Category Archives: Issue7Nonfiction

The Outskirts of Benslimane by Josie Gleave

I am called brave for leaving my home and moving to the other side of the world, but I know that any bravery I might have comes from my sister. She is the one who can effortlessly introduce herself to a crowd of new acquaintances or play the peacemaker in an argument. She climbs back on the horse that just bucked her off. I wanted to be her.

I have not seen my sister for over a year since I moved. It feels like ages to us who are often mistaken for twins. I stand on the edge of Paris at the Levallois-Perret train station where we are meeting for only a few short days. I arrived early, and she will fly in from her summer job in Morocco where she has been training horses for a family she claims is one of the wealthiest next to the King.

As I pace the platform, I pose the question: how does a twenty-something, female, Arizonan horse trainer end up in Morocco? There is a blank space in my mind when I think of that country. Instead I imagine a desert of sand and a solitary tiled palace with extensive stables full of black horses. I think of our parents in Arizona who I know have been uneasy for her safety. My own feelings of concern were that she would not be taken seriously or treated fairly. Americans feel loved within their homeland, but that warmth is not always reciprocated when abroad.

Like bees flitting out of the hive, Parisians flood the station. They are a swarm of blue suits and black dresses. I scan the faces of each traveller finding none that resemble my own. When the flight calms and I anticipate waiting for the next train, a statuesque female with long, straight hair rises on the escalator. She is zipped in a black jacket with an embroidered Arabian horse head over the heart, tired blue jeans, cowboy boots, and a rhinestone belt with a horseshoe buckle. We squeal each other’s names and hug. Together we weave through the streets, passing her lumpy duffle bag back and forth to rest our shoulders. My mind is teeming with questions and so I begin.

 

‘How did you end up in Morocco?’

 

It started with Riley’s phone call. He used to shoe for the same stables I worked for in Arizona, and so we would see each other from time to time at the show circuit. He rang me one day saying he had a job for me body clipping some horses for a photo shoot. He said the guy would pay well, three grand for the lot. I said I could get it done and asked for the location of the stable. He said Morocco, and I thought, like the country?

He called me on Monday, and I was on a flight that Wednesday. I only stayed a week that trip so I could get back for the second half of the university semester, but I got to know the owner, Anas, and his situation. His three main properties: the Villa, the Centre, and Comagree are all on the same road on the outskirts of Benslimane. His racing stable is on the coast of Mohammedia, a half hour away. Most of the show horses were stabled at the Villa while the Centre and Comagree had a mixture of agriculture fields, olive and citrus groves, donkeys, goats, cows, sheep, and miniature horses. Anas tries to make money out of his work, but his dad is content keeping him out of the city. See, Anas does everything extreme. He took partying to the extreme. Now he has over 500 head of horses. That is extreme. But it keeps him out of the city. That week, I just body clipped. Anas found out that I can ride and asked me to come back.

One month later, I was back on a plane to Morocco for the summer. To show me the land, Anas took me on his daily rounds. Every night he drove to each property to check up on the horses. He had pastures upon pastures of foals, yearlings, two year olds, three year olds, and pregnant mares. He didn’t remember all of their names, but somehow he knew every pedigree. He would point to a horse and say, ‘This horse was by this and sired by this horse and its grandfather was by this.’ Sometimes he sat up all night long researching pedigrees, and if you weren’t careful and didn’t go to bed on time you would be stuck there with him. Anas wanted to bring back the pure and traditional Barb. If you look them up, Barbs look like fat little ponies, but when you see them they are big boned with huge necks. According to Anas, a few years ago the Moroccan government was lax about accurate breed records. The Barb was disappearing and so anything that looked like a Barb was listed as a Barb to build the registry. While looking for a true bloodline, Anas was also breeding pure Egyptian Arabians and racehorses. He had more than a couple of projects in motion.

Anas set me up in the Villa. I had a room to myself with hot and cold running water and even occasional air conditioning. I was taken care of. The only problem I had was a rat that paid me a visit one night. Already I had a little mouse and two big geckos sharing my accommodation. There was no room for a rat. I locked it in the bathroom, but struggled to sleep. Every time I started to doze, I heard it scurry and bang into a wall or I dreamed that it was nibbling on my toes. In the morning it had left through the same hole it entered. I duct taped it tight.

From six in the morning to five at night, I worked with the horses. Anas had unrealistic expectations for the stallions’ progress, but I still tried to please him. He wanted them prancing and doing tricks, but most couldn’t ride in a straight line. Half of them weren’t even broke before I arrived. I split my horses into two groups. The first I turned out to pasture to let them run and play in open space. The others I lunged in a round pen and the next day I rotated. I schooled the halter Arabs by training them to position their necks high and back legs outstretched and then I worked on breaking the stallions. Some of those studs were raunchy. I mean, I would take them out of their stalls and they would try to bite my head. They would strike at me, rear up, and come at me. When I was breaking Markmoul under saddle, all he would do was buck. What I found to work with Markmoul seemed to ring true for stallions in general. The more consistently I worked them and rode them, the better they became. They were easier to handle and weren’t retarded. Let a stud sit for a bit, and they turn into mischief-makers. So I give them a job and it makes them happy. I think men are the same way.

