Gender and Contemporary Horror in Television 9781787691049, 9781787691032, 9781787691056

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Gender and Contemporary Horror in Television
 9781787691049, 9781787691032, 9781787691056

Table of contents :
Front Cover
Gender and Contemporary Horror in Television
Copyright Page
List of Contributors
Chapter 1 ‘She’s That Kind of a Woman’: Tracing the Gender and Sexual Politics of the Female Vampire via The Hunger and Ame...
1.1. Gender, Sexuality and the Female Vampire
1.2. Timely and Timeless: Miriam and The Countess
1.3. Mothers, Lovers and Transgressors of Limits: Female Vampires in Hotel
Chapter 2 ‘Is This a Chick Thing Now?’ The Feminism of Z Nation between Quality and Trash TV
2.1. ‘Quality’, ‘Trash’ and ‘Feminist’ TV Shows
2.2. Zombies as the Abject Other
2.3. ‘I’m not so sure humanity’s worth saving’ – Z Nation’s Narratology
2.4. ‘Is this a chick-thing now?’ – Z Nation’s Politics of Representation
2.5. Feminism for Whom: The Sisters of Mercy
2.6. The Zombie and the Post-human: Murphy, the Human–Zombie–Cyborg
2.7. Conclusion
Chapter 3 Weeping Angels: Doctor Who’s (De)Monstrous Feminine
3.1. Blink
3.2. The Time of Angels, and Flesh and Stone
3.3. The Angels Take Manhattan
3.4. Conclusion
Chapter 4 The Representation of Older Women in Twenty-first Century Horror: An Analysis of Characters Played by Jessica Lan...
4.1. Introduction
4.2. Perspectives on Ageing
4.2.1. American Horror Story
4.3. Constance Langdon
4.4. Sister Jude
4.5. Fiona Goode
4.6. Elsa Mars
4.7. Conclusion
Chapter 5 ‘She Was Not Like I Thought’: The Woman as a Strange Being in Masters of Horror
5.1. Introduction: Understanding Current Horror Genre on TV
5.2. Blaming Women: The Female Monster as a Scapegoat
5.3. Masters of Horror: Women as Sexual Predators
5.3.1. Jenifer
5.3.2. Deer Woman
5.4. Conclusions
Chapter 6 The Monster Within: Lily in Penny Dreadful
6.1. Lily’s Journey: ‘Who will you be?’
6.2. Victor Frankenstein: ‘Women should not exert themselves.’
6.3. Dorian Gray: ‘You are, I believe, more capable than perhaps you might appear.’
6.4. Journeys End: ‘It is too easy being monsters; let us try to be human.’
Chapter 7 Final Girls and Female Serial Killers: A Review of the Slasher Television Series from a Gender Perspective
7.1. From Slasher Films to Slasher TV Series
7.2. The Slasher Killer
7.3. The Victims of the Slasher
7.4. The Final Girl(s) and the Final Boy(s)
7.5. Conclusion
Chapter 8 ‘Is Hannibal in Love with Me?’ Gender Changes in the Television Series Hannibal
Chapter 9 ‘I’m Pissed Off, and I’m Angry, and We Need Your Permission to Kill Someone’: Frustrated Masculinities in Charlie...
Chapter 10 The Problematic Relationship with Sympathetic Vampires in the TV series The Vampire Diaries
10.1. Introduction
10.2. Sympathetic/Antipathetic Strategies and Convergent/Divergent Relationship Arcs
10.3. Monstrosity/Humanity Continuum: Fluctuating Patterns of Sympathy/Antipathy
10.4. Conclusion
Chapter 11 So Many Chick Flick Moments: Dean Winchester’s Centrifugal Evolution
11.1. Supernatural as a Masculine Response to Buffy’s Female Focus
11.2. Genre and Gender in Buffy
11.3. From Stereotype to Complexity: Centrifugal Evolution
11.4. Warrior Handmaiden
11.5. Emotional Expression
11.6. The Body on Display
11.7. Responsive to Cultural Movements Regarding Gender Roles
11.8. Social Class and Race
11.9. Conclusion
Chapter 12 Depictions of Gender, Homes and Families in the TV Version of The Exorcist
12.1. Introduction
12.2. Homes
12.3. Power and Workplace
12.4. Families
12.5. Domestic Violence
12.6. Conclusion
Chapter 13 How iZombie Rethinks the Zombie Paradigm
Chapter 14 Damaged Survivors in The Walking Dead. Gender and the Narrative Arcs of Carol and Daryl as Protectors and Nurturers
14.1. Gendered Experiences
14.2. The Ordinary World
14.3. The Hero’s Transformation through Pain
14.4. Overcoming Flaws, becoming Protectors
14.5. Rebirth and Transformation
14.6. Transformation after Rebirth
14.7. Second Transformations and the Guilt of the Hero
14.8. Conclusion
Chapter 15 ‘Some Normal, Apple-pie Life’: Gendering Home in Supernatural
15.1. ‘I Can Never Go Home’
15.2. ‘Never, In Fact, Homeless’
15.3. ‘Mommy’s Gone’
15.4. ‘On the Other Side of This, We Can Start Over’
15.5. Conclusion
Chapter 16 Female Audiences’ Reception of American Horror Story in Greece
16.1. Introduction
16.2. Looking for Audiences among Feminist, Psychoanalytic and Effects-laden Readings: The Contribution of Cultural Studies
16.3. Research Method and Practice
16.4. Making Sense of American Horror Story: How are Greek Women’s Tastes in the Text being Shaped
16.5. Conclusions
Chapter 17 ‘Mother, I’ve Really Had Enough of This! You Can’t Just Leave Me Alone in This Abyss Where I Can’t Find You!’ No...
17.1. Introduction
17.1.1. Psycho
17.2. Psycho’s Legacy
17.3. Bates Motel: (2013–2017)
17.4. The Monstrous Feminine/Masculine: Parallax Views of Norma/n
17.5. The Monstrous Other – The Gingerbread House and Bates Motel
Select Bibliography
Select Filmography
TV Series

Citation preview


EMERALD STUDIES IN POPULAR CULTURE AND GENDER Series Editor: Samantha Holland, Leeds Beckett University, UK As we re-imagine and re-boot at an ever faster pace, this series explores the different strands of contemporary culture and gender. Looking across cinema, television, graphic novels, fashion studies and reality TV, the series asks: what has changed for gender? And, perhaps more seriously, what has not? Have representations of genders changed? How much does the concept of ‘gender’ in popular culture define and limit us? We not only consume cultural texts, but share them more than ever before; meanings and messages reach more people and perpetuate more understandings (and misunderstandings) than at any time in history. This new series interrogates whether feminism has challenged or change misogynist attitudes in popular culture. Emerald Studies in Popular Culture and Gender provides a focus for writers and researchers interested in sociological and cultural research that expands our understanding of the ontological status of gender, popular culture and related discourses, objects and practices. Titles in this series Samantha Holland, Robert Shail and Steven Gerrard (eds.), Gender and Contemporary Horror in Film Steven Gerrard, Samantha Holland and Robert Shail (eds.), Gender and Contemporary Horror in Television Robert Shail, Steven Gerrard and Samantha Holland (eds.), Gender and Contemporary Horror in Comics, Games and Transmedia Samantha Holland, Screen Heroines, Superheroines, Feminism and Popular Culture



STEVEN GERRARD Leeds Beckett University, UK

SAMANTHA HOLLAND Leeds Beckett University, UK

ROBERT SHAIL Leeds Beckett University, UK

United Kingdom

North America





Emerald Publishing Limited Howard House, Wagon Lane, Bingley BD16 1WA, UK First edition 2019 Editorial matter and selection © the volume editors; individual chapters © their respective authors, 2019. Reprints and permissions service Contact: [email protected] No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without either the prior written permission of the publisher or a licence permitting restricted copying issued in the UK by The Copyright Licensing Agency and in the USA by The Copyright Clearance Center. Any opinions expressed in the chapters are those of the authors. Whilst Emerald makes every effort to ensure the quality and accuracy of its content, Emerald makes no representation implied or otherwise, as to the chapters’ suitability and application and disclaims any warranties, express or implied, to their use. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN: 978-1-78769-104-9 (Print) ISBN: 978-1-78769-103-2 (Online) ISBN: 978-1-78769-105-6 (EPub)

ISOQAR certified Management System, awarded to Emerald for adherence to Environmental standard ISO 14001:2004. Certificate Number 1985 ISO 14001

Contents List of Contributors




Introduction Steven Gerrard


PART I: THE MONSTROUS FEMININE Chapter 1 ‘She’s That Kind of a Woman’: Tracing the Gender and Sexual Politics of the Female Vampire via The Hunger and American Horror Story: Hotel Chloe Benson


Chapter 2 ‘Is This a Chick Thing Now?’ The Feminism of Z Nation between Quality and Trash TV Nadine Dannenberg


Chapter 3 Weeping Angels: Doctor Who’s (De)Monstrous Feminine Khara Lukancic


Chapter 4 The Representation of Older Women in Twenty-first Century Horror: An Analysis of Characters Played by Jessica Lange in American Horror Story Natasha Parcei


Chapter 5 ‘She Was Not Like I Thought’: The Woman as a Strange Being in Masters of Horror Erika Tiburcio Moreno




Chapter 6 The Monster Within: Lily in Penny Dreadful Kylie Boon


Chapter 7 Final Girls and Female Serial Killers: A Review of the Slasher Television Series from a Gender Perspective Víctor Hernández-Santaolalla


PART II: THE MONSTROUS MASCULINE Chapter 8 ‘Is Hannibal in Love with Me?’ Gender Changes in the Television Series Hannibal Clare Smith


Chapter 9 ‘I’m Pissed Off, and I’m Angry, and We Need Your Permission to Kill Someone’: Frustrated Masculinities in Charlie Brooker’s Dead Set Lauren Stephenson


Chapter 10 The Problematic Relationship with Sympathetic Vampires in the TV series The Vampire Diaries Fernando Canet


Chapter 11 So Many Chick Flick Moments: Dean Winchester’s Centrifugal Evolution Susan Cosby Ronnenberg


PART III: THE MONSTROUS OTHER Chapter 12 Depictions of Gender, Homes and Families in the TV Version of The Exorcist Samantha Holland


Chapter 13 How iZombie Rethinks the Zombie Paradigm Dahlia Schweitzer


Chapter 14 Damaged Survivors in The Walking Dead. Gender and the Narrative Arcs of Carol and Daryl as Protectors and Nurturers Marta F. Suarez




Chapter 15 ‘Some Normal, Apple-pie Life’: Gendering Home in Supernatural Jessica George


Chapter 16 Female Audiences’ Reception of American Horror Story in Greece Despina Chronaki and Liza Tsaliki


Chapter 17 ‘Mother, I’ve Really Had Enough of This! You Can’t Just Leave Me Alone in This Abyss Where I Can’t Find You!’ Norman/Norma and Bates Motel Steven Gerrard


Conclusion Steven Gerrard


Select Bibliography


Select Filmography




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This book is dedicated to the following people: my mum, Ann, and her brother, Perry, for letting/making me watch horror films, especially Salem’s Lot on its first release when I was 9; my dad, Viv, for getting me to support Burnley FC and the mighty Wales; and finally, my mates Griff, Klause and Dr M without whom I would not have had so much fun, adventures, and Brew XI beer.

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List of Contributors Chloe Benson is a Lecturer in Film and Media Studies at Federation University Australia. Her recently completed doctoral thesis unites her interest in film, media and sexuality studies by examining the complex interplay between promotional para-texts and representations of bisexuality in contemporary cinema. Kylie Boon is a Tutor at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and teaches across a range of creative disciplines. She is currently researching the application of philosophical concepts in contemporary TV series. She is also a fellow of the Higher Education. Fernando Canet is an Associate Professor in Film Studies at Fine Arts College, Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain. He has two monographs, two coauthored collections and three co-edited books. Fernando has edited Hispanic Research Journal and L´Atalante. International Film Studies Journal whilst publishing in Communication & Society, Studies in European Cinema and Studies in Documentary Films. Despina Chronaki (Dr) is an Adjunct Lecturer at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and Hellenic Open University. Her research focuses on audiences of popular culture, porn studies, and children’s experiences with media. She has participated in EU-funded European, National (Greek) and International projects since 2007 ( for a detailed record). Nadine Dannenberg is undertaking her PhD at Institute for Media Studies, University of Arts, Braunschweig, Germany. Her interests include Surveillance Studies, Feminist (Techno) Science Studies, Queer Film (and theory) & Media Studies and Post-human Philosophy. Her publications include ‘Vlogging Asexuality’ for onlinejournal culture & geschlecht No. 17 (July 2016) and ‘Die Cyborg Eine feministische Utopie’ for Wir Frauen No. 34, 4 (2015). Jessica George focused her PhD research on evolutionary theory in the fiction of Arthur Machen and H.P. Lovecraft. She has published for Supernatural. Her current research focuses on Gothic constructions of authorship and audience and has interests in literature and science in the nineteenth century and contemporary Welsh writing in English. She is based at Cardiff University. Steven Gerrard is Reader in Film at Northern Film School, Leeds Beckett University, UK. He has written monographs celebrating the Carry On films and modern British horror movies. Steve is co-editor of Crank it up Jason Statham: Star! and has published extensively on horror for We Belong Dead and Dark Side Magazine.


List of Contributors

Víctor Hernández-Santaolalla is Assistant Professor at the Universidad de Sevilla. His research interests include mass communication, political communication, propaganda, surveillance and social media. He has published for European Journal of Communication and Information, Communication and Society. Victor has edited books about Breaking Bad and representations of television serial killers. Samantha Holland is Senior Research Fellow at Leeds Beckett University, UK. Her research interests include gender, leisure, subcultures and popular culture. Her publications include Alternative Femininities: Body, Age & Identity; Pole Dancing: Empowerment & Embodiment; and Modern Vintage Homes & Leisure Lives: Ghosts & Glamour. Khara Lukancic is a Doctoral Student in Mass Communication and Media Arts at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She has published film reviews in Film Criticism and Gateway Journalism Review and has authored a book chapter on the intertextuality of Halloween and Moby-Dick. Her academic interests include horror studies and film criticism. Erika Tiburcio Moreno’s PhD focuses on the Serial Killer in American horror movies (1960s 1980s). Her publications include ‘The Day When the Rural and the Urban World Had to Struggle: Mother’s Day’ for No Escape: Excavating Multidimensional Phenomenon of Fear and ‘America Through a Camera: Horror Cinema as a Historical Discourse’ in The Last House on the Left, for Cuadernos de Historia Contemporánea, 38, 2016. Erika is based at University Carlos III, Madrid. Natasha Parcei is a PhD Student at the Northern Film School (Leeds Beckett University). Her research focuses on Cultural Gerontology within the field of British Cinema. Natasha has delivered conference papers at Gerontology and Gothic conferences. She has contributed a chapter about Jason Statham as an ageing action hero for Crank it up Jason Statham: Star! Susan Cosby Ronnenberg is an English Professor at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin. She is the author of Deadwood and Shakespeare: The Henriad in the Old West (2018). Clare Smith is the Heritage Centre Manager for the Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre, London. Clare wrote her PhD on the Depiction of Jack the Ripper and the Whitechapel Murders on Film. Her book, Jack the Ripper in Film and Culture: Top Hat, Gladstone Bag and Fog was published in 2016. Lauren Stephenson is a Lecturer in Film Studies at York St. John University. Her recently completed PhD research focuses on representations of class and masculinity in the British ‘hoodie horror’ film cycle. Lauren has presented work in the U.K., Europe and Canada, covering various aspects of her research into the horror genre. Dahlia Schweitzer is a pop culture critic and writer based in Los Angeles, California. She is the author of Going Viral: Zombies, Viruses and the End of the

List of Contributors


World and Cindy Sherman’s Office Killer: Another Kind of Monster. Dahlia has contributed essays to Journal of Popular Film and Television and The Journal of Popular Culture. Marta F. Suarez is based at Liverpool John Moores University. She lectures on modules on film theory, race, genre and screenwriting. She has written on adaptation, race and immigration. She has a forthcoming chapter for Women who Kill (female characters in The Walking Dead). Her research interests include: immigration, gender, (post)feminism, (post)colonialism, race, TV science-fiction, fantasy and dystopian/post-apocalyptic worlds. She is part of the editorial board for Open Screens and a member of the EC at BAFTSS (British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies). Liza Tsaliki is Associate Professor at the Department of Communication and Media Studies at the National and Kapodistrian Univeristy of Athens. Her research record spans across the following fields: political engagement and participation (including young peoples’); celebrity culture and activism; gender and technology; porn studies; children/youth and media; children/youth and sexualization; popular culture; post-feminism, body aesthetics and motherhood; fitness culture.

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Acknowledgements This book would not have been possible without the help of all those lovely people at Emerald Publishing, especially Charlotte Wilson for making everything run so smoothly. Thanks must also go to the staff of Northern Film School, Leeds Beckett University, for opportunities that don’t come along often. Special thanks must be made to Professor Robert Shail and Dr Samantha Holland for their support throughout this project.

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Introduction Steven Gerrard

The horror genre is frequently considered to be in bad taste or to be excessively violent and this is one reason there has been little consideration of TV horror, since TV itself is assumed to be a mainstream medium that cannot sustain the graphic nature (visual or thematic) of horror’s subject matter. Moreover, it is assumed that the ‘limitations’ of the small screen mean TV does not have the capacity to render horror effectively. (Jowett and Abbott, TV Horror: Investigating the dark side of the small screen, 2)

When the Gothic horror novels of Walpole, Shelley, Radcliffe, Stoker, Poe and Stevenson became the Penny Dreadful or the tawdry tales found serialized in newspapers of the nineteenth century, few would have ever considered just how important horror would remain as one of the most popular viewed pastimes for a sensation-seeking public. The tales of Frankenstein’s creation, the mysteries of Udolpho, Varney the Vampire or Count Dracula travelling through a fictionalized mittel Europe, where rhubarbing villagers sat huddled in tavern corners as death and decay swept in from castles in Otranto, were usually seen as nothing more than sensationalist products of their times. But horror is more than that. Horror in all its guises not only helps the reader/listener/viewer live out these fantasies from the safety of their own seats, but just as importantly reflects the culture and times that produced them. The very best horrors become encrusted with the meanings and trappings of their period, commenting upon, acting within and reflecting on the very society that produced them. That is the power of horror. Horror, as a genre, and like most other genres, runs in cycles. Through the ebb and flow of decades, its fortunes fluctuate: for one era, it is popular, the next

Gender and Contemporary Horror in Television, 1 7 r Steven Gerrard All rights of reproduction in any form reserved doi:10.1108/978-1-78769-103-220191001


Steven Gerrard

not. Then, as with most genres, it returns, much like fashions do on the High Street. Since the early Gothic novels of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were released on a sensation-seeking audience, horror has certainly remained incredibly popular. Whilst the stories remained virtually unchanged, the media in which it was produced certainly did. The Gothic novel transformed into broadsheet serializations, and from there into theatres where wily entrepreneurs lured their patrons into the auditorium to watch the latest version of Dracula amidst the greasepaint and lime-lit flickering on their playhouse actors. When early cinema masters such as George Meliés used trick effects to both amuse and terrify their audiences in equal measures, horror was seen as a staple entertainment of a burgeoning new industry. Horror fed into this industry across the next hundred years: from the German expressionist horrors in the post-Great War years; through Universal Studios’ wonderful horror-cycle of the 1930s and 1940s; the sublime works of Val Lewton at RKO; past the colourfully lurid and sensationalist Hammer Films reworking of Dracula, Frankenstein and the Mummy of the late-1950s and 1960s; the British and American independent horror scene of the 1970s; big budget films; low budget movies; the 1980s penchant for slasher films and their numerous sequel/ franchise series; and the huge revival of horror in the post-Millennium years, horror has certainly celebrated its longevity through the decades and through changing tastes in what is considered ‘horror’. For example, since 2000, over 500 British horror films have been registered and/or released on an unsuspecting public, whilst the American, European and certainly Asian horror films have reflected a changing political climate than ever before. Likewise, wider platform releases such as Netflix, HBO, streaming, festivals, etc. have helped filmmakers to push their product out of the shadows and into the light. And one such ‘newer’ platform is television. According to Jowett and Abbott (2013, p. 1), television production history is broadly categorized into three distinct time periods: 1950 1975,1975 1990 and 1990s present. Perhaps this needs amendment, slightly, with the Millennium heralding in a newer, wider scope for horror across all media platforms. The changing patterns of TV production, technology and transmission methods meant that consumers watched TV in various ways: by scheduled timetabling, or through binge-watching, downloading and streaming (as of the 2000s). What remains though is this: that by defining the eras of television, one can then see how horror was, and remains, an important trope in the televisual landscape. A short overview of some of the major TV programmes now follows, to aid and guide the viewer from the past and into the present. The 1950s had ground-breaking horror/science fiction hybrids such as Nigel Kneale’s exemplary Quatermass trilogy (BBC: 1953, 1955, 1958), which emptied pubs up and down the land, and a version of 1984 (BBC, 1954) that had questions raised about its brutality in Parliament. With Universal’s Frankenstein and Dracula series of films being syndicated on American TV, the 1960s saw a real upswing in horror on American TV, which was then later broadcast in the UK. This ranged from anthology series such as Boris Karloff’s Thriller (NBC, 1960 1962), The Outer Limits (ABC, 1963 1965) and The Twilight Zone (CBS,



1959 1964); comedies like The Addams Family (ABC, 1964 1966), The Munsters (CBS 1964 1966) and Bewitched (ABC, 1964 1972), the children’s cartoon Scooby Doo: Where Are You? (CBS, 1969 1970) was (and still is) immensely popular; the long-running ‘soap’ Dark Shadows (ABC, 1966 1971); with numerous other ‘one-off’ productions such as The Night Stalker (ABC, 1972), The Night Strangler (ABC, 1973) and The Norlis Tapes (NBC, 1973) that led to the series Kolchak: The Night Stalker (ABC 1974) showing that horror was still, despite its usual critical mauling’s, important. In the UK, and to name only a few productions, Doctor Who (BBC, 1963 ) led the way, although Mystery and Imagination (ITV, 1966 1970), The Stone Tape (BBC, 1972), Beasts (ATV, 1976), the BBC’s ‘Ghost Story for Christmas’ (var. years), Count Dracula (BBC, 1977) and Sapphire and Steel (ITV, 1979 1982) certainly kept viewers hooked to their ghastly, ghostly and horrible storylines. Arguably two pieces of work that clearly showcased the importance and power of televisual horror were the two-part adaptation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot (publ. 1975; CBS, 1979) and Ghostwatch (BBC, 1992). The two were thematically and stylistically poles apart. Salem’s Lot was a drama with out-and-out horror overtones: a small mid-American town is plagued by a vampire. Whilst the story is pure hokum, the strong production values, excellent cast (David Soul, James Mason, Reggie Nalder, Lew Ayres, Geoffrey Lewis, Elisha Cook Jnr. and Bonnie Bodelia) and genuine frissons of menace and fright meant that its (old fashioned scares and) audience and critical success was assured. Ghostwatch became the cause celebre of its era. The premise was simple: the BBC interrupted its own advertised nightly schedule and broadcast ‘live’ from the council house of Mrs Pamela Early. Early’s home had apparently been plagued by strange noises, weird smells, cutlery bending and doors slamming shut, for months. The ensuing two-hours had cutaways between Michael Parkinson in the TV studio and Sarah Greene on location. It was all filmed in a realistic style some two weeks beforehand, but broadcast as ‘live television’, with handheld cameras, poor sound and juddering edits well in evidence. That the British public complained in their thousands to such a frightening ‘true’ event clearly showed the importance and force of horror on the small screen: that is, it had invaded homes. Nowhere was safe. As genres are often cyclical in nature, horror almost went away in the Eighties, but had a resurgence in the following decade. The biggest production was The X-Files (Fox, 1993 2002), which clearly paved the way for programmes like American Gothic (CBS, 1995 1996) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (WB, 1997 2001/UPN, 2001 2003), although Twin Peaks (ABC 1990 1991; Showtime, 2017) certainly showcased some of the most bizarre horror outings through its original 48-episode run and continued the story in a limited ‘Event Series’ run of 17 all-new episodes to a bewildered public expecting closure to its convoluted narrative. However, it was in the run up to the Millennium and beyond that horror seems to have once again found a genuinely strong foothold on television. This has certainly been helped by new channels such as Netflix and HBO, whilst downloading and streaming has ensured that American


Steven Gerrard

programmes like the social surrealism of Carnivale (HBO, 2003 2005), Dexter (Showtime, 2006 2013) and Hannibal (NBC, 2013 2015) can sit alongside such British fare as Afterlife (ITV, 2005 2006), The Fades (BBC, 2011) and Psychoville (BBC, 2009 2011), whilst Channel Zero (SyFy, 2016 ) and Lore (Amazon, 2017 ) have used their web-based media approach to great effect. As the chapters in this book testify, there is a resilience to horror in the market place. Part of that is to do with canny marketing, whilst it could also be argued that there is a genuine psychological ‘need’ for horror to be present in the (fantastical) everyday so that ‘we’ can ‘cope’ with the horrors that are shown on news programmes on a daily basis. Interestingly, some trends seem to emerge here: audiences want longer and more-involving storylines, where characters and story arcs can evolve; they also want better production values. Much of the horror output of the fin de siècle period centres around either a nostalgic look back to its own past (e.g. Frankenstein (ITV, 2007), Jekyll (ITV, 2007) and Dracula (BBC, 2006; NBC, 2013 2014)) or attempts to present these older ideas anew. Arguably the most nostalgic approach to horror is the UK/USA coproduction Penny Dreadful (Sky/Showtime, 2014 2016), which uses the Gothic tropes and characters of yesteryear to terrific effect to comment upon present day attitudes towards class, sexuality and gender. A series like The Walking Dead (AMC, 2010 ) despite its graphic novel beginnings is also nostalgic: its hero sheriff is a lone cowboy in a desolate wasteland of zombies, protecting his frontier in the best way he can. The programme’s popularity has impacted upon such zombie-themed productions as Z Nation (SyFy, 2010 ) and iZombie (The CW, 2015 ), which uses bricolage effects to create their chills combined with nods and winks to George A. Romero’s zombies of the past, whilst Ash vs the Evil Dead (Starz, 2015 2018) continued on the titular hero’s adventures against his erstwhile adversaries. This nostalgia goes further. Without a doubt, American Horror Story (FX, 2011 ) is the most important horror show of the post-Millennium era. With its convoluted narrative arcs, set across different eras (from 1950s small town American freak shows, through 1960s asylums, to modern-day suburbia), and with same actors appearing as different characters throughout the series, its high production values, genuinely frightening and horrific moments, and its no-holds barred attitudes towards love, death, sex and violence have certainly shown how important horror is at confronting humankind’s basest elements in the twenty-first century. What has also helped to propel horror back into the limelight is the audience that watch horror. In a pre-Millennial world, horror was arguably seen to be only viewed by ‘geeks’, ‘nerds’ and aficionados those who deliberately sought out horror to watch either on their own or within a like-minded group setting. It has been previously (and incorrectly) assumed that the majority of horror audiences were mostly younger males. However, according to a recent Guardian article, the upswing in women characters in horror films moving away from the ‘damsel in distress’ to becoming the major characters has ensured that female audiences are increasing in number (Berlatsky, 2016). This is not a new thing: both Buffy and Dana Scully have become icons of female strength and passed on from the strong characters of Daphne and Velma from Scooby Doo,



respectively. Indeed, Buffy’s reversal of traditional gender roles was an ideal platform for the target audience of 12- to 34-year-olds to engage with, whilst Scully’s equal footing with her FBI partner, Fox Mulder, where she argued cohesively and logically as she fought alongside him (despite their constant negotiations of what constituted ‘truth’ and ‘lies’) was a clear role model through which many could identify. Therefore, with ‘films’ being supplanted by ‘television’, the argument for strong female characters in horror TV can be seen as a positive move away from the victim of yesteryear and towards the horror heroines of today. Indeed, films like The Conjuring (James Wan, 2013), The Purge (James DeMonaco, 2013) and Mama (Andy Muschietti, 2013) had female audiences of 53%, 56% and 61%, respectively, clearly demonstrating that there is an appeal for women who like and want to watch horror (Berlatsky, 2016). Horror, over all other genres, deals openly with questions of gender, sexuality and the body. Whilst the female form is often photographed as Object rather than Subject, horror is one of the few genres where women can truly become the star, have rich emotional experiences and be physically strong. Likewise, the male star, whilst often showcased as ‘traditional’ in terms of patriarchy, is also revealed to be a mixture of both traditional physical strength (masculine) and emotional weakness (feminine). The rewards for the audience are then multiplied, where the characters that they identify with can be men, women, transgendered, neutral or transspecies. In the world of horror, money and privilege cannot help to save you. In the world of horror, equality rules. It is this equality that helps bring individuals to groups and casual watchers into fandom. Arguably one of the first TV series to garner a devoted fan following was Dark Shadows (1966 1971). After it was sold to syndication, released on VHS, had big screen adaptations and numerous books that furthered the adventures of the vampire Barnabas Collins, fan groups began to spring up. The collation of fans grew into conventions, comics and audio dramas. All perpetuated and celebrated the story of Dark Shadows, propelling it back out to a morecult-than-mainstream audience. This ‘overflowing’ of fan activities has now been seen as being passed onto other programmes: The X-Files, Buffy, Doctor Who, et al. have fan conventions devoted to celebrating their programmes, texts that have been pushed from what could be termed ‘cult’ viewing into mainstream consumption. This audience loyalty remains an important part of the televisual landscape. By being able to extend the narratives of TV programmes beyond the confines of the living room meant that these texts could now move onto transmedia platforms and through different ways of storytelling. Henry Jenkins (2006) calls this ‘the art of world making’ and that in order to experience a fictional world, the consumer must assume the role of hunters and gatherers, chasing down bits of the story across media channels, comparing notes with each other via online discussion groups, and collaborating to ensure that


Steven Gerrard everyone who invests time and effort will come away with a richer entertainment experience (Jenkins, 2006, 21).

It is this ‘richer entertainment experience’ that is at the heart of this book. Whilst a (very) brief overview of the history of television horror will, inevitably, not cover other important programmes, themes or tropes, one of the most important themes of horror is how gender is portrayed within its narratives. Much has been written about gender in horror, and some key works includes work by Creed (1993), Benshoff (2004), Clover (2015) and Grant (2015). But these focus on horror cinema. Little has been discussed in the analysis of gender issues in television horror. It is at this juncture that the book you are reading comes in. This edited collection has been divided into three parts, based in part on Barbara Creed’s (1993) ideas of the ‘Monstrous’. Whilst Creed’s work focused mostly on the ‘feminine’ aspects of ideas about ‘monstrous’ from a psychoanalytical viewpoint, this book broadens out to look at genders from various perspectives. That is not to say that all viewpoints will be covered, although further work would be most welcomed in the study of gender in horror across all platforms. For the purposes of this edited work, the collected terms ‘Monstrous Feminine’, ‘Monstrous Masculine’ and ‘Monstrous Other’ have been used as catch-all terms in which to place each chapter. The ‘Monstrous Feminine’ portion of this collection investigates how female characters have been presented in numerous ways across various TV series. This section covers such areas as the gendering and sexualization of female ‘monsters’ of numerous descriptions; how older actresses are represented through their characters; and how women are perceived as heroine, victim and ‘monster’. For the ‘Monstrous Masculine’ segment, the traditional ‘Hero’ is analysed through such characters as Dean Winchester in Supernatural (WB, 2005 2006; The CW, 2006 ) and Dr Lecter in Hannibal. This is then further investigated with a look at ‘sympathetic vampires’ and zombiedom. For the final part of this book, the ‘Monstrous Other’ can take on many forms. For example, one chapter examines how American Horror Story was received by female audiences in Greece. For two essays, the role of the house and the home is discussed. Two of the main characters from The Walking Dead are analysed across their narrative arcs, whilst Norman and Norma Bates from Bates Motel demonstrate that the ‘Other’ remains arguably the most important part of horror studies. After all, are we not all, in some shape or form, ‘Other’?

References Benshoff, H. M. (2004). Monsters in the closet: Homosexuality and the horror film. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Berlatsky, N. (2016, November 3). Carrie at 40: Why the horror genre remains important for women. Retrieved from Accessed on May 20, 2018.



Clover, C. (orig. 1992; 2015). Men, women and chainsaws: Gender in the modern horror film. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Creed, B. (1993). The Monstrous-feminine: Film, feminism, psychoanalysis. London: Routledge. Grant, B. K. (2015). The dread of difference: Gender and the horror film. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. Jowett, L., & Abbott, S. (2013). TV horror: Investigating the dark side of the small screen. London: I.B. Tauris.

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Chapter 1

‘She’s That Kind of a Woman’: Tracing the Gender and Sexual Politics of the Female Vampire via The Hunger and American Horror Story: Hotel Chloe Benson

This chapter seeks to compare and contrast two compelling portrayals of the bisexual, or gender-blind vampire: The Hunger (1983) and American Horror Story: Hotel (2015). The Hunger and Hotel present a number of notable differences; they were released over 30 years apart and they also diverge markedly in form: Hotel is a 12-episode television serial, whilst The Hunger is a tight 97-minute feature film. Whilst these differences highlight shifts in the format of horror more broadly, they also facilitate reflection on whether the portrayal of the bisexual vampire has dramatically shifted alongside these changes. Such a reflection is ripe with potential given that in addition to their differences, both texts also share significant aesthetic and narrative similarities. Both Hotel and The Hunger feature female protagonists who defy heteronormative understandings of gender and sexuality. Hotel can be read as an aesthetic homage to The Hunger. However, whether Hotel also echoes some of the more conservative aspects of the earlier film’s politics is a more complex question. Focusing on these female vampire protagonists, as well as a selection of their lovers and victims, this chapter aims to illuminate a number of developments and lingering issues in the ways that horror depicts the sexuality and maternal qualities of its female vampires.


Gender, Sexuality and the Female Vampire

Gender has long held a pervasive impact on the characterization of the vampire and its relationship(s) with human beings (Auerbach, 1995). Emphasizing the significance of the ways our monsters are gendered, Barbara Creed (1993) distinguishes between male monsters and what she terms the ‘monstrous feminine’.

