Monday, September 16, 2013

Cinema's Nightmare

A bit of logic can place one of the most terrifying nightmares that I had as a child.  I was on a well lit room, filled with uniforms minding their stations.  Down the middle of the giant room was an elevated walkway.  It allowed the man in charge to see everyone working.  It prevented the uniforms from seeing out of the window to the black of space; it reminded them that they were beneath that man in charge.

I found myself on the far side of the room, near the windows.  Somehow, no one noticed me; thus is the logic of dreams.  Suddenly, the doors on the other side opened up.  He was flanked by grey uniforms on either side, though it wasn't needed.  Everyone knew him.  Everyone feared him.

His voice boomed out, calling for me.  "Where is he?"  The voice was tinny and deep.

I ducked as best I could behind the walkway, laying down to avoid being seen.  The walkway, high enough for a man to stand behind at a control panel, wasn't even big enough to hide me.

Darth Vader started walking towards me.

I woke up, terrified.

It's a rare villain who can be iconic, cool, and the stuff of a child's nightmare.  I think that much of Vader's nightmareish cache comes from the fact that the original Vader (the New Hope/Empire/Jedi iteration without a known backstory) is that he's like the shark in Jaws: he's bad because he's bad because he's bad.  (That he turns out to be bad and the dad, that's just extra grist for the mill once the viewer his his or her teens.)

I would argue as well that the farther past one's first decade one gets, the less outright scary Vader gets.  One reason is doubtless that the movies have been seen over and over, lessening the fright they can cause.  But a larger reason is that we the audience learn to justify Vader as a character.  The outfit is cool: black leather, a cape, a mysterious helmet.  The voice is singular gravitas with a dehumanizing sound.  The powers are enviable (don't you wish you could shut someone up by pinching your fingers together?).

Yet when one is under ten?  Mystery is uncomfortable, the voice is uncomfortably authoritative, and the powers mean any childish mishap could result in quite the punishment.  (I don't mean to make Vader sound overly paternal, nor to overly lay in Freudian sentiment about my own father, who is hardly any of these things.  But Vader = Father, afterall.)  Vader is the opposite of those first ten years: the opposite of finger painting, sunny rooms, new toys.  He's cold, powerful, and his toys consist of a hyperbolic chamber and a holo-platform.  

It's odd: after a bit more than three decades on this earth, I can only easily remember three dreams I had as a child.  In one, I was in a field with a tree that was on fire.  In another... a witch was trying to boil LeVar Burton in a giant black cauldron.  (Don't ask.)

And there was this: the image of Darth Vader slowly closing the space between him and me on the bridge of that Super Star Destroyer, headed straight for me.

"That boy has to be around here somewhere!"

No comments:

Post a Comment