When Monsters Serve as Prophets | Sojourners

When Monsters Serve as Prophets

Horror can reveal truths about systems and structures that work to protect the status quo.
A close-up screenshot from Alien 3; an alien creature with its mouth open is seen from the side, with its teeth next to the shiny face and ear of a white woman who directly faces the camera.
From Alien 3 (1992)

THE PRIEST WALKS into the bedroom to face the little girl. It’s not a little girl, though. Something dark, something other looks out from her eyes. It opens her mouth to spew blasphemies, obscenities. The priest raises a crucifix, shouting, “The power of Christ compels you!”

So goes The Exorcist, the 1973 Oscar winner directed by William Friedkin. As a 17-year-old, I was not prepared for the visceral horror of seeing a possessed young Regan (Linda Blair) serve as the battleground between God and the devil. Neither were my Southern Baptist youth group friends who watched with me in my home. And neither were their parents, who (according to my long-suffering mother) were quite angry that I had hosted this viewing.

On the surface, those parents’ horror is understandable. The Exorcist more than earns its R rating, with gore and a good bit of blasphemy. But sit with Pazuzu (the demon) for a little longer, and it becomes clear that the film aligns well with conservative evangelical politics — a perspective in which I was raised and which persists in many corners of the U.S. church today.

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