He awoke in a dark, damp room that appeared to be a basement. Josh had not the slightest clue where he was. “Where the fuck am I?” he kept bellowing. Finally a man removed the burlap sack covering Josh’s face. “You, oh God, oh Shit!” Josh recognized the man from the train ride to Slovakia. Josh pleaded “Please,
please, I didn’t do anything to you!” The man in the old-style executioner’s outfit was amused by his victim’s mental and emotional anguish. Josh pleaded with this dark figure to let him go. “I had always wanted to be a surgeon” the man said as he secured a scalpel. He then offered to open the door. Before untying his victim, the man used the scalpel to cut both of Josh’s Achilles’ tendons. The executioner was delighted to see Josh squirm to the door; leaving behind him two distinct trails of blood. What exactly had Josh done to deserve this? What crime had he committed? Josh was an American, and his executioner had the cash to pay for his life.
In Eli Roth’s Hostel, a crime syndicate known as “Elite Hunting” operates out of a post-Soviet nation. The organization sponsors a very twisted form of slavery. Elite members may purchase human beings and kill them in any way they please. They just show up at an abandoned factory, pay for a victim, and have their way with the victim’s life. It’s not that simple though, as certain people cost more than others. For instance, a European victim costs less than say, a Japanese victim. Imports are a bit pricier than domestics. What is truly disturbing is that Americans cost the most. The demand to kill an American is higher than the demand to kill any other kind of person. While you can torture an Asian for $10,000, to do the same to an American costs $25,000.
This is a clear symbol for the way in which Americans are viewed by the world. Take for instance a 2005 world survey conducted in 25 nations including the U.S. The survey showed that 75 percent of the respondents disapproved of how our leaders in Washington had dealt with Iraq. The majority of the 26,381 respondents also disapproved of the way five other foreign policy areas had been handled. This included the U.S. government’s dealing with Iran’s nuclear weapons program, global warming, and the military prison in Guantanamo Bay. This survey is a display of the current distaste for the U.S. and its government’s policy. In Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s Monster Theory, Cohen describes the monster’s body as that of culture: “The monster is born only at this metaphoric crossroads, as an embodiment of a certain cultural moment-of time, a feeling a place” (Cohen 4). In other words, this monster, this intense dislike for the American people, traces its origins to feelings of resentment and rage towards the U.S. government’s recent policies, especially that of the war in Iraq.
Some may argue that the big-wig killers in Hostel pay more for Americans only because they are imported from overseas, but I contend that that the high price of Americans is due to the world’s view of the American people. In a survey found on people-press.org conducted in nine countries including France, Germany, and Turkey, all of these countries showed increasing belief in two years that the U.S. was over-reacting to terrorism. Another survey found on the same web site showed that most European nations disapprove of the United States using force in Iraq without United Nation’s approval. There is an apparent strong, unfavorable opinion of the United States.
The monster in Hostel, then, is a cultural crisis. One must ask if the actions and decisions of the United States’ government have made the Americans appear as monsters to the European people. According to an article by Brian Eno on time.com, most Europeans regard Americans as stupid, arrogant, and ignorant. Eno says of the American people, “I could fill this page with names of Americans who have influenced, entertained, and educated me. They represent what I admire about America: a vigorous originality of thought, and a confidence that things can be changed for the better. That was the America that I lived in and enjoyed from 1978 to 1983.” Eno continued in his article, “That America was an act of faith- the faith that (otherness) was not threatening but nourishing, the faith that there could be a country big enough in spirit to welcome and nurture all the diversity the world could throw at it.” Eno believes the U.S. has taken a downhill course since September 11: “But since Sept. 11, that vision has been eclipsed by a suspicious, introverted America…. The gated community…. Designed to keep the (others) out, it dissolves the rich web of society into a random clustering of disconnected individuals. It turns paranoia and isolation into a lifestyle.”
It is difficult to put aside Eno’s arguments for the way other first-world nations look at us. After establishing itself as a world power after WWII, the U.S. became more and more comfortable with using military force. Vietnam and the Gulf War are two examples of our government using military force willy-nilly. Our current struggle is arguably unjustified and makes our government look foolish. You see the paranoia of our people at airports. How many times have you felt nervous when sitting next to an Arabic person on an airplane?
Brian Eno makes vital points in regards to where the distaste for America comes from. However, we must ask if the U.S. and American people deserve being the target of this European loathing. In Hostel, for example, there is a scene when the two American characters are in a club in Amsterdam. They get into a fight with a Swedish man and are escorted out of the club by a bouncer. The mammoth Dane mutters something in the manner of “fucking Americans” as he throws them to the street. It is far too common for Americans traveling abroad to face such harassment. In many instances, though, it is brought upon by us. Americans, such as the two from the film, often act cocky and arrogant and forget to respect the place where they are at.
The monster in Hostel is the intense hatred and disgust the U.S. receives from the rest of the civilized world. In Roth’s film we see this hideous and horrendous monster grow into acts of evil that even the S.S. of Nazi Germany would frown upon. You see this monster in the eyes of the torturers’ faces as they take great care not to kill their over-priced, American, animal bitches too quickly. It clearly costs more for an American because the killers get more satisfaction from it.
Hostel’s monster is a cultural one. It was given life via the way in which the U.S. makes decisions and the actions of our government. The reaction by the rest of the world has to be a monstrous one. The United States is a world power and has been since World War II. Because of this and our advances in military technology, Americans are afforded the luxury of being weak and soft. We don’t have to watch the news at night. We don’t have to worry about coming under attack. We were proven wrong on Sept. 11, but our government reacted in the wrong way. Our president even used the attack as an excuse to mobilize forces into Iraq.
These actions were all blunders and the world recognizes that. Our false senses of security and superiority have caused us to become rude, arrogant, and ignorant. This has become such a problem that our allies are starting to turn against us. We lacked support from both France and Germany when entering Iraq. The U.S. felt that it didn’t need U.N. approval to liberate Iraq. These actions created Hostel’s monster. In a sense, we are the mothers and fathers of this monster.
18 February 2007. http://www.news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6286755.htm
19 February 2007. http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=206
Eno, Brian. “The U.S. Needs to Open Up to the World” 12 Jan. 2003 http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,407288,00.html
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. “Monster Culture.” Monster Theory. Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996. 3-6.
Hostel. Dir. Eli Roth. Perf. Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson, Rich Hoffman. Lion’s Gate Films, 2006.