Both graduate and undergraduate students post comments.
I wanted to comment on Tasker’s piece concerning the hero, as the piece is useful as I begin research for my final project. In the opening Tasker comments on how the action films tend to revolve around a flawed hero who is working to overcome his problems but must bear some sort of burden. According to Tasker, this has led to action films in which the focus is more on redeeming the individual, a more isolated plotline, as opposed to saving the community, a trait Tasker says is found in many Chinese action films. I’ve seen it both ways.
First off, Tasker is absolutely correct about the flawed hero. We’re no longer interested in that upstanding moral citizen who becomes a superhero to fight crime but exists in a vacuum away from their own troubles. As in many situations on film, the gray area is a more interesting topic to talk about when it comes to superheroes rather than simple black and white, good vs. evil. We can see this in the two different interpretations of Spider-Man on screen during the last 11 years.
Sam Raimi’s idea of Spider-Man, which became a trilogy, was a more light-hearted approach. Peter Parker was a nerd but he had friends. He didn’t brood, he was wounded — he simply stood up for his loved ones and tried to protect the city. At least until “Spider-Man 3,” but that’s another post entirely.
The new interpretation, from director Marc Webb, is much grimmer and doesn’t allow Spider-Man the light-hearted plot found in the original trilogy. Peter is now a loner and has no friends. He rides his skateboard and spends much of his time in confinement. He barely gets any time to swing around New York as Spider-Man during the day; most of his fights occur at night.
I’m not sure I can totally buy in to Tasker’s second notion, especially because of Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy. The start-up plot remains the same: Bruce Wayne loses his billionaire parents in a wrong place/wrong time robbery. However, Nolan is all business in his movies, eschewing the bright colors and corny humor of the Joel Schumacher era. This Batman is out to redeem himself for the loss of his loved ones, so yes, his intentions are to free himself from the prison he’s in. However, the city of Gotham plays a huge role in all three films, and Batman treats it like a beautiful woman. Gotham is seen as something that is worth protecting, even if not all of its citizens are morally upstanding, and Batman is willing to give his life to protect it. The sense of community protection typically found in these Chinese films can be found here.
I expected director Kimberly Peirce, who helmed the “Carrie” remake, to have a definitive statement she wanted to make about this new version of Stephen King’s classic. After all, she is the woman who took on teenage sexuality and gender in “Boys Don’t Cry,” and she’s only directed one movie between then and “Carrie:” “Stop-Loss,” a movie about how the youth are affected by war. Peirce has a fresh perspective she could’ve brought to the remake.
However, she chooses to simply follow in Brian de Palma’s footsteps.
The original “Carrie” deals with the changes a woman goes through as she enters adulthood. Carrie, who was played by Sissy Spacek in the original, discovers her period in the shower with other girls and is subject to humiliation when she doesn’t understand what it is. About the same time she discovers her telekinetic powers. The movie is a cautionary tale to men who simply don’t understand the development of a woman, but it takes that tale to its extreme. It could be looked at from two perspectives for females: (1) It’s a cautionary tale to understand your body or (2) it’s a revenge fantasy for all the women who understand those growing pains — I’d think de Palma would probably lean toward the later. When Carrie is mocked at the Prom she ends up letting everyone have it, using her powers.
There are a few updates in the new film: Carrie’s shower freak-out is now recorded and put on YouTube. Mainly the update makes use of CGI to make Carrie’s telekinetic scenes visually impressive. The Prom sequence is a lot bloodier (and a lot longer) than it is in the original.
This really disappointed me. With the more open discussion on teenage sexuality and cyberbullying, I’d think Peirce specifically chose the movie because it was begging to have her stamp on it. Rarely is a remake warranted, but if the director can bring something new to the table I’m willing to give it a shot. Maybe she felt the original spoke for itself and didn’t need to be tinkered with. If that’s the case, we would’ve just been better off with an updated Blu-Ray of the original.
You’ve offered an excellent analysis Karsten! It’s definitely given me a different perspective of “The Amazing Spiderman,” which is much grimmer, darker and introspective than the former interpretations of the comic. Thanks for your thoughts on this. My mind is spinning!
In Laura Mee’s article she delves into the discussion of the archetype wherein in horror story plots city dwellers fall into peril and harm’s way when venturing out of the urban setting and seeking a rural escape. This archetype is ubiquitous throughout much of the horror film genre and I wish to comment on reasons why this theme is presented again and again throughout the horror film cannon.
