Watch Now: The Grey Stare by Shaun Slifer
“Among the earliest forms of human self-awareness was the awareness of being meat.” – David Quammen, Monster of God
I’m fascinated by the role that predator animals play in popular culture, in particular the way in which Hollywood movies utilize the “rogue beast” trope in entertainment. Whether they take the form of environmental precautionary tales (ex: the global warming theme of 1977’s Day of the Animals) or eschew content in pursuit of unmitigated pulp action (1997’s Anaconda, or any Jaws sequel), these movies speak to base fears that humans share: the fear of “other” in the form of animals, the fear of subordination to them, the fear of being eaten or defeated by creatures we cannot control. It’s not as though Hollywood films or even pulp novellas present new treatments of this theme – history is full of predator animals in fictional and mythical interactions with people. What I find intriguing is the repetition of this theme in entertainment today, and it’s continual success at creating a binary understanding of “the Wild” despite the usually absurd presentation. From the giant octopus in the first 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916) to Snakes on a Plane (2006), modern filmmakers continue to recycle formulaic stories in which people are forced into violent interactions with perverse versions of the natural world, usually ending in victory for the humans. – Shaun Slifer
As he mentions, the theme of ‘man’ overcoming the odds and dominating nature is as old as the oral traditions, a metaphor for longstanding primitive fears, and the struggle for dominion. Though when filtered through Slifer’s perspective, with the triumph removed, we are left with representations of nature-gone-wild, wreaking havoc on mankind. The nature represented in his works are not only non-passive, but aggressive and specific about their prey, such as the monster sharks in Slifer’s “Testing the Waters” (6:31m / 2008) , or the bear in “The Roar” ( 1:15m / 2009).