“Have I Got a Monster for You!”: Some Thoughts on the Golem, The X-Files and the Jewish Horror Movie

  • Author(s): Mikel J. Koven
  • When: 2000-02
  • Where: Folklore
  • The figure of the golem, the Jewish "mud man," has persisted not only in folklore, but in popular culture as well; not only in Jewish tradition, but in Gentile too; it has inspired not only horror writers, but also scientists, who see in this legend a metaphor for humanity's quest for the creation of life. One particular variation of this story is the focus of this paper: in February 1997, Fox Television's highly acclaimed weekly television show The X-Files told the story of the golem, but with certain new features added. These additions annoyed a number of fans, and they expressed their concerns on the Internet newsgroup, alt.tv.x-files. Not all of the problems identified by these tuned-in vernacular theorists were errors, I think; instead, they point to a number of issues concerning the nature of "monstrosity" and "horror." In this case, those issues are framed within a Jewish context. This paper will begin with a brief overview of the legend of the golem, which, like most folk legends, exists in multiple forms. I hope to demonstrate that The X-Files episode should be regarded as one further variant of this legend. I also outline the objections many of the show's fans had to that particular episode, specifically the variance between The X-Files version and Jewish tradition. Finally, I will say why I feel these "errors" are not mistakes, but perhaps operate to define the monstrous within Jewish culture. "Go ahead … make my mitzvah!" (Dennis Terrell, on alt.tv.x-files)

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