Monday, November 17, 2014

Nihal Chowdhury - Gender and neglecting the monstrous feminine within Dracula and how viewers perceive it

Gender plays a key role in understanding the dynamics of horror films such as Dracula. Most films portray the social gender norms of the time the film was made or when the script was written. Dracula was written in 1897 so naturally it portrays a male dominant Victorian society where women had only two options: be a model of purity by staying a virgin or get married and become ideal wives and mothers. So as women’s roles in horror movies were ones of the victims. They were portrayed as vulnerable objects, being attacked by the antagonist, usually a male. As the story progressed, they would eventually get rescued by the protagonist, who also happens to be the a male. In this time and era, women were hardly given important roles in movies with their own narrative. When they were given such roles, they would either be embodied as the perfect damsel in distress, or the ideal wife and mother. Her story would revolve around that of her male counterparts’.

“Dracula” however, does include three female antagonists: the three vampire sisters. Even though these three characters had all the qualities of a typical antagonist, their characters did not hold much weight. They were portrayals of what a typical Victorian woman should not be. Their voluptuous physiques and sexual aggression sexualized their characters, thus making their beauty a promise of sexual fulfillment. This correlates to Barbara Creed’s work when she mentions that stereotypically the female monsters are defined in terms of their sexuality. (Barbara, page 3) We completely overlook the fact that these 3 vampires are just as frightening and dangerous and we only remember them by their sexuality.

Furthermore Gerard Lenne said “ women in horror film, is fairly typical of those who find the very idea of a female monster offensive to their rather quint, but deeply sexist, notions of rivalry.” Lenne’s arguments is legit when applied to Dracula. The sisters victimizing Harker is symbolic of a threat to the male dominant society. This also compromised a man’s ability to reason and stay in control. For this reason the sexually aggressive women in this novel were destroyed.

It’s not just the filmmakers or authors that give women these minor roles. The audience also perceives these characters in terms of our societal norms. After watching Dracula if you would’ve asked anyone who was the most dangerous character I would’ve said Count Dracula. All they would’ve remembered of the 3 sisters were that how they looked and what they did to Harker. Also people would’ve thought Harker was less of a man since he got victimized by 3 women. The power of the idea of a male dominant society is overwhelming. That’s why we find it very hard to accept women in any roles other than the ones of wives, lovers, sisters and of mothers. I believe horror movies can explore into new horizons if they kept an open mind about the idea of aggressive and scary female characters. It is important to realize however, that our society has come a long way since the making of Dracula. Today there are horror movies with female antagonists, putting females in power and giving them control. In my personal opinion Emily Rose was much scarier of a character than Count Dracuala.


• "Watch Dracula Online Free Putlocker | Putlocker - Watch Movies Online Free." Watch Dracula Online Free Putlocker | Putlocker - Watch Movies Online Free. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2014

• Creed, Barbara. The monstrous-feminine: Film; Feminism, Psychoanalysis. London: Routledge, 1992. Print

Peter Ogunwale - Blog #4 - Theory

Steven Schneider’s “Monsters as Uncanny Metaphors” talks about the monsters in horror films and aims to explain why these characters are capable of evoking strong emotions from audiences. Horror movie viewers can be truly appalled and petrified by these monster they see on screen, while knowing fully well that these monster are purely fictional. This phenomenon whereby horror movies can stimulate strong emotional responses from the audience can be clearly observed in a movie like “Funny Games” directed by Michael Haneke. This was achieved through the use of concepts like the return of the repressed and the reconfirmation of the surmounted.

In “Funny Games,” a family of three gets attacked by two men with golf clubs. The idea of two men with two golf clubs is not something one would normally consider to be utterly terrifying in any way. It is the mannerism of these serial killers breaking the fourth wall and the level of realism they had, is what made this movie horrifying. Even though some of the violence in this film is done off screen, this shows that films can still be horrifying without an absurd level of gore.

Robin Wood’s “American Nightmare” touches upon the ideas of the return of the repressed and how they are usually expressed in horror movies. Schneider explains that most audiences are truly horrified mainly because of their own repressed thoughts and ideas formed during early childhood that have long been abandoned. Schneider states that horror movies truly shocks the viewers because of the following reasons “(1) paradigmatic horror narratives work by reconfirming for audiences infantile beliefs that were abandoned long ago...(2) Horror films are best understood as metaphorical embodiments of such narratives... (3) These metaphorical embodiments are conceptual not merely cinematographic... (4) Although the metaphorical nature of horror film monsters is psychologically necessary, their surface heterogeneity is historically and contingent”. (Schneider 169) Schneider is trying to illustrate that films like Funny Games play on this concept of the repressed, which is closely related to the idea of the uncanny. At a very young age, humans form ideas some of which can be terrifying to a child, but somewhere along on the path to maturity, the ideas get repressed and forgotten. Horror movies make the audiences revisit those suppressed thoughts and fears, which can give one the feeling of “uncanniness” (Schneider 168). Horror movies monsters are terrifying because they are “metaphorical embodiments” of these monsters. Although they’re on the screen, they are very real in the minds of the audience. For example, this makes it understandable for audiences to be emotionally disturbed as they watched Paul and Peter, the serial killers, while they continuously torture the innocuous family of three.

