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Copyright © Kitley's Krypt
2013 RONDO AWARD
"Probably no male human
being is spared the terrifying shock
Sigmund Freud - 1927
What is "Psycho-Babble"? Besides the above quote, it's what I call some of the crap that I hear from these educated experts who reveal the 'real' meanings behind movies. When I read such nonsense, I am amazed that not only did someone actually come up with these ideas, but somebody also paid them to publish it!
Yes, I know that their are directors that have subtext and hidden meanings in their movies. But I don't think it's exactly what some of these people think.
I will list below different ones that I come across. Read them and see what you think. Am I the crazy one here? Also, if you come across any that you think should belong here, please send it along to me, along with the author's name and name of the book or article where you found it and I'll post it here.
If this is your first visit here, start at the bottom and work your way up. Otherwise, just check near the top for new entries.
This is taken from Joe Bob Brigg's book Profoundly Disturbing. He is talking about the film CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON.
"It doesn’t take a master psychologist to see how a pubescent boy, struggling with feelings of being ugly, unloved, and half-formed, would not only identify with the creature (who has acne-like protuberances on his face) but imagine a girl just like Julia Adams, who would finally come to rescue him from the lonely black lagoon called his room."
These two entertaining tidbits are taken from "Burying the Undead: The Use and Obsolescence of Count Dracula" by Robin Wood.
"Dracula's attraction to blood, although generally focused on women, crosses the boundary of gender: when Stoker's Jonathan cuts himself shaving, Dracula wants to "suck" him. This homosexual element is played up strongly in Murnau's film - not surprising, giving the director's homosexuality - in Dracula's nocturnal visit to Jonathan's bedchamber."
"It should be added that the novel symbolically enacts in its 'good' characters, under cover of the most admirable intentions, something of the 'forbidden' that Dracula represents: after Lucy has been sucked by the vampire, all three of her suitors, and later Van Helsing himself, give their blood to her in transfusions. Not only can this be read in terms of all three (or four) men 'having' her, it also realizes the novel's suppressed but quite insistent homosexuality, the men mingling their blood with each other's."
This is also from the same essay as below, "Film Bodies: Gender, Genre, and Excess" by Linda Williams. Again, thanks goes out to our East-Coast correspondent, Will.
"In horror films, while feminists have often pointed to the woman victims who
suffer simulated torture and mutilation as victims of sadism (Williams, 1983),
more recent feminist work has suggested that the horror film may present an
interesting, and perhaps instructive, case of oscillation between masochistic
and sadistic poles. This more recent argument, advanced by Carol J. Clover, has
suggested that pleasure, for a masculine-identified viewer, oscillates between
identifying with the initial passive powerlessness of the abject and terrorized
girl-victim of horror and her later, active empowerment (Clover, 1987).
Our buddy Will scores again with this quote from an essay entitled "Film Bodies: Gender, Genre, and Excess" by Linda Williams. I've read it three times and I'm still not sure what the hell she's talking about.
"Some of the most violent and terrifying moments of the horror film genre occur in moments when the female victim meets the psycho-killer-monster unexpectedly, before she is ready. The female victims who are not ready for the attack die. This surprise encounter, too early, often takes place at a moment of sexual anticipation when the female victim thinks she is about to meet her boyfriend or lover. The monster's violent attack on the female victims vividly enacts a symbolic castration which often functions as a kind of punishment for an ill-time exhibition of sexual desire. These victims are taken by surprise in the violent attacks which are then deeply felt by spectators (especially the adolescent male spectators drawn to the slasher subgenre) as linked to the knowledge of sexual difference. Again the key to the fantasy is timing - the way the knowledge of sexual difference too suddenly overtakes both characters and viewers, offering a knowledge for which we are never prepared."
This one was sent in by our good friend Will. It's taken from a book on John Carpenter called ORDER IN THE UNIVERSE by Robert C. Cumbow. In the chapter discussing ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 in relation to a Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, here what he had to say:
"In the film, the reanimation of the unburied dead into flesh-eating zombies is attributed to radiation released by a satellite that is exploded as it returns from a space mission. But the attacks that begin when Johnny teases his sister Barbra in a rural Pennsylvania cemetery serve as a handy correlate for a sexual relationship desired by both siblings but blocked by the incest taboo. This perspective becomes all the more compelling in light of the fact that, at the film's psychosexual climax, the traumatized Barbra is carried off by her zombified brother, while in the basement a reanimated child kills and eats her own parents."
This is also taken from the same book, except this time he's talking about the Carpenter's CHRISTINE.
"Christine is the embodiment of evil from the moment she rolls off the assembly line. The film opens as an engine bursts to life and idles through the main credits. All we see is the "V" on Christine's grill - an image that will persist throughout the film, linking "Victory" with a suggestion of the female genitalia as Christine is seen as passionate lover, treacherous dominatrix and, finally, all-powerful witch."
