Thursday, August 17, 2006

Why Am I Creepy?

OK... so I was wasting some time on a message board I used to frequent consistently, and a particular thread drew my attention. I knew as soon as I saw the title- "Favorite Creepy Actors", that I was going to be engaged for awhile. As you already know (if you know me), I am a huge fan of film. I have a large collection of DVDs, many of which could fairly be considered "creepy".

One of my all-time favorite actors is Crispin Hellion Glover. His most famous role was that of Michael J. Fox's father in the Back to the Future series, but you may have seen him in the Charlie's Angels Hollywood schlockfests or maybe What's Eating Gilbert Grape?. If you are of a certain time and place, you may have the fortunate memory of seing his defining performance in River's Edge. I am most blessed to have seen him live, during a presentation of his own film- What Is It? Just to be perfectly clear, this work IS NOT for the kiddies. If you are likewise attracted to the creepy and bizarre, it's worth the effort to seek this out. Suffice it to say that Glover is the archetype by which all other creepy actors can be measured.

But the penultimate performance of creepiness is, in my opinion, Willem Dafoe's portrayal of "Bobby Peru" in David Lynch's Wild at Heart. In fact, the film is a who's who of creepy actors including David Patrick Kelly, the aforementioned Glover, Isabella Rosselini, and Pruitt Taylor Vince. Lynch is probably the most likely prospect for most creepy director, followed closely by David Cronenberg.

There are other people that are commonly cited for their creep factor- Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, Malcom McDowell, Steve Buscemi and Vicent D'Onofrio are almost cliches. But a complete rogue's gallery might include folks like Vincent Gallo (Buffalo 66, Freeway), Jake Busey (The Frighteners), Sissy Spacek (Carrie), Shelly Duvall (The Shining, Popeye), Clint Howard (yes...Ron's brother), Glenn Close, James Spader, Elias Koteas, etc. These people make a film for me, even when they are given minor roles.

The hall-of-fame would no doubt include the late-era Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, Dan Duryea, and Richard Widmark. Indeed there has always been a certain audience for these type of characters.

But what has me perplexed is... "Why me?" What is it about my personality or experience that draws me to "creeps"? Is it because I kill and eat babies? (No, that wouldn't be it at all.) Is it genetic or a result of careful nurturing? Am I scarred by seedy memories from the past?

Or is it natural for me, in an age and society that seems to be obsessed with the "perfect look", to be attracted to the margins? I remember in ninth grade, I made an attempt to thwart my nature and become "normal". I looked at what the popular kids were wearing, and took my ass out to the factory outlets with my parents, trying to put together a reasonable facsimile of "the right look". It never took. I was still a bit off... even with my new duds.

It wasn't until coming to Pittsburgh for college that I became successful at "passing". I joined a fraternity, bought some baseball caps, went jogging everyday, and tried to cultivate an "athletic, collegiate and wholesome-American" image. It worked. For about a year and a half. And then I realized how f'ing boring it all was. I just never was truly interested in the mindset, or the people that bought into all that. And I'm still not. Honestly, I actually get a bit of a kick out of not belonging to "the group". I can get rid of cable television, not follow the sport scores, and avoid the mall. I never feel any pressure to keep up with the latest fashion trends or consumerist programming. It leaves me feeling like a bit of a pariah at times, but it's a worthy trade in my estimation.

So I guess I feel some special kinship with these actors. The ones that make "normal" people feel unsettled and uncomfortable. And I suppose they are doing a service to the larger group, by presenting models of "how not to be"- something against which to define the majority. In my advanced age, I am more and more comfortable to be a bit of an outsider. What's especially rewarding is that there are others that feel the same way. I cherish many and call them friends. You know who you are. "You"- not afraid to be a bit different... maybe a bit of a "freak"... and to accept yourself as both flawed and complex. I love you too.


Anonymous jefg said...

Enjoyed this particular post very much. I especially enjoyed your choice of scary actors/actresses, and Glover certainly is creepy. So, what caused your interest in the creepy and weird? Perhaps it was that little person who scared you in the clothes rack at an early age? While I don't think it's in any way genetic whatsoever, one of my favorite movies as a kid was House on the Haunted Hill with Vincent Price. He was one scary guy...House of Wax was another goodie. Another for the list was the German actor Max Schreck (interesting name, given the meaning in German) who played Nosferatu in the 1922 movie of the same name. Now HE embodied someone to fear at the core of one's being. The scene when he appeared outside the window was spectaculary creepy.

On the lighter side, two comments...First, if Dafoe was your choice for the penultimate creepy performance, which was the ultimate? I was listening to a radio station yesterday when they bantered about the common misuse of certain words...that (penultimate) one was mentioned as one of them. Irredardless, I much enjoyed the post. Second, you undoubtedly saved your parents alot of money on clothing purchases for you. TY

5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now here's creepy of the non-celluloid reality.
I think the coincidence is truly mind-boggling, and I for one, want a t-shirt.

5:17 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...


I don't know now whether I meant "penultimate" or not. Maybe subconsciously I did. I could have meant that Crispin Glover was the king, and everything else was just a bit below his work. But truthfully, I think I made a mistake in word choice. But I'm gonna let it stand for sake of mystery. It's especially funny b/c we were just listening to the David Cross disc, where he talks about how it's an understandable mistake (just being off by one)...

As far as Vincent Price goes, he got a bit hammy at times. But he's really interesting in his role in the classic noir "Laura". It's a nontraditional role for him.

Max Shreck- there are all kinds of strange rumors and suspicions about that guy. Have you ever seen "Shadow of the Vampire"? Willem Dafoe does an amazing job of portraying Shreck in that film.

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of David Cross, who I doubt is creepy and has literally very little to do with this thread, I see I can get any one of his routines for 99 cents off of ITunes. Just a bit hard to pick favorites to download when they only let you hear 30 second clips.
Please excuse the interuption.

5:47 PM  
Blogger lee said...

I hate being creeped out, having watched the Exorcist when I was but a wee Catholic school girl. I never recovered. But I will weigh in with any little children singing little children's songs in any scary movies. Super-high on the creep meter for me.

9:29 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...


Yeah. I'm certainly not a big fan of the Nightmare on Elm Street series, but that little ditty the kids sing is certainly creepy.

10:42 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...


You'd be hard pressed to not get your money's worth. Just get whatever has the longest running time.

10:43 PM  
Anonymous castleicram said...

Growing up with one eye and a patc),buck teeth and moving every year like a carney,having been born as one sex and mistaken for the other,I was a creep.
even after glasses replaced the patch,braces fixed the teeth found a place to settle and have grown the right parts to look like one sex and not the still creepy .It is nice to here people except this,and find some like in.................keep written!

1:46 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...


you wrote...

"Growing up with one eye and a patc),buck teeth and moving every year like a carney,having been born as one sex and mistaken for the other,I was a creep."

Jeez, at least I wasn't a total freak like you. Just Kidding!!!!

As a ninth-grade teacher, I am sometimes appalled by how arbitrarily cruel kids can be. It's kinda funny somehow that ninth grade was the worst time for my self-image, and now I am stuck, year after year repeating it. I always hope I can do some little thing to make at least on kid feel just a little bit better about him/herself. If nothing else, I hope I can achieve that.

8:56 PM  

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