My cosplay for 2010-2011
Silent Hill is sadly one of the most misunderstood game franchises in existence. Part of this is due to the fragmentary and disjointed way in which the original games tell their stories. The designers of the first three games didn't just tell the player what the game's story is. There is no “Bond villian wrap-up” at the end. The designers respected the intelligence of the player, gave us clues piece by piece over the course of each game, and relied on us to put it all together in the end.
But too many fans rely on information that has been circulated by many third-party documents, including some “official” strategy guides and plot analysis that contain possibly inaccurate information that ignores information specifically provided within the game. And when Team Silent disbanded after Silent Hill 4, this erroneous information became the basis for the plots of the future games (and the movie), further tainting people's ideas of the original plots.
As such, this is going to be the first in a series of analysis and interpretation articles that I will be posting on this blog in anticipation of the upcoming Silent Hill Downpour.
The “Rape Time” myth
One example of an unfortunate misunderstanding with the franchise is that Silent Hill fans have latched onto this idea that Red Pyramid Thing (a.k.a. “Pyramid Head”) is a raving serial mannequin-rapist. I believe that label is unjustified.
The idea that Red Pyramid Thing is a mannequin rapist comes almost exclusively from this first major encounter with the creature in the apartment buildings.
Turn off the friggin' flashlight you moron!
First sighting of Red Pyramid Thing
Prior to the above sequence, the monster had only been glimpsed once. Through bars in a hallway in the apartment prior to entering the room in which James heard a gunshot (this room happens to be one of the most interesting rooms in the whole game for many reasons which I won't discuss here). At this point, however, Red Pyramid Thing is just standing behind the bars motionless. The player cannot interact with it at all, and it is unclear whether the thing is alive, or just something propped up on the other side of the bars similar to the myriad of hanging bodies present in the first game.
While the actions of Red Pyramid Thing in the mannequin scene do appear to have sexual connotations, no actual physical “rape” occurs. Many viewers of this scene symbolically attach the idea of rape to it, probably because the scene so closely mirrors a scene from the 1980's movie Blue Velvet, in which a character witnesses an actual rape by looking through the shutters of a closet.
In the end, any implications of “rape” are symbolic at best, as the Red Pyramid monster's obvious intent is to dominate and kill the unfortunate mannequin monsters. At the beginning of the scene, they are alive and struggling against Red Pyramid's grasp while he apparently is trying to shove the mannequins down the sink's garbage disposal. In the end, they are lifeless and motionless, and Red Pyramid Thing simply drags them out of the room. So while the “rape” idea is implied by the scene, the “murder” aspect is explicit.
The rape idea is seemingly supported by this boss encounter at the end of the apartment section of the game.
But whether or not the Red Pyramid Thing is actually “raping” the monster, or if it is just trying to eat or smother the mannequin is unclear. In either case, Pyramid Head does kill the monster. So again, “rape” is only implied, whereas murder is explicit.
After this, Red Pyramid Thing never interacts with another monster in the game. What other significant event occurs in the game's narrative after leaving the apartment?
Maria, nurses, the “Abstract Daddy”, and the role of Pyramid Head
The introduction of Maria in the park immediately follows the first “battle” with Red Pyramid Thing. From this point on, Red Pyramid Thing seems to focus all its energy on killing Maria as many times as it can.
James' wife Mary
The sexy doppleganger Maria
Why doesn't Red Pyramid Thing attempt to rape Maria? She is supposed to be Mary reincarnate. And an even more sexual version of Mary reincarnate to boot! So you'd think that if Red Pyramid Thing is supposed to represent Jame's desire to have sex with his (dead) wife, then you'd think that Pyramid Head would be all over Maria.
But that isn't the case. Unless you consider killing her by impaling her with a spear (twice) to be symbollic of rape. Otherwise, Red Pyramid Thing takes no sexually aggressive action against Maria.
Nurse from Silent Hill 2
What about the nurses? They are a very sexualized monster with their exposed cleavages and miniskirts. But Red Pyramid Thing never interacts with them. In fact, the only time it even shows up in the hospital is to push James off the roof.
Anyway, Red Pyramid Thing doesn't have to be a representation of Jame's repressed sexual urges because Maria is already doing that. That is, in fact, Maria's whole purpose in the game.
Furthermore, Red Pyramid Thing's presence as a rapist doesn't fit in well with its primary role of being a punisher for James. How does raping mannequins “punish” James? Is James supposed to be jealous? Is Pyramid Head being a cock-block? “Hey you! Go away! I was gonna rape those mannequins!”
