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Thread: Mr Hyde and the Uncanny Valley

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Mr Hyde and the Uncanny Valley

    I read an essay in one of John Sutherland's books of puzzles in Victorian Literature about Mr Hyde's appearance. In films he is depicted as looking like a werewolf, but in the book he is described as being a small, young man, dressed as a gentleman. When asked to describe him further, witnesses say he somehow gives an impression of deformity, and without being able to say how, that his looks are unsettling. This made me think of the Uncanny Valley, which is an effect of computer or robotic human simulation. The simulations look close to lifelike, but somehow wrong. The best examples are the computer simulations of Carrie Fisher and Peter Cushing in Rogue One. If they ever re-film the book, they should represent Mr Hyde that way.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    I agree about Mr Hyde. Frankenstein's creation, Adam, was another. He was just creepy looking when assembled (also very tall), but not the movie monster people imagine. Uncanny valley, by the way, is a somewhat broader concept. As you may know, it's a linear measure of response (attraction, revulsion, neutrality, etc.) to forms approaching the human. It's the reason, for example that zombies are scarier than bears even though both will eat you and zombies don't exist. I use it as my location as a joke.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 07-28-2019 at 05:33 PM.

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    John Sutherland talks about Frankenstein's monster too. He thinks Mary Shelley's experience of childbirth went into his description. For instance, the monster was yellow, as if he had jaundice. Frankenstein said he selected his creature's features to be handsome, but he botched it. The monster had very taut skin, milky eyes, and thin black lips (a very remarkable effort, nevertheless). He did not have a bolt through his neck, because his head was in no danger of falling off.

    Bipedal, man-sized rabbits are also disturbing. There was one in Donnie Darko and another in Sexy Beast. I wondered whether one film ripped off the other, perhaps without realising.

    Bears are not as scary as zombies, because 1) they will probably give up if they don't catch you in the first minute, and 2) you might survive if you can recognise the species of bear and remember the strategy for escaping it. I don't know for sure 1) is true, but they don't look like animals built for endurance.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    John Sutherland talks about Frankenstein's monster too. He thinks Mary Shelley's experience of childbirth went into his description. For instance, the monster was yellow, as if he had jaundice. Frankenstein said he selected his creature's features to be handsome, but he botched it. The monster had very taut skin, milky eyes, and thin black lips (a very remarkable effort, nevertheless). He did not have a bolt through his neck, because his head was in no danger of falling off.
    I haven't read it since High School, although I seem to remember that Frankenstein was trying to make the creature exceptionally handsome, but he had ended up with an obscene sort of mockery of good looks instead. I'd forgotten the black lips. It's a nice detail. Definitely uncanny valley stuff.

    It's interesting, too, that Frankenstein's creation is unusually tall while Mr Hyde is supposed to be rather short. I'm also impressed he reads Plutarch. More than kids do these days.

    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    Bipedal, man-sized rabbits are also disturbing.
    Yes, that's part of the joke, too. But my bunny has two sides to his face. The moral life requires a pessimism of the the intellect and an optimism of the will (to partially plagiarize from someone or other). Or another way to look at is that I try to give people a choice about which side they want to talk to.

    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    Bears are not as scary as zombies, because 1) they will probably give up if they don't catch you in the first minute, and 2) you might survive if you can recognise the species of bear and remember the strategy for escaping it.
    Well, Ecurb is probably the man to talk to, but over here there is a saying: to survive a bear charge you don't have to be the fastest runner in your group; that's because the bear will pause to eat the slowest member.

    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    I don't know for sure 1) is true, but they don't look like animals built for endurance.
    And zombies do?
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 07-28-2019 at 08:41 PM.

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