It’s the outline, an argument of sorts. I hope you all enjoy it.
“In the darkest depths of memory”
I. You may have been told you imagined it, the feeling of being watched while completely alone. Perhaps in the back of your head you can see the image from countless TV shows and moves you see flash through your head; red, glowing eyes slowly opening up in front of you or worse glowing, huge white teeth from behind.
II. The shade of darkness acts as a blanket of the unknown, and the glowing, scant seen eyes and/or teeth, the inevitable danger of the unknown, of nature herself. Trying to find this imagery, this visual staple of fear and the unknown was actually more difficult to find examples of than I ever thought!
III. The image always fascinated me, sticking out so prominently and so often. It always followed me, seeing just how easily and effectively it fit into the fears of myself and so many others. For darkness in any place, to stare back, is fear.
IV. The imagery of eyes staring through shadow, thus, is one of the greatest abstractions of human fear in media.
V. I will now delve into why and where this trope evolved from. Finally, I will close with how this fine phenomena is one of the most important cultural artifacts of the past in regards to our current artistic climate.
- You may have heard, be it sci-fi or even religiously, of the idea of past lives.
- There have been cases of children, with no prior interaction with this imagery, having violent nightmares about monsters with gnashing teeth and glowing eyes. These children have never seen a wolf or a predator and are extremely young. Around 2 to 4 years old.
- Scientists have been experimenting with rats to see if phobias inflicted to one generation will be inherited by the next even without any interaction with their predecessors. This research has yielded remarkable results: automatic suspicion and fear reactions to the imagery that was a fear for the previous generation without conditioning.
- This leads us with some interesting questions. Do human beings, with our cognizant understanding of our surroundings and very biology have genetic fears? The answer seems to be maybe. Some people exhibit these inherent and primal fear responses to darkness and fears of teeth and monsters while others do not.
An ancient and powerful fear of the unseen predator only being able to see the light reflected in its eyes seems like an image that’s good to fear inherently.
- We see what we fear and our stomachs grow knotted and our blood cold. For if anger is the heart of the battle, fear is the soul of survival.
- : Humanity bends our fears to parody.
Art allows for us to subvert our expectations and channel our emotions. The rationality and realization of our dark fears allows us to express and harness them in a feat of artistic logic, such as how the dangerous may lurk in the dark and have glowing eyes. A character in complete darkness is only their eyes as well. Our awareness of our fear and of our abstraction of the world around us allows us to portray and communicate smaller, larger, and deeper concerns with further symbolic language. The darkness staring at us not only represents the very real threat of a predator, but the existential conflict of death incarnate and existential dread as expressed by Nietzsche’s famous quote “..[W]hen you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you”. Our imagery allows to craft and portray concepts that may get lost through simple language alone. That might need to be seen from some to be felt.
This leads to the concept of the cultural artifact. I feel that the imagery of the concealed threat is one universal to all cultures. An artifact from a time not easily forgotten, a time forced upon some and welcomed by others. A fear in the blood of children and the mind of the old. A great artifact grafted to the soul of the people. One that will persist, and will be reborn, with ourselves.
Through the maze, I see your etches, I see your fears. The blood as your ink, I know of your serious art.
I hope I properly articulated the origins of the eyes of the dark and its importance as a cultural artifact.
Our genetic memory, visual language, and visceral feeling of fear all add together into a wonderful construct of our primal history and the depth of our portrayals.
And I hope you all remember to always be cautious of the dark for it may be waiting for you…
Gray, R. (Dec 1st, 2013). Phobias may be memories passed down in genes from ancestors. The Telegraph. Web. Accessed Feb. 18th 2016. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/10486479/Phobias-may-be-memories-passed-down-in-genes-from-ancestors.html
Kase, A. (Febuary 20th, 2015). Science Is Proving Some Memories Are Passed Down From Our Ancestors. Reset.Me. Web. Accessed Feb. 18th 2016. http://reset.me/story/science-proving-memories-passed-ancestors/