The Mummy

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/30-the-mummy

The Mummy (PG-13)
1999
57% rotten tomatoes

So this is actually a remake of a 1932 movie called… The Mummy, which starred Boris Karloff and damn he looks awesome. I’m a sucker for old movies regardless, but this one looks really good. And you can’t go wrong with Karloff; he’s a master.

But back to 1999. DID YOU KNOW – Brendan Fraser almost actually died for real in that scene where his character is hung? Something went wrong with the rope, and he died for many seconds and had to be resuscitated. WE ALMOST LOST BRENDAN FRASER. 

It was a close call.

So, to the meat of the thing. We (meaning white people) have been obsessed with Egypt for a long time. Popular opinion is that this started in the 1920’s when King Tut’s tomb was found, but in fact the obsession goes all the way back to the Greco-Roman era. The obsession was heightened when Howard Carter opened Tutankhamun’s tomb, but it was nothing new. Plus, in the 20’s we had movies and popular pulp fiction books and whatnot, so it was more accessible to everybody. You didn’t have to go to a fancy pants museum to see artifacts and relics.

ADDITIONALLY – King Tut’s tomb sparked a sensational news cycle for a couple of reasons. Firstly, this tomb was a goldmine. Most Pharaoh’s tombs had been looted and stripped of anything valuable way before Carter arrived. But Tut’s tomb was intact and untouched. This was a huge win for Carter, who by the way, had arrived in Egypt in 1891 and worked in several different burial sites for different backers and people. In 1907 he entered into a business relationship with Lord Carnarvon, an Egypt enthusiast (see <the obsession was always there>), to excavate Egyptian nobles’ tombs. Eventually in 1914, he assigned Carter the job of putting a team together and digging where King Tut’s tomb was expected to be. But… hey guess what else happens in 1914? That’s right, Sandbox Scuffle I! If you haven’t listened to our episode on The Neverending Story that won’t make any sense to you. So I’m not going to explain – go listen to the episode. It’s funny.

Fast forward a few years and they can get back to work. They spend a few years coming up empty, and Lord Carnival or whoever is thinking about pulling the plug. But then a little boy, digging in the sand with a stick, found something none of the archaeologists had been able to – A STONE STEP. So, they dig. A few weeks later, and they’re able to get into the tomb, and several months after that, they finally reach the innermost chamber, which holds King Tut’s sarcophagus. All told, it took ten years until the excavation was completed, so there was undoubtedly frequent news reports and updates to people back in the west, and it would stay in the public consciousness for that span of time at least.

Amid the excitement of the excavation, was the even more salacious excitement of the PHARAOH’S CURSE *insert creepy music* So I don’t know how this curse story got started, but it makes sense when you think of human nature – we try to attribute meaning to just about anything. And so I’m thinking that some people figured that since this tomb had escaped the looting of the previous century, there must be some Very Good Reason. Like maybe if you open the tomb you’ll die a slow and horrible death? Sounds right if you don’t think too hard about it.

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Regardless, once the dogma has been established, the confirmation bias will swoop in to make sure those ideas stay firmly fixed in our heads. Here are nine (non-Egyptian) folks who supposedly fell victim to the curse (they’re all archaeologists unless otherwise noted):

