo’s sister, Momoka.

Tied by the past

Though Shouma may not be directly responsible for what happened to Momoka and the many other people hurt by his parents’ involvement in the Sarin gas attacks, he is inextricably tied to this past nonetheless. Now that I think about it, Shouma attempting to help Ringo is actually quite ironic. For the past several episodes, he has been trying to help Ringo break away from the very same past that he is trapped by. Not so different, after all, are they?

Now where have I seen this expression before? Oh wait.

So there you have it. I’m done for the moment, because it’s getting late and I have other things I’m supposed to be doing. So…that’s right…I’m going to leave you hanging. Piece it together for yourselves and give me some feedback if you like. I may or may not come back to this and discuss it some more.

Since I’m nice, though, let me sum up my thoughts for you really quick:

HIMARI=ZOMBIE

KANBA+HIMARI=ZOMBIE ROMANCE (A.K.A. SLEEPING WITH THE DEAD)

RINGO=OBSESSESSED WITH THE DEAD (WANTS TO BE MOMOKA)

SHOUMA+RINGO=TIED TO EACH OTHER THROUGH PAST

Er…and my final point…I guess I’m trying to say that these are some serious underlying themes I’m seeing in Mawaru Penguindrum. Perhaps if Utena was about escaping present social expectations, then Mawaru is about escaping the past that threatens to suffocate us. At the very least, it could certainly explain some of the disturbing feelings I’ve been getting as I’ve watched this show.

Final Picture: Don’t tell me you never thought these “stairs” looked like ribs…

Further evidence to support my theory that Himari is a zombie

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