The Symptom Reading Trevor Pederson
In this book I’m going to offer a methodology that allows for the production of latent content or hidden meaning in the narratives found in films and books. This methodology is intended to fill the request of film critics for a deeper analysis:
[p]sychoanalytic readings purport to show the meaning behind the text that is concealed by its manifest content, but it is not clear that this is what psychoanalytic readings of Hollywood cinema achieve... [A]rguably, far from providing an objective code to unlock the real (hidden) meaning of the text, psychoanalytic criticism quite frequently describes what is going on at the surface of it... However, if this is the case, the psychoanalytic critic posing as theorist erroneously claims for himself the insight that rightly belongs to the text itself (Allen, 1999, p. 142)
Where Richard Allen says the insight belongs to the text itself, others are not so kind. If they don’t dispute the status of psychoanalysis as a coherent model of understanding, many dismiss the applications of it as boring. One sees a character attach a lot of importance to a non-human object and calls it a transitional object, one sees a woman seductively portrayed and calls it the masculine gaze, or one finds a triangle with two men and a woman and labels it oedipal. Others search for images or references to penises or feces, and still others do word-play with the names and places of the text, and one gets the impression that psychoanalysis is a silly game for the vulgar or overly erudite.
Let me begin with a few disclaimers about the approach that I will introduce. First, the latent meaning the symptom reading produces is in no way exhaustive, nor does it claim exclusivity. Just as there are several ways to interpret or utilize dreams, a narrative can be interpreted in several ways. In the second chapter I briefly mention an alternate way to interpret The Piano (1993), in a genetic reading from the point of view of the protagonist’s daughter. Second, I’ve chosen to analyze films, but that does not mean the method only works with cinema. It can also be applied to literature or any medium that possesses a narrative. Third, I’ve tried to adopt a two (or more) part reading in which the layperson could perform the first part of the symptom reading. My confidence for this comes from the concept of literary doubling in literary theory. There is a history of appreciating that unsavory aspects of a protagonist may be represented in a double of the character. For example, a split personality such as Jekyll and Hyde doubles a character and has obviously been a subject for literary critics. In addition, a physically separate character in a text has been called the “avatar” of the protagonist, as Gilbert and Gubar (1979) call Bertha, the titular Madwoman in the Attic, who they see as representing Jane Eyre’s desires (p. 359).
Although the intuition of doubling has long been present in literary studies, the account I offer gives it both a metapsychological foundation and goes beyond a mere analytical study of the two characters, to a dialectical formulation. The dialectical formulation involves a further synthetic step, which resembles what Freud (1900) divined in his concept of a symptom (p.569-70). A symptom both allows the expression of an unconscious desire and, at the same time, only reveals this desire in hidden form. In one of Freud’s examples, a woman has hysterical vomiting in which the wish to have children is expressed by the association of the vomiting to the morning sickness of pregnancy but, manifestly, this desire is masked in the conscious mind. A symptom is also an expression of the need for punishment, in which castration anxiety is avoided by the impulses that are tied to anxiety-producing interactions being turned against the self. “Castration” in psychoanalysis is a general way of referring to anxiety situations at different psychosexual stages (i.e. phallic, anal, narcissistic, and auto-erotic stages) that may concern the loss or damage to genitalia but also death, fear of disapproval from authority figures, fear for life (i.e death), fear of abandonment, etc. (Freud, 1926a). In Freud’s example, the hysterical morning sickness also threatens the woman with the loss of her good looks and her figure. This aspect is important and concerns the economics of punishment that I will define and discuss in the second chapter.
The avatar, or what I call the symptom character(s), not only express the desires of the ego character(s), but also rationalize the expression of those desires in the relationship between the ego character and others in the ego plot. In the first film, The Lost Boys (1987), there is a symptom plot that involves Michael, David, and Star. They have a classic triangle in which Michael has fallen in love with Star only to find that she belongs to David (i.e. part of his gang). I argue that this is the expression of the feelings of Michael’s younger brother Sam and the latent triangle with his mother, Lucy, and her suitor, Max. Sam’s plot, the ego plot, is relatively separate from Michael’s symptom plot. The important synthetic step is to consider the ego plot as if the symptom plot didn’t exist or is excised from the narrative. When this occurs we look for the instances in which the symptom plot comes to bear upon the ego plot. Sam, for example, interrupts his mother’s dates with Max by telling her to come home because his brother has become a vampire and is attacking him. With the excision of the fantastic aspect of the movie (i.e. his older brother becoming a vampire) we are left with the story of a boy whose parents’ divorced, and who is inventing stories to ruin his mom’s dates. Why would a kid do this? The symptom reading proposes that Sam’s use of the excuse that his brother is becoming a vampire, in order to ruin the date, is both the expression of the same oedipal desires that his brother expresses explicitly and a rationalization of this very desire. Sam doesn’t want another man to become his father, he wants his mother to remain single so he can be “the man of the house”.
This unity of expression and rationalization of the impulse creates a research methodology that is based upon psychoanalytic thought (Freud’s dialectical approach), but which non-analysts could apply. With the dialectical formulation we go beyond mere hermeneutics. The dialectical element enshrines that the impulse, triangle, or inter-relation that is explicit in the symptom character(s). Thus, as something that can become repressed, it therefore generates data about what can in fact be repressed.
What is necessary for the first part of the symptom reading is:
1. locating the impulses and inter-relations of the symptom characters in the fantasy or symptom plot
2. showing the parallels of the relationships in the reality or ego plot.
3. showing the impact the absence of the symptom characters and fantasy based plot would have on the reality-based plot. The behaviors of the reality-based characters without the intentions given by their relation to the symptom characters leaves us with behaviours that are best explained by the feelings the symptom characters explicitly show. Additionally, the plot sometimes plays with the tension of insinuating that more than one character might be responsible for certain consequences in the film, or characters in the reality based plot put forward an interpretation of the ego character’s behaviour.
Along with these necessary steps, there is an additional step of supporting the structural links between the symptom and ego characters. I do this by showing how there are ‘script slips’ or cues within ambiguities, links from contiguity, and symbolism that illustrate the symptom interpretation in the narrative. These, of course, are best illustrated in context and I will ask my reader’s patience until I get to the first chapter.
If you look at almost any general textbook on psychology that includes a section on Freud, it will say that the superego replaces the Oedipus complex, which emerges in the phallic stage of psychosexual development. This will be written, but is wholly wrong.
In The Economics of Libido: Psychic Bisexuality, the Superego, and the Centrality of the Oedipus Complex (2015), I sketch vertical (superego) and horizontal (psychic bisexuality) axes of how the personality functions in psychoanalysis. I show that the popular version of psychoanalysis ignores two key aspects of Freud’s work. The first is that the guilt conscience is actually formed in the phase after the Oedipus complex and isn’t universal. In The New introductory Lectures, Freud (1933) writes, “God has done an uneven and careless piece of work, for a large majority of men have brought along with them only a modest amount of [conscience], or scarcely enough to be worth mentioning” (p. 61). Moreover, he explicitly links the Oedipus complex to what he calls ‘social anxiety.’ Freud (1930) writes:
in many adults… the place of the father or the two parents is taken by the larger human community… such people habitually allow themselves to do any bad thing which promises them enjoyment, so long as they are sure that the authority will not know anything about it or cannot blame them for it; they are afraid only of being found out. (pp. 124–125)
Social anxiety stands in stark contrast to the subsequent guilt conscience, in which the individual judges himself as bad for what he intends to do, or feels like he must come clean about his misdeeds to be OK with himself. Its concern is with one’s reputation as a good person in the community or public. Historically, there is a game of honour in which the definition of what a good person is required to do, or is prohibited from doing, is part of the ethical life of a given political-economy. A person may play it and have no problem doing what is prohibited when he thinks the public won’t find out.
The second issue, which is often misinterpreted in Freud, is that he clearly shows that he conceives of the superego as something that is formed throughout psychosexual development:
nor must it be forgotten that a child has a different estimate of its parents at different periods of its life. At the time at which the Oedipus complex gives place to the super-ego they are something quite magnificent; but later they lose much of this. Identifications then come about with these later parents as well, and indeed they regularly make important contributions to the formation of character; but in that case they only affect the ego, they no longer influence the super-ego, which has been determined by the earliest parental imagos. (Freud, 1933, p. 64, emphasis mine)
Freud’s Copernican revolution is based upon making sense of the way the mind breaks or becomes rigid in pathology. When a paranoiac, for example, thinks that the end of the world is coming, that random people in public might want to fight him, that he’s being hunted by the CIA, or that people are conspiring to ruin his reputation, different estimates of power/authority are in evidence here. Instead of saying that the mind is rational and mental illness belongs to chemical imbalance in the brain, or is a problem of the passions— associated with the body and trying to cloud the rational mind— Freud takes a different approach. Like Copernicus discovering that he can account for planetary orbits by making a model in which the planets go around the sun instead of the earth, Freud holds that we can understand the “rational mind”, if we make it revolve around the imagos. Thus, the different estimates of power or authority found in these forms of paranoia, for example, can explain how a normal person’s ambition, or striving for perfection is to be understood. This doesn’t mean an “adultomorphic” attribution of complex intellectual understanding to little children— as if the child is aware of complex power dynamics in society. It means that complex power dynamics in society are anchored to the imagos that the child forms in psychosexual development. Freud’s view is that
[i]t must not be supposed, however, that transference is created by analysis and does not occur apart from it. Transference is merely uncovered and isolated by analysis. It is a universal phenomenon of the human mind, it decides the success of all medical influence, and in fact dominates the whole of each person’s relations to his human environment. (Freud, 1925, p. 42)
Freud holds that we are driven to relate to each other and the ‘human environment’ is made up of imagos. These imagos are expressed in phantasy as internal objects and expressed in our interactions with the external human environment through the ego ideal. Freud in Group Psychology and Analysis of the Ego (1921) writes of different ego ideals that we put on authority figures and love objects. For example the ego ideal that is put upon a hypnotist and results in him or her being able to plant thoughts into one’s mind is a very primitive and powerful form of power (p. 125). Freud then compares the power of the hypnotist to the mana or power that primitive chiefs or kings had and thus an ego ideal which gives a transference to an authority who appears as semi-divine or magical is evidenced (ibid.). This differs from the ego ideal into which one might put a general or mob leader that will allow soldiers to be able to kill in war or a mob to lynch someone or be destructive. At the end of psychosexual development, Freud (1924b) writes that in “the Oedipus complex… [the parent’s] personal significance for the superego recedes into the background” and “the imagos they leave behind… link [to] the influences of teachers and authorities…” (pp. 167–168).
In other words, a person doesn’t rationally chose to be ambitious, but rather is driven to seek admiration and the “direction-giving” aspect of the superego, the ego ideal. He or she will feel inferiority tensions and jealousy if he doesn’t measure up to others at various levels of power or authority. Additionally, by the time of ‘Civilization and Its Discontents’ (1930), Freud also sees transference to the non-human environment in what he calls the oceanic feeling of oneness with the world. In prefiguring relations to humans, this maps onto Freud’s auto-erotic stage in which the individual either relates to the world as it is in external Space, or is more preoccupied with inner Space or fantasy life (Pederson, 2015). In this way, Freud (1914b) holds that the psychotic individual may regress from relations with the human environment and be preoccupied with his fantasy life or bodily pleasures to the exclusion of significant relationships with others. Again, this isn’t just because of a chemical imbalance, but a regression to a primitive relation with the imagos of the caregiver that we all pass through.
These different forms of the ego ideal are conscious, although sometimes pre-conscious, motivations that a person can avow. A patient can tell you, for example, that she’s enraged by her boyfriend watching pornography, and that she wants to be the only object of desire for him, or that she knows that she’s pretty but she feels like she should be as beautiful as models in magazines. However, for those without clinical experience, there’s usually an athlete or artist who is shameless enough to announce very boldly to the world that he is the greatest there’s ever been. An actor might quote the box office of their movies as evidence of why they should be regarded as a top actor despite their lack of an Oscar. Additionally, such ideals are sometimes expressed indirectly too by people without success, such as when someone criticizes every new book that comes out as if he had written a library full of them and had some authority to do so. In such instances of grandiosity or arrogance, the psychodynamic formulation of the person having assumed the place of the parental imago or having become his ego ideal (as opposed to trying to live up to it) is an important operation.
Wanting to be admired for one’s skills or knowledge and to have a good reputation in the community is the phallic-oedipal form of the ego ideal. In contemporary cultures this can include wanting to be admired for one’s computer skills, for example, but in a primitive political-economy having skills for hunting, for example, might be the input for how a person might compete with others for reputation. At the anal stage, the level of authority is based upon who is on top of social hierarchies and possesses superlative power (Pederson, 2015). There are some individuals whose ambition and ego ideal will make them feel inferiority if they are not involved with the highest political offices, at the highest institutions of learning, or not, for example, the gold medal winner at the Olympics. Again, based upon one’s political-economy, the nature and the activities at this level of competition, will change. A man might not be able to become king (because of one’s bloodline or class) but being in the royal court or an advisor may be his ambition. Lastly, ambition may deepen past this point, so that existing as a name that is immortalized in history or to be “the best there ever was” may be the ego ideal. Such an individual may feel tensions of inferiority for not being an “immortal” writer like Shakespeare or Goethe, even though he has a lot of success in the public. This represents what Freud has calls the narcissistic stage, and concerns ‘all people’ or some sense of society in general as people in relation (ibid.). Kings, geniuses with immortal names, and others who are regarded as to be semi-divine represent this level of power.
Freud (1914) observes that just because someone has such an ambitious ego ideal it doesn’t mean that he or she will have the power to sublimate and achieve the goal and that:
[i]t is precisely in neurotics that we find the highest differences of potential between the development of their ego ideal and the amount of sublimation of their primitive libidinal instincts... the formation of an ideal heightens the demands of the ego and is the most powerful factor favouring repression. (p. 95)
Someone with an anal stage fixation, for example, might need to defend against his anal ego ideal and, in a paranoid form, he might have thoughts that the CIA, a powerful group at the highest levels of power in our civilization, is tracking him and wanting to kill him. Similarly, if the individual can’t sublimate to attain his narcissistic stage ego ideal, he may pull back from measuring himself against a certain level of power and return to the pleasure principle to showcase “the omnipotence of wishes” (Freud, 1913, p. 89; 1909, p. 235). He may feel, in line with The Secret, or some New Age or mystical practice, that he has the power to picture things in his mind and that he makes these things occur in reality. This pathology represents that a person has pulled away from a primitive reality principle, and is in rivalry with an archaic and powerful parental imago that seems magical.
However, this ego drive, to be admired for one’s skill or knowledge, isn’t the only form of ego drive. It is only one path to happiness and gaining self-esteem (narcissistic libido) and many others exist in the common language motivations that we ascribe to others. Psychic bisexuality references the poles of active-egoism and passive-altruism that see individuals driven to help or assist others, to be admired for their beauty or taste, to be interesting and cause delight in others, (etc.). In Economics (2015) I argue for 4 basic libidinal positions along the two poles, but I will wait for the second chapter to re-introduce them and ease my reader into the technical language. Ultimately, these two axes represent Freud’s Copernican revolution in psychology, which sees an individual’s personality or “psychical constitution’ formed by time the phallic-Oedipus complex, and which “play[s] a decisive part, irrespectively of the external circumstances” (Freud 1930, pp. 83–84). An individual’s economy of libido establishes his or her characteristic way of striving for different forms of happiness, success, love, beauty, and ‘the good’ in life.
Along with the first part of the symptom reading in which data is generated, the double axes of the superego and psychic bisexuality that comprise the economics of libido form the basis for the second. After stumbling onto the symptom reading after viewing The Lost Boys, I formulated a hypothesis about the “objective code” of the symptom reading based upon the metapsychology of these economics. People like narratives that they can identify with. For example, not everyone likes action movies and those who do can identify with the motivations of the action heroes or villains because they share those same motivations (i.e. to compete with others, to achieve success, admiration, or recognition from others, to want to be the strongest and/or smartest, or most ‘potent’, or feeling wronged or betrayed, wanting revenge, disregarding moral feelings because one is ‘an exception’, etc.). Of course there are certain mechanisms that interfere with this. For example, one can have an ego identification with, or an aversive reaction to, a parental-substitute or gender role, or certain sociological factors, like a certain genre coming into fashion, can increase spectatorship. But, all else being equal, one’s motivational structure should have a major impact here.
The writer of the script also identifies with the central character he is writing, and when his complexes, which are tied to anxiety or the need for punishment, come up in relation to the motivations given to the character, he externalizes them onto a fantasy or symptom character. In this way, the enjoyment of the ego or reality character isn’t reduced by the anxiety, the need for punishment, or tensions between what a person thinks they should be and what they are (i.e. ego ideal). Similarly, this should also work for the people who want to make the movie. They also identify with the narrative and through the images and changes in dialogue they can contribute to the complex found in the film (and potentially decrease its expression).
I’m skeptical that spending a lot of time on these introductory remarks will do much to persuade a non-psychoanalyst of the validity of psychoanalysis, and I would like to direct them to Economics (2015) for the arguments there. My main interest, along with building on Economics, is to attract the reader who may have been repelled by psychoanalytic criticism in the past. As I point out there, psychologists or psychoanalysts do not have a monopoly on wisdom. A good critic who only has common language at her disposal often gives more satisfying readings than someone using theory. This poverty of psychoanalytic theory is also seen in many recent analysts turning to mystical texts, philosophers like Nietzsche, and even writers like Dickens to contemplate the clinical experiences that remain beyond existing theoretical models.
Good literary criticism discusses individual motivation and what are troubling or illogical portions of the plot or actions that are inconsistent with the type of person that a character has been portrayed as. The critic can criticize a book that didn’t give enough of a sense of the relationships to justify an action or a reaction. The common language approach will always remain the most important approach to appreciate the beauty and health of the text, and to point out its lack, or the failure to build a rapport with characters that conveys the magnitude of an event in the plot. The health found in the text resonates with the health of the critic and through variations of its theme, she can help others to appreciate the text more. Of course, next to this, the appreciation of text through the conventions it follows and breaks, as well as some historical context, adds butter to the bread of what a fan of the text is hungering for.
