The True Meaning Embedded in The Haunting of Hill House
The Haunting of Hill House is a Netflix series that was released in 2018, and I can honestly say that I highly recommend it, and for reasons that are atypical for the horror genre. The story is based on a book by Shirley Jackson published in 1959 about a house infested with paranormal activity, although of a variety not traditionally explored by most horror stories of the time (depending on your interpretation). The original story purposely conflates psychological phenomena with that which is also potentially real, creating an atmospheric sense of terror in the reader. The contemporary incarnation is only loosely based off of the original story, although it does throw in easter eggs from time to time. The show truly produces a thrilling sense of unease, though this is insignificant relative to the message that it conveys concerning motherhood, femininity, fatherhood, masculinity, and children.
Spoiler Alert Beyond This Point
The mother character Olivia plays the mother role well in that she imbibes a sense of true benevolence in her intentions for her children, while not always practicing the best methodology in doing so. Most contemporary narratives would predictably and boringly portray the mother as not only benevolent but also infallible in methodology, especially relative to the father who would doubtless be represented as a fool in some manner. This story took a twist in portraying a potential shortcoming of the female maternal instinct, represented by the mother’s endless desire to protect her children at any cost from the horrors of this inherently unfair and dangerous world and to forever be shielding them in her loving embrace. And as well-intentioned as these sentiments may be, they still have the potential to become toxic if gone unchecked, and this narrative is a dramatization of exactly that happening in my estimation. This is not to say that those who wrote the story necessarily had the conscious intention of creating this deeply embedded meta-narrative. Many times those who write fictional stories do so in the rhythm of their sub-conscience. We are all aware on some level that our feminist-dominated society has eroded the very foundations upon which it was built. This much is clear to most who are not on the far left of the political spectrum.
The story takes you through the lives of the Crain family in two parallel timelines, one taking place in the present and the other taking place around 20 years ago. Both timelines reveal something important about the other throughout the show. The parents in the family flip houses for a living and at first hill house seemed to have been just another in the lineup. After a hefty amount of strange experiences wherein the children are frightened beyond belief and the parents are spooked to a slightly lesser extent (with the exception of the mother seemingly going insane towards the end of their stay at the house). After some time has gone by the viewer is put into the perspective of the oldest brother Steven, being woken up by the father who informs him of his plan to imminently flee the house with the rest of the family, but without the mother who had gone absolutely crazy for reasons that remained unclear. The mother’s fate had been revealed by this point and the present day’s state of affairs made much more sense as a result of it.
In one of the later episodes of the show, the character in focus finally became the mother (something long anticipated by those who had been watching up until that point) which answered several questions concerning her behavior leading up to the last night upon which most of the family departed. The way the show was structured had viewers being taken back and forth between present day and the nights leading up to, and including, the last night. Viewers found out the way each sibling turned out as a result of their childhood trauma, and some handled it better than others. Luke, one of the younger siblings, went onto become a drug addict who takes advantage of the kindness of those around him, Shirley grew up to be somewhat bitter and closed off, Theo grew up to be nihilistic and hedonistic, Steven grew up to be an overly skeptical opportunist, and Nell grew up to be comparatively weak and susceptible to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. All of the siblings wear their trauma on their sleeves in a variety of ways.
The children grow up to be tormented not only by these natural manifestations of trauma but also supernatural ones that they believe are a result of the house’s lingering presence within them, calling them back so that they might suffer the same fate that their mother did.
In the interest of spoiling the least amount of the story as possible while also being able to properly convey my message, I will skip to one of the episodes following the mother, Olivia, in the older timeline. The episode follows Olivia’s stay at the house all the way up until the last night that the family was there. One recurring theme that I noticed was the referencing of the outside world as the “darkness” and certainly, it would make sense for the maternal instinct to interpret it as such when a mother’s children are so young. There was one scene in particular that included this phrase in a powerful enough way to stand out. The scene began with the Olivia (the mother) tucking her children into bed at what seemed to be nighttime, only to have them stop and ask her a question before she left the room. One of the questions that little Nell asked her was “what if I dream that you kill us?”, and another one was “what if I dream that you send us away into the dark and we get hurt?”. The children continue to ask essentially rhetorical questions that pertain to future events that would eventually happen to the two of them, Nell going on with “What if you send us out into the dark and my heart breaks right in half and I can’t feel anything happy, for weeks and months and years until I can’t stand it anymore and I have to die?”, and luke asking “and what if I’m so sad and scared of the dark out there that I put poison in me, I poison myself for years and years until my blood turns into poison and my body breaks down”, then Nell states “you send us out there into the dark, and the dark gets us, a piece at a time over years and years and years until I’m on a silver table with my jaw wired shut and Luke is dead and cold on the floor with a needle in his arm and it was you that killed us because you sent us out there, in the night, in the dark” after Olivia and Nell go back and forth a bit, Nell ends the conversation with “But are we safe with you mommy, are we really?” before Olivia ends with “what do you mean sweetheart, of course you’re safe with me?” only to be abruptly jolted back into reality by Steve entering the room and to find out that her entire conversation was actually either a delusion or paranormal, and that it was actually day time.