Gender and Contemporary Horror in Television, 11 21 r Chloe Benson All rights of reproduction in any form reserved doi:10.1108/978-1-78769-103-220191002


Chloe Benson

The monstrous feminine, ‘as constructed within/by a patriarchal and phallocentric ideology’ explains Creed (1993, p. 2), ‘is related intimately to the problem of sexual difference and castration’. The female vampire, more specifically, ‘is monstrous and also attractive precisely because she […] threaten[s] to undermine the formal and highly symbolic relations of men and women essential to the continuation of patriarchal society’ (Creed, 1993, p. 61). This monstrous female figure penetrates the flesh of her victims, bringing forth blood and its menstrual connotations, whilst also transgressing sexual morés and destabilizing the division between life and death (Creed, 1993, pp. 61 62), as well as normative and queer desires. Accordingly, Creed (1993) argues that, in her undermining of the symbolic order, the female vampire embodies the abject. As a liminal and disruptive figure, the vampire also attracts substantial critical attention within queer scholarship. Palmer (2016) observes that the female vampire’s status as persecuted outsider and her ability to shape-shift makes her a figure of identification for some queer audiences, who themselves must navigate unsafe contexts from a marginalized position. Beyond this identification, the vampire’s eroticization of unconventional encounters further signals her queer tastes. Through the exchange of blood, the vampire demonstrates a mode of eroticism that disavows the sexual organs and, in many cases, gender altogether. Sue-Ellen Case (2000, pp. 204 208) describes the vampire as ‘queer in its lesbian mode’, because ‘her bite pierces platonic metaphysics and subject/ object positions’. Although female vampire texts proliferated on screen throughout the twentieth century, becoming more and more sexually explicit, Case (2000) argues that their literalness lacks the power of earlier tales. The explicit sexual encounters between women that are depicted in Hotel and The Hunger may at first seem inherently queer and transgressive, but feminist and lesbian scholarship illuminate the complex representational politics at play in these screen texts (Auerbach, 1995; Case, 2000; Creed, 1993; Zimmerman, 1981). Miriam in The Hunger and The Countess of Hotel can be linked to early literary vampires like Carmilla, as well as the longer tradition of lesbian vampire theory. However, they also strike compelling parallels with broader characterizations of female bisexuality on screen. For instance, analysing The Hunger, Jo Eadie (1997) aligns Miriam with Catherine Trammel of Basic Instinct (Paul Verhoeven, 1992) and Lane from Alison Maclean’s 1990 film Crush. All three women, he explains, are ‘unconfined figures’ in their respective texts, who attempt to fit in unnoticed but ultimately cause disruption (Eadie, 1997, pp. 155 156). For Eadie (1997, p. 142): the presence of a bisexual figure in film is an indicator that a cultural tension is being broached, whose contours the bisexual enables the audience to negotiate, and whose dangers the bisexual always embodies. As an outsider s/he is the one who is seen as going beyond the limits, and who thereby serves to teach a lesson about what those limits are […] [I]t is not their bisexuality in itself

‘She’s That Kind of a Woman’


that is significant, but rather those concerns which their bisexuality stands for. Marjorie Garber (2000, p. 98) makes similar observations of the vampire; whilst vampires of the twentieth century have often been depicted as sexually voracious heterosexual women, homosexuals, bisexuals and racial others, they have ‘insistently incarnated the fears and desires of the times’. This chapter does not seek to evaluate whether Hotel or The Hunger offers positive or negative portrayals of the female vampire, but endeavours to trace the meanings and uses of this bisexual figure in horror. The Hunger and Hotel provide a compelling pairing for this exercise because they exhibit striking similarities as well as telling differences, including distinct contexts of production. In the light of Eadie’s (1997) assertion that the textual meanings and uses of bisexuality reflect cultural tensions and Auerbach’s (1995, p. 5) argument that the vampire’s appeal is ‘dramatically generational’, Hotel offers a telling opportunity to assess the ways that the bisexual vampire trope has changed.


Timely and Timeless: Miriam and The Countess

Released in 1983, The Hunger is an adaptation of Whitley Strieber’s 1981 novel of the same title. Miriam, ‘the affluent Carmilla of the 1980s’ (Auerbach, 1995, p. 57), is marked by her literary forebears as well as the glamourous aesthetic and competitive economic politics of her epoch. ‘The Hunger deliberately sets out to update the vampire movie’ (Creed, 1993, p. 68) and its divergences from tradition reflect its context: Miriam is far from timeless. She epitomizes glamour of the 1980s, subordinating history to seductive objects: jewellery, furniture, lavish houses in glamorous cities, leather clothes. Responding to the success stories of her consuming decade, Miriam lives through her things. She kills, not with her teeth, but with her jewellery […] She preserves her desiccated former lovers […] as carefully as she does her paintings. These things, along with the music and the cityscapes over which she presides, make us envy Miriam’s accoutrements instead of her immortality. (Auerbach, 1995, pp. 57 58) The film’s ending reiterates this obsession with materialism and competitiveness. After Sarah attempts suicide, Miriam attempts to move her body into storage but suddenly the decrepit figures of her former lovers emerge from their coffins, plummeting Miriam over the edge of the balcony where she hits the ground and loses her youthful vitality. In a later scene that depicts Sarah staring out over the cityscape in a luxe apartment of her own, Miriam’s screams emerge from a stored coffin. Eadie observes a level of ambivalence in the film’s relationship to appetite and hunger in this ending; whilst the insatiable Miriam is


Chloe Benson

overthrown, punished for her admonishment of limits, Sarah, also a bisexual vampire, is restored as Miriam’s stand-in (Eadie, 1997, p. 153). Yet, this ambivalence is curtailed by Auerbach’s (1995, p. 59) reading of the conclusion, which highlights that Sarah’s triumph reflects ‘the competitive business ethos that reigned over America in the 1980s. There is room for only one at the top’. The impact of AIDS also bears noting in any consideration of the film’s context. In 1983, documentation of AIDS-type cases was limited, but ‘Media representations of AIDS […] and our filtered knowledge of the emergence and exponential growth in the 1980s of an epidemic that attacked and killed the young, the beautiful, the daringly promiscuous […] through their sexual practices make it extremely difficult to read a vampire film like The Hunger without reference to AIDS’ and its associated homophobia (Nixon, 1997, p. 120). Premiering in October 2015, Hotel occupies a distinctly different sociocultural terrain than Scott’s film. In 2015, three decades after the advent of the AIDS epidemic, the use of Truvada for PrEP was on the rise (Highleymen, 2017) and following a Supreme Court Ruling, marriage equality was achieved universally across all American States. In addition to the cultural gains made towards LGBTQ rights in the US throughout 2015, Hotel was also preceded by the hype of the first four instalments of American Horror Story (AHS) and its reputation for taboo-breaking and transgression. Since its premiere in 2011, AHS has attracted both criticism and a cult following. The premiere episode of Hotel, (‘Checking in’), secured the second highest ratings record for the FX network at the time, beaten only by the premiere of the fourth season of the series, Freak Show (Kissell, 2015). But ‘Checking in’ also drew controversy, most ardently for its depiction of a young male heroin user being raped by a monster wearing a drill as a strap-on sexual device. Richard Lawson (2015) described AHS as ‘garbage’ in his review of the episode, criticizing the homophobia implicit in its portrayal of rape. Lamenting that a ‘sordid, wicked, gay, horror anthology series’ would be ‘great’, Lawson (2015) argues that ‘What we have instead is a show where Ryan Murphy can indulge his fantasies about hairless, pouting pretty boys, while punishing or otherwise marginalizing limp-wristers and cross-dressers’. Writing on Murder House, AHS’ first season, Tosha Taylor (2012) raises comparable, albeit less explicit, concerns about the series’ treatment of gender and sexuality. Taylor’s (2012) analysis predates later seasons of AHS, but he identifies a number of issues and thematic concerns that have become hallmarks of the series as a whole. Whilst AHS depicts external and supernatural horrors like ghosts, witches and vampires, ‘its horror revolves around more domestic and realistic concerns infidelity, rape and perceived sexual deviance’ (Taylor, 2012, p. 136). For Taylor (2012, p. 149), the series’ first season ‘attempt[s] a progressive discussion [of these issues] but remains problematic’. Whilst AHS is commonly celebrated by critics for its taboo-busting, the series’ treatment of gender and sexuality is complex. This complexity and tension is reflected in the characterization of The Countess and the series’ exploration of her desire and aggression. Despite their contextual differences, both Miriam (Catherine Deneuve) and The Countess (Lady Gaga) share a number of paradigmatic sexual and gender qualities that

‘She’s That Kind of a Woman’


illuminate some of the ways that Hotel constrains bisexual possibility in gendered ways, as well as the enduring anxieties embodied by the monstrous feminine. Part of the pair’s similarities stem from the fact that Hotel is a direct homage to The Hunger, openly weaving aspects of the cult film into its rich tapestry. Murphy’s ode to Scott’s film is most explicit in the sequence introducing The Countess. In ‘Checking In’, The Countess and her lover, Donovan (Matt Bomer), first appear on screen as they ready themselves for a night out. The appearance of Lady Gaga was hotly anticipated in the lead up to the series premiere and the introductory sequence’s visual style further tantalizes viewers by mimicking the fragmentary cinematography and editing of The Hunger. The Hotel sequence commences with a needle being carefully placed upon a record, ushering in the propulsive beat of the song ‘Tear You Apart’ by She Wants Revenge. This synth rock sound parallels The Hunger’s use of a Bauhaus track in its opening sequence and reflects the early 1980s aesthetic influencing both texts. As the camera pans out from the spinning record, it reveals a bright pink neon sign: ‘Why are we not having sex right now?’ The erotic introduction of The Countess that follows is fetishistic, offering viewers fragmentary glimpses of her via close up. She applies red lipstick and runs her hand down her jewelled bodice sensually. Her lover Donovan’s back is shown as he stands up in a steamy bath tub. In quick succession, a series of close ups show him applying eye liner, donning a ring, polishing his shoes and tightening The Countess into a corset. After snorting cocaine, the pair leave their home. Viewers get their first unimpeded look at the pair as they walk arm in arm through a shadowy cemetery and sit down at an outdoor screening. Just as Miriam and John (David Bowie) ooze style in their dark coats and chic sunglasses as they wander through a New York club, Donovan (Matt Bomer) and The Countess are fashion-forward and sleek. The Countess is draped in diamonds and a bright red overcoat that lends her look a more timeless, classic quality than Donovan or the vampires of The Hunger, but her blonde hair and black pillbox hat strike parallels with Miriam’s distinctive style. Whilst Miriam and John target their prey at a Bauhaus show, Donovan and The Countess seek company at an outdoor screening of Nosferatu (1922). The Hunger places its vampires in a hip, urban centre from the outset, whereas Hotel contrasts its vampiric couple with their antecedents by alluding to more traditional vampire lore. As the pair sit in a graveyard exchanging gazes with a younger couple, Nosferatu’s Count Orlok flickers across the screen. The threat of violence and disease that will be associated with vampires throughout the season is everpresent here, the imagery of Nosferatu serving a similar function to the caged monkeys spliced throughout Miriam and John’s hunt in The Hunger. When John and Miriam attract the attention of a couple and leave the club, the sequence’s editing becomes even more rapid and disjointed. The action cuts between Miriam and John’s flirtations, the Bauhaus performance, and a caged monkey who we later learn is being held at a medical research facility. This cross-cutting and emphasis on shadow and juxtaposition emphasizes the film’s interest in trappings and disease.


Chloe Benson

The breaching of boundaries is thematically central to the opening sequence of The Hunger but the sex that follows Miriam and John’s seduction of a young couple is notably heteronormative until it meets it violent climax. As the four are exchanging sultry glances, drinking and smoking whilst bathed in blue light and shadow, John asks the young woman to join him in getting some more ice. With the couples paired off, the action cuts between their separate sexual encounters the men and women safely relegated from their own sex in different rooms. Whilst the sequence creates visual motifs between the two sex scenes shirts are torn open, legs parted and mouths kissed the sequence has been read as ‘cautiously heterosexual’ (Eadie, 1997, p. 150), unwilling to fully transgress heteronormative demarcations along sex lines. Notable differences can be observed of the sex and violence that concludes the introductory sequence in Hotel, yet similar observations can be made of the treatment of nonmonosexuality. As The Countess makes eyes with the couple in the cemetery, she raises her claw-like glove forming a V at her mouth to simulate cunnilingus. The couple blush, Count Orlok rises in his coffin, and the couples head back to the Hotel Cortez. The erotic promise of this gesture, and AHS’ tradition of queer representation, is bolstered by the first interior shot of The Countess’ bedroom. As the room’s door opens, a point-of-view shot reveals Donovan and the young couple undressed and embracing on the bed. This triadic image suggests bisexual possibility between the three, but in addition to suggesting bisexual desire between its subjects, this spectacle produces ‘a bisexual display or commodity to be devoured by the bisexual gaze’ (Hemmings, 2013, p. 136), which in this instance is aligned with The Countess, but also the viewer. Pointing at the young man, who she will later devour, The Countess stalks towards him and smears her lipstick across his mouth, aggressively feminizing him and foreshadowing the blood that will soon be spilt. Reminiscent of the coupling-off that takes place in The Hunger, Donovan turns his attention to the young woman. The proximity of the two pairs on the bed intensifies the queer potential of the scene and, rolling towards one another, the two women embrace and kiss. But the men direct their attention to the women rather than one another. In keeping with popular treatment of bisexuality on screen, the women are free to express desire for one another but male homoeroticism is elided. Rolling back after this brief moment, the women pair off with the men again. After a telling look, Donovan and The Countess mount their partners, raise their clawed gloves and slash the necks of their victims in one fell swoop. Whilst the violence of The Hunger is exaggerated by stylized red lighting and the screeching of the monkey, the violent spectacle of Hotel is far more explicit and drawn out. Donovan and The Countess pierce the flesh of their victims using an instrument, but they feed voraciously at the site of the wound, smearing blood across their faces, luxe bed sheets and bare bodies. The abject reality of the kill is highlighted by an aerial shot of the pair embracing on the bloodied bed alongside the unwanted corpses of their victims. Both The Hunger and Hotel depict their female vampires as being more explicitly bisexual as they progress. For instance, Miriam moves on from John with Sarah and the film includes a famous sex scene between its two female lovers.

‘She’s That Kind of a Woman’


Both Miriam and Sarah also demonstrate desire for men and the triumph of Sarah over Miriam at the film’s conclusion reveals The Hunger’s ambivalent treatment of bisexual figures (Eadie, 1997). The film is less ambivalent about its prohibition of male bisexuality though, which contrasts with Hotel and its alignment of bisexual desire with men, women, vampires and mortals. The impact of each text’s form on its exploration of bisexuality is pronounced. Although the inherent qualities of television have led some to question its capacity for horror, the ‘fragmentation, repetition and seriality’ of television make it ‘an ideal place for the genre’ (Jowett & Abbott, 2013, p. 55). Hotel’s mixture of style, excess and the serial format lends itself well to exploring bisexual desire because the series is able to linger and indulge in spectacle, whilst also pursuing narrative complexity over time. In addition to tracing The Countess’ sexual history in a way that offers greater depth and complexity than The Hunger affords Miriam, Hotel presents various images and iterations of bisexual spectacle via the portrayal of triadic and group sex, as well the developed and nuanced narrative of the bisexual fashion designer Will Drake (Cheyenne Jacksone) and his sexuality. Undoubtedly, Hotel uses bisexual possibility to titillate and as a means of further demarcating the sexual voracity and danger of The Countess, but the series also reflects on these associations and their limited vision of nonmonosexuality through the character of Will. In one of the rare moments of explicit invocation of the term bisexuality in popular culture, Will explains his relationship with The Countess to his son: ‘I’m going to be blunt. Your father is bisexual. People think that word is dirty, but it’s not. It means I like men and women equally.’ Whilst Will’s definition doesn’t necessarily reflect contemporary usage of the term bisexual and his relationship with The Countess is fraught, his frankness highlights the series’ desire to extricate bisexual desire from the female vampire by associating it with non-vampiric figures and by depicting other female vampire characters, such as Iris, as neither alluring to or attracted by their male and female victims. In Hotel, bisexuality is not coded in one particular way or associated with one particular character. Instead, bisexual desires, behaviour and identities are explored in various ways that are both interconnected and differentiated. Just as The Hunger’s inclusion of two bisexual figures and double ending diversifies its treatment of nonmonosexuality, Hotel’s multiplicity complicates any easy association between bisexuality and any one particular anxiety or fear.


Mothers, Lovers and Transgressors of Limits: Female Vampires in Hotel

Hotel’s playful bricolage of supernatural (witches, vampires, and ghosts) and mortal monsters (serial killers, including Aileen Wuornos) also diversifies its depiction of monstrous women and provides opportunities for examining the various factors that created them. The abjection of Donovan and The Countess’ first kill provides an explicit example of Creed’s argument regarding the vampire’s monstrosity and foreshadows the season’s broader fascination with


Chloe Benson

motherhood and the maternal. Discussing the female vampire, Creed (1993, p. 66) stresses that the figure’s association with blood can be linked to both ‘menstrual and hymenal flow’. Like The Hunger, Hotel differentiates between the vampire’s victims and those she or he transforms into a fellow vampire via the exchange of blood. Yet the connection between blood and the womb illustrates the innate connection between the maternal and the monstrous feminine figure of the female vampire. Both Miriam and The Countess can be read as maternal figures in relation to the dependency of their creations (Creed, 1993, p. 70). Miriam serves the function of vampiric mother who births her creations/ lovers, instructs them on how to feed and symbolically returns them to the womb, storing them in coffins as they begin to die (Creed, 1993, p. 70). As Creed (1993) argues, this indicates yet another taboo that the female vampire trounces: incest. Miriam’s relationships with John and Sarah are paralleled in Hotel by The Countess’ affairs with Donovan and Tristan (Finn Wittrock). But her monstrous maternal impulse is brought into much sharper focus. Hotel explores a variety of The Countess’ romantic relationships and transformations in greater detail, providing wider scope for reflecting on the female vampire’s connection to her creations. In The Hunger, Miriam’s earlier lovers exist only as crumbling corpses in storage and the film’s emphasis on individualism and competitiveness is reflected by the fact that she maintains only one romantic companion at a time. By contrast, The Countess maintains multiple romantic interests at the one time and her ex-lovers continue lives beyond their relationships with her (unless they attract her fury and meet a violent end, such as Tristan). Throughout Hotel, The Countess maintains her fluctuating relationship with Donovan, seduces and marries the bisexual Will Drake in a ploy to gain his riches and sustains a sexual affair with bad boy model, Tristan. Her intense attraction to Tristan, viewers later learn, is a product of his uncanny resemblance to her former partner and one true love, Rudolph Valentino (also played by Wittrock), who she later reunites with, adding further complexity to her web of current lovers. Valentino is The Countess’ creator and she, in turn, infects Donovan and Tristan with vampirism. Both of her creations are also associated with drug use and addiction in the series and their relationship with The Countess is marked by dependence and an inadequacy of power. The fact that Valentino her lover/creator and Tristan, Donovan and Will her lover/creations all resemble one another adds to The Countess’ associations with incest. In the second episode, ‘Chutes and Ladders’, The Countess comments on how attractive she finds Detective John Lowe, a guest at the hotel. John’s dark hair and square jawline make him a strong visual match to her male creator and male creations, leading Donovan to quip that she certainly has ‘a type’. Despite this blurring of the familial and erotic that characterizes The Countess and her lovers, matters are complicated by her child creations. In addition to the adults that The Countess turns and pursues romantic relationships with, she also mothers her biological son, Bartholomew, a disfigured infant prone to violence, and accrues a collection of children who she turns, hides and homes in her Hotel. The children all look remarkably alike, though they

‘She’s That Kind of a Woman’


resemble The Countess herself, with pale skin and fair hair, and contrast against her dark-featured lovers. One of these children, Holden, is the kidnapped son of Detective John and his wife, Alex, who grieve their loss throughout the season. When Alex discovers that Holden is being held by The Countess she agrees to live-in as the children’s carer if The Countess will turn her and allow her to stay with Holden. This negotiation and transformation offers explicit commentary on motherhood and directly links the eroticized creation of vampires with birth: ‘The transition will not be easy’ explains The Countess to Alex, ‘birth is a painful process. As a mother you know this. You must surrender completely’. In the distinctly queer action that follows, The Countess leads Alex to bed, kissing her. This sequence is intensely abject. Through an erotic encounter with The Countess, Alex transgresses the border between life and death in order to symbolically re-birth her son Holden. Echoing the abject qualities of birth and its symbolic disorder, The Countess instructs Alex to allow herself ‘to be ripped apart’ as she pierces her skin, ‘You will feel like you are dying and maybe you are’, from death, she explains, comes life. Alex’s obsession with her son is in keen focus throughout the series and sharpened by her less pressing need for her elder daughter. Once transformed, the intensity of this taboo relationship is amplified, with Alex and her son, undead figures that undermine conventional boundaries, retiring to the symbolically uterine space of the coffin where they sleep like lovers. Alex and The Countess are not the only female vampires who feature in Hotel and this multiplicity is a key aspect of the meanings and anxieties attributed to bisexual and maternal desire throughout the season. Natacha Rambova, Valentino’s lover and fellow 1920s movie star, occupies a romantic triad with Valentino and The Countess. Although the three are happily involved for a period, The Countess sees Natacha as a rival and ultimately shoots and kills her. Ramona Royale, another Hollywood star turned vampire, this time an icon of the 1970s, plays a more prominent role in the series. Played by recurrent AHS star, Angela Bassett, Ramona disrupts the conventional portrayal of the female vampire as white with aristocratic origins, and her mistreatment by The Countess renders her a somewhat empathetic character. Yet, like The Countess and Miriam before her, Ramona remains blood-thirsty and pursues revenge on her former lover throughout the season, including a callous attempt to slaughter The Countess’ children. Vampire representation in the series is further proliferated by Dr Alex, who offers her infected blood to a sick child in an effort to revive him. But this act has unforeseen consequences when the young boy infects his school mates and a dangerous mob of parasitic children begin hunting the streets of LA; a subplot that lends considerably more heft to the series’ characterization of mother child relations. Another unlikely vampire emerges in Hotel when Donovan infects his estranged mother Iris (Kathy Bates) to save her from the brink of suicide. Iris is unlike The Countess in myriad ways; she is older, matronly and largely ignored by the hotel’s inhabitants. Although Iris kills, her victims are unsympathetic characters and her newfound aggression and power are valorized as an important admonition of society’s treatment of older women. AHS is known for its


Chloe Benson

attentive interest in telling women’s stories, particularly those of middle aged and older women. Both Iris and the impeccably dressed receptionist Elizabeth Taylor are good examples of this. In the episode ‘Room Service’, Iris explains that the world ‘holds nothing for [older] women like [her], when you get to be my age [people] look right through you […] you’re invisible’. She feels used up by a patriarchal and youth-obsessed society, cast aside like one of The Countess’ victims and she resents the irony of being turned and offered immortality in her current form. In this way, the series reflects on the vampirism of a patriarchal society that drains and disregards women of a certain age. This parasitic treatment of women is linked to motherhood throughout the series, most explicitly via the relationships between Holden and Alex, Donovan and Iris, and The Countess and her creations. But it is also aligned with the experience of womanhood more broadly. Even as the ultimate figure of power and parasitism in the text, The Countess does not escape these burdens of womanhood. ‘Women age differently than men do’ she explains, whilst reflecting on her own life: In a man, the left ventricle, the one that pumps red blood into the body, gets larger, thicker as he gets older. In a woman, it shrinks. I am now more than a century old. My heart must be just a few karats at this point […] The last 100 years of my immortal life have been a lie. The illusion of control. In truth, I have controlled nothing. I have surrounded myself with fools and flatterers, put my trust in those who could not be trusted […] A woman can only be pushed so far, and I’m right on the edge. As a source of eroticism, malice and danger throughout the season, The Countess embodies enduring anxieties about the bisexual woman and the monstrosity of the maternal figure, but she also reveals the burden of this mistreatment on women more widely. Utilizing the affordances of its form, Hotel provides a more sustained engagement with the female vampire, including her history and her torments at the hands of men. The Countess, for instance, experiences heartbreak, a love-less marriage, unsafe abortive surgery and romantic rivals. Viewers see her progression from naïve Hollywood extra to dangerous monster. In the series’ final episode, after she has been stabbed by John, The Ten Commandments Killer arguably the true shadowy figure of the season, who passes unnoticed as a monster as he works for the police and cares for his family The Countess returns as a ghost and her final act of violence functions as an act of mercy. When she slices the throat of the terminally ill Elizabeth Taylor, in an orchestrated suicide, she invites her to haunt the hotel for the rest of eternity. In this ending, the series reasserts The Countess’ maternal function and thwarts the very distinction between living and dead. Analysis of the sexual possibilities Hotel presents offers insight into the ways that it both reflects and challenges contemporary sexual politics. Hotel reflects men’s anxieties about women. It sensationalizes female sexuality and imbricates

‘She’s That Kind of a Woman’


women’s desires and identities with the maternal. Yet at the same time, it encourages women to reflect on the ways these anxieties influence their own lives. In its embrace of the abject, the series critiques the stability of the symbolic order at the same time that it can be seen to embrace the horror of the monstrous feminine for its shock value.

References Auerbach, N. (1995). Our vampires, ourselves. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. Case, S. (2000). Tracking the vampire (extract). In K. Gelder (Eds.), The horror reader (pp. 198 209). New York, NY: Routledge. Creed, B. (1993). Monstrous-feminine: Film, feminism, psychoanalysis. London: Routledge. Eadie, J. (1997). “That’s Why She Is Bisexual”: Contexts for bisexual visibility. In P. Davidson, J. Eadie, C. Hemmings, A. Kaloski & M. Storr (Eds.), Bi academic intervention (pp. 142 160). London: Cassell. Garber, M. (2000). Bisexuality: The eroticism of everyday life. New York, NY: Routledge. Hemmings, C. (2013). Bisexual spaces: A geography of sexuality and gender. New York, NY: Routledge. Highleymen, L. (2017). PrEP use in US exceeds 100, 000 in Gilead pharmacy survey. AIDSMap, August 14. Jowett, L., & Abbott, S. (2013). TV horror: Investigating the dark side of the small screen. New York, NY: I.B. Taurus and Co. Kissell, R. (2015). ‘American Horror Story: Hotel’ is FX’s No. 2-rated telecast ever in 3-day viewing, Variety, October 12. Lawson, R. (2015). American Horror Story: Hotel isn’t trash it’s garbage. Vanity Fair, October 8. Maclean, A. (Director) (1990). Crush. USA, Hibiscus Films. Murphy, R., & Falchuck, B. (Creators) (2015). American Horror Story: Hotel. USA, Twentieth Century Fox. Nixon, N. (1997). When Hollywood sucks, or, hungry girls, lost boys, and vampirism in the age of Reagan. In V. Hollinger & J. Gordon (Eds.), Blood read: The vampire as a metaphor in contemporary culture (pp. 115 128). Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. Palmer, P. (2016). Uncanny others: Vampires and doubles. In P. Palmer (Ed.), Queering the contemporary gothic narrative 1970-2-12 (pp. 65 108). London: Palgrave. Scott, T. (Director) (1983). The Hunger. USA, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Strieber, W. (1981). The Hunger. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster. Taylor, T. (2012). Who’s afraid of the rubber man? Perversions and subversions of sex and class in American Horror Story. Networking Knowledge, 5(2), 135 153. Verhoeven, P. (Director) (1992). Basic Instinct. USA, Carolco Pictures. Zimmerman, B. (1981). Daughters of darkness: Lesbian vampires. Jump Cut, 24(1), 23 24.

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Chapter 2

‘Is This a Chick Thing Now?’ The Feminism of Z Nation between Quality and Trash TV Nadine Dannenberg

The Walking Dead is the show you watch if you want to see how people survive in a post-apocalyptic world. […] Z Nation is the show you watch if you want to see zombie guts splattered across the screen. ( Z Nation is proudly, almost defiantly, acerebral: It doesn’t want you ruminating on philosophical conundrums or pondering the subtle shades of characters’ motivations. ( The reviews of the SyFy-Series Z Nation (2014 ) by […] Latoya Ferguson (2014) and Alex McLevy (2015) […] from the pop-culture website are not entirely wrong, but also not entirely right. As a feminist academic, I watch The Walking Dead (2010 ) when I want to be drowned in white straight man-pain, but Z Nation is the show I watch if I want to see a feminist critique on the genre. For although Z Nation features a lot of zombie guts splattering, it is also a show that is filled with ‘philosophical conundrums’ and complex characters, which transgress and defy common stereotypes of US-based television storytelling, and of its own genre in particular. In this chapter, I aim to trace what ‘feminist’ means in this instance through a close textual analysis of Z Nation and argue that the show is itself a border-crossing example of ‘Quality Trash TV’, which points towards the deeply gendered nature of the Quality Trash distinction.


‘Quality’, ‘Trash’ and ‘Feminist’ TV Shows

Following persistent differentiations of ‘Trash’ and ‘Quality TV’, as defined by Robert Thompson (1996), Z Nation is undoubtedly what could be considered as

Gender and Contemporary Horror in Television, 23 34 r Nadine Dannenberg All rights of reproduction in any form reserved doi:10.1108/978-1-78769-103-220191003


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‘Trash-TV’: the show is produced on a low budget, the aesthetics look cheap, the actors are mostly unknown, and it initially started as a parody of The Walking Dead, mocking its antecessor just as much as it tried to ride on the wave of its success (Hassler-Forest, 2014). It is not showered in nominations or awards, its authors do not consider themselves to be auteurs creating great art, and its audience is ultimately a rather small niche market (SyFy). But, as authors like Charlotte Brunsdon (1990), Sarah Cardwell (2007) or Brigitte Frizzoni (2012) have already argued at length, the terms like ‘Trash’ and ‘Quality’ are first and foremost actively constructed categories meant to organize and judge TV shows according to what Pierre Bourdieu termed the ‘hierarchies of taste’ (Bourdieu, 1984, pp. 173 175). Such ascriptions are deeply informed by the culture they stem from, in that they imply and equally reproduce the political and social structures of their discursive negotiation. As Brunsdon (1990) pointed out, this means that what has been deemed ‘Trash’ in terms of televisual formats is consumed mostly by members of the lower classes, people of colour, female or queer audiences (Soap Operas, Reality TV or Sitcoms). Accordingly, Brigitte Frizzoni remarks that ‘Quality TV’ has become a marker for rather generic (fictional) stories and aesthetics created by mostly white male creators which circle around a white, heterosexual cis-male protagonist, while female-lead and/ or female-written shows are still regularly dismissed as ‘Trash’ (Frizzoni, 2012, p. 346). This problem becomes overtly obvious in the contradiction of the zombie shows The Walking Dead and Z Nation where the Quality/Trash Divide becomes accessible through a decidedly feminist lens. Following the tradition of Feminist Television Criticism, as pointedly summarized by Charlotte Brunsdon and Lynn Spigel (2008), ‘feminist television’ can mean a lot of things. Narratively, it can stand for complex female characters that defy or widen the scope of common tropes of femininity. Aesthetically, it can also mean a certain cinematic style that aims to defy, or purposefully plays, with the use of stereotypes and symbols of a gendered sign system, so as to question or defy what Laura Mulvey called the ‘male gaze’ (Mulvey, 1975). Structurally, ‘feminist’ can also mean that a show is productively ‘made by women’, or that a show as a product is consumed mostly by a feminine-friendly audience, or that it is received as feminist by audiences, critics or academics (for a manifold of reasons). While all of this can make a show ‘feminist’ in some way, there is also the ever-present threat to undermine its own potential on one level through rather anti-feminist implications on another. For the purpose of my own argumentation, I will mostly focus on the textual layer of Z Nation but acknowledge that the show might bear some more problematic implications when it comes to the side of production. Created by Karl Schaefer and Craig Engler, and with the majority of the individual episodes written and directed by men (with the exception of Rachel Goldenberg and Jennifer Derwingson who have been regulars in each season), it seems hard and undeserved to call it feminist production-wise. Interestingly, it is those episodes by Goldenberg and Derwingson notably Season 1’s ‘The Sisters of Mercy’ (ep. 11) and Season 2’s ‘Zombaby’ (ep. 5) that focus on women-centric narratives. But when it comes to the narrative, the aesthetics, the Leitmotif or the representational politics of the

The Feminism of Z Nation between Quality and Trash TV


show, Z Nation seems to be a surprisingly feminist TV show, and it has as much to do with the specific storytelling here, as it has with the zombie as a very specific kind of monster.


Zombies as the Abject Other

In a (US-centric) time and space of Foucauldian bio-politics (Foucault, 1978, pp. 138 145), where a demand for constant self-optimization towards normative physicality and mentality has become an imperative for neoliberal subjects, the zombified body represents the epitome of what French psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva once labelled the ‘abject’ Other: a metaphorical stand-in for all the things an intelligible subject has to reject abject to become intelligible in the first place (Kristeva, 1980, p. 163; 1982, p. 2). In its disrupted, wasting state of being, with organs and gore pouring out of its body, the zombie as a monster figure confronts its viewers with the fugacity of their own body and all its innards. In a very traditional sense of Derrida’s différance, a corpse that is not dead becomes the zombified body that transcends the dialectic of life and death and opening up a realm in-between. (Derrida, 1982; MacCormack, 2008). In our post-modern times where binary thinking has been exposed as a life-making and life-threatening inadequacy of enlightened ideology, it is no surprise then, that precisely these border-crossing zombies have become popular monsters in pop-culture and academia alike (Luckhurst, 2015; McGlotten/Jones, 2014; Pielak/Cohen, 2017). One of the most discussed artefacts in this segment is the highly successful AMC production The Walking Dead. Currently running in its eighth season, and praised by fans, critics and academics as a kind of ‘Quality TV’ that offers complex storytelling amongst its philosophical conundrums, it has been equally criticized for its repetitive themes and its increasing use of torture porn techniques for shock value (Lowder, 2011; Seitz, 2016; Yuen, 2012). In particular, people of colour and female audiences have criticized the show for its various generic weaknesses, especially its conservative representation politics with its tendency to kill off black male, queer and young female characters, and its narrative unwillingness to let go of the patriarchy (Berry, 2013; Sugg, 2015; Zevallos, 2015). Focused on the hero’s journey of Rick Grimes, with his archetypal representation of the straight white lawman figure, who is intent on keeping his family safe from the villains, The Walking Dead offers a generic post-apocalyptic take on the classical Western genre. Its counterpart Z Nation is a little bit different. Produced by the underestimated and under-analysed production company The Asylum and distributed via SyFy (and globally: Netflix), Z Nation is the televisual equivalent to the company’s mockbuster’ movies that are low-budget ‘rip-offs’ that try to capitalize on the productions of major studios. According to Linda Hutcheon parody must be understood as ‘a form of repetition within an ironic critical distance, marking difference rather than similarity’ (Hutcheon, 1985, p. 6). Over-the-top imitations or absurd re-contextualizations of characters or storylines can help to enlighten underlying (and unquestioned)


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stereotypical tropes, assumptions and structures of the original and work as a form of satirical citation. Parody is meant to mock an original, while at the same time providing a critical comment on it. It is a reclaiming and resignification of hurtful or threatening moments in order to lessen their destructive powers. As Judith Butler demonstrated in reference to drag, this can open a realm where normative orders become destabilized and denaturalized, and transformation or transgression becomes possible (Butler, 1993, pp. 229 233). Z Nation is a such Horror-Parody that uses humour to comment on contemporary real-life political and societal developments, as well as on the stereotypes of its own genre.