The symptom reading deals in pathology and, as such, represents what Nietzsche would call decadence as opposed to finding health. However, I’m not sharing it as a method of appreciation of the health and beauty of a text. I also know that it would only appeal to the most fanatical of the fans of a text— the schizoid types who can only love by turning something inside out and eventually killing it. To the literary critics who know fanatical love of the text, I hope this book can be a call to arms to go beyond cleverness and once again experience awe before the mystery of human psychology. But, maybe awe isn’t the right word— maybe I’m just presenting glimpses of the human personality broken down into pieces and, for those who are driven to create order, there is an annoying chaos present—they will chase the rats out of the kitchen with a broom. There are many different types of people to be found in any culture and bringing their motivations, attitudes, and style of relating into prominence, and to show the depth structures that underpin them, is what the complete symptom reading will do.
I want to say that I have found previous psychoanalytic criticism to be useful. By formalizing psychic bisexuality, I build on the approaches of Metz (1982) and Mulvey (1975), who examined the gaze and masculine identification. In this tradition, I particularly found the work of Carol Clover (1993), who sought to establish the masculine or feminine identification beyond the anatomical references, to be inspiring. Through referencing particular impulses as egoistic or altruistic, and moving the discussion to general attitudes and motivational systems, one can respectably discuss the differences between the sexes without universalizing since the attitudes and motivations don’t have a 100% correlation to anatomical sex. Additionally, by finding the relevant event that causes the complex to emerge, the subject of the second part of the symptom reading finds its lineage in the “return of the repressed” model of critics like Robin Wood (1979). However, instead of this investigation examining a sex-negative cultural view, the event in question is linked to the individual character’s own Oedipus complex.
There are two important things I need to say about the Oedipus complex here, but my reader can rest assured that I’ll get into much more detail about them in the individual chapters. In Economics (2015), I argued that Freud saw the centrality of the (phallic) Oedipus complex as establishing social anxiety, the difference between the sexes, and the difference between the generations. In regards to sexual difference, this means that gender identity can be normative and some boys can make fun of a boy who throws a ball badly as “throwing like a girl” and it can cause him shame. This isn’t to say that gender identity must be constructed this way, only that there is a psychological input here that can receive such constructions. Similarly, in social anxiety, Freud (1930) draws attention to how an individual may desire the reputation of being good or moral, but that the person won’t have a problem being immoral if he thinks he won’t be caught (p. 124-5). Again, what counts as moral and could ruin one’s reputation is dependent on how advanced the political-economy (civilization) is, where one lives, and the particulars of the culture (ex. the religion there, different groups that have come to power there). Moreover, both of these ideals can be contrasted to the further development of the superego in which a person actually feels himself or forms a “self-observation” of himself, as equal to others (Pederson, 2015, Chapter II). The narcissistic injuries a person can receive from suffering humiliations in regards to his sexual difference or being exposed as immoral and losing his Prestige in the community represent a “mishap in social relations with other men” and an important point in development from which a person can regress (Freud, 1911b, p. 62).
The difference between the generations is the recognition that in every culture there are elders with more Prestige for having more skills or knowledge and neophytes who learn these from them. An individual at the (phallic) Oedipus complex is on a road of ‘maturation’ (Chasseguet-Smirgel, 1976b, p. 354, 358; 1976a, p. 282). He wants to gain more Prestige, which means he must take on more knowledge, skill, or adopt certain manners to enter organizations that convey status. The Oedipus complex has two parts. In the first part, the “complex” has to do with whether one has ‘eros’ or ‘fusion’ with the father-substitute who represents the boss, educator, mentor, etc. who will lead him, teach him, or direct him. In the second part, the individual becomes competitive or a rival with those of the higher generation or with more Prestige. Then they enter the oedipal castration complex. It is within this struggle, when the individual seeks to become “his own father” that he may experience castration anxiety with the father-substitute that leads to defense or regression. This may be in the sphere of work (ego drives) or concern “disappointment over a woman” (object drives) (Freud, 1911b, p. 62). Striving for passionate love or success is the centrality of the Oedipus complex. Narcissistic individuals who haven’t formed post-ambivalent ties to culture in the form of various group minds or identities are faced with possible regression in which they may become incapable of work and love. Those who do form the ties to group minds such as “race, class, and creed” continue to function more in cultural life, but the Oedipus complex is still central for them because they lose the passions of the drives may form less severe psychopathology (Freud, 1921, p. 129).
The second important aspect of the Oedipus complex is that Freud (1931a) used the term “to include all the child’s relations to both parents” or triangular relationships in general (p. 226). Because of psychic bisexuality and the recognition of the importance of different motivations and versions of happiness in the ego and object drives, I believe it is valuable to not follow Freud in this convention. In the second chapter I introduce the Electra complex and link it to the other egoistic libidinal position. Along with Oedipus and Electra on the egoistic pole I have identified the Antigone and Bellerophon complex on the altruistic pole, from work on film and with patients. The latter have always been around in such ideas as “fear of success” and self-sabotage and people who “masochistically” put the interests of others before themselves. However, I will only focus only on the Oedipus and Electra complexes in this book. This is partly for reasons of length, and partly because I wanted the chosen films to show variety in the application of the methodology. I do hope to follow this book with one that gives symptom readings of the phallic nuclear complexes of the passive-altruistic pole.
I still feel like I should apologize for my film choices. I’ve been primarily focused on psychoanalytic theory due to my own characterological needs to understand how it dialogues with philosophy, and to express my intuitions in work with patients. My background isn’t in film or literary criticism, and the films I’ve chosen were, again, salient because they show varied applications of the methodology and largely concern the active-egoistic pole of the personality. However, it doesn’t seem right for a book on film interpretation and not to mention Hitchcock’s Psycho. I do not perform a reading of this film in this book, but after formalizing the methodology I can express great respect for this monumental movie by noting that it is self-conscious of the unconscious process of the symptom reading. The identity of Norman Bates with his mother, as revealed at the end of the film, is what most other films avoid recognition of. The first part of the symptom reading is only forcing consciousness of the mechanism that Hitchcock’s genius didn’t allow to remain concealed.
Lastly, I chose to begin the book with The Lost Boys because it was the film that inspired it. The film has a strong fantasy element (i.e. vampires) so it’s much easier to establish what aspect of the plot is fantasy-based and what is reality-based, which is the first step of the symptom reading. While it would be mere hermeneutics to simply assert that the interaction of Michael, David, and Star, as a classically oedipal triangle, also shows the transference and unconscious desire/fear of another triangle within the film, there is more. Again, the further dialectical step enshrines the dyadic or triangular units as something that can be repressed and therefore produces data for psychoanalysis. Additionally, these specific impulses can also be tied to symbols and the idiosyncratic bodily zones. Once symbols have been catalogued and matched to the psychosocial development that runs parallel to the psychosexual one, then psychoanalysis will have the deepest reach into the non-narrative or symbolic arts
Chapter 1- “My Blood is in Your Veins”
In Lost Boys, Michael Emerson (Jason Patric) and his younger brother, Sam (Corey Haim), move with their recently divorced mother, Lucy (Dianne Wiest), to Santa Carla, California. They move in with Lucy's father (Barnard Hughes), an eccentric old man who lives on the outskirts of town, and enjoys taxidermy as a hobby. Michael and Sam begin hanging out on the Boardwalk, and Lucy gets a job at a local video store run by a man named Max (Edward Herrmann). It is at this point that two separate plots emerge: 1 Michael’s 2. Sam’s 3. and crossover between the two
1. Michael becomes fascinated by Star (Jami Gertz), a beautiful young woman he spots at the Boardwalk one night, who lives with David (Kiefer Sutherland), the mysterious leader of a local gang.
2. In a comic book store on the Boardwalk, Sam meets brothers Edgar and Alan Frog (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander), a pair of self-proclaimed vampire hunters, who warn him that Santa Clara is under attack from vampires, and give him horror comics to teach him about the threat.
1. Michael finally talks to Star, and is approached by David, who goads Michael into following them by motorcycle down the beach until they reach a dangerous cliff (which Michael almost goes over). This is a severe indication that this is more than just masculine bravado and that David is playing for keeps. At the gang's headquarters, a sunken luxury hotel beneath the cliff, David initiates Michael into the group, having him drink from a bottle of wine. Star warns Michael not to drink, telling him it is blood, but Michael ignores her advice after further goading from David, who seemingly tricked him into thinking that the noodles and rice he was going to eat were worms and maggots.
3. The next day, Michael develops a thirst for blood and impulsively attacks an unknowing Sam who is bathing. Nanook (Sam's Alaskan Husky) attacks Michael, pushing him away from Sam and leaving him with a bad bite mark on his hand. Sam sees that his reflection in the mirror is nearly invisible and that his brother is becoming a vampire.
2. Max asks Lucy on a date and they go out to dinner. Lucy calls the house from her date and Sam- frightened after Michael’s attack- tells her that he’s scared and threatened and she rushes home from her date. However,
3. Michael begins to experience supernatural powers and then realizes he is turning into a vampire and asks Sam for help. He convinces him not to tell Lucy for the moment.
2. Sam tells Lucy that nothing happened and it was just his imagination from all the scary comic books he reads. He later tells her that he’s still scared and ends up sleeping in bed with her that night. The next day Lucy and Sam take Max a bottle of wine as an apology for Lucy running out on the date. Max’s dog Thorn almost attacks Lucy and Sam and the Frog brothers become convinced that Max is a vampire. When Lucy has Max over for dinner for their next date they subject him to a series of tests. However, he fails the tests, indicating that he is human.
1. Determined to tempt Michael in to making his first kill (which will turn him from a half-vampire into a full vampire), David takes him one night to a bonfire where a group of Surfers are gathered. He and the rest of the gang enter a vicious feeding frenzy. Michael is horrified by the sight, and worries that he cannot hold off his vampire instincts for much longer.
3. Michael returns home to Sam and Star suddenly arrives, flying in through the window, and revealing that she too is a half-vampire. Michael realizes that Star was right and the wine he drank on his first night in the gang's lair was in fact David's blood. It emerges that David had intended for Michael to be Star's first kill, turning her from half-vampire to full vampire. Star, says that she too doesn’t want to become a vampire, but worries about how long she can hold back on her impulses to feed.
3. The next day, a weakening Michael leads Sam and the Frog brothers to the gang's lair, where they intend to kill the vampires in their sleep. They discover the lost boys do not sleep in coffins, but hang from the ceiling like roosting bats. The staking of one vampire (Marko) awakens David and the two others, and the boys barely escape with their lives, but manage to rescue Star and Laddie, a recently abducted half-vampire child. They know that the lost boys will be coming for them at sunset.
2. Sam goes to Lucy’s work (Max’s video store) and tries to convince his mom to go to the police and tell them about the vampires in Santo Carlo. She accuses Sam of trying to ruin another date she has with Max and he returns to the house and tricks his grandfather into leaving to prepare for the lost boys arrival.
3. That evening, while Lucy is on a date with Max, and Grandpa is out of the house, the teens arm themselves with anti-vampire weapons (garlic, holy water, stakes).
David and the gang attack, and are each killed in a spectacular fashion. Michael faces off with David, and ultimately impales him on a pair of mounted deer antlers. However, Michael, Star and Laddie do not transform back to normal with David's death, as they had hoped. Lucy and Max then return home, and Max is revealed to be the head vampire after all. He informs the boys that to invite a vampire into one's house (as Michael sarcastically invited Max in for Lucy's dinner date,) renders one powerless, which explains why Sam and the Frog brothers' tests failed to work on him. Max's objective all along was to get Lucy to be a "mother" and day protector for him and his "boys". But his grand plan is thwarted when Grandpa suddenly crashes his jeep through the wall of the house, impaling Max on the wooden fence posts he is carrying in the back of the jeep, and causing him to explode in the fireplace. Michael, Star, and Laddie then return to normal.
The film ends with Grandpa calmly and casually retrieving a drink from the fridge, seemingly oblivious to the carnage around him. He then declares, "One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach...all the damn vampires", revealing that he has known about the vampires all along. Michael and Sam look at each other in disbelief.
Since I’m introducing a new methodology I thought it would be important to share my thought process after encountering the narrative. Watching this film I was first struck by the seemingly classical oedipal castration complex that takes place in the triangle of David, Star, and Michael. Michael sees a mysterious, beautiful girl who seems interested in him too but she is somehow attached to another man. He is the leader of a gang and had a superior motorbike, which Michael knows he can’t outrace (Screenplay- scene 36). David is a superior rival and when Michael does race him, the director does a good job to bring out the anxiety of death when Michael almost rides off of a cliff. After such competitions, and after stealing Star away from David, ultimately, Michael kills David in the end. However, contrary to how I had initially expected the oedipal castration complex to function, David seems more interested in Michael joining the Lost Boys than being jealous of Star’s romantic interest in Michael. David is presented as the leader of the lost boys and as having a special interest in converting Michael into a vampire. Even up to the last battle, when all of the other lost boys have been killed, David still wants Michael to become a vampire:
Michael: You afraid to face me, David?
David: I tried to make you immortal.
Michael: You tried to make me a killer!
David: You are a killer! My turn. Stop fighting me, Michael. I don't want to kill you. Join us.
David: It is too late, my blood is in your veins.
Michael: So is mine! (movie)
This interest in Michael seemed excessive, as he doesn’t seem particularly special in anyway (given a back story of special intelligence, strength, ties to the occult, etc.). At the end of the story we find out that Max is the head vampire and that he wanted David to make Michael a vampire so that Lucy would marry him and watch over the whole “family”. However, it seems very strange that Max is looking for a “mother” and someone to protect him and his “boys” during the day. How would an older woman protect them? He is rich, why can’t he hire bodyguards? If Max wants to live anonymously in the suburbs what will people think as Lucy ages and Max and her boys never age? In the film they don’t reference Lucy joining as a “day time guardian” as they do in the script. However, the idea of her being a “bride of Dracula” and mothering David and the other lost boys so that they listen to what Max wants them to do seems ill conceived as well.
Although The Lost Boys is a fantastical story with supernatural elements and questions about logic might seem out of place, another idea occurred to me. David was portrayed as the head of the lost boys for most of the story and Max only came out to be the true head at the end. What if the interactions Michael had with David, which seemed to make no sense, and were patched up with a ridiculous idea that Lucy would become the day protector of the vampire family, were really the feelings Sam had towards Max? The reference to ties in blood between David and Michael are easy enough to relate to family “blood-relations”. These feelings and motivations might seem realistic if they were taken from the point of view of a boy towards his father or a new, would-be father.
I decided to disregard the ending and just concentrate on the two distinct plots that revolve around Michael and Sam. David is clearly head of the lost boys and wants Michael to join and Max stands to be head of the family through dating Lucy. Michael sexually desires Star and there is a scene in which Sam spends the night in his mother’s bed because he’s “scared”. Even though there is overlap between the two plots they are relatively separate. In Michael’s story supernatural things happen and in Sam’s his mom is dating her boss and it’s relatively mundane (ignoring the twist at the end). At this point a strange thought occurred to me. Since I was already regarding the film as having a fantasy and a reality based plot, and if I was looking to the fantasy plot to show the feelings in the reality based plot, what if I examined the reality based plot as if the fantasy based plot didn’t happen at all? In this way the analysis of the film opened up immensely. Every time Sam sabotaged the dates between Max and Lucy he used the problems of his brother becoming a vampire, or the threat of vampires in general. If the fantasy based plot of Michael-Star-David, and the lost boys was taken out of the picture all together, then the story becomes more realistic, neurotic, but realistic. A boy moves with his mother to live with her grandfather after her divorce and, as Lucy and Max express in the film, the boy is trying to sabotage his mother’s dates even though her suitor claims he isn’t trying to “replace his dad or steal his mom”. In other words, if we ignore the plot involving vampires, which don’t exist, then to the extent that Sam interrupts Max and Lucy’s dates then the triangle Michael-Star-David both shows the desires and fears in the triangle Sam-Lucy-Max and covers up those same feelings.
As I mentioned in the introduction, what is necessary for this reading is:
1. locating the impulses and inter-relations of the symptom characters in the fantasy or symptom plot
2. showing the parallels of the relationships in the reality or ego plot.
3. showing the impact the absence of the symptom characters and fantasy based plot would have on the reality-based plot. The behaviours of the reality based characters without the intentions given by their relation to the symptom characters leaves us with behaviours that are best explained by the feelings the symptom characters explicitly show. Additionally, the plot sometimes plays with the tension of insinuating that more than one character might be responsible for certain consequences in the film, or characters in the reality based plot put forward an interpretation of the ego character’s behaviour.
4. supporting the structural links argument by showing how there are ‘script slips’ or cues within ambiguities, links from contiguity, and symbolism that illustrate the symptom interpretation in the narrative
David and Max are linked when Max comes out as head vampire at the end, but before this twist at the end, both are structurally linked as men who would like to be group leaders. David has his lost boys and wants Michael to join and if Max marries Lucy then he is head of the family and is the boss over Sam. There is an apparent difference between the women because Star appears on the scene as belonging to David and Max is trying to date Lucy. However, I think this isn’t very important because Lucy already “belongs” to another adult male in the sense that she wouldn’t be romantically interested in boys, let alone her own son. In this sense Michael is fighting to get Star away from David to whom she is already tied by blood and Sam is fighting to get Lucy away from Max to whom she is always already tied to as the acceptable adult partner in the story.
What is important in the symptom reading is the general relation between individuals. Every particular thing that Michael did with Star isn’t something that Sam did with his mother. However, there are links between particular encounters between Michael and Star and the interactions of Sam and his mother and the general attitudes of wanting to possess the woman and having hostility towards the man who possesses her are expressed. As mentioned, the expression of the symptom triangle impulses in the ego triangle issue from the rationalization that the symptom triangle provides for certain behavior in the ego character.
When Lucy is on her first date with Max, Lucy calls to check up on Sam. He tells his mother that they have to have a “long talk” about something and when he sees his brother Michael floating outside of his window he exclaims “Oh, no! Oh, God! He's coming to get me! Mom!!!”. Lucy instantly runs out of her date to get to her son. Michael convinces Sam that he shouldn’t tell their mother he is a vampire and so Sam “lies” when Lucy gets home:
SAM Sorry, Mom. It was a mistake. I thought I saw something out the window. (beat) I was reading this horror comic and I guess I go a little carried away... Lucy looks at him with a good deal of skepticism… (Script)
At this point in the timeline, the narrative actually plays with the tension between suspension of disbelief about the supernatural and the sense that we are being presented with the skewed perception of one of the characters. The viewer is unsure if she will soon come to see that the supernatural (Michael floating by the window) didn’t really occur, just as David had ‘tricked’ Michael into seeing the noodles as worms but which reverted back to noodles again. In the symptom reading we should actually take Sam’s “lie”, in regard to getting ideas about vampires from reading comic books, as the case. However, instead of taking him to be an innocent, naïve boy whose imagination carries him away, we look to the relation between Michael and Star as the motivation. Sam lies not to protect Michael, but lies instead of sharing his desire to be the man in her life, or the “man of the house” as Max calls Michael. In parallel to wanting authority or power in the house, is the sexual desire or love of Sam for his mother and having a “long talk” with her about these feelings is the subtext of this interaction.
