Who are ‘they’?
‘They’ turn up almost everywhere, don’t ‘they’(!)
“Who did that?” ‘They’ did.
“Why did you do that?” ‘They’ told me to.
“Who are the bad guys of the piece?” ‘They’ are.
‘They’ as a group are almost the silver bullet when it comes to writing. ‘They’ can represent both sides of any argument. You just know that the Empire and the Rebels in Star Wars were both able to refer to the terrible acts the enemy had perpetrated, “Look what they’ve done.”
‘They’ allow you to create the almost nebulous nature of the faceless enemy. Looking at stories of the ilk of 1984, the system is seen as ‘they’. It’s the system which is creating the conflict for the heroes of the story. It was the facelessness beyond the threat of Big Brother. The sheer vastness. Who was really watching?
Aliens are also a massive ‘they’. Think of the War of the Worlds. The actual physicality of the extra-terrestrials is only glimpsed but the machines they control are very visible. The very facelessness of they who are attacking gives them an enormous power. When we learn ‘they’ are able to be defeated by the simplicity of life, that which is so often taken for granted, the horror is drained away.
But why do we need ‘they’?
Without ‘they’, I wouldn’t have got the ball rolling with my writing, “They say everyone has a book in them”. How did ‘they’ know?
‘They’ are a powerful force in terms of our fears. The blankness and sheer anonymity which ‘they’ represent is what scares us. ‘They’ represent the unknown in any situation. If we don’t know what to call something, we don’t know how to deal with it. If we can’t see who or what it is that is menacing us, we don’t understand it. ‘They’ becomes the catch all horror which attacks us in all manner of ways.
‘They’ is therefore the attempt to name anything and everything which scares us or is against us. ‘They’ is our collective attempt to classify what we’re facing, thereby taking its power from it.
But what it means is that we can take all manner of threats and understand the details of it. ‘They’ aren’t quite so dangerous any more.
‘They’ are the creatures. ‘They’ is the shadow. ‘They’ are the monster under the bed.
‘They’ are the ones who cause all the trouble but, as we look at all of the literature examples, they are always able to be overcome in some way.
So really, ‘they’ aren’t that bad really.
I know this because ‘they’ told me.