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Station Eleven: The Advantage of Dangerous Hospitality and Making Monsters into Mates


** Spoiler Alert: This text accommodates spoilers for Station Eleven **

To The Monsters, We Are the Monsters

Station Eleven takes place within the sparsely populated, parochial world of former Chicago and the perimeter of Lake Michigan. The few of us fortunate sufficient to outlive a lethal international pandemic reconstitute society in small teams. Likelihood encounters between strangers result in mutual avoidance, assault, or belief. Gone are the times of nationwide establishments and patriotic cohesion, of affinity teams, echo chambers, and client selection. Publish-pan people seldom have the privilege of self-sorting by choice, or of even assuming that their neighbors are benign. It’s a sport of roulette, this enterprise of who you find yourself with.

Whereas it’s uncertain which you can be a hero with no sword tucked away simply in case, you can be a hero with out the sword combat.

The best way an encounter between strangers performs out in a lawless setting like this has lots to do with the issue of risk notion. Conventional hero tales contain a person perceiving a risk, decoding it as legit, after which continuing to destroy it (consider St. George and the Dragon, Beowulf, and most MCU films). However as I talked about earlier than, Station Eleven explores historically female virtues in extremis, somewhat than masculine ones, displaying us the incompleteness of the paradigm wherein “unusual = evil risk = KILL IT!”

Generally that means is correct; generally it’s not. There are no less than two different methods of managing encounters with potential threats that don’t contain violence. Fairly than killing the risk, you possibly can convert it, and make a person out of the monster (consider Magnificence and the Beast, or the Black Widow taming the Hulk). Deal with “the opposite” as if he have been your buddy, and he simply might develop into so.

One other path is to comprehend that the issue lies not within the stranger or risk per se, however in your individual perspective, as in Dr. Seuss’s story What Was I Scared Of? (these ghostly pale inexperienced pants with no one inside them may be bizarre, however they’re not harmful). One among Station Eleven’s perennial proverbs — “To the monsters, we’re the monsters” — can depart you with the disquieting conviction that you just may be another person’s worst nightmare. Maybe monstrosity isn’t a perform of identification (as if some individuals have been merely evil), however is somewhat a perform of notion and relationship. A “monster” is one thing you don’t have a class for but; it’s how strangers seem to one another earlier than mutual belief is established.1

Whereas it’s uncertain which you can be a hero with no sword tucked away simply in case (metaphorically talking, in fact), you can be a hero with out the sword combat. By gaining the capability to see potential goodness in somebody, or by offering a purifying area for a possible risk to repent and reform, the heroic paradigm adjustments into “unusual = potential buddy = communion.” This requires expensive and dangerous hospitality. Station Eleven exhibits us the way it works, in Kirsten’s mutually transformative relationship with David (a.ok.a. Tyler), and in Lara’s agapic relationship to her unborn youngster.

Kirsten’s Penchant for Knives

Within the first 12 months of the pandemic, eight-year-old Kirsten Raymonde (Matilda Lawler) is saved and sheltered by brothers Jeevan and Frank Chaudhary (Himesh Patel and Nabhaan Rizwan). The day earlier than they depart to search for extra meals and discover a new house, an armed stranger slips in and assaults Frank with a knife, as Kirsten hides herself in terror. Jeevan barely manages to kill the intruder, however there’s nothing he can do for Frank, who dies from his wounds. When Jeevan and Kirsten depart the following day, she steps over the corpse of the intruder to achieve for the knife that killed Frank. She takes it together with her.

If all you have got is a knife, then every little thing seems like a goal.

As Kirsten and Jeevan scavenge and hunt to outlive, she turns into adept at trapping rabbits and taking pictures deer. She’s such a superb shot that she will be able to even deliver down wolves. She manages her grief, boredom, and worry in two methods: by immersing herself within the one ebook she has together with her (the comedian Station Eleven), and by hurling that knife repeatedly into the wall of their cabin, aiming at invisible enemies. The repeated thud, thud, thud makes Jeevan twitchy.

A 12 months later, when Kirsten and Jeevan are separated and she or he’s solely on her personal, she nonetheless has the knife. It’s hinted (however by no means proven outright) that she finally ends up killing a number of individuals through the years, each as a toddler and as an grownup. When she encounters monsters, whether or not they’re wolves or violent “Bandana Meth Guys,” she turns into a monster, masterfully wielding and throwing the blade that after killed Frank — the person whose firm was her consolation, and whose house was her salvation. 

