I just finished editing a hundred pages of copy by candlelight. It was kind of pretty, the various candles in their brass holders arrayed around the manuscript, flames guttering arcanely above the tilted stand where I keep my dictionary, and so on, even though the candles did raise the temperature in Fred's bowl to an unacceptable eight-six degrees Fahrenheit and I had to place it in the bathroom sink and surround it with cool water. I got wax on some of the manuscript pages and most of the left leg of my shorts, which I guess is better than the other way around, much as I dislike this particular manuscript. But that's for another entry. (Oh boy, is it.) Right now I want to talk about the Greater Malefic, because I want to talk about Freddy vs. Jason, which is why I said I would post this entry by today, damn it, even if I have to write it by the light of those same candles, which, as it turns out, gutter a lot less arcanely over a battery-powered Macintosh laptop.
The other day I went to the Strand (a bookstore in downtown Manhattan) and, as often happens, came home with my own weight in reference materials, among which was a dictionary of symbols. (I already had a dictionary of symbols, given me by my sister. I wanted another one, is all.) In looking through this book I found this, an old astrologer's symbol for Saturn, the Greater Malefic.
Universally, the cross tends to symbolize earth and things earthly, while the open semicircle tends to symbolize the human spirit and things spiritual. The form of this symbol, therefore, suggests its meaning: the dominion of matter over spirit. Saturn was the outermost planet to astrologers of yore; it was the boundary of their universe, and its slow, inexorable movement led to its association with aging and the personification of death. We all have to acknowledge the reality of physical limitations, and those limitations, from losing your car keys all the way up to dying, are what the Greater Malefic is all about. That's how it got its name, meaning The Thing That Really, Really Fucks With You. (The Lesser Malefic, The Thing That Only Kind Of Fucks With You, is Mars. I don't know why.)
But here's the thing about the Greater Malefic: It keeps you honest. Only by contending with the things of real life do you learn what you're made of. That's why the Greater Malefic has also been associated with Satan, the Adversary, the Tester, the guy who really, really fucks with you because that's the only way God can be sure that you're worthy. So that thing that looks like an upside-down question mark is also about growth and strength and triumph, maturity and self-knowledge. And that's why I want to mention it before I talk about Freddy vs. Jason, about which, yeah, I'm practically giddy with excitement, but I'll get to that in a second.
Now, I know that this movie pits Freddy against Jason instead of against, say, Michael Myers, Leatherface, Reverend Kane, or Butch R. Mann, because New Line Cinema owns both properties. Still, the matchup is conceptually interesting, at least to me. Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees are diametric opposites in many ways -- Freddy voluble, witty, lacivious, and adept at psychological warfare, and Jason silent, stupid, sexless, and lumbering. They're both hideously deformed, but while Jason conceals his hideousness Freddy is happy to share it with the world. Jason's got no apparent motive (not after this many sequels, anyway) and virtually no apparent emotional life; he's a force of nature, while skinny five-foot-nine Freddy is truly, horribly human, driven by anger and bitterness and lust and hatred, none of which can ever be appeased.
So what we have here are two completely opposing notions of the nature of evil. Passionless Jason is misfortune, like a tree falling on your car, but Freddy, who never hides his sneering face, is calculated malice, the kind that only human beings can really do. And that's one of the reasons that I feel in my gut this movie is going to suck. I mean, misfortune and malice coexist just fine; so what's to fight about? Nothing, without fucking up somebody's mythos.
Slasher movies are usually about teenagers, in part because older people hate teenagers and want them to die messily, but mostly because the horror in slasher movies tends ultimately to be the horror of impending adulthood. There's a reason Michael Myers is twenty-one while his victims are in their teens, that Freddy Krueger is a filthy lecher in his forties snarling, "Come to Freddy" to a girl young enough to be his daughter. The reason is that Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street are both about the terrified reluctance to exchange the safety of childhood for the responsibility of adulthood. That's why sex and death are so closely linked in horror movies, too: it's not about morality, it's about the end of childhood. It's about the fear that you won't have what it takes to survive in the real world. It's about the Greater Malefic.
And that's the second reason this movie is going to suck.
Now, I don't like the Friday the 13th series. It's not scary or funny or visually interesting, and I blame it for the crappy quality of most of the slashers that came after it. But I can't help but be somewhat fond of Jason Voorhees, because I grew up with him. I'd feel the same way about Freddy Krueger even if I didn't like the Nightmare series, and even if I didn't think he was a great character. But these movies can never have the same significance to me that they once might have had, just because I'm not a teenager anymore. Yeah, I whine a lot about not feeling like a grownup, but the fact is that I have a job and I pay the rent and I somehow manage to feed and dress myself. I have a shrink and a therapist and a bunch of pets. Me and the Greater Malefic, we're like this.
But this movie is aimed at me, at my whole generation, and this depresses me, like watching an aging Jackie Chan in The Tuxedo. I want to say to him, Jackie, get out now, go out on a high note, and that's what I want to tell New Line Cinema, too. Don't drag Jason and Freddy out to be the subject of that goddamn ironic nostalgia my generation ruins everything with. Let them go. I knew a girl in high school whose parents had once taken her to a child psychologist because she was so scared of Freddy Krueger she refused to sleep. He can never be relevant that way again. To keep making movies about him as if he were is perverse and sad.
That said, yeah, I'm going to see Freddy vs. Jason. And for what it's worth, I think the movie will end in the kind of lame sequel-ready stalemate for which the whole genre has become famous. But if I had to pick one I'd pick Jason, because New Line has announced its intention to make thirteen of those godawful films, and this will only be Jason's eleventh. (The eighth for comparative newcomer Freddy.) Also, Robert Englund isn't getting any younger. --I'll see it, but in my mind I'll shelve it with Halloween: H20 and the last two books in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. I'll just pretend that this is some alternate universe and that the real Jason and Freddy left the party a long time ago, before I grew up.
Hey, the power's back up. Anyone want to go tonight?