Sunday, July 25, 2010

July 9, 2009: Things That Scare Me: Case Study #6

In spite of (or, perhaps, because of) my adult infatuation with all things horrifying and horrific, I was scared of absolutely everything when I was a kid. A television commercial for a horror movie was enough to send me racing from the den in a sweaty palm panic. As an ongoing series here on Psychobabble, I've been reviewing some of the things that most traumatized me as a child and evaluating whether or not I was rightfully frightened or just a wiener.

Case Study #6: Medusa in Clash of the Titans

Word around the playground is that along with a gazillion other oldies currently being remade (Bride of Frankenstein! Say it ain’t so…), a rejiggering of the Ray Harryhausen-masterminded semi-classic Clash of the Titans is on the roster for 2010. Try as new director Louis Leterrier might, there is no way his remake will affect me the way the original did. That’s because (A) he will not be able to craft a Medusa one-tenth as terrifying as Harryhausen’s and (B) I am no longer seven-years old.

For those not in the know, Medusa was the legendary gorgon of Greek mythology who had snakes instead of hair and could turn motherfuckers into stone with a single stony gaze. She pursued her nasty life’s work until Perseus, toga-wearing hero and son-of-Zeus, sneaked into her apartment and sliced off her head for future use.

My first traumatic exposure to Medusa came via a still photograph in an issue of Dynamite magazine that I was perusing in my school library.

Oh, Dynamite, how many others have you scarred?

While the face of Medusa certainly was gruesome, I had no idea how deeply it affected me until drifting off to sleep that very night. While reposing in that twilighty period between wakefulness and sleepfulness, I saw a face appear over my bed. My initial thought was that the face belonged to my sister, Tina, who adored tormenting me by whispering my name in ghostly fashion from her bedroom down the hall or crawling into my room on her belly only to leap up and roar as soon as she was right beside my bed. After I grumbled “Get out, Tina,” the face floated closer— only the hideous visage was not the hideous visage of my sister. It was Medusa. No shit. I screamed as if I’d been stabbed in the scrotum with a pair of pinking shears as the face wafted toward the floor and dissipated. As my parents rushed into my room to find out what their idiot son’s latest problem was, I realized I had hallucinated/dreamed the whole fucking thing. Now, I wasn’t prone to hallucinations or dementia or anything like that; I just had an over-fueled imagination running on some high-octane Medusa gas.

When I finally saw Clash of the Titans after it premiered on HBO, I was surprised and mildly disappointed that Medusa was not as scary as I remembered her from that Dynamite magazine. In fact, I quickly forgot that I’d been frightened at all and just marveled at how awesomely awesome all of those stop-motion Harryhausen creations were. Just check this out:

The Verdict: OK, on the one hand, Medusa sure was ugly, and the mere sight of her could turn you to stone, so who’s to say a photograph wouldn’t be just as effective as an in-person tête-à-tête? On the other hand, I think we can all agree that hallucinating she was in my room was taking things a bit too far. So considering these specific circumstances, I’m going to call myself out as a wiener. However, if I’d just been a bit freaked out, I would have deemed it righteous fear.
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