Nightmare Archetypes Essay, Research Paper
For as long as people have slept they have experienced nightmares. It was a common thought in the 18th century and before that the dream anxiety attack or nightmare was caused by a demon pressing on the chest of a person during sleep. (Anch et al.) Nightmares have even been considered to be signs of black magic, evil affiliation, or possession. Nightmares mainly consist of being chased, hunted, or threatened by dark characters that we fear. They could also include variations of everyday activities.
(Hadfield) Nightmares have literally been around forever, so how do they manage to still stir our emotions and scare us? My theory is that the nightmare concept is unchanging but the content of what we find scary changes with each generation and each era. During the 18th century people feared witches and demons but most of us don t believe in such characters today thus we are not scared of them. However, today we do fear such things as ghost and homicidal maniacs. Our nightmares have managed to find our greatest fears, whatever they may be, and horrify us over and over again.
Everyone has bad dreams or nightmares but most of these bad dreams are experienced as children and they eventually go away as the individual gets older and grows out of them. As children we all have bad dreams that make us wake up screaming, shaking, or even sweating. The dreams are not only upsetting to the children who experience them but also their parents who are awakened in the middle of the night by a deathly cry for help from their precious child. The adult instinct is to rationalize the nightmare and just assume that it is repressed unconscious thought; this is the way Freud explained it. Sometimes these dreams come without any explanation as to why, and sometimes we help them to come by watching a scary movie, reading a scary book, or listening to a scary story. In a short essay that accuses humanity of being mentally ill, Stephen King quotes, [w]hen we pay our four or five bucks and seat ourselves at tenth-row center in a theater showing a horror movie, we are tempting the nightmare. (748) When we have nightmares, no matter what the reason, the dreams themselves are quite scary but what scares people the most is the realistic feel of the dream, and the ultimate fear is that it will come true.
Nightmares are very much a part of reality unlike a giant tomato or a man who turns into a wolf and kills people. The horror movie genre can use this to their advantage; a nightmare is something that everyone can relate to, a fear that everyone has experienced. Wes Craven, the creator of the Nightmare on Elm Street series took the nightmare concept to a much higher level. He created what everyone fears, a nightmare that is real, one that you don t wake up from, where the monster does get you. Craven s signature character, the mad slasher of Springwood, Freddy Krueger is not your every day homicidal maniac. He was burned to death by the angry parents of the innocent children he slaughtered. To seek revenge, he comes back and enters into the dreams of his victims. He appears as nothing more than a nightmare, but the nightmare is very much real. His victims don t miraculously wake up right before they are about to be caught by the monster, they endure their brutal death – and then the killer is gone without a trace and the only witness is the dead victim. In Dreams is another recent movie that uses the concept of a real-life nightmare to horrify its viewers. It is the story of Claire Cooper who is psychically connected to the mind of a madman. She is haunted by the twisted visions of a killer who is obsessed with her. The maniac comes into her dreams and gradually closes in on her life, irrevocably drawing her into a dark vortex of insanity and murder. The latest movie that has come out using this concept of dreams and nightmares is The Cell. Catherine Deane is an inexperienced child psychologist with the gift of talking to people. She is participating in a very hi-tech experiment that allows her to go inside the mind of a serial killer. The madman has a very rare form of schizophrenia that has put him in a dream state forever. Ultimately, she reverses the situation where the killer is in her mind and she in control; there she rids him of the evil inside of him by giving him his final wish, to die.
Stanley Solomon describes the horror film as a protected access to a nightmare world otherwise shunted outside of civilization by the twentieth-century forces of sophistication, science, and sociology. (794) This would explain why when children have nightmares their parents try and comfort them by telling them the difference between their fears and the real world. Watching a horror film provides us with a way of dealing with the rejected, repressed thoughts of our Id, (rejected by our superego and, repressed by our ego) which we are made to believe are wrong; we should be ashamed for having such thoughts! (Freud) We can t just make our thoughts go away. The thoughts are real, just like the child s fear is real; but as adults, influenced by society, we choose to deny our irrational thoughts and fears. Denying them doesn t make them go away nor does repressing them; they are still there looking for a way to get out and the only acceptable way for us to allow them to emerge is to watch the horror movie.