Monsters in films are modified as time changes in terms of technological advances and “the political, racial, religious and sexual dimensions of society” (Schneider 170) in a manner similar to gentrification (Altman 68), whereby genres are in a continuous process of cycle creation in order to attract movie goers. Over the past few decades, there has been a lot of changes in the horror genre like multiple rendition of the same monsters, that audiences have gotten used to and can no longer evoke strong emotional reactions. This is where movies like “Funny Games” come in. “Funny Games” was horrifying because of its simplicity and realism which relates closely to the uncanny. Peter and Paul are monsters in their own right but they also vary drastically when compared to other monsters in films like Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Cabin in the Woods. The entrance of the serial killers into the home of the victims contributes greatly to the emotional reactions that are generated by the audience as it was very naturalistic and the fact that it could happen to anyone made it much more horrifying. Anyone watching Bram Stoker’s Dracula can still have some level of emotional response, but the movie is about a vampire, a fictional creature. This is weak compared to the possibility of a next door neighbor intruding and attacking one’s family as it is a much more terrifying thought and therefore evokes a stronger emotional reaction. Peter and Paul are “the reconfirmation of other surmounted” (Schneider 172 ), Freud’s second class of uncanny is sometimes described as feeling alien and familiar at the same time. The uncanny gives one the feeling of its familiarity, as it was conceived during childhood, but the depicted reality of these thoughts on screen gives us the unmistakable feeling of its strangeness as it has forgotten for a very long time.

Most, if not all horror films play on the concepts of “returned of the repressed” and “the reconfirmation of the surmounted”, as both classes are under the idea of uncanniness. The artistic representation of these repressed thoughts and ideas on screen make the horror genre very effective as a medium for its audience to express and experience their social-cultural fears in a relatively safe manner. The repressed returning in horror movies and the reconfirmation of the surmounted is what makes the horror genre great. Audiences experiencing the concept of the uncanny always have strong emotional responses regardless of whether the events they are witnessing are fictional or real.

Works Cited

Altman, Rick. “”Genrification.” Film/Genre. British Film Institute, May 1, 1999. 62-68. Print

Schneider, Steven. “Monster as (uncanny) metaphors: Freud, Lakeoff, and the representation of Monstrosity in Cinematic Horror” New York: Limelight Editions, 2000. 167-191. Print.

Wood, Robin. "The American Nightmare: Horror in the 70s" (1979): 25-32. Print.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Male Gaze and Representation of Woman

Male Gaze and Representation of Woman

         Eye, symbol of honesty in many cultures, is a gate that accurately expresses inner feelings and purely reveals emotions. More importantly it is a representation of the person and has the power to influence through look or gaze; even without an eloquent speech the message is delivered effectively. Adam Keen argues, “ The eye itself is particularly privileged, figured as a site of both potential victimization and violation”(218). Because of these features, eye (more in form of look and gaze) has been persistently one of the important elements in horror genre, which helps audiences to identify with particular characters and get involve in the plot. According to Carol Clover discussion of eye and look there are two kinds of gazes in the horror movie: an “assaultive gaze”, the faulty and hidden gaze that mainly identifies with active presumably male killer (male gaze), and an “reactive gaze” which is reflection of being victimized and mainly associated with passive female (female gaze). The theory of Clover seems to correspond well with patriarchal, male powered bourgeois society, which attracts and incorporates male audiences’ point of view mainly. Although, trend in gaze has undergone some changes by empowerment of woman who appears as more masculine active protagonist, one concept remains the same, which is objectification of woman in horror genre. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) by Coppola well portrays the influence of gaze in representation of woman.

        “The killer is with few exceptions recognizably human and distinctly male; his fury is unmistakably sexual in both roots and expression; his victims are mostly women, often sexually free and always young and beautiful ones. “(Clover 77). Woman in horror always possess these features to satisfy male audiences with constant tendency to objectify woman. In Dracula, Coppola uses this objectification of woman to involve and entertain more audiences (presumably male and who identify with male gaze). However Coppola does excellent work in empowering woman under male gaze and portrays different representation of woman through Lucy and Mina.

