Slenderman: the Modern Big Foot

Alejandro Alvarez
November 25th 2016

Next year the television network HBO will broadcast a new documentary based on the incident and aftermath of two girls from Wisconsin attacking a third one in 2014. According to them, they were driven by the most famous mythical creature born on the Internet: the Slenderman. But who is this being and how it came to be? It may just be the modern version of a much older myth.

Since the beginning of civilization, books are filled with tales of half-human half-animal monsters. One example is the Epic of Gilgamesh from old Mesopotamia; in this poem a hairy humanoid creature called Enkidu fights against the hero Gilgames, king of Uruk. Later medieval stories mention Woodwose or Wild man. More recently, myths of the Sasquatch and the Yeti have met the popular culture and became icons of the crypto zoology. All this creatures share some similarities: they live in the mountains, they are hairy, apelike and brutish. Ed Simon, Leigh University academic, believes they represent our primal roots in nature, the Homo Sapiens that was still an animal. The fear and battles against this beasts are a metaphor of our civilization process, regarding these tales he states: “Imagine how potent this message must have been during civilisation’s infancy, when the vast majority still lived as hunter-gatherers and the cultural memory of that earlier state was not so distant”. 

Now that we are living in the modernity and far away from those tribal times, the idea of entering the forest and face a hairy humanoid is no longer that scary as it used to be. The new mysterious creature that roams the dark forests of the Internet is Slenderman: a tall figure with long extremities, pitch-dark suit and a bright white face with no features. Instead of being a representation of our savage past, Slenderman represents our feared future: he is usually described as alienated, antisocial, in a business suit; the only thing missing to match perfectly the white-collar nightmare is the gray office cubicle. This figure also mirrors the suited evil agents of The Matrix or the secretive Men-in-Black of the UFO conspiracies. Altogether he is an accurate depiction of the modernity monsters and a representation of the fear of losing our civilization.

Source: Aeon. Image: Alejandro Alvarez

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Siri Beerends: I really embrace the idea that viruses can teach us a lesson in modesty. It is necessary that our position as the dominant species on the planet is being challenged. I also agree that it is a mistake to think that we are becoming Gods. But unfortunately, this is actually what is happening now. Corona doesn’t teach us to be modest, it teaches us how we can -as quickly as possible- go back to business as usual: saving our capitalistic economy.

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