My two years of high school Spanish were obviously of no use that summer. The people spoke a concoction of Arabic and French. A couple of guys at the stable took it upon themselves to educate me, which started as pointing at an object and stating its name. I kept a vocabulary list on my phone and botched the spelling of every word so I could read it later. Ayoub and I became friends through this process. He worked at Comagree, but was close to my age so we went riding together and explored old ruins and roads. I don’t know what language we spoke, but we could understand one another. We carried on full conversations in this odd foreign dialect that probably wasn’t really a language.

One of my favourite evenings was when Ayoub and I drove to Mohammedia. I had been before to see the racehorses, but never at night. That is when the city comes alive. Whenever we were unsure of directions, we pulled over on the side of the road and Ayoub would call out to a lone vendor selling snail soup or cactus fruit. The people were helpful and friendly, almost too friendly with a tendency to jump in your car and take you to the place you are trying to go. We arrived at Mohammedia, walked along the boardwalk and watched a little carnival on the beach where there were horse rides and camel rides for children. Somehow Ayoub convinced me to ride the Ferris wheel. Terrible idea. It went around and around for what felt like an hour and it went fast! I am not great with heights, but that was hardly my primary concern. First of all, it was a carnival ride. Second of all, it was a carnival ride in Morocco. The hinges looked shabby with ropes and knots holding things together. My nervousness only encouraged Ayoub. He tried to shake the carriage so it would rattle and swing and then he would laugh and laugh.

Early in the month, Anas asked me to show some of the Arabs in halter. I told him I would if he really wanted me to, but I didn’t think it was a good idea. The horses wouldn’t have a fair show with me. Women aren’t exactly repressed in Morocco, but they don’t show horses. Even if I trotted out with the best Arab gelding, I would still be a woman. Anas knew the risk, but still thought that I deserved to flaunt my work. I told Anas his horses would have a better shot with me training and a man showing.

Morocco has its own politics and rules around horse shows. I let that be. In no other way was it a problem that I was a woman. The guys treated me a bit differently, but that was because I am a white American, and as a trainer I was a little bit higher than them. After they saw me manhandle a couple of the studs and bust my butt working and getting dirty just like them, they accepted me.

One day, all the guys and me were at Comagree looking at the Barbs used in Fantasia. We had just gone to the festival and seen the main competition where twenty men on Barb horses, dressed in traditional garb, gallop towards the audience and shoot their rifles into the air one time. The goal is to fire in unison so it sounds like one single shot ringing out, not popcorn. These Barb horses are a fiery breed. They are taught to dance and rear upon hearing certain Arabic words. One of the guys brought out this grey Barb and jumped on bareback. The horse took off down the road, reared on command like The Man from Snowy River, sprinted back toward us, and skidded to a halt. The man jumped off and said to me, ‘You?’

‘Yeah!’ I swung up on the grey without a thought of possible dangers. It was my chance to prove my riding ability. We galloped to the end of the road, and I repeated the Arabic commands. The Barb pranced and then reared, pawing the air. We shot off again and slid to a stop. The guys clapped and cheered for me. I slid off the Barb’s back and couldn’t stop smiling. Amongst the commotion, Said asked me something in Arabic. I was used to nodding and agreeing with what was asked of me even when I didn’t understand. Next thing I knew, he was kissing me! I guess you can’t say yes to everything.

As much as I loved Morocco, I did miss speaking English. What a relief when Enda arrived from Ireland. At least I had one person I could talk with easily. Enda was hired as a farrier, but he also helped exercise the horses with me. He loved to ride. But he had one problem; he had a massive appetite. Hajiba was our amazing cook who sourced most of our food from the properties. Everything she made was saucy and delicious, but Enda still said he couldn’t survive on three meals a day and no alcohol. He was pleased when the guys at Comagree invited both of us to another Fantasia festival. It turned out to be more of a post-wedding, bachelor’s party for some guy from the next town over, but it meant Enda’s belly would be full after the feast. I sat next to Enda and Ayoub and tried to not feel out of place as the only chick in the tent.

The people aren’t that big on plates or forks in Morocco, but they do have a strong sense of community. The men passed around a community bowl of water to dip your hands, community towel to dry your hands, and then one community glass of water to drink. I started with the cup, but turned my back for a second and it was gone. By the time I noticed, it was halfway around the table. I didn’t want it back. The one thing I did get to myself was bread because it is eaten at every meal and used as utensils. When the banquet was laid before us, everyone dove in fingers first and used the round khobz to shovel lamb, potatoes, and carrots into their mouths.