Overtop of the symptom reading explanation of Sam’s motivations are the ‘script slip’ links and an important one is shown in the next incident. Later that night Sam asks to sleep in the bed with his mother citing the “scary comic” he read. However, the viewer knows that it was the attack by his brother Michael, who wanted to drink his blood that scared him. Again, the experience of Sam in the symptom plot, which is where his interest to read the vampire comic book came from, is the rationalization for him to be able to sleep in bed with his mother. Two important ‘script slips’ or links to the fantasy plot occur in this scene. After Sam gets into bed with his mother the shot soon goes to Sam and Lucy sleeping and then the viewer sees Sam’s eyes blinking open after he hears a motorbike driving off. The viewer’s last memory of a motorbike is David playing a game of chicken with Michael that almost resulted in Michael riding over a cliff to his death. The motorbike sound in this scene links the signal anxiety (death/castration) that Michael experienced in his rivalry with David, to the relationship of how Sam feels about Lucy when he’s lying in bed with her. Star belongs to David and for Michael to compete with him leads to the signal anxiety of death. In parallel, Lucy belongs to an adult male, who would become the head of the family, and the sexual feelings Sam feels produces a signal anxiety of transgressing the incest taboo. The second slip is that the song that is playing when Sam is in bed with his mother continues to play as the ego plot switches to the fantasy plot. We find out that it was the sound of Michael’s motorbike and he rides to the home of the lost boys to find Star:
Michael finds himself standing in the far corner of the lobby. Something belonging to Star lets him know that this is where she sleeps. SONG CONTINUES. He sits down on the bed, and soon he is curled up, fall- ing asleep.
Michael is curled up on Star's bed. The NOISE sweeps into the cave on a cold rush of air. Michael stirs. He hears voices. Then looks up to see Star coming to lie next to him.
MICHAEL Star. I have to talk to you. Star doesn't respond. She's fallen right to sleep. Michael tries to awaken her.
MICHAEL I have to talk to you. Please wake up.
STAR Have to sleep. Have to sleep, Michael.
STAR Tonight. At the boardwalk... She almost doesn't get the last word out before falling back to sleep. Michael gets to his feet and staggers away from Star's bed... SONG ENDS (Script).
The song gives continuity between the two scenes beyond their relation of adjacency. I take this replication of Star and Michael being in bed, with Star sleeping and Michael awake, right after we are given the scene of Lucy and Sam in bed, with Lucy sleeping and Sam awake as a powerful link. Moreover, Michael’s request to talk to Star is an echo of Sam saying “Mom. I think we've got to have a long talk about something” before his fear of Michael causes him to cry out. This replication is just one of several links betweens the two pairs of “lovers”. Early in the film the shots of Michael being mesmerized and following Star are cut with shots of Lucy. The image of Star ‘becoming’ the image of Lucy- their adjacent relation- sets up their equivalence. Additionally, in an early scene we can see the equivalence expressed in language :
STAR Are you following me?
MICHAEL Well, I...
STAR Did you want to talk to me?
MICHAEL Well... yeah. Sure.
STAR Okay. Talk.
MICHAEL I just wanted to... I, uh... Sam rushes up carrying his comic.
SAM Mom's here.(emphasis mine)
In the declaration ‘mom’s here’ Sam is both announcing that his mother is on the Boardwalk and, following the imagistic linking of Star and Lucy, saying Star is mom. I really must stress that after doing the symptom reading a few times that it is surprising how apparent the narrative links between the symptom and ego character in images really is.
The next important script slip is when Lucy takes Sam with her to Max’s to drop off a bottle of wine as an apology for running out on their date. Michael became a ‘half-vampire’ after being tricked into drinking David’s blood in a wine bottle. This gives the important metaphor of being the property of, or belonging to, the father in paternity. By Lucy bringing a bottle of wine to Max the link between David’s desire for Michael to join his ‘family’ is linked to the feelings Sam has towards Max which posits him as a would be group leader. This comes into greater relief in the next scene.
Max’s next date with Lucy is at her grandfather’s house, where she and Sam are living. Here the rivalry between David and Michael finds explicit expression in the relation between Max and Sam. Firstly, what is supposed to be Max and Lucy’s date is disrupted when Sam invites himself and his friends to dinner. The introduction actually occurs right as Max is about to kiss Lucy in the kitchen which, with the excision of the symptom plot, emphasizes the jealousy of Sam as the motivation for ruining the date. The first aggressive maneuver that takes place is Sam offering Max cheese for his spaghetti that is in fact garlic and causes him to choke. The second aggressive maneuver is Sam offering Max water to help clear his throat but then intentionally spilling it on his lap. Holy water is supposed to burn a vampire (Sam explicitly asks Max afterwards if it burns) and thus it is a fantasied castration attempt. Next, the Frog brothers turn off the lights and hold up a mirror before Max and he’s seen to fail this test as well. After this, Max gets up and gives a speech to the boys and tells Lucy his thoughts about her being a single mother:
MAX I'm not trying to replace your Dad... or steal your Mom. I just want to be your friend.
Sam looks a little shame-faced. But not the Frogs. Lucy follows Max to the: ENTRYWAY
LUCY I'm really sorry, Max.
MAX Our batting average isn't very good is it? So far we're zero for two.
LUCY I don’t understand Sam. He's just not like this.
MAX Boys Sam's age need a good deal of discipline, or they walk all over you.
LUCY (defensively) He doesn't walk all over me.
MAX (sweetly)I don't want to fight with you, Lucy. Come on. Let's give it one more try (beat) Dinner at my house, tomorrow night. I'm cooking (Script).
A number of things are going on here. Firstly, in psychoanalysis negations like ‘I’m not trying to replace your dad or steal your mom’ are taken as avowals. Secondly,
Max introduces the idea of the need for a paternal authority (a head of the family) to Lucy, which implies that he is offering to fill the position himself. Additionally, when he first showed up for dinner he made the joke:
MAX Is it okay for the guest to see the food before the dinner?
LUCY You're thinking of the groom not seeing the bride before the wedding.
MAX Oh, right. I always get those two confused (script).
This bad joke works again as a script slip in that it on one hand works with the tension of whether or not Max is the head vampire, as Sam and the Frog brothers believe him to be at this point, and Lucy is his food. However, it also registers the intention for paternity since it shows that Max isn’t thinking just about dating a woman but marrying her. The double meaning of the joke is apparent in the symptom reading in the sense that it shows Max desiring to include Sam among his ‘boys’ just as David wants to include Michael among his boys. Thirdly, the scene also establishes that Lucy feels a resistance to accepting someone as head of the family because she reacts defensively to the remarks that her boys walk all over her. Star is similarly resistant to becoming a vampire under David’s authority and resists her impulses to feed and move from half to full vampire. Lastly, Sam’s “shame-faced” reaction occurs right after Max declared that he didn’t want to replace his dad or steal his mom. For him to feel shame after the speech, as opposed to after Max had failed all the tests, shows that the content of the speech is how Sam feels. In the symptom reading, in which there is only the reality-based plot, Max’s reading of Sam’s intentions is the shameful truth. Otherwise, if Sam felt shame for ruining the date and being aggressive to an innocent man we’d expect him to apologize or try to set things right with Max, but no such actions follow this. Moreover, Max’s speech is very empathic and nice and although a kid might feel ashamed just at being “in trouble”
the speech doesn’t reprimand Sam in anyway. I want to stress that Max, in guessing Sam’s intentions, is giving a reality-based interpretation of what’s happening while the viewer is distracted by the symptom plot. In the symptom reading we’re often only following the cues given by the reality-based viewpoint embedded in the narrative itself.
the speech doesn’t reprimand Sam in anyway. I want to stress that Max, in guessing Sam’s intentions, is giving a reality-based interpretation of what’s happening while the viewer is distracted by the symptom plot. In the symptom reading we’re often only following the cues given by the reality-based viewpoint embedded in the narrative itself.
The next important part of the ego narrative is when Max and Lucy are going to meet for their third attempt at a date. It is preceded, and rationalized by, an important event in the symptom plot. Just as Sam and the Frogg brothers attempted to attack Max (feed him garlic, holy water on the genitals) and stop him from “stealing” Lucy, they join Michael to attack David and stop him from “stealing” Star. Star expressed that she wanted to be with Michael and didn’t want to be a vampire but she had mysteriously vanished when she received some kind of telepathic communication or sensed that David was “looking for [her]” (Script). Michael, Sam, and the Frog brothers steal back Star and Laddie, a small boy who is also a half-vampire, and know that David will seek his revenge. This state of affairs is the rationalization for Sam to try to break up Lucy and Max’s re-scheduled third date:
SAM Mom! Listen to me! This is very important! Santa Carla is crawling with vampires!
Lucy reacts. A customer looks over at Sam. Lucy takes Sam aside.
LUCY What did you say?
SAM Vampires, Mom! Everywhere! You've got to tell the police! The newspapers! The TV stations! They'll listen to you. They'll believe you... you're a mom!
LUCY Not funny, Sam!
SAM This is not a joke. They know that we know about them. They're coming to the house as soon as it gets dark!
LUCY Stop it, Sam. Stop it right now!
SAM But, Mom...
LUCY Not another word! I can't believe you're doing this. I'm going to see Max tonight and you're trying to ruin it for me again.
SAM No, I'm not...
LUCY There's nothing wrong with Max. I don't know why you don't-- SAM (exploding)-- I'm not talking about Max! To hell with Max! (Script)
Again, we are given the co-ordinates for making the symptom reading by the narrative itself. Lucy, like any reasonable person, doesn’t believe in vampires and in Sam’s behaviour can only see a reaction to her romance with Max. Although, the viewer could well identify with Sam’s “exploding” curse “to hell with Max!’ given what’s going on in the symptom plot, it also takes on another meaning here in that the excision off the symptom plot still gives Sam cause to hate Max as his Oedipal rival.
In the last scene in the ego plot, before the final battle in the symptom plot, Max shows himself to be devious and establishes himself as a real rival. Lucy reacted poorly to Max’s previous approach of exclaiming the need for paternal authority –for him- in the family by implying Sam walked all over Lucy. So here he changes his tactics in order to get her mind off of Sam’s frantic request for her to inform the authorities about the vampires in the city (i.e. his dislike of Max):
MAX Something the matter?
LUCY No, no. Just worrying about my boys -- as usual.
MAX (getting her some wine) Let me tell you something about boys. They're like weeds. They grow best when they're ignored.
LUCY (taking the wine glass) I thought you said they needed discipline?
MAX Well... what do I know? I'm a bachelor. (pause) Lucy... this is going to be a very special night, I promise you.
He starts to go, but she stops him. He looks confused, then sees what she has in mind. She kisses him on the lips. It lasts a long time (Script).
This kiss between Max and Lucy is important because up to this point they only had 2 failed dates and Max wasn’t proving much of a rival for Lucy’s affection. Without this scene of Lucy being seduced by Max and kissing him the parallel between David-Star and Max-Lucy would hardly be equal. I want to stress again that the romantic (sexual) aspect is emphasized in the pairing Max-Lucy and the paternity (social) is minor while with David-Star the paternity is emphasized and the sexuality is minor. Star rides on the back of David’s motorcycle and she refers to him as having authority over her (ex. she left Michael because David was looking for her) but there’s no kissing or sexuality explicitly shown between the two. This telepathic connection along with David having given his blood to her shows the structural paternal connection or Star’s acceptance of him a group leader/head of the family. Max’s jokes about marriage and negations of his desire to replace Sam’s father show how unconsciously the same relation is at work here. Lucy ‘always already’ belongs to an adult sexual partner who will be head of the family but the kiss firmly places Max in that structural role as opposed to only attempting to occupy it.
The last part of the symptom reading I’ve taken to calling the navel of the symptom. However, the term isn’t used as Freud uses it for dream interpretation. For Freud it meant the part of the dream that couldn’t be understood, for the symptom reading it means the part of the action that happens in the symptom plot that is not shown in the ego plot. When Michael resists the call of David’s blood (i.e. joining his ‘family’) and kills him, the parallel implied would be that Lucy’s worrying gets the better of her and she gets Max to come back with her to check on Sam and he has trashed the house or ends up doing something else that causes Max and Lucy to break it off. Sam vanquishes his rival as Michael does.
However, as we know, things don’t end here. Max reveals himself as head vampire, after David is killed, and leaves the ego plot and enters the symptom plot. As mentioned above, I’ve interpreted this as showing his equivalence to David. Moreover, all the work I’ve done with the symptom reading is actually confirmed by Max’s coming out:
MAX It was all going to be so perfect, Lucy. One big happy family. My boys... and yours.
MAX It's you I was after all along, Lucy. To be our day time guardian. I knew if we could bring Sam and Michael into the family, there'd be no way you could say no.
Max peels back his lips revealing his fangs. Lucy jumps.
MAX I still want you, Lucy... I haven't changed my mind about that (Script).
Again, it is preposterous that a vampire would want a middle-aged lady to be his guardian, and the symptom reading allows some reality to be imparted to the story. Max’s intentions come out here in the fantasy plot but only make sense within the oedipal projections of the reality plot appreciated on its own. How would Lucy stop any attackers? The vampires, with all their powers, could get as much money as they want and could hire bodyguards or ex-marines, etc. to protect them. How long could Lucy last before she’s enfeebled by old age if not driven mad by the killing her family does? The truth of the fantasies involved here make the greatest sense if we allow the ego based plot to speak for itself in all its neurotic glory. However, seeing how the grandfather ends up killing Max at the end made me think that there was something more I was missing. If the symptom reading is an objective methodology then once Max enters the fantasy plot he must be a representation of an ego character. After I share the theoretical investigation in the discussion, I’ll give analysis of the data produced by the symptom reading with an appreciation for the role of the grandfather and his link to Max entering the fantasy plot.
Although everyone’s familiar with the ‘kill your father and sleep with your mother’ Oedipus complex, this doesn’t mean that the actual parents have to be involved. Although, I’ve attempted to show that Sam is involved in an oedipal castration complex with his mother, I’ve done so by showing that the triangle of Michael-Star-David is an expression of this. This is possible because a structural relation is present in what I’ve noted as Lucy already belonging to an acceptable adult partner. Star is already part of David’s group and, again, though they aren’t shown to have a sexual relationship she rides on his motorcycle and he is able to telepathically communicate with her and call her away.
In The Economics of Libido (2015) I argue, following Chasseguet-Smirgel (1976a, p. 282; 1976b, p. 354, 358), that the Oedipus complex inaugurates the ‘difference between the generations’. I explicate this in regards to what I term the masculine-egoistic or subject egoistic libidinal position, in which there is an active ego drive to compete with others for recognition or admiration for some skill or in a field of knowledge. Again, this is only one position of four and I will introduce the others next chapter so it’s not too overwhelming. The child forms a primary identification with the father so that his estimate of his father’s power is internalized as an imago that “determines the superego” (Freud, 1933, p. 64). The imago creates internal phantastic representations of the father as possessor of the mother, or internal objects, but through the superego, more specifically the ego ideal, it represents a structural relation in which the child has transference to a ‘parental-substitute.’ This is someone who seen to have superior skill or knowledge to the individual or who has the accreditation for it. For someone competing to be admired for knowledge in some field, this goes from getting a high school diploma, to a BA, to a MA, to a PhD, to having Prestige through one’s publications or having gotten a degree from an ivy league schools. As I pointed to in the previous section, the connotation of one’s leader being one’s symbolic father or one’s name being linked to his name and giving a pedigree that is comparable to blood, is often explicit in these relations. One’s advisor in graduate school may possess some Prestige in a field, for example, and you can be referred to as one of his or her children or having a pedigree because of this.
The same structure is found in the object drives that concern the sexual, or private, relationships (as opposed to the social, or public ones). Just as the subject egoist recognizes the father’s superior skill or knowledge, it also recognizes that his mother wants love in an adult relationship and couldn’t be satisfied by a relationship with a child.
Freud (1921) also uses the ego ideal to denote the idealization of the love object (p. 113). At the phallic-Oedipus complex Freud holds that the boy is capable of full anaclitic love, that is characterized as affectionate, although at earlier stages there may be infatuation and even idealization in regard to the sexual object (ibid., p. 111; 1923, p. 32).
So long as the individual is open to having or finding a parental-substitute, the ego ideal operates under ‘eros’ or a ‘fusion’ with the father imago. In defusion from the father imago or, under ‘phobos,’ the individual becomes ambivalent about parental-substitutes.
The transference to, or ego ideal for parental-substitutes remains, but it is now colored by the ‘castration complex’ in which the child forms “the single wish to be his own father” (Freud, 1910a, p. 173). Instead of the slower road of maturation the individual is driven to approximate the father imago himself. This means that he stands to receive more narcissistic/self-esteem gratification when he comes to possess a better reputation as more skilled or knowledgeable or possesses a superior love object or woman. Patients are able to consciously avow that they are with someone who is “out of their league” or triangulation with a woman who belongs to a superior rival is in evidence. This is the sense of “triumph” in the ego aligning with the ego ideal. However, as I point out in Economics (2015), this attempt to be one’s own father, and the defusion to the unmodified ego drive, that pushes the individual to realize perfection, doesn’t grant lasting satisfaction. The subject egoist is focused on getting more money, a better job, membership to a certain club, and whatever grants Prestige, but even if the individual has an accomplishment that raises his prestige he will still encounter parental-substitutes who have more than him. The parental-substitutes will have more money, a better job, etc. that will cause him to feel inferior or insufficient and drive him to once again prove himself. In Freud’s words, he “never ceases to strive for complete satisfaction” and “there is… no prospect of bringing the process to a conclusion or of being able to reach the goal” (Freud, 1920, p. 42).
