July 9, 2008


Beware of the narcissist: Plucked eyebrows may reveal a personality disorder (Roger Dobson, 09/07/2008, Daily Telegraph)

Visible cleavage, plucked eyebrows and a cheery smile are all warning signs of a narcissistic personality, psychologists have discovered.

Observers are quick to pick up on such signals and use them to categorise people at a glance, according to a new study.

Such accuracy and speed of detection may have evolved to allow people to steer clear of narcissists and thus avoid the downsides of their behaviour, which include self-deception and a lack of regard for others, the researchers believe.

Hellboy, Evil, and the Cross: The Hellboy sequel opening soon is just the latest in a long line of films about battling supernatural baddies—with the Cross often wielded as a weapon of goodness. (Steven D. Greydanus, 07/08/08, Christianity Today)

Hellboy's world—like those of other recent supernatural-themed films including Constantine and Ghost Rider—seems significantly shaped by Christian culture. (All three of these films are based on comic books; other recent comic-book movies lacking supernatural themes have offered similar instances of religious imagery, including Daredevil and X2.) [...]

As a "good demon," Hellboy may be a walking oxymoron, but he's the singular exception to the rule. The first Hellboy movie establishes the occult world as a distinctly unfriendly place; the title character aside, demons are creatures of pure evil, existing only to destroy and consume. Moreover, those who battle them use crosses, crucifixes, rosaries and other recognizable emblems of Christian faith.

In this regard, Hellboy is heir to a movie tradition going back to the B-movie Hammer horror films of the 1950s and '60s, particularly those directed by Terence Fisher (The Devil's Bride, Horror of Dracula), a high-church Anglican. Fisher's films depict demons, vampires and all creatures of evil helpless before the inexorable power of the cross.

Bela Lugosi's Dracula in 1931 may have cringed from a crucifix dangling from a potential victim's neck, but Fisher turned the cross into a weapon capable of damaging and even destroying evil. (The Christian worldview of Fisher's Hammer horrors has been explored at some length by Presbyterian clergyman Paul Leggett in Terence Fisher: Horror, Myth and Religion.)

Fisher's "weaponized" portrayal of crosses, crucifixes, holy water and the like has greatly influenced the portrayal of evil in pop entertainment, from Hellboy and Constantine to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Church also has some sort of role combating the powers of darkness in films like Van Helsing and John Carpenter's Vampires, even if crosses and other Christian symbols may not have the power they do elsewhere.

At the same time, the Christian influence originally so significant in Fisher's world is often vestigial at best in these later stories. Too often, notions of faith and God are nearly or entirely absent, the Church is little more than an eccentric world power, and the cross little more than a talisman or magic charm.

In other films, though, real Christian belief and the Church as an institution relying on faith against the gates of hell comes to the surface, perhaps most obviously in The Exorcist and more recently The Exorcism of Emily Rose. These films depict spiritual warfare in a less stylized but also more ambiguous way, with the tide of battle not so black-and-white as in a Hammer horror film. (Emily Rose director Scott Derrickson, a Christian, has discussed how horror films can be a good medium for pointing to God.)

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 9, 2008 11:02 AM

Heavy preening is a sign of narcissism? Ah, the wonders of modern science.

Posted by: ghostcat at July 9, 2008 11:55 AM

What a stupid article which basically argues that being a slob is mentally healthy.

Posted by: Perry at July 9, 2008 12:10 PM

being a slob is mentally healthy.

Works for me! Another excuse to not clean up the bathroom and kitchen or do laundry is always welcome.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at July 9, 2008 12:26 PM

In the Middle Ages painters depicted demons of various kinds as evil, and depicted religious figures and relics as powerful against such evil. It was a way of telling stories to a populace that for the most part didn't read. Some things never change.

Posted by: Steve White at July 9, 2008 5:57 PM

The bit about crosses as weapons reminds me of my favorite theological bit from the film "Fright Night" when Roddy McDowall's character Peter Vincent first realizes he is confronting a real vampire:

Peter Vincent: [brandishing a crucifix] Back, spawn of Satan!
Jerry Dandrige: [chuckles] Oh, really?
[Dandridge grabs the cross, crushes it, and throws it aside]
Jerry Dandrige: You have to have faith for this to work on me!

Posted by: Gil Gilliam at July 9, 2008 11:27 PM
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