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It was December of 2014, just a week or so before Christmas. Six months earlier, after a long stream of dates and hook-ups on OK Cupid, I had resigned myself to remaining alone for the rest of my days. It wasn’t a sad decision, I just knew that I had seen what was there, experienced a great deal of it, and other than a few fleeting, lonely moments, I was quite well all on my own.
This way of being was disrupted by a sudden message on Facebook from an old high school friend, Lindsay, asking if I would like to go see a movie. I said sure, not thinking anything of it at all. While playing pool with my buddy, he poked and prodded me with quips about her wanting me, that it was a date, etc. I called him a fool, but it got me thinking. Did I want another first date?
I had been married previously for one whole year, and I didn’t want any more dates, so if I would consider this at all, I was going to take Lindsay to a horror movie. My ex-wife hated them, and it drained me. I refused to entertain any notion of letting another person in, if they weren’t going to want to watch horror with me. If Lindsay didn’t want to see one, then my decision was easy. I asked to go see The Babadook, and she accepted right away.
Now we are married, as life loves more than anything to say, “Fuck your plans.”
Amelia HATES her son but does not see it. The hate for someone she should love is her shadow, and is manifesting itself in her life in confusing ways. We can watch her frustration, as even listening to the boy for a few minutes makes us want to punch the kid. The irony here, is that her boy probably grew up the way he is because Amelia herself is a spastic mess, and has been for the 7 years since her husband died.
Enter the book – and by the way, an anagram for Babadook is A Bad Book. It is unclear to Amelia from where the book came, but we can see that she made it herself. Graphite on her fingers, construction paper and scissors in the background, and mentioning at a party that she had written some “kids’ stuff.”
The movie does a fine job of making the audience think that the Babadook is connected to her insane child, and not Amelia herself. Then she hears banging on the door. The book is back, after previously being destroyed, not pasted together. The drawings are now of a mother killing her child, and then herself. Amelia is falling apart.
The banging sounds, the way the camera creeps up her covers, the Babadook trying to jump from the ceiling into her mouth, and the literal words, “LET ME IN!” all refer to the fact that the shadow self can’t be dealt with, without first acknowledging its existence. Or to put it another way, letting the darkness in.
Jung says that the transition between a person oblivious, and one with comprehension of their shadow is a very rocky one, and most people can’t do it. It is just too hard to accept some things. All of the things that Amelia sees and experiences, the suits, insects, phone calls – all of this is her shadow attempting to break into her consciousness.
Now, without going through the entire movie, let’s fast forward to the end. Amelia looks at the Babadook and a bright light shines, ending the horror. This is a literal interpretation of Carl Jung’s theory. He said, “To confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light. Once one has experienced a few times what it is like to stand judgingly between the opposites, one begins to understand what is meant by the self. Anyone who perceives his shadow and his light simultaneously sees himself from two sides and thus gets in the middle.”
When Amelia finally confronts her shadow, it becomes one with her. She has accepted her hatred for her son, and can now realize how much she truly loves him. But, the shadow doesn’t disappear. Those aspects of ourselves still linger after we have confronted them, and just like any part of us, must be fed occasionally so that we can thrive.
Going down to the basement and feeding the creature is Amelia accepting that sometimes it is ok to hate her kid, because sometimes her kid is too much. By letting that hate exist- feeding it -she can then return to the love she truly feels for him.
The Babadook is a marvelous film on its own, even if you don’t get into the philosophy of it, and if you haven’t seen it, I suggest you go back in time and not read this, as it is full of spoilers. Silly rabbit.
Now, I’m going to go home and have sex with my wife.