After we ate, four girls entered the tent and danced. Everyone clapped along as the dancers waved their arms and flicked their hands as if flinging off water. One of the girls continued to sway as she climbed on top of the table. Then she turned to me and tried to pull me up alongside her. Um, no. But she didn’t give up. She urged me to join her until the guys hollered for my submission. So I thought, when in Rome…. There was a lot of hair whipping and hip shaking, but I can’t deny that it was fun. Once I jumped off of the table, everyone in the tent was on their feet dancing, clapping, and flicking their hands. I found Ayoub in the crowd and stayed close to him. He showed me some steps he knew, and I tried to teach him country dancing spins and dips. Enda was beside himself. ‘How can a people act like this without a drop of alcohol?’

What I loved most was making friends. There was this one guy who lived down a road where I often went riding. I don’t know his name, but we called him Avocado because he had green eyes. Whenever he saw me passing, he came out of his house to give me a piece of fruit. I loved that. People didn’t have a whole lot, but they didn’t need a whole lot. From what I saw, most of the people were happy. They were religious. They believed in a God. They believed in helping each other and doing what is right and being kind.

Oh, I almost forgot. Anas told me this joke. Why is the donkey’s nose white? It’s because his enemy is the children who pull his ears. When he went to Heaven he peeked his nose in, saw all of the children, and ran off.

 

Download the PDF of ‘The Outskirts of Benslimane’ here

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Do Not Enter: Isolation, Murder, and a Slasher’s ‘Happy Place’, Hannah Coupe

Vera continues down the stairs to the cellar. The door is ajar. She walks in. The room is empty except for the figure of a woman sitting in a chair.

‘Mrs. Bates.’

She gently touches the woman’s shoulder and the chair slowly turns to reveal the corpse of Norma Bates: pruning skin, hollow eye sockets, and skeletal smile. Vera screams. Violins shriek as Norman rushes in, dressed in his mother’s robe, brandishing a knife, and wearing an insanely happy grin to rival that of his decaying mother.

*

Tina walks out into the dark alley, following the guttural growls calling her name. A trashcan lid rolls ominously into her path. Then there is laughter. Slow, deep, sinister chuckles fill the scene before the screech of metal on metal announces the arrival of Freddy. His quavering chuckles grow louder as he relishes Tina’s mounting terror.

‘Please God,’ she whispers.

Freddy grins and holds up his right hand. He wears a knifed glove.

‘THIS,’ he growls, ‘is God’[i]

*

Wendy bundles Danny up in her arms as the first axe thud hits the front door. With no other route of escape, she rushes into the bathroom. The axe thuds continue and Jack’s face appears in the hall.

‘Wendy, I’m home.’ He breaks down the door and slowly stalks through the bedroom.

‘Come out, come out wherever you are.’

Playfully, he knocks on the bathroom door.

‘Little pigs, little pigs, let me come in. Not by the hair on your chinny-chin-chin. Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in!’[ii]

*

What is it about these villains that make them so scary? It could be the brutal way they kill their victims, or how excited they look during the violence. Perhaps it’s the isolated environments making horrible deaths all the more imminent, or that each killer is a mentally misshapen psycho we can’t fathom. Any one of these is reason enough to become petrified in your seat, but all of them working together; that’s what makes an iconic slasher.

Norman Bates, Freddy Krueger, and Jack Torrance are amongst the most celebrated killers in slasher history, producing some of the scariest scenes of the genre. Despite being very different on the surface, each of them fits the classic slasher profile in two ways. Firstly, they’re all psychologically damaged figures: Norman suffers from an intense guilt complex coupled with a wealth of mother issues, Freddy was a reclusive child-murderer before the townspeople killed him, and Jack was an abusive alcoholic who despised his wife and son. Secondly, they each inhabit an environment pocketed away from the rest of the world and it’s in this isolation that they’re happiest.

Isolation is a recurrent theme in slasher movies where victims often meet grizzly ends by trekking into the wilderness (The Blair Witch Project [1991], Wolf Creek [2005]) or staying home alone (Scream [1996], When a Stranger Calls [1979]). But while we prevalently see how a lonely cabin in the woods or house on a hill affects unwitting heroes, little is shown about how it affects the villains.

Since villains are the characters that ultimately make the slasher movie experience, by carving their way into our nightmares, I plan to explore the slasher’s relationship with isolation, looking at the characters of Norman, Freddy, and Jack to determine just how much it assists in shaping cinematically iconic killers.