‘I’m not so sure humanity’s worth saving’ Narratology

Z Nation’s

This becomes overtly clear in Season 3 ep. 9, ‘Election Day’, which fittingly aired four days before the actual US election day of 2016. In this episode, two of the main characters Addy and Doc are on a solo-mission, and stumble across the comic relief figures of the show, Skeezy and Sketchy, who roam the country on an electoral campaign for the first ‘President of the Apocalypse’. Together, they stop at a small, sickness-ridden community in the middle of South Dakota, where they encounter another candidate for the election and enact a debate that mirrors the actual televisual debates of the time. Here, the programme pits a farce of Donald Trump against a farce of Donald Trump. While the two men try to outcry each other with promises of ‘building a wall against the Z’s’ and ‘making the apocalypse great again’ the show does not only comment on the absurdity of pre-election madness, but it also reminds its audience of the political purpose of zombies as metaphors for processes of Othering; as a stand-in for all those who have to be rejected in favour of a very specifically gendered, racialized, and sexualized normative body(-politic), which simultaneously became the focus of the extra-diegetic world. While this example has little to do with the diverse representational politics, it does, however, provide a good impression of the political, philosophical and at times educational undertones the show offers its audience through its narrative.


‘Is this a chick-thing now?’ Representation

Z Nation’s Politics of

The first episode (Season 1 ep. 1) starts with a black soldier (Hammond) who accompanies a human-zombie-hybrid (Murphy) the only person who survived a zombie-bite without turning into the monster himself across the country in order to get him to a laboratory in California where a group of scientists supposedly wait for his arrival to create a cure from his blood. But when Hammond, introduced as a competent soldier, dies through the bite of a zombified baby (in itself a nod to Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead (2004) remake), this whole mission goes over to a rag-tag-group of survivors. This initial set-up

The Feminism of Z Nation between Quality and Trash TV


can be read as direct response, or comment, to its antecessor The Walking Dad, which at the time of Z Nation’s first airing had been criticized multiple times for its tendency to kill off (especially) black male characters. Accordingly, the first death in Z Nation serves only one narrative point: to ensure that Rick Grime’s antecedent, Commander Charles Garnett, a white, straight lawman, gets put in charge. For the next five episodes, the narrative follows a rag tag group of survivors stumbling from one near-death situation to the next, guided by leader Garnett’s unshakeable trust and faith in traditionally masculine institutions (above all the military) and masculine behaviour (authority, control, physical strength), which imitates the narrative tone and Leitmotif of The Walking Dead. It divides from it, however, when Garnett and his second-in-command, black Sargent Roberta Warren, acknowledge their feelings for each other, and it is then Garnett who dies the archetypal death of human sacrifice for the cause of the hero’s mission (Season 1 ep. 6, ‘Resurrection Z’). In a surprising and still rather unfamiliar switch of US-American TV tropes, the leadership goes over to Roberta Warren and depicts her as the heroine of the story. Consequently, the following episode sees her working through her loss, first with whiskey, and then a zombie killing spree, which ends in her acceptance of her new role as the leader of the group and the leader of the narrative. At the same time, her future second-in-command, art-student Addison ‘Addy’ Carver, sets of to her own journey of self-empowerment, which will eventually also involve the death of her very own male love interest Max, himself an archetypal representation of toxic masculinity (severe anger issues, controlling behaviour, saviour-complex). In both cases, it is the women who get the traditionally masculine story-arc of a hero who grows in character and strength through loss and despair, while the straight, white males are the disposable love interests, whose only purpose is to further the storylines of their female counterparts. Both of them represent a rather uncommon type of femininity that is neither hypersexualized nor asexualized (which means that both occasionally demonstrate self-confident sexual and/ or romantic desires and needs, but neither is solely defined by them): both are not haggardly skinny or perfect, but of normal weight and flawed; they wear practical clothes (despite the change in Season 4 following a shift in tone from horror to science fiction), and both do not have any kind of superpowers, but instead improve their fighting skills through training. At the end of each season, they have successfully fulfilled their respective missions and managed to keep the core group alive, in seemingly unquestioned solidarity with each other, as well as with accompanying various characters of Latino, Mexican or Asian descent. While this kind of diversity in the cast and character department has to be considered progressive for a US-American TV show, Z Nation not only adds individuals from structurally marginalized social groups, but openly acknowledges, and at times even centres, this diversity, and its political necessity, within the narration. This is especially true of the repeating theme of female solidarity which is introduced to the show as early as Season 1, when the Latina Cassandra joins the group in an attempt to escape her family of cannibals. Addy gets kidnapped and enslaved as a sex worker by Cassandra’s family in return, which causes Cassandra to offer herself up in exchange for the freedom of


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Addy (Season 1 ep. 3). When the men of their group are not concerned with leaving Cassandra behind, Roberta and Addy insist on rescuing her as well. When asked by Murphy if this is a ‘chick-thing’ now, Roberta informs him that ‘men don’t know what it’s like’, which is treated as enough reason to initiate the rescue mission. The episode ends with Addy providing emotional and physical affection to a traumatized Cassandra, much to the chagrin of her love interest Mack, which already teases upon their inevitable split in another female/feminism-centric episode, written by Jennifer Derwingson and directed by Rachel Goldenberg.


Feminism for Whom: The Sisters of Mercy

In Season 1 ep. 11, ‘The Sisters of Mercy’, the group encounters another group of survivors named the Sisters of Mercy, a women-only-camp lead by matriarch Helen, whose aim is to provide a safe haven for abused women and their children to live in peaceful harmony with nature, freed from any kind of masculine influence. Representing a radical idea of a female-centric ideology gone authoritarian, this means that men are not allowed to enter the camp. When the group reaches the camp, all of its three female member are in need of some sort of help: Warren is still adjusting to her new role as leader in the group, Cassandra suffers from blood poisoning and needs medical attention, and Addy is haunted by memories of her various post-apocalyptic zombie kills. Although initially vary of the exclusionary entrance conditions, the three of them enter the camp in order to get help for Cassandra, while the man of the group camp out in front. This allows the show to focus the whole episode on its female characters, who by the end of it have all reached a personal climax point that guides their character in a new direction. Over the course of the episode, it becomes clear that the Sisters of Mercy not only meet all men with armed hostility, but also send their sons away (to die) when they reach the crucial age of thirteen. At one point, the Sisters become aware of a woman in involuntary captivity and rush out to her rescue. In this process, they either shoot the men they encounter, leave them handcuffed to die or bring them back to the camp to feed a zombie-bear who lives hidden in a barn. In this narrative set-up, the good intentions of the Sisters of Mercy are drawn as yet another sort of totalitarian system, which could be read as mocking a certain kind of traditionally female-centric feminist theory and practice, but which is also a nuanced critique of exclusionary feminist politics, without devaluing them altogether. The episode ends when the Sisters offer Roberta, Cassandra and Addy to stay with them. When Addy accepts this offer and decides to stay in this post-apocalyptic analogy for a women’s shelter to find time and a secure space to work through her trauma, her former love interest Mack proves the necessity of safe spaces for women with a violent outburst of aggressive, controlling masculinity while trying to convince Addy not to stay. While Roberta and Cassandra accept her decision, they cannot find a place for themselves in this representation of an equally flawed white middle-class feminism that visually excludes women of colour such as Roberta and Cassandra. This

The Feminism of Z Nation between Quality and Trash TV


critique is underlined again at the beginning of Season 2, where we learn that one of the boys who had been sent away by the Sisters of Mercy has set the place on fire and released the zombie-bear, which effectively killed all the women except for Addy. This ending to this subplot helps to underline the critique of a feminism that functions in the same dualistic and aggressive dynamics as its patriarchal counterpart. Season 2 offers even more perspectives on diverse femininity through the inclusion of other female characters from diverse cultural, ethnical, religious and economic backgrounds. Be it a harvester who struggles with the death of her (adopted) daughter (ep. 4), the mother of Murphy’s child (ep. 5), an alien intermediary (ep. 9), a Native American tribe leader (ep. 10) or the main antagonist of the season, Mexican drug cartel queen La Reina (played by feminist icon Gina Gershon), Z Nation spends a lot of time and (narrative and productiveoriented) resources to illuminate as much concepts of femininity as possible. In this process, it questions accompanying concepts of masculinity as well and demonstrates a general tendency to reject them. Whereas the male members of the core group constantly clash with other male characters they encounter, as well as with each other, the female characters in the show are depicted as much more civilized, calculating, and less impulsive. While the male figures constantly demand submission and aggressively fight for power and control (of the scenery and the screen), the female figures simply enact this control and authority by setting clear boundaries and compromise where necessary, while never losing sight of the bigger mission. It could be argued that this (re)presentation of gender roles reproduces dialectal stereotypes of the empathic female and the ruthless male, but if the count on zombie kills is taken into consideration as well, it becomes clear that this gender binary only holds true when it comes to questions of how to lead humans. When it comes to zombies however, this difference collapses into sheer brutality towards the signifying Other. But then again, this equation is also not that simple in Z Nation.


The Zombie and the Post-human: Murphy, the Human Zombie Cyborg

As Steve Jones pointed out, the zombie, as the paradigmatic, monstrous Other, can be read as inherently gendered: ‘zombie representations seem to support the pejorative mind = male / body = female dichotomy’ (Jones, 2011, p. 43). As body-and-affect-centric creatures, the zombie can be associated with a traditional idea of femininity as opposed to a more culture-and reason-oriented masculinity. Its horrors stem from its threat to this kind of masculinity, in the sense that it literally eats brains, the repository of the mind and the basis of all reason. It is a creature that questions the status quo of the world in which it exists, and who aims to overthrow it. It is no coincidence then that the first zombie victim of The Walking Dead’s protagonist Rick Grimes is a white, blonde young girl, the archetypical (feminized) symbol of innocence and peacefulness in a world of


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(gendered, symbolic) order. When girls fight back against their father figures, the world truly must be done. Z Nation’s protagonist, and the driving force of the whole plot, is precisely such a father figure, but in a very different sense. Murphy is a human zombie cyborg, who seems like another common white straight male, but who is actually a rape survivor trying to survive in a still persistent rape culture. Non-consensually forced to serve as a scientific guinea pig whose body got intrusively penetrated first by needles and then by zombie bites, he constantly has to prove his (his)story by exposing his scared torso as materialized proof. Telling his story seems never enough to consider him believable, although very obvious signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) point towards the nature of the events, especially over the course of the first season: he is self-conscious, cannot abide tight or narrowed spaces and panics easily. Constantly framed as a burden for the whole group, Murphy has to take the blame whenever something goes wrong, but whenever he tries to withdraw himself from the group, he is also pulled back and held onto, without any rights to make decisions on his own. In this set-up, Murphy comes to represent a seldom, and therefore irritating male version of the rape victim in a rape culture, that takes great effort to hold its victims in silence and constantly pushes the responsibility back to them. Over the course of the show, Murphy consequently (and rightfully) starts questioning his role as saviour of humanity. It is him who articulates his doubts about the worth of humanity first with the sentence ‘I’m not so sure humanity is worth saving’ in the premiere of Season 2, but up until Season 4 he is stubbornly ignored. In Season 2 ep. 10 ‘We were nowhere near the Grand Canyon’ another […] zombie horde is brutally murdered by the group at the edge of the Grand Canyon. Murphy withdraws, dejected and afflicted, only to be confronted by leader Roberta again who reminds him that one day he will have to decide whether he is human or zombie, and when that day comes he should remember which one is trying to keep him alive, and which one wants to eat his brains. The narrative twist here is, however, that most zombies actually do not try to eat his brains since they recognize Murphy as an equal. The only zombies that do want to eat Murphy’s brain are always bastardized mutations that have somehow been abused or contaminated by humanly induced forces, which means that ultimately in this narration humans are in fact the only real threat to Murphy, and to zombies in general. This confrontation between him and Warren in Season 1 ep. 10 is therefore the set-up for a split in Season 3, when Murphy tries to create a new world of zombie cyborgs under his own reign devaluing humanity’s claim to power once and for all. What Z Nation offers then, with the inclusion of a zombified cyborg figure in its middle, is a more nuanced perspective on the relationship between humans and zombies as its Others. As Kyle W. Bishop has pointed out, the real horrors of zombie stories have never been the undead dead themselves, but the undead surviving humans (Bishop, 2010, p. 19). The zombies might be the marked monster figures, but the real threats are always other human beings. When the world order as we know it comes crashing down, with all its societal structures, institutions and rules,

The Feminism of Z Nation between Quality and Trash TV


humans are suddenly confronted with the possibilities of anarchy and their own extinction, in all its positive and negative implications. The questions underlying nearly every zombie tale then and in Z Nation in particular are the same which guide critical and queer theory: What is and to whom a liveable life? Under what conditions is which kind of life bearable? The apocalypse offers a chance to build a new world, one that does not obey to the supremacy of a Freudian patriarchal super-father anymore, and Z Nation takes this chance by portraying a broken, traumatized cyborg as the father figure who is aware and suspicious of the world that created him. Just like Haraway’s cyborg he is not innocent, he was not born in a garden but in a laboratory, he ‘does not seek unitary identity and so generate antagonistic dualisms without end (or until the world ends)’ (Haraway, 1991, p. 180). Murphy represents a creature that transgresses borders. He is both human and zombie, alive and undead, he has a mind and body, reason and cause (in a very literal sense of the whole mission), and so it is no surprise that his offspring Lucy has to be a girl, too (‘the first of her kind’), which breaks the lines of patriarchal heritage once and for all. Conceived in a resistant queer act of forbidden desire between the human zombie cyborg and a member of the Sisters of Mercy (Serena), the writers of Z Nation notably Jennifer Derwingson who seems mainly responsible for this storyline use the figure of the cyborg-daughter to muse on the highly spiritually induced subjects of becoming and The Coming. Her birth scene in Season 2 ep. 5 is another tongue-in-cheek re-enactment of Christian tales about the birth of Jesus: the group encounters a Mennonite community where Serena gives birth in a barn before they are overrun by zombies. In the ensuing fight the mother is bitten by a zombie which causes Warren to shoot her and leaves the baby named Lucy in the care of Murphy, who will secretly hide her at a random couple’s house in the following episode out of fear one of the group might kill her. With her birth, the differentiation between humans and zombies takes centre-stage in the narration, especially so when she is next seen as a quickly evolving teenager in Season 3, who has the ability to mentally communicate with zombies. Knowing, and openly providing, personal information about the zombies she encounters (name, age, relationship or family status, hobbies), her character functions as the vehicle between old and new worlds that brings back a human touch to the zombified Others. The very sad, but narratologically and politically necessary finale however, leads to her death as a (ultimately useless) sacrifice for her father’s survival in the tonally much darker fourth season, which puts a sudden end to all the progressive strings of its preceding seasons and which has to be read in light of the real-life events in the wake of Trump’s presidency. The Leitmotif here is now an embrace of the Unknown, accompanied by the persistent paranoia of being watched and played (or used). Set eight years after the world ended, the characters find themselves scattered across the country, and disillusioned about the purpose of a scientific cure which, as they learn at the end of Season 3, has never been meant for all of humanity, but only for a privileged upper-class of hyperwhite, nearly transparent, rich people. Consequently, the characters spend the whole season desperately trying to find a new mission that will lead them away


Nadine Dannenberg

from their hopelessness, while they also start to acknowledge that the age of humans might actually be coming to an end, and maybe for good so. With Warren still as the heroine of the story leading the gang on another mission to safe humanity, the season finale closes with the revelation that she had been set up to ignite a nuclear blast by rich white men who still aim to create a new world of an enhanced (white, able-bodied) human race. While the season ends on a cliffhanger, leaving room for the possibility of yet another narrative twist, the emotional tone is clearly induced by contemporary fears of a nuclear war and an omnipresent surveillance state, as well as a disillusionment in the face of rising authoritarian forces in the US and globally.



My aim in this chapter was to explain why, and how, one can watch Z Nation as a feminist TV show and on the way argue how that makes it a kind of ‘Quality Trash TV’ able to point out the flaws of the Quality Trash distinction as a gendered mode of categorizing pop-cultural artefacts according to unequal socioeconomic structures. While many narrative details, character and story arcs as well as most of the aesthetic quips (collages, montages and absurd sequences) have not been covered in this chapter, other points such as the progressive representation of politics, the switching of gendered TV tropes, the posthumanist philosophical conundrums and the inclusion of and education about real-world political structures and development in and through the fictional realm have been discussed in order to give an accurate impression of the show and what it has to offer in terms of a feminist zombie TV show. Z Nation offers a nuanced, and undoubtedly complex, narration, that tells the stories, and asks the questions that its original counterpart, The Walking Dead preferred to shy away from. In doing so, Z Nation reveals its own Trashy-ness to be a Quality marker in and of itself.

References Berry, L. (2013). “Walking Dead”: Still a white patriarchy. Retrieved from http:// Accessed on February 20, 2018. Bishop, K. W. (2010). American zombie gothic. The rise and fall (and rise) of the walking dead in popular culture. Jefferson, IA: McFarland. Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: A social critique of the judgment of taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Brunsdon, C. (1990). Problems with quality. Screen, 31(1), 67 90. Brunsdon, C., & Spigel, L. (2008). Feminist television criticism. A reader. Maidenhead: Open University Press. Butler, J. (1993). Bodies that matter. On the discoursive limits of “sex”. New York, NY: Routledge.

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Cardwell, S. (2007). Is quality television any good? Generic distinctions, evaluations and the troubling matter of critical judgement. In J. McCabe & K. Akass (Eds.), Quality TV: Contemporary American television and beyond (pp. 19 34). London: I.B. Tauris. Derrida, J. (1982). Margins of philosophy. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Ferguson, L. (2014). Z Nation isn’t Sharknado with zombies. Retrieved from https:// Accessed on February 20, 2018. Foucault, M. (1978). The history of sexuality Vol. I: An introduction. New York, NY: Pantheon. Frizzoni, B. (2012). Zwischen trash-TV und quality-TV. Wertediskurse zu serieller Unterhaltung. In F. Kelleter (Ed.), Populäre Serialität: Narration Evolution Distinktion. Zum Seriellen Erzählen seit dem 19. Jahrhundert (pp. 339 351). Bielefeld: transcript Verlag. Haraway, D. (1991). Simians, cyborgs, and women. The reinvention of nature. New York, NY: Routledge. Hassler-Forest, D. (2014). The walking dead. Quality Television, transmedia serialization and zombies. In R. Allen & T. van den Berg (Eds.), Serialization in popular culture. New York, NY: Routledge. Hutcheon, L. (1985). A theory of parody: The teachings of twentieth-century art forms. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press. Jones, S. (2011). Porn of the dead. Necrophilia, feminism, and gendering the undead. In C. Rushton & C. Moreman (Eds.), Zombies are us: Essays on the humanity of the walking dead (pp. 40 60). Jefferson, IA: McFarland. Kristeva, J. (1980). Desire in language. A semiotic approach to literature and art. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. Kristeva, J. (1982). Powers of horror. An essay on abjection. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. Lowder, J. (Ed.), (2011). Triumph of the Walking Dead. Robert Kirkman’s zombie epic on page and screen. Dallas, TX: Benbella Books. Luckhurst, R. (2015). Zombies. A cultural history. London: Reaktion Books. MacCormack, P. (2008). Zombies without organs: Gender, flesh, and fissure. In S. McIntosh & M. Leverette (Ed.), Zombie culture. Autopsies of the living dead (pp. 87 102). Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. McGlotten, S., & Jones, S. (Ed.). (2014). Zombies and sexuality. Essays on desire and the living dead. Jefferson, IA: McFarland. McLevy, A. (2015). Against all odds, Syfy’s Z Nation has become a show worth watching. Retrieved from Accessed on February 20, 2018. Mulvey, L. (1975). Visual pleasure and narrative cinema. In L. Braudy & M. Cohen (Eds.), Film theory and criticism: Introductory readings (pp. 833 844). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Pielak, C., & Cohen, A. H. (Ed.). (2017). Living with zombies. Society and apocalypse in film, literature, and other media. Jefferson, IA: McFarland. Seitz, M. Z. (2016). The empty violence of the walking dead. Retrieved from http:// Accessed on February 20, 2018.


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Sugg, K. (2015). The walking dead: Late liberalism and masculine subjection in apocalypse fictions. Journal of American Studies, 49(4), 793 811. Thompson, R. J. (1996). Television’s second golden age: From Hill Street Blues to ER. New York, NY: Continuum. Yuen, W. (Hrsg.) (2012). The walking dead and philosophy. Zombie apocalypse now. Chicago, IL: Open Court. Zevallos, Z. (2015). The walking dead: Gender, race & sexuality. Retrieved from Accessed on February 20, 2018.

Chapter 3

Weeping Angels: Doctor Who’s (De)Monstrous Feminine Khara Lukancic

This essay serves as a meditation on the significance of gender in Doctor Who (BBC, 1963 ), focusing specifically on the reoccurring monsters, the Weeping Angels. Weeping Angels are aliens appearing to be stone statues while they are being perceived, but as soon as they are out of view they become creatures who can attack. The Doctor in the episode ‘Blink’ describes this phenomenon as being ‘quantum locked’ (Moffatt & MacDonald, 2007), further explaining that ‘the moment they are seen by any other living creature they freeze into rock. You can’t kill a stone and a stone can’t kill you either; until you blink, and oh yes, it can’ (Moffatt & MacDonald, 2007). Weeping Angels are interesting for a combination of reasons. First, as noted by Will Mann, they are the only villains who function on the same time travel playing field as the Doctor (2017). He observes that the mythology of the Weeping Angels not only acknowledges the inherent problems of time travel, but addresses them: ‘[C]an the present/past be changed, or is even attempting to change the past futile’ (Mann, 2017)? These are problems that have been directly addressed in cinema: Back to the Future (Zemeckis, 1985) suggests the past can be changed, whilst the Terminator franchise (1984 ) seems to say that fate is inevitable. Mann advocates that ‘Blink’ is a fusing together of these two treatments of time travel. There are pieces of the episode that function as absolute. When the Weeping Angels send Sally’s best friend Kathy into the past, she remains stuck there. However, due to the Doctor being a time traveller with his big blue box, when he is sent back to the past he is trapped only as long as he is separated from his time-travelling time and relative dimension in space (TARDIS). The Weeping Angels present an intriguing example of Barbara Creed’s ‘monstrous feminine’ (1993). According to Creed, all cultures depict representations of the monstrous feminine, describing what makes women horrifying and abject (1993, p. 1). In her seminal book, The Monstrous-feminine (1993, p. 1), she identifies different images of the monstrous feminine:

Gender and Contemporary Horror in Television, 35 45 r Khara Lukancic All rights of reproduction in any form reserved doi:10.1108/978-1-78769-103-220191004


Khara Lukancic The amoral primeval mother (Aliens, 1986); vampire (The Hunger, 1983); witch (Carrie, 1976); woman as monstrous womb (The Brood, 1979); woman as bleeding womb (Dressed to Kill, 1980); woman as possessed body (The Exorcist, 1973); the castrating mother (Psycho, 1960); woman as beautiful but deadly killer (Basic Instinct, 1992); aged psychopath (Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, 1962); the monstrous girl-boy (A Reflection of Fear, 1973); woman as non-human animal (Cat People, 1942); woman as life-in-death (Lifeforce, 1985); woman as the deadly femme castratrice. (I Spit on Your Grave, 1978).

Seemingly, the Weeping Angels represent a hybridization of monstrous feminine archetypes, acting as a combination of witch and vampire. The witch is described as being an old crone who commits horrific acts. In ‘Blink’, the Doctor describes the Weeping Angels as ‘The Lonely Assassins, old as the universe and have lived this long because they have the most perfect defence system ever evolved; they’re quantum locked’ (Moffatt & MacDonald, 2007). This, of course, refers to the idea that the Weeping Angels are only stone statues while being observed, when they are not being watched, they are free to move and attack at will. Being ‘old as the universe’ (Moffatt & MacDonald, 2007) makes calling them old crones reasonable and their horrific acts are that they displace people in time in order to feed off their potential energy. Creed goes on to describe the monstrous feminine vampire as a ‘creature who sucks the blood of helpless […] victims and transforms them into her own kind’ (1993, p. 2). Arguably, the Weeping Angels fit a modified version of this definition. When Weeping Angels attack, they appear with fangs, much like the traditional image of the vampire moments before feeding. Additionally, I propose they are an energy vampire, as they feed on their victims’ energy. Indeed, blood is the life force, the energy, of a human. The second part of the definition of the monstrous feminine vampire is that she ‘transforms them into her own kind’ (Creed, 1993, p. 2); the Weeping Angels exhibit this characteristic when they attempt to convert Amy into one of their own in the paired episodes, ‘The Time of Angels’ (Moffatt & Smith, 2010) and ‘Flesh and Stone’ (Moffatt & Smith, 2010). The Weeping Angels undergo a transformation throughout the episodes in which they appear. Initially, Weeping Angels are coded as female. In ‘Blink’, the Angels appear as feminine stone statues. However, in the paired episodes ‘The Time of Angels’ and ‘Flesh and Stone’, their mythology and gender representation changes as they take on masculine features. At the moment the Angels appear masculine, they also become much more brutal. A reason for this change can be understood by considering the history of gender in Doctor Who. In the series, a toxic masculinity is portrayed. Throughout ‘Nu Who’ (what some fans dub episodes from 2005 on), it has been suggested that the Doctor needs a companion to protect his humanity. In ‘The Fires of Pompeii’ (Moran & Teague, 2008), for example, the Doctor is influenced by his companion, Donna, to help people faced with certain death. The Doctor

Weeping Angels: Doctor Who’s (De)Monstrous Feminine


believes that the event is historically fixed in time. Thus, he cannot step in as this catastrophe is fated. However, Donna reminds him that he is in a position to help real people from dying. The Doctor battles against toxic masculinity; moreover, he travels the world with two hearts (representing love, and to a degree hate) and a sonic screwdriver, rather than bombs and guns. In the show, toxic masculinity is vilified. The Daleks are out to cleanse the universe of all non-Dalek beings; the Cybermen originally sought their own survival, but change in Nu-Who to upgrading humanity to a higher status by eliminating humans of emotions and by creating a population of emotionally numb cyborgs; all Sontarans exhibit a Napoleon Complex and simply wish to conquer and colonize; whilst The Silence do not take on these more aggressive qualities characterized in these other villains, they simply wish to kill The Doctor in an attempt to pre-emptively save themselves. One way to understand the more masculine form of Weeping Angels being more brutal read: murderous is by turning to the work of the feminist ethicist, Nel Noddings. In The Maternal Factor: Two Paths to Morality (2010), she explores her brand of ethics and focuses on ideas of care, morality and the surrounding ethics. To Noddings: Men start and fight wars. Despite exotic stories of female warriors, the historical record confirms that wars have been men’s wars. Within a society, males commit the overwhelming majority of violent crimes, and this is true worldwide. ‘Male criminals specialize in violent crime. In the U.S., for example, a man is about nine times as likely as a woman to commit murder, seventy-eight times as likely to commit forcible rape, ten times as likely to commit armed robbery, and almost six and a half times as likely to commit aggravated assault’ (Wrangham & Peterson, p. 113), Men are naturally more aggressive and violence-prone than women. (pp. 213 214) Therefore, the work of Noddings supports the ideologies forwarded in Doctor Who; in the show, the male villains are aggressive, brutal and colonizing. Later in her book, Noddings describes women as being more focused on meeting needs than men. Doctor Who’s feminine Weeping Angels are not warmongers; they simply do what needs to be done for their own survival. They do not transport victims as an act of aggression, but as sustenance, as they feed off the resultant energy. Thus, the Weeping Angels are less monstrous in their feminine than masculine form.



‘Blink’ opens in an abandoned, Gothic-tinged house, Wester Drumlins, in London. Sally Sparrow trespasses on the location, whereby she discovers an impossible message addressed to her. The message, written on the wall behind some torn wallpaper, warns her about the dangers of the Weeping Angels.


Khara Lukancic

The Weeping Angels function as a sort of inverse Medusa. One must look at the Weeping Angels in order to survive, and they remain incarcerated as stone, while the Medusa from the story of Perseus in Greek Mythology kills if one does look upon her, turning her victim into stone. Therefore, looking at the Medusa brings death, when gazing upon the stone Weeping Angels is the only defence against them. In order to avoid becoming a Weeping Angel’s victim and living one’s future within the past, one must simply keep at least one eye on all nearby Angels. Laura Mulvey and Linda Williams have described different aspects of the cinematic gaze, particularly with respect to gender. In her frequently cited essay ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ (1975/2004), Mulvey describes the concept of scopophilia: ‘There are circumstances in which looking itself is a source of pleasure, just as in the reverse formation, there is pleasure in being looked at’ (2004, p. 170). She discusses the work of Sigmund Freud regarding scopophilia, where he explains that it is an action of objectification; it forces submission through the dominating look. In the case of the Weeping Angels, they are creatures that look like feminine stone statues, and in order to keep their monstrosity in check, they must be gazed upon as objects (stone statues) and can therefore be controlled by forcing them to be submissive and docile through the act of being watched. Linda Williams’ ‘When the Woman Looks’ (1996), in part talks about the affinity between woman and monster in classic horror movies. This connection is massaged in the storyline of the Weeping Angels: the Angels themselves appear feminine and monstrous but also the female characters interacting with them are often the ones who understand them best. That is, they understand their abjection, their Otherness, as they are also females as Other to the normative man. Mulvey talks about a perceived perversion of women as compared to men when discussing the work of Alfred Hitchcock. Mulvey notes, ‘[t]rue perversion is barely concealed under a shallow mask of ideological correctness the man is on the right side of the law, the woman on the wrong’ (1989, p. 23). In ‘Blink’, the Doctor is the all-knowing one with the agency to save others from the horror of the Weeping Angels. Sally Sparrow would not have even come upon the Angels had she not been trespassing on abandoned property. Thus, the narrative punishes her trespasses by unleashing the Weeping Angels upon her. The Weeping Angels themselves, of course, are in the wrong as they are interfering with the fates of their victims. Sally is able to subvert the Angels only after the Doctor tells her how to defeat them. ‘Blink’ introduces the feminine Weeping Angels as ‘scary’ monsters. The sound design of the episode suggests they are to be feared by providing suspenseful music. The editing of the episode features quick cuts during the action sequences to add to the viewer’s sense of fear. The Weeping Angels are thus coded as feminine monsters that should be feared. In addition to following the Gothic tropes of gloomy settings, decrepit mansions and supernatural beings; the episode ends on a particularly Gothic note, one that leaves the ending open. The episode ends with a suspenseful montage of a variety of stone statues and creatures throughout London. The montage pushes at the fear surrounding the

Weeping Angels: Doctor Who’s (De)Monstrous Feminine


Weeping Angels: They could be anywhere. The four main Weeping Angels of the episode have been dealt with, but are there more?


The Time of Angels, and Flesh and Stone

At first, the Weeping Angels have no end-goal beyond simple survival. Their modus operandi is to displace their victims in the past in order to feed off the potential energy left behind. The Doctor describes them as: The only psychopaths in the universe to kill you nicely. No muss, no fuss, they just zap you into the past and let you live to death. The rest of your life used up and blown away in a blink of an eye. You die in the past and in the present they consume the energy of all the days you might have had, all your stolen moments. They’re creatures of the abstract. They live off potential energy. (Moffat, 2007) The paired episodes ‘The Time of Angels’ and ‘Flesh and Stone’ change the mythology of the Weeping Angels. In the first episode, ‘The Time of Angels,’ River Song (companions Amy and Rory’s daughter, and past/present/future wife of the Doctor) leads the Doctor to a crashed spaceship by piquing his interest, telling him that inside the ship is an immortal creature. He learns only after following her to the wreckage that the creature locked inside the spaceship’s vault is a Weeping Angel. River Song brings up footage that she recorded off the security cameras up on the nearby screen. The short, four-second clip shows a Weeping Angel covering her face with her back to the camera. Intertextually, this scene from Doctor Who is very reminiscent of elements found in the horror movie franchise, The Ring. The four-second clip from the security camera of the Weeping Angel trapped in the vault is aesthetically similar to the cursed videotape in Ringu (1998, Hideo Nakata) and its remake, The Ring (Verbinksi, 2002). In all cases, the footage is grainy and cuts in and out and has low resolution and amateur quality. Seemingly, the scenes in The Ring and this episode serve the same narrative purpose: they both give insight to an imminent horror. The videotape from The Ring features an avant-garde montage of unsettling images that do not combine into narrative cohesion. The sequence features images of strange circles, a person pulling string from within their throat, a nail puncturing completely through a finger and a box of severed fingers that twitch. However, also, the montage is an image of a ladder, lighthouse and horses. These images are things that the protagonist, Rachel, experiences in her cursed week after watching the videotape. The lighthouse in the videotape helps her identify Samara’s hometown in a book of lighthouses, the horses lead her to a story in the newspaper archives about the family who adopted Samara, and the ladder leads up to Samara’s sequestered space in the family barn. Also, the footage is a sequence of strange rings; this foreshadows Rachel’s inevitable entrapment in Samara’s death well at the end of the film. Likewise, the security


Khara Lukancic

camera footage in the episode of Doctor Who creates tension of the Weeping Angel-induced horrors to come. While the Doctor, River Song and a group of military commandos are outside the ship investigating and strategizing, Amy stays inside the ship watching the looped security footage of the Angel. It is not long until she notices that the Angel has slightly moved. Her back is no longer facing the camera and her hands do not cover her face. She is now standing profile to the camera and her hands have lowered, exposing her face. Amy walks closer to the screen and says rhetorically, ‘you’re just a recording! You can’t move!’ (Moffat, 2010). At that very moment, the Doctor and River Song are looking through old reference books about the Weeping Angels when the Doctor reads a passage aloud: ‘That which holds an image of an Angel becomes, itself, an Angel’ (Moffat, 2010). The Angel on the screen has turned towards the camera and has its signature vampiric attack expression. This is when the episode intertextually interacts once again with both Ringu and The Ring as the Angel comes out of the screen and appears before Amy in the physical space of the room on the ship. In Noah’s death scene in The Ring, Samara approaches the screen within the footage and then climbs out from the television screen and begins pursuing him in his apartment. When she crosses the threshold of the screen into the real-life space of Noah’s apartment, the image of her retains the same quality as was true in the videotape. She appears grainy and the image cuts in and out as did the grainy, amateur videotape. The Weeping Angel in ‘The Time of Angels’ also retains the quality of the video footage when she enters the physical space of the spaceship. In both instances, the victims are being threatened by villains that penetrate their media and materialize, continuing their chase in a corporeal body. Amy evades the Angel by paying close attention to the footage still looping through on the screen behind the Angel standing in front of her. She counts the seconds and turns the monitor off using the remote. She clicked it off after seeing a blip at the end of the four seconds, a moment when there was nothing on the tape. Previously, she had tried to turn the power off when the Angel was still contained within the screen but the Angel, in each instance, would turn it back on. The Angel only lost its power when it was no longer a part of the footage on screen. Moments after the Angel is evaded by turning the screen off, Amy rubs her eye and stone grains spill from her fingers. At the end of the episode, Amy’s hand turns to stone and we discover that because Amy had looked into the eyes of a Weeping Angel, she was becoming an Angel herself; because not only do images of Angels become Angels themselves, but the Doctor had pondered earlier in the episode that perhaps ‘eyes are not the windows of the soul, they are the doors. Beware what may enter there’ (Moffat, 2010). The Angel entered Amy through her eyes when they make eye contact while the Angel was still in the recording. The Angel was then tricking Amy into believing her hand was stone. If she believed it to be stone, then stone it became. In one of the final scenes of the episode, leading up to the cliffhanger moment, the Doctor bites Amy’s hand; thereby proving to her that her hand was indeed flesh and not stone. This allows them to escape the grasp of the Weeping Angels that were closing in on them.