First it should be stated that mortality and mortality due to violence rates are drastically lower in agrarian settings, so this raises the question why would so many horror stories depict the country as this threatening place where so many psychologically insane and sadistic individuals roam freely. I believe a major contribution to the existence of the trope and the reiteration of said trope can be contributed to the urban nature of the majority of major filmmakers and writers. Inherent to the paradigms of many of these individuals is a distrust of a rural setting they have either never experienced by living in such a setting or a supreme distaste for a world they left behind. By no means is this a scholarly analysis of the typical psychologies of film creators, but one which looked into the trends presented in film and the creators responsible for them should reveal some common contributing reasons for this persistent pejorative presentation of what should be seen as a peaceful setting, the countryside.
I was really interested in the ideas raised in Kerry fines article “She Hits Like a Man, But She Kisses Like a Girl: TV Heroines, Femininity, Violence, and Intimacy”, and in Laura Mee’s article “The re-rape and Revenge of Jennifer Hills: Gender and Genre in I Spit on Your Grace (2010)”. Both these articles discuss women who are not portrayed as stereotypical women; they have male characteristics (such as aggression, dominance, and power), but they are not standing in as the masculine figure, instead they show that feminine identity is currently changing within society (this change is obvious as the female characters in the articles discussed are sexualized, and so do not literally ‘become’ the male).
In Mee’s article, the females violence towards the males in the remake of I Spit on Your Grave appears to be more acceptable, as the female was attacked by the males she attacks and eventually murders. This acceptability of violence from a female character is only acceptable as she is female, and females have traditionally/ stereotypically not been seen as dominant/ powerful in society until recently. Because men have for so long been seen as the dominant gender, this revenge from a female character is therefore seen as acceptable, which highlights that the differences in the masculinity and femininity are still very much present in society. Whilst these articles prove that femininity is changing, this point highlights that there is still a long way to go in terms of gender equality.
Laura Mee’s article comparing the (possible) feminist content of the original “I Spit On Your Grave” to the 2010 remake was an interesting one. Mee sheds light on the rape and revenge film, a of subgenre of 1970s exploitation genre. Highlighting the country vs. city conflict, she suggests that the genre is an extension of folkloric fairy tales, the city representative of the village, and the creepy country as representative of the haunted forest. The feminist interest comes into play with the “rape-revenge narrative and infamous castration scene”. The female, though victimized in the first part of the film, rises and becomes an agent of retribution, the hero of the story and enactor of justice.
It seems there’s been a resurgence in interest for the exploitation film of late, beginning with Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s “Grindhouse” double feature and its subsequent spin-offs. I recently saw “Machete Kills”, which is a sequel to a film “Machete”, an adaption of a fake trailer from “Grindhouse”. Just as sexploitation films often deal with sexual assault or harassment, and blaxploitation films deal with issues of race and class, Rodriguez situates his films in a genre called Mexploitation, and the films deal with immigration in the United States as well as the violence in Mexico perpetrated by the drug cartels. The interesting thing about grindhouse or exploitation revival is this fixation with not only replicating the absurd tone of the genre, but the aesthetic as well. Many of these films, shot on the cheap like their predecessors (but taking advantage of digital technology this time), use fake analog film filters, to make the movie seem grungey and dated. What I find interesting is the implication that this genre cannot bring something to the table as a contemporary experience, but must live in the past as an object of nostalgia. Blaxploitation took place in the aftermath of the civil rights movement. Sexploitation during second wave feminism. These films are products of social movements of their times. Why is it that contemporary exploitation films can’t confidently embrace the present? I haven’t seen the remake (or the original) of “I Spit On Your Grave”, but I wonder how much of it seems nostalgic…
I enjoyed reading Claire Sisco King’s article on “Un-Queering Horror…” I think that is it interesting that a Director would create a movie for gay audiences or to show the equality of the gay community, yet the movie stars actors that role play as gay and goes so far to explain this on the DVD features. I think it would have been more authentic and supportive had he used real gay people. Also, as King puts it, the movie is an act of punishment: the character to survive in the end is the one that flaunts him-self the least. It is not unlike Boys Don’t Cry in that by revealing oneself, you risk the chances that someone will act violently at you or murder you just for being different.
Carol J. Clover’s article was interesting too on how gender plays out in slasher films. More or less she points out the stereotypes of the typical characters: how the killer looks or acts (male, fat and masked), who are the common victims (women, blondes), how do the victims act (crying, screaming), and finally who usually wins (Final Girl). Women, in general associate with the male killer or his masculinity but she is rarely the killer to begin with. Again, as I will argue, it is rare in our society to have a female serial killer.
One famous female serial killer was Aileen Wuornos and she killed possibly seven men along with a friend/lover. This movie is based on actual events, but I think the two women acted like prostitutes to lure men in to hotel rooms, kill them, and take their money. Don’t quote me on this.
Slasher films are considered a sub-genre of horror that, according to King (2010), utilizes a unique spectatorship that relies on ritualistically overturned normality to appeal to viewers. Slasher movies are reliant on orthodox tropes – like the vicious male killer seeking revenge (Jason Voorhies and Freddie Kreuger) and the final girl who is the focal point of the plot and the last surviving target (Neve Campbell in “Scream” and Jennifer Love-Hewitt in “I Know What You Did Last Summer”) – but these films have the potential to present complex, queer characters often excluded in other genres.
