Sunday, September 7, 2014

Rieser's "Masculinity and Monstrosity"

At this point I'm fairly certain that I will be writing about fatherhood in horror/slasher films. What exactly I have to say about it, I'm not yet sure. Still, settling on this topic has allowed me to start looking for sources, and I've found quite a lot so far.

"Masculinity and Monstrosity: Characterization and Identification in the Slasher Film" 
by Klaus Rieser
This ended up being a very good article to start with since Rieser summarizes the views of a few other theorists, Linda Williams, Barbara Creed, and Carol Clover, and then expands upon (and primarily disagrees) with them. It is important to note that Rieser uses Clover's definition of slasher films as more modern, specifically "post-Psycho," and separate from the mainstream. Each of these the three theorists respond to Laura Mulvey's theory of voyeurism and active male gaze/passive female receiver of the gaze, applying this to the genre of horror films. Williams suggests that woman and monster are similar because their power is derived from a threat to men. Creed sees the maternal figure as the most horrific element in horror films, but men usually defeat the evil thereby restoring the patriarchy. In response to Mulvey, she also notes horror as a cinema of scopophilic displeasure, in that it's gore makes the viewer want to look away. Clover's thesis surrounds the archetypal "Final Girl;" the last one standing left to kill the monster. She suggests that slasher films do not equate male/female with masculine/feminine, as Mulvey does. The killer or monster, usually biologically male, represents a non-normative masculinity, while the Final Girl is more masculine (heroic) or androgynous. Viewer identification shifts from the attacker to the attacked, and by the end viewers are left with no one but the Final Girl to identify with.

The beginning of this article was very useful in providing me with three other theorists to look into. I've already popped over to the library to grab Carol Clover's book "Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film."

After explaining the positions of these three theorists, Rieser goes on to disagree with their shared agreement that gender and identification in slasher films functions differently from mainstream Hollywood, saying that these films do, in fact, support the "hegemonic mold." However, the basis of his argument comes from the assumption that (presumably heterosexual) adolescent males are the primary viewers of these films. Whether or not this is true (he provides no statistical evidence), Rieser also does not provide any suggestion of how these films function differently for any other viewers. Still, there are several points that Rieser makes that may become relevant for my paper.

Rieser mentions the Final Girl's use of phallic weaponry, often reluctantly, to combat a monster that threatens hegemony. She is stuck into the male mold of a hero, rather than a heroine. One of Rieser's more interesting arguments in regards to fatherhood is that the Final Girl's fluidity of gender is not between feminine/masculine but between girl/woman, in which in Rieser's terms woman is almost synonymous with motherhood. She exhibits motherly instincts in the way she protects herself. (This is interesting in that fatherhood cannot be fully discussed without the concept of motherhood. Perhaps in the Final Girl is maternal, the monster is paternal? How does this fit in with  Rieser's conept of the monster as non-normative masculine?) Rieser also mentions the "uncanny closeness" of the monster and the Final Girl; how they will always manage to find each other.

I think that exploring this relationship between the Final Girl (as mother? or perhaps daughter?) and the monster (as father?) will be useful as I move forward in discovering my thesis.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a good start. Interested to see where it goes.