Black Sheep – The Enlightenment Project & Nature

Black Sheep is a true classic! It  presents a critique of the Enlightenment project by exploring modern science, phobias, environmentalism, myth and monster sheep. Henry (the hero) develops a phobia of sheep due to a childhood trauma and leaves the family farm. Years later, he returns to sell his share of the farm to his brother Angus, who is experimenting with a new breed of GM sheep. The GM sheep are like werewolves: they bite humans who then become half sheep. There’s a splendid homage to An American Werewolf in London that does not disappoint. Battling Angus and the blood thirsty sheep are two environmentalists and Henry. Angus’ love for sheep will be his ruin as he becomes a mutant sheep himself and ultimately perishes.

Myth & Science: Echoing Frankenstein, Black Sheep explores the attempt by science to impose its hegemony over nature delivering a thorough critique of the naive conception of science of the ‘Enlightenment Project’ (read postmodern stuff for more). Angus’ enterprise represents the crossing of natural (inviolable) boundaries, which brings about ruin. Nature is turned upside down when peaceful herbivores (sheep) are turned into ferocious carnivores (mutant sheep). The heroes fight to protect the environment, nature and its natural order, against a science that is devoid of a conscience. Black Sheep does not stop at a critique of the faith in progress of industrial society (Krishan Kumar would be proud!), but also taps into fairy-tale mythology by making mutant sheep like werewolves. The wolf symbolises predatory violence, while the sheep is vulnerable and harmless. The turning of sheep into werewolves emphasises the hubris of the experimentation and the harm that science without ethics can cause. Like most horror films, Black Sheep is of course very normative. It tells you clearly what is right and what is wrong, but does so with the right amount of irony and sensitivity. The audience still feels some affection for poor Angus.

Phobias and love: a little wandering into psychoanalytical territory always adds spice to horror. In Black Sheep, Henry’s childhood trauma of the death of his father being connected to sheep transforms sheep into a symbol. Henry’s fear of sheep symbolises his inability to come to terms with the death of his father. This is beautifully juxtaposed by Angus’ unhealthy love for sheep. Faced with death, the hero, Henry, overcomes his fear becoming whole, while Angus is doomed. Angus’ attraction to sheep also crosses a natural boundary that should not be violated. You should not shag sheep!

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This entry was posted in Black Sheep, Enlightenment, fairytales, fantasy/supernatural, good & evil, horror, myth, nature, romanticism, science and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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