Sunday, September 5, 2010

Silent Hill Sunday #5: "Sins of the Decaying Flesh"

Open wide and say "AHHHHHHHHH!"

If you’ve played any Silent Hill game without using your joystick to poke out your eyes to avert your gaze from the freakish, unspeakable horrors forevermore, you’ve no doubt come face to faceless with the bloodthirsty nurses who roam the 12,000 hospitals of the horrible nightmare town and the moderately terrifying surrounding areas. Though the Silent Hill series doesn’t have a true “mascot” (though Robbie the Rabbit was trying pretty hard for a while) for many players, the nurse has become as iconic and representative of the series as Super Mario’s moustache, Simon Belmont’s whip, or Cloud’s stupid, stupid amnesia.

By Mark Rivera
You might not notice it when you first encounter them because you’re concentrating on 1.) running away and 2.) regaining you ability to control your own bladder, but those nurses are absolutely dripping with sex – just not the good kind. Like everything in the series, Silent Hill serves up its own bizarre and frightening take on eroticism and femininity, equating it with pain and torture. Yes, I know; that’s all been done before, but not quite like this.

Medical professionals are meant to heal, but these nurses dispense violence and, judging by their shaky swagger, they themselves look ill. We should be horrified of them, yet their short skirts and smooth legs draw the eye whether you want to look or not, and were they not concealed in a bloodstained nurse’s blouse, their ample chests might be just what you look for while people watching at the mall. The nurses’ erotic essence is undeniable, and yet many of us push it out of our minds and feel ashamed when we think about it.

And perhaps rightfully so: Silent Hill is telling us that disgust and revoltion are attractive, that pain is pleasure, and that sex can and should be anonymous. The nurses represent sexual repression and/or frustration for many SH protagonists – James, Travis and Alex stand out the most – but they also represent the player’s sexual frustration and repression as well. Look but don’t touch. Looking is bad, so touching must be worse. Kill but don’t touch. Eradicate deviant desire.

The Silent Hill series is brilliant in the way it toys with the player, like making him or her want to sleep in a suit of armor – you know, just in case. But holding a mirror up to consumers and forcing them to deal with their own dark desires is what makes Silent Hill so deeply personal and enduring, long after the survival horror genre as it existed in the late ‘90s had become passé. The nightmare town nurses encompass everything the Silent Hill series has come to stand for, so it only makes sense that their striking sexual persona has come to represent the franchise itself.

And that’s something Robbie the Rabbit could never do …unless you’re into that kind of thing.

I'm scared.

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