The validity of Cohen’s cases in Analyzing the Society’s Understanding of Race and Culture
Monsters are understood by people as unpleasant creatures whose impact is negative in most cases. This notion extends to the symbolic use of monsters to refer to any other unpleasant experiences, memories, habits, or people. Jerome Cohen’s seven theses are no exception. In his theses, he mentions scenarios involving situational ethnicity, cultural monstrosity, and fear of the unknown as far as the earlier two are concerned. By defining the origin of monsters, Cohen’s publication makes people’s culture public and exposes their negative tendencies. This paper agrees with Cohen’s theses and analyzes their relevance in today’s perspective of culture and race. Other resembling forms of monsters have also been analyzed to establish a relationship between Chen’s publication and contemporary monsters. The essay starts by summarizing four of Cohen’s theses.
In his first thesis, Cohen theorizes a monster as a “cultural body” that signifies uncertainty between its time of creation and rebirth. This may insinuate that the social, time or cultural relevance of a monster is often misinterpreted. The second thesis views monsters as bodies with the ability to reappear in another context even after being eliminated in one. This means that no matter how hard we fight monsters, they may always haunt us. In each example presented in the second theses, the monster returns in a different form with each historical context. This reincarnation means that society needs to address the issues created by monsters instead of downplaying them. The third thesis depicts monsters to have the ability to rebel against normal policies. For instance, aliens in the Ridley Scott film appear to go against the law of evolution. This means that monsters are revolutions. Finally, the fourth thesis seems to define monsters as perceptions caused by the existing differences between people. This may be due to political, economic, sexual, or racial perspectives. For instance, politicians may sometimes act as agents of disintegration in society when they demonize one race or culture at the expense of another. This thesis presents the different culture as one that is seeking to be non-monstrous.
In my understanding, Cohen’s publication defines monsters as a union of difference that sparks fear. For instance, this could mean that if people holding disagreeing opinions or ideologies interacted unfavorably, they are likely to spark fear amongst themselves thus the monstrous effect of fear. This nature of monsters is also well exhibited in the movie ‘Warm Bodies’ of 2013. In the movie, a zombie falls in love with a character named Julie, they begin to get along and the zombie strangely starts to feel protective of her. The bond is however broken by the zombie’s new ability to regain humanity, a difference that threatens their affection by the very difference of their existence. This illustrates the ability of monsters to change form which even in real-life society changes relationships. Other than ideological differences, such a difference could also be caused by a conflict in race, culture, sexuality, or race. The monsters are also brought out as ambiguous creatures that do not fit into any known classification. Due to this reason, he describes them as “disturbing hybrids” to emphasize their ambiguity and difficulty in their comprehension. Other than the fictional monsters that people make up in their minds, people themselves can also be monsters and will fall under the same ambiguity whenever they do so.
In the first thesis, a monster is defined as a “cultural body” because one greatly influences the other. The uni-body formed by both of them creates discrepancies around all existing cultures, thus triggering the discovery of certain different ideologies that do not match. This then prompts people to become monsters of each other. If I substitute race and culture into the above statement, disagreeing cultures trigger racial discrimination. Cohen also believes that monsters act as boundaries between differences. In other words, monsters could be foreign ideologies that have somehow found a way into a society that is not used to them. It may be a new culture, different political orientation, people of a different race, or a sexual normative that may have been unacceptable before the cultural invasion. Earthly beings have always been territorial and are made to feel threatened whenever their territory is encroached by a fellow being. An example of how each forms the boundary of the other is; the colonization of certain countries by others led to inter-marriages, cultural invasion, and the adoption of new practices. On the flip side, the slave trade associated with colonialists is attributed to be the cause of racial discrimination, which later made the colonized societies to feel insecure; thus fighting for independence. This is a perfect example of how cultural monsters have historically been terrorizing people. Racial discrimination is one of the after-effects of slavery.
In the twenty-first century, some monsters fit into Cohen’s theories. The most significant ones are technology, mental depression, and other people. Unlike the historical strange monsters referenced by Cohen, the above contemporary monsters are mainly brought about by technological abnormalities and the degrading social relationships among people. Society is now facing more challenging monsters than historical ones because of their increased complexity and ambiguity. Unlike the ancient fictional monsters that are portrayed to feel a glimpse of what people felt, the modern monsters are incapable of such because they come from within the people (Kluger, 2014). These intrinsic monsters are more challenging to deal with since they are internalized from people’s perceptions.