Weeping Angels: Doctor Who’s (De)Monstrous Feminine


The only defence an Angel has against the watchful eye of their intended victim is turning out the light. Without the benefit of light, they are free to attack and send their target back in time while they feed on the potential energy of the victim’s interrupted life. The first encounter of this occurs in ‘Blink’ when Sally Sparrow and Larry Nightingale go back to the Wester Drumlins abandoned house, inhabited by Weeping Angels. Even though Sally and Larry find themselves surrounded by Angels, they remain safe as long as they keep watching the Weeping Angels, being ever mindful not to blink. Additional Angels work on turning the lights out which would allow the Angels closest to the pair to attack. The Weeping Angels are constantly trying to turn the lights off, thus making what is in the light and what is in the dark the key consideration of these moments. The Doctor, Amy, and River Song discover a forest on the spaceship they are investigating in the episode ‘Flesh and Stone’. It is a marvel of technoscience that hybridizes biological lifeforms (plants) with technology (light systems embedded within the plant life). As they make their way through the forest, the angels start tearing at the circuitry and turning out the lights. At the cliffhanger moment at the end of the episode ‘The Time of Angels’, the Doctor, Amy, and River Song find themselves surrounded by hundreds of Weeping Angels in a Gothic abandoned cathedral. As a measure of safety, the Doctor shoots a flare towards the ceiling to illuminate the room, allowing the trio to keep a better eye on the army of Angels. This aspect of the Weeping Angels invokes ideas posed within whiteness studies, which explores the normative nature of whiteness. In White (1997), Richard Dyer discusses the connection between white people and light, where he states, ‘reality can be represented as being on a ground of white, and that light comes from above; these notions have the effect not only of advantaging white people in representation and of discriminating between and within them, but also of suggesting a special affinity between them and the light’ (p. 84). Using this as a reading frame, when the Angels are bathed in the light of the sun, a lightbulb or a flare, that white light shrouds them in normativity. The baptism of light makes them normal (and thus safe) feminine cinematic images: white, subordinate and thus favoured by those who are gazing upon them. In the following episode that concludes the storyline, ‘Flesh and Stone’, the Doctor notices that Amy starts counting down from 10 for seemingly no reason and after conducting a body scan using a medical device, it determines her to be dying. He instructs her to close her eyes to freeze the advance of the Weeping Angel taking over her body. Amy is saved by the Doctor at the end of the episode. Moreover, these paired episodes provide an interesting change to the Weeping Angel mythology. In ‘Blink’, the Angels simply transport their victims in time. Yet in these paired episodes, they attempt to convert humans into Weeping Angels and kill humans when feeling threatened. Perhaps this alteration in behaviour can be explained by considering another change in the Angels occurring in these paired episodes. The appearance of the Weeping Angels changed from feminine stone statues to a more androgynous appearance. In fact, the hundreds of statues in the cathedral did not appear to be Weeping Angels at all, but ungendered stone statues.


Khara Lukancic

Later in ‘The Time of Angels’, the Angels speak though the voice of a recent victim, a male voice. Thus, in Weeping Angel mythology, the more masculine the Angels seem, the more vicious they become. That is, while they appear to be androgynous (and thus not feminine) and when they take on a masculine voice, their actions are much more monstrous. In these paired episodes, the Weeping Angels taunt their victims before killing them. In fact, the only deaths enacted by the Weeping Angels throughout the series occur when they are not recognizably feminine. In ‘Blink’ (the introduction of the Weeping Angels), and then in ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’ (Moffat & Hurran, 2012), which takes place after the paired episodes of ‘The Time of Angels’ and ‘Flesh and Stone’, the Weeping Angels appear as feminine statues who do not kill. They simply displace victims in time. Yet when they take on an androgynous appearance and a masculine voice, as in the paired episodes, they become murderous.


The Angels Take Manhattan

In ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’, the Weeping Angels once again take on their feminine form. This episode upgrades the feminine image of the Weeping Angels by revealing the Statue of Liberty as a Weeping Angel. She looms over Winter Quay ominously. The episode involves the Doctor, Amy and River Song trying to save Rory from a tragic fate. In 2012, Rory was touched by an Angel and sent back to 1920; back in 2012, the Doctor, Amy and River Song see the elderly, dying version of Rory in an apartment building, called Winter Quay. The trio are led by clues given through a book written by Melody Malone, which happens to be a pseudonym of River Song. Once they read something in the book, it was guaranteed to come true. Throughout the episode, they read that River Song would break her wrist (which she does) and that the Doctor and Amy will say their final goodbyes (which they do). At the end of the episode, the trio saves Rory only to have a Weeping Angel transport him into the past once again. Amy makes the decision to let that same Weeping Angel touch her too, so that she could spend the rest of her life with Rory. The interesting new development to the mythology of the Weeping Angels within this episode is the revelation of little, cherub angels. Like the feminine form, the cherubs are less vicious than the masculine form of Weeping Angels. Steven Bruhm explores the representation of evil, Gothic children in ‘Nightmare on Sesame Street’ (2006). To Bruhm: The history of Gothic fiction has taught us that what we most love is also what we most fear, but why children? And why now?, at the turn of a new millennium when hope should be in the wind? Why have the comforts of home (heimlich) been transformed into something frightening, strange, uncanny (das Unheimliche), and why do children lead the way to our envisioned destruction? (p. 98; emphasis in original)

Weeping Angels: Doctor Who’s (De)Monstrous Feminine


This is indeed the case for Rory, seeing that the Angel that sends him back to the past in the first place is a cherub. Later in the episode, Mr Grayle locks him in the cellar with multiple Weeping Angel cherubs. In the episode, the cherubs are ominous, but like the feminine Weeping Angels, simply transport people in time: they do not kill. This aligns the feminine and child-like Weeping Angels as more similar, and less vicious, than the masculine-appearing Angels.



The Weeping Angels are a blended figure of the monstrous feminine, possessing the qualities of both witch and vampire. Seemingly, the Weeping Angels do not wish to kill anyone. They simply displace their victims in order to feed from their energy, they only become murderous in one storyline, when they are near extinction and are desperate for survival. The episodes before and after depict them as simply being survivors, not overt murderers; compared to other representations of the monstrous feminine, they don’t seem to be all that vicious, especially in comparison with other, previously mentioned, Doctor Who villains/ monsters. The aim of the Daleks (and their creator, Davros) is to seek the total annihilation of all non-Dalek lifeforms for example, in ‘The Stolen Earth’ (Harper, 2008), they position Earth and 26 other planets into an alignment that will create and energize their most powerful weapon, the Reality Bomb that will wipe out all lifeforms across all of time and space, except themselves. In an alternative universe across The Void (the space between universes), John Lumic, creator of the alternative universe Cybermen, seeks to upgrade humanity by turning everyone on an alternate-reality Earth into Cybermen, by stripping them of their emotions, in the episodes ‘Rise of the Cybermen’ and ‘The Age of Steel’ (both Harper, 2006). Lumic sees the brain as a computer and the conversion removes part of the brain and places it into a steel body that can supposedly live forever. Conversely, those transported by the Weeping Angels do not face death or any physical deformation. They are transferred somewhere else and they carry out the rest of their lives in the new time. When Sally Sparrow’s friend Kathy gets transported to 1920, she marries the first person she meets in the new time, they marry and have children. She tells Sally in a letter delivered to her in a recreation of the end scene of Back to the Future Part II (Zemeckis, 1989) that she had a happy life where she was deeply loved and was loved in return. The show offers no explanations as to why these Weeping Angels, these feminine monsters are the ones who are the least villainous. Arguably, it may have something to do with the feminist ethics of Nel Noddings, which poses the ethics of care. She notes that patriarchal societies tend to not acknowledge the difference of women’s ways of thinking (Noddings, 1984). In the Doctor Who universe, masculine villains are seen as aggressively brutal. The feminine Weeping Angels are far less barbaric, their femininity making them less monstrous by assigning them a sense of compassion and humanity, as compared with the Daleks and Cybermen.


Khara Lukancic

Thus, by combining Barbara Creed’s monstrous feminine and Nel Noddings’ feminist ethics, a potential explanation about the femininity of the Weeping Angels materializes, suggesting their femininity makes them less monstrous as compared to the Daleks or Cybermen, or even the more masculine-appearing form of the Weeping Angels. Overall, Doctor Who forwards concepts of masculinity as monstrous: the Doctor needs a human companion to travel with him to protect his humanity, after all. The Weeping Angels are complex and their mythology has changed over the course of the show, beginning as exclusively feminine creatures and then later revealing a masculine form. Their most common form as feminine stone statues exhibits a hybridization of monstrous feminine archetypes. However, their actions are found to be less monstrous through their femininity instead of more monstrous. Thus, despite some narrative inconsistencies, these set of adventures establish the Weeping Angels as a type of (de)monstrous feminine, and as such remain amongst the most fascinating Doctor Who ‘monsters’ of the series’ history.

References Bruhm, S. (2006). Nightmare on Sesame street: Or, the self-possessed child. Gothic Studies, 8(2), 98 113. Retrieved from Canton, N. (Producer), Gale, B. (Producer), & Zemeckis, R. (Director). (1989). Back to the future part II [Motion picture]. United States: Amblin Entertainment & Universal Pictures. Creed, B. (1993). The Monstrous-feminine: Film, feminism, psychoanalysis. London: Routledge. Davies, R. T. (Writer), & Harper, G. (Director). (2008). The stolen earth. In R. T. Davies (Executive Producer), Doctor Who. Westminster, London: BBC. Davies, R. T. (Writer), Holmes, R. (Writer), & Boak, K. (Director). (2005). Rose. In R. T. Davies (Executive Producer), Doctor Who. Westminster, London: BBC. Dyer, R. (1997). White. London & New York: Routledge. Mann, W. (2017). 10 years later, “Blink” is still Doctor Who’s finest hour. Medium. Retrieved from Moffat, S. (Writer), & Hurran, N. (Director). (2012). The angels take Manhattan. In S. Moffat (Executive Producer), Doctor Who. Westminster, London: BBC. Moffat, S. (Writer), & Hurran, N. (Director). (2013). The day of the doctor. In S. Moffat (Executive Producer), Doctor Who. Westminster, London: BBC. Moffat, S. (Writer), & MacDonald, H. (Director). (2007). Blink. In S. Moffat (Executive Producer), Doctor Who. Westminster, London: BBC. Moffat, S. (Writer), & Smith, A. (Director). (2010). Flesh and stone. In S. Moffat (Executive Producer), Doctor Who. Westminster, London: BBC. Moffat, S. (Writer) & Smith, A. (Director). (2010). The time of angels. In S. Moffat (Executive Producer), Doctor Who. Westminster, London: BBC. Moran, J. (Writer), & Teague, C. (Director). (2008). The fires of Pompeii. In R. T. Davies (Executive Producer), Doctor Who. Westminster, London: BBC.

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Mulvey, L. (1989). Visual and other pleasures. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Mulvey, L. (2004). Laura Mulvey, from ‘visual pleasure in narrative cinema’ (1975). In A. Easthope & K. McGowan (Eds.), A critical and cultural theory reader (2nd ed., pp. 168 176). Toronto & Buffalo: University of Toronto Press. Noddings, N. (2010). The maternal factor: Two paths to morality. Berkeley, Los Angeles, & London: University of California Press. Noddings, N. (1984). Caring: A feminine approach to ethics and moral education. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Parkes, W. F. (Producer), MacDonald, L. (Producer), & Verbinski, G. (Director). (2002). The Ring [Motion picture]. United States: BenderSpink & Parkes/ MacDonald Productions. Williams, L. (1996). When the woman looks. In B. K. Grant (Ed.), The dread of difference: Gender and the horror film (pp. 15 34). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

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Chapter 4

The Representation of Older Women in Twenty-first Century Horror: An Analysis of Characters Played by Jessica Lange in American Horror Story Natasha Parcei



Historically, older women have been underrepresented in the media, often appearing in films and television programs as peripheral characters based on stereotypes. This is particularly prevalent in horror, as this genre frequently plays on exaggerated cinematic tropes as part of its narrative construction. The dawning of the twenty-first century brought a shift in how older people are constructed by Western culture. To follow this, fictional representations of older people, and older women particularly, have both increased and become more complex constructions of characters. So, bearing in mind the recent cultural shift in how old age is understood and the importance of horror in amplifying cultural perceptions, this chapter seeks to illuminate the current cultural construction of older women on screen by considering how the characters played by Jessica Lange are fashioned in the popular television franchise American Horror Story (2011 2015, and from here now termed AHS for brevity). Janicker also highlights this understanding of representation in the franchise: ‘Positioned as it is within a time-honoured tradition of Gothic horror, AHS time and again offers its audience images, however warped, of the society that they themselves inhabit’ (Janicker, 2017, p. 2). This chapter begins with a brief outline of the theoretical perspectives on ageing women, followed by an outline of the American Horror Story franchise and Lange’s characters. It then moves on to analysing the individual constructions of the older woman in each of Lange’s characters through the series, before making closing remarks on her characters as a collective of representations.

Gender and Contemporary Horror in Television, 47 57 r Natasha Parcei All rights of reproduction in any form reserved doi:10.1108/978-1-78769-103-220191005



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Perspectives on Ageing

One must move past the purely biomedical perspective of ageing as merely the physical changes in the human body over time in order to understand how this biological process is socialized and how it contains further meanings in society (Gilleard & Higgs, 2000). In doing so, the field of cultural gerontology, or ageing theory, invites us to consider age as a social construct (Gullette, 2004), as age is not simply a biological state, but a social one that contains only arbitrary meanings assigned upon it by the culture it inhabits. The predominant discourse that accompanies the ageing process is a narrative of decline, which posits that as a person ages from adulthood, both their body and corresponding social value are constantly diminishing as they ‘lose’ their youth. Julia Twigg articulates the decline narrative aptly when she states, ‘we are not judged by how old we are, but by how young we are not’ (Twigg, 2004, p. 61). In the twenty-first century, later life is no longer simply constructed as old age, as was the predominant ageing construction of the twentieth century. It is now redefined by a youthful interpretation of agedness that functions to encourage the ‘stretching’ of middle age into later life, which ‘implies less a denial of age and more its careful supervision and design’ (Raisborough et al., 2014). This stretching of middle age into later life allows for a youthful incarnation of agedness which is often referred to as the culture of the third age. This denies the negative associations of older age while maintaining the positive aspects such as life experience and acquired affluence (Gilleard & Higgs, 2000). In doing so, the less desirable traits of agedness, or true old age, are shunned to what is termed the fourth age a fearful social imaginary that exists purely as the embodiment of ageing fears, such as frailty and the loss of agency in mind and/or body (Higgs & Gilleard, 2014). In considering the representation of older women, the construction of age identity is influenced by gender, which too is theorized as a highly socialized identity construction (Butler, 1990). The cultural understanding of the older woman exists from the intersectional social construction of an aged femininity. In considering ageing femininity, Susan Sontag notes of the ‘double standard of ageing’ in which ageing is constructed as considerably less detrimental to men, as their social value is not as heavily weighted by the virtues of youth, meaning older women have generally less perceived social value than older men (Sontag, 1972). Twigg goes on to note how this double standard of ageing acknowledges the way ageing undermines a woman’s traditional source of power in her sexual desirability to men, which is tied in with her socially understood purpose to reproduce (Twigg, 2004). So, as a woman ages, her value is constructed as being in a gradual state of loss, and even despite other social signifiers, her ageing femininity is constructed as the dominant source of her social value. In this ilk, when considering the representations of aged femininity in Lange’s character constructions in the AHS series, the source of her social value will function to signify how these representations of older women reflect the culture they are created for.

The Representation of Older Women in C21 Horror 4.2.1.


American Horror Story

American Horror Story first premiered on television screens in 2011, and since its debut, it rapidly grew in popularity with audiences to become a staple of modern popular culture, with each new season taking on a traditional American folklore horror trope. Unlike the traditional television series format, each season of the show follows an entirely unrelated story line. However, rather uniquely, the series retains much of its cast from season to season, each time in a different role, thus adding a sense of continuity to the otherwise entirely removed series progression. There are currently seven seasons available with two more confirmed to follow. However, this chapter focuses only on the first four seasons in which Jessica Lange appears. Each season of the show is commonly referred to by its identifying suffix. Season 1 was called simply American Horror Story but following the franchise’s continued success it is commonly referred to by the retrospective suffix Murder House. This first season follows the classic narrative device of a family moving in to an old house in which there were a number of gruesome murders. Season 2, Asylum, follows two time frames: the majority of the narrative is set in a church-run psychiatric institution in the 1960s, while in the present day, a murderer takes two victims in the abandoned ruins of the asylum. Season 3, Coven, focuses on a school for young witches in modern day America. Season 4, Freak Show, is set in the 1950s and follows the story of one of the last remaining human curiosity shows in America. Along with each season taking an original and unrelated narrative, Lange takes on a new character for each of the four seasons she stars in. Her debut role in the AHS franchise saw her in Murder House as Constance Langdon the nosey neighbour who constantly interferes with the family next-door in the murder house. In Asylum, Lange played Sister Jude, or Judy, the strict disciplinarian nun with a troubled past who controls the day-to-day running of the institution. Coven saw Lange in the role of Fiona Goode, the witch supreme the most powerful witch of her generation. Her final role of the franchise was in Freak Show as Elsa Mars, the fame-hungry owner and manager of the travelling show. Each of these characters is derived from a common stereotype for older women: the nosey neighbour, the nun, the witch, and the fading starlet. However, Lange’s embodiment of these character types is unlike the past representations of older women in these roles who existed purely as two-dimensional and functional, and whose characterization relied solely on evoking the stereotype. Lange’s incarnation of these character types is constructed as fully realized narrative characters with complex personalities as a culmination of their lived experience, all of which is displayed in the show. In doing this the show deliberately draws attention to, and probes, the stereotypes prevalent in popular representations of older women, which indicates a shift in how older women are understood, and in turn reflected, in the twenty-first century.



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Constance Langdon

Constance Langdon, is the first character played by Lange is Constance Langdon in the first season of AHS, Murder House. She is the meddling nextdoor-neighbour to the Harmon family living in the troublesome house. She is introduced to the narrative when she enters the Harmon’s house unannounced following her Down Syndrome daughter Addy (Jamie Brewer), who she openly disdains of, to her new neighbour Vivien Harmon (Connie Britton). In this expository scene, Constance speaks of how she relocated to Los Angeles from the southern state of Virginia to follow her dreams of becoming a movie star. Yet, she never fulfilled her aspiration blaming her failed career on a combination of her modest attitude towards nudity, followed by her marriage and subsequent motherhood. Constance repeatedly involves herself in the lives of the Harmon family as soon as they move in. It is later revealed that she once lived in the house herself and is also the mother of Tate, the teenage tear-away that is leading the Harmon’s daughter astray, and who fathers a baby with Vivien through rape. Tate is later revealed to actually be a spirit living in the house as he died many years ago, and his child with Vivien is the anti-Christ. While this storyline is shocking, Constance sees it as an opportunity for a second chance at motherhood. Constance’s characterization plays on the older woman stereotypes of the nosey neighbour and the childless baby-snatcher. Interfering from episode to episode, her malicious involvement in the Harmon household increases upon the discovery that Vivien Harmon is carrying Tate’s child, her grandchild. Aware of the unborn child’s evil nature as partial offspring of the dead, and its detrimental effect on Vivien’s health, Constance prepares a meal of raw pig’s brain for Vivien to aid the growth of her demonic grandchild. Once Vivien gives birth, Constance steals the newborn baby to raise as her own, presenting the stereotype of the baby-snatching older woman. This stereotype creates a fearful image of the older, childless woman, often past typical reproductive age, who through her erratic state of mind seeks to fulfil her natural maternal instinct by stealing a baby from a younger woman. In this instance, the baby-snatching imagery functions as an extrapolation of the interfering neighbour stereotype in Constance’s character as the main villain of the season; her villainy is based in the negative constructions of how older women are understood in popular culture. Although, unlike the two-dimensional existence of a stereotype being used in lieu of character construction, Constance’s embodiment of these stereotypes is supported with a backstory in which the audience can slightly sympathize with her, as she is a deeply unfulfilled person. This is seen in the way she understands herself to be a failure in all her life endeavours, from her non-existent acting career, to her perceived failure of femininity in her role as mother. Constance is a bad mother to her three children, all of whom are dead by the season’s close when she steals her grandchild to raise as her own in an attempt to reprise her role as mother. Obsessed with beauty, Constance feels that she has been a failure as a mother as she perceives all her children to be ‘monsters’. Her eldest, Addy has Down Syndrome and its characteristic facial features which do

The Representation of Older Women in C21 Horror


not conform to Constance’s standard of beauty, even saying to Vivien on their first meeting that she would have aborted Addy if she had known of her daughter’s ‘condition’. However, Constance is distraught when Addy is hit and killed by a car later in the season, showing a motherly affection did exist within her, despite her ill-treatment of her daughter. Her son Tate is dead throughout the whole show, having died years earlier. He is like Constance in that his outer beauty hides the monster within, as he carried out a mass school shooting and was subsequently shot and killed by a police officer. While the deaths of Addy and Tate are not at Constance’s hand, she is more directly involved in the death of Beau, her youngest son. He was afflicted with craniodiaphyseal dysplasia which causes severe facial deformities, as a result of which Constance kept him chained up in the attic and subsequently had her husband smother him to death to hide him from public knowledge. As Constance was, in her opinion, unable to produce a ‘normal’ child, she perceives herself as having failed as a mother which ignites her drive to steal Vivien’s baby and finally find value in herself by fulfilling her maternal duty.


Sister Jude

Season 2, Asylum, saw Lange return to the series as Sister Jude, the austere nun with a troubled past. Jude is the manager of the 1960s psychiatric institution, Briarcliff. She is introduced as a staunch religious figure who believes that mental illness is ‘simply another name for sin’ and runs the institution as a strict, and often cruel, disciplinarian. While presenting a pious front, Jude is revealed to have repressed salacious desires for her religious superior, the Monsignor and it is later revealed that Jude’s dedication to her faith is an attempt to compensate for hitting a young girl while drunk driving. Unable to continue living with the guilt of this incident, Jude goes to confess to the family of the girl, only to find that she had survived the accident and is living a normal life. However, at this point, Jude has fallen back into problematic drinking and becomes increasingly unstable, culminating in her being framed for a murder and subsequently incarcerated in the institution herself, where she undergoes electro shock therapy. Following this, she spends many years at Briarcliff, some of which are in an isolated cell, which causes her to lose her mind. As the season closes, it is revealed that Jude was freed from the institution by former adversary Kit (Evan Peters), with whom she spends her final days until her death. Sister Jude presents the stereotype of the older woman as a nun in both the ‘cruel nun’ and the ‘fetishized nun’ imagery. The typical understanding of a nun is constructed through the pious virtues of chastity and devotion to strict Christian doctrine. Yet, when this construction intersects with agedness, it creates a dichotomy between the young, kind nun and the old, cruel nun. This is initially displayed when Sister Jude is juxtaposed with the much-younger Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe), who is pleasant and agreeable. Jude’s cruelty initially plays into the stereotype of the old, bitter nun imagery, but as the narrative reveals Jude’s troubled past it adds a complexity to her characterization, and in


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turn allows this cruel figure to become a sympathetic character, destabilizing the stereotype. The franchise also deconstructs the ‘naughty nun’ stereotype in popular culture through a fetishization of the occupation. When comparing Sister Jude’s two sides of the same coin, her ‘naughty nun’ invokes a feeling of rampant sexuality, while her original ‘cruel nun’ is the opposite. Here, Asylum deconstructs the juxtaposing nun stereotypes simultaneously. When fetishized Jude is shown preparing dinner for the Monsignor; she is displayed wearing a vibrant red lace chemise under her religious habit, and becomes much more explicit when the audience is shown Jude’s fantasy of seducing him during dinner. In displaying the fetishization of the nun through Jude’s own fantasy it allows her to be presented as owning, and accepting, her sexuality. The presentation is particularly progressive as it displays a representation of an older woman as sexual and desiring (and desirable) which aligns with the culture of the third age’s youthfulness through the stretching of middle age into later life with the retention of an active sexual life. In acknowledging and utilizing the two common, but juxtaposing, nun stereotypes as part of Jude’s character construction informs the development of a complex character that allows the two-dimensional imagery to be destabilized through Jude’s humanization of the stereotype. However, Sister Jude also comes to represent a depiction of a bad matriarch. While she is not as much of an outright villain as Constance was, she still displays morally questionable leadership. In fitting with the cruel nun stereotype, Jude enjoys capital punishment; this ranges from the canings she doles out, which also adds to fetishized ‘naughty nun’ construction, to the false committal of a sane journalist into Briarcliffe. Her most morally corrupt act sees her ordering the sterilization of a female inmate caught having sex. Jude does have some loose, rather skewed, Christian logic to support her cruel actions from a Biblical perspective. This somewhat ratifies her actions, as from her viewpoint she sees herself as having been saved from an immoral life of drinking and sexual promiscuity through the sanctity of religion and the strict discipline of the Christian sisterhood. Jude is the least morally bankrupt of all of Lange’s characters, as she does try to stop the human experiments being performed on the patients by the institutions doctor, showing the core of good in her character. However, just because she is the least reprehensible of Lange’s characters, it does not excuse her moral failings as matriarch to the inhabitants of Briarcliff upon whom undue pain and hardship is inflicted, both by her own hand and by proxy.


Fiona Goode

In Season 3, Coven, Lange plays Fiona Goode, the Witch Supreme: the most powerful witch in her coven. Fiona is introduced in the narrative as she hounds a scientist who she is paying to develop a cure for the effects of the ageing process. Unable to provide this cure upon her demand, she kills him by draining his life-force, which briefly revitalizes her to a youthful state. Fiona then makes her way to a boarding school for young witches run by her daughter Cordelia

The Representation of Older Women in C21 Horror


(Sarah Paulson). Fiona goes there under the guise of being able to assist Cordelia, who she feels is unable to protect the young witches. However, later in the narrative Fiona’s ulterior motive is revealed as Cordelia’s school is fostering a new Supreme Witch, who is developing into her prime and causing Fiona’s decline. It is revealed that Fiona’s motive in the narrative is to identify and kill her successor in order to prolong her reign as Witch Supreme and feel the full benefits of prolonged youthful vitality, as she will become immune to the ageing process and any detrimental lifestyle choices she makes until a new successor arises. She will become, somewhat, immortal. Once at the coven Fiona takes her rightful position as matriarch and appears to take over the young witches’ magical education. However, she is actually using this position to test her students’ abilities so she can identify the new rising Supreme Witch. She wrongfully murders a possible successor and frames a rival witch of her crime, before finally being succeeded by her own daughter, who absorbs her power and youthful vitality, causing Fiona to rapidly decline and physically decay to her death. In her final moments, Fiona must accept her death before passing into the next life where she faces her own personal hell. Fiona is the representation of the older woman as witch stereotype. This is a narrative that plays heavily on satirizing the witch imagery, almost to the point of caricature, with Fiona’s first order as matriarch of the coven being for all the young witches to wear black. However, Fiona is immediately Othered by her age, when a younger witch calls her a ‘hag’. This term evokes the negative stereotype of the older woman as a witch being a cantankerous and physically ugly image, but Fiona’s retention of good looks through her tenure as Supreme Witch visibly disputes the traditional hag imagery. In addition to this, the whole mythology of the Supreme Witch in the narrative highlights the cultural understanding of ageing as decline. It details that there can only be one Supreme in existence at any one time and that there is one for each generation. So, when a new Supreme Witch begins to come into her witch-hood prime, she begins to exponentially grow in power as the current Supreme rapidly declines to her death. Unless she expires before the power transition, the younger will usurp the older, thus clearly displaying the decline narrative of ageing. Fiona’s quest for prolonged power and youthfulness is framed negatively as she is presented as disrupting the natural progression of life by actively resisting transition of power that allows her successor to ascend to the summit of the coven. This power transition speaks to a cultural understanding, particularly in women, that sees societal value lessen with age. This is seen as women are often constructed as being usurped by younger replacements who occupy the male gaze and the implied associated value as both viable vessels for reproduction and objects of sexual pleasure under a patriarchal hegemony. Fiona is the bad matriarch to the young witches of the school, and her own biological daughter. She is presented negatively, through having abandoned her matriarchal duty as Supreme Witch of leading the coven in order to live a carefree and luxurious lifestyle aided by her immense magical powers and immunity from repercussions due to her position of authoritative power. She only returns to her matriarchal duties as head of the coven reluctantly, with the selfish


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intention of preserving her lifestyle by murdering her potential successor. However, she is unsuccessful in her endeavour and is succeeded by her own estranged daughter Cordelia. In an emotionally charged final scene for the pair Fiona is in the final stages of her decline to death, they discuss their complex relationship as Cordelia articulates her resentment of Fiona for abandoning her motherly duties and leaving her at the school. However, Fiona does not see herself as a bad mother as she always loved her daughter and equates Cordelia’s disappointment in her style of mothering to her ‘looking for another version of motherhood’ that Fiona could not provide. This conversation highlights the narrow cultural expectations of motherhood that implicitly aligns maternal instinct as an intrinsic facet of female nature. Fiona presents an image of womanhood that is fulfilled from sources other than motherhood. In Fiona’s case, this comes from a selfishly decadent lifestyle, but it is refreshing in the display of an older woman whose life fulfilment is not dependant on motherhood.


Elsa Mars

In Season 4, Freak Show, Lange plays Elsa Mars, manager of a troupe of human curiosities that perform in her travelling show. The narrative is set in the 1950s where Elsa’s show is one of the last of its kind, and while it appears to be attracting barely any customers, she continues to run the dying show as a vessel for her to perform as the headlining act. In love with the golden era of Hollywood stardom, Elsa presents a glamourous image of herself, hoping that one day she will be spotted by an industry professional and her dreams of a return to stardom will be fulfilled. In order to keep she show running Elsa seeks out and employs new ‘freaks’ for her show, but after her new recruit, the two-headed twins Bette and Dot (Sarah Paulson), takes over the headline position in the show Elsa becomes jealous and sells them so she can reclaim her headline position. However, Elsa cannot resurrect the show and she sells it, troupe included, to fund a move to Hollywood in a last-ditch attempt to become a star. She perseveres, despite hostility, and finally meets a producer and fellow German expat with whom she develops a relationship and who organizes for her to host her own television show that proves so popular she finally realizes her ambition of stardom. However, Elsa’s diva-like tendencies are exaggerated with her fame and she is still not satisfied. Dressed in a crisp, beautiful white suit, Elsa walks to centre stage, and sings an incredibly moving performance of David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ (some 20+ years before its original release) on her comeback show on Halloween. However, her troubled past comes back to haunt her. As fog tumbles down the studio stairs, and the audience lose sight of her, Mordrake (Wes Bentley) the two-faced magician and harbinger of death, and the serial killer, Twisty the Clown (John Carroll Lynch) appears beside her. Mordrake tells Elsa that he once held her black soul within his grasp and tells her that her wanting to commit suicide by performing on this cursed night reveals ‘how deep your pain is, my love.’ When Elsa replies, ‘I am the biggest freak of all…Take me.

The Representation of Older Women in C21 Horror


Take me now’, Twisty gently tells her, with a tearful smile, that the pain ‘Will hurt. But only for a moment.’. Mordrake stabs her in the chest, and she falls to the ground dead from a heart attack. As she falls, Mordrake tells her that her story does not end with him. Following this encounter Elsa travels back to her freak show. When she walks through the main tent and into the warm and loving embrace of her freaks, her friends, she stands on the stage and the music strikes up with ‘Heroes’ again. The camera lingers lovingly on Elsa who is now dressed in another stunningly tailored suit, though this time with an almostparody of uncharacteristically gauche and brightly coloured make-up. Elsa takes a breath to begin her song. The image cuts to all-black, with a breath of curtailment in the air. Elsa has entered into the next life, reunited with her troupe to forever perform at her show. Elsa’s character is based on the older woman stereotype of the ageing performer. It is a stereotype that lies at the heart of modern show business with the industry’s favouring of youth. Once again, this ageist culture is particularly harmful to the value of female performers, who have been historically dismissed when they age past an arbitrary peak of youthfulness. This notion is in keeping with the double standard of ageing that understands the social value of a woman to be primarily based in the virtues of her youth. This implicit understanding of youth as an essential criteria for achieving success as a performer is used in the creation of Elsa’s character. However, this stereotype is subverted with Elsa’s final success in being able to achieve her stardom in later life, thus demonstrating the public appeal of the older woman is viable if the industry would allow it. This stereotype subversion mirrors the real-word shift seen in female stardom, with increasing number of prominent older female stars in popular culture. In this context, Elsa is the representation of an older woman that displays the recent shift in cultural understanding of later life, as popularized through the prominence of third age culture, which, in its stretching of middle age, preserves a sense of youthfulness in agedness. However, this representation has its limitations too as it only presents the success of ‘active, desiring and desirable older women’ (Dolan, 2017). The traditionally beautiful Elsa finally gains success through her sexual attractiveness, in keeping with her younger industry counterparts, as her stardom is achieved through the promotion of her show by her influential romantic partner. As the owner of the travelling show Elsa remains the matriarch of the troupe, but she occupies the position of a mother-figure to her performers too. Elsa is respected as the matriarch of the show, with numerous mentions of the performers’ gratitude and loyalty to Elsa being born through her dedication to the show and providing them with a purpose. She is framed admirably as having created a safe-haven for her performers to earn a living and to form a quasifamily with her as the troupe mother, as they would have otherwise remained outcasts to society. However, Elsa’s motives are not as admirable as they seem, as she runs the show selfishly as a vehicle for her own performances. Yet Elsa’s selfish nature takes on a darker tone as she sells two-headed Bette and Dot to a local psychopath so she can reclaim her headline act, while feigning ignorance to their whereabouts to the rest of the troupe. She even goes as far to kill her close


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friend, and surrogate sister, Ethel (Kathy Bates) when she confronts Elsa about her lies. Shortly following this, Elsa abandons her family of performers in pursuit of stardom, which leads to the massacre of the troupe by the hand of their new owner. So, in following her ambition, she causes the death of the show, presenting her as a negligent and uncaring matriarch. Perhaps this is why, when the light is extinguished on Elsa’s performance, and therefore her (after)life, she remains in a state of limbo for her, a hell that will never end in contentment, but rather in suspension.



