Since its first appearance in the debut trailer for Resident Evil Village, the diaphanous giantess Alcina Dimitrescu has earned a place of honor in the collective imagination of fans of the Capcom saga, triggering a viral phenomenon fueled by the incessant proliferation of fan art, more or less sober appreciation and imaginative discussions on the anatomical peculiarities of the vampire (by the way, check out the crazy Japanese Muppet-style Resident Evil Village commercial).
Beyond the indisputable charm of the character, who stands out (literally) as the most popular among the “villains” of the game, the fixation of a part of the community towards Dimitrescu represents a curious case, which offers us a good pretext for discuss the strange relationship that sometimes exists between fear and attraction. Yes, it is clear that the abundant forms of dear Alcina have a considerable weight on the extent of the phenomenon in question, but for the sake of this free-spirited chatter we will pretend that the lady of the castle is punished like a handful of Ursulines on a trip to the Italy in miniature.
It goes without saying that we will fail miserably.
Love and death
Before launching into this mess made up of fetishes, primordial fears and more or less daring digressions on the themes of sexuality, I feel the pungent need to put a due clarification before the discourse: the piece to follow is meant to be nothing more lively dissertation on the intimate relationship between horror and attraction, without any real didactic or popularization ambition. It is therefore a simple cognitive exercise, which in the course of work will take into consideration psychological and philosophical doctrines for the most part outdated or at least controversial.
In essence, it matters little whether the community fascination with Lady Dimitrescu is the product of a complex psychological and symbolic heritage, rather than the natural consequence of a generous assortment of oversized roundness, because it is still an excellent pretext for deepening a rather interesting phenomenon. Considering the nature of this disclosure, we cannot help but open the dance by bringing up the “father of psychoanalysis” Sigmund Freud, who in 1920 laid the foundations of his thinking in the pages of the essay “Beyond the pleasure principle”, a reading that is still extraordinarily stimulating today, even though it is based on now obsolete concepts.
Fascinated by the dualisms of the philosophical doctrines of Empedocles and Schopenhauer, and by the Nietzschean concept of “will to power”, Freud identifies in Eros and Thanatos, in the “impulses of life and death”, the two fundamental forces at the base of every psychic phenomenon. For the Austrian thinker, the mind of each individual is therefore the battlefield between these two powerful impulses, which manifest themselves from an early age and therefore also play a central role in the evolution of the sexual sphere. Sexuality, libido understood as a creative drive, the pursuit of pleasure and the instinct of self-preservation perpetuation, is one of the fundamental themes of Freudian treatment, and the neurologist recognizes it as the main “positive” force of the human psyche, closely connected and in constant contrast with an instinct of a more aggressive, feral character, which can give rise to sadistic and masochistic tendencies, sometimes in response to a traumatic event.
Regardless of the cause of these negative manifestations, Freud identifies the “death drive” as an inherent trait in the human being, generally weaker than its counterpart but always present. In the psychoanalyst’s vision there is therefore a strong link between pleasure and pain, an instinctive connection that has its roots in the child’s primordial memories. The infant’s limited sensory and processing capacities lead him to perceive his mother as a “monster”, a huge and mysterious creature with the power to satisfy and frustrate his needs, and who therefore can be seen as both a seductive and benevolent attractive entity and a cruel and diabolical being. Ok, lhe towering Alcina is certainly not the most good-natured of matrons, but the connection is not all that inconsistent.
Nature, culture and confusion
The concept of “archaic mother” theorized by Freud, and later expanded by thinkers such as Jacques Lacan and Melanie Klein, thus attributes to the dualism horror / attraction a further interconnection, and symbolic nuances that derive from the primitive fantasies of the infant. At this point, however, it is urgent to make a clarification and reiterate a key point: the empirical and speculative nature of the investigations carried out by Freud makes difficult to consider his conclusions “scientific”, also because developed starting from a mosaic of philosophical theories, notions of biology reworked in a metaphysical key and mythological references.
Regardless of the solidity of these ideas, it is right in mythology we can easily identify a recurring pattern which, once again, reaffirms the strange relationship between sensuality and danger. Scrolling through the myths and legends of every time and culture, it is in fact easy to come across figures as bewitching as they are lethal, which have always populated the collective imagination: succubus, nightmares, lamias, sirens and vampires, all creatures that somehow end up by represent a deadly overlap between the concepts of Eros and Thanatos, of sex and death. As for vampires specifically, their reputation as seducers has much more recent origins than is believed.
The modern archetype of the fascinating bloodsucker was born in 1819 with the publication of “The Vampire”, a short story written by John William Polidori, Lord Byron’s personal physician. Almost eighty years after the debut of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Polidori redefines the canon of the vampire, transforming him into a charismatic and sophisticated predator, far from the foul bestiality of “strigoi” of Transylvanian folklore. The iconographic evolution of the undead is a particularly interesting stage in the process of absorption of myth into mass culture, which over time has found ever new ways to reaffirm the relationship between desire and fear. Just think of the multitude of sexual clichés that have filled horror cinema for years, with hundreds of coitus interrupted with machetes and as many ritual couplings.
While wanting to deny the validity of Freud’s reflections, in fact, there is a clear physiological link between the feelings of arousal and fear: in both cases our body produces adrenaline, which increases heart rate, blood pressure and consequently the blood flow to the genitals. In a situation without real and immediate dangers, the two emotions can then lead to the same result, triggering one pretty nice altered state. On this principle of “brain confusion” is based the theory of erroneous attribution of Aron and Dutton, who in the 70s experimentally verified how fear could represent a strong incentive to sexual attraction and, more generally, how difficult it is to establish the exact origin of a sensation.
In the case of horror enthusiasts, presumably accustomed to this unconscious association between fear and libido, it is therefore even easier for the “sweet” Alcina to arouse some movement of misplaced ardor. After all, it does not matter if the cause of the Dimitrescu phenomenon is a primordial fascination, a pop echo, a neurological short circuit or an insane passion for wide-brimmed hats, the truth is that we can’t wait to get our hands on the new chapter of Resident Evil, and this varied series of crazy ravings is clear proof of that. While waiting for the upcoming Capcom horror review, we remind you of the Resident Evil Village demo dates.