  • Lord Carnival (or whatever his name was)
    • Dude cut himself shaving and died of blood poisoning. This isn’t that unimaginable considering that we were still about ten years away from antibiotics, and they weren’t living in the most hygienic conditions. NEXT.
  • Sir Bruce Ingham
    • Howard Carter gave him a mummified hand as a paperweight (… I have follow up questions…), and dude’s house burned down. Then he tried to rebuild and it flooded. That is either some very bad luck, or homeboy’s got enemies.
  • George Jay Gould
    • He visited the tomb once, then got really sick, stayed sick for a long time, and died of pneumonia. I would like to point out that Gould was an American, and many visitors to countries not their own encounter diseases they don’t have any immunity against and die. Especially before antibiotics. NEXT.
  • Aubrey Herbert
    • He never visited the tomb or had anything to do with it, but he was Lord Carnival’s half brother. He was kind of a hot mess. He was born with a degenerative eye disease that eventually left him blind, but he also had really disgusting rotten teeth, and his dumb ass doctor thought maybe if we pull your teeth out your eyes will get better. I kind of think maybe his doctor made it up because he didn’t want to look at his teeth anymore? Anyway, he got sepsis from the tooth extraction surgery and died. This was half a year after Lord Carnival bit it, also from blood poisoning. Again, no antibiotics, no sterile scalpels, questionable medical degree…
  • Hugh Evelyn-White
    • So, this one is weird. I think he might have been a highly suggestible type. He freaked when “two dozen fellow excavators” died, so he hung himself and left a cryptic note about succumbing to a curse. This one, if it’s true as told here, could be due to a mental break, or some sort of delirium caused by illness maybe? Dunno. NEXT.
  • Aaron Ember
    • This was a totally preventable death. He was an Egyptologist present when the tomb was opened. His family’s house burned down, and he didn’t escape because he was saving a manuscript he’d been working on called “The Egyptian Book of the Dead.” I would callously say he did it to himself, but his wife went to get their son and I don’t think any of them made it. Sad next.
  • Richard Bethell
    • He was Lord Carnival’s secretary who was smothered in his room at a gentleman’s club, but apparently he’d previously had some house fires? I don’t know about curses, but I’m thinking it was some kinky stuff gone wrong. The old timey gentleman’s clubs were places dudes could go and do weird stuff in private. Also, I wonder if fire insurance was a thing in the early 20th century?
  • Sir Archibald Douglas Reid
    • He was a radiologist (with a title of nobility???) who x-rayed Tut before he went into the museum. He became very ill and died three days later. MAYBE YOU SHOULDN’T BREATHE MUMMY DUST – I DON’T KNOW?? People weren’t great at washing their hands in the 30’s???
  • James Henry Breasted
    • He was an Egyptologist there when the tomb was opened. Here’s where the story line gets meander-y. When he got back home he found that his pet cobra had eaten his pet canary, and was still in the canary cage, chilling over the bones of his vanquished prey. So you know canaries are thought of as harbingers, canary in the coal mine and all that. The cobra was used as a motif in the garments of Egyptian royalty, so – I guess you can make something out of that. But he didn’t die. Until over ten years later, after he went on another trip to Egypt. I don’t even know why he’s included.

Howard Carter, who was chiefly responsible for organizing the search, died without any connection to the curse – he had lymphoma. Maybe from breathing all that mummy dust. But popular belief is that the pharaohs spared him from the curse, as well as native Egyptians, of course. All those laborers died of normal causes, like negligence and poor working conditions.

You know what I like though? Science. Math and science. When they get married, they have a baby named Statistics. The British Medical Journal did a study in 2002, I’ll spare you the details, but the gist of it is that the survival rates for those Westerners in the excavation crew present when the tomb was opened or examined did not differ significantly from those who were not present. Regarding Carnarvon’s death (remember he cut himself shaving), some theorize that there could have been dangerous mold and bacteria growing down there, but experts say no, he was chronically sickly (as evidenced by his grisly half-brother). Also, if there were these dangerous miocrobe-yinhabitants in the tomb, the deaths would have been much quicker. Who knows.

So, speaking of native Egyptians… it’s us, so you know we have to say “white people ruin everything” at least once a podcast. It hasn’t not been true yet. But the ancient Egyptians had a strong belief in the importance of these tombs, and everything that was done in preparation for  a deceased ruler being sealed inside was intentional and meaningful. So in come some foreign white dudes and they’re like ‘hey we wanna dig up your ancestors and put them on display in a different continent – how bout a little help?’ It’s probably safe to assume that not every Egyptian in the 19th and 20th centuries was overly concerned with the ancient rituals, but on some level you’d think it would be hard to see your native story dug up, interpreted, and displayed by strangers. I don’t know any of the politics surrounding this, and frankly I’m so sick of politics that I didn’t even want to look it up, for fear of discovering some fresh hell, but whether legal or not, it’s shady as hell.

National Geographic has an article covering the general idea around when it’s cool to dig up human remains. It’s a sticky subject. We can learn a lot from these efforts, but at the same time, these were human beings who never consented to having their bones dug up and put on display for some bored grade-schoolers to gawk at. In many cultures, it has historically been criminal to mess with remains. In more recent-ish history, this has been partly to prevent grave robbing, a) because that’s a shitty thing to do, and b) because doctors in training had to sneak around to get bodies to study because autopsy was considered immoral, sacrilegious, and/or illegal.