At the point of publication, Lange has been confirmed to return to Season 8 of American Horror Story in the reprisal of her iconic role as Constance Langdon, the only character of Lange’s in the franchise not to die at the close of the season. Her return to this iconic role is highly anticipated in the media (Otterson, 2018) and will surely provide further intricacies to the characterization of Constance as a popular older woman figure. Importantly, Lange is not the only older woman in the main cast of the AHS franchise, and while she is the sole focus of this analysis, her co-stars Kathy Bates and Frances Conroy also provide interesting representations of older women in the franchise too. The mere presence of the three older actresses taking on prominent roles in a seemingly youth-oriented franchise signals how older woman are constructed as an important and varied social demographic no longer are they simple stereotypes. In considering the four characters portrayed by Lange in the AHS series, each one displays and destabilizes a common stereotype of the older woman in twenty-first century horror, and by extension, the culture in which it exists. This destabilization of prevalent stereotypes occurs through constructing complex characters that face and articulate the underpinning themes of the stereotype in a reflection of the shifting attitudes towards older women in the post-millennium era. By humanizing the stereotypes and constructing them into complex narrative characters, AHS has, through the characters of Jessica Lange, been able to deconstruct the usual stereotype stock characters associated with the older woman. This reveals that contemporary society no longer overlooks the older woman, as she is no longer purely presented as a stereotype, due to the narrative framing her as being just as important as the other characters in the story. As well as all being based in stereotype, all of Lange’s characters in AHS are bad matriarchs, of which Robison-Greene notes ‘The cast of characters that Lange plays is a study in the ways in which matriarchs can be moral failures’ (Robison-Greene, 2018). Each of Lange’s incarnations take on, to a varying degree, failures as a matriarch through selfishness. While it is positive to see so many incarnations of the older woman subverting the maternal inference implicit in the understanding of a matriarch, it is continued to be that the older woman is still repeatedly presented in the framework of matriarch and mother

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figure, reinforcing the older woman as the maternal figure regardless of any form of moral barometer.

References Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. New York, NY: Routledge. Dolan, J. (2017). Contemporary cinema and ‘Old Age’: Gender and the silvering of stardom. London: Palgrave-Macmillan. Gilleard, C., & Higgs, P. (2000). Cultures of ageing: Self, citizen and the body. Essex: Pearson Education Limited. Gullette, M. M. (2004). Aged by culture. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. Higgs, P., & Gilleard, C. (2014). Frailty, abjection and the ‘othering’ of the fourth age. Health Sociology Review, 23(1), 10 19. Janicker, R. (2017). Reading American Horror Story: Essays on the television franchise. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc. Otterson, J. (2018). ‘Jessica Lange to Return for ‘American Horror Story’ Season 8’. Variety. Retrieved from jessica-lange-1202895112/. Accessed on 7 August 2018. Raisborough, J., Barnes, M., Henwood, F., & Ward, L. (2014). Stretching middle age: The lessons and labours of active ageing in the makeover show. Media, Culture & Society, 36(8), 1069 1083. Robison-Greene, R. (2018). And the most despicable Jessica Lange character is…. In R. Greene & R. Robison Greene (Eds.), American Horror Story and philosophy: Life is but a nightmare (pp. 71 80). Chicago, IL: Open Court. Sontag, S. (1972). The double standard of aging. The Saturday Review, 29 38. Twigg, J. (2004). The body, gender, and age: Feminist insights in social gerontology. Journal of Aging Studies, 18(1), 59 73.

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Chapter 5

‘She Was Not Like I Thought’: The Woman as a Strange Being in Masters of Horror Erika Tiburcio Moreno


Introduction: Understanding Current Horror Genre on TV

The genre of horror has been a long-standing one in all artistic manifestations, its representation in fiction characterised by a basic scheme in which two main elements have to confront one another. Normalcy is the embodiment of what lies beneath the historical context and is also portrayed by the main characters and their surrounding world. Indeed, the main character’s central role is a key aspect in horror, for it allows the reinforcement of the hegemonic discourse. As Fairclough (1989, p. 107) states: A dominant discourse is subject to a process of naturalization, in which it appears to lose its connection with particular ideologies and interests and become the common-sense practice of the institution. Thus, when ideology becomes common sense, it apparently ceases to be ideology; this is itself an ideological effect, for ideology is truly effective only when it is disguised. Thus, normalcy masks the struggle of power relations where hegemonic morality is bound to the dominant social group. Consequently, these moral codes understood as common sense are perceived as natural and non-ideological by the rest of society. Indeed, the main fictional characters of a story are closely related to the audience that it is aimed at. Opposed to normalcy, monstrosity, also known as otherness, is the second and essential element to reassure the first one. Hence, this either corporeal or incorporeal menace symbolizes what is placed on the edge of the dominant discourse as well as all questionings within it.

Gender and Contemporary Horror in Television, 59 69 r Erika Moreno Tiburcio All rights of reproduction in any form reserved doi:10.1108/978-1-78769-103-220191006


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In this sense, monstrosity is bound to normalcy ‘because we can only construct meaning through a dialogue with the “Other”’ (Hall, 1997, p. 234). Both concepts are created and developed as a relation by opposition, such as good bad, peaceful violent, beautiful ugly, and familiar uncanny, thereby turning the monster into a distinct discursive figure to us. When both normalcy and monstrosity meet each other in the story, their violent struggle (usually) forces the audience to support the good characters. Otherness is always imbued with a strange and threatening language to the audience, which makes it impossible to identify with and, consequently, hinders the audience’s hesitation about the hegemonic discourse. From a historical perspective, it is important to take into account the trauma suffered by society after the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York. Since then, paranoia and fear have been two common traits in horror fiction. According to Antonio J. Navarro (2016), there is ‘a worldview, that should be pointed out, defined by nihilism, despair, rage and fear of death, as well as by a paranoid feeling of insecurity, of vulnerability, of discouragement, and such cultural representation “is transmitted through space and time alike1”’ (p. 73). That way, horror fiction has turned the more violent and brutal, working as a kind of catharsis, which, as Navarro further argues: The post 9/11 horror film is, therefore, a story about an unhealed wound, which is trying to reveal a reality or a truth to us which would be inaccessible otherwise. Horror cinema is the field where this paradoxical thinking about the appearance of the unconceivable takes place. What would have been described before through mystical/inscrutable/theological language, is now depicted through a supernatural discourse for an irrational world shows itself before us in an ambiguous way2. (p. 77) The images on TV of the planes crashing against the Twin Towers are unforgettable. Before, the United States had been considered as one of the safest countries in the world, but after that day, this idea was vanquished by the blurring of the divisive line between battlefield and safe world. This feeling of


The original copy-editing of this chapter was done by Lorena Zúñiga. All translations were done by the author and are not official. Original text: ‘Una visión del mundo, conviene subrayar, marcada por el nihilismo, la desesperación, la rabia y el miedo a la muerte, por una paranoica sensación de inseguridad, de vulnerabilidad, de desaliento, y cuya representación cultural ‘se transmite en el espacio y en el tiempo’. 2 Antonio J. Navarro (2016, p. 77) Original text: ‘El cine de horror post 11-S es, por tanto, una historia sobre una herida todavía sin cicatrizar, que intenta revelarnos una realidad o una verdad no accesible de otra manera. El cine de horror es el terreno en el que este pensamiento paradójico de lo impensable ocurre. Lo que en otros tiempos se hubiera descrito a través del lenguaje místico/hermético/teológico, en nuestra época discurre en términos sobrenaturales por cuanto un mundo no-racional se manifiesta ante nosotros de modo ambivalente’.

The Woman as a Strange Being in Masters of Horror


insecurity triggered a reactionary response in America and made it return to a patriarchal social model, where women had to be passive and obedient and men would become rescuers again. Hence, Susan Faludi (2008) points out four stages of the denigration of women. Of those phases, the first was our peculiar urge to recast a martial attack as a domestic drama, attended by the disappearance and even demonization of independent female voices. The second framed our suddenly vulnerable state as a problem between the sexes, in which the American man and the nation’s vigour were sapped by female influence—and solved that ‘problem’ with a media and political campaign that inflated male strength by artificially consigning women to a fearful and vulnerable position. A final phase would underscore and document that feminine vulnerability with the invention of a female-rape-and-rescue-drama, thereby reinstating ‘the classic happy ending of a classic American captivity story.’ Thus was the republic secured on our own day, as it had been before, following the outbreak of America’s original war on terror. (Position 4, p. 193) Consequently, this return to conservatism was reflected in many popular products such as horror. Indeed, this is a very popular genre and when found on TV, it follows ‘horror conventions, graphic cinema-style body horror and unsettling ambiguity’ (Abbott & Jowett, 2013, p. 11). According to the same authors, TV’s horror has focused its attention on excess: The television landscape has changed significantly in recent years and as a result TV is becoming increasingly explicit in its depiction of sex and violence. Thus, the conventions of horror are becoming commonplace on mainstream television. For TV horror to be provocative, it must do more than simply be gory. (p. 135) In this sense, all those horror scenes shown on TV (The Iraq War, 9/11, sensationalistic images on the news) and the production of increasingly graphic and violent horror movies such as Saw (Wan, 2004), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Nispel, 2003) or The Void (Gillespie, Kostanski, 2016) demanded the increase of gore horror series on TV. Indeed, it has also been an increasing trend since the nineties to pay to watch series on TV. To sum up, horror is a genre that portrays all traumas and unspeakable issues that society desires to hide. After 9/11, Western society suffered from massive trauma when the limits of war were broken and the enemy was able to trespass on them, themselves. As a result, it was necessary for the West to restore their safety and power, and American men were chosen as the only individuals who could achieve it. For that reason, horror TV series, through graphic violence, were used as a channel to spread a hegemonic ideology based on patriarchal values.



Erika Tiburcio Moreno

Blaming Women: The Female Monster as a Scapegoat

As pointed out, horror is built upon the opposition of normalcy and monstrosity. That way, when the monster is female, normalcy will be established as a masculine reality, where men take a superior position and assume the role of saviour. For that reason, they are usually portrayed by fathers or police officers, responsible for the protection of society. Whilst men are usually strong, clever and active, women are rendered as dependent on them in order to survive. In contrast to this social organization, the female monster is always depicted as an independent being who can challenge the establishment. As it will be discussed later, female independence can be embodied by many monsters, but, in this chapter, the focus is on the femme fatale in the shape of a vampire-like monster, a savage and a witch, representing a dangerous obstacle for normal society. In fact, ‘femininity and feminization [are presented] as key threats to social stability and to offer masculinity and remasculinization as the solutions to social problems’ (Takacs, 2009, p. 6). Also, these kinds of monsters are presented as aliens or outsiders who do not regret their evil actions. Unlike their male counterparts, they do not possess any desirable quality (Picart & Greek, 2009) and are usually alone, reinforcing the notion of the monster as an outsider, unable of socializing with other people. Furthermore, the female role as a good, dependent mother is subverted by one of a woman who only worries about satisfying her own desires and needs, in an opposite representation of what is perceived to be currently happening in America, where ‘The image of the homebound wife whose security depended on her spouse had never been extinguished; efforts to bring back the “new traditional” woman had been launched periodically since the rise of modern feminism’ (Faludi, 2008, position 2, p. 592). Additionally, one of the main characteristics of the female monster is her ability to deceive. When her attributes are feminine and appealing to men, her violent impulses and force required to impose herself over a man are denied to her. For that reason, and just as Eve tempted Adam to take a bite from the forbidden apple, the female monster can seduce men and submit them to her will. This characteristic is considered as very dangerous because, within a patriarchal society, men are often seen as active agents who must defend the social order, and this female ability allows women to modify it. From the latter part of the twentieth century, feminism has become a powerful movement that has focused itself with the reconsideration of the unequal structure of society, motivating citizens to change it. Facing this overwhelming defiance, the female monster serves as a construct that debases the modern woman and places her outside the limits of what is normal. Likewise, this discursive otherness is part of modern society because ‘what characterizes postmodernism is therefore an obsession with ˇ zek, Thing, with a foreign body within the social texture, in all its dimensions’ (Ziˇ 2008, p. 140). Consequently, the control that society gives to men would become useless under the power owned by the female monster. Indeed, these monsters could control men until they castrate them. As a result, men would become insignificant individuals and would be forced to occupy an inferior position in the social scale, losing control over their own lives.

The Woman as a Strange Being in Masters of Horror


By positing the idea of women as ‘dangerous’ in mind, it is essential to consider that ‘the horror film consistently places the monster in conflict with the family, the couple and the institutions of patriarchal capitalism’ (Creed, 1993, p. 61). For this reason, woman could not only be a castrator, but also refuse her main feature as a mother: loving and caring for children. That way, the female monster portrays a type of modern woman who decides against having babies and remains independent. This means that the female monster can decide to consume whatever she wants, either men or children, because she has the power to. Thus, the individuals that women were subjugated by are turned into an object of consumption. As Baudrillard attests: The body ‘reappropriated’ in this way is reappropriated first to meet ‘capitalist’ objectives: in other words, where it is invested, it is invested in order to produce a yield. The body is not reappropriated for the autonomous ends of the subject, but in terms of a normative principle of enjoyment and hedonistic profitability. (Baudrillard, 1998, p. 131) Therefore, the female monster is powerful, independent and can use her own weapons against men. Her danger resides in her ability to defeat men and risk the patriarchal society, turning it into an unknown distinct organization. Furthermore, she is an outsider in normalcy where there is no place for her and her inability to interact with others demands her murder. Otherwise, the preservation of the established normal order can be threatened.


Masters of Horror: Women as Sexual Predators

Masters of Horror was an anthology TV series broadcasted between 2005 and 2007, and each episode was written by a different horror auteur, who told independent stories from one another. This television production was a landmark because of its ‘increasing advances in technology and effects and more focus on TV aesthetic also enhances TV horror as spectacle’ (Abbott & Jowett, 2013, p. 13). For this chapter, two episodes have been selected for analysis: ‘Jenifer’ (Argento, 2005) and ‘Deer Woman’ (Landis, 2005). Both episodes reflect women as dangerous young female monsters, as well as hunters of men. Furthermore, both types of monsters are aliens and cannot adapt to normal society, because their own needs (eating, hunting, sex) make them distinct from the rest of women. Finally, as it will be studied later, gender opposes normalcy to otherness, describing these female creatures as threats for patriarchal normalcy.



‘Jenifer’ is the fourth episode of the first season of Masters of Horror and directed by giallo maestro, Dario Argento. This story is based on the 1974 homonymous comic book story (Jones & Wrightson, 1983) written by Bruce Jones and drawn by Bernie Wrightson. ‘Jenifer’ tells the story of Frank Spivey (Steven


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Weber), a police officer who saves Jenifer (Carrey Ann Fleming), a facially disfigured, mute woman, from an assailant. After killing her attempted murderer, Frank has her placed into an institution. When home, Frank fantasizes about Jenifer (who now appears as a beautiful woman) and, through this fantasy, has rough sex with his wife, Ruby. When he returns to check up on Jenifer, he finds that she is about to be released, but that no one is able to take care of her. Frank decides to do this, despite Ruby’s concerns. Jenifer seduces Frank in his car. Ruby takes her and Frank’s son, Peter, away. Whilst with Frank, Jenifer eats both his cat and his neighbour. Frank attempts, after another of Jenifer’s cannibalistic killings, to kill her. Frank takes Jenifer into the woods and tries to kill her, but as he is about to cut off her head with an axe, he is killed by another man, a hunter out shooting deer. As Frank mutters his last word, Jenifer the hunter moves to comfort her, just as Frank had done only days before. In this story, normalcy is embodied by a civilized male society. The main character, Frank Spivey, works as a police detective and the use of violence is not questioned in him because it is legitimized by the discourse of power. As Foucault (1984, p. 74) affirms, power and truth are closely related and aimed to endure the hegemonic order. ‘Truth’ is to be understood as a system of ordered procedures for the production, regulation, distribution, circulation, and operation of statements. ‘Truth’ is linked in a circular relation with systems of power which produce and sustain it, and to effect of power which it induces and which extends it. Frank Spivey is presented as a useful subject within the discourse, one that is responsible of protecting normalcy from external and internal threats. He is also a very mediocre husband and father. However, one of the main institutions in normalcy, family, is depicted as an alienating place where its members neither do communicate with nor love one another. Consequently, this normalcy is not an ideal space, but a very repressive one. The monstrosity found in Jenifer, a savage vampire-like woman with cannibalistic tendencies, infringes and breaks down many of the taboos and rules of society. Jenifer appears to be a very alluring and enticing young woman, who also exhibits defencelessness, and can only snarl and grunt. She is a social outsider from the very beginning of the narrative because she does not know how to behave ‘properly’. Her description may be similar to that of a lost little girl who needs help much like those found in numerous fairy tales. But she seduces Frank Spivey and turns into a feral woman who needs to satisfy her (sexual) hunger. From a sexual perspective, her sexual appetite drives her to seduce whoever she wants to, which results in a transgression similar to the one carried by the female vampire. As Creed (1993, p. 61) writes: The female vampire is abject because she disrupts identity and order; driven by her lust for blood, she does not present the dictates

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of the law which set down the rules of proper sexual conduct. Like the male, the female vampire also represents abjection because she crosses the boundary between […] the animal and the human. Thus, instead of procreation, Jenifer’s main drive is fuelled by lust. Moreover, her monstrosity resides in the fact that she is a cannibal who ferociously devours human beings and animals. This female monster is outside the threshold of her/our civilization and in a different linguistic space because of her amoral thinking as well as her inability to distinguish between good and evil. The absence of differentiation between these two opposing forces detaches her from being ‘normal’, because her mentality has not been moulded by the system’s requirements: that is to say, she has not adopted many ideas imposed by society that are conceived as natural. Besides, her power over Frank represents many patriarchal anxieties related to castration and, consequently, ‘if the woman is related to the monster in that they both are seen by patriarch as representing sexual difference and castration fears, then she is allied not to a representation of weakness but to one of power in sexual difference’ (Hollinger, 1989, p. 39). The killing of Jack (Jeffrey Ballard) by Jenifer is a transgression due to the own act as well as its sexualized presentation. At 53 minutes into the episode, Frank hears male and female groans coming from a room, so he decides to go investigate. As he opens the door, he sees what he thinks is Jenifer performing fellatio on Jack. She is actually eating his genitals. Consequently, and through this sexual crime, she becomes an aberration because, like Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct (Verhoeven, 1999), ‘she rejects the roles of the submissive female and motherhood’ (Reichter & Melcher, 1999, p. 293). In this sense, Jenifer behaves differently to other women and does not show any interest in being a mother. Prior to postmodernism, many visual horror texts showed a very clear division between normalcy and otherness but, in this text, as many other modern horror productions, the border between them is blurred, making it almost impossible to distinguish one from the other. In ‘Jenifer’, the contact between Frank and the monster reveals the internal inconsistencies of society and, as it is shown, the male starts behaving irrationally from the exact moment of meeting the female. Eventually, his deterioration becomes even more evident by his over-tolerance towards Jenifer’s crimes, as well as his own savage behaviour through the story. Indeed, irrationality becomes a prominent feature of Frank, symbolized by how two gunshots begin and end his relationship with Jenifer, which demonstrates violence as the engine that joins them together. This relationship completes his personal degradation brought to him by his alcohol dependence and his increasing isolation due to his inability to readapt to social rules and etiquette. Jenifer comes to represent the female monster as a savage vampire who can easily dominate the will of men. Even though she first appears to be a victim, she is really a violent creature who does not worry about society’s rules and commits crimes such as murder and cannibalism. As she cannot tell the difference between good and evil, she feels neither shame nor remorse. In that


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instance, she is ‘outside’ society and functions within her own world of non-right and non-wrong.


Deer Woman

John Landis directed the seventh episode of Masters of Horror in 2005. This story focuses on the Native American legend of the Deer Woman and how this monster starts killing men. The main character is Detective Dwight Faraday (Brian Benben), who investigates the mysterious and brutal murders of several men who have mysteriously died during varying states of sexual arousal. Each man has been brutally assaulted, usually from the groin upwards. Looking for clues, Faraday ends up at a casino on a local Native American reservation. There, he is told the legend of a ‘Deer Woman’, a malevolent forest spirit that has the body and face of a beautiful woman but the legs of a deer. This creature is told of sexually arousing men, then killing them during lovemaking. Faraday accepts this story as what it is a legend, but his partner, Reed laughs it off. However, on his way home, Reed picks up a beautiful hitchhiker. When Faraday calls him, Reed brags of picking up this beautiful woman, but just as the conversation ends, the woman turns and kills Reed. She is the Deer Woman. When Faraday arrives at Reed’s house, he sees the Deer Woman and rams his car into her, pinning her to a tree. But, when he gets out of his car, he cannot find her. She has disappeared without a trace. As the police arrive, Faraday laughs, first jokingly and then much more manically. As with the story of Jenifer, normalcy is here incarnated by a mainly maledominated realm. Men are portrayed as dominant and decisive and are the experts of protecting normalcy from outside threats. Thus, Detective Dwight Faraday (and it is interesting that the men in these stories are usually in a prominent position of authority) is the protagonist and in charge of the murder investigations. Furthermore, he is presented as an expert in animal cases, which places him as the only one who can accurately approach the truth. Thus, ‘the process of hegemonic masculinity often entails the reconstruction of masculinity in order for it to remain superior to femininity’ (Dellinger-Pate & Aden, 1999, p. 159). Nevertheless, officer Reed is described as a more simple man, whose reasoning is attached to Western rationalism, where he denies alternatives to scientific reality. In fact, monstrosity resides in the possibility that the impossible becomes possible and a man’s world, which is safe for them but dangerous for women, is often corrupted by a woman who is able to destroy it. This world emanates hostility to women and subdues them to an inferior position where violence only belongs to men. For that reason, monstrosity becomes a female rebellion against this glass ceiling and against a rationality which has also been created by men. It is important to consider that monstrosity is presented through the description of authorities, witnesses and other representatives of normalcy, which does not allow the audience to form their opinion freely. The monster is a Native American woman, known as the Deer Woman, who is actually a magical creature who kills men for no reason. The danger of this monster is her ability to move stealthily into a safe male space, deceive the male and then smash and

The Woman as a Strange Being in Masters of Horror


destroy his body through violence. What is more, the reasons behind the Deer Woman’s behaviour are not explained, and Western rationality is unable to offer a theory about this impossible being. It is the stuff of legend. Monstrosity of the Deer Woman is not only determined by her gender, but also by her background of being a Native American, which results in societal barriers between her/their and Faraday’s cultures. Indeed, this conflict, whilst only looked at in this chapter through the eyes of an episode of a horror series, has arguably become an inherent trait of the United States, partly due to the violent origin of this country and the importance it gives to frontiers for shaping the national discourse. Indeed, the cultural, and even physical, presence of a border that divides normalcy (white Protestant male) and otherness (women, Native American, black, etc.) is essential and, as Richard Slotkin states, ‘Puritans came to define their relationship to the New World in terms of violence and warfare’ (Slotkin, 1973, p. 56). Nevertheless, these minorities’ differences have been forcibly silenced and adapted to the hegemonic culture and, ‘just as popular imagery defined white women as either good or bad, virgin or whore, so it forced images of Indian women into a similar bipolar split’ (Bird, 1999, p. 94). Finally, this unfeasible understanding is reinforced through the monster’s deer-like legs as well as her irrational motives to kill. Monstrosity is placed outside normalcy by the impossibility of existing and living together because this creature does not show willingness to be subjected to the limits of Western society, which transgresses two taboos: a woman who is independent and a Native American who can be more powerful than a white, over-masculine man. Therefore, the story of this Deer Woman focuses monstrosity on a Native American woman who deceives men and subdues them to her will, which makes her dangerous for the continuation of the established social structure.



Horror texts can be the perfect canvas to reveal social fears which are hidden to itself. Despite all the advancements that women have reached, the two episodes of Masters of Horror clearly show the continuation of the same relation between monstrosity and women: sexual predation, selfishness, lack of empathy for others and transgressions of the roles of mother and caretaker. Thus, the repetition of this narrative reinforces the discourse of naturalization of normalcy based on the idea of male superiority as the only option which can assure a safe, healthy place for all individuals. Indeed, this repetition of narrative is not just found in Masters of Horror. The long-running TV series, Supernatural (2005), saw its two heroes, Sam and Dean Winchester, deal with numerous female ‘monsters’, including the Mother of All, Eva in ‘And Then There Were None’ (S6, Ep. 16), and numerous witches, with the Albanian witch (the Shtriga) in the episode ‘Something Wicked’ (S1, Ep. 18) as one of the most striking. This goes even further, tipping into parody, with The Mighty Boosh (2005) episode ‘Nanatoo’ (S2), which sees a demon brought up from Hell by Vince and Howard. This demonic, evil-incarnate grandmother


Erika Tiburcio Moreno

attempts ‘Nan-ageddon’ through knitting, playing Bingo and summoning other grandmothers to bring about the end of the world. In each case, and many more besides, these figures, whilst treated from numerous angles, both seriously and with a tongue-in-cheek, still come to represent the idea that normalcy and male superiority is often the ‘only’ possibility in the (reflective) world of TV horror. It could be argued that this conservative reaction against female empowerment demanded the creation of cultural products that could spread the ideological association of patriarchal order as the best reality where society could develop. In this sense, horror television has been one among the most responsible for disseminating the fear of independent women. The case studies analysed in this chapter (and there are many more besides that could have been analysed) show similar messages throughout, where women are seen as a threat to patriarchy due to her independence, whereby her power and transgression of traditional roles and social order, etc. remain a constant danger to a male-dominated society. Despite the fact that Jenifer and Deer Woman are two very different monsters, their threat is overwhelming. Even though there is the obvious male/female physical difference, it is the way that these two females are presented that makes the threat so much more forceful. It is this difference, then, that perhaps provides the ultimate threat to a male-dominated domain.

References Abbott, S., & Jowett, L. (2013). TV horror. Investigating the dark side of the small screen. London: I. B. Tauris. Baudrillard, J. (1998). The consumer society. Myths and structures. London: Sage. Bay, M., Field, T. (Producers), & Nispel, M. (Director). (2003). The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. United States: New Line Cinema, Focus Features & Radar Pictures. Bird, S. E. (1999). Tales of difference: Representation of American Indian women in popular film and television. In M. Meyers (Ed.), Mediated women. Representations in popular culture (pp. 81 90). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press. Bronfman, J., Walker, C. (Producers), Gillespie, J., & Kostanski, S. (Director). (2016). The void. Canada: 120dB Films, Cave Painting Pictures, JoBro Productions & Film Finance, The Sal Company International, & XYZ Films. Burg, M., Hoffman, G., Koules, O. (Producers), & Wan, J. (Director). (2004). Saw [DVD]. United States: Evolution Entertainment, Saw Productions Inc. & Twisted Pictures. Creed, B. (1993). The monstrous-feminine. Film, feminism, psychoanalysis. London: Routledge. Dellinger-Pate, C., & Aden, R. C. (1999). “More Power!”: Negotiating masculinity and femininity in Home Improvement. In M. Meyers (Ed.), Mediated women. Representations in popular culture (pp. 153 164). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press. Fairclough, N. (1989). Language and power. New York, NY: Longman. Faludi, S. (2008). The terror dream: Myth and misogyny in an insecure America (2nd ed.). New York: Picador. Retrieved from UTF8&qid=1514392 688&sr=8-1&keywords=misogyny+terror+dream. (Kindle Edition)

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Foucault, M. (1984). Truth and power. In P. Rabinow (Ed.), The Foucault reader (pp. 51 75). London: Penguin Books. Hall, S. (Ed.). (1997). Representation. Cultural representation and signifying practices. London: Sage, The Open University. Hollinger, K. (1989). The monster as woman: Two generations of catpeople. Film Criticism, 13(2), 36 46. Retrieved from Jones, B., & Wrightson, B. (1983). Jenifer. In B. DuBay (Ed.), Berni Wrightson, Master of the macabre (Vol. 2, 2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Pacific Comics. Knauf, D. (Writer), & Ransick, W. (Director). (2006). Something wicked [Television series episode]. In P. Jhonson & C. Yavneh (Producer), Supernatural. USA, Canada: Warner Bros Television, Wonderland Sound and Vision. Landis, J., Landis, M. (Writers), & Landis, J. (Director). (2005). Deer woman [Television series episode]. In B. Browning, L. Richardson, & T. Rowe (Producers), Masters of Horror. USA, Canada: IDT Entertainment, Nice Guy Productions, Industry Entertainment, Province of British Columbia Production Services Tax Credit. Marshall, A. (Producer), & Verhoeven, P. (Director). (1999). Basic instinct. France, United States: Carolco Pictures, Canal. Navarro, A. J. (2016). El imperio del miedo. El cine de horror norteamericano post 11-S. Madrid: Valdemar. Picart, C. J., & Greek, C. (2009). When women kill: Undead imagery in the cinematic portrait of Aileen Wuornos. In J. E. Browning & C. J. Picart (Eds.), Draculas, vampires, and other undead forms. Essays on gender, race, and culture (pp. 93 112). Plymouth: Scarecrow Press. Reichter, T., & Melcher, C. (1999). Film Noir, feminism, and the femme fatale: The hyper-sexed reality of Basic Instinct. In M. Meyers (Ed.), Mediated women. Representations in popular culture (pp. 287 304). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press. Slotkin, R. (1973). Regeneration through violence. The mythology of the American Frontier, 1600 1860. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press. Takacs, S. (2009). Monsters, monsters everywhere: Spooky TV and the politics of fear in post-9/11 America. Science Fiction Studies, 36(1), 1 20. Retrieved from Weber, S. (Writer), & Argento, D. (Writer). (2005). Jenifer [Television series episode]. In B. Browning, L. Richardson, & T. Rowe (Producers), Masters of horror. USA, Canada: IDT Entertainment, Nice Guy Productions, Industry Entertainment, Province of British Columbia Production Services Tax Credit. ˇ zek, S. (2008). Enjoy your symptom! London: Routledge. Ziˇ

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Chapter 6

The Monster Within: Lily in Penny Dreadful Kylie Boon

Horror on television has had a post-millennial resurgence. With the advent and rise of on-demand TV, more channels, and a more-expensive visual sheen, the popularity of programmes such as American Horror Story (2011 ), The Strain (2014 2017), The Walking Dead (2010 ), Stranger Things (2016 ) and Black Mirror (2011 ) shows our appetite for horror has remained. With a strong cast (including Billy Piper and Eva Green), Penny Dreadful (2014 2016) is yet another horror series feeding our addiction. Launched on the Showtime satellite channel, the series took some of the more-classic horror characters from literature and intertwined their individual tales through an interlinking narrative. Its premise is simple: Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) and a cast of unlikely heroes (all with their own inner demons) battle against evil literary creations. Iconic characters such as the Bride of Frankenstein (here named Lily), Dr Frankenstein and Dorian Gray are reintroduced to us as they roam the streets of Victorian London’s dark society. Lily Frankenstein (played by Billy Piper) in particular will be the focus of this chapter. Unlike other portrayals such as James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and the later Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994), this character is not bound merely for her grave or marital bed, but her becoming in this particular narrative depicts her as something much more important to the genre. A theoretical reading of her journey based on the notions of French existential philosopher Simone De Beauvoir’s found in The Second Sex (1947, 2007) will be the emphasis of this exploration. De Beauvoir’s work laid the foundations of the modern feminist movement and is considered the earliest and most important work of feminism.


Lily’s Journey: ‘Who will you be?’

Lily begins her life as Brona Croft a brazen Irish immigrant working as a prostitute on London’s perilous streets. Suffering from tuberculosis and towards the

Gender and Contemporary Horror in Television, 71 82 r Kylie Boon All rights of reproduction in any form reserved doi:10.1108/978-1-78769-103-220191007


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end of her life, Brona meets Ethan Chandler (an associate of Victor Frankenstein) and falls in love. Chandler, in a futile attempt to save his love, seeks Victor’s help. At her deathbed, recognizing that she is beyond saving, Victor takes the opportunity to acquire the element needed in reanimating a bride for his creature. He proceeds to accelerate her passing by suffocating her in Chandler’s absence, later informing him that she passed peacefully, and he offers to remove the body. In possession of the raw material needed for his procedure, Brona is eventually reborn as Lily Frankenstein. No longer marked by the appearance of illness she is dramatically changed, having to learn to live again her personality undergoes a dramatic alteration. Beautiful, sophisticated, and well-spoken, she has no memory of her former self and believes she is the cousin of Victor. However, as she regains her memory, she leaves Victor for Dorian Gray. The combination of Bronas past life and new-found confidence as Lily results in the emergence of a darker character. Upon Lily’s reanimation, she at first appears an empty vessel who must ‘learn the actions of living anew’. Simone De Beauvoir stated ‘One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman’ (Beauvoir & Parshley, 2007, p. 295); therefore, Lily’s initial steps are childlike, and she learns how to speak, behave and interact via Victor’s influence. However, this character is shaped not only via the external influence of her creator Victor but also by Dorian. Victor and Dorian have very different ideologies, both of which they impress upon a young Lily. Victor represents an ideological immanence, where Beauvoir’s appropriates the Hegelian concept of immanence as ‘a mode of existence marked by passivity, ease, and submission’ (Simons, 2006, p. 119). Victor’s influence encourages this behaviour, evidenced by such comments as ‘women should not exert themselves’. However, Dorian can be regarded as an opposing influence that encourages transcendence, referring to Beauvoir’s concept of ‘an active mode of existence in which one attempts to surpass the present, burst out onto the future, and remain free’ (Simons, 2006, p. 119). Dorian encourages this existence by telling Lily ‘you are more capable than you appear’. The influences of these two characters have very different effects on Lily, whereby we see her develop into two very distinct portrayals. In one she becomes a submissive housewife, and for the other, she develops into the figurehead of a revolution. Lily’s overall narrative is therefore painted in the image of others expectations, and the vision of who she becomes is the result of particular outside influences. Similar to Beauvoir’s understanding of becoming a woman, Lily’s travel to womanhood is based on external factors, more so than an inherent nature or essence that the character possesses.


Victor Frankenstein: ‘Women should not exert themselves.’