Queerness or an “oppositional ‘positionality’ that is ‘‘at odds with the normal, the legitimate, [and] the dominant” aren’t often viewed in the context of film and television. According to research compiled by GLAAD, only 4 percent of scripted series regulars on broadcast networks are members of the LGBTQ community and only 14 of the major studio releases in 2012 featured an LGBTQ character. The exclusion of queer identity from broadcast television and film is striking, especially with the rise of queer theory as a legitimate framework for examining media, but the horror genre is in a position to alter this reality.
According to King (2010), slasher films – like Hellbent – encourage queer identity because they often feature LGBTQ characters, and “reconfigure gender not simply through inversion but by literally creating new categories.” This is conveyed through the reliance on monsters that are nonconforming, like the killers in Hellbent, Spawn, Friday the 13 and other slasher films. For instance, Freddy Krueger was a child molester that was burned alive in his home by a mob of angry parents. His spirit returns in the dreams of children that live in the neighborhood he was killed in, and he kills them in their sleep. Freddy is not living or dead. He’s both. His character is queered because he doesn’t exist on an alive or dead binary. King (2010) also points to Stretch, the “final girl” in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Part 2 as a queer character. He cites her performance as ‘‘an intense blast of interference that messes up once and for all the generic identity codes that read femininity into tits and ass and masculinity into penises, thus producing ‘a queer body of violence and power.’’ Even the shifting identities in horror text are queer, according to King (2010).
However, media is an oppressive structure that relies on dominant narratives, so slasher films with the potential to present authentic queer narratives are often boxed into heteronormative constructions of LGBTQ identity. King (2010) highlights how heternormativity influences queer identity in Hellbent. The movie was circulated through LGBTQ film festivals and marketed as the “first all gay slasher film,” but Hellbent – like others – uses heteronormative frameworks to guide the characters. For instance, two of the characters (Eddie and Jake) are pictured in bed together. But their relationship fits “within the traditional parameters of romance and monogamy” which reinforces the notion that live can’t exist outside of traditional monogamous relationships. According to King (2010), “Hellbent only allows its hero’s pleasure when this pleasure has been sanitized and legitimated within relational and heteronormative
The sanitizing and legitimizing of queerness in media is the precise reason why queer-identified filmmakers should be creating queer media, rather than cis-gender heterosexuals. This is the reason why the potential for slasher films to represent queer identities often fail. Queer-identified creators aren’t behind these projects, and that is an issue that must be addressed.
American Horror Story: Coven is the latest in Ryan Murphy’s serial anthology. This season focuses on witches in New Orleans, and has been billed as a “feminist series.” The show centers on a school in New Orleans designed to train and protect young witches about 300 years after the Salem witch trials. The school serves as a coven, and Fiona (Jessica Lange) is the supreme witch dispatched there to protect them.
Gabourey Sidibe is one of the witches being trained at the school. She portrays Queenie, a human voodoo doll, who uses her body to inflict harm on others. Queenie is constructed as an asexual, obese, strong and mean witch that enjoys being violent. Most troubling is Queenie’s depiction as a strong Black woman that literally uses her body to hurt others. This fits into the stereotypical image of Black women as angry, vengeful and incapable of rational thought.
It is also problematic that the third episode of the season features Queenie saving Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates), a former slave owner and serial killer. One of LaLaurie’s victims is a minotaur that she created. The minotaur arrives at the school to seek revenge, and Queenie lets LaLaurie hide while she handles the beast. This is the reification of the mammy, though Queenie is LaLaurie’s “master.” She still sacrifices her health to protect a white woman in danger. Furthermore, Queenie’s sexuality is addressed when she meets the minotaur and begins masturbating in the beast’s presence. This is a subversion of obese Black women as asexual, but it is also problematic because her first sexual encounter on the show is with a beast.
Tasker informs us of masculinity in China from an American perspective, as well as the similarities and differences in our villains. America as viewed the Chinese, male and female, as feminine, but Chinese masculinity is reclaimed by Bruce Lee. He i an actor and martial artist who’s cut muscular body and mastered combat attracted American audiences, even when he took out a while male like Chuck Norris. It is dually mentioned that Jackie Chan does this, but mixes in laughs. Also, America and China are not so different due to have an institutional evil in their films. However, America’s villains exist based on class or issues amongst race, while China’s villains are colonial.