Some of the arguments are that in many cases we don’t know what an individual’s religious beliefs were; even in an area that’s predominantly one thing or another, you can’t be sure. Is it okay as long as you rebury the remains when you’re done studying them? Scientists get into some raging nerd fights over this issue of sending remains back to the country of origin for reburial. (I say nerd fights with love, btw). One bioarchaeologist called the loss of future academic opportunity re-burial would present the same as “book burning.” The First Nations community has won federal legislation demanding the return of these remains, but it’s not enforced, apparently. Of course. Another bioarchaeologist states that the concerns of a group of people for their dead have to be considered more important than scientific exploration.

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The same article lists some benefits that have come from studying human remains: we know more about the types of labor people performed, injuries suffered, foods people ate (and by extension, we learn about the plants and animals in the area at the time). DNA can connect remains to other remains, and help us learn migration patterns of groups of people. We can learn more about historical events, like the Black Death, which had a huge impact on the world (20% of Europe’s population died). Studying these historical diseases can help us understand modern diseases and maybe offer solutions.

Also, continuing research means that you don’t just dig up a body, test it, study it, and then you’re done with it forever. New researchers come up with new studies or technologies, and need to re-examine the remains for something that hadn’t been looked at before.

Now for some bad things about digging up bodies. SHOCKING – there’s a history of racism. Just one example: in the 1800’s, First Nations bodies were dug up so white people could prove that they were superior, presumably to make themselves feel better about stealing the land and being huge dickholes.

Also, like I mentioned before, grave robbing was a big concern. Not just because valuables were taken, but because family members didn’t want their loved ones being dug up and then cut up in some medical student’s dark lab. If you factor in religious concerns about the body into their anxiety, you can see why people took pains to prevent this from happening.

Currently, there are ethical considerations that scientists have to abide by, and they vary by culture. Each country seems to have their own way of regulating excavations. I get the sense that the majority of the argument is about what has already been done in the past. DeWitte, quoted in the article, stresses that for populations that have been historically “marginalized and exploited,” they need to be given more consideration as far as handling their ancestors’ remains, for obvious reasons.

So, coming back to how modern Egyptians may have felt about the white dudes taking their dead away – does it really matter if they okayed it? The ancient Egyptians had strong reverence for the dead – we know this without a doubt. So this is one situation in which we don’t have to guess at the beliefs of the people we exhumed. And I feel pretty confident that they would not be cool with it. Just because a lot of tombs were looted by assholes – does that give us the right say “damage is done” and continue disturbing their dead? It’s not like Howard Carter found King Tut and we were all like “cool, we’re done with Egypt now!” Scientists are still over in Egypt digging stuff up, so we know the Egyptian government is okay with it as long as they’re following the rules, but I think we know that the ancients wouldn’t have wanted that, and that’s what makes me feel weird about it.

Along those lines, I found some stuff stated somewhere but didn’t save the links, but the sentiment was that the difference between digging up bodies being cool or not cool is whether the civilization as a whole is dead. So the First Nations or Native American remains are protected because they are very much still alive and kicking it. But the ancient Mayans and Egyptians – even though Egypt and Peru are still populated, are considered dead – just like we don’t think of modern day Italy and ancient Rome as being the same culture. It’s a thinker, for sure, and luckily it’s not my problem to solve – there’s no right answer here, and there’s no way everyone will be happy.

Moving on!

This movie kinda starts and ends with Imhotep, who was a real dude, many thousands of years ago (he was alive in the 27th century, bce, which would make him like… 4500 years old or something). So, he did everything – he was an architect, astrologer, minister, magician, medicine guy, etc. He was considered a genius – Leonardo DaVinci comes to mind for me when I read about him – and was held in high esteem. He was second in command under the king Djoser. He is thought to be the architect of the step pyramid at the necropolis in Memphis (Egypt). It’s currently the oldest example of “hewn stone” and thought to be the first pyramid.

At only 100 years after his death, he was considered a demi-god of medicine (which was pretty fast, and also remarkable considering he was born a commoner – LIKE DAVINCI). Then in the 1st century bce, he was elevated to a full deity. He’s still revered by physicians because apparently he was less of a quack than other old-timey doctors, like Pliny. He rejected magic, and his writings contain the first known descriptions of anatomical details and medical procedures, such as trepanation (relieving pressure on the brain but cutting into the skull). He may also be the first to develop plant-based medicine. In fact, since he was so awesome, people didn’t think he was a real person until the late 1800’s when proof of his existence was found. And since we’re talking about tombs – Imhotep’s burial place has never been found.