One example of a modern-day theoretical monster is technology. Looking into the current issues with racism, technology is among the factors that encourage racism. For instance, racists people may feel safer hiding behind the walls of a computer when bullying other people based on race. Impressions set by the media may also encourage racial stereotypes. According to Cohen’s first thesis, monsters may be created by people to serve a certain positive purpose or to fit certain moments, only for the overlooked disadvantages to become exposed later. This is evident in the rapid technological evolution that the world has experienced in the twenty-first century. However, despite the many advantages of such advancements, technology has become the monster of privacy invasion. The implications of Algorithms are to blame for the constant data theft and major sabotages not to mention the ability to create chaos by just a few clicks. Technology has so far facilitated the crumbling of many world economies, theft, unethical hackings, and plane accidents. This has sparked fear and concerns about its limitation.
Technology also satisfies the ‘ambiguous’ characteristic of the monsters defined by Cohen. This is because technology ranges from a wide diversity of hardware and software, all of which are made differently, for different roles, and have different effects. Considering the factors alongside their continuous evolution only makes technology a complex monster that cannot be easily regulated at this point.
Speaking of technological evolution, Cohen (2007) affirms that the cycle of monsters can never come to an end. He explains the reason being for every destruction of a monster, a remnant is left behind, from which the second breed of monster rises, more complex than its predecessor. With that in mind, it is evident that despite the technological flaws being detected and discontinued, future developments that are made to forego previous flaws are likely to bring even more flaws with them. True to his words that more monsters rise in other forms, technology as a monster will surely continue to rise depending on the time, prevailing culture, and the place it is unleashed (Shultz, 2018).
Mental depression, which is currently on the rise, also fulfills Cohen’s description of a monster. Typically, mental depression is a condition caused by sudden changes in a person’s mood. In this context, mental depression would be as a result of the sudden lowering of the subject’s mood after encountering the previously mentioned monsters. After the horrific encounter with a monster, an individual is also likely to be mentally depressed depending on the degree of the horror. Worse still, the person may be oblivious of the relationship between stress and the horror experienced, causing them to delay or fail in addressing the situation. This nature of mental depression matches Cohen’s theory that while the damage by a monster prevails, the creature itself escapes and re-emerges in secondary form. Regardless of whether it first appeared in form of racial discrimination, gender discrimination, or negative technological impacts, its effect will always be felt afterward in form of mental depression. The marginalized group of people or victims of technology will suffer from stress. Due to the complexity of mental instabilities, psychologists, and psychiatrists in modern days are always seeking to address such problems. This matches Cohen’s second thesis which affirms that a monster will always attract attention to itself and people will continuously study it in comparison to the modern-day social, cultural, and historical context (Forceville, 2018).
Cohen compares such a monster with the ancient vampires that recurred in history while evolving each time to compete with their victim’s new abilities. Nonetheless, the publication reads that there is always a new lesson from every re-occurrence of a beast. In this case, the monster of mental depression, whose appearance is based on the current social affairs, cautions of a significant social, cultural, or individual issue that needs to be addressed through counseling.
As the complexity of a monster increases, its effects become a full-blown social disaster that cannot be classified into any definite category. As per Cohen’s third thesis, “The Monster is the Harbinger of Category Crisis.” This involves other people around the subject individual. Like the movie Zombie land of 2009, such fears involve an apocalyptic threat, a symbolic apocalyptic threat, or anything close to the destruction of the social structure. The protagonist takes place in a fictional full-blown threat in which he teams up with three strangers to survive the zombie
apocalypse. At this stage, a monster cannot be truly defined as either cultural, economic, or as any other category because it affects all of them. In real life, such monsters limit people from interacting or cause them to interact negatively such as fighting in wars. Modern horror movies for instance tend to depict the same tension one would experience when they would have been victims of a war or a global pandemic, all of which limit social interactions. Intensive research on such monsters could yield some light but according to Cohen (2007), human beings are afraid to conduct such studies due to fear of the unknown. This triggers the refusal to confirm categorization.
In conclusion, Cohen exhaustively describes monsters; both imaginary and real in his publication. The descriptions have been coupled with certain common characteristics that are evident in both imaginary and real monsters of contemporary society. He goes ahead to describe race and culture as monsters by showing how they fulfill his theories and descriptions. The illustrations also confirm that a monster is complex, always escapes, and ultimately difficult to categorize. In line with the above features, this paper compares technology, mental depression, and social life; all randomly selected independent of Cohen’s theories, for the realization of common characteristics that have been discussed. Since these aspects share common features with those that Cohen used in his publication, it is apparent that his theories can be used as criteria to determine monsters of the modern world. From the illustrations in the essay, it is evident that Cohen’s four theses in the context of monsters are valid.
Forceville, C., & Paling, S. (2018). The metaphorical representation of depression, in short, wordless animation films. Visual Communication, 1470357218797994
Kluger, J. (2014). The Narcissist Next Door. Understanding the monster in your family, in your office, in your bed- in your world. Penguin
Shultz, D. (2018). Creating a modern monster. Pg. 151