Through the Looking-Glass: The Mirror Scare

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Ahhh…vanity.  Aren’t we all guilty of it?  Back in the day, people stared at their reflections in still pools of water.  Remember poor old Narcissus,  he fell in love with his own reflection and refused to leave the side of the pool, killing himself (probably from lack of food and water).  Later, polished obsidian was used as mirrors.  Even later, polished metals like copper were used.     It wasn’t until Roman times that mirrors made of metal-backed glass were first produced.  In Renaissance  Europe, mirrors were only for the rich as expensive luxury items.  Then, In 1835 a German chemist called Justus von Liebig invented the silvered-glass mirror where a thin layer of metallic silver is deposited onto glass by the chemical reduction of silver nitrate. The introduction of this process led to mirrors being manufactured on a much larger scale, and for the first time in history ordinary people could afford a mirror for their home. Nowadays mirrors are more frequently manufactured by depositing aluminium by vacuum directly onto the glass.

We like to look at ourselves.  Humans and a few other creatures on this planet are able to recognize their own reflection in mirrors.   We mostly use mirrors today for grooming.  And we love looking at ourselves so much, that we also use mirrors for ornamentation in our homes.

Mirrors and Myths

Mirrors have long been apart of legend and myths.  Ancient and not-so-ancient.  I already mentioned Narcissus, which is a Greek Myth.  Mirrors have been used by mystics  to scry or “see the future”.

Mirrors are said to reflect the soul, and to see something that is not there is a bad omen.  Duh!  If I saw something in a mirror, that wasn’t really there in reality, I would probably be having a bad day.  That being said, vampires, according to legend, have no reflection, as they have no souls. (Which is weird, because Angel had a soul, and he still didn’t have a reflection in BTVS).  In the Southern U.S. and other countries, mirrors are covered when someone in the home dies, lest the spirit become trapped.

In the fairytale Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the Wicked Queen gazes into a magic mirror and asks ‘Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?’ and is decidedly not amused when a reflection that is not her own floats into view!  

In a funnier scenario, Shrek’s Lord Farquaad uses a magic mirror to find himself a princess to marry.

Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking Glass’ is probably one of the more famous books to use mirrors as a central theme, but there are many novels, plays an films with ‘mirror’ in the title.

And haven’t most of us been at a slumber party with friends chanting Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary into our darkened bathroom mirrors.  Or Candyman, after the movie?

The Mirror Scare

Naturally, the mystique that has surrounded something as seemingly mundane as a mirror has dribbled into the horror genre.  How many times have we seen a character walking in their own familiar territory, right by a mirror, and suddenly we see the reflection of the bad guy, right behind them!….cue dramatic scary theme music.

The most common form of mirror scare is the use of a bathroom mirror on a medicine cabinet. As a character goes to get something from the cabinet: we see the character’s reflection in front of the mirror, then opening the cabinet, then as they close the mirror again, Bam: they’re right behind you!

Are they a cliche?  Yes, but an effective one.  With the myths and superstitions surrounding the mirror and our reflections, it’s always going to be an effective scare.

My personal favorite mirror scare is a scene from The Craft.  The character, Rochelle, looks into a mirror, but her reflection turns away because it doesn’t want to look at her.  At least that’s how I saw it.  Her actions harmed someone, and her reflection was ashamed.  Good movie, good scare.

Anyway, each movie tries a different approach:  the character does not see the bad guy behind them, but the audience does through the mirror. Or, the character sees the bad guy in the mirror, but no one is really there. Or, the character sees themselves in the mirror turns around, and finds someone (aka the bad guy) there who is not reflected.  It appears to me, that horror mostly uses mirrors as we see them in superstitions:  a way to see the truth, the future, or a window to another world.

The Mirror Scare Compilation:

Movies that use the Mirror Scare:

An American Werewolf in London

Candyman

Prom Night

Sean of the Dead

Mirrors

The Craft-Sorry, couldn't find a mirror pic.


What Lies Beneath

Halloween H2O

The Orphan

Phantasm

Stir of Echoes

The Grudge


The Ring


The Unborn


The Omen

Wow!  I guess it really is overused!  Personally I don’t care if it’s a cliche.  I love a good mirror scare.

Pediophobia+Barbie+Dark Humor = Marie Clayton

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As a child of the 80s, having been subjected to movies like Chucky, Dolls, and Puppet Master, somewhere along the way, I was positive my dolls awoke at night and were trying to murder me.  Despite that,  I really really wanted-had-to-have a Cabbage Patch Kids Doll (it’s the 80s version of Elmo, as a matter of fact CPK’s were the first must-have toy), my mother staunchly refused.  And proceeded to horrify me with tales of possessed Cabbage Patch Kids harming their little “adoptive” parent.  That was the big appeal of Cabbage Patch, they came with birth certificates.  (Hmmmm, I just realized Cabbage Patch Kids may have contributed to the high number of single parents in America…whaaaat…I think I’m on to something).

Check out one of my favorite sites: http://www.snopes.com.  It’s my absolute fave urban legend site and according to them, the legend going around at the time and apparently came out on the National Enquirer (which I totally remember my mother used to read) was  that Cabbage Patch dolls were coming to life and strangling their owners.  It detailed the experiences of a number of women longing for babies of their own who adopted the toys and pretended they were real.  Satan possessed the dolls, naturally, anything possessed by satan is up to no good.

Anyway, back to my story: after my mother’s stories that happened to a friend of a friend, or some cousin I hardly knew, my emotions were torn:  I wanted this toy, but what if it were true?  Needless to say, I never adopted a Cabbage Patch Kid, and I have never gotten over my fear of dolls, which is called Pediophobia, by the way.  Yeah, that’s right, you can learn something on my blog.   It’s also common for pediophobes to be afraid of only specific types of dolls.  Like me, I fear dolls, especially those where the eyes suddenly come open, and porcelain dolls, clown dolls, those new Baby Alive Dolls (really, toy industry, really?) and probably several others.

But I was never afraid of Barbie, at one time I actually had and played with 14 Barbies.  They were all lesbians because my mother wouldn’t buy me a Ken doll.  I have this one childhood memory that always makes me chuckle:  I’m looking up at my mom asking Why can’t I have a Ken doll?  And my mother just saying over and over, No, you can’t have a boy doll. And I whine: But why not?  Imagine my dismay when I finally got my hands on one of my friend’s dolls and undressed him and…..nothing.  What was the big deal?  Oh my God, that was just like my real first sexual encounter.  Just kidding.  So yeah, I cut the hair of a few of my Barbies and et viola…instant boyfriend.

Enough about me.  Whilst stumbling, I came upon some pictures that appealed to my dark side and love of all things Barbie.  The photos are by Marie Clayton, who I can’t find much info on, but love love love her work.  I think you will too.  Check it out:  The Dark side of Barbie.  For more of her work check out her site:  http://www.thephotographymarielclayton.com/#!

Just paying the bills....

What happens behind closed doors..

LOL...this was me, back in the day...Where is it?

I love this one! Reminiscent of Prom Night Dumpster Babies

This one reminds me of Black Swan for some reason

Ken should have shut up while her show was on

Ken out of the closet...with a bang