Okay, so. I kept reading about him but I couldn’t find any reason that he would be converted into what we see in The Mummy,  in either 1932 or 1999. There’s no mention of his love life anywhere, or any reference to the dark arts. I’m assuming the ancient Egyptians would have considered resurrection rituals dark magic, on account of how they treated their dead, but I don’t know for sure.

Well, turns out Hollywood just used dude’s name. The fictional Imhotep was around in 1290 bce, and was high priest under Seti I, who was a real dude (son of Ramses I, father of Ramses II). And speaking of remains, you can view his online, if you so wish. So, Seti built a memorial temple and dedicated it to Osiris, so I think that’s why Imhotep is called a high priest of Osiris in the movie. Seti was considered the greatest king in Egypt’s history, and is speculated to have been incredibly handsome. I looked at his wife (Tuya) to see if I could find any kernels of drama  with Imhotep, but there’s nothing there.

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Now, if you recall your ancient history, Nefertari was the wife of Seti’s son, Ramses II, and that is who Evelyn is a reincarnation of in The Mummy, which would be Imhotep’s boss’s daughter-in-law, it seems.

Now for Anck su namun. There was a real woman whose name is pronounced the same, though spelled a little differently (Ankhesenamun). She was born to Nefertiti and Akhenaten, and was married to her half-brother Tutankhamun. Fun fact – she’s thought to have also been married to Tut’s successor after his death, who was HER GRANDFATHER. And then maybe after her mother’s death she was married to HER FATHER before she married Tut. Now – these may have been symbolic marriages and not sexual ones, since it was common for kings and pharaohs to have more than one wife. But maybe not. Gross. Anyway – she would have been alive at the same time as Seti I, so it fits, though Seti I would have been king after Tut. It should be noted that records of her disappear after marriage to her grandfather.

These folks were alive in a time of religious upheaval in Egypt, which maybe inspired some of the magical plot points in The Mummy? Regardless, the 1932 movie, on which the 1999 movie was based, was inspired by the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, so it makes sense that they would craft a story based around him (kind of). And to be fair, since the tomb was just discovered, there may have been a lot of information they didn’t know then that we know now.

Supposedly, the original script was loosely based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story “The Ring of Thoth,” but was later changed so that instead of running around murdering women that look like his long lost love, he’s trying to bring her back from the dead. With the Scroll of Thoth. Much more romantic.

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So the Scroll of Thoth is made up for the story, but Thoth was a real person, who is believed to have authored The Book of the Dead, and who is supposed to have brought Osiris back from the dead when Isis asked nicely. So now the Osiris reference is making more sense.

CAN WE TALK ABOUT ODED FEHR NOW???

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He’s so beautiful. So he’s Israeli, but he lives in the US now. Probably somewhere in Southern California.

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I looked on his Wikipedia page, and his father is listed as a geophysicist and a marketing executive, which sounds pretty random but very cool.

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Anyway, we just need to clone him and make a bazillion of him.

oded-fehr

Enough to go around.

OdedFehrJoinsV

So long as the clones are willing, of course.

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Okay, everybody leave now.

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

30. The Mummy

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/30-the-mummy

Nikki and Sher bring you the highlights of the Egypt craze of the early 20th century, discuss the Pharaoh’s curse (spoiler alert – not a real curse), debate the ethics of excavating the dead, and look at the real historical figures that the characters are based on (spoiler alert – it’s the Imhotep you’re thinking of).

Also, we’re in Georgia, so there’s a little background noise from the air conditioner. It’s hot, y’all. Enjoy!

Articles/sites referenced in the show:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/fraser-survives-ithe-mummy-i/

https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/archaeologist-opens-tomb-of-king-tut

https://www.biography.com/people/howard-carter-20683395

http://mentalfloss.com/article/23321/victims-king-tuts-curse

https://www.history.com/news/is-the-curse-of-king-tut-real

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/160407-archaeology-religion-repatriation-bones-skeletons/

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Imhotep

Favorite quote: “HEY! Looks like you’re on the wrong side of the riiiiveerrrr!” – Rick O’Connell

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3. The Crow

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/the-crow

Nikki and Sher talk about ancient Chinese curses, court jesters, and Odin. What is all the hullabaloo about surrounding Bruce Lee’s death? How is that relevant to Brandon’s death? Why are crows so awesome? Nikki gets a call from Russia; what is that about?!