Cooper discusses the film Boys Don’t Cry. It is a biographical film that seeks to humanize Brandon Teena, a transsexual man who was murdered out of bigotry, and had previously been looked at as a spectacle. She points out that this film reveals a dark side to the treasured American heartland, which is full of prejudice. Masculinity is shown as problematic, because the murderers feel it give them a right to harm and murder someone not of their norms. Also, Brandon Teena having a female’s masculinity debunks the legitimacy of masculinity, being the masculinity expected from male comes from a female. If gender was true this wouldn’t happen.
Fine elaborates on masculinity and aggression. What has traditionally been seen as masculine is more present in females today, however many of the females are portrayed as “hot”. While this is problematic, the merge of these elements that don’t go together by tradition calls are norms into question. The forms of aggression also broken down, indirect aggression being acts of manipulation, and physical aggression being acts of assault. Physical is further broken down into impulsive, which an out-of-control act of violence, and instrumental which is calculated and planned. Due to stereotypes about being less intelligent and overly emotional, women are impulsive, and men are instrumental.
Clover discusses the problematic complexity of horror films. As directors such as Hitchcock and Argento have admitted, they have passion for torturing and murdering women, which is creepy. However, audiences seem to agree, enjoying the sexually frustrated killers murder spree on women, yet they also like it when the Final Girl has her revenge, which is sado-masochistic but in relation to the woman which is arguably progressive. However, for the audience this could be the same as a sexual “finish”, her attack being the same as a hand job. It is also still misogynist in that the Final Girl is in serious trauma and has life scarring events, which the audience is enjoying. Clover also mention how critics against Halloween miss that it wasn’t against women and sex in that a young woman takes Michael Myers out by stabbing him, releasing her sexual tension. Clover, does deeper, saying that this is also an act of castration against an already repressed figure. It is true that the hero is a woman who unleashes sexual tension, and her upper-hand shows women are capable. However, the maniac does still attack a promiscuous teenager, the defeat is not complete, although admittedly for horrors sake, that would be less scary.
Mee compares and contrasts I Spit on Your Grave! from 1978 and 2010. Though the 2010 version is more poorly reviewed, it is in some respects better. While the original dedicated more time o torture porn of the rape sequences, the remake in place focuses more on the female protagonists psychological torture. Also, the categorizing of rape-revenge as a sub-genre of horro is problematic, in that no other revenge film is horror. This is like saying revenge is generally justified, but if it is a woman who has been raped then that’s a monster to fear.
King discusses Hellbent, a queer horror film making up for the lack of a gay population in horror films. King finds the title queer horror is unnecessary because the subject of horror itself is queer do to abnormalities. The fact that it deals with what in real life would be queer, reflects the problematic and hurtful connotations the word queer had when used to describe homosexuals, and in many cases still has.
While reading the Fine article I was interested in the way that Fine talks about how the character of Gemma takes Mulvey’s “to-be-looked-at-ness” and turns it on his head. Fine focuses on how the shot itself defines Gemma’s character, but I think it may go beyond that. I think that by wearing what she does Gemma is controlling the male gaze she knows she’s going to get. Gemma takes the gaze that she knows is going to happen and forces whoever is looking to recognize her as who she is. She not only takes an active role in her life, but in how she’s seen by others. Her wardrobe doesn’t just tell the audience that she’s a force to be reconned with, but the other characters in the show.
Reading this actually reminded me of two character from the ‘Walking Dead’ comic, Andrea and Maggie. Andrea received a large facial scar in an attack early in the comic, but has never attempted to hide her scar. She comments once right after the attack that her face probably looks messed up but other than that it never comes up again and has never impeded any romantic endeavors she had. It serves as a reminder of what she had survived. Maggie on the other hand receives some bruising on her neck when she attempts to kill herself, and often tried to hide it, feeling like it was a symbol of her weakness. Both of the characters try to control how the gaze affects them, but Andrea chooses to control the gaze and let people see who she is and what she’s been through while Maggie lets the gaze control her actions and try to fool it and others.
Both articles were about women who don’t fit into the stereotypical stay at home mom birthed in the 50’s era. Recently woman have, in some intriguing ways, become more masculinity. They’re more dominant and powerful and can stand toe-to-toe with any other man. The image of a typical woman is changing in society now, giving them an almost dual-like existense: both sexy and dangerous.
Mee’s discussion of the remake “I Spit on Your Grave” is enlightening as she talks about how the woman should be aggressive, because she was attacked, thus the violence and her killing the men is more acceptable. It’s also the perfection metaphor for the rise of women now. They are finally in a spot where they receive the respect they deserve.
On the other side of things, there’s the film “The Last House on the Left” which was heavily criticized due to an explicit rape scene in the film. It’s a remake as well, and there was a rape scene in the original too that upset people so of course the remake had to try and top it, but for what reason? It’s disturbing to see such a scene, with the woman so helpless and screaming for freedom. What’s even more disturbing is the though of why bother in the first place and make actors go through the motions.
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