One of the most fascinating and intriguing characters from M. Night Shyamalan’s cinematic universe is certainly Kevin Wendell Crumb. He is home to 24 different personalities. But that’s not the most exciting thing about this character. It only becomes really interesting when the (philosophical) Beast appears in Kevin…
A festival of psychosis
The figure of Kevin Wendell Crumb makes Shyamalan’s fascination with psychology and psychiatry tangible. Since The Sixth Sense (1999), this psychological aspect has permeated his films. In Split (2016) and Glass (2019) this leitmotif is abundantly clear. In Split we follow the psychiatrist Dr. Karen Fletcher who attempts to help Kevin with his Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). It’s quite exciting to be part of these different, well made sessions. And in Glass, nearly the entire plot takes place in a psychiatry; the spectators follow Dr. Ellie Staple examining the three exceptional characters David Dunn, Elijah Price and Kevin…
Speaking about him: Kevin lost his father in a train accident at the age of three. This left him alone with his abusive mother who punished him severely if something was not clean or in order. Over time, Kevin developed several personalities as a defensive mechanism to confront his violent mother. The various identities include Dennis, the protector alter with obsessive-compulsive cleaning habits, Hewdig, a 9-year-old boy with several compulsive behaviors, Barry, a talent for fashion and design, Patricia, a sophisticated, obsequious, orderly woman who has considerable command over some of the other personalities, etc. In total, there are 23 personalities who all exist to protect Kevin from himself. The last, ultimate identity is The Beast. This identity is in many aspects truly unique and we will see why later.
All these different personalities are very well developed and Shyamalan never treats the sensible topic of DID disrespectful. James McAvoy makes Kevin alive, he is capable of giving every identity an own “life”. The very well written character and the impressive performance by McAvoy make Kevin unforgettable. The fact alone that such a character has made it onto the big screen is worth its weight in gold. Kevin will be missing the film industry for a long time…
The broken are the more evolved
But the most captivating thing about Kevin’s figure is The Beast and his philosophy. When The Beast breaks out of Kevin, it always wears yellow and its aura becomes yellowish. This ochre, which strongly reminds of the mustard-colored capes from The Village (2004), comes from (Asian) monk’s robes. This gives The Beast an almost religious, even spiritual meaning. It is a prophet, an evangelist. He predicates his philosophy and saves broken souls. Broken souls are impure creatures for him. People who have not suffered, who don’t know the real life. The belief is that to suffer is to be great. The more you suffer, the more immune you are to bullshit, to being sensitive to that which others who have been protected their whole lives would crumble over. It’s the noble part of The Beast’s thought palace. It’s a beautiful thought.
The impure are the untouched! The unburned! The unslain! Those who have not been torn have no value in themselves, and no place in this world! They are asleep.
It is these thoughts and motives of The Beast that are so amazing. They are basically the opposite of genre-typical motifs. Shyamalan explains this in an interview: “In a horror movie, normally if you’re going to get killed, it’s because you had sex. This is, you are going to get killed because you are good. It’s like the reverse. (…) And for me, this philosophy that the traumatic things, the things that have happened to us in our life, they definitely have changed us and changed people, but we tend to make it a pejorative, and say now you are broken. Now you are not whole. (…) You are not normal. I’m not sure that’s the case. Yes, they are different. And yes, we are different when something traumatic happens to us, but is it less now? Are we less? Or is the different possibly stronger?“*
All the identities in Kevin’s body are there to protect him. But The Beast goes far beyond this protection. It not only protects him with his extraordinary physical capacities, but also tries to protect other broken, suffering souls like Kevin. In this way The Beast is very empathic and sensitive with its fellow creatures. In Shyamalan’s 177 Eastrail trilogy Kevin seems maybe as the real (super) hero: He saves the people who really need to be saved as David Dunn only punishes the “bad guys”. Indeed, Dunn at first looks like the normal superhero. But he is also by far the most original character, Mr. Glass and Kevin are way more interesting than him. Dunn’s character is none. His expression is none. He acts like a corp. He is not really sympathetic for the spectator. The real character, which the spectator is attracted to, is Kevin. In Glass this becomes clear: The relationship between Kevin and Casey is heart-breaking, two broken souls together try to fight the injustice of the world. They understand each other. Casey seems to be the only person to really comprehend The Beast. She is close to tears when Kevin dies. This is in someway very poetic, as the sentence “The broken are the more evolved” is.
Only very rarely has such a story been told about traumatically injured people. Through the figure of Kevin, Shyamalan takes an interesting look at these broken, rejected souls. It’s the normality that is deadly for Shyamalan, abnormality is something good, something that has to be protected. The Beast is the embodiment of this protection – at the expense of “impure young”, those who walk through life sheltered and asleep. These are killed by the way. But perhaps The Beast needs this cruel side in order not only to protect the psychologically more valuable persons, but also to avenge them indirectly?
In any case, the multi-layered figure of Kevin makes us think. And this philosophical food is also good for one’s own brain, you can enjoy it! How would The Beast say? Exactly: “Rejoice!“