Queer Horror Film and Television
eBook - ePub

Queer Horror Film and Television

Sexuality and Masculinity at the Margins

Darren Elliott-Smith

  1. 272 pagine
  2. English
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eBook - ePub

Queer Horror Film and Television

Sexuality and Masculinity at the Margins

Darren Elliott-Smith

Dettagli del libro
Anteprima del libro
Indice dei contenuti
Citazioni

Informazioni sul libro

In recent years, the representation of alternative sexuality in the horror film and television has "outed" itself from the shadows from which it once lurked, via the embrace of an outrageously queer horror aesthetic where homosexuality is often unequivocally referenced. In this book, Darren Elliott-Smith departs from the analysis of the monster as a symbol of heterosexual anxiety and fear, and moves to focus instead on queer fears and anxieties within gay male subcultures. Furthermore, he examines the works of significant queer horror film, television producers, and directors to reveal gay men's anxieties about: acceptance and assimilation into Western culture, the perpetuation of self-loathing and gay shame, and further anxieties associations shameful femininity. This book focuses mainly on representations of masculinity, and gay male spectatorship in queer horror films and television post-2000. In titling this sub-genre "queer horror, " Elliott-Smith designates horror that is crafted by male directors/producers who self-identify as gay, bi, queer, or transgendered and whose work features homoerotic, or explicitly homosexual, narratives with "out" gay characters. In terms of case studies, this book considers a variety of genres and forms from: video art horror; independently distributed exploitation films (A Far Cry from Home, Rowe Kelly, 2012); queer Gothic soap operas (Dante's Cove, 2005-7); satirical horror comedies (such as The Gay Bed and Breakfast of Terror (Thompson, 2008); low-budget slashers (Hellbent, Etheredge-Outzs, 2007); and contemporary representations of gay zombies in film and television from the pornographic LA Zombie (Bruce LaBruce, 2010)) to the melodramatic In the Flesh (BBC Three 2013-15). Moving from the margins to the mainstream, via the application of psychoanalytic theory, critical and cultural interpretation, interviews with key directors and close readings of classic, cult and modern horror, this book will be invaluable to students and researchers of gender and sexuality in horror film and television.

