Thanks for all of the wonderful feedback about Avast! It’s my first successful sweater design——hopefully the first of many.
Because more women knit than men, and because people like to knit for their romantic partners, and because Avast is (mostly) a men’s sweater, its inevitable that many Avasts will be knit for men by women who are in romantic relationships with them. Equally inevitable, apparently, are the inquiries I’ve received about whether knitting Avast will invite the curse——the phenomenon in which the knitting of a sweater dooms the romance that inspired it. I’ve addressed this issue in ask yarn boy, albeit indirectly, so it’s time to take the issue head-on. The best way to do that is to take a short trip into a subject that is near and dear to my heart: horror movies!
The Invasion of the Body Snatchers came out in 1953, just as the Cold War was gaining serious momentum and Senator Joseph McCarthy was getting warmed up. Its invasion of alien spores that turn humans into emotionless automatons was one short remove from what the Soviets supposedly had in mind for the entire world. The 1978 update (starring Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nimoy!) worked with the same paranoia while also playing on fears of nuclear war-induced mutation. Both take an anxiety that was created by humans and turn it into an external threat, drawing a clear line between victims and aggressors. Almost any pre-1980 alien invasion movie can be read this way (before the aliens started healing us with glowing fingers and eating Reese’s Pieces).
Horror movies are a lot different these days, but their habit of externalizing their threats is no different. The victims of the vengeful ghost in The Ring are even more hapless and random, having made the grevious error of watching an unmarked video tape. The Ring——long popular in Japan——introduced Americans to their anxiety of pervasive technology, that it may be a conduit to forces beyond our control. Pulse (the Japanese version) brought that anxiety full circle, uniting deep suspicions of the internet, cellular phones and televisions with the terror of nuclear war. The creepy shadows left by the movie’s victims echo the prints left on buildings and streets by the victims of the bombs we dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In both of these movies (and their J-horror bretheren) innocent people doing innocent things find themselves at the mercy of the beyond. Like all good horror movies, they take the fears and anxieties that we create ourselves and turn them into monsters beyond our control, and beyond our responsibility.
It’s the same thing that gives us the notion that knitting a sweater might invite a curse into our lives. The fear that someone we love might leave us is primal; so primal that we’re willing to believe that it can be accomplished by a curse. But it’s not the sweater that causes the leaving, nor is it the act of knitting that sweater. It’s the unspoken expectations——the hope that the reaction of the person for whom you’re knitting that sweater will match up to the time, energy and love that you put into it——that will haunt your relationship. I’m not saying that the reaction won’t match; just that it’s the honesty about the expectations that keeps the ghosts away.
Sorry if I sound preachy, but this curse thing just bothers me. All horror films, after all, have something ridiculous in their premise, without which the movie would never work. It’s what caused Eddie Murphy, in a 1983 skit, to ask this blatantly obvious question: “Why don’t white people just leave when there’s a ghost in the house?”