Thursday, September 11, 2014

Shor's "Father Knows Beast"

"Father Knows Beast: Patriarchal Rage and the Horror of Personality Film"
By Francis Shor
This is one of the first sources I found, and it's turned out to be very useful. (Also gotta love that title). It discusses a sub-genre of horror, the "horror of personality" film, which "explores the social and psychological conditions of regressive behavior." In particular, Shor uses the examples of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (which I have seen) and Brian DePalma's Raising Cain (which I have not, though I plan to), both films in which the "monster" is a father figure who has been led to psychological distress. Shor seeks to find the relationship between American society and the patriarchal rage in horror films.

In The Shining, Jack, haunted by the ghosts at the Overlook Hotel as well as by his own failure, turns his anger on his wife on son. Jack's violence against them, Shor suggests, is his attempt to redeem his paternal privileges. We also see in the film that Jack has hurt his son in the past. Jack sees his family as obstacles to his success, and yet they are necessary for him to be successful in his role as father. Shor explains this conflict as a result of the "consequences of a narcissistic wounding and ontological despair confronting masculinity in America….there is also the intimation that the reciprocal relationships, which human beings must engage in and which engender empathy, require a sense of equality, respect, and openness foreign to patriarchy.”

Raising Cain focuses on the multiple personalities of Carter Nix, including Cain, who performs experiments on his own child as well as others he kidnaps. Shor suggests these experiments are a result of Cain's desire to maintain patriarchal control. Cain is triggered by Carter's repressed fears, representing the "patriarchal past." Carter ends up rescuing his child through his persona Margo, a maternal figure (one of several connections Shor points out between Raising Cain and Psycho). Shor raises the question, though, of which of his personalities is triumphant in the film.

Shor notes a lack of resolution of the charater's patriarchal rage in both films. While Raising Cain offers the possibility of a post-patriarchal future, it does not seem to support it. Shor also brings up both films as being post-Vietnam and in an era of right-wing politics, placing them in a certain historical context for masculinity in America and even equating Carter Nix with Richard Nixon.

This article is very much relevant to the concepts of fatherhood and patriarchy in Repo. Based on the brief plot overview in this article, Raising Cain may be a great film to use in comparison, since both films focus on a man who is both father and monster, but not always both at once. They are two separate sides of the same person; conflicting roles they fill. However, I don't want to just repeat what Shor says about Raising Cain. I think from here I need to spend some time looking into theories of fatherhood and monstrosity separately, and then see how they play together in horror films more generally.

No comments:

Post a Comment