Monday, June 29, 2015

On "The Beard That Was Evil" by Stephen Collins ****

This graphic novel is essentially a commentary on the moral and cultural boundaries of society, putting into practice theories of sociologists such as Emile Durkheim. The tale involves a man who lives in a perfectly ordered world who one day, involuntarily, begins to grow a beard. The beard grows to epic proportions, slowly taking over and destroying the town around the man and transforming the town in the process.

Even after the beard event is over, the town feels its effects. Where once the beard was evil, it becomes a thing of legend, and people feel less bound to their "perfect" ways. There is a degree of disorder that previously did not exist. And the beard itself is marketed, capitalized upon. Fear of it begins to dissipate.

The curious thing about the way in which society defines "here" and "there," "us" and "them," is that the boundary between mayhem and order shifts, and arguably, while such boundaries are artificial, they also help define our society and keep it ordered. Too much mayhem and society falls apart and ceases to exist. Too little and the society is oppressive. As Durkheim brings out, though, it is those who are disorderly, those on the edge of order, who in many ways define the society even as they disrupt it and transform it. It's an interesting tension that seems unavoidable--and perhaps a little scary, a little bit like "there" and "them" because where "there" ultimately takes us is to the ocean and oblivion--and as the book brings out: the unknown.

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