Dear god. Yesterday, I watched Vampire’s Kiss (1988) starring Nicolas Cage. Firstly, Cage is batshit crazy (!) and second, it got me thinking. Well, to be honest, I’m usually thinking about monsters. Monsters and madness, however, is something a bit different. When I first started watching it, I couldn’t tell if it was supposed to be a comedy or not. Cage’s depiction of a man becoming increasingly more disturbed and living more in hallucinations and fantasy than reality was…weird. Perhaps it was this face:
Chilling, right? Well, it’s played for laughs. That much is obvious. It’s the kind of crazy that Easton-Ellis goes on to use in American Psycho, and it tears a chunk out of the same sector of deluded corporate types who are presumably more about appearances. Which I suppose is similar to Jekyll and Hyde. Anyway. The use of monster as a marker for madness is interesting. Does it imply that without sanity, we are monstrous? That sanity is essentially that which makes us ‘human’? You only have to think of fairytales like Beauty and the Beast, where a man, deemed monstrous, is made literally that until he can prove his worth as human. But here, we’re talking about insanity. Vampires, in particular the ones who follow their ‘natural’ urges and kill in order to sustain themselves, are seen as ‘unhinged’. Cage’s character, Peter Loew, undergoes a transformation from merely ‘eccentric’ to ‘insane’ shown by the number of vampiric traits he acquires and displays. When he realises the extent of his psychological damage after raping one woman and killing another (sounds brutal, but somehow it still manages to be a comedy…), he tries to stake himself. Cage’s character does not invite sympathy, and is mildly disturbing. Are all monsters unhinged?
Surprisingly, it is the ones who subvert their nature the most that are seen as ‘sane’. Denying all monstrous tendencies and adopting those of a race you feed off, or are entirely separate from, seems rather…crazy, if you think about it. Those who don’t conform to the social norms are doomed to live in the shadows, forever on the outside peering in. It’d be like humans acting like monkeys in order to fit in – why would we do it?! But because this is fantasy, of course it doesn’t matter. Except, when the monstrous is used to denote madness, shouldn’t we look at what the representation of insanity tells us? All people lacking sanity are not monsters. And not all monsters are insane.