 

‘This place happens to be my only world’[iii]: Norman Bates

Donald Spoto, in his book on Alfred Hitchcock, comments that Psycho (1960) ‘is one of the few financially successful films which can defensibly be called an art film, it remains a quintessential shocker’[iv]. Considered to be Hitchcock’s greatest masterstroke, as it raised the slasher from the slums of common horror, Psycho’s iconic status can probably best be personified in the charming, albeit socially awkward character of Norman Bates. The ‘psycho’ of the film’s title, Norman is one of the most complex killers in cinematic history. Jim McDevitt and Eric San Juan, in their book on Hitchcock villains, place him within the same league as Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs [1991]), John Doe (Se7en [1995]) and TV’s Dexter Morgan (Dexter [2006]). As a killer, he ‘mixes charisma with crazy, giving us a character we just can’t turn away from.’[v] However, unlike socially charismatic slashers of today, his fascinating complexity comes from a disturbing relationship with isolation.

*

Marion smiles politely and eats the sandwich Norman has brought her. She shifts in her seat as the conversation becomes too personal. Norman continues chatting.

‘I think we’re all in our private traps. Clamped in them, and none of us can ever get out. We scratch and claw, but only at the air, only at each other. And for all of it, we never move an inch.’

‘Sometimes we deliberately step into those traps,’ Marion answers politely.

‘I was born in mine, I don’t mind it anymore.’ [vi]

*

Norman’s seclusion began at the age of five when his father died. His mother raised him in solitude in the house behind the motel. Norman boasts he ‘had a very happy childhood’ and the psychiatrist, at the end of the film, comments that ‘for years the two of them lived as though there was no one else in the world’.[vii] However, this happiness was shattered when his mother met another man. Already psychologically disturbed after his father’s death, the arrival of an outside social force was a rude awakening for Norman. As we know, the story does not end well.

By the time we meet Norman in Psycho, ten years after he has killed his mother and her lover out of pathological jealousy, his relationship with isolation has become very complicated. Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, in an article in Screen Education, notes that he represents Freud’s ‘return of the repressed’ with ‘repression manifesting itself in the concept of the monstrous Other.’[viii] For Norman, the ‘Other’ is the fragmentation of his mind into two characters: that of himself and that of ‘Mother’, which occurs as a result of his matricidal guilt. The motel, located fifteen miles from the nearest town, becomes a site of trauma and escape for him. It’s the scene of his crime, but it’s also the only place that can accommodate his mental fragility. The motel’s isolation makes it the one place where he can exist happily as both personalities, Norman and ‘Mother’, in an attempt to resurrect the happiness of his childhood. And when outside characters threaten that illusion, he (or rather ‘Mother’) kills them.

However, while the motel helps to soothe Norman’s fractured mind by allowing him to live as two people, it’s also the only place where Norman himself can actually exist. According to the psychiatrist, Norman ‘only half-existed to begin with’ and it’s when he is removed from the motel that the ‘Mother’ half takes over, ‘probably for all time.’[ix] In the end, it’s Norman’s dependence on isolation that makes him the terrifying psycho of Psycho because he can only exist within it. Whenever reality comes too close, ‘Mother’ takes over as a violent means of exterminating the threat and prolonging Norman’s seclusion. Understanding this, it’s no wonder he looks so happy when ‘Mother’ takes control.

 

‘I’m your boyfriend now Nancy’[x]: Freddy Krueger

Film critic, Stephen Jay Schneider, in his book, 1001 Films You Must See Before You Die, describes A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) as a ‘critical and commercial success that managed to creatively combine horror and humour, slasher movie conventions, gory special effects, and subtle social commentary’, as well as ‘let loose a new monster in America’s pop cultural consciousness: that wise-cracking, fedora-wearing teen killer, Freddy Krueger.’[xi] Freddy is a celebrated slasher for a number of reasons: his creative means of killing, which range from stabbing victims to sucking them into mattresses, his terrifying features including burned face and homemade knifed-glove, and the fact that he’s the indestructible killer that keeps coming back. But what primarily makes him the terrifying figure he is, is the fact that he exists in a state of the utmost solitude: the subconscious.

If Bates represents Freud’s ‘return of the repressed’, then Krueger is a nightmarish visualisation of the ‘dream-work’: the way in which suppressed, taboo desires of the id are distorted by the dreamer’s unconscious in an attempt to fulfil them. Charles Spiteri, in an article in Senses of Cinema, describes Freddy as ‘being shaped from the stuff of dreams, he’s able to change his body and the dreams of his victims to lure and kill’[xii] and it’s this freedom within such isolation that makes him so frightening.

 *

Tina runs through the garden. As she rushes past a tree, Freddy jumps out from behind it.

‘Tina!’

She turns in a snap of obedience. Freddy grins widely, lifts up his left hand and tauntingly wiggles his fingers.

‘Watch this.’