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Informazioni

Anno
2016
ISBN
9781786721372
1
‘Queering Carrie’: Appropriations of a Horror Icon
As an inspiration for charting the emergent trends in queer horror film and television, Carrie (1976) seems an atypical choice. Yet the cult of Carrie, from its origins in Stephen King’s novel (1974) through to De Palma’s initial cinematic interpretation, has accumulated a wealth of queer appropriations in both cinema and the theatre. Given Carrie’s simultaneous status as both victim and monster, alongside the narrative concerning her burgeoning sexuality and attraction to boys, she is situated as a powerful figure of identification for gay male spectators. However, I would argue that the gay male subject’s understandable empathy with the horror genre’s paradoxical passive/aggressive ingénue masks a wealth of unease and anxiety that ultimately longs for her death.
I want to build on Carrie’s current reception (prior to the release of queer- director Kimberly Pierce’s 2013 film remake, which has been considered by Gary Bettinson) as a film that is enjoyed retrospectively.1 Its spectatorial pleasure is derived from: its excessive style and form, its prom-based narrative, the film’s canonical history and cultish influence, its ironic incorporation into queer and mainstream culture as a seventies-based ‘guilty pleasure’, and its extra-cinematic (and intra-cinematic) life post-De Palma, across varied cinematic and theatrical homage and adaptations of various queer involvement. The cultural reception of Carrie as a re-viewed text from a contemporary perspective perhaps differs considerably from the original audience and critical responses to De Palma’s stylistically excessive and reputedly misogynistic film. Queer interpretations of Carrie read the source text as a malleable, satirical, critically acclaimed and now seminal work with a fragmentary template that invites ironic reading, re-assemblage and reinterpretation.
Why Carrie? What is it about this specific horror text that holds such strong appeal for the gay male spectator and for artists and performers who have assimilated it into queer culture? Carrie solicits cross-gender identification for the gay male spectator and does so via its basic coming-of-age narrative. The film can be read by gay male subjects allegorically as a variation on the ‘coming out’ tale, both sexually and socially, and revolves around the awkwardness of revealing one’s own sexuality to one’s parents (especially one’s mother). The film has also engendered a camp allure for the gay male spectator deriving mainly from its use of excess: in the overblown style and form of De Palma’s direction in terms of lighting, colour-coding, melodramatic use of music and score and in its exaggerated acting from the, largely female, cast. There is also a considerable empathetic appeal for gay men in identifying with the bullied Carrie (Sissy Spacek). The adolescent ridicule at the hands of her peers, in regard to ‘Creepy Carrie’s’ menstruation and her oppressive family background, can be transposed by the gay male spectator into memories of being marginalised because of his homosexuality. The gay male subject finds pleasure in identifying with Carrie in the recognition of feminine traits or desires seen in her character, particularly in her emerging attraction towards boys. The film also provides for multiple identifications with a cast of strong female characters including Mrs. White (Piper Laurie), Miss Collins (Betty Buckley), Carrie, Sue Snell (Amy Irving) and Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen).
These problematic structures of identification between gay male spectators (and fans of Carrie) and the film’s female characters provide the basis for a study of its appeal as a text with potential queer readings. Yet this strong pull of identification implies a similarity between femininity and gay male sexuality and, in a sense, also provides the main source of tension for gay men. This close proximity also produces a need for distance born out of the dominant ideology’s shameful association with the (equally constructed) negative connotations of femininity, which, in Carrie, are offered as monstrous.
Narratives Working Forwards: Carrie’s Mutable Origins
Although the appeal of Carrie for the gay male spectator centres upon Brian De Palma’s 1976 film version, Carrie as a cultural text does not originate with De Palma. This book considers the three main incarnations of Carrie that have been produced by three men: Stephen King, De Palma and, in chapter two, experimental filmmaker Charles Lum’s appropriation of De Palma’s film in Indelible (2004), each of whom place their own auteurist stamp upon it. In this chapter, it is necessary to chart the treatment of Carrie, from King as a highly successful writer in a popular genre largely read by male consumers, through to De Palma, a director with a controlling, voyeuristic, and cinematically referential style, and finally to the many queer appropriations of Carrie (theatrical and cinematic), to reveal why its narrative seems to invite parody and, in the most extreme sense, to invite the reader/spectator to review and reconstruct it. A brief structural analysis of the narrative’s origins in King’s novel will better inform an understanding of Carrie’s continued metamorphosis within popular culture.
The inherent mutability and availability for appropriation of Carrie lies in the fragmentary nature of Stephen King’s novel which is divided into three defined sections of narrative. PART ONE: Blood Sport2 sets up the story of Carrie White: her torment at the hands of her fellow classmates after her very public and first menstruation; an introduction to her religiously oppressive home life with mother Margaret; the subsequent punishment of the high school girls’ bullying by Ms. Desjardin, their P.E. teacher (renamed Miss Collins in De Palma’s film). PART TWO: Prom Night3 contains most of the book’s main narrative thrust: the rigging of the prom King and Queen voting; Carrie’s humiliation on stage in a shower of pig’s blood; and her furious telekinetic revenge upon the school, her classmates, the entire town and, finally, her mother. PART THREE: Wreckage4 mulls over the events in a largely formal presentation of quotations from Carrie’s death certificate, news reports and the graffiti on the Whites’ house in a brief conclusion which removes us from the first person narrative that provides much of the emotional identification with Carrie and Sue. This textual ‘wreckage’ is offered as evidence (albeit fictional) of the events that occurred on that prom night in Maine.
