“The Sort of Story That Has You Covering Your Mirrors”: The Case of Slender Man

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... Therefore, rather than seeking to dismiss or resolve the existence of the supermarket costumes and theme park experience, these events could be read differently by engaging with notions of the uncanny and the uncanny Other as represented in these costumes through what folklorists term ostension. Taken from the Latin 'ostendere', meaning 'to show', ostension or ostensive action (see Dégh and Vázsonyi, 1983;Tolbert, 2013) marks that moment in which narrative intrudes into lived social reality; and through which legends and myth are given materiality and affective force. When treated as a similar process of 'showing' or acting out, through ostensive action we might read the commercial design, creation, and marketing of these costumes in an alternative way as a means of clumsily seeking to embody and so express and exploit a profound and deeply embedded anxiety around mental health. ...
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This article examines the relationship between organizational ethics, the uncanny and the annual celebration of Halloween. We begin by exploring the traditional and contemporary organizational function of Halloween as 'tension-management ritual' (Etzioni, 2000) through which collective fears, anxieties, and fantasies are played out and given material expression. Combining the uncanny with the folkloric concept of ostension we then examine an incident in which UK supermarket retailers made national news headlines for selling offensive Halloween costumes depicting 'escaped mental patients'. Rather than treating this incident as a problem of moral hygiene-in which products are removed, apologies made, and lessons learned-we consider the value of Halloween as a unique and disruptive ethical encounter with the uncanny Other. Looking beyond its commercial appeal and controversy, we reflect on the creative, generous, and disruptive potential of Halloween as both tension-management ritual and unique organizational space of hospitality through which to receive and embrace alterity and so discover the homely within the unheimlich.
“Creepypasta,” short works of original horror fiction and frightening images created primarily by amateurs and shared in online communities of like-minded readers and writers, use the language of horror to encode and offer commentary on issues of contemporary concern. A close reading of an exemplary text, “Candle Cove,” demonstrates how this and other similarly themed creepypasta represent vernacular contributions to discussions of young people’s interactions with mass media that reflect a popular interest in both securing and disrupting the figure of the child constructed in media discourse.
This commentary on the 2018 special issue of the Journal of American Folklore, “Fake News: Definitions and Approaches,” argues that digital networks have enabled fake news by amplification. Fake news by amplification occurs when small-scale events become amplified through the convergent actions of everyday users, mass media gatekeepers, and social media algorithms. Events that are amplified risk becoming distorted as they circulate, with users supplying their own context and interpretations. The resulting fake news is difficult to counter because it goes beyond questions of fact and enters the realm of interpretation, enabled by widespread networked belief.
The chapters of this volume are a rich ethnographic primer in the importance of monster figures in human societies worldwide. They also illustrate that the reasons humans are so absorbed by these figures are also why monsters are a privileged resource for anthropological understanding. Around monsters, people are in exceptionally charged contact with their own conditions of living culturally and historically. Previous literature has addressed this issue in many registers, and this book’s contributors acknowledge and draw upon prior work from several disciplines. Yet in anthropology, scholarship on monsters has been quite dispersed, despite the existence of a strong tradition of work on witchcraft and many excellent accounts of other monsters in specific settings. The current unprecedented volume—and the dense thematic connections across it—invites a fresh attempt at stocktaking. What are the canonical issues of an anthropology of monsters? What are the canonical issues of anthropological analysis generally, that monsters are so vividly “always trying to show us” (Kearney 2003, 121, quoted by Morton, Chapter 5 herein)?
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