Part 1 of 2

What’s a Vigilante anyway?

As with the Spanish term ‘Vigilare’ – to keep watch – a vigil is a period of watchfulness, a commitment to be aware, often while others get to sleep in peace as a result. Likewise, a vigilante will often be up and about their business while his or her township sleeps, and while the darker forces they seek to challenge, or indeed eliminate, are at large.

vigilante 3

A vigilante, by definition in the Oxford Dictionary is A member of a self-appointed group of citizens who undertake law enforcement in their community without legal authority, typically because the legal agencies are thought to be inadequate.

An interesting phenomena in the 21st Century when technically we are more protected by laws than ever before, but which, nevertheless, is on the increase, and not just in films and comic strips, but on our streets.

In August 2014, the Daily Mail reported that in Detroit, one of America’s most violent cities, self-defence killings, or ‘justifiable homicides’, showed a 79% increase. Citizen ‘patrols’ have been set up by retired police officers tired of a lack of official policing in their neighbourhoods. This trend, of course, ties in with slashes to police budgets. Similarly, as police response times plummet, private security businesses are doing very well, thank you.

private security

In the UK, a BBC documentary: Welcome to Vigilante Britain, highlighted one of the greatest concerns of the authorities as being the rise in ‘paedophile hunting’ groups. In recent years, a kind of national rage has built up against those who predate on children and the lenient sentences doled out to offenders, sometimes with tragic consequences, for example, the gang-style execution of a lonely misfit, wrongly accused of sexual crimes.

But by African standards, the Western World’s style of Neighbourhood Watch is pretty tame. In Nigeria, for instance, you could be lynched for committing a robbery, while your executioners get a pat on the back from the police for “complimenting their efforts”.

Read:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8021468.stm

So, when did a watcher become a doer?

Certainly, there are a mass of influences that can be cited on the back of this trend. But vigilantes are nothing new; some of them go back decades, even centuries.

Akira Kurasawa’s Seven Samurai, a Japanese masterpiece, offers one of the finest examples of what vigilantism is all about (later, The Magnificent Seven, USA). A group of like-minded individuals combating lawlessness in defence of poor defenceless citizens.

7 samuri  7 samuri 2

Typical of the vigilante, they are fearless, ruthless, prepared to kill and ultimately to die in the name of justice.

This Parallel can be found in any number of vigilante based movies dating back to Shane, 1953, and the 1960s and 70s Spaghetti Westerns featuring Clint Eastwood as a lone blonde cowboy who, though narcissistic in many ways, steps up to form a shield between the little man and the tyrant.

Shane movie  clint eastwood

Here we see the vigilante is a loner, a drifter, a character perfected in the 1970s series Kung-Fu, starring David Carradine. The genius of this series is that, while sticking with the theme of a cowboy loner, it harks back to greats like Seven Samurai by delivering martial arts style kicks in every episode.

kung fu

As with the rise of vigilantism in society, so we see a rise in the more ruthless style of avenger, apparent in the ever darker Batman movies, also notably in recent years in landmark films like Kickass. It’s fair to say that the violence in this and other movies, such as Ghost Rider, reflects the viewer’s growing intolerance towards sparing the baddy.

kickass  ghost rider

This takes us over to the comic-strip vigilante, a super hero who may or may not have super powers. So who is your favourite?

batman and co  x men

Have a look at Marvel and DC’s top ten and post a comment with who, in your opinion, is the number one superhero:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DuUXDh-M5w

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-T2UJBpiOcg&src_vid=4DuUXDh-M5w&feature=iv&annotation_id=annotation_2345008995

And music, The Hip Hop / Rap artist Vigilante, set to strom the UK, reflects public rage at gang violence with hard-hitting lyrics:

vigilante rap 2

My fascination with vigilantes and superheroes, angels and demons, all come together in Melt, where I explore the scenario of a dark, super-powered avenger set loose on modern day society.

Watch this blog and my website for the autumn 2014 release date.

So, a question for you: if you were a vigilante, what superpower would you choose in order to right the wrongs of the world? Flight, a light-sabre or super strength? Or, like Kickass, would you just wing in as a simple human, do the best you could with what you’ve got?

Next post: Joe Average turns vigilante.

 

angel free 3

COMING SOON – MELT, the novel:  ‘Desecrating an ancient graveyard can unearth enough trouble to shake up the world.’

Follow me at: https://twitter.com/wood_melt

Friend me at: https://www.facebook.com/janinelangley.wood

Visit my website at: http://janinewood2012.wix.com/janine-langleywood

Book website: http://janinewood2012.wix.com/melt—horror-novel

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Vigilantes in the 21st Century, part 1 of 2

Aside

Angels and Demons in the 21st Century

Part 4 – Angels and Demons in popular culture.

This final episode, a snapshot of angels and demons in popular culture, closes the series for now. We’ve looked at the good and the bad, so it’s only fair to give a mention to the hideously ugly. In popular culture, demons especially, tend to be presented in this way. They crop up in various forms, from creepy dolls to out-and-out gargoyle faces, as with The Exorcist’s Pazuzu, a demon originating from way back in Assyrian and Babylonian mythology. So to be fair, he always was ugly. Interestingly, though, compared to earlier bronzes of him, Pazuzu, typical of an ego-centric male, seems to have acquired a penis enlargement for the film role.

