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The Cell (2000) – Sex Slaves and the Split Psyche

picJay Dyer
21st Century Wire

Imagine a bulbous, curvaceous Latina booty entering the vast contours of your psychospheric dreamscape intent on helping your inner child heal from its traumas, only to discover once you’ve enslaved her as your sex toy, Vince Vaughn shows up to kick your ass in a Matrix-ish, Neo-style fashion as King Swinger of said dreamscape.  If you accurately imagined this, you are either a serial killer or you have seen The Cell (or both).

A mix of surrealism and post-modern nightmare imagery, The Cell is at once brilliant and ridiculous, borrowing elements of The Silence of Lambs, combined with vivid and imaginative landscapes, approximating a Stephen King version of Salvador Dali.  Raking in three times its cost, The Cell was a box office hit and for our purposes, its worth for analysis purposes centers around its presentation of the psyche, alters, trauma-based mind control, and the occult connection to these notions.

In predictable serial killer fashion, random women are turning up missing at the hands of the typical outcast loner, our killer, Carl Rudolph Stargher.  Stargher, when not engaging in the pleasure that comes from hanging from the ceiling by meat hooks, kidnaps women and imprisons them inside a “cell,” where gradually water fills the tank as VHS recorders log the event for Stargher’s viewing pleasure.

After drowning his victims, Stargher paints and decorates the bodies of his victims into dolls, releasing himself sexually (from the meat hooks) while dangling (over his “dolls).  While not immediately conscious of his actions as any form of ritualistic sex magick, Stargher seems to intuitively perform extreme perversions as a form of ritual offering.  As the storyline progresses, we discover the reason for this: Stargher is possessed by a demonic entity that inhabits his psyche as a result of his childhood trauma resulting from an abusive father.

The most interesting aspect of the film is the presentation of Stargher’s core personality, the child, undergoing a series of traumas related to bizarre, fundamentalist Christianity, beatings of both he and his mother, as well as his father’s strange sexual views.  The denigration of “weakness” is embodied in the feminine, according to his father’s abuse, and results in Stargher’s flight into the feminine, seeking emotional fulfillment. Discovering himself to not be female, the desire transformed into the need to become his father, the source of “power” over against all “weakness.”

Stargher’s split psyche allows one of his personas to become the demon as an embodiment of power and sexuality – a form of Pan.  In almost all instances of the demon’s presence, a snake signifies his arrival – symbolism so obvious I won’t dwell on it, as well as a white wolf and a black wolf.   More interesting in this regard is the demon’s process of compartmentalizing the dolls Stargher ritually murdered as “artworks” in various “cells” or compartments of Stargher’s psyche.

J. Lo as dreamscape sex slave.

The frequent use of nursery rhymes comes to the fore with J. Lo, the child psychologist who mystically smokes weed, watches Fantastic Planet’s big blue babies and synchromystically grasps the core personality of the child, as a result. (I am not making that up – but the imagery flashes very briefly where the little child in the film is snatched away by a giant hand).  J. Lo, craving Cheetos and munchies, notices a Jungian archetypal parallel where it occurs the key to healing a comatose child could be in recovering the core persona that was traumatized.

Unable to fully heal her comatose test subject, J. Lo’s revolutionary idea involves something akin to DARPA’s “mapping the brain,” which is even referenced in the film (if I recall).   While in the psychosphere, J.Lo discovers the various compartments of Stragher’s psyche, including the “cells” which contain his imprisoned sacrificial victims.  The ruling alter personality or “handler” is, of course, the demon, who imprisons J.Lo as his sex slave.  In this regard, the oft cited usage of nursery rhymes in ritual abuse and mind control settings would appear to associate the inflicted trauma with mantra-like icons of the child’s world, intent on triggering the traumatized person (a version of theory of hypnosis and “key words” or “trigger words”).

Dolls in the house of Stragher's psyche - sex slaves as ritual offerings.

This is interesting, given J. Lo’s public persona in film and the music industry is precisely her role as a sex symbol.  While I have no knowledge of whether she is or is not any kind of “sex slave,” in one sense she is a slave to the “industry,” and in her private life is rumored to practice forms of voodoo and Santeria.  Supposedly, J. Lo’s marriage troubles were connected to her practicing Caribbean occultism, as well as claiming she possesses “psychic” abilities.  Again, tabloids are rife with rumors and nonsense that functions as a form of PR and marketing, but it is also entirely possible J. Lo does take occultism seriously, making her role in the film all the more, shall we say, esoteric?  The UK Standard writes:

“Lopez visited Gonzalez’s ramshackle wooden house in a run-down Los Angeles suburb. She is said to have become one of Merle’s “godchildren” and regularly turns to her for advice. “I am involved in Santeria and yes, I am friends with Jennifer Lopez,” said Merle through the gate. “But I cannot discuss my relationship with Jennifer.”