Besides, if we characterize Red Pyramid Thing as a representation of Jame's sexual urges, and we accept that it is “raping” other monsters, then we are really implying that James is a rapist. But other than Angela's unfounded and paranoid accusations (which even she immediately dismisses), we have no indication within the game that James is capable of commiting such an act.
The Abstract Daddy symbolizes rape
In fact, there is already another monster in the game that is exclusively dedicated to being a representation of sexual assault: the “Abstract Daddy” (a.k.a. “Doorman”) monster. Angela was a victim of sexual molestation by her father, and the abstract daddy is a symbol of her father's sexual abuse. This is a literal and explicit symbolism because Angela directly refers to the abstract daddy monster as her daddy before and after the fight, and accuses James of wanting to take advantage of her “like he always did” (pointing directly at the downed abstract daddy body).
Why do we need two monsters in the game dedicated to sexual assault? In addition to a victim character? And two other characters already devoted to exposing Jame's sexual frustrations? The fans seem to have gone out of their way to unnecessarily overlap Pyramid Head's role in the game with that of other monsters and people who already explicitly fill that role, and making everything in the game about sex. Yes, sex is a big element of Team Silent's style of horror. But not everything in the game has to be symbolic of it.
But I have to admit, that Pyramid Head is pretty sexy...
Regardless of all that I have said, to deny the sexual symbolism of Red Pyramid Thing would be absurd. It is in many ways a Freudian construct. Its body is roughly shaped like an erect penis. It carries around an oversized knife - which it does still continue to use (albeight only briefly) after James encounters Maria. And it likes to impale women with a spear (or two).
“model” of a penis
|Pyramid Head is a work of fiction. Any similarities to actual penises, alive or dead, is purely coincidental.
Now, I want to stress a very important point here: I am not suggesting that the scene of Red Pyramid Thing assaulting the mannequins in the apartment should not be taken sexually. There most definitely is an element of sexual abuse/molestation occurring. What I am saying, however, is that Pyramid Head's intent is not to “rape”. Nor is that actually what it is doing. Pyramid Head's actions are acts of violence. Not acts of sexuality.
Red Pyramid Thing does not get its jollies from pretending to make little-red-pyramid-things with the mannequins. Its purpose in the game is to punish James and to force James' subconscious to come to terms with the events surrounding his wife's death, rather than allowing James to fall victim to the seduction of Maria.
Red Pyramid Thing and Maria are at war with one another. They are contrasting sides of James' psyche battling for supremacy in the real world. With James watching.
So if Red Pyramid Thing isn't raping those mannequins, then what is it doing?
The most likely alternative is that it is attempting to destroy them.
As stated above, Red Pyramid Thing's purpose in the game is to torment and punish James, and make him come to terms with his past. It does this most effectively by attacking and killing Maria (who resembles his wife, Mary), and therefore constantly reminding him of the death of his wife.
After the appearance of Maria, Red Pyramid Thing devotes all of its attention to killing her repeatedly because she is a definitive, physical representation of Mary. She is the one thing in the universe that reminds James of Mary more than anything else. But prior to James meeting Maria, the Red Pyramid Thing doesn't have any one person or any one thing to pick on specifically. Or does it?
A mannequin dressed like Mary holds the flashlight
Recall that at the beginning of Jame's quest through the apartments, he finds the flashlight. Where is the flashlight? Tucked into the neck of a shirt being worn by a mannequin. A mannequin that is dressed up like Mary. I repeat: the mannequin is dressed up like Mary.
Do you get where I'm going with this?
That mannequin establishes a precedent that the mannequins are “Mary-ish”. So all violence commited against them by Pyramid Head (or by James) can be seen as symbolic violence against Mary.
So in summary:
A mannequin is dressed up like Mary. Therefore, mannequins represent Mary.
So Red Pyramid Thing assaults and kills mannequins to remind James of the death of his wife.
But then Maria comes along, and Red Pyramid Things says “Whoa! Why am I wasting my time butchering mannequins when that hot piece of Mary-look-alike ass is strolling around town?”
Red Pyramid Thing doesn't have to go back to assaulting mannequins - or any of the other monsters from then on, like nurses - because it has zeroed in on a single, ultimate target: Maria.
It's that simple. And you know what they say about the simplest explanations.
In fact, given this revelation, I can't help but wonder if maybe the number of mannequins that you kill might factor into whether the player receives the “Leave” ending or the “Maria” ending...
So why do so many Silent Hill fans insist that Pyramid Head is a mannequin-rapist? To the point that they cosplay as Pyramid Head wearing the movie helmet, black business suit, briefcase, and oversized wristwatch on which all the numbers have been replaced with the word “Rape”? I don't know. But this scene from Blazing Saddles just might sum it up nicely: