Teaching the Scientific Method
The monster of Roger Corman's film The Little Shop of Horrors (Santa Clara Productions, 1960) is a plant. This creature is not a human or even an animal or insect. By focusing on a plant, the film may get to the heart of what monsters signify. Robot monsters such as the Terminator look human. Insect monsters like Alien give birth and, in the case of one film, earn the human label "Bitch." A plant, however, is more removed from human experience. On the screen, and on the stage in the contemporary Broadway musical, the plant figure suggests that human psychology shares a common anxiety: people want to control the world around them. What is most frightening is the hand of fate, and people like to be scared. They enjoy watching fictional depictions of others like them caught in impossible situations. From classical Greek tragedies and Chinese operas to modern-day action films and horror flicks, they want to see themselves faced with the most extreme circumstances they can imagine. Plants can be the ultimate figures expressing this fear precisely because vegetation seems so innocuous. As a race, humans have learned that only the scientific method can tell them which plants are helpful and which will poison: they must observe, test, and record incidents in order to pass on to future generations what they need to know about plants for humans to survive as a species.
More than an imaginary vampire like Dracula or even real-life vampire bats, the monster plant in The Little Shop of Horrors helps people explore their fear that appearances can be deceiving. What is lovely and admirable on the outside can kill. Humans must not live on a superficial level but must engage with their environment. They have a responsibility not to take actions, as the main character Seymour does when he starts killing people to feed the plant, that will be harmful to others.
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