Lily’s journey begins with Victor, who has taken her (Brona) body in order to reanimate it as an offering for his original creation that has blackmailed Victor into doing this monstrous act. Victor himself ill-fatedly falls in love with Lily. This romantic interest forms over time in which Victor teaches Lily the basics of

The Monster Within: Lily in Penny Dreadful


living anew. Applying the interpretation claims about gender socialization wherein ‘females become women through a process whereby they acquire feminine traits and learn feminine behaviour’ (Mikkola, 2017). Victor provides Lily with an education of gender norms that shape her into becoming a woman, where his teachings are proven to be in accordance with the patriarchal notion of power relations, whereby ‘women’s interests are subordinated to the interests of men’ (Weedon, 2008, p. 2). At the beginning of her journey, Lily displays virtues associated with an object, and Victor displays those associated with a subject. The power relation between these two characters can therefore be connected with a subject/object dichotomy. Victor, as the autonomous subject, imposes his desires upon Lily, and the following analysis will explore the initial implicit undertone of the narrative and perspective related to discriminatory gender differences, wherein the man acts as subject and the woman is perceived as an object. One of Beauvoir’s central notions is that ‘Man makes of woman the Other’ (p. 21). Through her work, she also identified two collections of behavioural patterns: transcendence and immanence, where ‘The ovule has sometimes been likened to immanence, and the sperm to transcendence’ (p. 44). During Lily’s initial existence with Victor she is as a passive object and confesses that ‘I am at your mercy’, which suggests she exists in a state of immanence and stagnation. Lily displays these characteristics through the narrative: her conduct in the scene where she models clothes for Victor and other scenes whereby she adopts a domestic demeanour are only two amongst numerous examples. In contrast, instances can be identified to describe Victor’s behaviour as transcendence. He imposes his will upon Lily behaving as an autonomous subject, by providing her with a material and immaterial identity. Not only does he enforce a physical appearance but he also provides her with a sense of self. This imposing of will comes through in various ways. First, Victor provides her with both a basic identity and her name: Lily. Victor is portrayed as a subject at this period in the narrative; he has taken action and named her as if she was a passive object. Interestingly, upon creating earlier immortal children such as Proteus (Season 1), Victor allowed and encouraged Proteus to choose his own name. However, Lily is not provided the same opportunity. This discrepancy in treatment between his male and female creation reflects discriminatory gender differences, suggesting that the implicit narrative at this period is portraying a conceptual difference between men and women as subject and object. When Victor alters Lily’s appearance by dyeing her hair, she asks ‘Did I admire fair hair ladies?’ Victor responds, ‘I did, they always seemed kinder’ which clearly indicates that Lily’s appearance will reflect Victor’s desires as a subject. Lily remains merely the object in this scene, and she is both passive and being acted upon. This relationship dynamic continues when he provides Lily with suitable attire in the form of a corset, a delicate white-lace high-neck blouse, high-waisted long skirt, and heels. Victor states that many women wear this particular type of clothing, and that it is common practice for ladies to dress in these types of garments. Lily states that ‘The shoes are awfully high’ to which


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Victor responds, ‘Yes I picked them for that. I […] like that in a woman’. Ideals of beauty being imposed in patriarchal structures is nothing new in society and like Naomi Wolf discusses is a ‘work of social control’ (Wolf, 2002, p. 10). By Victor imposing societal norms of beauty upon Lily, her role in wearing these is to satisfy the desires of the subject. That is, Victor wants her to wear these clothes as an object to be desired through his own subjective gaze. Beauvoir claimed the essential characteristics of a ‘feminine’ woman are traits developed in the earliest years, claiming that ‘it is in fact a destiny imposed upon her by her teachers and by society’ (p. 307). Victor not only provides Lily with a particular formal education, but the character can also be viewed as a representation of social norms of the Victorian society within the series. Therefore, Victor may be regarded as a by-product of his culture and merely reflecting social and cultural gender norms upon Lily. In many ways, he is a parent figure. His creations are often referred to as his children and this relationship can explain the approach in his teachings. In this view, Victor is not a bad person; he is merely a parent reflecting the norms of his society. He treats his male creations in one way in comparison with his female creation. For example, his first male creation (the hostile misshapen creature known as Mr Clare) was treated with both recoil and abandonment. Lily was treated with gentleness and acceptance. Victor’s second creature, Proteus, was also treated kindly, given autonomous respect and accepted by Victor. Proteus chose his own name. Victor encouraged the development of his intellect by providing him with books. In contrast, Victor provided Lily with a name and identity, superficial clothing, and focused on her outward appearance. In spite of nurturing both Proteus and Lily, differences are clear in Victor’s treatment of the two, especially in the promotion of intellect and independence. This gender discrimination was common within the Victorian period as ‘women were not allowed to vote or to stand as candidates in parliamentary elections. Girls were excluded from the most prestigious schools’ (Aldrich, 2012, p. 15). Evidencing that Victor’s conduct and treatment of Lily is not an attempt to actively marginalize her in a deliberate malicious manner, he is merely reflecting and imposing typical societal gender norms. Beauvoir’s central claim is that feminine qualities are socially constructed, and in her works discussed this development in children, whereby girls are taught to make themselves objects. Beauvoir states that a woman ‘is treated like a live doll and is refused liberty’ (p. 308), which results in girls being less likely to exercise freedom and affirm themselves as subjects. Victor treats Lily as a doll in these initial scenes; he alters her hair and dresses her in lady-(doll)-like clothes. These cultural expectations urged by Victor not only result in Lily’s cosmetic appearance, could also be argued his influence also expands to her behavioural patterns. For example, when Victor cosmetically dyes Lily’s hair, he states he desires this appearance, as fair-haired ladies ‘always seemed kinder like angels’. This archetype can be linked to his own mother, whereby Victor’s past memories of his mother depict her as an angel-like figure with blond hair. This physical transformation reflects Victor’s particular notions of a feminine archetype, attempting to prompt and promote a characteristic of a kind, caring, feminine

The Monster Within: Lily in Penny Dreadful


attitude within Lily. Moulding her into a figure based on his notions of an idyllic woman as a caring mother figure demonstrates his ‘need’ and ‘want’ to place his own subjectivity onto her, whilst simultaneously reflecting the Victorian culture that has produced both him and her. Victor also encourages Lily to acquire a sense of dependence, via the manipulation of embedded fake memories. In these early stages, Lily does not possess all her memories and continues to believe that she and Victor are cousins. Victor regales her with tales of how they used to cling together during stormy weather, when she was afraid of the thunder and lightning. This story is Victor’s attempt at encouraging Lily to seek out a protector, thus establishing a trait of dependence from her onto him. Victor’s encouragement echoes a particular power dynamic: the male protecting the female. It appears this impression has an effect upon Lily, who at the end of the conversation states, ‘There is so much that frightens me, I don’t know how to feel or act, in smallest ways even, how to sit and speak. Don’t let me be hurt’. It is interesting that this plea comes at the end of Victor’s manipulative storytelling, suggesting that Victor’s expectations have impacted on her behaviour. Her statement depicts her as a submissive creature in need of protection, and also an object in need of instruction. Treatment as a child has a dramatic effect on behaviour when one becomes an adult. Freud’s psychoanalytic approach was ‘grounded in analysing adult’s past experiences. This was because it is these experiences (Freud argued) that result in individuals behaving in particular ways in adult life’ (Deacon & J. Macdonald, 2017, p. 15). Recent studies have also claimed that early experience not only affects the development of personality and behaviours but can also affect physical health. Vincent J. Felitti and Robert Anda’s study revealed, ‘Adverse childhood events can change people’s biology and lead to chronic illness and negative health effects over their life-span.’ (Nakazawa, 2015, p. 16). Victor’s influence and effect on a young Lily can be seen in later episodes where she appears to be playing the role of a domestic housewife. Upon Victor’s return home Lily appears content in her domestic role as she prepares food. It would seem that she has accepted passivity through a number of examples. When Lily is modelling clothes she states, ‘But I’ll keep the shoes if I may?’ Victor questions this, stating that ‘I thought they hurt your feet’. When Lily replies ‘Yes but you like them’ Lily is fulfilling Victor’s desires at control and manipulation in their relationship dynamic. In addition, upon returning home one evening, Victor informs Lily that they have been invited to a ball, but he is unsure if they should attend. Lily laments that she will embarrass him, saying ‘I’ll work very hard not to, I promise you’. This again echoes this constant desire to please Victor. In many ways, and especially at this early stage of the narrative, Lily’s growth from childhood to adulthood as seen through Victor’s influence appears to have adhered to a patriarchal social construction of ‘femininity’. This results in Lily finding herself in the same situation as the doll discussed by Beauvoir. Her role is to please Victor, to remain at his home, and to become subservient to him. In many ways, she becomes an accessory to him and exists in relation to him and not with him.


Kylie Boon

These explorations into the initial dynamics of Lily and Victor’s relationship reveal an uneven balance of power. Beauvoir identified the peculiar situation of women as ‘living in a world where men compel her to assume the status of the Other. They propose to stabilize her as object and to doom her to immanence’ (p. 29). This situation is apparent in the initial narrative of Lily’s journey, where she does not impose her will and she is not depicted as an autonomous subject. Rather, transcendent qualities are associated with the male character, and Lily can be viewed as a passive object yielding and submitting to Victor’s will. When discussing girls’ upbringing and feminine qualities as a social construct, Beauvoir states ‘she is dressed in inconvenient and frilly clothes of which she has to be careful, her hair is done up in fancy styles, she is given rules of deportment’ (p. 309). This mirrors the situation that Lily finds herself in during this initial part of her narrative. Her existence in these early stages reflects the experiences Beauvoir talks of, and the typical experiences girls underwent in Victorian society in ‘becoming a woman’. Victor’s teachings encourage particular ‘feminine’ virtues: clothes are chosen for her, and stories are regaled with particular ideologies/archetypal behaviours embedded in their implicit meanings. Thus, these expectations urged upon her are used to ingratiate Lily into a destined sphere of feminine existence within a patriarchal structure. Nonetheless, Lily seeks to find fulfilment, by pursuing independence and liberty later in her journey. Beauvoir identified ‘The drama of woman lies in this conflict between the fundamental aspirations of every subject’ (p. 29). In Lily’s personal drama, this is implied during some early scenes, via an underlying suggestion of conflict between her and Victor. For example, during the scene when Lily is modelling clothes, Victor states ladies wear corsets because ‘Ladies aren’t supposed to exert themselves’. Lily questions this and asks ‘What would be the danger if they did?’ This questioning suggests that Lily is contemplating her role both as a female and within society. Victor responds to Lily’s question: ‘They would take over the world. The only way we men prevent that is by keeping women corseted in theory and in practice […] they are meant to flatter the figure.’ This comment highlights the initial glimpses of conflict within the narrative. Lily’s overall journey therefore faces the same difficulties discussed by Beauvoir, whereby women endeavour ‘to make their escape from the sphere hitherto assigned them’ (p. 29).


Dorian Gray: ‘You are, I believe, more capable than perhaps you might appear.’

Dorian first encounters Lily when she was Brona and working as a prostitute. Their brief encounter took place after she had accepted a job of becoming a naked model for a pornographic photographer, which lead her to Dorian’s exquisite gallery ballroom. Constantly in search of new stimuli and undeterred by her illness Dorian seduces Brona in this initial encounter. The two meet again after her reanimation as Lily, during a ball hosted by Dorian. Victor introduces Lily as his cousin, Miss Lily Frankenstein. Dorian recognizes her as Brona but

The Monster Within: Lily in Penny Dreadful


he can also sense that she has changed. Captivated by her he reacts with great intrigue. It is unclear at this initial encounter to the extent at which Lily fully recognized Dorian from her previous life, but there is certainly a sense of familiarity when she lays eyes upon him. She is drawn to him and her behaviour alters from clinging to Victors arm to boldly accompanying Dorian when he asks her to dance. Gray largely influences Lily’s escape from Victor. His new, progressive outlook is imperative in Lily’s full ‘becoming’ and fuels not only her liberation, but also the monster within her. Initially, Dorian can be regarded as her friend in contrast to Victor’s parental figure. In Beauvoir’s view, a female child can be ‘hesitating between the role of object, Other which is offered her, and the assertion of her liberty’ (p. 83). In the case of Penny Dreadful and Lily, the two male influences in this narrative embody this conflict, whereby Victor signifies the passive ‘Other’ whereas Dorian offers Lily some form of liberty. Dorian escorts Lily in her first outing into society without Victor. Her experiences at this event set in motion a chain reaction that prompts her to realize that the social norms represented by Victor can be challenged, and she somehow regains some of her memories. During the evening Lily comments that she does not go out often. Dorian enquires, ‘Your choice or his?’ This observational query urges Lily to question her own autonomy. Dorian also questions Lily’s submissive dependent behaviour. ‘I don’t think you need much protection. You are, I believe, more capable than perhaps you might appear’ he says to her. Unlike Victor’s treatment of her, Dorian is actively encouraging Lily to gain and realize her independence, and not accept the passive role being imposed on her. Upon ending this first evening, Dorian states, ‘I hope you allow me to squire you again sometime. London is nothing if not filled with new adventures’. Here, he is not only asking to accompany her again, he is urging her to act. It is her choice not his. He is not treating her as an object. It is interesting Dorian talks of ‘new adventures’ at the beginning of their relationship, as Beauvoir in The Independent Woman talks of women seeking adventure and the need to find ‘a man whom she can regard as an equal without his considering himself superior’ (p. 702). This is what Dorian represents, where he ‘is an exceptional creature’ who is capable of recognizing an equal in Lily. This claim is evidenced when Victor attempts to retrieve Lily from Dorian’s home by threatening them both. Lily contemplates murdering Victor, asking ‘Shall we murder him right now?’ Dorian responds with a seemingly nonchalant ‘Entirely up to you’. Again, we see Dorian encouraging her to exercise her own will. This claim that Dorian views Lily as an equal can also be supported with Dorian’s very own words ‘We are equals, partners, immortals’ which clearly demonstrates how he views their relationship. Lily’s experiences with Dorian therefore provide her a different education, one that allows her to affirm herself as a subject. Dorian’s progressive views set him apart from the society they inhabit, whereby ‘In this house we set the tune, and the world follows’. This signifies his values which can be understood in opposition to the norms represented by Victor. This influence upon Lily prompts a clear transformation: ‘You will not like what I’m becoming’. Dorian’s


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influence therefore affects Lily’s journey and encourages her to embark upon a path of becoming an autonomous subject, in contrast to the immanent path urged by Victor. Eventually, Dorian’s liberal attitude and encouragement results in Lily imposing her own will upon herself, and she becomes a figurehead of a revolution. Beauvoir claimed women must seize liberation through enlightenment through ‘social equality, which will bring about an inner metamorphosis’ (p. 738). Once recognized in the public sphere as human beings distinct from men but equal to them, women could liberate themselves from the status of other. Lily, too, sets out to achieve this, to reject the role of Other and gain independence. However, her path to overcome oppression is one of violence: ‘Liberty is a bitch who must be bedded upon a mattress of corpses’. Here, we see her dark character beginning to surface, whose aim is to surpass equality and achieve complete mastery over others. At this period in the narrative, Lily is unlike the typical women in her society, and her ambition is unfitting with other women who are calling for equality within the programme’s narratives. This is emphasized when Lily and her protégé Justine see the Suffragettes protesting. Justine comments ‘They think as you do, the Suffragettes’, to which Lily responds, ‘No, our enemies are the same but they seek equality’. Beauvoir talks of the struggle of the independent woman who ‘has trouble in pleasing, it is because she is not like her slavish little sisters’ (p. 695). Lily does not belong to the norms of her society; she even regards the Suffragettes’ ambitions as inadequate in light of her own, which is to gain supreme power over all through being able to ‘go to war’. Lily clearly sees the Suffragette movement as of little value to her growth as a woman, by proclaiming: Waving placards is not it. How do you accomplish anything in this life? By craft, by stealth, by poison, by the throat, quietly slit in the dead of the night, by the careful and silent accumulation of power. Here, we see her monstrous character developing with ambitions to challenge the norms by utilizing the extremities of violence. To fuel her revolution, Lily proceeds to assemble an army of women who are ‘disgraced and powerless’, but who, within the confines of Dorian’s house she trains to kill, saying: We are not women who crawl we are not women who kneel and for this we will be branded radicals, revolutionists, women who are strong and refuse to be degraded. In The Second Sex, this reaction can be associated with the notion of woman defending herself against the immanence imposed upon her by a society that is ordered by man. As Beauvoir suggests, ‘she can do away with this inferiority only by destroying the males superiority’ (p. 726). Lily, in her transcendence, is

The Monster Within: Lily in Penny Dreadful


attempting to establish sovereignty. It could be argued her ambition of mastery is a bi-product of her society and her unpleasant experiences as a woman within that society. Her rage is fuelled by having observed and experienced first-hand as Brona how society and men mistreat women. Lily embraces her power both as an immortal and woman, channelling her rage into a bloodthirsty uprising. As Beauvoir comments ‘All oppression creates a state of war’ (p. 726), and it is this struggle of liberation from the role of passivity that remains present in the narrative, and one that takes a violent path. As the narrative unfolds, Dorian questions Lily’s path. He becomes disillusioned with their relationship, which has developed from friends into lovers. While Lily is dancing with her other lover and protégée Justine, Dorian attempts to disrupt them and cuts in on the pair but Lily does not allow it. Dorian appears agitated by this situation. He informs Lily that he ‘fears Justine does not know her place’ but Lily responds by proclaiming that, ‘She says the same of you’. Dorian protests, saying that ‘My place is at your side, we are equals’. Here, we see a complex dynamic beginning to emerge among these three lovers. This dynamic could arguably represent the futile arguments that have Beauvoir thought, ‘sought to prove that woman is superior, inferior, or equal to man’ (p. 26). However, Lily admits that Justine ‘has the soul of me.’ She is a fellow woman who can fully identify with Justine’s anger. Dorian asks, ‘Are you no more than that?’ Lily responds with ‘That is something you cannot know’. When this conversation is linked to Beauvoir’s comment that ‘women simply are not men’ (p. 14), Lily and Justine become women who embrace their identity as both women and human beings. Lily appears to acknowledge that she is different from Dorian and he cannot comprehend certain experiences of women, but Dorian is calling for a partnership. For Lily, her desire is for supremacy, whereby this divergence between the two parties fractures their relationship. Dorian asks her, ‘Is it all Mankind you despise or just men, and when do you turn your eye on me?’. Dorian is here drawing attention to the level of hate Lily has towards men, and her rage he questions will ultimately consume and destroy their relationship. With Beauvoir ending The Second Sex with ‘through their natural differentiation men and women unequivocally affirm their brotherhood’ (p. 741), so then does Lily’s ambitions acknowledge differentiations between men and women, but for her, her desires are not for brotherhood, but power. This power struggle sets in motion a different conflict between the male and female characters within this narrative, whereby ‘two transcendences are face to face; instead of displaying mutual recognition, each free being wishes to dominate the other’ (p. 727). Lily wishes to dominate men. Dorian, in his frustration states, ‘One of us needs to change our ways and I think it should be you’ before handing her to Victor. Victor takes her to Dr Jekyll’s lab where they have plans to remove her anger and pain replacing it with ‘calm, poise, serenity we are going to make you […] into a proper woman’. This laboratory scene depicts Lily in chains and on her knees. Around her stand Dr Jekyll, Victor and Dorian. Victor informs her that they are going to make her ‘as you were before.’ Lily questions ‘As I was before what?’ Victor answers with, ‘Before when we were happy’. At this point, Lily protests and


Kylie Boon

argues that it was ‘When you were happy you mean?’ Victor is therefore attempting to enforce a particular existence upon her, a situation addressed by Beauvoir whereby ‘to keep her at home, is to defend her against herself and to assure her happiness’ (p. 729). However, Victor is guilty of confusing his own private interests with that of Lily’s happiness. What Victor is truly attempting is to revert Lily from a state of transcendence back into immanence; thus, he is attempting to oppress her. This scene clearly depicts this oppression being inflicted upon her, as the three male characters appear in a position of dominance. They stand above her as she remains bound and on her knees. This visualization suggests she ‘finds herself living in a world where men compel her to assume the status of Other’ (p. 29). At this point of the narrative, Victor may think he is offering Lily a form of liberty by making her well and happy, but this is not what Lily wants. She states ‘I shall be unmade, become a non-person. I would rather die who I am than live as your demure little wife’. The existence being inflicted on her would therefore result in her un-doing; she will revert to an existence of immanence doomed to the inessential, unable as Beauvoir states, ‘to engage in freely chosen projects’ (p. 29). Lily regards this a fate worse than death, and her chosen project and path of liberty is now rooted in violence, where Beauvoir’s view that ‘justice can never be done in the midst of injustice’ becomes apparent (p. 732). Victor realizes this monstrous path and states, ‘I gave you life, I made you perfect in every way, and here you are a murderer, a savage beast’. However, does this monstrosity really appear as simple as that and is Lily the only monster here?


Journeys End: ‘It is too easy being monsters; let us try to be human.’ Woman is determined not by her hormones or by mysterious instincts, but by the manner in which her body and her relation to the world are modified through the action of others. Beauvoir & Parshley (2007, p. 734)

In her last scene with Victor when they are alone in Jekyll’s laboratory, Lily states, ‘There are scars that make us who we are but without them we do not exist’. Her conduct may have been monstrous in her period of transcendence, but her anger is not an innate instinct that Victor can simply ‘make better’. Rather, it is a result of her actions and the society she inhabits. As she is bound in chains, she proceeds to tell Victor of her past life as Brona, and the death of her baby daughter whom she feels responsible for. Having not known her in her previous life and merely encountering her on her deathbed, Brona tells Victor how her survival in society required that she obtained money by prostituting on the dark streets of London. She tells him of the winter night she left her baby alone and was attacked by a male customer who left her for dead in an alleyway. Due to this attack, she did not make it home in time to her child, and her child perished. Here, we see Brona is a victim of circumstance, a victim of her own

The Monster Within: Lily in Penny Dreadful


choice to go out that evening but also of her society. Lily admits that ‘There are some wounds that can never heal’ evidencing this trauma is a fundamental part of her; it even followed her into her reanimation as Lily. Beauvoir states ‘woman could not be other than what she was made, and that past was bound to shadow her for life’ (p. 734). Lily comes to embody this. She has become who she is due to the influences of others such as Victor and Dorian, the expectations of society, as well as her own actions, by saying, ‘I am the sum part of one woman’s days, no more, no less, that woman has known pain and outrage so terrible that its made her into this miss shaped thing.’ The consequence of others, her own actions and the way society treats women in this particular narrative has shadowed her throughout both lives. She, as a character in her becoming, has reflected the monstrous nature of her society. Like Dorian’s true portrait, the society these characters inhabit has a sinister undertone, its surface façade may be civilized, but below that surface a disturbing reality exists, Lily becomes the embodiment of this. Victor may regard Lily as a ‘savage beast’, but Victor too is a monster, evidenced by his past deeds. He has committed murder, he ended Brona’s life and he arrogantly tampered with the laws of nature, severing that which stands between life and death creating unnatural immortal monsters. Now, he forcefully attempts to oppress Lily and return her to a state of imminence. Lily questions ‘Do you not see the cruelty of what you are doing Victor, you created life, so let it live’. She also stresses that he created her as an ‘offering, a whore resurrected to be given to your creature, to spare your life’. This scene shows the vicious circle of the sexes. As Montaigne states, ‘it is much more easy to accuse one sex than to excuse the other’ (Montaigne & Cotton, 2017, p. 579). Lily and Victor are therefore both victims of one another and of themselves. Beauvoir claims that ‘Between two adversaries confronting each other in their pure liberty, an agreement could be easily reached: the more so as the war profits neither’ (p. 728). Lily and Victor eventually terminate their personal war with each other. They may regard one another as monstrous and ‘Other’, but Victor refrains from his desire to return her to a state of immanence. Instead he accepts her, evidenced by not administering the serum that will revert her back to her previous state. This scene ends with both characters on their knees in front of one another, which suggests they have accepted each other in their ‘brotherhood’ rather than seeking to master one another, ‘mutually recognizing each other as subject, each will yet remain for the other an Other’ (p. 740). At the end of this journey, they accept each other as subjects, with both acknowledging the concept that men and women are equal whilst different. Once recognized, as human beings distinct but equal, they are both finally liberated, where Victor states ‘it is too easy being monsters, let us try to be human’.

References Aldrich, R. (2012). School and society in Victorian Britain. New York, NY: Routledge. Beauvoir, S., & Parshley, H. (1947, 2007). The second sex. London: Vintage.


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Deacon, L., & Macdonald, S. J. (2017). Social work theory and practice mastering social work practice. London: Learning Matters. Feminist Perspectives on Sex and Gender (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). (2018). Retrieved from Accessed on 11 March 2018. Mikkola, M. (2017). Feminist perspectives on sex and gender (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Retrieved from Montaigne, M., & Cotton, C. (2017). Essays of Montaigne complete. London: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Nakazawa, D. (2015). Childhood disrupted (1st ed.). New York, NY: Atria Books. Simons, M. (2006). The philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir. Bloomington, IA: Indiana University Press. Weedon, C. (2008). Feminist practice and poststructuralist theory (2nd ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub. Wolf, N. (2002). The beauty myth. New York, NY: Perennial.

Chapter 7

Final Girls and Female Serial Killers: A Review of the Slasher Television Series from a Gender Perspective Víctor Hernández-Santaolalla Although antecedents may be found in Italian giallo and other films like Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960), Peeping Tom (Powell, 1960) and The Last House on the Left (Cunningham & Craven, 1972), the popularization of the slasher movie actually began with the release of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Hooper, 1974), Black Christmas (Clark & Arbeid, 1974) and Halloween (Hill & Carpenter, 1978). These three films, especially the latter, serve to define the topic of the subgenre: a serial (or mass) killer that often slaughters (or stalks) groups of middle-class teenagers, mostly attractive young women, uses cutting weapons (knives, machetes, sickles) or projectiles like arrows or harpoons (Keisner, 2008; Molitor & Sapolsky, 1993; Pérez Ochando, 2016; Petridis, 2014) to kill (mostly) his victims. Carol J. Clover defines the subgenre as ‘the immensely generative story of a psychokiller who slashes to death a string of mostly female victims, one by one, until he is himself subdued or killed, usually by the one girl who has survived’ (1987, p. 187). In this way, the author introduces the archetype of the Final Girl: ‘the one who encounters the mutilated bodies of her friends and perceives the full extent of the preceding horror and of her own peril; who is chased, cornered, wounded; whom we see scream, stagger, fall, rise, and scream again. She is abject terror personified’ (1987, p. 201). Thus, although the definition of the slasher is not really fixed in terms of gender, the conventions of the subgenre indicate that killers have been traditionally interpreted by men, while the victims have been usually interpreted by women (Clover, 2015; Kvaran, 2016; Trencansky, 2001).

Gender and Contemporary Horror in Television, 83 94 r Vı´ ctor Herna´ndez-Santaolalla All rights of reproduction in any form reserved doi:10.1108/978-1-78769-103-220191008



Víctor Hernández-Santaolalla

From Slasher Films to Slasher TV Series

Petridis (2014) divides the evolution of the slasher subgenre into three periods: the classical period (1974 1980s), the post-modern period or post-slasher (1990s), which commences with New Nightmare (Maddalena & Craven, 1994) and Scream (Wes Craven, 1996), and the neo-slasher, a combination of remakes (and reboots) of classic slashers and original films that appears with the arrival of the new millennium. This tendency to recycle, recover, re-signify and provide innovations on various film genres has been especially intense in recent years when it comes to horror and terror. The innovations have reached television where literary and cinematic stories like The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973), Psycho and The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991) became The Exorcist (2017 2018), Bates Motel (2013 2017) and Hannibal (2013 2015) on the small screen, alongside newer ‘original’ series like The Walking Dead (2010 ), in which blood and guts are no longer considered taboo elements. Television has served as a breeding ground for the introduction of new interpretations of the slasher for consumption by television audiences. In this line, after Harper’s Island (2009), an interesting homage to the subgenre rather than a real slasher TV show appeared as ‘Event TV’, MTV launched Scream: The TV Series (2015 ), which exploited the characteristic self-conscious referentiality of the film series. To that point, in the first episode of the latter, one of the characters, Noah (in a similar role to Randy Meeks in the movie saga), ironically quips about the difficulties of adapting the slasher subgenre to a televised format, saying: You know, girl and her friends arrive at the dance, the camp, the deserted town, whatever. Killer takes them out one by one. 90 minutes later, the sun comes up as survivor girl’s sitting in the back of the ambulance watching her friends’ bodies being wheeled past. Slasher movies burn bright and fast. […] TV needs to stretch things out. […] You know, by the time the first bodies found, it’s only a matter of time before the bloodbath commences. (‘Pilot’, S1, Ep. 1) The need for longer lasting plotlines to meet the demands of several seasons of television results in the continued introduction of new characters who will play the roles of both victims and perpetrators, who perform their acts under the same mask, as we see in Scream, or through different names and faces, as we see in Scream Queens (2015 2016). Interestingly, Scream Queens (2008 2010) was also a VH1’s reality TV series in which a group of unknown actresses competed for a role in a Saw franchise movie, whereas in the most recent Scared Famous (2017), a group of contestants from different VH1 shows undertake horror movie-inspired challenges, which echo Scream, Scream Queens and even Halloween: Resurrection (Rick Rosenthal, 2002) in their narrative/character constructions. Another option for keeping the story going is to adopt the formula of

Slasher Television Series from a Gender Perspective


Slasher (Chiller, 2016; Netflix, 2017 ), where each new season is a selfcontained mini-series. It is precisely these three shows (Scream, Scream Queens and Slasher) that will be the central object of analysis in this chapter, where we evaluate the representation of three fundamental elements found in the subgenre: the killer, the victims and the Final Girl. From a general outlook, these series all share an ironic self-awareness typical of slashers in the postmodern period (Petridis, 2014, p. 80). The shows engage in self-referential ‘winks and nods’ to film classics, while keeping many of the canonical elements of the subgenre, including and not in vain, Jamie Lee Curtis, the Final Girl of Prom Night (Simpson & Lynch, 1980) and Halloween saga, who is one of the main actresses (and selling points) in Scream Queens. In these shows' timelines, the stories maintain the time structure proposed by Vera Dika (1987), where past events (usually as flashbacks) are connected to the present, and the killing spree always begins with the death of a woman. For example, in Slasher, Rachel Ingram is brutally murdered in the past when she is pregnant; in Scream Queens Sophia Doyle bleeds to death when she gives birth unassisted. Both deaths from the past have the nexus with the present through the birth of a baby.


The Slasher Killer

Normally, the killer is male. He is a mere human, who does not possess any supernatural powers beyond being extraordinarily strong and apparently ‘invulnerable’ which affords him a halo of immortality (Kvaran, 2016; Rockoff, 2002; Wee, 2006). However, even though there is a tendency to think of the villain in masculine terms, ‘and not just an ordinary male, but one who epitomizes masculinity to ludicrous extremes’ (Rockoff, 2002, p. 6), the gender and sexual orientation of the killer are often ambiguous, at least until the end of the narrative. Within the slasher subgenre, there were early exceptions to this gender ‘rule’. In Friday the 13th (Cunningham, 1980), the murderer is a woman, Pamela Voorhees; in Sleepaway Camp (Silva, Tatosian & Hiltzik, 1983), Angela Baker is responsible for the slaughter. However, there is still a very strong masculine approach to these slaughter, as in Friday the 13th, the true monster of the saga (if not the first movie) is Jason (Pamela’s son), while Angela is actually her brother Peter, who had been raised as a girl by his/her aunt, Martha. Certainly, there is a difference between what is seen of the killer on screen at the beginning of the story and what is later revealed in the final encounter at the film’s climax. In the first case, we know the sex of the killer, either because their identity is implied or because of their physical constitution (for example, Michael Myers in the Halloween canon). In the second case, however, even the smallest reference to the nature of the monster is avoided, which allows for some ambiguity, as indicated before. In some films, like Scream, this ambiguity becomes more extreme, because the audience is presented with a killer who wears both a mask and loose clothing, making it difficult to determine whether they are either a man or a woman. Therefore, the possibilities and intrigue as to


Víctor Hernández-Santaolalla

who the killer could be are broader and opened out and therefore open to interpretation: arguably this comes to its conclusion in Scream 4 (Craven, Labunka & Williamson, 2011), where Jill Roberts plays the role of the killer and the Final Girl simultaneously. Wardrobe offers a range of possibilities for disguising the gender of the murderer and this is maintained in the TV slasher. The outfits of Brandon James (Scream), ‘The Red Devil’ and ‘The Green Meanie’ (Scream Queens) and ‘The Executioner’ (Slasher) could be worn by a man or a woman, for instance. If all the killers throughout the three series are added up, the total reaches 11: six men and five women. This ambiguity invites us to reflect on the stories themselves, on the possibilities that the killer could be a man or a woman. For example, both in Scream Queens and in Slasher, the killer is referred to as both ‘him’ and ‘her’. Likewise, in Scream, when Emma is convinced that the killer is a man because of the phone calls she has received, Audrey warns her that the killer could be using a voice distorter and asks her, ‘Who’s to say a woman couldn’t torture and kill just as well as a man?’ (‘Aftermath’, S 1, Ep. 4). However, independently of their gender, the killers’ behaviour is always characteristically masculine, especially in the way that they voyeuristically stalk their victims (Rockoff, 2002). In other words, the killer has a ‘predatory or assaultive gaze’ (Clover, 2015, p. 204) and demonstrates a pattern of taking greater pleasure and more time with the killing of the victim when that victim is female. Likewise, when considering why the killer kills, the primary motivation of the murderer is the traditional desire to seek revenge for some event in the past. This is a typical component of the classic slasher movies, which tend to set the motive of the vendetta in the relationship between parents, especially mothers, and their children: as Creed calls it, ‘the abject nature of the womb’ (2007, p. 49). In TV’s Scream, Piper Shaw (Brandon James and Maggie Duval’s daughter) decides to wreak revenge on her mother for abandoning her and her half-sister (who is unaware of her mother’s past transgressions). In Scream Queens, Hester (with the help of her twin brother Boone and her ‘guardian’ Gigi) goes on her vengeful killing spree because their mother was left to bleed to death after a traumatic labour. In the second season of Slasher, it is Judith, Owen’s mother, who becomes the Montega Camp killer to revenge the death of her son. In this case, however, the character takes on a split personality, adopting the role of her dead son to convince herself of the necessity of committing murder, all of which points to a form of incestuous relationship between mother and son. This reflects and adds an interesting ‘spin’ on past-slasher familial relationships, notably proto-slasher Norman Bates with his mother, Norma, and Jason Voorhees with his mother, Pamela. The forced separation of the child from the parent/s, usually through rejection or neglect, and especially the absence of a mother figure, is often the catalyst that triggers the murders. These murderers do, however, sometimes have their limits. For example, in Slasher, Judith Berry tries to make sure Keira remains untouched and unaffected by the murders, whilst Dr Cassidy Cascade, one of the ‘Green Meanies’ in Scream Queens Season 2, tries to exchange his life

Slasher Television Series from a Gender Perspective


for that of Chanel No. 3. Additionally, in Harper’s Island Henry Dunn, and Cam Henry of Slasher (S1), have the ultimate intention of ending their relationships with the Final Girls, who are the true objects of their affections. Along these lines, however, beyond the identities and the motivations of the killer, most studies have focussed on the victims and the survivors of this type of film, especially insisting on the importance of women in both roles.