With a single swipe of his knifed glove, he cuts off two fingers. Green blood spurts from the stumps. His eyes bulge with excitement, his grin widens, and he starts to laugh.[xiii]

*

Freddy exists as a vengeful ghost in the dreams of his victims. While little information is given in the movie as to how he manages to supernaturally infiltrate his victims’ subconscious, there are a lot of clues as to what kind of relationship he has with isolation. As a conscious character invading the dreams of teenagers, Freddy is absolute boss. He possesses the power to shape the content of his victims’ dreams, turning it fatally against them as Spiteri points out. His overt relish in the freedom of his isolation, as is illustrated by his various acts of taunting self-harm (amongst other things), takes on a new layer of creepy when we consider that he was a reclusive child-murderer in life. For Freddy, the isolation of dreams doesn’t just let him painlessly cut off fingers or slice himself open, it allows him to physically fulfil his macabre desires without the inhibitions of social justice. Dreams are a realm of absolute freedom for him: a world where he can do exactly what he wants when he wants and there is no one who can stop him.

Even at the film’s end, Freddy’s tyrannical reign in the dream world is what leaves audiences with a lingering sense of terror as it seems that Nancy has defeated him and returned things to normal, only to be driven away in a possessed car and watch as Freddy drags her mother, screaming, through the transom of the front door. It’s a final, chilling statement: we’re in Freddy’s world now.

 

‘Five months of peace is just what I want’[xiv]: Jack Torrance

While horror writer Stephen King famously denounced Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of his novel, many critics such as Roger Ebert praised his choice of changing the original ghost story into one ‘about madness and the energies it sets loose in an isolated situation primed to magnify them.’[xv] A different slasher movie to others released during the time (Friday the 13th, Prom Night), The Shining (1980) produced some of horror’s most iconic scenes including the ghostly twin girls and, of course, Jack Nicholson’s ‘heeere’s Johnny’ line. But what most sets Kubrick’s film apart from other horror movies is the ever-present idea that the supernatural elements we’re seeing aren’t really there. We’re seeing ‘ghosts’ because the characters are, and the characters are seeing them because the hotel’s isolation is driving them mad.

Despite critics’ disputes as to whether The Shining is a horror or a thriller, the film’s base plot follows that of the classic slasher movie: a family goes to a remote hotel where they are threatened by grizzly fates. However, unlike psychos born into isolation like Bates or supernaturally resurrected into it like Krueger, Jack Torrance is the guy who starts the film as unwitting victim, but then gradually turns into an axe-wielding maniac; all because he wanted a little peace and quiet.

Kubrick quickly asserts that isolation is the theme of the film. Jeff Smith, in an article in Chicago Review, comments that the opening scene with its ‘sharp colours and outlines lend this land its own feeling of alienness.’[xvi] Unlike Freddy and Norman, Jack is chasing isolation from the film’s beginning. A recovering alcoholic and struggling writer, he takes the job as winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies, with the hope that a change of scenery will cure his writer’s block and help him get away from past transgressions.

Over the course of the film, the Overlook’s isolation quickly becomes a frightening visualisation of the phrase ‘be careful what you wish for’ as it starts working to unhinge Jack’s mind. While he doesn’t have the psychological fragilities of Bates or Krueger, he’s an emotionally vulnerable character caught in the transitional stage between alcoholism and reformation. As old grievances continue to be unearthed between him and his wife, his emotional fragility increases until it finally breaks with the fatal words, ‘I’d give my goddamn soul just for a glass of beer.’[xvii] Here, the first ‘ghost’ appears in true Faustian fashion and Jack’s transformation from inwardly frustrated man to outwardly homicidal maniac begins. Isolation becomes the alcohol he can’t get enough of and the steps he takes to ensure he gets it become more drastic: he destroys the radio and the Snowcat’s motor, pocketing the hotel further away from the outside world.

By the film’s climax Jack is completely transformed and the face leering at Wendy through an axe-hole in the bathroom door is very different to the one that he began the movie with. His deathlike pallor and unresponsiveness is replaced with colour and animation: the picture of an addict about to get his fix. Horror ensues as we realise that this guy is so far gone, he’ll kill his own family for some peace and quiet.

*

The slasher movie may value isolation for its guarantees of gruesome deaths or the promise of finding a murdering psycho out in the middle of nowhere, but on closer inspection of some of cinema’s iconic slashers, we can see that the lonely woodland cabin or remote hotel has just as much of an effect (if not more) on the villains than the victims.

It’s the villains’ relationships with isolation that makes them the terrifying figures they are. As a personality split in two by matricidal guilt, Norman can only exist within the seclusion of the Bates Motel. Freddy Krueger exercises absolute freedom in indulging his violent and murderous impulses beyond the reach of society as a vengeful ghost inhabiting the dreams of teenagers. And Jack Torrance went to the Overlook in search of peace and quiet; only to revert to his alcoholism with isolation becoming the booze he couldn’t get enough of. Each character gets some enjoyment out of seclusion and it’s this coupled with the actions they take to prolong that enjoyment (i.e. killing people) that makes them iconic cinematic killers.