The Oedipus complex has a prohibiting function, or conscience aspect, in which the father’s imago comes to represent a moral ideal of fairness or justice. The subject egoist, under eros, wants to be moral like the father imago, but under phobos, he only wants the reputation of being morally good. Freud (1930) formulates this as “social anxiety” in which
in many adults… the place of the father or the two parents is taken by the larger human community… people habitually allow themselves to do any bad thing which promises them enjoyment, so long as they are sure that the authority will not know anything about it or cannot blame them for it; they are afraid only of being found out.” (pp.124-5)
What is seen as moral or immoral constitutes a game of honor that is played in one’s community. It is something that changes from culture to culture and even in classes within one’s culture, but the psychological input is present at the Oedipus complex in social anxiety. This, I argue at length, is different than the guilt conscience that is formed in the subsequent father-complex (Freud, 1923b, p. 37). After traversing the father complex, the individual can feel guilty about bad intentions and will want to come clean about a misdeed, even if no parental-substitutes will find out what he has done. I argue that this goes along with other ideals such as desire for commitment in relationships, bringing ethical discussions into work-life, seeking to be responsible and follow etiquette, and what can generally be described as feeling “adult”. In contrast, those who haven’t traversed the father complex will always feel like they are pretending to be adult in some sense, and like they are “phonies.”
The centrality of the Oedipus complex is that it represents the pinnacle of striving for happiness in work-life and love-life and having this striving regulated by relations to parental-substitutes. Defusion from the father substitute creates the “bedrock of neurosis” in the masculine protest or castration complex (Freud, 1938, p. 252). In this struggle to triumph over father-substitutes and gain the mother-substitutes, the individual experiences castration anxiety. Just as a subject egoist may be possessive of his “girl” and jealous of others, he can also be possessive of his company, or his assignments at work, and think his methods are superior. However, there are also other forms of “a mishap in social relations with other men” (Freud, 1911b, p. 62). The social anxiety, or the anxiety of having one’s moral reputation ruined in the community, as well as the possibility of feeling humiliated based upon one’s reputation as a man or woman is also possible. The latter exists as “the difference between the sexes” and is the recognition that one’s libidinal economy can come into conflict with what is considered masculine or feminine within a culture. In running different therapy groups, I’ve heard one male member admonish another for not “handling things like a man” or being a “bitch” when things become heated.
On account of this anxiety, defensive operations such as paranoia can be put into place, symptoms can emerge, or the phallic drives can be defended against, and the individual can regress to an earlier stage of development. The narcissistic individual who hasn’t gone onto further development of the superego may regress to where he can no longer work or love. The neurotic individual who has formed the latency superego and created a post-ambivalent tie to society will be able to retain more constancy in work, sexual relationship, and friendship since he is more attached to the traditions of the latency superego and its group minds. The latency superego and its group minds mediate through ‘identity’ or social discourse, and philosophers like Nietzsche (1886) and Oretega Y Gasset (1930) critique “the herd” or “masses” for their conformity. However, without the passion of the drives, such identity can appear hollow or passionless. The ambivalent sadistic/masochistic features in relationships are still in evidence, but are muted or offset by the post-ambivalent tie. In both cases, narcissist and neurotic, the castration complex is central in determining the neurosis.
Along with the depersonalized aspect of the parental imagos that allow for parental-substitutes to be put in the ego ideal or interest in one’s image or reputation, there is also personalized aspect and a repersonalized aspect to the imago. The depersonalized phallic paternal imago is connected with how sexual object choice becomes heterosexual. It’s not that the boy gets to keep the mother as object but the girl has to change. Rather, the model of the father possessing the mother provides a template that both girl and boy must follow when sexual difference is established. The depersonalized imago, as mentioned above, is tied to the difference between the generations and represents that a man, for example, can choose a woman “out of his league” or “class climb” through a marriage. In the personalized aspect, a man’s choice of woman might resemble his mother in some features of her appearance, her gait, or her style. I’ve had several borderline patients that have referenced the similarity in appearance between their partners and parents on their own, without any prompting from me. Additionally, it is also clear that many patients stay close to their actual parents to help regulate their self-esteem and mental illness. The parents repeat the roles they took in the patient’s childhood and interact with them constantly and become a powerful authority figure who must be obeyed or controlled, completely responsible for one, or requiring help. This is what I term a repersonalized imago. If the person isn’t too self-absorbed and still has social ties or object constancy in work, marriage, and friendships then this often appears as the child becoming an adult who now becomes the friend of one of, or both, parents. If the personal is low-functioning, then this can appear as the 40 year old virgin who lives at home with his mother. In this case there is an unconscious repersonalized imago relationship with his mother with the sexual feelings being unconscious, while in the depersonalized form, another man might be on his 3rd or 4th marriage with his mother-substitute for who he has conscious sexual feelings.
At this point I would like to add to this sketch of the subject egoist’s Oedipus complex and introduce further refinements to what I offer in Economics (2015). As I mentioned in the previous section, the element of the patental-substitute, David, wanting Michael to join his gang seemed an idiosyncratic part of the triangle and not a universal element of the oedipal castration complex. Michael is young, and his striving for admiration is obscured because he’s still living with his mother, however there are several competitive contests with David that indicate subject egoism (ex. they race motorbikes, see who can hang from the bridge the longest). Although David is represented as having an edge of Michael in these competitions, Michael seems to have Star’s love, and in the final showdown he is depicted as the equal of David, if not superior in his victory. Michael has his own blood and not just David’s in him and his own blood is able to defeat David’s. Additionally, Michael references being his “own man,” and is aloof from the group and doesn’t give in to their peer pressure to kill. Michael represents the potential for a different locus of power for the group. This isn’t shown in any interactions between him and David struggling for the leadership role, but it wouldn’t seem out of place if Michael was depicted at the leader of some other group.
I’ve introduced the ego ideal in its ‘direction-giving’ aspect that ‘demands perfection,’ but Freud (1914b) also introduced the ego ideal as having a “self-regard” aspect (p. 98-100). Freud (1921) clarifies this aspect later in Group Psychology by noting that
the individual gives up his ego ideal and substitutes for it the group ideal as embodied in the leader… [but, i]n many individuals the separation between the ego and the ego ideal is not very far advanced; the two still coincide readily; the ego has often preserved its earlier narcissistic self-complacency. The selection of the leader is very much facilitated by this circumstance. He need often only possess the typical qualities of the individuals concerned in a particularly clearly marked and pure form, and need only give an impression of greater force and of more freedom of libido; and in that case the need for a strong chief will often meet him half-way and invest him with a predominance to which he would otherwise perhaps have had no claim. The other members of the group, whose ego ideal would not, apart from this, have become embodied in his person without some correction, are then carried away with the rest by ‘suggestion’, that is to say, by means of identification. (p. 129-30, emphasis mine)
Freud’s point here is best spelled out here by saying that those who become leaders or ‘personalities’ have taken back some of their transference to parental-substitutes and thereby increased their own self-regard. In other words, this follows the popular notion that the people who get into positions of power are seldom those who are the most hard-working, the most intelligent or skilled. Rather, they usually feel entitled to be in those positions and can inspire others to have a similar confidence in them. In Economics (2015), I contrast the active-egoistic drives and the ego ideal tensions of inferiority to the tensionlessness involved in projective identification. In projective identification the subject egoist, for example, assumes the parental imago and grandiosely considers himself to be perfection, and the drive for perfection isn’t in evidence. Between this binary it is necessary to add this intermediary place of high self-regard in which the striving of the drive isn’t in evidence, but neither is one in projective identification with the parental imago. David is clearly the father-substitute in the interaction with Michael but, as a father-substitute, David also sees Michael as special, for no apparent reason, which is a good illustration of “narcissistic self-complacency.”
In Wilhelm Reich’s work this dual notion of a high ego ideal and low ego ideal is noted. In regards to the latter Reich (1990) writes:
[s]ince a more or less conscious feeling of impotence is always present, many social accomplishments are primarily compensatory proofs of potency. These accomplishments, however, do not diminish the feelings of inferiority. On the contrary… the neurotic character never rids himself of the feeling of inner emptiness and incapacity, no matter how arduously he tries to compensate for it. Thus, the positive demands of the ego-ideal are raised higher and higher, while the ego, powerless and doubly paralyzed by feelings of inferiority (impotency and high ego-ideal), becomes less efficient. (p.180)
This high ego ideal and the demand for “high and higher” achievements is contrasted to the ‘cocky’ and “self-assured” phallic-narcissistic type who feels he should be in a leading role or that he doesn’t have to prove himself (Reich, 1990, p. 123, 217-8). Reich also talks about the “impressive bearing” of phallic-narcissistic character (ibid., p. 217). Like Freud, he sees that those with a low ego ideal can inspire the transference to a phallic father-substitute without necessarily having the Prestige from accreditation (i.e. a degree) or money, nor from having demonstrated superior skill or knowledge in a contest. Interestingly, those that carried on Reich’s characterology replaced the phallic-narcissistic character with the rigid or industrious-over-focused character that exemplifies the high ego ideal (Lowen, 1994; Kurtz, 2008). Lowen (1994) also introduces what he calls a ‘psychopathic’ character that may have been meant to replace the phallic-narcissistic in some ways, but he doesn’t identify it with the phallic stage but an earlier one. I will return to this when I later differentiate the phallic from the anal and earlier forms of the superego. Lastly, Reich (1990) links phallic-narcissistic character to the symbol of the phallic mother, which is an important bridge for other accounts (p. 222).
Ernest Jones’ (1933) makes an important differentiation between the proto and deutero phallic phases that also seems to capture this distinction. However, as with much classical psychoanalysis, it focuses exclusively on the sexual, without reference to the ego drives. His observation of “phallic perversion” in the deutero phase matches up with a later description by Joyce McDougall, whose work I’ll turn to in a moment, but, I mention Jones in this review for two reasons. First, he links the deutero stage to Klein’s concept of a combined parental imago, one example of which is the phallic mother that Reich observed (Klein, 1975). Second, his terms allow us to get away from the overly burdened term of narcissism, and allow me to coin the term trito to reference the post-phallic-oedipal father complex at other stages (i.e. phallic trito, anal trito, etc.). I’ll return to this later.
McDougall sees the deutero stage arising by the mother splitting the paternal imago that will become the Oedipal father and creating a rival phallic image. “[S]he denigrates the father's phallic function… [and] gives the child in addition the feeling that he or she is a phallic substitute” McDougall writes; “another model of virility [which] was held up to the child, sometimes the mother's own father, or brother, sometimes a religious figure, or God is the one phallic object of value” (McDougall, 1972, p.381). In her case study in the ‘Anonymous Spectator’ (1974) she captures very strongly how the phallic image influenced her patient’s perverse sexual relationship in the image of his grandfather chasing his mother with a whip in hand. She also details his ego drives and castration anxiety:
"to be like the others" still signified castration, "to be accepted by the others" was equivalent to losing his identity. He would then be forced to go over to the other side, the side of the brothers—and the fathers. To make such a move would mean the risk of losing all hope of possessing the mother's phallic secret and thus one day possessing the means of totally satisfying her…. The Oedipal situation with its accompanying anxieties had never been faced, simply circumvented. This was achieved largely through two major defenses—disavowal and the disguise of "play." These served to deny the primal scene through inventing a counterfeit couple and also to convert castration anxiety into its opposite by treating it as a game… Deprived of the solution which allows identification with the father, he sees himself as the object of his mother's desire and her true complement. He comes to believe he can avoid the human sexual dilemma. He gets the diploma without passing the examination. But this is his bitter reward— he keeps it on condition that he never uses it. Nevertheless the fraudulent diploma, stolen from a repudiated father… [makes him a] paper king with an imitation scepter, [and] he must thereafter protect this identity and convince the others that his illusory world is real. Of necessity he must deceive them—the public, his sexual partner, and, finally, himself—in the same way that, in fantasy, he deceived the father. From there on the fear of being unmasked and punished for an unnamed crime becomes a consuming preoccupation. He must keep a close control on everything. Thus the fear of losing control is added to the anxiety of losing his fragile identity. He fears losing control, not only of himself, but also of the Other, the anonymous spectator, in whose eyes the false identity must be maintained. The image of the Other, projected onto the world of men, renders the public, all the Others, a constant threat to his position as chosen king. (McDougall, 1974, p.298, 303-4)
In this very complex and interesting passage, McDougall echoes Freud’s construction of the low ego ideal in which her patient doesn’t deign to enter into competition with the “siblings” or “fathers.” Rather, he only has to approximate the phallic image for the “the public.” There are some inconsistencies between McDougall’s account and mine. McDougall holds that “the Oedipal situation had never been faced” for instance. However, her patient wouldn’t have gotten where he is without recognizing the difference between the generations. Thus, it would be more accurate to say, following her suggestion, that the Oedipal complex was only passed through at half strength. If the father imago had been split by the mother, then that part of it was used to create a phallic image is a part that didn’t experience the difference between the sexes or generations as a transferential need. Again, the remaining half had to experience it or there would have been no recognition of the differences between the sexes or generations and no castration fear of being “unmasked”. So, in the phallic deutero stage there is the ego drive for perfection present, but the possession of the phallic image means that so long as the individual approximates the phallic image that he or she is beyond competition with those of their generation and a rival to the Prestige of a father-substitute. This resembles the “narcissistic self-complacency” Freud described in the low ego ideal with increased self-regard.
McDougall suggests that the relation of her patient to his public, or “the anonymous spectator”, is a projection of the internal conflict. Her patient’s grandfather had been a writer (p. 296) and although McDougall’s patient, a professor, procrastinates and can only write at the last minute (p.290) he is still accepted as a professor, or someone who writes and produces intellectual work, by others. Strangely, McDougall doesn’t explicitly link her patient’s intellectual profession with his grandfather’s, although she does link his sadistic sexual practices to his mother’s punishment from her father. McDougall’s account also adds the interesting operation of “converting anxiety”. This operation, which Freud (1938) acknowledged in his essay on splitting and the fetishist, observes that castration anxiety is both acknowledged in the fetish as substitute for the mother’s missing penis and disavowed by substituting the fetish for it. Along with her patient’s sexual game of sadism he also plays a social game of putting himself “into a position where [he] can't back out… which obliges [him] to produce” (McDougall, 1974, p. 291). This relationship to anxiety, as a whole parallel economy to the economy of libido, is studied at more length in the next chapter.
McDougall isn’t the only analyst who has noted the phallic mother producing a rival ego ideal or that the mother is the central imago of defusion, and the relation to her imago is transcribed to the father imago. For example, Lampl-De Groot (1952) has also found this connection. “[T]he boy's ego-ideal” she writes, “had been selected originally in accordance with the example of the mother (although it was the phallic mother)” (p.341). Fairbairn (1952) similarly places the mother as the central figure in the castration complex where classical analysts claimed the father was:
it is not difficult to see that the maternal components of both the internal objects have, so to speak, a great initial advantage over the paternal components; and this, of course, applies to children of both sexes… In conformity with this fact, a sufficiently deep analysis of the Oedipus situation [i.e. the castration complex] invariably reveals that this situation is built up around the figures of an internal exciting mother and an internal rejecting mother….in the classic drama of Hamlet; but there can be no doubt that, both in the role of exciting and tempting object and in that of rejecting object, the Queen is the real villain of the piece. (p. 124)
In Lost Boys it also appears that the mother in the film is the central figure of power that the two sides want to control. However, the point here is also that a phallic mother imago is what supplies the relation to the father with its power. In corroboration, Chasseguet Smirgel holds that the castration complex “seems to be as proportionately intense as the maternal imago is powerful” (Chasseguet-Smirgel, 1976a, p. 285). In this essay Chasseguet-Smirgel also draws attention to paternity and Athena springing from the head of Zeus. This magical form of conception without the mother shows the need to have a not-mother figure (i.e. the father) perform her functions. Thus, the phallic mother is the mother who denigrates the paternal imago to give the child an image to approximate that creates narcissistic self-complacency in him, as well as the potential to inspire others to give him the phallic father transference, and a ‘low ego ideal’ sense of entitlement that he should be regarded as “the man of the house.”
The work of Ruth Brunswick (1940), which was overseen by Freud, sees the passive-affectionate id drives of having a baby with the mother passed on to the father (p. 309). Brunswicks’s finding of the transcription of impulse from mother to father was also echoed by Chasseguet Smirgel (1970) in her work on the passive-feminine spelled out in her important article ‘Feminine Guilt and the Oedipus Complex’. The relations to the maternal (proto) or combined parental imago (deutero) are played out with the father as if the latter is a ‘double exposure’ of the earlier. For example, feelings of bad conscience of surpassing the castrated mother were transcribed to the Oedipal father and thus passive ego drives in the altruist circle around subordinate positions: “[s]he is the right hand, the assistant, the colleague, the secretary, the auxiliary, the inspiration for an employer, a lover, a husband, a father. She may also be a companion for old age, guide, or nurse” (ibid., p.124). The parallel structure in the subject egoist means that just as the mother was the mentor and the son the protégé in relation to her phallic image, this would be transcribed to the father imago and he would feel a similar relation with the Oedipal work group leader. The father-substitute wants to be his mentor (as his mother was) and sees him as special and wants to include him in the group for special responsibilities. Thus,
David sees Michael as special and wants to have him join his group.
Freud’s position on the low ego ideal and McDougall’s genetic findings suggest that I have to refine the dialectic of the relation between sexuality, ego drive, and ego ideal that I give in Economics (2015). The drive-based account there doesn’t take the imagos (internal objects) for granted but instead requires that a theory of mind explain their creation. The id or erotic object choice that takes the finite body of the mother as its object, is negated to create a not-finite, or negative sense of perfection. The sense of perfection is formulated by Freud as negative because, as it is conceived of at the phallic stage, no success in one’s field of knowledge or skill can ever satisfy the person for long. A momentary triumph will always result in the perception that one can make more money, write another book, have a better batting average, (etc.). This in turn was negated to form the social body, which was symbolized by the father (i.e. not-mother). The social body represents the fusion that the individual can have with father substitutes by placing them in the non-ambivalent ego ideal. However, if the father imago is to be denigrated then there must already be some link of the infinite, perfection, or not-mother negation to the father. Otherwise, how can something with a negative status be taken as an object or how can the mother’s denigration of the father have any effect? In fact, a pre-oedipal identification with the father is found in Freud’s account of the lead up to the Oedipus complex:
At the same time as this identification with his father, or a little later, the boy has begun to develop a true object-cathexis towards his mother according to the attachment [anaclitic] type. He then exhibits, therefore, two psychologically distinct ties: a straightforward sexual object-cathexis towards his mother and an identification with his father which takes him as his model. The two subsist side by side for a time without any mutual influence or interference. In consequence of the irresistible advance towards a unification of mental life, they come together at last; and the normal Oedipus complex originates from their confluence. (Freud 1921, p. 105)
This pre-oedipal identification suggests a sequence in which the drive for perfection formed at the phallic stage meets with frustration. In the phallic stage the mother is entreated not just to admire the body or presence of the child, as in earlier stages, but to admire the egoist for doing something in an image-ego. This something latter becomes one’s profession or field of work that the subject egoist wants to make his mark in.
