Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Oily Man

The Orang Minyak, or oily man, is a good example of when ancient folklore meets modern media and becomes urban myth.

The oily man began in Malaysian folklore, but I'm not familiar with those original tales.  The tale was popularized in the 1956 film Sumpah Orang Minyak.  At this point, the legend is that a man makes a deal with the devil to win back a lost love.  In exchange, the man had to rape 21 virgins within a week.  Other versions had the man make a deal with an evil shaman.  The man covered himself in oil so that he could slip through anyone's grasp to evade capture.

Through the sixties until today, there have been reports of an orang minyak terrorizing various villages and colleges.  Since he only attacks virgins, women would borrow sweaty clothes from men to give the impression that they weren't.  Of course, in reality, they are in fact advertising that they are virgins to the rest of the world, which may be the point.

I can't find my original reference, but within the last few years there was a scare at a Malaysian college and administration had to follow up with complaints that there were several rapes by a orang minyak that were unsolved.  The police responded by saying that had no official reports, and it dissolved into the classic urban myth "friend of a friend" scenario when they tried to track down any actual victims.

By this point we have a more rationalistic approach to the orang minyak.  Instead of being a man that gains magical powers, he is now a man who thinks he will gain magical powers.  To complicate the mix, there may be actual copycat rapists who actually do attack women.  Or a panic about copycats when none actually exist.

There is a similar notion in Sri Lanka of the Salini, or grease devil, which appears to follow similar lines, only this time there have been arrests and suspects killed by vigilante mobs.  Here we get more muddling elements, such as murders that are committed by criminals or corrupt government elements using the accusations as a cover.

Sound like material ripe for exploitation?  You bet -

Creepier, we have a ton of YouTube hits of villagers beating up suspected orang minyaks, or CCTV footage of men walking around in their underwear, and/or hoaxes of either.

On a lighter note, there's evidently a dance:

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