I must admit – this fourth chapter of the book I’m reading was quite disappointing. I expected much more of the idea of grotesque bodies, and got so little.
Well, perhaps not so little. But other than I expected.
So what’s really discussed in this chapter is done so through mainly two examples. First, the authors bring up Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, and later they discuss the 2009 movie The Human Centipede (I haven’t seen this movie, just read about it on IMDB).
Let’s talk about what I do like about this chapter on the grotesque body.
I do like that it uses examples from two points in time. Frankenstein being the earlier one, and The Human Centipede the modern one. I also like that these two examples are quite different in what emotional response they provide.
What I don’t like is that these two, albeit discussed quite thoroughly, present us with a rather narrow display of grotesqueri when it comes to bodies. I had anticipated much wider variety of grotesque, since the grotesque can be found through our entire history of art.
In short; what is discussed in this chapter is the hybridization between human and human – body parts being put together, thus creating a new human life form.
What is interesting about these two examples are the different types of grotesque they present. Both of them are intent on creating new life, but where Frankenstein’s monster was created by body parts from dead people, the mad doctor in The Human Centipede stitches three individuals together by mouth to anus, thus creating a new “life form” in the shape of a prolonged digestive system.
While these examples are very different in many ways, they both pose important questions.
Wherein lies the grotesque? Who is the grotesque – the creator or the created? Where do we draw the line between monster and creator?
What I’d have liked to see more of in this chapter on the grotesque body, is a wider variety of said bodies. After all, history is full of grotesque bodies that could’ve been used to exemplify.
Because while these two examples are of grotesque bodies being created with an intent and purpose, there are many others, born grotesque by nature, or becoming grotesque by factors both on the outside and the inside.
I think this chapter annoys me, because it doesn’t really tell me anything that I don’t already know (by having read this book so far). It does not present me with any aha moments (aside the disgusting aspect of The Human Centipede). It doesn’t really do anything for me, so it feels mostly like a waste of space, paper and ink.
Defining qualities that are brought up in this chapter (for both examples) are; distortion, disfigurement, disembodiment, uncanny, disgust, mutilation, alterations, corruption, erosions, breaking borders of human vs not-human, degeneration, control of one’s own body, invasion of personal privacy – et cetera.
At some point, I think I’m going to write my own ideas on grotesque bodies. It’ll be at a later date, however. Got plenty of other stuff to read and write about first.