 

http://www.thelastdragontribute.com/does-bruce-lees-game-of-death-reveal-what-really-killed-brandon-lee/

http://www.criteye.com/2015/09/18/the-unsolved-mystery-surrounding-the-death-of-bruce-lee/

http://mysticinvestigations.com/paranormal/bruce-brandon-lee-dragon-curse/

Dark Hunter novels.

http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/640914.html

https://arielhudnall.com/2015/09/06/archetypes-jester/

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/similar-species-crows-and-ravens/

Favorite Quote: “CAW” – supernatural crow

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

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The Crow

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/the-crow

The Crow – 1994
82% on rotten tomatoes
Stars Brandon Lee
Is that Ernie Hudson?? (Ghostbusters; Winston)
$51M

The Crow may be the epitome of 90’s angst. Misunderstood guitarists. Tragic love story. Lots of eyeliner. Lone vigilante who can help everyone but himself. Real life tragedy. It has everything for the morose of heart.

Artistic Info

The director wanted to film the movie in black and white (coloring the flashbacks only) but due to restrictions had to settle for muted color scheme.

Music: Burn, by The Cure, written specifically for this movie. Even though it was a fan favorite, they did not often play it live, because they promptly forgot about it. The 90’s were a crazy time.

Parkour – not new, so shut it hipsters.

Production was riddled with accidents:

-A carpenter was burned by running his crane into live wires

-A grip truck caught fire

-A sculptor crashed his car through a plaster shop (may have been intentional)

-A crew member put a screwdriver through his hand

-Brandon Lee cut himself on breakaway glass (very hard to do)

-Brandon was killed by a mis-loaded blank (apparently there was a piece of bullet tip lodged in the gun from a previous firing, and then a blank was loaded on top of it.

The Curse

-What IS odd is that Bruce essentially played out his son’s death in Game of Death. He plays an actor who pretends to be the victim of a prop gun/real gun switcheroo.

-Bruce Lee, Brandon Lee’s father, similarly died in an on-set tragedy 20 years previously. (http://www.thelastdragontribute.com/does-bruce-lees-game-of-death-reveal-what-really-killed-brandon-lee/) There are quite a few coincidences:

-They were young: Bruce was 32, Brandon was 28

-They were both filming their fifth feature film at the time of their death, and both just before the release of their biggest films. Bruce died while filming Game of Death, but Enter the Dragon was about to be released (it should be noted that Bruce was born and died in the hour and year of the dragon (7-9 AM, 1940 was a Metal year, making him a metal dragon (metal dragon characterized by force and power)) (http://biography.yourdictionary.com/articles/how-did-bruce-lee-die.html).

-Bruce died in Hong Kong after taking medicine for a headache. Admittedly, it sounds like a weird thing to take for a headache (Equagesic), but he was at a colleague’s home going over a script, and accepted the medication from her. He had a severe allergic reaction to an ingredient in that painkiller, which caused a fatal cerebral edema.

-He may have been the victim of a hit by the Triads (Chinese gang)

-He may have been the victim of a hit by the Mafia (Italian gang)

-He died of a delayed reaction to a Dim Mak strike that he may have received earlier that week

-A mirror that was on the house meant to ward off evil had been blown off the day before Bruce died.

-There is some hullabaloo about a curse on Lee’s family that got his older brother in addition to himself and his son (ancient Chinese curse?)

-Being born in the hour and year of the dragon made him desirable to the Chinese Illuminati. Lee (supposedly) rejected their advances, and so they battled him in his dreams. I guess we’re calling this a curse. A badly written Critical Eye (ha) article http://www.criteye.com/2015/09/18/the-unsolved-mystery-surrounding-the-death-of-bruce-lee/ (no author mentioned) posits that “The underlying characteristics of such a curse would invariably ensure entirely plausible explanations for its target’s demise, however sinister the intention, and would create the required circumstances for this to occur, that conveniently masquerade as unfortunate mishaps and accidents.”