Kirsten places her trauma to work, and survives for a 12 months solely on her personal earlier than assembly Sarah (Lori Petty), the Conductor of a Shakespearean appearing troupe referred to as the Touring Symphony. Confronted with this straggly, thirsty, bloody, knife-wielding mess of a kid (sunk so deep into her beloved Station Eleven world that she will be able to’t distinguish fantasy from actuality), Sarah makes the primary dangerous transfer and drops her gun. She introduces herself, and palms the damaging stray a bottle of water and a field of Cheez-Its. When Kirsten realizes she’s secure, she begins to speak, they usually kind a bond. Kirsten is adopted into the Touring Symphony, and through the years turns into their lead actor. 

After we see grownup Kirsten (Mackenzie Davis) twenty years post-pan, she nonetheless has a penchant for knives, and provides to her assortment seasonally. Strapped to her physique always, able to be drawn at a second’s discover, is Frank’s knife. To date, she has just one technique for coping with threats. If all you have got is a knife, then every little thing seems like a goal.

When Stabbing Your Enemies Doesn’t Work 

When a stranger calling himself David (Daniel Zovatto) exhibits up on the Touring Symphony’s camp looking for to affix them, Kirsten sees proper by means of his phony sob story and faux harm. However when he quotes to her from Station Eleven, “To the monsters, we’re the monsters,” she stops lifeless in her tracks. So far as Kirsten knew, she had the one copy ever product of that comedian — a present from her mentor Arthur Leander (Gael Garcia Bernal), a novel creation that turned like a Bible to her. It’s not possible that David ought to know something about it, a lot much less recite from it. She is linked to this stranger in a means she doesn’t perceive, and it unsettles her.

After watching the Symphony’s efficiency that night (wherein Kirsten stars because the grieving Hamlet), David speaks on to her coronary heart: “You’re charged with that Day Zero ache. It’s such as you by no means left.” Refusing to let her guard down, she confronts him over his lies and creepiness, however he maintains that he have to be allowed to affix the Touring Symphony, or else. If he’s denied, individuals she loves will start to vanish. In half a second she’s obtained Frank’s knife at his throat, and she or he stabs him within the intestine with the brand new switchblade she acquired that very afternoon, leaving him to bleed out: no one messes with Kirsten’s household. Within the morning she revisits the spot and sees the blood, however the stranger she stabbed is gone. 

David doesn’t die. Because the story unfolds, Kirsten is compelled into circumstances wherein she should not solely assist David heal from the wound she inflicted, but in addition save him from a bandit assault. In the beginning, she helps him as a result of she has to, and since their targets briefly align; however over time, she begins to see herself in him. She even grudgingly helps him break again into his authentic post-pan “house”— the Museum of Civilization, a extremely useful (but tyrannical and backward-looking) collective who’ve been holed up in an airport for twenty years, curating a set of artifacts from “Earlier than.” 

The flexibility to vary your framing of one other particular person can imply the distinction between stabbing a stranger, or serving to somebody who is rather like you in direction of wholeness and reconciliation.

David’s actual identify is Tyler, and he’s really the estranged son of Arthur Leander (Kirsten’s mentor). As a toddler, Tyler was severely mistreated by the individuals on the airport, and so he faked his demise in a hearth and ran away, abandoning his mom and his authentic identification. Twenty years of drifting later, he’s returning to burn the Museum’s assortment in an try and erase his previous traumas, with assistance from orphans and runaway kids who’ve gathered round him as a father determine and name him “The Prophet.” Tyler is so nihilistic in direction of the previous that he’s enlisted kids as suicide bombers for his burn-it-all-down trigger (which is actually monstrous). “There is no such thing as a Earlier than,” was Tyler’s childhood mantra, gleaned from Station Eleven’s pages. Arthur had given him a duplicate too. 

The identical pandemic trauma; the identical father determine; the identical graphic novel that supplied a script for dealing with unimaginable loss; the identical tendencies to violence: over and over, Kirsten is put into the place of recognizing Tyler as being basically the identical as herself — a hurting human who wants household, house, and connection, similar to she does. In studying the way to assist Tyler, Kirsten can be serving to herself heal. Her attachment to her knife begins to loosen. 

After Kirsten and Tyler are accepted into the Museum of Civilization, he covertly units their assortment ablaze, and the Museum’s chief locks him up. Tyler’s mom ultimately acknowledges him (the son she thought was lifeless), and is determined to attach and to make amends for previous harms. He refuses to talk to her. 

