Stock Photo Hell

lizard-brown-white-background-33432430Circle Eight: Fraud

Bolgia Six: Thieves

After speaking, the thief emphatically thrust
Both fists in the air, middle fingers extended,
And shouted, “Take this, God! It’s just for you!”

-Canto XXV, Mary Jo Bang translation

The bolgia of the thieves is a strange and interesting place, and contains to my mind one of the more horrifying punishments in hell. Thieves steal the things people need to live, parting people from their goods. (A herd of cattle is one of the mentioned items stolen in Canto XXV.) They may cause great misery and anguish, but are generally not there to see it, having left, as they say, like a thief in the night. They’ve transformed goods, money, identities…into their own. And so the theme of transformation, or more accurately, metamorphosis, infuses the bolgia of thieves.

The bolgia is full of reptiles: snakes, lizards, some fanciful six-legged lizard. The reptiles slither up and absorb the bodies of the thieves, sometimes through tangling or…orifices…or else through bizarre melting together, as described below. In general, the idea is this: they took away people’s material agency, and now their bodily agency is forfeit. People turn to lizards turn to people get wrapped up with snakes and it’s all very squicky. This is perhaps the squickiest metamorphosis:

The meeting of the corresponding parts went like this:
The reptile divided its tail into two tines,
While the wounded one drew his feet together.

The man’s lower legs thighs
Stuck to each other so completely
That soon there was no visible seam.

The divided tail took the shape of the legs
The other was just losing; the one’s skin turned soft
While the other’s was becoming enameled.

I watched while the man’s long arms retracted
Into his armpits; in turn, the creature’s short forelegs
Lengthened in direct proportion.

Then the lizard’s hind feet twisted together, becoming
That member a man keeps hidden behind his zipper,
While the unfortunate one issue two new feet from his.

-Canto XXV, Mary Jo Bang translation which is really so good go buy it now

This is one rare and shining moment when the stock photo searches are way less disturbing than the cantos they came from.

Search terms: thief, female thief

It’s funny; we’ve got a very specific cultural construction for what a thief looks like, and it’s this guy:

stock-photo-thief-with-bag-isolated-on-white-174747545

Strangely enough, white men wearing stripes and/or small fashionable hats are not followed around in the department stores, even though they’re clearly one mask away from being obvious thieves. It was interesting; most of the pictures I found were of kinda hairy white men, mostly in the ninja suit.

stock-photo-burglar-in-black-balaclava-with-crowbar-and-flashlight-at-night-92801941Of the women, which came up about 15-20% of the time in a generic search, there seemed to be two basic thief modes:

1. Ninja

She's actually part of a ninja pizza delivery service, but I can understand your confusion.

She’s actually part of a ninja pizza delivery service, but I can understand your confusion.

2. Catwoman

female-thief-seductive-running-away-over-rooftops-34063300

Seriously. It’s Catwoman.

Occasionally, there would be a picture of a potentially well-executed crime…

fig. 1: Actually plausible con scheme.

fig. 1: Actually plausible con scheme.

…but mostly, there were some impressively bad/weird/incompetent criminals out there.

fig 2.: cleverly grabbing a wallet out his front pocket while he's busy being confused by how payphones work.

fig 2.: cleverly grabbing a wallet out his front pocket while he’s busy being confused by how payphones work.

"Concept photograph of a female grave robber in terrifying makeup stealing human limbs and body parts." Presumably this means that someone buried their relative's bright red/bloodsoaked flesh in separate little adorable body-part-sized coffins. What.

“Concept photograph of a female grave robber in terrifying makeup stealing human limbs and body parts.”
Presumably this means that someone buried their relative’s bright red/blood-soaked flesh in separate little adorable body-part-sized coffins. What.

 

Next up in Stock Photo Hell: the Evil Counselors

Spoilers: We’re not talking about crappy girl scout camp. Although on that note, you should all be reading Lumberjanes or you are remiss in your duty of reading awesome comics.