This drive must come to frustration and when it does the link of the infinite or perfection can be linked to the father who, for pure difference, is the candidate for the not-mother. However, I also think that this drive-based account necessitates that a new id cathexis of the mother, and not just her denigration of the father, receive some recognition here. The mother’s phallic image, as a new image of perfection for the child to strive for, should be based on an instinctual renunciation. It is not uncommon to read that the mother of a narcissist is also the “close, binding, and intimate” mother who stimulates the child’s sexuality (Bieber, 1962).
The first dialectic would therefore take the form of the id object choice of the finite mother, the negation in the not-finite sense of perfection, and frustration leading to a second negation that links the not-finite to the father. The second dialectic can then go in two ways. The father imago can be split and the low ego ideal/high self-regard route appears in the non-universal deutero stage. Here a secondary id or erotic object choice of the mother is formed, a negated sense of perfection is formed, and then becomes negated into what the child gleans to be the mother’s phallic image. The other dialectic, which the deutero child only experiences with the remaining half of the split paternal imago, is the standard Oedipus complex id object choice of the mother, negated in the “incest taboo”, and then negated again so that the ego ideal can take the father as an object in fusion (i.e. the social body).
This isn’t to say that it is only the remaining half of the paternal imago that turns to the paternal imago. The idea of the mother denigrating the father and idealizing the child as the one who could fulfill her phallic ideal, comes into conflict with the mother’s continuing sexual relations with the father or desire for a person of the older generation. The child turns to the father to replace the phallic mother. In ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’ (1920) Freud brings up the repetition of the benefactor abandoned in anger by each of his protégés (p. 22). The protégé is repeating the relationship with the phallic mother, whose power has been transcribed to the oedipal father. The mother was initially seen as all-powerful (i.e. the negated finite comes from her) but the child identifies with the paternal imago after too much frustration with the phallic maternal imago. The phallic mother then takes the place of the denigrated father, while the father is exalted. The narcissist’s idealization and then debasement of a new mentor or lover, would therefore be a re-enactment of the relationship of the transcription of power from phallic maternal to paternal imago. Conversely, this repetition should also be understood as projective identification. The mentor in this repetition has assumed the place of the phallic maternal imago and has switched the place of self and parental imago and is projecting his self-imago into his protégé so that the other completes the repetition he experienced.
The phallic primal scene, as a specific repetition, is different from this and involves the child having experienced the mother being with the father as traumatic. This repetition, for the subject egoist, can be seen in two forms. The first is a man who continually finds his girlfriend or wife cheating on him, or being cuckholded by another man. The other is to be pursuing one’s special knowledge or skill and to be found inadequate and humiliated by another person. Again, the person who is doing the humiliating, if it’s a pattern for him, is doing so in projective identification. A man can go around cuckholding other men, or getting off on having an ‘injured third party’, but he can also go around trying to humiliate others in their professions as chef Gordon Ramsay has made a career out of.
The phallic deutero that doesn’t have the primal scene trauma or fixation, can, as Fairbairn indicated, be understood as a split between the good and bad aspects of the phallic mother. The mother gave the child a phallic image, which translates into it having a narcissistic self-complacency or self-regard, which means that he doesn’t have to go over to the side of the brothers or fathers and compete with them. The mother could be a woman (object drive) for the male subject egoist who favors him, or it can be public opinion in the community, in which he is viewed as someone who is popular, a potential leader, or special in some way (ego drive). Then, if the potential love object or community opinion extols someone else as special, this is the phallic mother in her bad or rejecting aspect. This brings up envy in the deutero subject egoist and, as opposed to the proto ego drive, provides a reactive push for the deutero egoist to compete with the parental-substitute. In other words, jealousy is universal in the proto stage and has a peer under a father substitute as its object, while envy is non-universal and part of the deutero stage and takes a father-substitute as its object. We are jealous of the successes of our peers and we envy our superiors. Similarly, the self-consciousness of the deutero egoist regarding his reputation or how others might see him, is different than the “pride” of the proto high ego ideal in his occupation. The latter will still compare himself to others in his knowledge, skill, or ability to know how he’s performing, but this aspect of pride in one’s image-ego is much different than the cultivation of one’s image on social media or to be seen above what one’s actual work dictates.
I have two more notes to make about this relation. First, it seems that just as the phallic mother is a seducer as a mentor, this aspect of the relationship is probably transcribed to the father. One can’t help but feel that the relation of Michael and David is a little homo-erotic. Second, Freud (1923a) contrasts the devil with God as potential father-substitutes in ‘A Seventeenth-Century Demonological Neurosis.’ Fairbairn takes up the case of Christoph that Freud discusses here to emphasize the necessity of an imago relation, or ‘internal object,’ so that a person will choose an evil imago rather than be without one. He writes:
for the whole point of a pact with the Devil lies in the fact that it involves a relationship with a bad object. Indeed, this is made perfectly plain in the terms of Christoph's bond; for, pathetically enough, what he sought from Satan in the depths of his depression was not the capacity to enjoy wine, women, and song, but permission, to quote the terms of the pact itself, ‘sein leibeigner Sohn zu sein’ (‘for to be unto him euen as a sonne of his bodie’). What he sold his eternal soul to obtain, accordingly, was not gratification, but a father, albeit one who had been a bad object to him in his childhood. While his actual father remained alive, the sinister influence of the bad father-figure whom he had internalized in his childhood was evidently corrected by some redeeming features in the real person; but after his father's death he was left at the mercy of the internalized bad father, whom he had either to embrace or else remain objectless and deserted. (p.71-2)
When a child has bad experiences with parents, teachers, and other parental-substitutes, it can form a bad introject. This bad introject can be fused with, and the individual will be drawn to bad mentors, bosses, authorities, (etc.). In organized crime, for example, there are still hierarchies and relationships of respect among people who steal and murder from others. In Lost Boys, David appears as a bad father-substitute. Michael has to try very hard to resist killing and joining him. However, one need not be dealing with a bad father imago in order to experience envy of the father-substitute and be driven to reactively compete with him.
Along with the good and bad aspects of the phallic mother (and the possibility of dealing with either a good or bad father imago), a third route is suggested. Kohut writes of “broad, defensive regression to pre-oedipal levels” and Chasseguet-Smirgel indicates that the ego ideal can become more regressive and ‘introvert’ from the phallic to the anal level (Kohut, 1971, p. 153; Chasseguet-Smirgel, 1976b, p. 356, 370). In the introduction I indicated that Freud (1933) holds that the superego is determined by different estimates of the parents’ power and is “determined by the earliest parental imagos” (p. 64). Above, I linked these estimates of the parents to Freud’s idea of perfection being a negative quality. The father’s power doesn’t come from some real perceived superiority, but rather in his status of not-mother, with the mother being the one to birth and breastfeed the child supplying an instinct-based tie of the maternal with the primary caregiver (even if a male comes to fill this role after birth). Additionally, I indicated how different forms of mental illness reference different estimates of power. For example, a paranoiac could think the CIA is hunting him, while another might think the end of the world is coming, another fears being attacked (beaten) in the streets, and another is afraid of having his reputation in the community ruined. Freud’s Copernican revolution holds that we can make sense of these “irrational” fears if we give up on the Cartesian project to make the rational mind and rational will the center of human motivation. The reference to the different forms of power in pathology are also the references that give ‘the will’ its direction in seemingly reality-based behavior.
In Economics (2015) I introduce Freud’s four levels of object relation development and try to sketch these different estimates of power. As I explicated above, the phallic oedipal castration complex concerns the difference between the generations in the sense of recognizing father-substitutes with more skill or Prestige who pass on skill or Prestige to one in the community. Prestige is often connected to the institutions of civilization: political office, the church, the university, (etc.). There is a point at which Prestige switches over to the Superlative, so that one is the most powerful person, the smartest person, or is at the top of social hierarchies or pyramids. In Economics (2015) I am careful to point out that psychosexual development alone, much of which we share with animals in Freud’s account, is not the sole basis for this. Rather, following Abram Kardiner’s criticism that anal traits aren’t to be found in primitive political-economies, I indicate that a marriage of personality development and sociology can occur through transference. In other words, a leader will seem much different to you if he is someone you know and interact with in your tribe, than he will if he is a chief who is removed from the regular population, deemed taboo, and one can imagine he is much more.
The passage to elevating an aristocracy, which exists in all early civilizations, also suggests that it’s not merely the taboo nature of the chief, but also slavery that is part of the development. For example, evidence points to a difference in health between commoners and upper classes in the Neolithic revolution (Cohen, 1984). Thus, far from being a democratic decision by rational humans who thought it was more reasonable to plant food than forage it, the evidence shows that there were masters who forced the slaves to produce for them and let them suffer from malnutrition. The physical domination of other humans, the removal of the ruler from the general population, and the need for the dominated to get a new satisfaction from work, since they no longer had previous outlets, all point to the anal parental imago arising sociologically.
At the anal stage, the reference is to the Superlative or those who exist at the top of social hierarchies or institutions. Those of Superlative power are regarded as the best, smartest, toughest, or the most powerful. They are also regarded as human, but, in the form of the divinely born king, for example the anal transference may be joined with the transference of the next level, the narcissistic stage. Additionally, while the president of the USA, an academic whose publications and tenure place him as the first in his field, etc. are figures of superlative power, the anal transference isn’t reserved for them alone. Someone who makes a larger amount of money, or who got his degree from an ivy league school that is more prestigious than one’s own alma mater, or who generally traffics in higher levels of power might receive the anal level transference. As the subject egoist takes on more knowledge or skill in his historical political-economy he will put fewer individuals in this ego ideal. Moreover, if he has a deutero phase adaptation, he may also feel himself to be equal to those who receive the anal transference. I will discuss this further below.
The next level of Being, the narcissistic stage, is something I introduce in Economics (2015) as a philosophical construction. Although we share social conventions for telling time in regards to 24 hour clocks, it must not be forgotten that we also possess a subjective sense of Time so that it can fly by or drag on for different people at different moments. The Philosopher Kant holds that Time and Space must be a priori constructions through which things can appear to our senses. Although he has been interpreted naively at times to be saying that the time and space don’t exist in the outer world and are only our creations, I don’t believe this is his point. Rather, it is to say that Time and Space aren’t merely existing facts of the outer world that we passively process as we perceive things. For example, in dreams Time and Space are not caused by something outer but exist in us, uncaused, and able to vary in such a way that we know when we wake up that it was a dream and not reality we were experiencing.
The narcissistic stage and Time are linked to Freud’s psychosexual stages in what he calls “the omnipotence of wishes”. In this formulation a person, like a small, yappy dog barking at you from across the street, can confuse the efficacy of wishes with results in reality. The mediator between this is Time, or seeing whether or not one’s wishes do cause the harm or healing that one feels they do. Additionally, Time also references whether or not one feels in synch with other human beings. In pathology one can feel like one is more than human, closer to the divine, or less than human or monstrous. The will, or personal ambition, can go beyond one’s reputation in the community, past being admired in the halls of power, and to the goal of being “immortal” or the best there ever was. Thus, a top academic who is first in his field may be considered a genius, but he may not have innovated or originated enough to be regarded as an immortal genius or a name that will live throughout history. For those who can’t sublimate their ambition to these levels, but still have fixations or deutero adaptations, might become interested in magic, psychic powers, flying and other forms of the omnipotence of wishes. Also, the reference to defusion from Time can be seen in the “living machine” type of compulsive character, in which the person feels oppressed by the ideal to optimally use their time. They should be saving money, going to work, working on others things after work, doing x, because x is good for them and they should be healthy, (etc.). There are famous stories of compulsives, like the philosopher Kant, going for walks at the same time every day, despite the weather, and being extremely regular in all things.
Lastly, as the narcissistic stage references the omnipotence of wishes in rivalry with Time, the auto-erotic references phantasy in rivalry with Space. Phantasy as Freud discusses it, is very important for art or intellectualism. Instead of a connection to one’s body and the bodies of others in external Space, one’s internal world or internal Space is primary. Whether rehashing one’s memories, forming them into daydreams or new stories, or enjoying books or art, what can be conjured before the mind’s eye or re-presents things of the world is internal Space. Just as the desire for a lover can be reduced to a masturbatory fantasy of one, so can the desire for power be reduced to a fantasy of one. Just as someone who is defused from Time might be oppressed by it in compulsive injunctions, so too might someone oppressed by Space begin to have his daydream life overtake his real life. The sick person and the catatonic psychotic person, in Freud’s example, withdraw their narcissistic energy into themselves and aren’t functioning at higher levels (i.e. the phallic, anal, or narcissistic). However, many authors similarly remove themselves from interacting with others and spin out their stories, art, or intellectual creations. Fairbairn corroborates this in his work on the schizoid, in which he sees:
that intellectual pursuits as such, whether literary, artistic, scientific, or otherwise, appear to exercise a special attraction for individuals possessing schizoid characteristics to one degree or another. Where scientific pursuits are concerned, the attraction would appear to depend upon the schizoid individual’s attitude of detachment no less than upon his overvaluation of the thought-processes; for these are both characteristics which readily lend themselves to capitalization within the field of science. The obsessional appeal of science, based as this is upon the presence of a compulsive need for orderly arrangement and meticulous accuracy, has, of course, long been recognized; but the schizoid appeal is no less definite and demands at least equal recognition. Finally the statement may be hazarded that a number of outstanding historical figures lend themselves to the interpretation that they were either schizoid personalities or schizoid characters; and indeed it would appear as if it were often such who leave a mark upon the page of history. (Fairbairn, 1952, p. 6)
The genius, above all, will require a great memory so that he can synthesize new ideas from all the available data or borrow an analogy from some other facet of life. Memory, both as remembering the past and being able to learn new things, or having attention can hugely vary between people. Klein similarly puts the epistemophilic drive as the first Oedipus complex and connects it to the maximal sadism of the infant (Klein, 1932, p. 99 fn, 242). In ‘Attacks on Linking’ Bion (1959) carries on this Kleinian paradigm and more explicitly links it to external Space:
Projective identification makes it possible for him to investigate his own feelings in a personality powerful enough to contain them. Denial of the use of this mechanism, either by the refusal of the mother to serve as a repository for the infant's feelings, or by the hatred and envy of the patient who cannot allow the mother to exercise this function, leads to a destruction of the link between infant and breast and consequently to a severe disorder of the impulse to be curious on which all learning depends. The way is therefore prepared for a severe arrest of development. Furthermore, thanks to a denial of the main method open to the infant for dealing with his too powerful emotions, the conduct of emotional life, in any case a severe problem, becomes intolerable. Feelings of hatred are thereupon directed against all emotions including hate itself, and against external reality which stimulates them. It is a short step from hatred of the emotions to hatred of life itself. (p. 314)
Thus, joining the compulsive who wants to do everything meticulously and perfectly and the compulsive who becomes a “living machine,” and must robotically partition out his Time, is the compulsive with the affect block. Like Spock from Star Trek, this form of the compulsive can be a thinking machine, or like some philosophers, have solipsistic feelings about the world. Bion, interestingly, ties it to hatred of hatred and thus emotion itself. However, instead of an adultomorphic infant who hates the stimuli that causes its hate, which it locates in the external world, this operation would be an ontological one. The perception of external Space that includes a drive to record information (memory) and which is part of the body that exists in external Space is defended against in favor of the realm of internal Space. Presumably, this could affect either the ego or object drives so that the person has little attention span for leaning/others or little interest in relating to other bodies.
So far I’ve only formally examined the deutero phase in the phallic stage. However, as hinted above, combined parental imagos exist at other stages as do primal scenes. As the phallic deutero offers the egoist a phallic image to approximate and the ability to inspire others as a leader that isn’t derived from his skill or knowledge, other stages would similarly give the individual power from the parental imago. Again, if we accept the deutero phase as not just being based upon verbal communications from the mother, but also including a new id impulse, based upon a close relationship, that is instinctually renounced then we can make sense of how it forms in earlier development. At the anal deutero phase, the individual would inspire others as someone to command or govern them. Instead of just leading them, there would be the impression of more power in the individual. At the deutero narcissistic stage the image the person inspires others as a ruler, semi-divine, regal, noble-blooded and that they should rule. The deutero egoist here thus desires to approximate the image of someone as special, singular, or above humanit. Lastly, at the auto-erotic stage, the approximation is that one can rival ‘the world’ or Space for having as much in one’s internal world as there is in the external world. This deutero phase adaptation seems to reference something like memory and approximating an image of the world with all of one’s mnemic traces of it. In such a way a person may appear to others like a dictionary or storehouse of facts or knowledge.
These levels of authority show different estimates of power in the human environment, and provide a reference to different levels of ambition for the active-egoist. However, each level also represents its own form of group psychology as Freud (1921) investigates.
These are best referenced in regards to different forms of aggression. In Economics (2015), I follow him in discussing the progression of sadism from impulses that were destructive and concerned the body alone, to the sadism that is expressed in verbal attacks against a person’s image or reputation (Freud, 1915, p. 128). Again, having one’s reputation ruined in the community is the social anxiety of the phallic stage. In contrast, one’s death anxiety (or fear for life) from a parental-substitute is a more self-absorbed construction than the image-ego. Along with killing the anal parental-substitute as a cause for social anxiety, there are wider implications as well. Klein (1928, pp. 256-257) adds robbery as a destructive act associated with anality. Additionally, Erik Erikson (1963) links the anal stage to “the principle of law and order” (p. 254). Thus, the anal superego is associated with civilization and the top of the power hierarchies that will also have a law enforcing institution. In our political-economy we can identify this with the police and the threat of prison. The anal parental imagos will link to ‘social anxiety’ before the police or legal system.
Complicated moral ideas, or a fully reasoned ethical system, aren’t required to prove the wrongness of murder. Rather, the subjective feelings of the id impulse to kill the anal father imago can be prohibited because it is associated with the superior power of the parents. However, a Janus-faced aspect is clearly present here. While earlier political-economies might have allowed revenge killing, it is something that is outlawed in more developed ones. Thus, along with whatever impulses that must be instinctually renounced at the anal stage, there is also structural system of discourse that adds content to the laws of civilization and, as an object of sociological study, they have become linked to the anal imago.
Along with having a bad reputation at the phallic stage, or doing things that are “criminal” at the anal stage, there is also a level of social anxiety that is still deeper in regards to doing things that are deemed “monstrous.” This latter level of shame can be linked to oral-cannibalistic impulses and also have an instinctual basis. However, once again, this level may also be depersonalized to a structural discourse that can change in a particular political-economy. For example, certain religious symbols can become sacred in a culture and their desecration can be seen as monstrous.
