But there’s a lesson for the writer in this. My analysis here is that it is neither the axe, nor the obsessive gaze of the man on the couch, but the bow tie that makes this comic work so well.
All good stories have conflicts that generate tension and here the tension is apparent, between the man with a weapon — held in a way that ostensibly could be swung at his opposite — the man in the chair. The one without visible eyes is attempting eye contact; the one with eyes apparent behind his glasses is lost in his own fixation.
But the lesson here is about setting more than character and threat. What the psychologist fails to realize is that the setting matters…an axe is not disturbing in a forest or a woodshed. This is why it is “woodsy” for the man on the couch. But what the man on the sofa fails to realize is that our civilized world is not the woodsy world. The bow tie does not belong. The bow tie is not woodsy. It is an artifact of the world of fashion and fabric arts, not hard labor and the primitive forest. This is why the tie is the same color as the psychologist’s sweater, bonding them together: the common fashion between these characters is a metaphor for the civilization that the doctor — with his diploma on the wall — represents and which they both ostensibly share. If the man wore a red bandanna or a red plaid flannel shirt, or even suspenders, this would not be so scary.
Lesson: never forget the bow tie.
Sadly, this is also the logic of those who make superficial judgments based on appearance. We see an “inappropriate” artifact of clothing, or some object that is held on to even when it is “out of place” — and we respond with a snap evaluation, mostly out fear, as it is “disturbing” to us for things to not mesh in a rational and predictable way when we are in a social environment.
One of the lessons of good horror writing is that things are not always what they seem and sometimes — just sometimes — the woodsy is the more genuine world.
Thanks Dan Piraro for your brilliantly bizarro work…you’re among the best in the business.