I, Panther Woman

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PDVD_013“I wonder how much of Lota’s animal origin is still alive… how nearly a perfect woman she is.” Charles Laughton as Dr. Moreau from The Island of Lost Souls

I realized this morning that I was both Lota the Panther Woman and Dr. Moreau. I see metaphors in all the classics, observe the potency of the werewolf (in the original Universal film) as a metaphor for the beast in all of us, the beast that threatens to harm the ones we love, whether it be emotional or physical hurt, we always hurt the ones we love. And of course we all know the very direct and intentional metaphor of Gojira, the monster is not merely a symbol of the atom bomb, but the film itself stands as a metaphor for how the Japanese saw the event. We code our experiences through stories, we find comfort in stories, and they shape our lives. The oft dismissed horror and fantasy films were always far more real to me than artsier or more “respected” films about the human condition… these fairy tale and horror films ARE not only very definitely about real life, as far as I’m concerned they make far more profound statements about real life through the use of metaphor. Metaphor can be more flexible, less restrictive, and ultimately far more powerful; inarguably far more creative, most definitely more imaginative, frankly far more subtle, and they ring far more true, so far as I’m concerned.

As I have spent the last couple years (plus) struggling through the rigors of HRT, suffering the side effects, disappointments and traumas of getting my hormonal balance set right I have felt terribly alone. Recently I have been battling tough decisions and walking the razor’s edge between my life and health on one side and the woman I want, and was meant to be, on the other. I have experienced some genuine terror, some setbacks, and have had to rethink and retune things many times recently in my efforts to control my hormonal balance. My struggles to get the physical and emotional progress I need have placed me in conflict with a very real need to stop risking my life in the process.

Thanks to my recent battles with my hormonal levels I have seen my old self, the creature that slithers around inside of me, come back by degrees, and as I have abandoned common sense and gone back to dangerous levels of hormones I have in kind seen aspects of my physicality return to a more pleasing state. And this morning as I was getting ready to go out and taking microscopic stock of my progress, I began to realize that I was both the innocent Lota the Panther Woman and the mad and controlling Dr. Moreau. For those of you who have iether never seen nor ever read (and I have seen and read both), Island Of Lost Souls the film and “The Island Of Dr. Moreau” the book, the metaphor may be difficult to comprehend.

In the film (and book) Charles Laughton as Dr. Moreau struggles to turn beasts into humans, and in particular he struggles most madly (and perhaps most valiantly) to turn a panther into a woman… who in the end, most unfortunately, becomes merely a “Panther Woman.” Of course Moreau is not pleased with this, and we sense that Lota (the Panther Woman) is far too overwhelmed to entirely understand what is happening to her, and is ashamed of her more beastly aspects. In my life, unfortunately, I am both Lota and Moreau. The battle both characters are fighting are alive in me, in conflict in me, and at times tear me apart.

At one point in the film Moreau realizes that the beastly aspects of Lota keep coming back, keep rising to the surface. He inspects her, enraged, obsessed, “Day after day it creeps back… creeps back,” he says, but he sees that she is close, so close, and shouts that this time he’ll burn out all the animal in her! Frustrated, saddened, angry, he takes her to the “House Of Pain” to have the beast in her burned out… and this directly mirrors the recent battles I have been fighting as the beast, the creature, works from within to tip the scales and rise to the surface, and like both Lota and Moreau I am saddened, overwhelmed, angry, frustrated, and determinedly (if not valiantly) struggling to burn the beast out… in my case with hormones and hormone blockers. Add to this my own trips to “The House Of Pain” to have laser hair removal, and the metaphor becomes all the more bizarrely appropriate. Like Moreau I am determined and fighting to maintain the illusion that I am in control, like Lota I am caught not merely between Moreau and my own physicality, but I am overwhelmed… and merely want to be complete.

Being a Panther Woman is no easy way to go. The Panther Woman is neither this nor that, she is a twilight creature, a creature in turmoil, a misfit. Unfortunately it doesn’t end there, like Lota, I also have wild frizzy hair, but I don’t think that metaphor could be taken all that seriously even through a highly personal translation… it’s still a bummer of a parallel. No one in the story wants Lota to be a twilight creature, it is merely her fate, one that cannot be accepted by anyone!

As of this morning, I have found a new symbol, a new character to relate to, Lota the Panther Woman (as well as Moreau); as through my perspective this story has become a highly personal metaphor. I am watching the movie again as I write this, and liking it even more than the last time I saw it, and I think today I am going to go out and buy the book, read it again, only this time with far more insight and sorrow, and perhaps with far more empathy for dear Lota… and yes, even Moreau, for I am both.

Well… back to “The House Of Pain,” I have a beast to burn out of me.

“Lota is my most nearly perfect creation… I wanted to prove how completely she was a woman.” Moreau from Island Of Lost Souls

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