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When a horror story is written, the author often uses a creature and its actions throughout the story in order to indirectly portray a real concern in human life. Whether it would be utilizing zombies to portray someone as mindless, or a vampire to explain a certain disease, there needs to be a connection between the two. That is why a man named Jeffrey Cohen came up with seven rules that most horror writers follow in order to connect their creature to a larger issue at hand. Cohen’s, “Monster Culture: Seven Theses”, describes numerous ways a monster can be compared to a present conflict and in many cases that monster would be a vampire like those seen in Nosferatu, or in the story “Dracula.”

             In Cohen’s first monster theory, “Thesis I: The Monster’s Body is a Cultural Body” he explains how monsters are used to represent a culture’s issue at a specific point in time. Like the well-known story “Dracula,” it has been retold countless times with each being modified to fit the time period in which it is told. For example, in the films Nosferatu, and Francis Coppola’s Dracula, the vampires have different clothing, speak in a different manner, and have different intentions and behavior. The reason for all these differences is so the monster is able to embody, “a certain cultural movement” (Cohen, 4). In Nosferatu, Dracula represents the 1918 influenza pandemic that wreaked havoc across the world. The director portrays this by the way Dracula brings about death to any region he passes through on his way to the United States, the same way the plague did as it continued to spread. Similarly, In the most recent film of Dracula, the vampire’s part in the plot is to aware others of the sexual transmitted disease HIV. Francis Coppola utilizes Dracula’s ability to convert others to vampires as a way to explain how an affected person with HIV can transmit the disease through blood and once you are with the disease, there is no way of getting rid of it. Since Dracula is portrayed differently in each film it demonstrates how in each time period there was a certain issue that the director/writer was attempting to present the readers with.

             Another one of Cohen’s theories, “Thesis IV: The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference” is used in a different vampire film titled Let the Right One In. In this movie, we are shown two viewpoints of the story and they are from a bullied boy named Oskar and a vampire named Eli. Both Eli and Oskar suffer from being casted out of society, not really knowing with whom to fit in. The creation of Eli allows the audience to compare both Oskar and Eli to one another and, even though they are physically different, they are placed in similar situations. Due to this comparison, the script writer illustrates Oskar as someone who wishes to, “destroy not just individual members but the very cultural apparatus through which individuality is constituted and allowed” because of the way he is seen and treated by his peers (Cohen, 12). That is why when Eli pushes him to fight back he does so without regretting his actions and is seen more as a monster by others.

The exemplification of Cohen’s work can be seen throughout horror films and especially those that exhibit vampires. The blood-thirsty creatures have been used to depict things of the unknown which we have no plausible explanation for. That is why Cohen’s writing expounds on the idea that monsters in every form of storytelling are used to represent something larger than the story itself.

           

[1]

[2]

[3]

 

Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome, Monster Theory: Reading Culture. U of Minnesota P, 1996

Dracula. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, American Zoetrope and Osiris Films, 1992.

Nosferatu. Directed by F. W. Murnau, Prana Film, 1922

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