The Victims of the Slasher

Looking at the traditional definitions of the slasher, content analysis carried out by Cowan and O’Brien (1990) and Weaver III (1991) found that there were no significant differences between the number of men and women who suffer violent victimization by the monster. In the three series analysed in this chapter, there are more male victims than female (ratio: Scream S1 and 2 18/7; Scream Queens S1 and 2 28/21; Slasher S1 and 2 12/10). This is also found in Harper’s Island, where there are twice as many men killed as women (18/9). Yet, if we look beyond the numbers, and examine the ways in which victims meet their end and at the context of the murders, we find more prominence in the attacks to women on-screen. For example, in the pilot episode of Scream there are two victims, Tyler and Nina, so looking at the deaths only in terms of numbers, the result is equal. But, we only know that Tyler has died because the killer throws his head into the hot tub, while Nina’s death is much more elaborate, and there is the heavy presence of the conventional fusion between eroticism and violence typical to this subgenre. First, we witness how the killer stalks Nina. He lets her know that he is spying on her through the camera lens on her computer while she puts on her bikini, and then he stalks her in her own home, forecasting the omnipresent role that new technologies will play throughout the series. When he finally apprehends Nina, the killer stabs her back, allowing her to seemingly get away, only to cut her throat and throw her into the pool on a second encounter. At that very moment, Nina receives a phone call from her mother, creating an echo with the scene in Drew Barrymore’s portrayal of Casey Becker in the original film which inspired the series, thus highlighting a common thread in the Slasher subgenre: the adult world, consisting of parents, teachers, and especially the police, are impotent when the monster comes to town. In fact, the police officers will be a constant object of mockery in Scream Queens, while they perpetrate the worst crimes in Slasher. The difference between the quick deaths the boys receive and the harassment and slow death the girls suffer is a consistent theme throughout the series. Even when a young man is killed slowly, it is usually to cause greater suffering on the part of one of the female characters, who then become the protagonists of the event. We see this play out in the case of Will, who dies when he is cut in half by a trencher, which is accidently set in motion by Emma, when she trips on a cable (‘In the trenches’, S1, Ep. 7). Will is tied to a chair and gagged. The scene is very bloody, yet the death itself is not on camera. The focus is on Emma, terrified


Víctor Hernández-Santaolalla

and with her mouth gaping, who witnesses the horrendous affair. Blood splatters her face and symbolic white t-shirt, representing pulchritude and puritanism. A similar thing occurs in the episode ‘Revelations’ when Emma and Maggie discover the sheriff tied to a tree, semi-conscious, with his entrails hanging out. He dies when Maggie cut him loose. The interesting part of this death is that although the sheriff is tied to the tree in a state of delirium and next to die, the suffering and the agony are only felt by the two women who witness the scene. Thus, in the story, both mother and daughter are implicated in the deaths of their romantic partners. The series’ tendency of exploiting the suffering of women changes somewhat in the second season with Jake and Eddie’s murders. The monster tortures Jake by allowing him to believe that he has escaped, only to finish him off by hanging him up by his feet in the farmhouse and gutting him from top to bottom with a scythe. Eddie the receptionist at the Crescent Palm motel is hit on the head by the psychokiller with a wine bottle, who then stabs him several times in the back with a corkscrew, before killing him with a blow to the throat. There is a slight sexual connotation in this last scene, in the way that the monster straddles himself over the victim who is face down, who begs for his life, while the song ‘Please come back’ by The Acorns is playing. Yet, perhaps it was the Haley Mayers’ murder that remains the most erotically charged of the second season. In ‘The Orphanage’, Haley finds herself face to face with the killer, who she receives with open arms, wanting to embrace him with a kiss. He rejects the offer, however, and puts his mask back on. Haley responds by kneeling and commenting that she will have to find another place to put her lips. Haley only realizes her dark fate when the Lakewood killer takes out his knife, the ultimate phallic symbol in slasherlore, with the intention of killing her with it. She begins to scream and tries to escape, but the masked figure stabs her in the chest. She falls backward and he stands astride her body, while the television audience perceives the sounds of her screaming and being stabbing mixed with the music of the party in the distance. The screams could almost be confused with sexual heavy breathing and the final exhalation is accompanied by body tremors, as if Haley is in some form of orgasmic death-throe. The murders of Eddie and Hayley share common points when regarding the position of the killer, but not that of the victim. Eddie remains face down but the female victim is face up. It is worth remembering that in the first slasher movies, the characters (especially women) fell victim to the killer as punishment for sexual licentiousness, which would extend to other reprehensible behaviour, according to established social norms. To that effect victims are blamed for their own deaths and young people are warned as to the dangers of straying from the path of moral rectitude, especially at the critical moment of the end of adolescence and the beginning of adulthood (Pérez Ochando, 2016). Yet, the tendency to make the people who break the rules the victims does not make sense in the neo-slasher tradition, where there are often no defined rules for picking the next victim (Petridis, 2014). This makes the first season of Slasher the closest to the moralism of the classic slashers. ‘The Executioner’ chooses his victims in

Slasher Television Series from a Gender Perspective


function of their mortal transgressions, in a similar way to Seven’s John Doe (Carlyle, Kopelson & Fincher, 1995). In this way, ‘The Executioner’ could be view as a moral actor, purifying the town of its vices and excesses. He does not kill merely for the thrill of killing; rather he carefully selects his victims, making sure they deserve to die, according to God’s laws. He is almost a vigilante. As ‘The Executioner’ mentions in an interview, ‘Every day of our lives, we sin. Taking the Lord’s name in vain. That’s a sin everyone commits. However, I only kill those who deserve to die’ (‘Ill-Gotten Gains’, S1, Ep. 5). The true catalyst of the killing spree in Slasher’s first season derives from the sexual perversions consummated within the Ingram matrimony, in the way that they used Father Tom Winston, who believed that Rachel was in love with him. In his disappointment, rage and humiliation, Winston decides to wipe away the sin, appearing at the Ingrams’ door one Halloween night dressed as an executioner. He embarks to dispose of the couple and rip their daughter Sarah out of her mother’s womb. Sarah’s return to Waterbury 30 years later will coincide with the initiation of the murders. In the past, it is her mother Rachel’s sexual depredations that are called into question and morally scrutinised. In the present, her daughter is blamed for starting the murders again and it is understood that sin is inherited from her mother (or even her grandmother). The connection between the past and the present plays out in a similar way, from the killer’s perspective in the character of Cam Henry, who dons the Executioner’s mask in the present day. It is discovered that in the past, Cam’s mother had an authoritarian personality and was intolerant of her son’s sleepwalking episodes. In the present, Cam decides to take justice into his own hands, cleaning up the ‘filth’ in his hometown, much as Winston had done in the past. In this way, women are portrayed as those who transmit sin and men as the ones who impart justice; a destructive tendency that can only be stopped by the introduction of a fundamental third element in the story, the Final Girl.


The Final Girl(s) and the Final Boy(s)

Traditionally, the Final Girl has been defined by her virginity (Wee, 2006), or at least her ‘sexual unavailability’ (Welsh, 2010, p. 763), which separates the ‘good girls’ (virgins, Madonnas) from the ‘bad’ ones (vamps, whores). The good girls, who comply with traditional feminine roles and who do not engage sexual activity, are rewarded, in the extent that they are allowed to stay alive (Weaver, Ménard, Cabrera, & Taylor, 2015; Welsh, 2010). Thus, Keisner defines the Final Girl like ‘most often virginal or celibate, reinforcing the notion that to survive destruction, one must remain chaste until marriage, sending a clear message to the predominantly teenage audience who view slasher films: premarital sex is bad’ (2008, pp. 418 419). Yet, this conclusion is unfounded, as there are no frequent references in these stories which make explicit mention of whether or not the characters are indeed virgins (Weaver et al., 2015). It is possible that the Final Girls were recognised as virgins because there are no explicit references to their sexual experiences, or due to some paradigmatic


Víctor Hernández-Santaolalla

cases of the subgenre, remembered by movies like Cherry Falls (Personger, Selden & Wright, 2000), which precisely used this argument to subvert it. In this sense, if it cannot be confirmed that the Final Girls are virgins, it is indeed true that in comparison to the rest of the girls, their sexual behaviour is less explicit, not represented on screen and normally scenes of partial or complete nudity of these characters are omitted. These results led Weaver et al. (2015) to conclude that if certain sexual ‘transgressions’ (such as freely choosing one’s clothing or kissing one’s boyfriend) can be approved of in the subgenre, with the intent of connecting with young audiences, other sexual ‘misconduct’ supposes an unacceptable violation of the traditional sexual script (2015, pp. 41 42). This is something that does not always play out in the case of the series that has been analysed here, however, where it is common to see the Final Girls engaging in sexual activity of various kinds. In fact, in Scream the extreme case of Brooke, who would be defined according to the traditional conception of the slasher, as a sexual transgressor, and who would therefore be condemned to die, comes out as one of the survivors, successfully standing up to the established adult, patriarchal power that is represented by her father, the mayor. The Final Girls are not different from the rest of the female protagonists because of their age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, dress or relationship status, but because they are usually somewhat androgynous (Weaver et al., 2015). In fact, according to Clover, the Final Girl ‘is the Girl Scout, the bookworm, the mechanic’, she is ‘boyish’ and just as ‘the killer is not fully masculine, she is not fully feminine’ (1987, p. 204). Their intelligence, problem-solving skills and ability to sense the danger are what allow them to meet the challenge. Thus, the Final Girl is a character that does not share the traditional characteristics attributed to her gender, which is also something that is shared with the Final Boy characters. In other words, the victory of the Final Girl always depends on adopting an active role, which is traditionally relegated to the men (Christensen, 2016; Connelly, 2007; Trencansky, 2001). According to Clover (1987, 2015), it is when the Final Girl assumes the male gaze and seizes the phallic weapon that she manages to destroy the monster. The traditional roles are reversed, as defined by Laura Mulvey (1999) the man looks and the woman is looked at. As Trencansky points out, if the monster ‘initiates the films by representing the threat that rears its head, it is the female heroines who decide how and when the story will end’ (2001, p. 67). Regarding this topic, it is interesting to mention the prizewinning short film Night of the Slasher (Constance, Lesar & Hamassian, 2015) where we see how it is the Final Girl who, making use of all the clichés of the subgenre, decides to invoke the monster in order to hunt him down. From an evolutionary perspective, earlier slasher films like Black Christmas or Halloween show the Final Girls managing to survive because they escaped the killer. These Final Girls are usually saved because a man of authority rescues them. In the 1980s, we can see a Final Girl who fulfils a much more active role; she is capable of hunting the monster herself, by actively seeking out the killer towards the final reel. The change has led to interpretations of this active role as an example of female empowerment (Trencansky, 2001), since the protagonist

Slasher Television Series from a Gender Perspective


overcomes social conventions and rejects the characteristics associated with her gender role to eliminate the monster. According to Keisner (2008), this active posture suffers a setback in the 1990s, where the Final Girls go back to the portrayal of only being able to scream and run away until a strong usually masculine character comes along to save the day. So, for example, in the second season of Slasher, it is Peter, through self-sacrifice, who manages to save Keira, while in Scream Queens, either the killers do not die, as in Hester’s case, or they end up killing each other. In Scream, Slasher and Harper’s Island, Emma, Sarah and Abby, respectively, all manage to penetrate, damage and kill their monsters with their own weapons. Following in the footsteps of Sidney and Gale when they confront Ghostface in Scream, the TV’s adaptation sees Audrey and Emma manage to eliminate the killers who are hidden under Brandon James masks. They save themselves by killing Piper in Season 1 and bringing Kieran to justice in Season 2, although not with the more-traditional cutting weapon, but with a gun in both cases. It is in the Halloween special episode when Emma holds a pair of garden shears, and thereby becomes the ultimate Final Girl, whereby she achieves the definitive destruction of the ‘monster’. Therefore, this reverts back to the older slashers: first, when the identity of the killer is discovered; and, second when Emma realizes that she is the Final Girl. Emma finds out that the first killer is her step-sister; the second killer is her boyfriend; and, the third is the first man she decides she can trust after the Lakewood murders. But, with the life that she has led so far she recognizes and accepts herself, proclaiming that, ‘I don’t need a hero! I’m Emma Duval!’ to the last monster before throwing him over the balcony. A fundamental change occurs in the character then. After destroying the first killer she flees, taking a retreat for three months, in keeping with the ‘societal rejection’ Trencansky speaks of (2001, p. 69). In the last episode, however, she manages to take pride in her true self, accepting her place in society. Something similar occurs with Sarah Bennet in Slasher. After doubting her husband and engaging in sexual intercourse with Cam, the man behind ‘The Executioner’, she discovers who the true assassin is. Aware that things will only end if she takes matters into her own hand, she decides not to tell the police and she takes a carving knife, thus precipitating the final encounter between the ‘last’ survivor and the monster. As usually occurs in the subgenre’s climax, during the battle Cam overpowers Sarah and positions himself over her body in order to kill her. Yet, just as he is about to stab her, she manages to knock him down by hitting him with the urn that contains the ashes of her grandmother, the maternal ancestor whose return gives the heroine strength. While Dylan, Sarah’s husband, holds him down, Sarah stabs Cam three times with the knife and finally slits his throat. Sarah approaches the door and closes the latch of the same home where the horror story began with the death of her parents serves as the frame to end the tragedy. So, after overcoming the past, the survivors are finally able to embrace the present and the future.



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The slasher television series follow the prescriptions of the post-slasher and the neo-slasher pointed out by Petridis (2014). Even though an argument could be made that there has been some progress in the portrayal of the roles developed by masculine and feminine characters, in general the idea persists that even if the monster is a man, it is somehow the woman’s fault that these killing sprees occur. Original sin, which transmitted from one generation to the next, through the mother, and distrust of the adult world (especially when considering the lies and deceit maintained by the parents in all the series discussed) are common threads in these stories. Children come back years later after their mothers abandon them to seek revenge, but they are also their daughters, in their roles as Final Girls, who are called on to resolve their situations once and for all. The latter, which can be understood as playing an important function in the depiction of feminine empowerment in the subgenre, means for the protagonist a rejection of her gender, in the sense she has to adopt the gaze and the weapons of the killer. Additionally, any trace of feminist discourse (sometimes with a parodic tone like in Scream Queens) would clash with the explicit images of eroticised violence, which frequently portray semi-nude women who can do nothing but scream and/or run away while the killer, independently of whether they are male or female, takes sadistic pleasure in torturing their victims: ‘I can’t believe Nina’s just a body now’, says Riley in the pilot episode of Scream, whilst Jake replies with, ‘It kind of always was just a body, but top-shelf all the way’. Despite being able to cite some advances in the representation of gender roles in the slasher subgenre, it must be recognised that we are dealing with a cultural product designed for mass consumption, where economic profit is to be maximised. It is not surprising, therefore, that all three series analysed lack some innovation, as they strive to achieve a form of moderation that will appeal to the greatest possible number of spectators. In any case, any evolution that is found in the three productions is seen through the development of the killer, the Final Girl and Final Boy. But there is no real development found in the killer’s victims. Whilst most of the men die offscreen or with little bloodshed, it is the women who suffer the most onscreen. In that way, the subgenre has not readily expanded beyond the confines of its own past: rather, it becomes a mechanism for displaying that kind of violence, not for any artistic merit or even with ‘something to say’. Rather, it is there purely for the enjoyment of its (mostly young) audience.

References Carlyle, P., Kopelson, A. (Producers), & Fincher, D. (Director) (1995). Seven [Motion picture]. United States: Cecchi Gori Pictures, Juno Pix & New Line Cinema. Christensen, K. (2016). “Look what you did to me!”: (Anti)Feminism and extratextuality in the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010). Journal of Film and Video, 68(2), 29 45. doi:10.5406/jfilmvideo.68.2.0029

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Clark, B. (Producer & Director), & Arbeid, G. (Producer) (1974). Black Christmas [Motion picture]. Canada: CFDC & Famous Players. Clover, C. J. (1987). Her body, himself: Gender in slasher film. Representations, 20 (Autumn), 187 228. doi:10.2307/2928507 Clover, C. J. (2015). Men, women and chainsaws. Gender in the modern horror film. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Connelly, K. (2007). From final girl to final woman. Defeating the male monster in Halloween and Halloween H20. Journal of Popular Film and Television, 35(1), 12 21. doi:10.3200/JPFT.35.1.12-21 Constance, E., Lesar, A. (Producers), & Hamassian, S. (Director) (2015). Night of the Slasher. United States: We Make Movies. Cowan, G., & O’Brien, M. (1990). Gender and survival vs. death in slasher films: A content analysis. Sex Roles, 23(3/4), 187 196. doi:10.1007/BF00289865 Craven, W. (Producer & Director), Labunka, I., & Williamson, K. (Producers) (2011). Scream 4. United States: Dimension Films, Corvus Corax, Outerbanks Entertainment, The Weinstein Company & Prime Focus. Creed, B. (2007). The Monstrous-feminine. Film, feminism, psychoanalisis. New York, NY: Routledge. Cunningham, S. S. (Producer & Director) (1980). Friday the 13th [Motion picture]. United States: Warner Bros, Georgetown Productions Inc. & Sean S. Cunningham Films. Cunningham, S. S. (Producer), & Craven, W. (Director) (1972). The last house on the left [Motion picture]. United States: Sean S. Cunningham Films. Dika, V. (1987). The stalker film, 1978-81. In G. A. Waller (Ed.), American horrors. Essay on the modern American horror film (pp. 86 101). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. Hill, D. (Producer), & Carpenter, J. (Director) (1978). Halloween [Motion picture]. United States: Compass International Pictures. Hitchcock, A. (Producer & Director) (1960). Psycho [Motion picture]. United States: Shamley Productions. Hooper, T. (Producer & Director) (1974). The Texas chainsaw massacre [Motion picture]. United States: Vortex. Keisner, J. (2008). Do you want to watch? A study of the visual rhetoric of the postmodern horror film. Women’s Studies, 37(4), 411 427. doi:10.1080/004978708 02050019 Konrad, C., Woods, C. (Producers), & Craven, W. (Director) (1996). Scream [Motion picture]. United States: Dimension Films & Woods Entertainment. Kvaran, K. M. (2016). “You’re all doomed!” A socioeconomic analysis of slasher films. Journal of American Studies, 50(4), 953 970. doi:10.1017/S0021875815 002674 Maddalena, M. (Producer), & Craven, W. (Director) (1994). New nightmare [Motion picture]. United States: New Line Cinema. Molitor, F., & Sapolsky, B. S. (1993). Sex, violence, and victimization in slasher films. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 37(2), 233 242. doi:10.1080/ 08838159309364218 Mulvey, L. (1999). Visual pleasure and narrative cinema. In L. Braudy & M. Cohen (Eds.), Film theory and criticism: Introductory readings (pp. 833 844). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.


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Pérez Ochando, L. (2016). Todos los jóvenes van a morir. Ideología y rito en el slasher film. Murcia: Micromegas. Persinger, M., Selden, E. (Producers), & Wright, G. (Director) (2000). Cherry falls [Motion picture]. United States: Rogue Pictures, Fresh Produce Company & Industry Entertainment. Petridis, S. (2014). A historical approach to the slasher film. Film International, 12(1), 76 84. doi:10.1386/fiin.12.1.76_1 Powell, M. (Producer & Director) (1960). Peeping Tom [Motion picture]. United Kingdom: Michael Powell (Theatre). Rockoff, A. (2002). Going to pieces. The rise and fall of the slasher film, 1978 1986. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. Silva, J., Tatosian, M. (Producers), & Hiltzik, R. (Director) (1983). Sleepaway camp [Motion picture]. United States: American Eagle Films Corp. & U.S. Films. Simpson, P. R. (Producer), & Lynch, P. (Director) (1980). Prom night [Motion picture]. Canada: Prom Night Productions & Simcom. Trencansky, S. (2001). Final Girls and terrible youth: Transgression in 1980s slasher horror. Journal of Popular Film and Television, 29(2), 63 73. doi:10.1080/019560 50109601010 Weaver, A. D., Ménard, A. D., Cabrera, C., & Taylor, A. (2015). Embodying the moral code? Thirty years of final girls in slasher films. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 4(1), 31 46. doi:10.1037/ppm0000006 Weaver III, J. B. (1991). Are slasher horror films sexually violent? A content analysis. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 35(3), 385 392. doi:10.1080/ 08838159109364133 Wee, V. (2006). Resurrecting and updating the teen slasher. The case of Scream. Journal of Popular Film & Television, 34(2), 50 61. doi:10.3200/JPFT.34.2.50-61 Welsh, A. (2010). On the perils of living dangerously in the slasher horror film: Gender differences in the association between sexual activity and survival. Sex Roles, 62(11 12), 762 773. doi:0.1007/s11199-010-9762-x


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Chapter 8

‘Is Hannibal in Love with Me?’ Gender Changes in the Television Series Hannibal Clare Smith

In 2013, the television programme Hannibal debuted on television (2013 2015). Taking characters and narrative from three novels by Thomas Harris Red Dragon (1981), The Silence of the Lambs (1988) and Hannibal (1999) over three seasons, the audience got to spend time with the notorious killer and bon vivant Dr Hannibal Lecter. Appearing 32 years after the first book and 27 years after Hannibal’s first big screen appearance in Manhunter (Michael Mann, 1986), much has changed in Dr Lecter’s world and the most interesting of these changes is the gender of characters. Dr Lecter’s initial appearance on screen was as Dr Lektor in Manhunter. Played with understated menace by Brian Cox, the audience saw him torment William Peterson’s William Graham from his cell. The film is stylish with an effective use of a white sterile colour scape with striking performances from Cox and Peterson. It was Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal in the multi-Oscar award winning The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991) that brought Dr Lecter to a wider cinematic audience. Hopkins’ relish of the role, his full-bodied performance, set against the controlled and nuanced performance of Jodie Foster’s Agent Starling, was a box office hit. Hopkins reprised his role as Lecter in the filmic sequel Hannibal (Ridley Scott, 2001) and in the remake of Manhunter, Red Dragon (Brett Ratner, 2002). With each performance of Lecter, Hopkins brings more flamboyance appearing to revel in the villainy of the role. While the constant of Hopkins/Lecter remains the characters of Will Graham and Clarice Starling have both been played by different actors. In Hannibal, Clarice was played by Julianne Moore, a replacement for Foster who disliked the direction the relationship between Hannibal and Clarice had taken. There is a lack of chemistry between the leads in Hannibal and the film once again belongs to Hopkins/Lecter. In Red Dragon, Edward Norton was Will, and his almost hesitant performance served to reinforce the comfort of Hopkins as Lector. The origins of the monster Lecter were explored in the film Hannibal Rising (Peter Webber, 2007). The film focuses on Lecter’s childhood during the Second

Gender and Contemporary Horror in Television, 97 105 r Clare Smith All rights of reproduction in any form reserved doi:10.1108/978-1-78769-103-220191009


Clare Smith

World War and his teenage years when he first kills and indulges in cannibalism. Gaspard Ulliel’s portrayal of Lecter shows flashes of the showmanship and murder as spectacle that Hopkins had already emphasized in his version of (the older) Lecter. The films deviate from the narrative of Thomas Harris’s novels; plots are abridged to allow for action sequences to be inserted and narratives are sacrificed to provide more screen time for Dr Lecter. What the films and novels have in common is that, unlike their TV counterpart, the films remain consistent with their links to the gender of their main characters. In the novel Red Dragon, Dr Alan Bloom and Freddy Lounds are men, whilst in the television series, they are women: Alana and Freddie. I would also argue in this chapter that another change in genders occurs as the main character; Will Graham replaces Clarice Starling as the person Lecter seduces. It also introduces a female psychiatrist for Dr Lecter: Dr Bedelia du Maurier. These changes alter the presentation of specific characters, and also that of the overall narrative arc of the television series. In this chapter, these shifts in gender will be both evaluated and considered with relation to how these changes impact upon the viewers’ experience. The change of the familiar to the unfamiliar is Uncanny, and this alteration adds to the presentation of Will and Hannibal as figures of horror whilst simultaneously increasing an audience’s feeling of both anxiety and fear. Hannibal integrated characters and narratives from three novels: Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal. It reintroduced Dr Lecter to our screens, with an involved (and involving) three series story arc: in Season 1, we saw the Doctor initially practising psychiatry and secretly killing his victims; in Season 2, his friends and colleagues become increasingly aware of Hannibal’s proclivities and the season ends in a bloody denouement; in Season 3 has a split narrative, where the first episodes are concerned with Hannibal’s life on the run in Florence, and the second part places Hannibal back where viewers first encountered him, incarcerated in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. The main relationship that Red Dragon explores is between Hannibal and the FBI profiler Will Graham. In these narratives, the relationship is post-Lapsarian, where Hannibal ‘the Cannibal’ Lecter is in an asylum after Will eventually tracked him down and caught him. The television series focuses on two main themes: Will’s realization that Hannibal eats those he considers to be ‘rude’ and ‘uncouth’, and the feelings that Will and Hannibal have for each other. Hannibal and Will first meet when the psychiatrist is recommended as someone who can help Graham manage his mental health problems, which have manifested themselves as the Detective investigates serial murders for the FBI. Hannibal is not the answer to Will’s emotional and mental health issues, the psychiatrist becomes fascinated with Will, and it could be argued that over the course of the series, Lecter falls in love with his patient. This change of affection (and gender) from what the audience already knows most prevalently through the portrayal of Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) in The Silence of the Lambs is a genuinely interesting idea that audiences’ preconceptions are altered through

Gender Changes in the Television Series Hannibal


their possible over-familiarity with the given text. In both the film and the novel, the attraction between Lecter and Starling is identified, firstly by the crass observation of Dr Chiltern, head of the asylum, that Jack Crawford has sent Clarice to sexually tease Lecter (‘Boy, are you ever his type’, Chiltern says at one point) into opening up to provide evidence that will help the FBI capture the serial killer, Buffalo Bill. There is only one actual moment of physical contact between Clarice and Hannibal in both the film and the novel. This occurs when Hannibal hands back the Buffalo Bill case file to Clarice. Harris wrote ‘For an instant the tip of her forefinger touched Dr Lecter’s. The touch crackled in his eyes’. In the film, the close up on their hands touching even only for a moment is enough to signify the attraction. In the novel’s sequel, Hannibal, the attraction has become far less subtle, whereby Hannibal and Clarice become lovers (which was deemed a contentious narrative for both the fans and the actress Jodie Foster so much so, that she backed away from appearing in the film). In the novel, after a convoluted revenge-plot, where one of Lecter’s past-patients wants to feed him to a singular of boars, Hannibal rescues Clarice and saves her from her injuries. He treats Clarice’s physical and emotional wounds and they fall in love, living together hidden from the forces of law and order. The ‘treatment’ prescribed by Hannibal involves drugs, hypnotherapy and emotional manipulation. This is the therapy that Hannibal uses on Will in the TV series. For Hannibal and Clarice, the treatment culminates with them eating the brain of Paul Krendler, a corrupt agent who had a vendetta against Starling. Once their cannibalistic relationship has been consummated, they move onto a physical relationship. Harris (1999) wrote that for Hannibal and Starling, ‘Sex is a splendid structure that they add to everyday’ and, in an attempt to reassure the reader that Clarice was not drugged and had a free will in the relationship, wrote on the final page of the novel that ‘the drugs that held her in the first days have had no part of their lives for a long time.’ This was not enough reassurance for a cinema audience, and when the novel was adapted for the cinema, the ending was changed. There is still a romantic tone from Lecter. He buys Clarice’s presents of designer shoes and a dress, and kisses her, and when left with the choice of mutilating her or himself, he sacrifices his hand rather than harm her. But Clarice rejects Hannibal. He asks her that if he stopped, would she love him. Her reply is unequivocally no, ‘Not in a thousand years.’ The novel has reciprocal love while the film has unrequited love. This is the romantic context that the collective unconscious of the audience brought to the television series. Those watching wondered when Hannibal’s romantic side would be revealed. Essentially, this would be when would Agent Starling make her appearance. The answer was that the romantic side of Hannibal would be present but it would, in fact, focus on Will. The object of Hannibal’s terrifying affection would be male not female. This change in gender was presented to the audience in two ways, both of which served to produce anxiety and fear as they developed the presentation of Hannibal as a figure of the Uncanny. The first method of presentation was the emphasis on the similarities between Will and Clarice. Both are drawn away


Clare Smith

from the FBI and towards Lecter, finding themselves making choices that put them on the wrong side of the law. Hannibal uses the same drugs and treatment methods on them to coerce their actions. Both of them are depicted as being from a working-class background. Will’s father was a boat mechanic, and he grew up moving between boat yards while his father looked for work. In Hannibal’s initial encounter with Clarice, he identifies her class and uses it to unsettle her, saying ‘Good nutrition has given you some length of bone, but your not one generation out of the mines.’ In the film, he calls her ‘poor white trash.’ These similarities between Will and Clarice develop audience anxiety as they take the familiar love object, Clarice, and make her unfamiliar by changing the gender-focus onto a new love object, Will. This develops the feeling of the Uncanny, the feeling of recognition suffused with the acknowledgement of the difference of gender. The juxtaposition of the upper-class Lecter with the working-class Will/ Clarice places Lecter within the realms of the upper-class monster of the gothic genre. This is a trope used in the presentation of elite male monsters from Dracula to Dorian Grey and beyond. Part of this presentation is the introduction of the lower-class ‘victim’ to new experiences in taste and behaviour. The novel’s version of Lecter introduces Clarice to cannibalism. In the television series, Lecter seeks to develop Will’s tastes, introducing him to decadent and taboo experiences, cooking ortolan for Will. This illegal dish requires songbirds to drowned alive, cooked and then eaten whole. When Will asks Hannibal about the consumption, ‘Bones and all?’ it is hard not to read homoeroticism into this shared oral experience. Hannibal tells Will that the dish is usually consumed with a napkin placed over the face to hide the decadence of the act from God. But this is not a tradition that Hannibal and Will follow. Instead, Hannibal and Will watch each other eat. In essence, this is a distillation of every episode, Will and Hannibal watch each other, they gaze on each other and the audience watches them looking at each other. The female characters Alanna Bloom, Freddie Lounds and Bedelia du Maurier are all beautiful women but Hannibal/Will/the audience never look at them with the adoring gaze that is reserved for the look between the two men. This is the second part of the presentation of Will as the love object that becomes Uncanny; that is, the fluidity of masculinity within his character. Will is given attributes that are both male and female. A component of this is the gendered concept of the gaze. Laura Mulvey (1975) identifies the gender of the pleasure of the gaze as male/active female/passive. What Thomas Harris and Jonathan Demme did in the novel and film versions of The Silence of the Lambs was to give some of the active control of the gaze to Clarice. Admittedly, Hannibal does look in almost lovestruck awe at Clarice but she also looks back. One of the most iconic scenes of the film is that of Hannibal and Clarice looking at each other in the asylum, and through a separated glass, where Clarice is in a dank, dark corridor, and Hannibal is standing in his sparsely decorated cell. The moment is that of two opponents observing and calculating the next move to make in this contest but the sexual frisson is hidden within the subtexts of the

Gender Changes in the Television Series Hannibal


way the sequence is shot. Clarice also gets to look at herself as she is reflected in the glass of Lecter’s cell, whereby she becomes both passive and active in regard to the gaze. This continues when Clarice challenges Lecter to turn his gaze from her to Buffalo Bill, and in her own way, she is able to redirect the active male gaze. In the television series, this active gaze belongs to both Hannibal and Will but only up to a point for the latter. In their therapy sessions, Will and Hannibal sit and face each other; they also watch each other eat, and they watch each other kill. In this sense, there is a similarity between the shared active gaze of Will and Clarice which again links Will to a female presentation. A further similarity is that when he chooses to do so, Hannibal removes the power from Clarice and Will. In the film Hannibal, Clarice loses any control of the gaze. Hannibal looks at her, but she does not look at him; notably in one scene, he breaks into Clarice’s home and watches her as she sleeps: the epitome of the active male gaze of the passive female object. Hannibal initially controls which aspect of himself Will is allowed to see. In Season 1, Hannibal’s murders and cannibalism are hidden from Will. Will is then rendered more passive by the controlling male gaze of Hannibal when the doctor controls what Will believes he is seeing. Hannibal realizes that Will is suffering from undiagnosed encephalitis, which is causing him to hallucinate and lose time. Hannibal then proceeds to gaslight Will into believing he has committed murders and, by doing so, actively controls Will’s now-passive gaze. The most extreme example of this is when Will captures the escaped murderer Abel Gideon and brings him to Hannibal’s home. Realizing Will is in the midst of a seizure Hannibal tells him no one else is in the room, and he takes control of what Will believes he is seeing. By extension, Hannibal also takes control of the gaze of the audience, placing them alongside Will as being both passive and manipulated. That is, the audience saw Will brings Abel into the house. Didn’t we? Or, did we see what Will thought he was seeing? Do we let Hannibal take control of our gaze and deny that we see what we see? This removal of the power of the gaze from Will feminizes his character. As with Clarice, Hannibal may allow a little control of the gaze but ultimately its power belongs to Hannibal, the dominant male on screen. For Will/Clarice, there is trauma for trying to usurp the male gaze. Yes, Clarice stares back at Hannibal in the asylum but she flees from the building in tears. For Will, actively gazing at Hannibal causes injury and misery. For the audience, the hero they are supposed to align with, be it Will or Clarice, is given a taste of controlling the gaze only for Hannibal to take back control. This reinforces Hannibal’s masculinity while shifting the masculinity of Will towards a perceived femininity. This femininity is reinforced when Will does something that very few screen males do: he forgives. Hannibal wounded Will and murdered Abigail Hobbs (the daughter of serial killer, Garret Jacob Hobbs) who both men viewed as a surrogate daughter. Hannibal has fled to Florence and Will follows him there, and while they are in a church, Will calls out to the shadows where Hannibal is hiding that he forgives him. Will gives Absolution to the man who has stabbed him, had him falsely imprisoned, murdered his friends and countless others and


Clare Smith

then killed his ‘child’. Forgiveness is the antithesis of the male on screen. If one considers such genres as the Western, film noir, crime thrillers, horror films, and even popcorn car chase film franchises, the desire for male revenge is the mainstay of plot and character motivation. Men on screen (usually) do not forgive: they saddle up and ride out after the miscreant, seeking vengeance, whilst forgiveness on screen (usually) belongs to the female characters. Hannibal, however, does not forgive. The smallest slights are punished, usually in the most atrocious way that Hannibal can think of. Mason Verger, a psychopathic paedophile who abused his sister and attempted to feed Lecter to man eating pigs, is fed to Will’s dogs that rip and tear at his face. Mason’s atrocities are discussed during the (film and) TV series, but it is not his sexual violence that causes him to be on Hannibal’s ‘Unforgiven’ list. Verger was doomed the moment he put his feet up on Dr Lecter’s beautiful furniture. This hyper-male vengeance from Hannibal serves to move Will’s gender identity closer to the feminine, whilst propelling Lecter’s even further into masculinity. Will is never portrayed on screen as effeminate in a stereotypical way that could be deemed as offensive or obvious. His depiction maintains elements of the male monster particularly in the narrative regarding Abigail. In Red Dragon’s novel and the film adaptations, there was a dearth of female characters. The television series seeks to rebalance this presentation and introduced numerous female characters. Two of these characters transitioned from male characters into female equivalents: Alan Bloom became Alanna Bloom, an FBI psychiatrist, and Freddy Lounds became Freddie Lounds, a tabloid journalist. Two new characters are introduced: Hannibal’s psychiatrist and love interest Bedelia du Maurier, and Abigail Hobbs. Abigail is the daughter of serial killer Garrett Jacob Hobbs who has been murder young women. When Hobbs is warned by Hannibal that Will is on his way to arrest him, he kills his wife and cuts Abigail’s throat before he is shot by Will. Hannibal and Will save Abigail’s life but she is left an orphan. Hannibal tells Will that they are obligated to Abigail, she becomes their surrogate daughter, whilst Alanna also feels a parental obligation towards Abigail. Abigail herself initially recognizes all three of the characters as parental substitutes in three combinations: Alanna and Will, Alanna and Hannibal, and Hannibal and Will. It is ultimately Hannibal and Will that Abigail comes to truly recognize as parents. When Hannibal discovers that Abigail helped her father murder women, it signals to him that Abigail is truly his and Will’s child. In Season 1, Hannibal has manipulated Will to believe that he has murdered Abigail. The finale of Season 2 reveals that Abigail is alive and that Hannibal plans for the three of them to leave their present surroundings and to live together. Hannibal risks his freedom to wait for Will to arrive to complete this ‘murder family’ that he has created. What is noticeable is that both Will and Hannibal, both of when have romantic narratives with Alanna, reject the idea of forming a biological family with her. They want to form a family unit without a woman. Abigail also rejects a maternal role from Alanna. When Alanna discovers Abigail alive, Abigail does not turn to Alanna for protection from