 

Works Cited

[i] Englund, Robert, perf. A Nightmare on Elm Street. Dir. Wes Craven. 1984. Warner Bros. Film.

[ii] Nicholson, Jack, perf. The Shining. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. 1980. Warner Bros. Film.

[iii] Perkins, Anthony, perf. Psycho. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. 1960. Paramount. Film.

[iv] Spoto, Donald. The Art of Alfred Hitchcock: Fifty Years of his Motion Pictures. London: W. H Allen, 1977. Print.

[v] San Juan, Eric & McDevitt, Jim. Hitchcock’s Villains: Murderers, Maniacs, and Mother Issues. Maryland: Scarecrow Press. 2013. Print.

[vi] Psycho. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Per. Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh. 1960. Paramount. Film.

[vii] Oakland, Simon, perf. Psycho. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. 1960. Paramount. Film.

[viii] Heller-Nicholas, Alexandra. ‘Through the Peephole: Alfred Hitchcock and the Enduring Legacy of PsychoScreen Education no.75, p. 96-101, 2014. Viewed Sep. 25 2015, http://search.informit.com.au.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/fullText;dn=658405856014362;res=IELAPA

[ix] Oakland, Simon, perf. Psycho. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. 1960. Paramount. Film

[x] Englund, Robert, perf. A Nightmare on Elm Street. Dir. Wes Craven. 1984. Warner Bros. Film.

[xi] Schneider, Stephen Jay. 1001 Films You Must See Before You Die. Sydney: HarperCollinsPublishers Australia Pty Ltd. 2009. Print.

[xii] Spiteri, Charles. ‘Isolation and Subjugation: The Telephone in the Slasher Film’ Senses of Cinema vol.32, 2004. Viewed online Sep. 29, 15, http://sensesofcinema.com/2004/beyond-the-grave-of-genre/telephone_slasher_film/

[xiii] A Nightmare on Elm Street. Dir. Wes Craven. Perf. Robert Englund and Amanda Wyss. Warner Bros. Film.

[xiv] Nicholson, Jack, perf. The Shining. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. 1980. Warner Bros. Film.

[xv] Ebert, Roger. Great Movie: The Shining. 2006, film review. Viewed online Sep. 29, 15, http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-the-shining-1980

[xvi] Smith, Jeff. ‘Careening Through Kubrick’s Space’ Chicago Review, 33:1, pp. 62-74. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1981. Print.

[xvii] Nicholson, Jack, perf. The Shining. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. 1980. Warner Bros. Film.

 

Download a pdf of ‘Do Not Enter: Isolation, Murder, and a Slasher’s ‘Happy Place’’

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Thriving on the Poverty Line: A Guide for Gen Y, Jasmine Walker

Our parents must hate us. They bought out all the nice houses and won’t leave their jobs. In our youth we were promised success and happiness but instead we got a financial crisis and houses that cost more than our souls. Alas, instead of flailing in the gutter, crying about our empty hip pockets, let us band together and share our thrifty living ideas so we may soar into the future. Here are mine:

 

Cut your own hair

There is something liberating about cutting your hair off. Locking yourself in the bathroom, you blast some encouraging music such as “I Am Not My Hair” by Indie Arie while looking straight at yourself in the mirror and saying ‘you little rebel you’ as you take that first slice off your pretty mane. Now that might sound weird, but having a stranger stand behind you with a sharp instrument making cuts at your head is weirder. And the amount of times my friends have come to me after a haircut absolutely devastated at the result has convinced me to just to do it myself.

The first time I cut my own hair was when I was three years old. I only cut one side leaving a lopsided do. To counter this, my mum would just pull my hair into a side ponytail, which I thought washilarious. My best attempt at a home haircut though was when I was in year six and I hacked my fringe down to a crooked one centimetre tuft a day before school photos. More recently I angrily took a large pair of shears to my thick hair one night. My good friend Emily, after inspecting the damage, declared that although she thought I had done a reasonably good job, said that it did look very similar to a mullet. Lucky for me she is pretty handy with a pair of scissors and fixed it. Not only I did save myself the $55 I usually spend at the hairdresser, I also saved myself from the hour long conversation of ‘how’s the weather today?’ and got myself a haircut that no one else dared have.