When the Touring Symphony involves the airport/Museum to carry out Hamlet, Kirsten decides to make use of the play as a method of reconciliation. She casts Tyler within the position of the grieving and confused Hamlet alongside his real-life mom as Gertrude, giving him the chance to dramatically act out his disgust, rage, and ache, and giving his mom the possibility to pay attention. “Why are you serving to me?” Tyler asks Kirsten earlier than stepping on stage for the scene wherein he would confront his mom. “Stabbing you didn’t work,” Kirsten shrugs. 

That very day, Kirsten had unstrapped Frank’s knife from her physique and given it to a buddy for safekeeping (she felt she now not wanted it). Her buddy handed the knife alongside to Tyler, who then wields it throughout the play. Kirsten doesn’t intervene to cease him: she lets the drama run its course. Tyler and his mom converse to 1 one other by means of Shakespeare’s phrases, and cathartically come to phrases with their painful previous. Tyler doesn’t kill anybody, however he lastly says his piece, and makes peace, on the stage that Kirsten supplied for his therapeutic. 

After the play, Tyler and his mom embrace, planning for the long run collectively: he’s accomplished attempting to destroy the previous. He forgives, and he’s forgiven. Tyler is humanized and homed, as a result of Kirsten (with gritted enamel at first, however with rising gentleness) determined that he was now not the enemy. “Station Eleven is a narrative about how everyone’s linked; you simply want the precise body to have the ability to see how, generally,” says the present’s creator, Patrick Somerville.2 The flexibility to change your framing of one other particular person can imply the distinction between stabbing a stranger and serving to somebody who is rather like you in direction of wholeness and reconciliation.

“There’s a Individual Inside Me. I Don’t Like Strangers.”

Station Eleven is a narrative about how everyone is linked: each strangers and household. We see this play out differently on the birthing middle (flash again to 12 months One post-pan), the place Jeevan varieties a bond with mother-to-be Lara (Tattiawna Jones). Whereas Lara and Jeevan share their first awkward hug, Jeevan asks her (with an innocence he most likely picked up from Kirsten), “What’s it like being pregnant?” “It’s good,” Lara smiles. “Scary. There’s an individual inside me. I don’t like strangers.” Her sentiment is cheap in a post-apocalyptic world the place trusting the mistaken stranger might price you your life. However she’s not speaking about strangers “on the market”: she means the infant in her physique. 

Rebuilding civilization after collapse requires an perspective of dangerous hospitality to strangers, whether or not they present up chilly and soiled in your doorstep, or heat and tiny in your womb.

Being pregnant and parenthood are a few of the most radical and concerned types of hospitality to the stranger that an individual can expertise. When a child is created within the good old school means, you by no means know who you’re going to get (no vetting, no Yelp critiques, no swiping left). And but, mother and father welcome every youngster with acceptance and dedication to their good, loving them earlier than they’ve acutely aware consciousness, or any capability to be mutual and return the favor. This type of hospitality isn’t a one- or two-night keep: it lasts (naked minimal) 9 months plus eighteen years.

Ladies’s our bodies are intrinsically houses: that’s each “good” and “scary.” To undergo puberty as a younger girl is to acknowledge oneself (month-to-month no much less!) as a mammal, as a creature with hospitable and fruitful potential. It’s to be compelled into the continual acutely aware recognition that I’ve a nature; my very physique has a telos of hospitality, and it didn’t ask me how I’d really feel about it. To be a lady is to be an embodied self that’s fine-tuned to make room for extra individuals. Ladies don’t have the posh of pretending they’re purely autonomous, separate people.

If a lady shouldn’t be in a consciously welcoming way of thinking when somewhat stranger exhibits up at her proverbial “door,” it may be very disturbing. Even when she’s keen to fulfill this new particular person, being pregnant and beginning usually are not with out dangers, as Station Eleven exhibits us. On the Winter Solstice, all the ladies on the birthing middle enter into labor, however not all of them make it by means of to the opposite aspect. Younger Rose dies in childbirth, although her child lives. In such situations of privation (few fathers round, no life-saving medical remedies, no infrastructure), it’s simple to think about {that a} pregnant girl would possibly view her “visitor” as an intruder, a parasite, or a thief who will steal assets (and possibly even her life). However regardless of these dangers, Station Eleven exhibits us ladies who courageously roll out the purple carpet for his or her infants and have fun the arrival of those susceptible newcomers. 

