Another Day, Another Blog

March 15, 2007

Bigger is scarier

Filed under: random — iamza @ 2:45 pm

Why are we so fascinated by creatures so much larger than us? Think of the dinosaur craze a few years back, when every second film and TV show seemed to feature the T. Rex. Or look at the number of stories that incorporate super-sentient whale-like creatures–from Star Wars (with the Hammerheaded general) to Stargate Atlantis (e.g. season two’s ‘Grace Under Pressure’) to Moby Dick. Elephants feature heavily in many of South African author Dalene Matthee‘s books, often standing in for nature in the eternal battle between man and his environment. And then there’s stories like Dumbo, and Jungle Book which aim to make the big and scary seem less so.

Why is size so important? Does it hearken back to some still lingering deep-seated fear we have from when we were the ants, and dinosaurs the giant feet waiting to stomp us into oblivion. Like picking at an old wound: “Once, there were dragons and all manner of foul beasts. Come and sit, weary traveller! Rest up your feet, and I will tell you a cautionary tale of the bad old days, when we were but snacks for the beasts that roamed this Earth.”

Is it just hard for us to imagine being any different than we are? There are stories which focus on small as well — offhand examples include A Bug’s Life, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and Innerspace. But even then, the focus is on how being small can be very hazardous for one’s health — because everything else in the world is so very much larger than one.

I guess “big” equates to “scary”. And giant scary monsters are even more terrifying. Think of the giant spiders in both the second Harry Potter film, and in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Or the giant ape in King Kong, or the giant lizard in Godzilla.

And scary, when we know intellectually there’s nothing to be scared of, is a turn-on because we get the adrenaline rush without having to face the threat of impending death. It’s a controlled release of fight-or-flight, without the downside of sweat or the stitch under the rib or wheezing for that next gasp of air.

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