Jun 272010

BoingBoing.net has a small collection of “monster carrying of woman” images.

It’s interesting to me that this image has proven highly applicable to a variety of different conflicts, both open warfare and internal cultural stress: the Franco-Prussian war, WWI, the American civil rights struggle, the Cold War. It was particularly prevalent in Hollywood films of the 1930s: Frankenstein, King Kong, Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Murders on the Rue Morgue, etc. Any sense of cultural anxiety can be reflected in the image of an unconscious white woman swooning in the arms of a dark/unclean/hypermasculine figure, and in terms of rape. This ties into the failed seduction idea discussed in Sex Drives.

One of the commenters says:

I did a whole lecture on the “monsters carrying off our women” meme once. Its history in western art goes back at least as far as Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women from 1582.

It was a staple of 20th century sci-fi posters pretty much until the late 70s, when Ripley proved it was possible for a lady to defeat the big scary monster all by her lonesome.

Below is the sculpture mentioned:

If this is the ur-instance of the “monsters carry off our women” image, it’s interesting that unlike the other examples, there are three figures: the female victim, the male aggressor, and the usurped male. They are entangled together, a complicated triad. Perhaps this is the root of cuckold fantasy as well, with the third figure being the one who observes the first two coupling.

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