One thing that confuses me about these essays and insights, is that they seem to be able to read all of these hidden meanings, but yet miss the simplest things. In the essay HER BODY, HIMSELF: GENDER IN THE SLASHER FILM, Carol J. Clover discusses THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE films. It says:
"Chop Top in TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE Part 2, is so called because of a metal plate implanted in his skull in repair of a head wound sustained in the truck accident in the earlier film."
Now it doesn't take a college graduate to know that Chop Top is not the Hitchhiker from the first movie. If we remember correctly, the hitchhiker was run over by a semi at the end of the first film. The Hitchhiker is in the sequel, but as a stuffed human puppet. It is completely two different characters. Now how can we listen to someone's discussion of real meanings of a films, when they can't even catch simple plot points?
If that's not enough, here's two other examples of where Clover doesn't seem to know what really is happening in the movie being watched.
In the Cronenberg film VIDEODROME, Clover writes that the
main character Max Renn is "a producer of hardcore
pornography." Sorry, but Renn runs a cable TV network, and is
looking for something new and edgy to put on his station. He does not
produce any movies, let along hardcore porn.
According to author David J. Skal, in his book THE MONSTER SHOW, this is one of the real meanings behind the original version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.
“The famous scene in which actress Mary Philbin rips the mask from Erik’s face as he pumps his subterranean organ is an assault on the audience verging on visual rape. Erik’s bulging bald head and stiff carriage give him the aspect of a ruined penis that can no longer seduce, only repulse the beloved.”
Here's some more of Skal's work. This is taken from his book V IS FOR VAMPIRE: THE A-Z GUIDE TO EVERYTHING UNDEAD. Here's the description he has for a couple of words.
"Stake, Wooden - The classic instrument for destroying vampires is a stake, usually driven through the heart. On a literal level, the stake is a physical means of pinning the vampire to its grave; on a more metaphorical plane, the stake is an unmistakable phallic symbol which makes clear the displaced, transformed sexuality of vampire beliefs in general. The vampire, in other words, is a kind of symbolic sex itch that can be destroyed / dispelled by a symbolic act of sexual penetration. If you're having trouble with this kind of analysis, the next time you read Dracula, try thinking of the band of vampire-killers as a Mad Hatter's party of dangerously hysterical Victorian men, stalking their virginal prey with croquet mallets and sharpened dildos, and see if that doesn't make things a tad more transparent."
"Castration - On the surface, castration would seem to have little to do with vampires, but the links, once explained, are more reasonable than you might think. The argument goes like this: in the absence of functional genitalia, the vampire's sexual energy is displaced in fantasy to an earlier, oral stage of erotic feeling - the vision of the vampire's piercing, erectile fangs thus represent a dreamlike eruption of a deflected sexuality. The ambiguous vampire mouth - soft yet hard, simultaneously engulfing yet penetrating - is a surpassing evocation of the oldest castration symbol of all, the vagina dentata."
From her essay Horror and the Monstrous-Feminine: An Imaginary Abjection by Barbara Creed:
"First, the archaic mother-constructed as a negative force - is represented in her phantasmagoric aspects in many horror texts, particularly the science fiction horror film. We see her as the gaping, cannibalistic bird's mouth in THE GIANT CLAW (1957); the terrifying spider of THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1957); the toothed vagina / womb of JAWS (1975); and the fleshy, pulsating womb of THE THING (1981) and POLTERGEIST (1982). What is the common to all these images of horror is the voracious maw, the mysterious black hole that signifies the female genitalia as a monstrous sign threatening to give birth to equally horrific offspring as well as threatening to incorporate everything in its path."
From her same essay , Creed gives insight to horror films, especially the slasher films:
"The horror film's obsession with blood, particularly the bleeding body of woman, where her body is transformed into the 'gaping wound,' suggests that castration anxiety is a central concern of the horror film - particularly the slasher subgenre. Woman's body is slashed and mutilated, not only to signify her own castrated state, but also the possibility of castration for the male. In the guise of a "madman" he enacts on her body the one act he most fears for himself, transforming her entire body into a bleeding wound."
Originally from "Monster Movies and Rites of Initiation" by Walter Evans, published in Journal of Popular Film 4 (1975), this was republished in a book of essays called THE DREAD OF DIFFERENCE: GENDER AND THE HORROR FILM, edited by Barry Keith Grant. In the book, it reads:
"Walter Evans, for example, interprets the classic monsters of the Universal films of the 1930's as addressing issues of sexual identity in ways that are 'uniquely tailored to the psyches of troubled adolescents', particularly in their coded concerns with the 'rites of initiation' involving puberty - masturbation and menstruation"
Also in this book is another reference to James Twitchell's DREADFUL PLEASURES: AN ANATOMY OF MODERN HORROR (1985):
"James Twitchell, similarly, sees horror as a ritualistic form that serves to conduct the viewer through the passage from adolescent onanism (editor's note: means self gratification - I even had to look that one up) to mature reproductive sexuality."