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GCU - Discourse, Ideology and the Media

Catriona Miller

on 3 October 2018

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Transcript of Horror

Imaginary Ideologies?

Media Analysis 2 Discourse, Ideology and the Media
Today we'll consider:
the horror genre
ideology and discourse
the slasher movie
Ideology & Discourse
“Ideology is a set of beliefs and values which express the interests of a particular social group… Ideology consists of the beliefs and values of a ruling group which obscures the real condition of society both to itself and others and thereby stabilises it..” (Haralambos, 1990: p.21)
"The history of horror is … the history of the way other people and groups exhibiting markers of difference have been regarded and depicted by their society." (Cherry, 2009: p.176)
Horror: a definition?
Cherry notes several things about the horror genre:
Marked by diversity of conventions, plots, styles.
It's been around a long time (since cinema was invented.)
be categorised by many varieties of sub-genre, cycles, hybrids, styles.
But maybe we should think of horror in terms of its FUNCTION encompassing a variety of film types "united by their capacity to horrify." (Cherry, 2009: p.4)
The Gothic
Often based on mythological or literary sources – vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein... -
The Wolf Man
The Mummy
(1931)(though maybe these belong in fantasy?)
Supernatural, Occult, Ghost Films
Films that involve the intervention of spirits, ghosts, witchcraft, the devil –
The Haunting
Rosemary’s Baby
The Sixth Sense
The Ring
(1998), T
he Blair Witch Project
Paranormal Activity
Psychological Horror
Psychological horror – films that explore psychological states and psychoses –
Silence of the Lambs
Monster Movies
Films that feature invasions of the everyday world by NATURAL (even if unlikely) and SECULAR creatures leading to death and destruction -
Night of the Lepus
Panic at Lakewood Manor
(1977); and
Food of the Gods
from 1976. Also
Body Horror, Splatter, Gore
Films exploring abjection, disgust, mutation, disease, cannibalism –
Night of the Living Dead
The Thing
Exploitation Cinema
Films focused on extreme or taboo subjects, violence, torture, rape etc. -
I Spit on Your Grave
Films portraying groups of teenagers menaced by a stalker –
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Cherry Falls
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
(2013), Final Girls (2015)...
Horror & Ideology
The “true subject of the horror genre is the struggle for recognition of all that our civilisation represses or oppresses, its re-emergence dramatised, as in our nightmares, as an object of horror, a matter for terror and the happy ending (when it exists) typically signifying the restoration of oppression." (Wood, 1986/2003, p.75)
Horror can be seen as supporting the ideological status quo (monsters are killed). A REACTIONARY standpoint.
Horror can be seen as contesting the ideological status quo (monsters raise questions about who exactly is monstrous.) A PROGRESSIVE standpoint.
Horror films dramatise the cracks, disruptions and counter currents in society’s dominant ideology
Slasher Movies
: a group of young people, who are brutally murdered, till the survivor (often a girl) escapes. The ‘monster’ tends to be a psychologically disturbed human (not a supernatural being).
: mise en scene tends to one of stark contrasts; the the attack is often registered from the victim’s point of view, and weaponry is usually something other than a gun – knife, chainsaw, coat hanger, knitting needles.
Spatio-Temporal Location
: here and now.
Thus the "
final girl is less a proxy for the boys in the audience and instead more a female hero for the girls. Slasher movies offer not only a depiction of desire, but also a mode of resistance. The final girl is one who perceives the danger and feels terror, but none the less finds a way to resist and even fight back
" (Miller, 2014: p.116)
Carol Clover
It had always been assumed that slasher films revealed a 'particularly vicious normalising mysogyny'. It was taken to be a genre that was showing women their place!

Clover questioned this orthodox view by taking a closer look at what was actually going on in the films and discovered that instead of the victorious male hero, the slasher move nearly always left a surviving female...
The Final Girl
But more recently, some of the final girls aren't to be trusted... Is it just a question of a genre evolving? Or is it another way of saying that contemporary culture still isn't sure about strong women? Mandy Lane seems to get a happy ending!
A final word on the final girl...
“The ideological subtexts of films are always about the time and place in which they were made, whatever their historical or geographical setting…” (Cherry, 2009: p. 169)
Halloween (Dir: John Carpenter, 1978)
"Discourse analysts are … interested in studying the process of construction… how truths emerge, how social realities and identities are built and the consequences of these, than working out what ‘really happened’” (Wetherall, Taylor & Yates, 2007: p.16)
Horror, fantasy, sf are all genres that (to some extent anyway) operate outwith Foucault's 'regimes of truth' and thus can be the first to show cracks in the dominant discourses. The narratives may be fantastical... but the discourses circulating within them are not.
First slasher films are
Peeping Tom
(both 1960). Some argue
Black Christmas
Height of the genre 1978-81 where at one point one new slasher film being released every six weeks (Nowell, 2011: p.5)
Then a bit of a lull till
in 1996, ushers in the 'postmodern slasher'.
Still being made -
Final Girls
LA Slasher
both 2015.
Quick Time Line...
Leaving psychoanalysis to one side, perhaps the Final Girl is instead a representation of what it feels like to be a girl in a patriarchal society? As the 'Everyday Sexism Project' makes clear, being a woman even in today's society means having one's appearance commented on and sexual suggestions shouted out publicly, even if a physical assault doesn't take place (which is still a lot more prevalent than had been thought.)
However, coming from a psycho-analytic perspective, Clover could only go so far with her analysis. The psychoanalytic perspective can't get away from equating the viewer with the masculine spectator, which leaves female spectators in a weird position.
The Final Girls (Dir: Todd Strauss-Schulson, 2015)
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