For our first QCQ assignment, that we consider a contemporary monster in today’s media that embodies this cultural moment and evaluate it using one of Jeffrey Cohen’s “Monster Culture” theses, I think of the White Walker from the HBO series, Game of Thrones. Relying on Google for a memory assist, it says “A White Walker is a humanoid creature…Primarily referred to as the Others in the novels, White Walkers are a supernatural threat to mankind…” (gameofthrones.fandom.com) The White Walkers seek the end of every living thing in existence.
In the Game of Thrones there is much strife and suffering caused by those in power and those seeking it. Despite general knowledge in the kingdoms at large of a threat in the north, the Wall, “a colossal fortification which stretches for 100 leagues along the northern border…to defend the realm against the White Walkers who dwell in the far north,” is “grievously undermanned” and largely forgotten, with the White Walkers being “considered a myth by most.” And “despite repeated pleas for support from the Night’s Watch, the rest… turned a blind eye to the return of the White Walkers as they remained embroiled in their own civil wars, believing the White Walkers to be purely mythological…” (gameofthrones.fandom.com)
The White Walkers are destruction. They are humanoid in form only. They are dispassionate annihilators. Because they are supernatural and their existential threat to humankind is mostly, but for a few, either disregarded, discounted, or derided, I see them as embodying this cultural moment in terms of the the real threat of the consequences of climate change or a global pandemic. There is much divisiveness right now. No matter what our human made problems are, our destruction could come out of left field from what we disregard, discount or deride.
I feel Cohen’s Thesis 1, The Monster’s Body is a Cultural Body, most closely aligns with how I view what the White Walkers represent right now. Most thought them a myth. Yet there were those who knew that they were a very real threat and did what they could to protect their country people: warning, defending, preparing, monitoring. “The monster is born only at this metaphoric crossroads, as an embodiment of a certain cultural moment—of a time, a feeling, and a place.” We are at a crossroads on so many levels from human made problems. Yet, there is the very real existential threat of climate change and global pandemics that may force us to recalibrate what is problematic. The White Walkers appeared when the Wall and the Night Watch were at their weakest. Climate change and pandemics appear when ecosystems are weakest and populations are exploding. “the monstrum is etymologically “that which reveals,” “that which warns,” a glyph that seeks a hierophant. Like a letter on the page, the monster signifies something other than itself…”(Cohen, 1996). We have been warned of climate change, and we are experiencing a pandemic. If Winter is coming, is there still time to act and will it make a difference?
Cohen, J. J. (1996). Monster theory: Reading culture. University of Minnesota Press.
Fandom Wiki, G. of T. (n.d.). White Walkers. White Walkers, Game of Thrones. Retrieved January 24, 2022, from https://gameofthrones.fandom.com/wiki/White_Walkers