220px-PazuzuDemonAssyria1stMilleniumBCE Pazuzu 3

Pazuzu – The Exorcist (1973)

The Conjuring

The Conjuring (2013) – Annabelle

Scary dolls, or inanimate objects occupied by demons, have soared in popularity since the rise of the Chucky franchise. Although some would argue that the clown doll in Spielberg’s Poltergeist was the real inspiration. If you’re a fan, check out this facebook group: Creepy Dolls & Paranormal Experience

https://www.facebook.com/groups/255635077782406/?fref=ts

But demon dolls are nothing new. Demonic ventriloquist dummies hog the limelight in films dating back to the 1940s. In 1962 The Twilight Zone featured an episode entitled “The Dummy”, followed in 1964 by “Caesar and Me”, and then, of course, sandwiched delectably between them came the biggest star of all, Talky Tina.

talky tina

For the ten scariest demon dolls in film, see; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUhrZtoxJhI

The Devil himself, however, seems to have come a long way since the bad old scaly-faced, minotaur-horned depictions of old; images which never quite fitted Biblical descriptions of Lucifer anyway (Lucifer meaning “bringing light”). In Ezekiel, for instance, several verses relate to Satan’s beauty and perfection before iniquity was found in him.

In the last few decades especially, Satan is brushing up quite well, not beautiful exactly, more your uber-cool businessman, far more likely to be carrying a briefcase than a pitchfork. Some of my favourite Satanic characterisations are those by Robert De Niro in Angel Heart and Al Pacino in Devil’s Advocate.

devilAngel HeartAl Pacino devils advct

Both roles were played with a level of vanity and arrogance befitting the Satan of the old scriptures.

So, that’s the dark side, but what about the good angels? How are they coming across in the media? The Prophesy (1995), starring Christopher Walken, has the Angel Gabriel pay a visit to earth in order to settle a dispute in heaven. If you dropped into this film mid-play, however, you might not realise that. You might in fact think you were watching another depiction of the Devil exhibiting his power on earth. But if we go back to part 2 of this series and recall the angels at Sodom and Gomorrah and what duties fell to them, The Prophesy just reminds us that, though angels may ultimately be on the side of good, they can be pretty forceful in how they pursue the course of righteousness.

the prophesy

In fact, more and more angel-based films, contrary to their nicer counterparts, such as the saviour of It’s a Wonderful Life and Brad Pitt’s sweetly depicted Joe Black, are becoming increasingly darker, dealing with the more apocalyptic issues of the day, as with the 2007 film Gabriel, an Australian horror film set in Purgatory, and Legion (2010) enacting the Holy War as predicted in Revelation. Gaming has become similarly obsessed with battles at the gates of Hell.

On a lighter note, the selling media like to portray angels as being of the female gender, for example falling for a Lynx saturated male; clearly a good sense of smell not being one of the things they’re blessed with.

lynx-fallenangelswarming

So, what of the female gender? Are we ever angels? Well, of course, as with everything historical, we are underrepresented or associated, where there’s an element of power or sexuality, with evil. Female angels are just not there in the Biblical scriptures. Angels are invariably written as men. Passages in Isaiah, however, referring to Lilith, or Lilit, the so-called night monster, also sometimes interpreted as the Screech Owl or night bird, have captured the modern imagination. Her definition may shift through Hebrew translations, but the mythology of this glorious creature, also said in Hebrew Creation stories to be the first wife of Adam, has become an inspiration to modern day artists and crops up in a range of popular TV and film, for instance as the white-eyed demon in Lucifer Rising. She most likely originated in Assyrian mythology as Lilita, a sexually powerful demonic queen.

Lilith 2Lilith 3

Lilita                                                Lucifer Rising.

I play with these ideas in Melt, presenting its protagonist with the dilemma of something apparently angelic, but that also possesses the dangerous combination of beauty and power.

So, here’s a question: who’s winning, in terms of our continued fascination with angels and demons? Are you religious person or a member of one of the growing swathes of Satanic followers? Do you paint your angels bright white or deepest black?

Are you a gospel singer, or a member or follower of death metal or dark Gothic band?

gospel singers   Generechrist

I’ll close with a quote from Voltaire, who, on his deathbed, was prompted by a priest to renounce Satan.

His response went like this: “Now, now my good man, this is no time to be making enemies.

Join me for the next post, which will be looking at historical vigilantes and their growing trend in popular culture.

COMING SOON – MELT, the novel:  ‘Desecrating an ancient graveyard can unearth enough trouble to shake up the world.’

angel free 3

 Follow me at: https://twitter.com/wood_melt

Friend me at: https://www.facebook.com/janinelangley.wood

Visit my website at: http://janinewood2012.wix.com/janine-langleywood

MELT novel website: http://janinewood2012.wix.com/melt—horror-novel

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