The narrative style that is so intense, brief and abrupt in PART THREE is not new to the reader at this point. King’s entire story is a kind of pseudo-epistolary5 novel made up of first and third person narrative, told from Carrie’s, Ms. Desjardin’s, Margaret White’s, Susan Snell’s, Chris Hargensen’s, and Billy Nolan’s (amongst others) points of view intermixed with various fictional extracts from journals, books and interviews which offer a sense of veracity to Carrie’s experience. King presents the narrative via extracts from fictional news items (from The Enterprise Weekly, The Lewiston Daily Sun, and reports from the All Points Bulletin Ticker Tape), dictionaries of psychic phenomena and other fictional autobiographical and investigative texts (The Shadow Exploded: Documented Facts and Specific Conclusions Derived from the Case of Carietta White by David Congress; Telekinesis: Analysis and Aftermath by Dean K. L. McGuffin; My Name is Susan Snell by Susan Snell) and via post-prom night police interviews and scientific papers.
King’s multi-perspective narrative fragments the events in Chamberlaine, Maine. Not only is the tale told from various characters’ disorienting and disjointed points of view, but it is presented to us via a variety of forms of explanation. The horror tale then becomes insidiously relentless. When the writing style changes to factual documentary and transcription the reader expects the horror to cease due to a change in genre. However, its presentation continues in a realistic style; therefore, it appears to ring true and the reader finds no relief. We could argue that from its literary origins to the inspired appropriations, Carrie makes its ‘telling’ a terrifying, multi-textual, cross-referential tale of horror and offers multiple sites of identification. King’s reliance on a bricolage of styles, including journalistic and documentary sources, lends verisimilitude to an otherwise fantastical tale. Carrie’s style references a literary history of such textual forms which stem from eighteenth and nineteenth century works.6
Returning to King’s narrative, the protagonist Carrie, having been showered with pig’s blood and humiliated at the prom, returns to enact revenge by setting fire to the school with everyone trapped inside. The perspective then shifts from Carrie’s first person inner monologue, to a third person narrative of the prom night’s horrific events from within the hall, to Susan Snell’s autobiographical first person account of events from within her family home as the school explodes. But then King sends us back, revisiting the pig’s blood shower again for the reader, but this time from a different character’s point of view:
She was already on her way to the closet to get her coat when the first dull, booming explosion shook the floor under her feet and made her mother’s china rattle in the cupboards.
From We Survived the Black Prom, by Norma Watson (Published in the August 1980 issue of The Reader’s Digest as a ‘Drama In the Real Life’ article):
…and it happened so quickly that no one really knew what was happening. We were all standing and applauding and singing the school song. Then – I was at the usher’s table just inside the main doors…
All at once there was a huge red splash in the air, some of it hit the mural in long drips. I knew right away before it hit them, that it was blood.7
The multi-narrative, multi-perspective, multi-generic style that King adopts is, for the most part, lost in De Palma’s retelling. His version of events is arguably told from his masculine, and therefore voyeuristic, view of how Carrie’s life and the events that surround her are played out. De Palma’s film takes into consideration the shifting perspective of narrative from Carrie, to Sue to Miss Collins, Chris and Billy Nolan. By allowing them scenes that do not involve Carrie, they forward the narrative themselves and provide for multiple point of view shots. However, King’s fragmentary and sudden shifts in perspective are not present in De Palma’s film. Fragmentation, shock and disorientation are presented to the spectator via audio-visual means alone.
De Palma makes use of subjective point of view shots, colour-filtered frames, split-screen techniques, highly stylised slow motion and extreme close-ups and high angle shots. His split-screen technique allows several objects to fill the screen. Carrie is allowed to return the gaze in the scenes of revenge at the prom night in the film’s denouement but, as a consequence, is fixed in an even tighter frame within a frame and becomes doubly objectified. The use of split-screen, rapidly paced editing and subjective framing offers the spectator a multiplicity of events, with each screen showing a different angle, a different series of actions or horrors, a different subjective point of view, and a different object of gaze. Yet, conversely, it also serves to contain the action.
Carrie as ‘Final Girl’ and the Heterosexual Presumption
Carol J. Clover (1992) notes that the themes and concerns of De Palma’s Carrie (as opposed to King’s novel’s) are decidedly ‘feminine’, referring to its dealings with menstruation, the mother-daughter relationship and a cast that is largely female. Given this, she questions to whom the film appeals concluding that, despite the film’s feminine themes and cast, its place within the horror genre awards it a largely male spectatorship. She goes on to discuss Stephen King’s explanation of his original narrative’s popularity:
‘Carrie’s revenge is something that any student who has ever had his gym shorts pulled down in Phys. Ed. or his glasses thumb-rubbed in study hall could approve of…’ Pulling gym shorts down and thumb-rubbing glasses are things that boys do to each other, not, by and large, things that girls do to each other or that boys do to girls. They are oblique sexual gestures, the one threatening sodomy or damage to the genitals or both – the other threatening damage to the eyes – a castration of sorts.8
Both King and Clover make reference to the film’s appeal to male spectators. Despite its female protagonists and feminine themes, the forms of humiliation noted by King open the film up to allow the male spectator a cross-gender identification with t...

Indice dei contenuti

  1. Cover
  2. Half Title
  3. Endorsement
  4. Series Information
  5. Title Page
  6. Copyright Page
  7. Contents
  8. List of Illustrations
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. Introduction
  11. 1 ‘Queering Carrie’: Appropriations of a Horror Icon
  12. 2 Indelible: Carrie and the Boyz
  13. 3 The Rise of Queer Fear: DeCoteau and Gaysploitation Horror
  14. 4 Shattering the Closet: Queer Horror Outs Itself
  15. 5 Gay Slasher Horror: Devil Daddies and Final Boys
  16. 6 Pride and Shame: Queer Horror Appropriation
  17. Off-Cuts and Conclusions
  18. Notes
  19. Selected Filmography