One of the most terrifying films of recent times was James Cameron’s 1984 production, The Terminator. We’re all familiar with the story of a murderous robot sent back from the future to kill Sarah Connor, the mother of the man who would go on to lead the Resistance against the machines in 2029. The Resistance consisted of human survivors of an apocalyptic battle that came about as a result of a computer network named Skynet becoming self-aware, creating artificially intelligent machines that sought to exterminate Mankind. The Resistance sent back a soldier named Kyle Rees to try to protect Sarah Connor from the Terminator, so on the face of it, it’s a very simple story of action and suspense.
However, when we look more closely, we discover precisely why it is that The Terminator arouses such primal fears in us all. Of course, the idea of having nowhere to hide and being pursued by such a relentless monster as the Terminator is literally the stuff of nightmares, but there’s more to the matter than just this. The Terminator is a masterful remake of the age-old myth of the Minotaur and the Labyrinth, the deadly maze in ancient Crete to which human sacrifices were sent from mainland Greece, while the reign of the half-human monster the Minotaur was brought to an end when Theseus entered the Labyrinth to save the captives.
In James Cameron’s film, the Minotaur was represented by the Terminator, while Sarah Connor was one of the captives; Kyle Rees was Theseus and the winding, deadly corridors of the Labyrinth found an echo in the alleys, carparks and subways of modern Los Angeles. It is a masterful evocation of claustrophobic, nightmarish terror, so when we put ourselves in Sarah Connor’s position, we come close to being able to imagine the sheer dread a fox feels when it has been eventually run to ground, only to be pursued and baited in the warm, damp tunnels by terriers sent into the Earth to torture and make it suffer for as long possible.
The comparison with the Terminator ends there, because the robot from James Cameron’s film had no intention of inflicting pain or anguish on its victim, as it simply wanted to terminate Sarah Connor as quickly and as efficiently as possible, preferably by shooting her. By way of stark contrast, death comes agonisingly slowly to any fox unfortunate enough to be hunted and baited in Britain today, while its dying torment is regarded as a spectator sport by those who indulge in this minority pastime. Instead of a swift bullet to the brain, the exhausted creature has fangs sinking into its unprotected and soft parts as it falls prey to the terriers and terriermen, causing terror and excruciating pain until the spectators eventually tire of their sport, and when the shrieks and snarls die down to whimpers.
While the fictional cyborg assassin of James Cameron’s film might be infinitely more humane than its real-life, fox-hunting counterparts, there are other parallels present here in addition to the grotesque vision of the Labyrinth. One of the most notable aspects of the so-called ‘debate’ about bloodsports, on the internet at least, is the flat refusal of the pro-hunting lobby to so much as countenance the notion that their minority pastime is unspeakably cruel and arouses utter repugnance in others. Not only that, but those who have gone out of their way to create internet personas for themselves on social networking sites regularly litter their posts with expressions such as “Hunting’s never gone away” and “F**k the Ban”.
With this in mind, I turn away momentarily from living nightmares to dreams, or to a fantasy. It’s a futile train of thought, I know, but I sometimes fondly imagine being able to gather the foxes of Britain together and being able to speak to them or warn them in a way they would understand. If I could, then at some point I’d undoubtedly use the bleakest and most memorable lines from James Cameron’s film, when Kyle Rees was desperately trying to convince Sarah Connor of the peril she was in, lines which become all the more chilling by the simple means of substituting the words ‘the pro-hunting lobby’ for references to the Terminator:
“Listen, and understand. That Terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, EVER, until you are dead.”
Of course, I should by rights include deer, otters, mink, badgers and hares among this persecuted congregation, but there’s more chance of me making myself understood to an audience of Britain’s tormented wildlife than there is of reasoning with those who would pursue and kill them all for the sheer pleasure of it. The parallels don’t end with the notion of being hunted by relentless killers, however, because in the appalling future scenario of the Terminator, humanity in the form of the Resistance also faces the global computer network of Skynet. For our part, those of us who oppose fox-hunting and other blood sports find ourselves facing the overwhelming might of Britain’s electronic media, who churn out an unrelenting and unceasing barrage of ‘news’ features, editorials and blogs written by tame hacks who wish to make a name for themselves, all of which demonise our native wildlife and paint anyone who sympathises with the plight of these poor creatures as rabid, demented extremists.
As for the mention of ‘infiltration units’ in the Terminator film, which is a euphemism for cyborg assassins that manage to convince the human members of the Resistance that ‘they are one of us’, we have a very similar set of circumstances in the form of the internet trolls who pose as those who oppose fox hunting. They set up Facebook groups purporting to be voices of reason who oppose bloodsports, yet they soon degenerate with obscene haste into cesspits, all for the purpose of trying to discredit the anti-foxhunting majority. Other ‘infiltration units’ post on other sites, write letters to the press, and so on, with the intention of bringing about lethal results for our wildlife and discrediting those who oppose them.
The miserable world of Skynet is here, and it’s here to stay.
All this talk of half-human monsters brings us to the core of the matter, which is one of identity. I know who I’m up against and I know the vast forces I’m up against, along with the embattled native wildlife of the British Isles.
I see myself as Maharbal of The Resistance, communicating with those who still possess humanity and who want to allow the foxes, hares and deer to live in peace, but as things stand, the odds are heavily weighted against us and against the creatures we seek to protect from an inhuman death.
“For Mercy has a human heart
Pity a Human Face
And Love, the human form divine
And Peace, the human dress.
William Blake, The Divine Image