What is the actual curse: “The Curse of the Dragon” http://mysticinvestigations.com/paranormal/bruce-brandon-lee-dragon-curse/

[The curse began retroactively in advance of a broken prophecy. Bruce Lee was prophesied to serve as a major player, and enforcer in the Li family dynasty from which his bloodline originates. The Li family rules over the Chinese, or Far Eastern Illuminati who joined forces with the main global, or Western Illuminati that is headquartered out of Europe. The link between the two Illuminati groups is the secret Order of the Dragon (secret, eh?), which worships Chinese Demons, some of which are considered earthly gods. Bruce, being born in the year and hour of the dragon, was a special individual with amazing talent. If allowed to live, he would have theoretically been the most powerful human on Earth who didn’t wield magic nor was supernatural in nature, and would like have become a Traveler, essentially a free agent in the fabric of the universe]. Naturally the illuminati did their best to recruit him, and when he failed to heed them, they called on the Triad to threaten him (to no avail). In the illuminati tradition (I guess), a person of such importance would be cursed rather than killed. A demon was called upon to haunt the child Bruce in his dreams (demons are not bound by time the way that mere mortals are) (I guess). Bruce did not succumb to the demon and kept fighting him in his dreams through to adulthood. Once demon realized that Bruce was destined to die shortly, he turned his attention to his son, Brandon (all this happened on an alternate plane in dream land, whilst everyone was sleeping – not sure how everyone knows this, but you know). Dream Bruce was enraged and attacked and finally destroyed the demon, which we assume is what ultimately caused his mortal death (I guess). Even though Bruce destroyed the demon, the curse had taken on a life of its own and continued for Brandon. “The curse works like fate in a way, causing a series of unfortunate coincidences that lead to things like bad drug interactions…and…[misfired guns].”

-There have been several movies made regarding the deaths of Bruce and/or Brandon, one of which was made the year before Brandon’s death and included and interviews with him.

-Unsolved Mysteries featured this tragedy in an episode. No word if there was an update.

Regardless of the supernatural or mundane circumstances surrounding these men’s death, they are tragic, and we lost an incredible amount of talent. There’s no telling what the martial arts movie genre would look like now if Bruce had continued making movies, and with Brandon’s career unfolding before him, we’ll never know if he would have made an incredible Marvel character.

The Comics

The Crow is a character developed by James O’Barr and first introduced in 1989. The literal crow is a supernatural spirit who brings people back from the dead in order to exact their vengeance, essentially turning them into vigilantes for a time. Eric Draven (a man who has no use for shirts) was killed, along with his fiance, on the eve of their wedding. The crow brings Eric back, and he becomes our new reluctant hero. Vengeance ensues.

Premise reminds me of the Dark Hunter novels.

“I know pain at the molecular level…it pulls at my atoms…sings to me in an alphabet of fear…I am the boiling man…come to break the bones of your sins, meat puppet.”

The Painted-On Smile

The Crow’s face paint features an exaggerated smile and a lot of black concealing the eyes. We’ve also seen this style on The Joker, whose appearance is based on the character of Gwynplaine in a 1928 movie version of Victor Hugo’s The Man Who Laughs (this is debated, but if you look at a picture of the Gwynplaine from this movie, it’s pretty obvious). It’s frigging sad. A boy is brutally disfigured by a jerk of a king so that he can “laugh forever at his fool of a father.” Said father had been killed by the king because he’d refused to kiss his hand. Presumably there was no love lost for the king, and apparently with good reason. While the comic books have the origin of Joker’s appearance as the result of toxic chemical exposure, The Dark Knight’s joker teased us about a maybe more sinister mishap, which might be a modern callback to The Man Who Laughs.

The painted-on smile gives us a concrete contradiction in a character made of contradictions. The Joker has a cheesy, almost simplistic sense of humor, but proves deadly serious in his intentions; he is the opposite of batman in every way except his passion. The Crow is dead, yet alive; a force for good, though using evil means. He looks at the comedy/tragedy masks before selecting the comedy to paint on his face, the contradiction apparent in the tragedy of his life. <side note: the masks themselves may have had a practical purpose and served as a useful exaggeration so that the audience farther away knew what the character on stage was feeling> The vigilante in general is a contradiction – they seek to rid the world of evil by donning evil themselves.

