We've been studying about monsters for a while now, but our most recent sources have been the most interesting to discuss. I am truly appalled at the lack of morality that I've seen in the videos and articles we've studied. Let's just say that it's surprising how cruel a human can be when given the opportunity.
After reading "The Lucifer Effect", "Our Monsters, Ourselves", and "The Stanford Experiment", I became so familiar with the essential questions, that I automatically began questioning myself:
What can monsters teach us about humanity?
- All human beings can be persuaded to do unspeakable things when placed under the right amount of pressure.
- We expel our fears and anxieties by escaping reality and indulging in the supernatural.
The Lucifer Effect
Humans are imperfect beings. Every single one of us. Therefore, it is possible to deviate from what is good when placed under the right amount of pressure in the ideal circumstance. According to Philip Zimbardo, "the Lucifer Effect describes the point in time when an ordinary, normal person first crosses the boundary between good and evil to engage in an evil action" (Zimbardo 1).
The question is why. Why would we commit such heinous crimes if we know the difference between right and wrong? How can we tell when we're crossing the line?
It's difficult to tell simply because we're too busy blending in. In The Stanford Experiment, students were randomly assigned to be guards or prisoners. Eventually, the uneven balance of power caused the guards to abuse their position and torment the prisoners, leading to several emotional breakdowns. Professor Haney notes, "'what's regarded as appropriate treatment can shift over time,' so 'they don't realize how badly they're behaving.'" (Schwartz 20). The situation the students were in triggered an impulse that caused them to become monsters.
What's worse, in a different experiment, nearly 65% of test subjects succumbed to pressure from their superior and gave large doses of voltage to the victims when incorrectly answering a question. Although the shock wasn't real, the mere fact that the student was willing to give such a dangerous punishment demonstrates how vulnerable humans are to this compulsion every day.
That's a pretty scary thought.
Often times, our problems in reality become far too much for us to handle, and we lose ourselves in fantasy to alleviate our fears and anxieties. In "Our Monsters, Ourselves", horror is compared with religion, and humanity's curiousity in both stems from a sense of both awe and fear in the supernatural. Timothy Beal explains, "On another level, our continued interest in monsters undoubtedly reveals our desire to find a scapegoat for our fears and anxieties" (Beal 8).
Humans need to identify an image or concept into which we can channel our fear and admiration into, which is why we are so invested in religion. Therefore, we use monsters to break free from the predictable aspects of reality and delve into the mysterious and unknown.
Notice how the synonyms of "awe-inspiring" include words such as "fearsome" and "formidable". We associate the two words together because of our fascination with the unknown and our dread for what it could hold.
It's always the uncertainty that makes things so intruiging, don't you think?
Picture 1- Credit goes to: http://everythingsrosie.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/onestep.jpg
Picture 2- Credit goes to: http://bobgillis.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/dark_room.jpg