 

Embrace the Hipster lifestyle:

A Hipster is described as a person who, according to the Urban Dictionary, ‘rejects the culturally-ignorant attitudes of mainstream consumers, and are often seen wearing vintage and thrift store inspired fashions’. The Hipster embraces being poor and makes it trendy. Living in Newtown I see a lot of these ‘Hipsters’. They walk with a swagger as their ripped jeans trail the sidewalk and always have a pair of dark sunnies on that make them ooze cool. The male ones grow their beards out, some almost down to their nipples (which I’ve been told helps them save on money usually spent on shaving cream and blades). There are even beard decorations, such as bobbles for Christmas and flowers for girlfriends that male Hipsters can weave into their hairy facial tangle.  My husband went through the Hipster stage once and decided to grow his hair long. One day while visiting his family his niece Sophie pointed to his ponytail and, while laughing, said that he ‘looked like a girl’ and that ‘only girls had ponytails’. It’s fair to say she didn’t find the Hipster look trendy or cool.

 

Make Op Shops your ‘go-to’ shop!

The second hand look was not always trendy. When I was younger I would never set foot into a second hand clothing store. It was seen as very uncool. If my mum tried to drag me in while we were downtown I would cringe and offer to wait in the car. If she brought me back anything I would have nightmares of wearing it and finding out it was someone’s old tatty piece of clothing from school. That would have been pure social death. The only clothes I would wear were brand names such as Nike or Adidas with the most ideal outfit being a matching tracksuit.

Now that I am out of school and living on my own, second-hand stores have become what Bunnings is to baby boomers. There may be no sausage sizzle out the front, but there’s always a lovely old lady called Julie standing at the counter waiting for you to say hi so she can tell you a boring story from her week. As you pretend to look busy in the material cut-off section your eyes water as the dankness of the clothes fills your nostrils. Your friend laughs out loud before whispering in your ear ‘I bet these clothes came from dead people’.

Nevertheless a sign out the front saying ‘Fill a bag for $5!’ still gets me a little too excited. As I rummage through the $2 bin singing ‘I’m gonna pop some tags, only got twenty dollars in my pocket’ Julie looks over giving me her stink eye. At least she won’t tell me her foot surgery story now.

This change in culture, from buying new to buying second hand, has been sparked by the cost of living for young people. With Sydney being named as one of the most expensive cities to live in it is no surprise people are turning to second hand goods to save some extra money.

 

Keep everything

Both my parents are hoarders. They have kept everything that has ever come in contact with them. It doesn’t matter if a grimy container lid is missing the actual container to go on, the lid must be kept – just in case one day along comes a lasagne the size of a swimming pool that needs to go in the fridge, and all containers are needed on deck to pack away this giant lasagne for future eating. This habit of keeping everything has been passed onto me and almost become a relationship breaker. When my husband and I moved from a large, airy apartment on the coast into a tiny matchbox apartment in Sydney we had to down-size, which caused a problem, as I couldn’t bear to throw anything out. As he eyed my paintings from childhood, an array of fairy statues and my box of rocks from that nice day by the river, I found myself feeling sick. What if I needed those rocks one day? We would have to collect them again, or even buy some from a garden shop, wasting precious money. If you have something now, you might just need it one day, and that someday could be tomorrow, so keep everything… just in case.

 

Don’t be fussy

Don’t think you have choices. You don’t. If you’re at a restaurant and have $5 in your pocket you’re getting the cheapest, nastiest thing on the menu. No fancy salad for you, Gen Y. At the supermarket the ‘almost out of date!’ basket becomes your best friend. After wondering if sardines are still okay to eat after their use by date, or if it’s even legal to sell fish so close to expiry, you remind yourself that you’re not rich enough to ask these kinds of questions.

Finding a decent place to rent in Sydney is as painful as getting your genitals waxed. It always takes longer than you remember, is more painful than the last time and has you baring everything just so you can complete the process. In the end you settle for an awkwardly shaped, falling apart, dodgy apartment that you convince yourself is wonderful and that you’ll be proud to call home.

Even after you secure a place you’re still bubbling in hot wax with the threat of rent rises and shitty neighbours. Not to mention quarterly inspections where a stranger, known in general society as ‘your agent’ gets to poke around in your personal space for an hour before saying, ‘You’re doing a good job keeping the place tidy, but for next time make sure you wipe the dust of the blinds’. You smile politely and promise you will. As you shut your apartment door you stick your finger up in their direction while doing your best Jim Carrey impersonation of ‘Alrightly then’ in defiance.

 

Live with your parents for as long as possible

We all have those friends, you know, the ones who still live at home. The friends who go on overseas holidays every few months and have a car that actually works. The smart friends who seemed to foresee how expensive and unnecessary moving out would be. In this day where the median house price in Sydney has just reached around one million dollars, living at home is seen as reasonable, smart and even normal. The Australian Bureau of Statistics states that in 2011, 29% of 18-34 year olds were still living at home with one or both of their parents. That’s almost 1 in 3. When you add up how much you spend on rent, bills and food, you realise how much you are chasing your tail. So why not extend the stay at home and add an extra ten years after high school? And let’s not forget all the other benefits that you get living at home, such as having your socks and undies ironed, your dinners pre-made and left in the fridge for you and being able to see cute pictures of yourself as a child on every blank wall around the house.