Lucy is the beautiful, sexually attractive character who openly expresses curiosity towards sexual desires. She is initially empowered in the scene with the suitors where she flirts with suitors and is privileged to select her future husband among them. This figure of woman in society is not acceptable by the common male gaze. Therefore, male gaze that enjoys woman sexuality and simultaneously fears excessive sexuality, sees Lucy's sexuality problematic and punishes her. Under patriarchal industry, which values male satisfaction more, male gaze is retrieved again in the scene where Dracula rapes Lucy. This scene excellently involves both assaultive gaze, which identifies with male audiences (camera), and reactive gaze, which identifies with Mina who watches Lucy being raped.
         Although Lucy is punished for her empowerment and sexual representation, she is empowered again after converting into vampire. In monstrous presentation of Lucy, reactive gaze no longer incorporates victimization of passive feminine figure; instead it identifies more with men fear of being victimized. The scene between Jonathan and vampire brides is another scene that contributes to the change in assaultive and reactive gaze, which induces fear of victimization among male audiences who identify themselves with Jonathan.
Coppola takes another step though Mina toward empowering woman in horror. In the scenes between Dracula and Mina, Mina is no longer the passive figure of female in horror but she is the possessor of assaultive gaze in term of voyeurism. Mina finds herself attracted to Dracula, volunteers to become vampire, chose to stay besides Dracula and depicts platonic love by killing Dracula and releasing him from painful immortal life.

Work Cited

Knee, Adam. "Gender, Genre, Argento." The Dread of Difference: Gender and the Horror Film (1996): 213-30. 

Clover, Carol J. "Her Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film." JSTOR. JSTOR, 08 May 2010. Web. 13 Nov. 2014.

Blog Post #4 - The Other in the Funny Games

The Other in the Funny Games
Yoo Hyung Justina Lee

The movie Funny Game (1997) directed by Michael Haneke is a kind of horror film which makes the audiences uncomfortable not by showing gored visual effects, but by drawing the audiences into the direct crime scene. For most of the years, the reason people enjoyed horror films was that the spectators can detach themselves from the monsters that appear in the movie. Watching the monsters’ villainous performances, the viewers feel relief in either thinking that they are not as evil as the monster, or thinking that this is fictional situation happening only in the movie, not in reality. Funny Games, in this sense, goes into deeper horror from other movies since the direct address and questioning to the audience forces the viewers to be at the exact moment with the psychopaths impotently.
What makes the monsters horrifying? It is the ‘otherness’ which clearly draws line from normal me and abnormal subject. According to Robin Woods, the ‘otherness’ can be defined various ways in the horror films and it “functions not simply as something external to the culture or to the self, but also as what is repressed (though never destroyed) in the self and projected outward in order to be hated and disowned” (Wood 27) Not only alienated from conventional norm of being normal, the scariness is something hidden inside which is later expressed in a distorted way.
Speaking of repressed, there is an interesting connection between the white costume and repressed, in Korean perspective. Koreans are known as the white-clad people. Under 36 years of colonization of Japan, Korean people were forced to wear white clothes with no decorations or colors for the most of the times. Even after the independence, still the pure white clothes represent the harsh times of suffer or repression. In Korean perspective, pure white clothes of the two psychopaths are the repressed, especially in this case, who have a strong anger to explode at any moment.
If the movie follows the traditional horror movie rule,’ the other’ should be these repressed psychopaths who symbol rebellions opposed to the white-bourgeoisie family. The audiences then should rather enjoy the movie, relieving from the fact that the otherness only exists in the movie, which cannot harm them outside the screen. However, the constant questioning and the direct address straight from the screen confine the audience in the situation together with the victims, which breaks the fourth wall and makes them to choose the side of either with the psychopaths or the family. The question from the psychopath rushes the spectators to choose the side. Whichever choice the audience makes, it will lead to uncomfortableness for them. If they choose to side with the psychopaths, it means that they are for the other, which ironically does not make them the other anymore. If they choose to side with the family, it is still uncomfortable, since the viewers already know that the family will lose the bet and not survive for the entire movie. It is hard to watch the family getting tortured, as well as to support the psychopaths to win the bet since they are villains without good reasons. .

The monsters in this movie are depicted the repressed of the society who are ready to rebel or torture those who oppose to them. However, Funny Game does not simply show the monsters, but takes a step forward and brings the spectators into the movie and be involved in the situation. The audiences are forced to sympathize within the characters and think about how these repressed can be applied in reality, which truly makes them not only uncomfortable, also horrified.

Work Cited
Wood, Robin. "The American Nightmare: Horror in the 70s". (1979): 25-32. Print.