More symbols emerge, such as the bizarre scene of the horse in the museum who ends up split into numerous fractures sections, through a gruesome guillotine apparatus.  The horse seems to represent the whole psyche of Stragher (and the comatose child at the beginning), while the division of the horse represents the fracturing.  The curious aspect to this film is the similarity of this imagery to actual modern and post-modern art, in full nihilistic, degenerate display.

This morbid obsession with defacing creation, animals and humans in “art” is not, of course, “art,” but a demonic inversion and a form of black magic intent on debasing the masses.  This is precisely the reason such degenerate forms of “art” have long been promoted, fostered and funded by the CIA, the Frankfurt School and big money foundations (like the National Endowment for the Arts).   The perspicacious insight of this rather ridiculous film is subtly hinting that these forms of “art” are, in fact, demonic – representation of the dark aspects of a mentally troubled individual’s (the so-called “artist”) psyche.

Ritual reenactment of childhood trauma.


In relation to the splitting and fracturing of the psyche, I wrote a piece entitled “Fragmentation of the Psyche and the Nous” that applies directly to interpreting The Cell:

“Both cultic groups and government agencies have the desire for control in common, and particularly the control of thought.  One effective way such groups achieve this is through childhood indoctrination, as this is the most formative period.  Propaganda and manipulation targeted at children are thus the most effective and the most insidious, and the solutions cannot come through a rearrangement of chemicals from one form to another, based entirely on the evolutionary biological model.   It is no accident the rate of mental illnesses and neurological disorders are thus skyrocketing, as the application of more and more chemical solutions is compounded with more and more prescriptions to counter the effects of the previous’ side effects.

In proposing a solution, alternatives avenues are much more promising, particularly when considering the alternate anthropology of eastern theology, where man is not merely a chemical machine, but a biological entity with a psyche and a nous, a higher faculty endowed by God.  Strategopoulos comments on this teaching:

“The human nous in Eastern Orthodox Christianity is the “eye of the heart or soul” or the “mind of the heart”. The soul of man is created by God in His image; man’s soul is intelligent and noetic. St Thalassios wrote that God created beings “with a capacity to receive the Spirit and to attain knowledge of Himself; He has brought into existence the senses and sensory perception to serve such beings”. Eastern Orthodox Christians hold that God did this by creating mankind with intelligence and noetic faculties. Angels have intelligence and nous, whereas men have reason – both logos and dianoianous and sensory perception.

This follows the idea that man is a microcosm and an expression of the whole creation or macrocosmos. The human nous was darkened after the Fall of Man (which was the result of the rebellion of reason against the nous), but after the purification (healing or correction) of the nous (achieved through ascetic practices like hesychasm), the human nous (the “eye of the heart”) will see God’s uncreated Light (and feel God’s uncreated love and beauty, at which point the nous will start the unceasing prayer of the heart) and become illuminated, allowing the person to become an orthodox theologian.”

Pan is a J. Lo fan.

In regard to the fragmentation of the psyche and the loss of memory (something crucial for extreme cases of MPD/DID) are highlighted in a fascinating way not found elsewhere, as the possibility of a spiritual dimension to psychotic disorders is often overlooked and ignored.  Strategopoulos continues:

“They became vain in their reasonings, speculations”. Please pay attention to the choice of words. Almost always, especially in the New Testament, the term (“dialogismos” in the original Greek) is used in a negative sense. When He is about to heal the paralytic, Christ is aware that people “are reasoning within themselves” (Mark 2:6). So Christ says: “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts?” You see, the word in the Greek text is not “logismos” (thought, contemplation), it is “dia-logismos”, i.e. fragmented, scattered thinking: The fragmentation of the nous. You might as well apply this knowledge when you are confronted with cults, heresies and similar issues, [considering that the same word is used today for “meditation”]. There is a direct link. Reasoning, speculation [of a fragmented nous]: terms which are always used in a negative sense in the Holy Scripture. Thus, man ends up in a state of ignorance, although he is created with a predisposition towards God, with a nous that is meant to turn to God for help: “Love the Lord your God”. This is faith, the movement towards God, and it is something that we have overlooked….

St Gregory of Sinai clearly states that forgetfulness of God is a disease of the soul and of the faculty of reason. It has a direct impact on human memory, which ends up divided, diffused and fragmented, a prey to tempting thoughts. If I forget God, my memory will crumble into pieces, resulting in scattered, wayward thinking: “Dia-logismos”. That explains our deep anguish: What shall we do here? What shall we do there? What is to be done?”