The face paint is reminiscent of the jester, which is likely the origin of the harlequin

Symbolism of The Jester: http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/640914.html (Beatrice K. Otto)

The jester has a unique and versatile role. Most depictions of the jester in literature are as a grandly theatrical entertainer. Especially in Medieval and Renaissance literature, the jester is often one of the only characters capable of speaking truth without consequences, because they use they do so within within the safety net of mockery and humor. There is a lot of discussion about the truthiness of jesters and the function it serves. Using humor may also make their statements more palatable than outright honesty. Some say that king and nobility would have considered them valuable counsel because they are lower status and likely without political machinations driving their ambitions. This may be the most important quality of the jester – he is one of the masses. He voices the perceptions and frustrations of those living under the consequences of the court’s actions and decisions.

The jester shows up in The Man Who Laughs. Because of his disfigurement, Gwynplaine becomes a carnival side show, and yada yada yada, eventually a court jester discovers the truth of his noble lineage (wooooooow, truth) and convinces the queen to restore him. Not for altruistic reasons, but to win favor with the queen and to keep Gwynplaine and his lover apart. The truth is not always helpful.

The Jester as an archetype in modern media (Alex Hurst (https://arielhudnall.com/2015/09/06/archetypes-jester/)

Early psychiatrist Carl Jung developed 12 archetypes used in fiction. The jester, as Hurst states, “is at peace with the paradoxes of the world. He uses humor to illuminate hypocrisy, and also level the playing field between those of power and those without.” She states that The Jester “invites others to partake in a creating a self-deprecating form of satire.” The Jester will pick at asinine conventions and unnecessary pomp and ceremony.

The jester is generally wrapped up in the journey itself and does not care much about the greater problem of the story. We see this in The Crow when Eric crashes Top Dollar’s cocaine and gun party, saying that he’s only there for Skank. He’s not trying to solve all of the problems in Detroit, only the ones that brought him to this path.

All of Jung’s achetypes have a shadow (this a negative of the archetype; it does not boil down to good vs bad – that would be too reductive a way to look at it). The defining characteristics of the Jester are embracing fun and games, wit and humor, and living in the moment. However, for the shadow jester, these can be displayed with cynicism and bitter irony. Eric Draven cracks jokes while he’s breaking bones, he uses a playful symmetry in how he disposes of his victims, but it’s not humor in earnest.

Other examples of jesters as an archetype in fiction:

Beetlejuice, Genie (in aladdin), the Weasley twins, C3P0, Merry and Pippin, Gambit, Jim Carrey (all of his characters), Fat Amy, Harley Quinn, Jack Sparrow, Leslie Chow (The Hangover), and of course The Joker and The Crow firmly represent the Shadow Jester. Some of these can also fall into other archetypal categories as well (especially shadow jesters, which can often fall in with the Outlaws).

The major uniting factor between the medieval and modern jesters, and the good and the bad jesters, is the ability to strip away the veneer of placation that we construct over truths, whether they’re ugly or just ridiculous. Jesters will bring those truths out in the light and force us to examine them.

Crow v. Raven

Raven is larger and more solitary, preferring to travel in pairs; wedge-shaped tail; make a croaking sound; bigger bills. Crow is smaller and travels in larger flocks; fan-shaped tail; makes a cawing sound. Ravens aren’t typically found in the southeast. Both birds are part of the Corvidae family, known as the most intelligent of the birds, and of animals in general. They have demonstrated  self-awareness, tool-making, and their brain-to-body mass ratio is the same as great apes and cetaceans and very close to humans. Their diet is extremely varied – they can eat just about anything, including carrion.

Scroll to the sound files; hours of fun, guys: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/similar-species-crows-and-ravens/

Mythology: The rhyme you hear Shelly reciting (one for sorrow, two for joy, etc.) is the divination rhyme, used for counting gatherings of crows or magpies (magpies being less common in the US). (the number of birds is supposed to tell your future). There is a lot of variation in the lyrics, as with most folklore. One common version goes thusly:

One for sorrow
Two for joy
Three for a girl
Four for a boy
Five for silver
Six for gold
Seven for a secret, never to be told
Eight for a wish
Nine for a kiss
Ten for a bird, you must not miss.

Since Eric is followed by the single crow, I think it’s safe to say it’s “one for sorrow”.

Favorite Quote: “CAW” – Supernatural crow

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!