Blog #4 - Theory

Blog Post #4 – Theory
Gender in the Horror Film

             The word ‘gender’ refers to the fact which a person is male or female. In the horror film, gender has an important role and it also reflects how society has been thinking about gender. From the past, men have had an important role and took the most part of the society. Since women have been considered weak physically and socially, women have been the victims of crime.
Women took a similar position in the horror films as well. The killer was distinctively male and his victims were mostly women, often “sexually free and always young and beautiful ones.” (Clover 77) For example, in Psycho, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is a victim who is killed in the Bates Motel. She tries to stay a day in the motel, but she is killed without any reason. Then, Wendy Torrance (Shelley Duvall) is a weak woman who is subordinate to her husband, Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson). Jack is an authoritative leader in the family and he has an absolute power. On the other hand, Wendy has not much power but obeys her husband. Thus, women have been usually victims in the horror films. Also, there are some movies that are filmed without any actress. For instance, a woman is absent in The Thing and there are only men in the team.
However, women started to be the main character, not a victim in the horror film. In Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) becomes the “Final Girl” in the film. Five friends visit the grandfather’s house in the country and they are terrorized and hunted by a chain-saw wielding and his family. Even though there are three men and two women, everyone except Sally is killed by the killer. People could think and anticipate all women would be killed, but a brave woman, Sally, escapes from the house finally. So, she becomes the “Final Girl” in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. “The gender of the Final Girl is likewise compromised from the outset by her masculine interests, her apartness from other girls, sometimes her name.” (Clover 80) The movie was released in 1974 and this time period was the origin of the Final Girl.
Top 10 best Final Girls in horror movies
Also, there is a theory called ‘monstrous feminine’ which refers to a female who is like a monster. There are five faces of the castrating woman in horror which are archaic mother, possessed monster, vampire, witch, and monstrous womb. Then, monstrous womb is depicted through scenes of alien or monstrous births and the movie The Brood can exemplify monstrous womb. In the film, Nola Carveth (Samantha Eggar) gives birth to child through an external womb. Nola is a mentally disturbed woman who has a monstrous ability. Although there had been only male monsters such as the “Monster” in Bride of Frankenstein, there is a female monster as well in the present.
Hence, although men take most important positions in the society, a role of women becomes more important and the importance of woman in the horror film increases.

Works Cited
Carol J. Clover. “Her Body , Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film.” No.20 (1987)

Horror Films And The Uncanny

An important feature of cultural resistance and alternative identity stems back to the Freud’s concept of “the uncanny.” Basically, Freud conceptualizes that the things we find the most terrifying appear that way because they once seemed familiar. Freud described his theory of the uncanny as ‘arouses dread and horror…certain things which lie within the class of what is frightening.’ Steven Schneider says “defining uncanniness in terms of horror obviously precludes us from defining uncanniness, on pain of circularity” (Schneider, 168). 

Schneider seeks ‘Independent reasons’ for psychoanalysis that explains efficacy of horror to justify the nature of horror film monsters by using Freud’s theory of uncanny (168). For those independent reasons, horror films serve various psychological functions in a society. Horror can work as fantasy or comedy. It promotes emotional catharsis in audiences and, sometimes, suggests them an escape from their boring life. It also provides a safe forum for the expression of socio-cultural fears. 

Freud capitulates the plausibility of German psychologist, Ernst Jentsch, who argues that the essential factor responsible for the production of uncanny feeling is uncertainty, doubts, and confusions in unfamiliar environment; “the more we feel at home in our surroundings, the less you are to feel frightened there” (169). On the other hand, Freud asserts uncertainty may not be a necessary condition for uncanny feelings. He refutes, “what is uncanny is frightening precisely because it is not known and familiar” (169). He points out that the uncanny is not alien or nothing unfamiliar but something old-established in one’s mind and which has become “alienated from it” through the process of repression. Freud also identifies repressed infantile wishes as the sole source of uncanny feelings. He argues that:
the return of the repressed constitutes only one class of the uncanny phenomena… the second class of the uncanny [is] constituted by surmounted beliefs that gain some measure of validation in either experienced or depicted reality (172).  

In ‘The Thing’ directed by John Carpenter in 1982, a monster sneaks in the base camp of scientist and destroys them. The monster exists in various forms as it reproduces into the exact same figure of its host. The characters are not able to recognize if his friend, who looks normal and familiar, is infected or not until the monster eventually exposes its creepy features by killing the host. This horrifies the audience as the monster shows the corrupt appearance from the character’s familiar feature. This particular ingenious and shrewd characteristic of the monster makes anxious tension among friends as it breaks their friendship and trust in the film. This causes the characters to distrust and doubt each other. The thing implies that anyone, even a close friend, can always become the monster that harms others. ‘The thing’ is one of the great examples of uncanny monsters, as a person looks familiar with no difference within some time after infection, but there always is a moment when the infected one is finally revealed.

Work Cited

Schneider, Steven. "Monsters as (Uncanny) Metaphors: Freud, Lakoff, and the Representation of Monstrosity in Cinematic Horror." Horror Film Reader. Alain Silver & James Ursini, eds. Limelight Editions, 2000.