The loss of memory and its fragmentation is the same pattern seen in those with alters who lack integration with the core personality.  Extreme forms of schizophrenia demonstrate this in a profound way, where the psyche’s core is so fractured it appears to dissociate into incoherence.  Alters, by contrast, appear to be structured to handle and absorb trauma, retaining a level of rationality and coherence, even in the split.

My consideration is that perhaps as a result of the Fall, all of us are in some degree fragmented, while MPD/DID demonstrate more severe versions of the universal fragmentation.  This is not to propose some new agey, generic dissolution of individual, on the contrary, the individual psyche needs to be unified, coherent and integrated.  Psychology’s approach has been to attempt to integrate these various personae, and this makes sense, yet still lacks the possibility of considering man as a spiritual being with a nous.  If God exists, then the faculty that exists for unification and integration through the knowledge of God cannot be ignored.

Modern "art" and ritual action in the psychosphere.

For Stragher, the “triggers” include nursery rhymes, water and (I would assume) dolls.  All these elements relate to various instances of childhood trauma in relation to his father figure, embodying the masculine archetype, and thus turning it into a perversion.   Through these breaks in his psyche, the core persona has thus been lost in the subconscious while the demonic handler persona controls and demands the conscious Stragher engage in self-mutilation, sex magic, BDSM and human sacrifice.

One strange parallel elsewhere in pop culture with a similar theme is the character of Leland Palmer in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, the possessed multiple personality father of Laura Palmer (as well as being her rapist and murderer).  The really odd parallel is the fact that Leland constantly chants the same obnoxious nursery rhyme of Stragher, titled “Mairzy Doats.”  If this seems far-fetched, you’ll note that Alfred Kinsey and Dr. Ewan Cameron were not beyond doing these very things in their “experiments” on children and psychiatric patients, including the use of children’s fables like Alice in Wonderland (note that book was written by pedophile Lewis Carroll and appears to have been used in mind control experiments with the psyche, according to John Mark’s The CIA and Mind Control).

Fantastic Planet in The Cell.

Although the film does not explicitly mention the occult or forms of witchcraft, the imagery in the psychosphere is explicitly alchemical and at least representative of esoteric themes.  For example, one of the victims-turned slave in Stragher’s psyche is the overtly hermaphroditic body builder “strongmanwoman” persona who carries J. Lo away.  The jumbled and inverted sexuality and gender perspectives of Stragher have given way to a host of confused alters who presumably exhibit bi-sexual tendencies (given his necrophilia and childhood desire to be a woman).  Dolls thus become images of mind controlled slaves, or more accurately, enslaved spirits over whom the demonic persona has complete control.

Stragher’s room is seen to contain images of Saturn (human sacrifice) and children’s toys, like a music box.  The containment of his victims in cells thus become ritual reenactments of his traumas, all combined into one, including water, cells, orgasmic release and the resulting resurrection of the “doll” in his compartmentalized psyche.  In effect, the demon presents himself as Stragher’s higher, truer self, a god, able to make Stragher into a “god.”  This is precisely the promise of Lucifer in the Garden and the manifestation of what, at least some, mass killers say about themselves.  This is why the demon’s altar or throne appears to have magical sigils or hieroglyphics written at the base.

The demonic god, and J. Lo's sex slave handler (in the psychosphere).

In the process of healing Stragher’s core persona and conquering the demon, the feminine archetype is embodied in a strange mix of J. Lo as the Virgin Mary and some Hindu-esque Lakshmi.  Stabbing the demon with a sword (oddly phallic and hermaphroditic), J. Lo reintegrates the core persona and rids the possessed stragher of his demonic overlord.  Presumably the underdeveloped core persona got a glance at that J. Lo backside, and realized a nice derriere should not be ritually sacrificed.

I am joking, but what is interesting is the portrayal of the feminine archetype being the necessary component of what is needed in his healing (though I believe he dies in the process).  Vince Vaughn is strangely forgettable in this role, but he does swing in to save J. Lo from sex slavery.  In relation to the title, the “cell” is both a reference to the brain’s cells as housing part of our spiritual being (psyche), as well as being a “cell” in a prison sense.  Preposterous and visually alluring, The Cell is both repulsive and spiritually insightful.

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Jay Dyer is the author of the forthcoming title, Esoteric Hollywood: Sex, Cults and Symbols in Film from Trine Day.  Focusing on film, philosophy, geopolitics and all things esoteric, JaysAnalysis and his podcast, “Esoteric Hollywood,” investigates the deeper meanings between the headlines, exploring the hidden aspects of our sinister synthetic mass media matrix.



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