Faërian Drama is a term developed by J.R.R. Tolkien in his essay “On Fairy-stories,” which he describes as plays which the elves present to men, with a “realism and immediacy beyond the compass of any human mechanism,” where the viewer feels he is “bodily inside its Secondary World” but instead is “in a dream that some other mind is weaving” (63-64). Smith of Wootton Major is a prime example from his own writing; other examples of the genre include Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and the movie Groundhog Day. When we read or view a work containing an example of faërian drama, we add a metafictional layer to the story: we are (or become) aware that the character is experiencing the faërian drama, and part of our engagement as an audience rests in the tense anticipation of whether the character will realize she is in a faërian drama or not.

I have previously written on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Normal Again” (6.17), a problematic episode which takes the faërian drama idea in unexpected directions. Here I want to concentrate on another Joss Whedon project, the move Cabin in the Woods. In this movie, the faërian drama concept is turned on its head as humans perform a recurring bloody sacrificial drama designed to ritually placate ancient god-like beings. This paper will explore the ways in which Cabin in the Woods problematizes the faërian drama trope by inverting and subverting who creates and performs it, who plays a part in it, the intended effect on the god-audience, and our engagement as the actual movie audience.



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