This represents the quintessential nightmare for a mother in that she is fully confronted with not only the possibility of her children at some point being taken down by the slings and arrows of the outside world but also that her ability to even properly protect her children while they are with her is put into question.
Mothers are biologically hardwired to put the safety of their children above all else, which only makes sense from an evolutionary perspective and so that is why they are generally so averse to allowing risk, especially when children are young. Thus for a mother to have a view into the future of their children having been ripped apart by the outside world is nothing short of soul-crushing, which is why I felt so much sympathy for her as a character when the thought of this began to erode her mental state. Fathers, on the other hand, tend to allow risk much more often and truly play a more critical role in the later stages of childhood, as opposed to mothers whose primary role is early childhood rearing.
This is what leads me to believe that the house is merely a metaphor for a mother’s benevolent, but if unchecked potentially destructive tendency to protect and put safety above all else. If children are kept away from any amount of risk for too long they have no resistance built up and they will inevitably fail in life as a result. Thus in pursuit of protection, a mother could potentially destroy a child’s future inadvertently. Of course, I accept that risk is a balancing act due to too much risk generally not being preferred, but also too little risk resulting in paralysis (potential connection to Nell’s sleep paralysis) that defeats the purpose of living in the first place. The only way to avoid risk completely is to not be alive at all, and sadly this is something that Olivia discovers in her state of madness. No other scene better captures the essence of this tragic element of the story than the father escaping the house with the children, while the mother hysterically breaks down. Whether it was as a result of supernatural forces or mental illness, her well-intentioned nature was corrupted in some manner to do evil in the scene prior to the father fleeing which I alluded to earlier in the paragraph.
Stefan Molyneux caught a ton of flack for his presentation on female evil, and the controversial statement that it may in fact exist, of course along with the existence of male evil. His hypothesis concerning female evil is that women are primarily focused on the direct consequences of decisions or policies rather than adherence to abstract principles. He came to this conclusion as a result of convincing empirical evidence (voting patterns, polls etc.) and the basic idea is that the evolutionary pressures were such that it would necessitate a focus on direct consequences primarily because of a woman’s dependence during pregnancy and an urgent need for resources for children who do not have the luxury of waiting for ethics to be adhered to.
When contained in an ethical environment, the maternal instinct can be a beautiful thing wherein children are raised in a loving environment and the bond between a mother and father is strengthened as a result of properly raising children. However, when one is to examine the plight of the modern landscape, torn apart by the forces of feminism, we see how this maternal instinct can be used for evil. Women generally tend to support socialism in far higher numbers than their male counterparts and this is no surprise given the biological differences that came out of evolutionary pressures, however, it has been exploited to produce the havoc that you see around you. The federal reserve central banking system provides the illusion that we have unlimited resources and thus it would be just awful to not provide an endlessly growing list of resources that we call a safety net. If you are already not aware of the problems associated with the welfare state then I will gladly address that in another article, but this is primarily targeted towards people who already are.
The maternal instinct is toxically transposed onto those using the welfare system and the general promotion and legal enforcement of egalitarian measures and regulations in an effort to “take care of everyone” in a well-intentioned, but ultimately destructive way. Now I know already someone reading this will point out “but what about the military industrial complex being a manifestation of the paternal instinct transposed onto our society?”, to a large extent that is true, however, it is a red herring as it pertains to this particular analysis.
I believe that the meta-narrative in the story is truly one of the potential danger of the maternal instinct, and many of us subconsciously feel attracted to these types of stories specifically because of the underlying truth embedded in them. If you decide to watch this show, or even if you have already seen it and may re-watch it, keep in mind this embed meta-narrative in between jolts.
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