What This Is
I started this post because Slender Man, the movie, is releasing in May. Even though I enjoy the Slenderman games and the series using him as a main character I don’t think this movie is a good idea. Keep in mind, what follows is only my opinion. I have no interest to be furthered by either promoting or tanking the movie. The only interest I have is in giving you my opinion and letting our readers know why a sci-fi and horror genre blog will not be promoting the movie Slender Man. I’m sure you’ve noticed the different spellings. It’s not an error. I have usually seen it spelled as Slenderman so I will continue to spell it that way to differentiate it from the movie, Slender Man.
This post will be going over how the Slenderman story started, the influences behind it, where it stands now and what this means in relation to the movie soon to be released.
This eventually grew into two posts because I realized that in order to talk about the movie then I would have to talk about the Slenderman mythos that has grown up around this fictional character. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is when I fell down the rabbit hole. My main contact with the Slenderman story and character has been through the two games, pictures and just generally being online. Before writing this I wanted to brush up on what I did know so I didn’t misrepresent anything as much as possible. I knew of the origins of the story, I knew the games and I had heard of the Marble Hornets YouTube series. As I started digging though I actually became genuinely fascinated with how the ‘myth’ spread. And how it ‘ended’. There are actual studies on Slenderman and the role of internet in folklore. So I wanted to lay it all out for you guys as coherently as possible. How it started, how it evolved and some of my thoughts on the new movie coming out and the just criticisms leveled at it.
In the Beginning There Was…Photoshop
In June of 2009 a website by the name of Something Awful ran a Photoshop contest in which entrants were tasked with Photoshopping a picture to look paranormal in nature. Two pictures were submitted. They were black and white pictures showing children with a tall, creepy, suited figure in the background named, appropriately, Slenderman. Attached to the pictures were snippets of text to give them a bit more story and from these two pictures the fictional entity of Slenderman was born. And this is where it gets interesting. These pictures apparently struck home with people. No one can really say why Slenderman went viral while the other photos were forgotten. The only things I can really point to is it was new. It was different. It was a blank slate. And the internet loves a blank slate. It could be incorporated into any story in any way the writer chose. And it was. I’m not going to dive into how many creepypastas were written. If we dive in there we’ll never come out. Suffice it to say, there’s a lot. One of the biggest influences on the myth that slowly built up around Slenderman was the YouTube series – Marble Hornets.
Marble Hornets and the Operator
Marble Hornets began to be posted about in the Something Awful forum with the original pictures. Hover on the picture for a synopsis of the series. The uploads are fairly short, supposed pieces of an unfinished student film named ‘Marble Hornets’. As the uploader ‘Jay’ or J, I’m not sure which is accurate) begins to investigate strange things start happening. From what I have watched of it so far (I’m up to Entry #53) it’s actually pretty well done and much more interesting than I thought it would be. If you don’t enjoy found footage style movies you will not enjoy this, probably. While the Marble Hornets’ main antagonist is a mysterious figure called The Operator the similarities between The Operator and Slenderman are very close, especially in appearance. In fact, much of what appears in Marble Hornets also appears in much of the Slenderman mythos. The pages that feature prominently in Marble Hornets are also a prominent feature of the game Slender: The Eight Pages. Many of the locations are also similar. Slender: The Arrival expands on Slender: The Eight Pages and adds some needed story to it.
What is Slenderman, though? Some of the influences that its creator, Eric Knudson, has credited range from Lovecraft to William S. Burroughs, Stephen King, The Mothman and more. The creation of Slenderman does put me in mind of the way the Cthulhu Mythos has solidified. An idea was started by one person and was added onto by so many others that even though Mr. Knudson owns the actual copyright, Slenderman is the property of the internet. There have been many people contributing to the myth of Slenderman through web serials, blogs, creepypastas and the video games. This makes it a little hard to ascribe certain elements to particular people. But what is he, exactly? Whatever you want him to be. I’m not being facetious. His actions, motivations, intelligence and abilities are only defined by whatever media he happens to be popping up in at the moment. From a brief My Little Pony cameo to lurking in the background on Minecraft he’s around. Watching. Personally, I always picture him as something akin to The King in Yellow. Chambers’ King, not Derleth’s knock-off King.
Much of Slenderman’s popularity has waned. The cause for this is something I’ll get into next Friday. Please join me here again next Friday for A Focus on the Frightful: The Slender Man, Pt. 2 – The Movie. The next post will include our reasons for not wanting to promote the movie and why.