To return to group psychology, the ego drives of the phallic stage have a work-group as their object and a parental-substitute who leads. With sadism concerning one’s image as the aggression of this stage, the dynamics here concern will concern things like the parental-substitute (in the ego ideal) allowing someone to become a target for slander or disparagement. The phallic-deutero individual may receive this transference without being the actual boss, and change the tone of the ‘professional’ environment if the boss doesn’t stand up to him or her. At the anal stage the parental-substitute is supposed to command and, as Freud (1921) points out in Group Psychology, this is instrumental for a group to overcome their social anxiety or conscience and let out their destructive impulses in a war. Hierarchies in organized crime also mirror the hierarchy in the army, and the ruthless murders and robbing that take place in them reference the rivalry of these groups with the hierarchy of anal-civilization. Not every individual in such groups will have the deutero adaptation or be a subject egoist. Growing up in a family involved with organized crime, getting involved with them because of one’s drug habit, and several other routes are possible. However, everything being equal, the deutero adaptation will attract someone to these groups if he isn’t able to sublimate to find success or doesn’t express this aspect of himself in the object drives (i.e. a sado-masochistic love relation).
. Lastly, at the narcissistic stage, the parental-substitute is supposed to rule. A king or some kind of partly divine parental-substitute rules the group and has the power to authorize abject, destructive impulses. A violent mob can mirror this in similarly being vicious or “barbaric” to its perceived enemy. A violent mob differs from the more organized army or gang, and the mob is exemplified in both its random outbreaks and random targets, or the further desecration of the body (ex. lynching). Along with a mob, the deutero phase at this level can be seen in an subject egoist setting up a cult outside of society, or leading a political organization that wants to entirely change society and its ruling ideas. In the cult, for example, the parental-substitute may monstrously sanction having child brides, or a group of “punks” might squat in abandoned buildings and assault not just the husband, but viciously attack the whole family in a home invasion.
These different stages are often represented in images as well. For example, in patients there seems to be the logic that where one’s parents represent the phallic stage, the grandparents can come to represent the anal stage. This seems logical to a child who would imagine its grandparents to be more powerful since they are the parents of its parents. This logic continues in the idea of an important ancestor in the past of the family, who parents and grandparents might talk about. Additionally, the increasing levels of power in superego development also reference the child’s state of smallness. For example, the anal father imago is often represented as large, powerful, and felt to be almost invulnerable. However, it is important that he isn’t manifestly magical, supernatural, or non-human. To the extent that he is, this means he is also receiving a narcissistic stage transference. This is often represented as something non-human and being powerful like a giant, vampire, etc. or possessing magical abilities. It is possible that more than one of these transferences could be combined in one individual. Lastly, the auto-erotic stage, often references the land or the world in connection with other bodies. So a dark and gloomy world, for example, has dark and gloomy people in a Tim Burton movie, or an elemental monster, like a golem or mountain that comes alive would illustrate the auto-erotic transference. This rough schema or hypothesis still must prove itself against the data provided by the movies, and still must be paired with symbols and erotogenic zones.
The last part to be added to the framework here is the trito stage. Earlier I mentioned that the father complex, as the stage subsequent to the Oedipus complex, is where the guilt conscience is formed. The Oedipus complex, in Freud’s work, references social anxiety about losing one’s reputation. However, so long as the egoist doesn’t think they will be caught, he might lie or treat others unfairly. In the father complex, a guilt conscience is formed in which the individual feels guilt about intentions to mistreat others and not just potential remorse after the deed. He or she also feels the pressure to come clean about the sin to others or the wronged party. As Freud (1933) says, the guilt conscience is uncommon in humanity: “God has done an uneven and careless piece of work, for a large majority of men have brought along with them only a modest amount of it or scarcely enough to be worth mentioning” (p. 61). Following Jones’ use of proto and deutero, it only seems fitting to call this the trito stage.
The anal trito would provide an important halfway point between the social sadism and a conception of the father-substitute that includes his death. Social sadism relates to humiliating or undermining someone in regards to their gender, profession and work skill, or reputation in general (ex. Ramsay and the primal scene). In the oedipal castration complex at the anal stage, there is enough of representation of the imago’s mind that it can be sent to death. Between these two levels there must be sadism in its strictest sense of cruel delight in the physical pain of others. Mythologically, we see the link of this torture and urination in the serpent dripping venom onto Loki that causes him to writhe in pain. Freud’s urethral study of Promtheus who is also bound and tortured is also relevant. Thus, the anal trito probably corresponds to the urethral stage in which urethral impulses are renounced and the relation to the father-imago of the anal castration complex is replaced with a representation of one’s peers and destructive/sadistic impulses towards them are part of the guilt conscience. I’m not entirely sure how to represent the trito stages in all levels of superego development, but I’m hoping that the data generated in future symptom readings, or in the clinic, may bring them into greater relief.
Data Analysis II
After this long investigation into the oedipal castration complex and its pre-phallic forms I was able to return to the film to find another layer of analysis open up in regards to understanding the different determinants of the vampire metaphor. Paternity, the mother’s phallic image, and regression were now salient to me. I came to see that Sam moves to Santa Carla with his mother after his parents divorced, and that the vampire metaphor was not just a representation of Max giving him a new paternity that he rebelled against. Rather, it also represents the fear of being attached to the paternity of his eccentric grandfather. Although, choosing an older woman for a day protector doesn’t make sense for a rich and powerful vampire, it does for a grandfather who is old, going to die earlier than his daughter, and isn’t wealthy.
From the first encounter, Sam’s grandfather is linked to vampires. Michael, Sam, and Lucy approach the house and the grandfather is “playing dead” before getting up suddenly and scarring them. Playing dead is a link to vampires who are dead and supernaturally animated. Additionally, grandfather scares Sam and Lucy several times more in the film, which links him imagistically to the frightening vampires. Although the lost boys are made out to seem cool by having ‘hot young stars’ Keifer Sutherland and Jason Patric in the movie (and the movie poster tagline was “Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It’s fun to be a vampire”), vampires are also represented as foul and bad in the film. They appear young and handsome most of the time, but its a rouse that covers their true nature. They are associated with bad breath and foul smells, they are associated with flies, and their eyes become animal-like and their faces monstrous in their true form.
Michael, Star, and Laddie fight against their impulses to feed and kill and are never shown as desirous of becoming vampires at all. Sam doesn’t want his brother or Star to become a vampire and the Frog brothers want to kill all vampires and even have to resist killing the good ‘half-vampires’. It is only to the extent that the vampires have ‘cool’ clothes, possessions (David’s motor bike, Max’s sports car and money), and are linked to music (the giant poster of Jim Morrison in the abandoned hotel where the lost boys live) that they are shown as enviable or to have something Michael and Sam would like to have. This positive aspect, as well as the murderous aspect, will be discussed later on, but for now I’d like to focus on the foul or bad aspect because it is the aspect most linked to the grandfather.
The foul smell of vampires is brought up several times in the film and the grandfather is related to bad smells in several ways. Firstly, Lucy calls him a hippie and by his general appearance the viewer would be led to think he smells. Secondly, he practices taxidermy and his office, and house in general, has dead animals around as well as flies. The dead animals, along with his embalming fluid used to make them would no doubt have an unpleasant smell and one of the Frog brothers also mentions: “Flies and the undead go together like ham and eggs”. Thirdly, on his way to a date with the widow Johnson grandfather can’t find aftershave and uses windex. It might not be foul smelling but the act does cause some revulsion and would associate his character with very strange if not repulsive smells. There is also a scene in which Sam wakes up in terror as the camera focuses in on the eyes of one of the stuffed animals and they are linked to the monstrous eyes of the vampires in their foul aspect. Since Sam’s grandfather gave them to him they are linked to his character.
The most important link between grandfather and vampires is when Sam compares him to an alien or Martian. Structurally both are the same as non-humans and associated with frightening figures in horror movies. Sam mentions this three times. The first time is to his dog:
SAM Nanook... this is my life: I come from a broken home. My mother works all day. My brother sleeps all day. And my Grandpa, who is possibly an alien, stuffs chipmonks.
The second time is to his brother:
SAM You don't suppose Grandpa's an alien, do you?
MICHAEL What would that make Mom?
SAM You're right... not even to mention you and me.
The third time is to the Frogg brothers who show the structural similarity of alien and vampire in their exchange with Sam
ALAN How do you like Santa Carla?
SAM It's a pretty cool place if you're a Martian.
EDGAR Or a vampire.
The worry about how the eccentric and alien grandpa will reflect on Lucy or the boys goes to the heart of the issue. With the departure of Sam’s father after the divorce, and the move to grandpa’s house, paternal authority should fall to the elder. However, grandmpa lacks Prestige and would be an embarrassing head of the family to a teen like Sam. Before it is revealed that Max is a vampire, he is shown to own “cool” video stores and have lots of money in contrast to the poor, luddite-like grandfather. He has a dog like Sam, a sports car that Michael likes, and is generally charming. In regards to phallic potency he is the opposite of grandfather and would be a desirable procreator, if Sam didn’t want to be his own father. There is an early scene in which Sam laments not having a TV at his grandpa’s place and in contrast Max has a video store full of TVs. Lucy, seems to join her son’s disapproval of the grandfather. In their first conversation Lucy admonishes her father’s appearance a little:
LUCY When I dressed like you do now, you threw me out of the house. I used to hate your short hair and your uptight suits... then I went ahead and married one... I went Yuppie and you became a hippie... Were still out of synch.
Later when Lucy is tucking Sam into bed, grandfather scares them both and then they are seen to react with revulsion towards his work
GRANDPA Brought you a little somethin' to dress up your room with, Sam.
Grandpa reveals what's behind his back: A grotesque stuffed woodchuck. Raised up on its hind legs. Teeth exposed. Very ugly, indeed. Lucy and Sam hide their revulsion as Grandpa proudly places the monstrosity on the dresser.
SAM Thanks, Grandpa...
GRANDPA Lots more where he came from.
Early in the film, before Michael attacks Sam but after he has become a half-vampire, Lucy confronts him about sleeping all day and not doing more for Sam. She says “Sam is always alone” and we get the sense that he avoids his “Martian” grandpa. In this respect, Michael is regarded as head of the house by Lucy since she wants him to be the one to deal with her son, and this is seconded by Max. When Max comes to the house for the date with Lucy he says to Michael “You're the man of the house, Michael. I'm not coming in unless you invite me”. So far as Michael is excised from the ego plot as a symptom character, I understand that the authority he is conferred reflects the authority that Sam feels in relation to his grandfather. Additionally, Michael and Sam take grandpa’s 57 Chevy to rescue Star and although they ask if they could use it, they peel off in the car before they can hear grandfather’s reply. Earlier in the movie grandpa actually let Sam know that he doesn’t like the car to be moved and just sits in it in the garage, so the disregard for his authority is quite clear in this act. Thus, to excise Michael means that Sam takes off with the car, not for some emergency, but in blatant disregard of grandfather’s authority.
In more subtle ways, Sam is shown to reject his grandfather while Michael is quite insolent with him. Sam is shown as tossing all the stuffed animals his grandpa gives him in the closet and wishing that he’d stop giving them to him. Michael in an important scene both insults grandfather and, in half-joke form, also shows that he’s a potentially dangerous Oedipal rival:
MICHAEL Big date, Grandpa?
GRANDPA (slyly) Just dropping off some of my handiwork to the 'Widow' Johnson.
MICHAEL (nasty) Oh, yeah. What'd you stuff for her? Mr. Johnson? Grandpa gives Michael a look of displeasure.
GRANDPA See you laters, boys.
Grandpa goes out the door.
SAM (to Michael) That wasn't funny.
Although it feels a little silly to say, ‘Johnson’ was one of the prominent slang words for penis in the 80s; it does deepen this joke by emphasizing the castrating aspect of grandfather. Sam’s defense of his grandfather, along with him and Lucy being scared by him numerous times, shows that he is taken seriously, underneath the explicit denigration. As mentioned above, the symptom reading is based upon the psycho-dynamic claim that the conscience or in this case, signal anxiety, is too overwhelming to be portrayed in the ego plot’s relationships, so it has to create symptom characters (David) to allow for their safe expression. Seeing that grandfather receives the procreator transference, and is strongly linked to the vampire metaphor through script slips and the structurally similar metaphor of martian/alien, allows us to make sense of the end of the movie. When Max reveals himself as head vampire he becomes part of the symptom plot and a symptom character himself this means that he must be paired with an ego character.
When grandfather kills Max, we have the self-other unit of one potential procreator killing another. Initially, I had the strange idea that grandfather somehow kills himself (i.e. grandfather kills Max who becomes his symptom at this point). I began to get comfortable with the idea that this shows that he overcomes his denigrated aspect to become the head of the family. Firstly, Michael actually pushes Max into the jeep with the sharpened wood-posts and thus is in compliance with grandpa emerging as the paternal authority. Secondly, after killing Max, grandfather is shown as having always known about vampires— and thus as wise— even though he is portrayed as foolish, weird, or scary before this. However, it’s also possible to read this as grandfather entering to kill the rebellious (oedipal castration complex) part of Sam. It makes more sense to say that the death of this part of Sam would also spell the end of the denigrated part of grandpa, and allow for re-fusion to him in the ego ideal.
For Max to join the symptom plot, and therefore represent grandpa in the end, makes sense of the idea that Lucy is desired as a ‘day protector’. While it makes little sense for Lucy to be the day protector or the mother that is supposed to control Max’s vampire boys, to watch over grandpa in his old age very much makes sense. From Sam’s vantage point, Grandpa would be sucking/stealing Lucy’s and Sam’s life/time by getting them to take care of him in his old age. Lucy wouldn’t live long enough to be valuable to a vampire, but she would live long enough to take care of her father. Thus, with grandfather emerging as wise and powerful at then end of the movie, then taking care of him doesn’t appear as such a burden and waste. Lastly, in the scene after David is killed, and Michael and Star lament that they don’t feel any different, the audience is waiting to find out who the head vampire is and the screenplay the shot is supposed to go to grandpa driving towards the house. His headlights are supposed to sweep across the front window inside the house and then, when Sam says ‘someone’s here,’ we expect grandpa to come in but Max and Lucy do instead. This expectation and the emergence of Max instead of Grandpa is another link between the characters.
Now that we’ve been able to make a plausible interpretation of the role of the grandfather, the desire for Lucy as ‘protector,’ and the meaning of Max becoming a symptom character, I want to look at one more aspect of the last scene. As mentioned above, the parental imagoes, or the father as head of the family who possesses the mother, are symbolic of the individual having traversed the Oedipus complex and internalizing the incest taboo. Before Grandpa kills Max, Michael was ready to face off with Max and I think this scene is symbolically significant. It would represent that Michael is the phallic deutero aspect of Sam being aggressive not just to Max, Grandpa, and would-be procreators, but also in the anal castration complex transference. As I showed in the discussion, the anal level of Being concerns whether or not one is part of civilization or not. Michael kills David, who is the phallic father-substitute and whose blood he has in his veins, and then stands poised to kill Max who is the “father of David” or his grandfather. I don’t take this to mean a literal death, as if Sam was going to kill his grandpa, but a symbolic death of the anal father imago that would mean a regression to the narcissistic stage. The lost boys are represented as “lost,” parentless, living for nothing, and not competing for prestige in the community or for power at the top of social hierarchies. Their ability to fly and supernatural powers are the realization of the omnipotence of wishes and therefore betray a neurotic regression to a place where one is satisfied with wishes alone and not testing one’s power in reality. I’ll return to this regression, but for the moment I want return to the film.
In the script, I was struck by how progressively throughout the narrative Michael was explicitly described as looking more and more like a lost boy. Although, this could represent an unconscious identification of Michael with David, since he receives the procreator transference and is seen as phallic and powerful, there is another narrative this is clearly a part of. When Michael begins ‘hanging out’ with the lost boys in their abandoned hotel lair their talk about “complete freedom” with no parents paints a picture of the narcissistic level of Being:
MICHAEL I mean, where do you live?
DWAYNE Right here.
MICHAEL You live here? Your folks let you?
PAUL Is he talking parents?
DWAYNE (laughing) What are they? The others laugh, too. Michael looks confused.
DAVID We do what we want, Michael. We have complete freedom.
(beat) Nobody knows about this place... and nobody knows about us. Michael is intrigued -- and David sees it. He steps closer to him.
DAVID Freedom, Michael. No parents. No rules.(smiles) Hell, we're as free as birds.
The “complete freedom” David talks about is outside of social hierarchy and the imperative of the (phallic and anal) ego ideal for socially recognized power. We’ve seen that the key to the oedipus complex is whether one stays in fusion with a father-substitute and has regulated self-esteem through this connection. David ridicules and laughs at Michael, which is commensurate with the social embarrassment or sadism related to the image-ego in the phallic stage. In the phallic castration complex, the subject egoist can have a proto or deutero defusion. In the proto defusion, the person is actually concerned with being industrious and working hard and has a high ego ideal. In the deutero defusion the person can approximate the phallic image and has a confidence and some of the power of the father imago. The latter seems a much better description for Michael, who doesn’t evidence a high ego ideal nor being driven for social achievements. Neither is his jealousy of others in relation to their successes or their possession of a sexual object explored in the plot. Moreover, David’s interest to have Michael join his group is not a constant in every triangular relationship between competing men of differing levels of power. This is a repetition of the phallic mother relationship that created the phallic image in the subject egoist but transcribed onto a father-substitute.
The anal castration complex isn’t in evidence as far as the ego ideal for rising to the top of social hierarchies, nor the anal deutero image of wanting to be seen as in charge, or tougher or more powerful than one is. Despite the anal ego drives not being in evidence the object drives are, as is the group psychology of the anal stage. As mentioned in the previous section, the death of the father-substitute and the inverse castration anxiety that he will cause one’s death are the province of the anal castration complex and are clearly involved with the triangle of David-Michael-Star. Additionally, Michael, Star, and Laddie are half vampires who have to kill someone before they become full vampires. When Michael watches the lost boys killing at the beach he doesn’t give over to his impulse to kill but reacts against it:
MICHAEL witnesses the attack, but doesn't join in. From the expression on his face, we know that it is a horrible spectacle to behold. He turns his face away. He looks like he wants to puke. Sweat beads up on his forehead and the color drains from his face. His breathing becomes heavy and his heart begins to POUND POWERFULLY in his chest. The vampire in him takes over and as the Lost Boys shout his name, he feels compelled to join them, but he resists with all his strength.
In Freud’s view a guilt conscience is a rare achievement. Many egoists don’t transgress moral rules for fear of having their reputation ruined or for fear of going to prison. However, in mob situations this fear can be overcome by getting carried away in the group. Michael’s reaction doesn’t seem to be just fear or anxiety about doing something that might get him in trouble. Rather, he sees the spectacle as horrible and he resists against joining the mob. I see this as evidence of having achieved he conscience of the anal trito stage, in which impulses to kill fellow people are inhibited. The trito conscience doesn’t mean the anal oedipal castration complex doesn’t function, but only that the desire to kill the anal father-substitutes in ego or object drive relations are offset by the anal trito conscience and ego and object relations.
I believe it also possible to read the relationship of Michael to finding the lost boys at the fair to Sam finding the frog brothers there. Although the number of group members is different, three people is still a group. Their military style clothing and their claim to be “fighters” for higher principles may give an indication of how to conceptualize the anal trito ego drives:
ALAN Yeah, you think we just work in a comic book store for our dad, huh?
SAM This isn't a comic book store, right. It's a bakery. EDGAR This is just our cover. We're dedicated to a higher purpose.
SAM Now I get it... you're like those people in the airport trying to get you to give them money. You're part of a cult.
ALAN We're fighters for Truth, Justice, and the American Way.
Instead of the anal castration complex of the individual to strive for the perfection at the top of social hierarchies, the aim seems to be an identification with the “American Way” or a specific nation. Additionally, as opposed to mere social narcissism in which a person can take pride in, or get self-esteem from, being American without having contributed any achievement to his nation, this seems different. An ideal for justice, such as bringing criminals to face the legal system, is salient and can be contrasted to the phallic trito stage in which manners of fairness in work-groups and codes of ethics that deal with less heavy things than killing, robbery, etc. are the focus. However, this is just an intimation and it will have to be studied further in other examples.
As it stands, we still have to make sense of the trip that Sam and the Frogg brothers make to the hotel. The trip is rationalized by Michael wanting to steal Star from David and this hides that Sam is stealing Grandpas car, in another act of defiance, just as Michael is defying David’s claim to Star. Grandpa’s prized car and a man’s trophy girlfriend can be equivalents. However, the trip to the hotel specifically and what goes on there is the question. I think a plausible answer can be put together from the equivalence set up between the lost boys and the surf nazis. At the beginning of the film both groups seem to have rivalry:
Spinning merrily. Loud CALLIOPE MUSIC. Young kids and teenagers occupy the horses and benches. A tough group of "SURF NAZIS" also ride. "My Beach, My Wave" on their T-shirts. The LOST BOYS enter the carousel house. Cool kids in distinctive dress. Compelling; not threatening. They are DAVID, MARKO, PAUL, DWAYNE; David the obvious leader. GREG, the head Surf Nazi, sits in one of the carousel's benches with his arm around his girl, SHELLY. He thinks he's King of the Boardwalk… And doesn't like it one bit when Shelly casts an appreciative glance toward David. David smiles back at her. Not flirting, just being chivalrous. Greg scowls and takes his anger out on Paul by tripping him as he goes by. An insult... a shove. David joins Paul. Surf Nazis join Greg. The Lost Boys close ranks. A major melee seems ready to erupt, when the ugly end of a nightstick is shoved against his Adam's apple. A three hundred pound security GUARD is at the other end. The ride suddenly ends. CALLIOPE MUSIC STOPS.
The lost boys and the surf nazis are both gangs of youths that hang out at the boardwalk. Although the lost boys end up killing them later, if the boys are excised, then it’s possible we can regard them as alive. A little later in the movie, the surf Nazis appear in the Frogg brother’s store and steal some of their comics. In the script they go a little farther then yelling at them to bring back their comics:
Suddenly Greg and the Surf Nazis appear and grab their comics. In a flash they tear them to shreds and sprinkle the pieces over their heads onto the sand. The Frogs and Sam are enraged as the Surf Nazis walk off laughing to themselves.
EDGAR I wish they were vampires so I could nuke them in their hearts.
SAM How do you know they're not?
ALAN They wouldn't be out in the daytime.
SAM Exactly how many vampires have you actually destroyed?
EDGAR All together?
Sam looks at them like they've been putting him on.
EDGAR Hey, just because a Marine hasn't seen combat, doesn't mean he still isn't a Marine. Let's check out your mother's boy friend.
The Frogg brothers are enraged by the surf nazis and we see the wish that they are vampires, which serves as another link. Moreover, in this interaction we see a rivalry between Sam and the alleged knowledge of the Frogg brothers as a group that mirrors the stance of Michael to being in the lost boys. Just as Michael begins to look more and more like a lost boy, we see Sam becoming more like a Frogg brother and being sucked into their comic book world of vampires. Even though they have what appears to be anal trito commitments to justice, they also denigrate the anal father imago when Edgar says “As a matter of fact, we're almost certain that ghouls and werewolves occupy high positions at City Hall”. This rivalry with the institutions of power indicates the defusion at the anal castration complex and could be paired with id drives of aggression that are destructive (as opposed to phallic image-ego sadism). Behind the anal castration complex interest in killing the leader are id aggressive desires to behead, dismember, etc. that show up in myths of the past and in the Hollywood cinema of today. Thus, Edgar Frogg debriefs the team before the final showdown with the vampires: “It's never pretty when a vampire buys it. No two bloodsuckers ever go out the same way. Some scream and yell. Some go quietly. Some explode. Some implode. But all will try to take you with them”
Because of the equivalence of the lost boys and surf nazis, and the latter’s mistreatment of the Frogg brothers, it seems plausible that they surf nazis might be the target of aggression. Additionally, it’s plausible that they might live like other “punks” do in a condemned hotel that remained mostly intact after an earthquake. In the movie one of the Frogg brothers actually kills a vampire, but in the script no one is killed. I don’t see how the surf nazis would know where Sam lives and come after them, so I don’t think the final showdown would somehow be a showdown between the Froggs and the surf nazis. Rather, I think the showdown is between Sam and the Froggs and a fight ensues and messes up the house, and Max and Lucy come home from the date. I will give a summary at the end of the full symptom reading, but for the moment I’d like to continue to build on the vampires as representations of psychosexual regression.
As mentioned in the previous section, the narcissistic stage castration complex concerns the relationship to humanity in general. For the lost boys/ surf nazis to be living in a condemned hotel, there is the strong sense that they consider themselves to be above humanity. They don’t care about competing for phallic Prestige, being at the top of any analsocial hierarchies, and instead just live outside of human settlements like some mythical monsters that occasionally come upon a human settlement to cause problems. One can imagine a group of surfing purists who view just living to surf without getting involved in the “rat race” as the ideal life and like they were special beings who didn’t have to subject themselves to that kind of life. This wouldn’t be a proto-narcissistic stage defusion, but a deutero one in which a person can approximate being superior to humanity in their low ego ideal.
The deutero narcissistic stage seems applicable to Michael as well. Michael does have the power of flight and vampire strength and this is another indication that he has a defusion at the narcissistic stage. The ability to fly along with supernatural strength show the omnipotence of wishes that are no longer measured by the reality principle (i.e. the father imago of Time that shows the efficacy of one’s actions). Additionally, Michael carries himself like a loner and doesn’t evidence an interest in being the leader of a phallic work group or an anal mob or gang. Maybe, if others would begin to follow him, with no purpose in mind, he would be a narcissistic stage leader and lead them “in complete freedom”. However, in contrast to the lost boys, it is clear he doesn’t accept David as his phallic procreator nor as his anal mob leader. Again, they have “complete freedom” because they don’t compete with phallic fathers or anal fathers, and evidence the narcissistic deutero stage in which they cathect an image of themselves that is superior to humanity and isn’t driven by socially recognized perfection. They are functionally immortal instead of having to prove themselves in any way. They are magical figures outside of social hierarchy who are complete in themselves except for their need to feed on the blood of others. While Michael does gain power from the blood of David (i.e. is able to fly and has increased strength) the blood they gain from regular people resonates as both the impulse to kill others but also in the more primitive auto-erotic way of maintaining life.
In Economics (2015), I align the auto-erotic with Space and Freud’s concept of the mnemic trace in which one’s own phantasy can compete with the things that exist in the external world so that hallucinations can be explained. In Lost Boys the auto-erotic breast, as source of nourishment and milk, seems to be expressed through cartons (both food and milk cartons) and related to hallucination. After Michael had drunk David’s blood he goes to drink milk from the carton in the fridge at his grandfather’s but “buckles over in pain” and drops the carton and it “bursts open” (Script). Lucy ends up cleaning up the mess later and the carton becomes significant for a different reason I’ll get to later. However, earlier in the movie, Michel attempts to eat Chinese food from cartons (the same word is used in the script) but David changes the food to maggots and worms to which Michael reacts with revulsion and disgust. Although there is a magical, narcissistic stage father element going with this because David is controlling it, the hallucinations concerning the food cartons and later revulsion to milk from the carton indicates the auto-erotic. Since Michael’s body can’t accept the good milk or nourishment he is tempted, like David and the lost boys, to get the essence or life force from the bodies of others. One’s experience of one’s body in physical space, by reciprocity, also points to the existence of the bodies of others in physical space. If one’s body is empty and hungry then a reciprocal phantasy is that another body is full and bountiful while at the depersonalized level of ‘the world’ there is also a phantasy of a paradise or heaven in which every comfort and need is present. Ultimately there is a confluence of the phallic, anal, narcissistic, and auto-erotic stages in the representation of the lost boys.
I’d like to return to the logic of losing the two fathers (phallic and anal) to appreciate the metaphor of the orphan in the film. If Max comes to stand in for grandfather as a father-substitute at the anal level, then Michael killing him suggests that a regression to the narcissistic stage would occur. Although David had shown both phallic and anal father substitute transferences, when Michael kills him it is under the rubric of resisting his blood or him as procreator. Therefore, when Max arises as head vampire it is an expression of the anal father-substitute. If Michael would have killed Max by himself then he would have transgressed the anal oedipal father imago and thus lost his phallic and anal father. Regression to the still intact narcissistic father-imago relations would occur.
This logic of losing both the phallic and anal father-substitutes— one’s work-group relations or actual family and then the more general relation to the human family (civilization), is expressed in the theme of being an orphan. When Michael has a personal conversation with Star her estrangement from her parents comes up. In a scene in which she pierces his ear— illustrating his transformation into a ‘lost boy’— she emphasizes that she isn’t with David and longs for her parents:
STAR Don't be a baby. That didn't hurt and you know it.
A drop of blood appears on her finger. She reacts, restraining herself from tasting it. Quickly she wipes it off and inserts an earring in his ear. He [Michael] looks more like the Lost Boys every minute.
STAR I used to fight with my family all the time... just got fed up and ran away.
MICHAEL Now you and David…
STAR No. They've made me one of them, but I miss my family.
Star ran away from her parents and has also resisted killing and becoming a full vampire and orphan. She also voices longing for a family, which I interpret as fusion with a father-substitute instead of the struggle against them. I take this as an echo of what I discussed above in the representation of Max as being hip and modern in contrast to the ‘alien’ grandfather. The theme of the orphan and the idea of the lost boys representing double orphans who have lost both the phallic and anal fathers is seen in many ‘script slips’ in the film. Very early on, when Lucy meets Max for the first time she first approaches him with a boy who is lost in the store:
LUCY This boy seems to be lost.
David and the Lost Boys watch Lucy and the child. Max is delighted to see Lucy in his store.
LUCY I thought maybe his parents might be in here?
Max is just about to help Lucy when a frantic YOUNG MOTHER comes dashing into the store.
MOTHER Terry... Oh, thank God... I was so worried...
The “lost boy” looking for his parents when Max and Lucy are together is easily interpretable as Sam’s desire for a powerful procreator who isn’t his ‘Martian’ grandpa. The worried mother who takes him back indicates that fusion won’t be completed and the castration complex will persist. Additionally, there are several references to missing children in the movie (missing children posters or ads on the back of milk cartons). The half-vampire boy Laddie, who is close to Star and struggles like her and Michael not to kill, happens to be on one of these missing child posters and also expresses longing for parents in the script:
LADDIE I had the dream again about them.
STAR Who, Laddie?
LADDIE I know it was them, Star. I'm sure of it. He was working in the yard -- hammering something. The yard was big with lots of grass. There was no boardwalk and no ocean. She was bringing him something cold to drink... and had red hair. (beat) I was there, too. And a dog -- but I don't know its name. I was running and the dog was chasing me. Then I turned around and chased the dog. They were watching me. Drinking their cold drinks and laughing. And I was laughing, too.
STAR Laddie... you can still remember. You can still remember home.
LADDIE It was a dream, Star.
STAR No, Laddie. It was a memory.
STAR You didn't tell David?
LADDIE No. Just you.
STAR Promise me you'll keep it that way. You're not like the others, Laddie. You're like me.(pause) I can still remember, too.
In mentioning the dog and the parents drinking Laddie gives imagistic links to Sam who has a dog (Nanook) and the date scenes in the movie in which Max and Lucy are shown drinking. Laddie is at the phallic oedipal age (4-7) and his close relationship with Star parallels the phallic-deutero producing behavior of the mother. Lucy and Sam show their closeness in their shared revulsion towards grandfather who Lucy is ‘out of synch’ with. However, Star and Laddie show this closeness in a much more expressive form. Star and Laddie, are physically close (i.e. she holds him and hugs him and there is suggestion they rest together in the lost boys lair) and Star ‘rescues’ him from David’s influence. Additionally, when the Frog brothers turn on him near the end of the film she runs to him and hugs him and has him revert from his monstrous vampire form back to appearing normal. Although the symptom reading would make Sam’s stories of vampires into second order rationalizations— to get his mom away from her dates— Lucy still comes to rescue him from his ‘would-be’ attackers just like Star does for Laddie.
We’ve so far seen that the vampire metaphor represents the grandfather as failed paternity, Max as a potential paternal figure for Lucy that Sam resists, Max as desirable paternity for Sam, and also Edgar Frogg as anal mob leader against the surf nazis. The vampire metaphor references psychosexual regression from the phallic-procreator to the anal mob leaders who lead other to kill. From “half-vampires” who feel the desire to kill leaders at the anal stage, there is the threat of a regression to the narcissistic stage. At this stage the vampire represents the omnipotence of wishes and the ability to fly and have supernatural powers and be removed from competition and striving for success. However there is one “positive” aspect that the vampire metaphor contains insofar as it represents the mother’s phallic image and how Sam would like to establish his own name instead of finding a new procreator.
As mentioned above, Michael and the other-half vampires are never portrayed as desiring to become vampires, but the vampires are shown as having a positive aspect that gives us a sense of how Sam (Michael) would like to establish recognition of his own name. In the script is an additional scene in which Michael and Sam, after leaving the lost boys lair and rescuing Star and Laddie, are in grandpa’s car. They manage to get by the police by pretending to be a punk band. One would think that this would work, in part, because Micheal has adopted the punk style of the Lost Boys’ clothes. Additionally, the lost boys have a giant poster of Jim Morrison in their lair that references this kind of counter-culture music. Jason Patric, who plays Michael, also strongly resembles Jim Morrison and the movie prominently features contemporary music throughout which shows its importance for the film-makers. Lastly, Lucy who desires Max and has revulsion for her father gets a job at Max’s hip video store and shows appreciation for the style of the lost boys. Early in the story, Lucy runs into the lost boys at Max’s video store and says that they are like her when she was younger but ‘dress better’.
Following the ‘symptom reading’ methodology I was able to establish transference, desire, and aggression/fear in two relationships and two different plots within the film. By excising the symptom plot and seeing how it masked the expression of the feelings in the ego plot, the double triangles allow data to be produced that is enshrined in the narrative itself. To make use of this data I investigated the oedipal castration complexes in their characterlogical and group psychology aspects. My investigations led me to put the oedipus complex into the wider context of a possible defusion to the phallic-deutero (combined parental imago) and the phallic stage that respectively represent a low and a high ego ideal. Based upon the positive-aspect of the vampire metaphor that creates a phallic image of musicians who dress in a ‘hip’ style, David’s active attempts to get Michael to join him, and lack of reference to high striving for competency, skill, or knowledge (i.e. high ego ideal) and the jealousy with peers in this ego drive or in a object drive, I determined the castration complex defused to the phallic deutero.
In the second Data Analysis, I was able to tie up loose ends in the ego plot and create more specific parallels between the symptom and ego plot. This was further than I hypothesized that the methodology could take me. For example, Sam and the Frogg brothers’ trip to the abandoned hotel and cave associates to the surf nazis and Michael stealing Star from David seemed to run parallel to Sam stealing grandpa’s prized car. In the next chapter I will formalize these aspects and create sub-sections that pertain to: identifying the symptom character (1.0); finding the moment the symptom character impinges on the relation of the ego character with someone else (1.1); trying to establish the specific drive relations in the same sequence with the ego character and another character (1.2); and trying to make sense of the rest of the plot after the recognition of holes in it from have excised the symptom character (1.3); and so on.
My interpretative framework featured several analysts who wrote after Freud and I have done my best to merge their ideas within Freud’s conceptual framework, so that a common language can emerge. In Economics (2015), I argue that psychoanalysis had fallen from the height that Freud represents, and attempt to rehabilitate the many insights his model suggests. However, Freud made errors. His ideas on the Oedipus and oedipal castration complex are sound, so far as we view them functionally; the difference between the generations; the difference between the sexes; and the high and low ego ideal. Freud’s ideas concerning the reality of the Oedipus complex in childhood development, or even the primal horde and its expression as a phylogenetic phantasy are problematic.
Part of Freud’s genius is that he also provides many of his own correctives to the errors. I’d like to go back to an essay written by Freud on the three caskets in the Merchant of Venice. By investigating other stories, Freud relates the three caskets to the mythological symbol of the three fates found in many mythologies. He claims that they represent the mother in three different aspects:
the woman who bears him, the woman who is his mate and the woman who destroys him [“the silent Goddess of Death, will take him into her arms”]; …they are the three forms taken by the figure of the mother in the course of a man's life (Freud, 1913, p. 301).
