Analysis of Zainab Ali's Nightmare - Rotting Teeth and Evil Newscasters

Zainab Ali is a Horror Blogger who writes about movies, books, dreams and nightmare interpretations, and real life experiences. Zainab Ali and I have swapped nightmares to analysis. You can find her analysis of my nightmare about zombies on a boat dream on her blog called The Nightmare Nook Horror Blog.


When I was little, I guess around 4, I forget. But I was sleeping and my face was turned to the wall. And then an image popped up on the wall. You know how you flip through channels and you see the news and the newscaster? It was similar to that, except this newscaster was so evil looking. He was grinning an evil grin with rotted teeth. I woke up so scared I ran to my parent's bedroom. For a very long time I was afraid to face the wall. I am 33 now and even though I face the wall when I sleep now, it is always there in the back of my mind.

Let's begin with the manifest content. What I see is a four year old girl lying in a bed facing a wall. A shadow appears. She sees an image, but doesn't register it right away. She suddenly recognizes the image as a face with “an evil grin with rotted teeth.”

Lets saw in the latent content. The first thing that stands out to me is that children as early as 4 can begin losing their baby teeth. I think there could be an association between the news casters rotted teeth and Zainab reaching the age where here teeth might begin wiggling. The fear here could be rooted in an imaginative stress of losing ones teeth and loss of normality. This is frighting for two reasons; children have radical and vivid imaginations, and their sense of causality is terrible. I could easily see a wiggly tooth as cause for worry and terror. Especially in young American girls raised on role models of Disney princesses with perfect teeth and symmetrical faces. Where causality comes into play is that children cannot always buy into the seemly reasonable explanations that adults give. Let's put our self into the mind of a four year old girl when her parents are explaining the tooth fairy to her. I could easily see the strain of the thought, “You mean to tell me that all my teeth are going to fall out, and new ones are going to sprout up? Like flowers in a garden?
For Lacan, the mirror stage establishes the ego as fundamentally dependent upon external objects, on an other. As the so-called "individual" matures and enters into social relations through language, this "other" will be elaborated within social and linguistic frameworks that will give each subject's personality (and his or her neuroses and other psychic disturbances) its particular characteristics. (Lacan, 2014)
What does this mean? Lacan here is referring to the moment when a child first looks into a mirror and realized that the relationship of reflection is something which stabilizes her ego. Now this isn't happening on a conscious level. No small child is looking at a mirror and saying to herself, “this mirror reflecting me back to me helps me make sense of myself.” No its happening on a more intersubjective level. What a mirror provides for a child is the first time she is able to look at herself as if she were looking through someone else's eyes.

So, what does this mean for the Zainab dream? Newscasters play a role in which they tell us about the world. Before a child can begin to think critically, the authority of the newscaster has the authority of a godlike presents presenting the absolute truth of the world. The weather man says it is going to rain, and it rains. In a child mind thinking outside the authority of the talking head on a TV is near impossible. The terror comes when the newscasters rotting smile become's apparent to Zainab and she is pushed into a state of abjection. The authority of the newscaster is reflecting upon her consciousness and certainly unconscious fears of being in a state of abjection. To look in a mirror and getting a sneaking suspicion that there is a violent disconnect between the I who looks at the mirror and the face that looks back.

As an alternative path through the Zainab's nightmare I was also thinking about Lacan's concept of the mirror phase.
“[the abject] is simply a frontier, a repulsive gift that the Other, having become alter ego, drops so that the "I" does not disappear in it but finds, in that sublime alienation, a forfeited existence.” (Kristeva, 2014)
― Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection

Julia Kristeva Quotes (Author of Powers of Horror),. (2014). Julia Kristeva Quotes (Author of Powers of Horror). Retrieved 9 August 2014, from Lacan: The Mirror Stage,. (2014). 

Lacan: The Mirror Stage. Retrieved 9 August 2014, from


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