The Evolving Definition of the American Grotesque
The concept and elements of the grotesque is common theme explored in many American Films and Novels. The boundaries of what characterize an individual or subject matter as grotesque are somewhat imprecise and in constant evolution. Chuck Palahniuk’s “Invisible Monsters Remix” and Orson Welles’s film, “Touch of Evil” both introduce us to different elements of the American grotesque during different eras in American history. Although Palahniuk and Welles explore conventions in opposing worlds, the framework of their work promotes a common theme. We will argue how Palahniuk and Welles use the grotesque to illustrate and challenge various social and cultural perceptions of their time, specifically the concepts of evil, violence and obsession is society. This allows their readers and viewers to find significance and new meaning through the effects of mystery, disorder and contradiction. Questioning the boundaries of normalcy in society.
Welles and Palahniuk’s application of the grotesque, function as a method to unveil the aesthetic and moral dilemmas in their generation. The definition of what is consider grotesque in American society, is heavily dependent on the cultural time period as we will see in “Touch of Evil” and “Invisible Monsters”. As cultures evolve over time, the notion of what is estranged in the world changes. Subject matters that may have once been considered abnormal or perverted, can over time, be adopted by a society as normal. Thus, the cultural conditions must be understood to understand the grotesque of a given culture.
Orson Welles’s film noir, “Touch of Evil,” is a heated crime thriller in the late 1950’s, about police corruption and murder, in a fictitious Mexican-American border town called Los Robles. In Terry Comito’s book, “Touch of Evil: Orson Welles, Director,” he states, “Welles’s most fundamental theme, from the opening sequence on, is the crossing of boundaries; or...