In this formulation, Freud seems to match Fairbairn’s findings that it is the mother who is the central figure for the child. The mother is the procreator, and the mother can chose to be the little boy or girl’s mate (i.e. favor the phallic image) or she can chose against them and thereby destroy them. Freud mostly focused on the father as possessing this power, but by his late phase he had recognized that some drives were initial directed at the mother and then transcribed to the father (Ruth Mack Brunswick, 1940, Freud 1938; 1933). Although Star seems to be relegated to a secondary position and the men, David and Michael, are featured prominently, the importance of the mother, despite having the power relations transcribed to the father, is still apparent. Whether it is the mother in the depersonalized form of having a good reputation in the community/ from skills or knowledge, or from the phallic image (ego drive), the mother in the love relation (object drives), or the actual mother as the personalized aspect of the imago who the child stays in close contact to regulate self-esteem, the mother is the ground which allows the figure of the father to arise.
Where Freud’s genius gave us the centrality of the Oedipus complex, the superego, and psychic bisexuality for understanding character, it is the work and genius of Klein that indicates the pre-phallic oedipal phantasy that underpins character. In the scene entitle “one big coffin” in which Sam, Michael, and the Froggs go to take Star from the hotel, they come upon the lost boys hanging upside down in a cave. Klein (1945) writes of patient who had “phantasies about his mother's 'inside' as a place of danger. For he felt he had attacked and injured the imaginary babies inside his mother’s body and they had become his enemies” (p. 13). Klein also discusses this phantasy, or variations of it, in other places, and I had the very uncanny feeling that I was watching images that very much resonated with it (Klein, 1940, p. 136; 1935 p. 166). Part of the symptom reading’s ability to generate data would come from matching the level of Being and the libidinal position with specific id drives of aggression and affection, erotogenic zones, or specific phantasies like this one. However, one instance doesn’t prove anything and many studies will be needed to be convincing.
Lastly, the latent story that emerges from the data produced by the symptom reading is that a boy and his mother move in with his grandfather after his parents divorce. The departure of his father, along with the unsuitability of the grandfather as a procreator, means that the castration complex emerges in which the boy wants to be his own father. His sexual desire for his mother unconsciously re-awakens (i.e. a re-personalized imago) and he has fantasies that he can be a famous musician like Jim Morrison and have his own name give him immortality. However, his mother meets a man of her generation who she desires for possessing the charm, modernity, and money that her grandfather lacks. The boy tries to ruin the dates by making up fantastic stories about vampires and also manipulates his mother’s concern by getting her to let him sleep in her bed with him. The boy in his frustration at the rivalry for his mother begins to have murderous and criminal impulses arising since he recognizes, to some degree, the difference between the generations and the unlikelihood that his mother will return the feelings. He gets caught up with the Frogg brothers at the comic store and goes with them to stop the surf nazis who steal their comic books by attacking their leader. Sam resists taking part in this and when they return to his home afterwards he and Edgar, the leader of the Frogg brothers, have a conflict and trash the house. Additionally, by ruining another one of Lucy’s dates with Max Sam manages to scare away him as a would-be step-father. However, just when Sam seems threatened with having no paternity and possibly regressing to a world of mere wishes and comic books in which he refuses to compete at all, his grandfather steps in. After the falling out with Max and Edgar, the grandfather manages to overcome his denigrated status and re-position himself as someone who is wise and knows what Sam’s problems were and rises to head of the family. Sam can fuse with the father-imago through his grandfather
 Along with this, and probably the cause of the wish in Freud’s example, is the operation of projective identification in which the individual assumes the parental imago and re-enacts repetition-compulsions or anxiety situations in which the other person represents their self imago. Klein (1975) notes that the assumption of the parental imago can cause new anxiety situations as well and in the third chapter I show that this is a central factor in one form of paranoia (p. 166fn). For example, “the queen” alien in Aliens has her “brood” and is obviously the more powerful parental imago in contrast to the protagonist, Ripley. For a person to identify with the queen in projective identification means that desires to have a brood are possible and that potential attacks from people representing the self imago (i.e. one’s own aggressive desires towards the parental imago) may cause anxiety. Additionally, there is the repetition-compulsion of the primal scene in which there is an “injured third party” if one man cuckolds another. The aggressor would have assumed the parental imago and identify with the injured third party, just as he (the aggressor) experienced a trauma in his mother’s betrayal of him.
 In Economics (2015) I bring up Abram Kardiner’s criticism of Freud’s idea that psychosexual development is static and universal in the conclusion. Kadiner (1939) invokes the absence of anal traits in several primitive political-economies, and raises the question of how anality could be linked to satisfaction in certain intellectual abilities, and behaviors. I suggest that it was important to recognize a Marxian approach in which the development of technology and class struggle play a role. For example the technology for more complex housing is needed before a chief removes himself from the tribe that he rules, declares himself taboo, becomes guarded and removed from the people, and creates a structural position of power in discourse. This relation to authority, which exemplifies the anal transference, is not universal or part of every political-economy. In the slavery and domination, which would go into creating it, we have a likely candidate for the linking of anality to certain pleasures— the pleasures that slaves would have to learn to enjoy in order to make the best of an intolerable situation.
 Edith Jacobson is one of the few ego psychologists who saw the importance of the pre-phallic superego in relation to overall character. Despite her lack of formalization concerning its influence, her words on the subject are quite suggestive:
“Forever close to magic imagery and yet indispensible to the ego, the ego ideal is eventually moulded from such idealized object and self images. The separate though concomitant building up of an ego ideal composed of idealized parental and self images and of realistic ego goals as well as realistic self and object representations, appears to reflect the child’s simultaneous acceptance of the reality principle and his resistance to it…. The prominent, strange, and precious quality of the ego ideal is its unreality and its distance from the real self. Although we are ordinarily perfectly aware of this, the ego ideal exerts a tremendous influence on our realistic behaviour. The vicissitudes of the ego ideal reflect, of course, the development of infantile value measures. Its deep unconscious core harbours derivatives of early notions of value, such as the idea of eternal happiness, of glamour and wealth, or physical and mental power and strength; notions which do not yet have the quality of moral ideas but, partly surviving in our ego goals, may play a paramount role in patients whose superego has never matured” (Jacobson, 1964, p. 110-2).
 Indeed, Freud sees this early stage of development as central to artists. In the Introductory Lectures (1917b), he writes “that introversion denotes the turning away of the libido from the possibilities of real satisfaction and the hypercathexis of phantasies” (p. 374). He goes on to say, “[b]efore I let you go to-day, however, I should like to direct your attention a little longer to a side of the life of phantasy which deserves the most general interest. For there is a path that leads back from phantasy to reality—the path, that is, of art. An artist is once more in rudiments an introvert, not far removed from neurosis. He is oppressed by excessively powerful instinctual needs. He desires to win honour, power, wealth, fame and the love of women; but he lacks the means for achieving these satisfactions. Consequently, like any other unsatisfied man, he turns away from reality and transfers all his [ego] interest, and his [object] libido too, to the wishful constructions of his life of phantasy, whence the path might lead to neurosis” (Freud, 1917b, p. 375-6). In these kinds of passages on “the artist,” “the philosopher,” or other professions, I understand Freud to be talking about those who are drawn to the occupation characterologically. Of course there are other motivations for a person to be drawn to these occupations without a psychosexual fixation on phantasy or getting to the hidden essence of things. Others might have identified with the interest in one of their parents, or thought that this occupation was the opposite of their represent. It may have struck them as fashionable in their youth, or as something neglected in their social milieu and in need of restoration, for example.
 Freud’s formulation of the elation in mania is another example of becoming one’s own ego ideal or assuming the parental imago (Freud, 1917, p. 253-5; 1921, p.131-3). However, instead of the assumption of power or perfection, in active-egoism, the passive-altruistic colouring of mania is that one no longer has to work for the approval of parental substitutes or fear “loss of love” or disappointment from them. One ‘throws off the yoke’ to be the parental imago with the illusion that everyone finds one to be loveable, interesting, or good and the elation, intoxication, or ecstasy that goes along with this.
 I can’t explain how the symptom character or symptom plot manifest in the ego plot to mask the expression of the impulses except as the third movement of a dialectic. The symptom character was created out of the ego character and a tie remains between the two in the mind of writer, and everyone else involved in the film, through the ‘primary process’ that produced the externalization.
 In the history of patients who have been troubled since youth, one can even simply ask about which grade in school they stopped caring about their grades, or stopped caring if they reflected badly upon their parents. Most will have an answer and can talk about it fairly easily.
 There is also a tension between this formulation and those with more Prestige due to belonging to a higher class, caste, or “noble” family that have nothing to do with their skills or knowledge. A person can triangulate with both types, and will often transfer superiority in abilities or knowledge to those who occupy structural positions of power through their name or class.
 MAX It's you I was after all along, Lucy. To be our day time guardian. I knew if we could bring Sam and Michael into the family, there'd be no way you could say no (script).
 This is easy to criticize but it’s a valuable clinical tool when approached with subtlety. Not every negation is an avowal but only those in which the quantity of it is significant or the patient strangely discounts the possibility of something the analyst wasn’t thinking.
 Freud differentiates between “Castration anxiety [that] develops into moral anxiety—social anxiety—and… “separation and expulsion from the horde” [in the father complex, which] only applies to that later portion of the super-ego which has been formed on the basis of social prototypes, not to the nucleus of the super-ego, which corresponds to the introjected parental agency. (Freud, 1926a, p. 139, emphasis mine). He also describes the father complex as the process in which “the parents are replaced by an indefinite number of fellow-men” and in which “moral restraint through the process of mastering the Oedipus complex itself, and social feeling through the necessity for overcoming the rivalry that then remained between the members of the younger generation” is enacted (Freud, 1914b, pp. 101–102; 1923b, p. 37). In the Oedipus complex the subject egoist fears having a reputation of being immoral but will still be immoral if he won’t get caught. The individual who traverses the father complex feels equal to his peers in the community and forms a conscience based on guilt that is there regardless if no one knows and which can make the individual feel bad even if he just has bad intentions and doesn’t act on them (Freud, 1930, p.123) While the social anxiety of the Oedipus complex is based upon the ethical life of one’s culture, the guilt of the father complex taps into ideas of fairness and justice that are trans-historical and come from the psychological base of feeling oneself to be equal to others. Freud compares this situation to Kant’s categorical imperative but with reference to the imago instead of to metaphysical propositions of pure reason (Freud, 1924b, p. 167; 1913, p. 22).
 In Freud’s account, there is a further development of the superego in latency (Freud, 1926a, p. 142). “The child’s super-ego is in fact constructed on the model not of its parents but of its parents ‘super-ego,’” Freud (1933) writes, and “the contents which fill it are the same and it becomes the vehicle of tradition and of all the time-resisting judgments of value which have propagated themselves in this manner from generation to generation” (Freud, 1933, p. 67). The subject egoist who hasn’t traversed the father complex is self-absorbed and concerned with his own personal happiness and doesn’t feel equal to other adults or citizens in the community. The subject egoist who has traversed the father complex has formed the first post-ambivalent tie to culture in which he isn’t merely driven to find success or passionate love. He can focus on fairness in his dealings with others (‘social feeling’) and commitment in relationships (‘genital love’) (Abraham, 1926, p. 216). It is also possible that an individual could have formed the latency superego but didn’t perform the instinctual renunciation involved to traverse the father-complex. In latency the child goes on to form an identity-ego in which the post ambivalent tie to culture is mediated by group minds: “those of his race, of his class, of his creed, of his nationality, etc.” (Freud, 1921, p. 129). His individual narcissism (personal happiness) becomes attached to social narcissism in which his self-esteem is affected by his group minds. Social psychiatrists like Vamik Volkan (1997) study the interaction of group minds and self-esteem under the heading of “large group narcissism”. Again, these ideas won’t be part of my analysis since the films are focused on individual narcissism, but I’ve included them to help my reader get a sense for the model of the personality I’m using.
 This can be defended against, but object drive defenses that remain heterosexual aren’t necessarily superior to homosexual ones. A heterosexual can be unable to love or repeat relationships in which the other is abandoned or hurt, while a homosexual relationship can show real affection, vulnerability, and commitment.
 I would like to credit Fenichel’s work for initially having me think about the ego and object drive parallels. His parallel of the sexual Don Juans and the Don Juans of achievement also illustrate the proto-phallic repetition very nicely and find a good example in James Bond films (Fenichel, 1938, p.431).
 I have to thank Dr. Michael Williams for tirelessly pointing this out to me.
 In some primitive political-economies, these institutions are hardly separated.
 Similarly, the superlative anal ideal can manifest in a person having to ‘do things in the best way.’ In chapter III I examine these compulsive forms of the ego ideal in a more schematic way.
 I don’t use phantasy and fantasy interchangeably. Phantasy is probably best kept distinct as relating to imagos and their part objects as that which underpins the conscious fantasy element. In defusion from the father imago at different stages and depending on proto, deutero, and trito fixations, idiosyncratic elements in conscious fantasy will relate to the erotogenic zones and their relation to parental imagos. For example, in the next chapter on The Piano, I draw attention to Stewart having a jar of buttons he dispenses and how Ada loses a button when she is having sex with Baines and its relation to a classic phantasy of the father imago (transcribed from the mother) possessing penises and not giving the girl one.
 There are still other compulsive cognitive styles, such as noticing all the things, items, or details in a room, which Shapiro (1999), for example, has identified in compulsive characters. This brings to mind the importance of the trito stage in these deliberations and that future research will have to notice whether there is a representation of a father-substitute along with a certain cognitive style, which makes it a proto or deutero defusion, or whether the equality of the individual with others is central, which makes it trito.
 This presentation of the levels of superego development is based upon Freud’s four level schema. In the next chapter I argue that another stage is needed and note the changes to this model.
 Michael Eigen’s reports an androgynous combined parent in ‘The Differentiation of An Androgynous Imago,’ which indicates an earlier combined parent than ‘the woman with a penis’ of the phallic stage. Additionally, Freud (1918) notes an anal primal scene in the case of the Wolfman concerning the mother being attacked by father (p. 45 fn).
 There is also a possibility that the deutero phase can be inherited and the individual projects his own sexual impulse upon the caregiver and feels that she feels that she has a special interest in him. Additionally, in the next chapter I consider Kohut’s idea that a failure in mirroring is what lies behind a deutero phase adaptation.
 As mentioned above, Lowen (1994) connects the ‘psychopathic’ character to the anal stage and holds that certain physical traits, such as a puffed up chest, would go along with the deutero phase here. I’m open to the idea that the non-universal id impulses that are renounced have an impact on the body. In clinical work I’ve often noted bodily similarities between people with similar pathology, but it’s not a 100% correlation in my experience. What is more telling for me, are the specific id forms of aggression the person manifests, and I’ll turn to these in a moment.
 Although potential death from a father-substitute could be thought to be more complicated a concept, I’m presenting it in relation to ontology and imagos. In Economics (2015), I follow Klein (1935, p.171) in discussing the intermingling of parental imagos, which is a concept Blatt (1998, p. 725) also expresses as a double helix of the two active and passive poles of the personality. I’ve identified perfection as the deep object of active- egoism but should add here that death is the deep object of passive-altruism. The finite can be negated in both ways (i.e. the not-finite is the infinite or perfect or the no longer living, or dead). I won’t get into a discussion of altruism here and will refer my reader to Economics (2015) if he or she is curious. The reason I bring it up here is to say that this intermingling supplies the anal stage with a representation of death that the egoist can apply to himself in castration anxiety at this stage (i.e. the active-egoist wants to kill the father and fears being killed himself).
 This schema changes in the second and third chapters after the introduction of a new stage between the auto-erotic and the narcissistic stage.
 In Economics (2015) I call this the spirit-ego and the earlier narcissistic stage is termed the soul-ego, while the auto-erotic stage is what Freud called the body-ego.
 In my clinical experience, literal urges to urinate have appeared in patients who haven’t formed anal trito character. In these patients, urges to kill or be physically destructive to others are present when they are crossed or betrayed and there is no guilt about having them. Thus, when the impulse is renounced, it becomes directed against the self when guilt is formed (i.e. Loki having venom dripped upon him). So, to the extent that we use the term ‘pissing contest’ to reference two men trying to outdo one another, the reference would be to the anal characteristics since the urination impulse hasn’t been renounced. However, the use of “getting pissed” for getting drunk, might relate to the attempt to soften the anal trito conscience that is formed.
 SAM Grandpa does not own a T.V. Have you noticed? There's no T.V. Santa Carla has no malls, no Cineplexes and now I won't even have MTV. I will not know anything hip happening anymore.
 There is one scene in which grandfather is shown to be frightening as a parental authority. When Michael, Sam, and the Frogg brothers return with Star and Laddie after taking Grandpa’s car they are shown quietly climbing the stairs to avoid detection when grandpa appears:
GRANDPA Michael! Everyone freezes in place. Grandpa looks the over. They must certainly be the most curious group of people he's ever seen going up the staircase.
GRANDPA (to Michael; continuing) Do you know the rule about filling the car up with gas when you take it without askin'?
MICHAEL No, Grandpa...
GRANDPA Well, now you know. Grandpa departs. It takes a moment to register, then everyone hurries up the staircase.
 Like the initial surf nazi fight shows, those at this stage are only reactive. At the anal deutero one is reactive to not being in a position of power and wants to appear more powerful than one is. At the narcissistic deutero one is reactive to others that also appear as non-human. In Economics (2015), I drew attention to movies like Highlander and The Matrix in which immortals live among normal people or computer agents can take over their bodies. The narcissistic stage seems to have an element in which one must battle with others because “there can only be one”. However, there is also obviously a group psychology dynamic here in which, for example, a king, to the extent that he is regarded as semi divine or super-human, can be put in the ego ideal. Thus, David as leader of the lost boys is attacked the surf nazi leader who “thinks he is King of the Boardwalk” and whose girl “cast an appreciative glance” on David.
 DAVID You're almost one of us now, Michael.
MICHAEL I'm my own man.
 The police, as representatives of the law and protectors of civilization, were identified with the anal oedipus ‘social anxiety’ earlier. However, just as David receives multiple father transferences that are illustrated in both anxiety and his function as procreator (phallic), mob leader (anal), and magical enemy from outside of social hierarchy (narcissistic), so too can the police stand for the conscience function on multiple levels. In this case the deception practiced upon them corresponds to the social anxiety of the phallic oedipus complex in relation to lying. The deception practiced upon them shows opposition to the procreator imago and pretending to be in a punk band would register as the mother’s phallic image that allows someone with a low ego ideal to compete with the procreator.
 Although Sam and the Froggs wanted to kill the head vampire they didn’t know who it was and resolved to kill them all in order to get the head. This would be a confluence of the anal oedipal desire and a narcissistic stage attack on the babies inside the mother.