Rebuilding civilization after collapse requires an perspective of dangerous hospitality to strangers, whether or not they present up chilly and soiled in your doorstep, or heat and tiny in your womb. In Station Eleven, belief is the foreign money of the day, and hospitality — the beneficiant donation of unearned belief and kindness — is the best and most expensive advantage.   

This Being Human Is a Visitor Home

Fairly than looking for out a newly-coined phrase for this event, I’m dusting off an previous Greek one: φιλοξενία (philoxenia), from “philo” — love, and “xenia” — stranger. Philoxenia, typically translated “hospitality” or “welcome,” is raring heat and friendliness provided to the outsider. It’s the alternative of xenophobia, and it’s sprinkled all through the New Testomony. Saint Paul entreats us not solely to “welcome strangers into your house,” however to “bless individuals who harass you” (Rom. 12:9-14 CEB). Saint Peter enjoins us to “provide hospitality to 1 one other with out grumbling” (1 Pet. 4:9 NIV). The writer of Hebrews reminds us of a thriller: “Don’t forget to indicate hospitality to strangers, for by so performing some individuals have proven hospitality to angels with out realizing it” (Heb. 13:2 NIV). After which there are the boys on the highway to Emmaus, who walked and talked with the resurrected Jesus for hours, and even introduced him house to share supper, earlier than lastly recognizing who their visitor was (Luke 24:13-35). The Virgin Mary turned recognized by the early church as Theotokos — the Godbearer — as a result of she hosted God himself in her womb.

To like and welcome the stranger is basically the identical act as inviting Jesus to dinner: “For I used to be hungry and also you gave me one thing to eat, I used to be thirsty and also you gave me one thing to drink, I used to be a stranger and also you invited me in” (Matt. 25:35 NIV). There’s a real threat concerned, as a result of the stranger isn’t all the time an angel. The medieval Persian mystic Rūmī wrote a poem referred to as “The Visitor Home,” wherein he encourages us to fling broad the doorways of our hearts, irrespective of who or what seems earlier than us:

This being human is a visitor home.
Each morning a brand new arrival.

A pleasure, a despair, a meanness,
some momentary consciousness comes
as an surprising customer.

Welcome and entertain all of them!
Even when they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your home
empty of its furnishings,
nonetheless, deal with every visitor honorably.
He could also be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The darkish thought, the disgrace, the malice,
meet them on the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be thankful for whoever comes,
as a result of every has been despatched
as a information from past.

Rūmī reminds us that we ought to not restrict our hospitality to these issues (and people individuals) that seem innocent and secure, that received’t price us a lot. Don’t be stingy, he hints: meet them on the door laughing, and invite them in. It’s solely within the heat of the womb, the hygge of house, the acceptance of household, the circle of friendship, and the cooperation of a troupe, a tribe, or a church, that an enemy has the potential of turning into one thing else, one thing higher. The frog stays a frog till he’s kissed. No monster turns into human in solitude: solely love can do this work. 

To forgive is to provide love before it’s earned. Agapic love like that is what creates individuals: that’s how God makes us, and it’s how mother and father make their kids — by loving them into being.3 That is what I meant after I wrote in my intro to this collection that Station Eleven demonstrates the need of historically female virtues. It’s the creation of a sacred area wherein monsters usually are not destroyed, however are made human and complete. It’s the creation of a sacred area wherein these “inconvenient friends” (i.e. infants) are welcomed with communal assist and celebrated with communal pleasure. When Station Eleven’s creator, Patrick Sommerville, mentioned, “I wish to get to a hug with individuals crying as the tip of each story,” he was displaying us that even apocalyptic tales can have a cheerful ending, not due to a triumphant Armageddon-style battle, however as a result of ladies and men open their hearts and lives to strangers.

Whereas it’s true that there are moments when real threats should be greeted with the sharp fringe of rejection or protection, we have to have these different heroic virtues on board, strapped tight to our hearts and able to whip out at a second’s discover: “Come alongside inside . . . We’ll see if tea and buns could make the world a greater place.”4

Keep tuned for the following article on the ultimate epiphany of Station Eleven.

1. I borrowed the concepts concerning the monster and the stranger from Jonathan Pageau of The Symbolic World: My Definition of a Monster in 40 Seconds and The Story of St. Christopher (the Canine-Headed Man).

2. Patrick Sommerville, interview after episode 8, HBO Max.

3. Professor John Vervaeke, Ep. 16 – Awakening from the That means Disaster – Christianity and Agape.

4. Kenneth Grahame, The Wind within the Willows.



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