HomeArts & LitIs Fox's 'The Following' Honoring or Desecrating Poe?

Is Fox's 'The Following' Honoring or Desecrating Poe?


Episode 2 of Fox’s new show “The Following” was infused with even more Edgar Allan Poe-inspired violence and murder on Monday. The pilot last week revealed that serial killer Joe Carroll murdered his victims in honor of Poe and his belief that insanity is art. Poe’s famous quote that “the death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world” was also taken to task when one of Carroll’s former students equates beautiful women with death. Add to that a shelf lined with masks of Poe’s face in this week’s episode and an ending where one of them is worn by a real person who sets fire to a critic of Carroll, and it’s an all-out tribute to the Gothic author. Or is it?

Those tweeting through the episode had mixed feelings. Some Poe fans were raving about the show and its many good scares, while others wondered if viewers not familiar with Poe would think him a crazed murderer. Sure, he had his insane moments and wrote his share of insane characters, but Poe wasn’t a serial killer. (It’s also important to note that lots of people are just watching “The Following” to see Kevin Bacon and hoping he’ll break out into a dance number.)

One positive could be that a younger audience will discover Poe and begin to read his work after watching the show. “The Raven” was published 168 years ago this month, so it’s safe to assume there are a lot of teens and college kids out there who’ve never read it. But how will they interpret his work if “The Following” gives them a skewed vision of the author? Salon has a piece from January 23 by Laura Miller titled “Desecrating Poe” that does a beautiful job of articulating the ramifications “The Following” could have on the author and his legacy.

“The horror in Poe’s fiction, for all that it may share a ghastly detail or two with the carnage in ‘The Following,’ is rooted in helplessness not power,” she writes. “Madness is terrifying. It overtakes Poe’s narrators, compelling them to do what they know is wrong.”

Learn more about the show’s premise in the following trailer. Around 3:02 is when Carroll discusses Poe and his ideas about beautiful women and death with his students.

Get caught up on the last two episodes via Fox’s watch instantly feature and let us know what you think of the show.

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  • Justin / January 30, 2013

    I can’t believe that this show will run it’s course and nobody will make mention of how poorly Carroll has interpreted Edgar Allan Poe. For Carroll to be a “literature professor” he sure seems to lack any grasp of what Poe was trying to say or accomplish in his works. Oh well, if it takes shows like this to get a younger generation to start reading more then I’m for it. I just wish the writers for The Following had a bit more tact and a better grasp of what they are writing about.