 

Carry around loose change rather than notes

Carrying around coins rather than notes is a great way to spend less as the sheer weight of the coins makes it impossible to have too much with you. I once had to raid my coin jar before a night out with friends after realising I had no money left in my bank account. As I laid down my piles of 20c on the counter of the bar, I gave a strained, awkward smile while saying a pathetic ‘I’m sorry!’ to the bar staff who gave me an annoyed but understanding look. As they picked each coin up one by one off the sticky counter I sank a little deeper feeling more embarrassed. People looked on curiously as though witnessing a dodgy deal. Finally the transaction was over and I walked away sheepishly with my cocktail thinking, ‘Can’t wait to line up for the next one.’

 

Always look down

It is amazing how much change you can collect when you keep your eyes on the ground. When I was a teenager I once found two fifty dollar notes rolled up in a bobby pin while walking to school one day. It’s fair to say that, as a fifteen year old, that was the best. Day. Ever.

Looking down will also ensure you avoid eye contact with the money sucking beautiful people that are often found on street corners. ‘Hey nice to meet you! I’m Justin – that’s a beautiful face you’ve got on today – will you sign your name here, here and here? No of course I won’t sell your details to third parties!… Wait, where are you going?

By looking down you will also stay grounded and realistic, as looking up into the clouds will only tempt you to dream a little bigger or hope a little more. Keeping your eyes on the pavement will also help you steer clear of a peek into the inner world of the rich. Glimpses of private jets, pent houses and VIP rooms will only make you cry. Instead look at those pretty flowers in the garden next door, that dog shit you want to miss stepping into and also for that step, since you probably don’t have health insurance or enough sick leave to cover your time off work if you fall.

 

‘I’m so poor this week …’  

Working in a seasonal job means that winter in my workplace becomes a contest of who is the poorest. Like the popular ‘Yo Mamma’ jokes of the 90′s, winter becomes a time for one-liners such as ‘I’m so poor this week I had to go on three Tinder dates yesterday, one for breakfast, lunch and then dinner just to eat’,  ‘I’m so poor this week I washed my clothes in the change room’s sink just to save on laundry money’ and ‘I’m so poor this week I lived on a $2 bag of carrots for three days’.

Gen Y face a society where more part-time and seasonal/casual jobs are available than full-time work. This makes it harder to get a loan or afford weekly expenses. Even if you have two jobs your second one is taxed almost 50%. I once worked for a place that paid a daily rate rather than an hourly rate. Once I worked out how many hours I had actually worked and tax was taken, I realised I was getting less than ten dollars an hour. Not cool society, not cool.

 

Become a Homebody:

You know you’re a Homebody when It’s a Saturday night and you’re at home on the couch in your PJ’s, pouring chocolate sauce in your mouth and eating ice-cream out of the container and loving life. At the end of your crazy night the total bill comes to just $11.60, the price paid for the gooey caramel and vanilla ice-cream, now empty, and the out of date chocolate sauce you found in the cheap basket. Out with friends you can expect to pay at least ten dollars for one cocktail that lasts one minute before moving onto the next and the next and the next. Before you know it it’s midnight and you’re catching a taxi home, setting you back fifty dollars. You then wake up with a splitting headache, mascara-smeared face, stale beer-smelling clothes and a minuscule bank balance. Homebody = 1, Night out = 0.

 

Learn to live like they did in the good old days!

My Grandma knew her shit. She could sew her own clothes, make a killer roast and have a cupboard full of pickled goodies she had chopped, vinegared, sterilised and bottled herself. She didn’t buy take-out every second day or pay someone to do her laundry, and would take the bus or walk instead of driving. She was self-sufficient, relying on herself to do all those extras that many of us pay someone else to do. Getting back to the roots of how things are made and grown can be a great way to not only save money but also feel more connected to the things you own and eat. So put the packet mix away, the electric hand mixer back in its box, go outside, pick some herbs and maybe drop by Bunning’s for their free sausage sizzle because lord knows we malnourished Gen Y’s need some meat this week.

 

 

Works Cited

Australian Bureau of Statistics. “Living arrangements and family life”. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2011. Web

“Alrighty then”. Jim Carrey. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Dir. Tom Shadyac. 1994. Film.

“Hipster” Definition. Urban Dictionary Online. 2015. Web.

Indie Arie. “I am not my hair”. Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship. 2006. Song.

Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis. “Thrift Shop”. The Heist. 2012. Song.

 

Download a PDF of ‘Thriving on the poverty line: A guide for Gen Y’

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