Gender Changes in the Television Series Hannibal


Hannibal or Will, instead she pushes Alanna out of a second floor window and runs back to Hannibal. The family created without a woman places Hannibal and Will firmly with the male monsters who seek reproduction without female participation. Dr Frankenstein with his built creature and Dracula creating vampires with a bite are both part of this heritage of the monstrous male usurpation of procreation. This narrative places Will within a masculine presentation of the monster alongside Hannibal as opposed to the feminine presentation of his similarities to Clarice. This adds to audience anxiety as it engages with the uncertainty aspect of the Uncanny. This is the reason that we are often uncomfortable around dolls, mannequins and waxworks, and there is the uncertainty over their animation. The presentation of Will in terms of gender creates the same feelings as he is presented as both a male monster and a feminized love object for Hannibal. This uncertainty about the gender presentation of Will is partly mirrored by the development of the character of Alanna Bloom. In Season 1, Alanna is a potential romantic partner for Will but she rejects him, and in Season 2, she begins a sexual relationship with Hannibal. This relationship ends badly when Alanna, finally believing the worse of Hannibal, pulls a gun on him. Hannibal offers her a choice: she can either leave and he would make no plans to trace her, or if she stays, he will kill her. Despite her bravery and insistence that she stays, she is then killed by Abigail. In the world of Hannibal, the traditional ‘mother’ figure is never safe. At the start of Season 3, Alanna has changed. In the earlier series, she had been misled and manipulated by both Hannibal and Will. Now Alanna takes control of the search for Hannibal, after FBI Agent Jack Crawford (the man in charge of tracking down Hannibal for the FBI) and Graham are broken, both physically and mentally by their dealings with Lecter. Jack grieves for his wife, whilst Will has been physically and emotionally wounded by Hannibal. This sees Alanna directing the narrative, usurping her male counterparts’ role in the narrative structure. Her appearance has also changed and evolved into a more masculine style. Gone is the soft make up, long hair and pretty skirts and dresses that had been a feminine foil to the exquisite male tailoring of Hannibal. Instead, Alanna has borrowed style tips from Hannibal, wearing beautifully cut trouser suits, hair tied back and stronger, darker make up. In addition to taking Hannibal’s style, Alanna begins a relationship with Will’s ex-lover Margo, almost in a direct reflection of Will and Hannibal’s ‘relationship’. Alanna is the Director of the asylum when Hannibal is captured and then incarcerated within its walls. This removes the male Dr Chiltern from the narrative (he had been in Seasons 1 and 2 of the TV series and was in charge of the institution in The Silence of the Lambs). Therefore, Alanna now has power and agency over Hannibal so it would appear that by taking on male characteristics, she has assumed power over her male counterparts and even Hannibal. However, this is not the case for Hannibal asserts his authority over Alanna, Margo and their son. He tells Alanna that her wife and child belong to him as he allowed her to live but that he will kill her if pressed. When Hannibal escapes


Clare Smith

from the institution, Alanna and her family are shown fleeing their home and enter into the FBI Protection scheme. Bedelia du Maurier (played with icy steel and reserve by Gillian Anderson) is a new female character to enter into Hannibal’s world. As with Alanna, she has a sexual relationship with him, although she was initially his psychiatrist, and as with Alanna, there are elements of male and female representations applied to her. After the bloodshed of the Season 2’s finale, Hannibal escapes to Bedelia’s home where he showers and changes out of his bloody clothes. When he emerges from the shower Bedelia is sitting on the bed holding a gun on him, her gaze lingers over his naked body and she watches as he dresses. This erotic assumption of the gaze displays a strength in the female character and as with the portrayal of Will’s lack of control of the gaze shows a willingness to skew gender expectations. There are strong similarities between Will and Bedelia, both are killers (initially in self-defence), and both believe that they can control the look and safely observe Hannibal from a distance. Bedelia usurps Graham’s place at Lecter’s side, and it is she who runs away with him. There is a genuine sense of jealous frisson between Will and Bedelia, with the latter prodding at Will, a heterosexual man, by goading him that ‘my relationship with Hannibal is not as passionate as yours.’ The final female character to consider is Freddie Lounds, an unscrupulous and manipulative journalist. Freddie is arguably the only character not to be seduced by Hannibal or Will either sexually or morally. Symbolically, Freddie is the only character to sit at Hannibal’s table and not eat human flesh. She is a vegetarian, and Hannibal serves her a salad. When the story of Hannibal’s crimes becomes apparent and broadcast into the media, Freddie describes Will and Hannibal as ‘murder husbands’, which is probably the truest description of their relationship. With her male name, a character that was orginally male and no (hint of a) sexual relationship with the killer, Freddie comes closest to the female character of the Final Girl as identified by Carol Clover (2015). This Final Girl is usually the only survivor in a serial killer’s hoard of killings and she usually uses male attributes to survive the killer. In this instance, however, Freddie has survived only because of Graham’s intervention. In a way, it is Will who (within the series) can be identified most closely as the Final Girl when the definition by Clover is considered ‘Her smartness, gravity and competence, and sexual reluctance sets her apart from the other girls and ally her ironically with the very boys she fears and rejects, not to speak of the killer himself.’ This description of Will, set apart from the girls by his masculinity but allied to serial killers who deny him the aspects of masculinity an audience expects to see, therefore becomes apparent: he is the Final Girl. Clover (2015) wrote that ‘gender is less a wall than a permeable membrane’. In Hannibal, the ‘membranes’ of Will/Alanna/Freddie/Bedelia have been slashed open to present characters who unnerve the audience with the fluidity and uncertainty of their gender depictions. All of these characters are shown as possessing both male and female screen attributes that alter as the characters evolve.

Gender Changes in the Television Series Hannibal


The one fixed point in the gender presentation is that Hannibal remains a male monster; the upper-class seducer, the solo male progenitor, the consumer of flesh and the Svengali directing both the women and Will. The change in gender of the love interest from female to male and the introduction of additional female characters allows for a darker and more intense presentation of anxiety and fear for the audience. The introduction of uncertainty and the Uncanny that could not be achieved with a male/female romantic dynamic as was evident by the lack of emotive audience response to the relationship between Hannibal and Clarice in the film Hannibal even when it remained unconsummated is here laid bare in the TV series. In the television incarnation of Hannibal, the relationship between Lecter and Will is not consummated sexually because for Hannibal true love is about murder not sex, Eros not Thanatos. In the final episode, Hannibal and Will together kill the serial murderer Francis Dolarhyde. The scene is vicious, visceral and climatic in all senses. Hannibal wraps his arms around Dolarhyde’s neck while Will plunges a knife into him and blood spurts over them all. It is murder as sex. Hannibal tells Will that this is all he has ever wanted for both of them. They embrace as lovers would embrace. Hannibal, in his love for Will, through this act reinforces himself as one of the pre-eminent male monsters in the horror pantheon. Graham remains his subservient. Whilst Hannibal ‘the cannibal’ Lecter does love Will, the question remains for Graham: does he want to love me, kill me or eat me? There is only one possible answer: Hannibal does want to love Will, kill Will or eat Will. Just not necessarily in that order.

References Clover, C. (2015). Her body himself. In B. K. Grant (Ed.) The dread of difference gender and the horror film (pp. 88, 93). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. Demme, J. (Director). (1991). Silence of the lambs [Motion Picture]. United States: Orion. Mulvey, L. (orig; 1975 2009 ed) Visual and other pleasures. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Harris, T. (1981). Red dragon. New York, NY: G.P. Putnams, Dell Publishing. Harris, T. (1988 orig; 2009 edition). The silence of the lambs (pp. 25, 265). London: Arrow Books. Harris, T. (1999 orig; 2002 edition). Hannibal (pp. 561 562). London: Arrow Books. Mann, M. (Director). (1986). Manhunter [Motion Picture]. United States: De Laurentiis Entertainment Group. Ratner, B. (Director). (2002). Red dragon [Motion Picture]. United States: Universal. Scott, R. (Producer/Director). (2001). Hannibal [Motion Picture]. United States: MGM. Webber, P. (Director). (2007). Hannibal Rising [Motion Picture]. United States: MGM.

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Chapter 9

‘I’m Pissed Off, and I’m Angry, and We Need Your Permission to Kill Someone’: Frustrated Masculinities in Charlie Brooker’s Dead Set Lauren Stephenson

At the turn of the twenty-first century, psychiatrist Anthony Clare was moved to proclaim, ‘it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that men are in serious trouble […]. Serious commentators declare that men are redundant, that women do not need them and children would be better off without them’ (Clare, 2000, p. 3). Clare used predominantly British examples of male delinquency, violence and poor mental health to support his thesis, surmising that these social problems were the result of traditional masculine roles being ‘under siege’ (p. 7). The end of the twentieth century had indeed been a challenging time for British male identity. As Linnie Blake argues, the renegotiation of masculine ideals throughout Thatcherite, and later Blairite, Britain resulted in an awkward hybridization of hyper-masculinity and the idealized figure of the family man (Blake in Allmer, Brick, & Huxley, 2012, p. 79). Forms of traditional masculinity and patriarchal authority were under threat, and they stand to reason that mediated representation of men would work to reflect and renegotiate concepts of masculinity as the new century and millennium unfolded. Bearing in mind the concept of masculinity ‘under siege’, this chapter looks towards the television mini-series Dead Set (Demange, 2008) to interrogate its use of the notion of apocalypse and how it facilitates a discussion regarding the frustration of outmoded and ineffective forms of masculinity. In explaining his affinity with the zombie antagonist, Charlie Brooker claims that ‘[z]ombies are the misanthrope’s monster of choice. They represent fear and disgust of our fellow man’ (Brooker, 2008, p. 3). This misanthropic perspective, which Brooker prizes so highly in the zombie narrative, is certainly echoed in the desperately unlikeable characters that he has created and placed at the centre of the apocalypse in Dead Set: a mini-series that ponders what would happen

Gender and Contemporary Horror in Television, 107 115 r Lauren Stephenson All rights of reproduction in any form reserved doi:10.1108/978-1-78769-103-220191010


Lauren Stephenson

should the apocalypse coincide with a live broadcast of reality television show Big Brother (2000 ). The series’ characters inspire revulsion and disdain in all manner of ways: they are unfaithful, violent, abusive and rage-filled, and that is before they are turned into the living dead. Dead Set follows the trail blazed by zombie pioneer George A. Romero, whose main body of work focused on utilizing the zombie, and the steady approach of death that it engenders, to scrutinize the failings and flaws of the living (see Means Coleman, 2011 for further discussion of Romero’s work). Broadcast in the UK in 2008, Dead Set was just one of a growing catalogue of film and television texts encouraging critics to hail a ‘zombie renaissance’, making use of the undead to tackle all manner of social, philosophical and political questions posed by the dramatically shifting landscape of the early twenty-first century (see Manning, Hubner, & Leaning, 2014 for various perspectives on the popularity of the zombie in the twenty-first century). Whilst the series is most directly satirizing popular entertainment and the particularly toxic celebrity culture perpetuated by reality television programming (see Moran, 2008;Abbott, 2017) for brief accounts of Dead Set as a critique on popular entertainment and contemporary values), this chapter argues that Dead Set also offers a timely portrait of British masculinity on the brink of crisis. Seen here as a multi-faceted, but none the less failing, concept, British masculinity occupies a central space in the narrative. Despite a female lead protagonist, much of the series’ plot progression hinges on the decisions and behaviour of men, whilst the series’ visceral aesthetic is predominantly concerned with the torture and destruction of the male body. In order to explore this assertion, the chapter will focus on the series’ representation of several dominant male characters, in order to put forward a case for Dead Set as an important study of contemporary masculinity in crisis. Brooker’s emphasis on ‘fellow man’ in his account of developing the series holds far greater importance than has previously been acknowledged; the men of Dead Set provide a site upon which obsolete notions of masculinity and maleness are tested, renegotiated, and found wanting. The first episode opens with a behind-the-scenes look at Big Brother, as the studio prepares for a live eviction broadcast. Glimpses of the contestants give the viewer a revealing first impression regarding the gendered performativity encouraged by their awareness of 24-hour surveillance. In his work on the zombie narrative, Jeffrey Sconce observes: ‘as the zombie has seemingly renounced all claims to subjectivity, it opens itself up for all manner of righteous and hilarious abuse’ (Sconce in Hunt, Lockyer, & Williamson, 2014, p. 102), which suggests that the zombie has willingly sacrificed its previous human individuality and identity. If this is the case, a comparable observation could be made of Dead Set’s contestants, who have voluntarily relinquished all relationships, employment, interests, and knowledge which attributed subjectivity, inviting both ‘righteous and hilarious’ abuses from their audience. Therefore, the parallels between the role of the housemate and the role of the zombie can be clearly understood from the outset of the narrative, creating a symbiosis between the decline of one objectified group (the housemates) and the ascendancy of another

Frustrated Masculinities in Charlie Brooker’s Dead Set


(the zombie). However, even in the ultimate objectified state, the housemates are still holding tightly to a performative identity; similarly, the zombies are seen on several occasions adhering to performative practices of the living (watching television, in particular). The performances of masculinity within the series are particularly striking, and the immediacy with which the first episode begins articulating these performances implies an awareness of masculinity in crisis. Each male housemate seems to express a different facet of this phenomenon. Joplin, an intellectual and self-important older man, lectures Pippa on the concepts of entertainment and celebrity, in a condescending manner that would now be recognized as ‘mansplaining’ (see Rothman, 2012 for a brief explanation of this term and its connotations). Clearly intelligent, Joplin nonetheless struggles to communicate or assimilate with the others. His superior intellect has little currency in the house, and his musings fall on deaf ears. The rejection of Joplin and the intellect he represents is a thinly veiled criticism of a devaluing of the human (male) mind in favour of the more physically performative masculinity represented by Joplin’s peers. That being said, his intellectualism also suggests that he stands to lose the most when the apocalypse hits, and his critically active brain becomes deadened to all but the basest of human instincts. His de-evolution begins before the process of literal zombification begins, as he satiates his sexual desire through ‘peeping tom’ behaviours, culminating in his watching Veronica showering through one of the house’s two-way mirrors. This scene directly mimics an earlier scene, in which a lone zombie, stuck in the camera run, watches the group argue through a similar mirror and throws into suspicion the currency and legitimacy of Joplin’s supposedly superior intellect. Despite his pretensions to superiority, then, Joplin is perhaps the closest to zombification, from the outset, of all Dead Set’s characters. His eventual zombification symbolizes the denial of human complexity that Sconce recognizes in the zombie: ‘[t]hus they defy even the biological-materialist fantasy that the body (and thus the self) is a complex machine of interrelated systems […] instead, the zombie’s residual, frequently twisted human form mocks both the human mind and body’ (p. 101). Furthermore, in consideration of the mockery Sconce identifies, Joplin’s eventual fate suggests an inevitable slide from the performativity of complex, advanced thought to the irresistible urge to surrender to animalistic tendencies. Joplin no longer has the faculties to advance the contrived illusion of complexity and intelligence and instead reverts to primal, atavistic behaviours which come naturally to his zombified brain. The group’s alpha, Marky, represents an equally problematic and disingenuous masculine performance; he is first seen antagonizing Grayson, his flamboyant, cross-dressing housemate. Marky’s regressive response to Grayson’s gender-fluid performance infers a discomfort with non-normative masculine identities, suggesting that Marky is operating under a reactionary, homophobic concept of masculinity. Resembling a return to the attitude identified by Claire Monk in male media representations of the 1990s, Marky characterizes a ‘resurgence of masculinism and misogyny’ (Monk in Murphy, 2000, p. 157), in response to increasing sexual freedoms, represented here by Grayson, and a


Lauren Stephenson

resurgence in feminism, both of which stand in direct opposition to masculine dominance and authority. The obsolescence of Marky’s particular brand of masculinity is revealed in Grayson’s earlier outburst in the ‘Diary Room’: ‘I’m pissed off, I’m angry, and we need your permission to kill someone’. The ‘someone’ Grayson is referring to is Marky, and the idea that he and his brand of masculinity need extinguishing re-emphasizes the perception that despite its millennial resurgence, the masculine performance Marky is peddling is irrelevant and redundant. Grayson’s words also betray a frustration that seems to ‘infect’ each male character in his quest for meaning, dominance, fame or, ultimately, survival. The frustration which is evident in Joplin, in Marky and in Grayson, seems to develop from a sense that they are not being taken seriously enough; they have not received the gratification they expected and, perhaps, think they deserve, for their performance. Moreover, the reality television environment seems to amplify the rivalry between them, placing each brand of masculinity in direct competition with the others. The figurative battle has become one of survival, rather than dominance, even before the zombie hordes invade the compound. Once again, this primal motivation betrays the pretensions to complexity that the zombie exposes and mocks. Marky and Grayson are up for elimination, and in direct, primal competition with one another for ‘survival’, a simplistic yet hugely meaningful concept to both of them. In contrast to the desperation implicit within the conflict between Marky, Joplin and Grayson, housemate Space refuses to compete or engage with the frustrated performances of his housemates. He shows a sensitivity and selfawareness which separates him from the suggested ignorance of his male peers. Where Marky signifies a continuation of ‘New Laddism’ (Monk, 2000, p. 163), an almost hysterical reassertion of red-blooded masculine mythology revolving around the objectification of women and the championing of violence, space more closely resembles Monk’s ‘New Man’ (p. 158) in his embrace of the emotional and nurturing characteristics traditionally associated with the feminine. Occupying a peripheral position in relation to the showboating of Grayson, Marky and Joplin, he complains that there are ‘too many arguments’ in the house and refuses to be drawn into the over-wrought performances of his male peers, instead of preferring private moments of reflection. His isolation from the group and its behaviours perhaps communicates some form of crisis in and of itself. Naming the character ‘Space’ passes an ironic comment on the apparent lack of space for his sensitivity and reflexivity, at least within the microcosm of the house, thereby questioning if and where space can be found for masculinity so sensitive, anxious and conflict-averse in wider society whilst traditional modes persist. Though the narrative seems to advocate for Space’s masculinity (he is the first to notice that something has gone awry outside the house) as a more effective and sustainable apocalypse identity, Space is very often overruled or ignored when it comes to the group deciding on a course of action and is ultimately no more successful in his quest for survival than his peers. Not only are certain masculinities stifled and minimized within the series, but also the process of doing so is quite clearly racialized. The continued peripheral positioning of Space, as a multiracial man, as well as the early demise of

Frustrated Masculinities in Charlie Brooker’s Dead Set


Grayson, who is British Indian, seems to suggest a similar pattern of ‘(White) Rage’ to that recognized in Sarah Trimble’s analysis of 28 Days Later (Boyle, 2002) (Trimble, 2010, p. 295). Trimble asserts that many apocalypse narratives propagate a ‘patriarchal survivalist fantasy’ (p. 296), which predicates itself on the ‘hyper-vulnerability of racialized and feminized others’ (p. 318), whilst elevating the white patriarch to status of protector, whose survival and determination to rebuild ensures the survival of oppressive patriarchal ideologies. Certainly, the series does create several gory set-pieces which rely upon the fragmentation and brutalization of racialized and feminized others, which seemingly leaves the demographic for survival highly restricted, and casts doubt upon a person of colour’s ability to survive except through the intervention of a white patriarch. However, to argue Trimble’s ‘White Rage’ thesis effectively, there has to exist a white male saviour figure assuming that there is such a white patriarch to take up this mantle. Where Dead Set arguably diverges from the pattern set out in 28 Days Later is through its exposure of white patriarchy as incapable of sustaining anything, regardless of its erasure or ignorance of alternative modes of masculine identity. Nowhere is this made more explicit than in the characterization of the show’s producer, Patrick. It is Patrick who truly and spectacularly exemplifies masculinity in crisis. Patrick is a textbook misanthrope, who resents, leers at and bullies his staff but saves his most vitriolic and misogynistic behaviour for the contestants themselves. Watching the contestants on monitors, Patrick consistently spews insults and profanity and is defined by his mercilessly derogatory diatribes from his first appearance; he says one contestant has ‘a face like a Manchester morgue’ (a covert reference to a Brooker favourite: The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue (Grau, 1974)) and calls another ‘sour flaps’ within moments of appearing on screen. He guiltlessly manipulates footage from inside the house to bait public disdain and achieve higher ratings, confirming at best a complete disregard, and at worst an unmitigated hatred, for his ‘fellow man’. His exploitation of the bodies on-screen places him in an almost god-like position (in fact, the audio system that communicates with the contestants at Patrick’s instruction is nicknamed ‘voice of God’). He shapes the narratives that reach Big Brother’s millions of viewers, effectively dictating public perception and authoring the contestants’ interactions. Considering this characterization, Patrick is undoubtedly intended as the face of the established order which, unbeknownst to him, is already floundering outside the studio’s compound gates. Indeed, despite his over-inflated sense of importance, there are suggestions that Patrick’s authority is already waning before the apocalypse strikes; speaking to former contestant Aisling with a leering confidence, it becomes apparent that she is not aware of who he is or why he is there, having to ask for this information as he swaggers away. In the control room, certain staff members are paying more attention to their magazines and rumours of workplace romance than they are to Patrick’s bluster. Moreover, Patrick’s authority is facilitated by the existence of Big Brother, and as soon as the show ceases to air, his apparent power and influence disappears with it. The ease and speed with which Patrick’s authority collapses indicates the fragility of the masculine performance and is


Lauren Stephenson

reminiscent of Peter Lehman’s assertion that ‘[n]either men nor women […] can possess the phallus, and in this sense masculinity itself is a masquerade’ (Lehman, 1993, p. 9). However, Patrick persists in the masquerade, regardless of the shifting balance in power from the living to the dead, from individual white men to indiscriminate, ravenous mass. Where, in Trimble’s thesis, Patrick would rise above the crisis to unite survivors under him and, therefore, secure the continuation of white male authority, in actuality he cannot transcend his individualism, even to manipulate the survivors into restoring his authority. In fact, it is his inability to adjust to a new world order, which has made masculine performance and individualism redundant in all of its forms, and his failure to relinquish the masquerade which compromises survival for all. However, despite the dismantling of the white masculine order (so integral to the ‘White Rage’ model) that Patrick represents, Dead Set fails to fully realize the progressive vision that this dismantling promises. By refusing to cooperate with the other survivors and effectively assume the role of patriarch (as dictated in Trimble’s thesis of the patriarchal survivalist fantasy), Patrick dooms not only himself but the entire group of survivors. Therefore, the narrative suggests that in order for anyone to survive the apocalypse, an alternative or substitute patriarchal structure must exist. By refusing to collaborate, Patrick denies the reformation of the (dysfunctional) family unit, and this makes survival an impossibility, both for him and for the feminized and racialized others awaiting salvation. In this way, Dead Set fails to deliver any workable alternative to the oppressive and ultimately lethal masculine concepts that it deconstructs. That the series fails to imagine any alternative to regressive masculine practices not only is nihilistic, but also effectively undoes the series’ potential to critique the heteronormativity of dominant masculinities and their mediation. Kathryn A. Cady and Thomas Oates have observed similar failures in other contemporary zombie texts: ‘despite significant subversive potential, zombie narratives offer private and heteronormative models of social order rather than public and countercultural ones’ (Cady & Oates, 2016, p. 309). Patrick’s misogyny, arrogance and superior attitude all suggest a regressive, outdated brand of masculinity, one which is arguably punished in the graphic destruction of his body in the final minutes of the final episode. However, his determination to persist in his understanding of power and survival shows an unshakeable belief in the individualism, mistrust and prejudice that had previously privileged him and rendered him untouchable, delivering upon Donna Heiland’s promise that, in the Gothic narrative, ‘the patriarchal order will be perpetuated not by living women but by dead men’ (Heiland, 2004, p. 14). Compounding this apparent immortality of the phallic masquerade is Peter Hutchings’ suggestion that ‘male submission to disempowerment, that is a willing subjection made by someone who already has power, is merely a way of confirming that power’ (Hutchings in Kirkham & Thumim, 1993, p. 92). In Patrick’s life, his adherence to heteronormative expectations served him well, placing him in a position of authority at the studio, where he made unilateral decisions and motivated (or intimidated) his crew to do his bidding, supposedly to ensure the success of the live broadcasts. From his superior position, he is

Frustrated Masculinities in Charlie Brooker’s Dead Set


providing, or at least representing, an agenda or message about the value of human life that one can assume is shared by him and sanctioned by the studio itself. His particular need to cultivate hatred towards the women and people of colour in the house indicates that Patrick is intended as representative of the white male establishment, the privileges of whom have been undermined by ‘[t]he historical confluence of feminist and multicultural challenges to white male supremacy and neoliberal transformations of everyday practices’ (Sugg, 2015, p. 797). This once again aligns with Trimble’s notion of patriarchal survival fantasy, wherein ‘bodily and social integrity are maintained through a compulsive conjuring and undoing of the other’ (Trimble, p. 318). Whilst survival is not possible for Patrick, nor any of the remaining contestants, his attitude to impending death seems to imply a submission on his part which, as Hutchings asserts, somewhat disempowers the violence committed against his body. Having encouraged Joplin into a failed mutiny in order to attempt escape from the house, Patrick finds himself trapped outside with the horde bearing down on him. Continuing to hurl profanities and abuse, he treats the zombies with no more or less disdain than he did his staff and subjects (the contestants) and continues to berate them as they tear him apart. His death is by far the goriest and most protracted of any in the series but given that his previous actions have also compromised the security of the house, he has effectively sabotaged the safety of all who have survived thus far, ensuring that no mode of masculinity supersedes his in the event of his demise. It is revealing, however, that of all the male characters bitten during the zombie onslaught, Patrick is the only one whose body is dismantled so totally that he does not return from the dead. Barbara Creed argues that, in horror, ‘transformation is represented as a regressive process in which the natural animal world takes over from the civilized, human domain as man regresses into an uncanny beast, familiar yet unfamiliar’ (Creed, 2005, p. xiii). Perhaps, we can infer from Patrick’s inability to transform, both literally and figuratively, that he had already undergone this regressive process before the apocalypse and that this transformation occurred during Patrick’s ascendancy to power within the studio. Unable to regress any further, even a zombie invasion cannot overshadow the monstrosity and brutality of Patrick’s brand of masculinity. Despite the emptiness of the male vessels left behind (Space, Joplin and Marky are all pictured zombified over the final credits), the alternative that Patrick offered or imposed seems much worse symbolic of an oppressive order that has no place in this near-future world. Patrick’s demise does not offer a catch-all solution for the peripheral, failing and frustrated masculinities represented by the other male characters. The narrative refuses to renegotiate concepts of masculinity by allowing the survival and ascendancy of either Marky or Space. That Joplin, Marky and Space are all transformed into the monstrous other by the end of the series proves just how fragile their masculine identity was it takes just one bite to compromise the stability and efficacy of this carefully honed masculine ideal, nullifying any power it had previous afforded the subject. The male monster, according to Creed, holds ‘transgressive power’, as it is through his existence that societal norms and the patriarchal order are


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challenged (p. 15). That being said, the loss of subjectivity that one undergoes during the process of zombification replaces the toppled hierarchy of patriarchy with a corpus recognized for its distinct lack of meaning: a nothingness. Creed continues: ‘[b]y his very existence, the male monster points to the fact that masculinity, as defined by the symbolic economy, is a fragile concept, one that rarely, if ever, is fulfilled’ (2005, p. xvi); in Dead Set’s case, masculinity is not only fragile, but also ceases to exist. The fate of the men does indeed transgress the patriarchal order; zombification is a fantastic leveller of social inequalities, offering the potential to ‘refract spectacles of domination and helplessness, indict mainstream culture and […] experiment with alternatives to the established reality’ (Wadsworth, 2016, p. 563). The central problem with Dead Set’s narrative is that a human alternative to the established reality is seen as untenable in the absence of any kind of patriarchy-lite, which in turn appears to require the dominating presence of a Patrick-esque masculinity. Instead, the male monsters we are left with at the conclusion of the narrative transgress masculinity only by moving into a space where it does not, in any symbolic form, exist. The concept is refused renegotiation in a post-apocalyptic context, with the concluding scenes instead ruling masculinity problematic in all its forms, and beyond salvation through re-conceptualization. The finality with which all sociological constructs are dismantled, along with the bodies carrying them, reveals the crux of the frustration implied by the performances of Patrick, Space, Joplin and Marky; the inefficacy and redundancy of all masculine identities reveal a fundamentally flawed concept for which there is no place in a rapidly transformed Britain. Dead Set, through its articulation of frustrated masculinity, amplifies the magnitude of the post-millennium social shift in Britain, which saw traditional masculine forms double down in a reactionary resurgence of male violence and delinquency (Clare, 2000). Moreover, Dead Set observes that this resurgence created great difficulty for burgeoning forms of ‘new’ masculinity, represented here by Space and Grayson, which were attempting to evolve and grow in response to a changing social structure. That new negates old effectively disavows the concept of masculinity altogether, or so the series argues with its eventual destruction of all gendered bodies and minds. That the series stop short of reaching its progressive potential does not discredit its attempt to articulate the dangers it perceives in frustrated masculinities left unchecked. Whilst its contemporary apocalypse narratives equally relish the ‘spectacle of social disintegration’ (Sconce, 2014, p. 99), arguably none offer so hopeless, nor so damning, a representation of masculinity in crisis or a more compelling vision of the death of gendered hierarchy.

References Abbott, S. (2017). Undead apocalypse: Vampires and zombies in the 21st century. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Allmer, P., Brick, E., & Huxley, D. (Eds.). (2012). European nightmares: Horror cinema in Europe since 1945. London: Wallflower Press. Boyle, D. (2002). 28 days later. London: DNA Films/ British Film Council.

Frustrated Masculinities in Charlie Brooker’s Dead Set


Brooker, C. (2008). Reality bites. Retrieved from oct/18/horror-channel4 Cady, K. A., & Oates, T. (2016). Family splatters: Rescuing heteronormativity from the zombie apocalypse. Women’s Studies in Communication, 39(3), 308 325. Clare, A. (2000). On men: Masculinity in crisis. London: Chatto & Windus. Creed, B. (2005). Phallic panic: Film, horror and the primal uncanny. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. Demange, Y. (2008). Dead set. London: Zeppotron. De Mol, J. (2000-present). Big brother. London: Channel 4 Television. Grau, J. (1974). The living dead at Manchester morgue. Johannesburg: Star Films. Heiland, D. (2004). Gothic and gender: An introduction. Oxford: Blackwell. Hunt, L., Lockyer, S., & Williamson, M. (Eds.). (2014). Screening the undead: Vampires and zombies in film and television. London: I.B. Tauris. Kirkham, P., & Thumim, J. (Eds.). (1993). You tarzan: Masculinity, movies and men. London: Lawrence & Wishart. Lehman, P. (1993). Running scared: Masculinity and the representation of the male body. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. Manning, P., Hubner, L., & Leaning, M. (Eds.). (2014). The zombie renaissance in popular culture. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Means Coleman, R. R. (2011). Horror Noire: Blacks in American horror films from the 1890s to present. London: Routledge. Moran, C. (2008). Charlie Brooker’s zombie show keeps the undead alive. Retrieved from Murphy, R. (Ed.). (2000). British cinema of the 90s. London: BFI. Romero, G. (1985). Day of the dead. Pittsburgh, PA: Dead Films Inc. Romero, G. (1978). Dawn of the dead. Pittsburgh, PA: Dawn Associates. Romero, G. (1968). The night of the living dead. Pittsburgh, PA: Image Ten Productions. Rothman, L. (2012). A cultural history of mansplaining. Retrieved from https://www. Sugg, K. (2015). The Walking Dead: Late liberalism and masculine subjection in apocalypse fictions. Journal of American Studies, 49(4), 793 812. Trimble, S. (2010). (White) Rage: Affect, neoliberalism and the family in 28 days later. The Review of Education, Pedagogy and Cultural Studies, 32(3), 295 322. Wadsworth, N. D. (2016). Are we the walking dead? Zombie apocalypse as liberatory art. New Political Science, 38(4), 561 581.

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Chapter 10

The Problematic Relationship with Sympathetic Vampires in the TV series The Vampire Diaries Fernando Canet



This chapter explores the problematic relationships with the ‘sympathetic vampire’. Several scholars have analysed this figure (Carter, 1988; Gelder, 1994; George & Hughes, 2013; Gordon & Hollinger, 1997; Lindgren Leavenworth & Isaksson, 2013; Senf, 1988; Tomc, 1997; Williamson, 2003, 2005, 2014; Zanger, 1997), which appears most commonly in vampire narratives that fall into the ‘romance’ genre or, more precisely, the ‘paranormal romance’ genre, a new popular genre that depicts romantic relationships between human beings and supernatural creatures (George & Hughes, 2013; Houston, 2014; Williamson, 2014). In this case, the supernatural creature in question is the sympathetic vampire. I use the qualifier ‘sympathetic’ here because the point I want to demonstrate in this chapter is that the humanization process that the vampire undergoes is a sine qua non condition for the female human to fall in love with him. Three contemporary examples of this sympathetic relationship in vampire romance narratives are as follows: The Twilight Saga (Rosenberg, 2008 2012), True Blood (Ball, 2008 2014) and The Vampire Diaries (Williamson & Plec, 2009 2017) TV series. Scholars have already considered these three serial narratives in previous research (Houston, 2014; Lindgren Leavenworth & Isaksson, 2013). In all three examples cited, the sympathetic relationship is between human females and male vampires: Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) with the vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) with Bill Compton (Bill Moyer) and Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) and Caroline Forbes (Candice King) with Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley) and Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder), respectively. A clear influence on these more recent products is Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Whedon, 1996 2003), in which Buffy has a romantic relationship with a vampire, Angel. According to Milly Williamson,

Gender and Contemporary Horror in Television, 117 129 r Fernando Canet All rights of reproduction in any form reserved doi:10.1108/978-1-78769-103-220191011


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this TV series ‘puts romance at the centre of the vampire’s meaning […] romance is centred on a young female protagonist and is connected to questions of female empowerment’ (2014, p. 75). Of the three more recent cases cited above, Williamson’s description of Buffy could most easily be applied to The Vampire Diaries because, unlike True Blood, its protagonists are young females, and, unlike The Twilight Saga, its romance is clearly related to the question of female empowerment. For this reason and due to space limitations, in this chapter, I will focus exclusively on an exploration of The Vampire Diaries as a striking example of a vampire romance TV series. Thus, this chapter aims to complement those publications that likewise have only attempted to address this recent serial narrative (Bridgeman, 2013; Lindgren Leavenworth, 2014; Nicol, 2016; Subramanian, & Lagerwey, 2016; Williams, 2013).


Sympathetic/Antipathetic Strategies and Convergent/ Divergent Relationship Arcs

Before delving into the analysis, however, a few matters concerning narrative strategies to elicit fluctuating patterns of sympathy/antipathy for the sympathetic vampire need to be briefly discussed. Because TV series are long-term narratives, they lend themselves more than feature films to the development of transformational character arcs. A central component in this process is the character’s moral development. I am interested in this variable and how it affects viewers’ evaluations and consequently their attitudes towards the characters over the course of the series. Sympathetic vampires, given their ambiguous moral nature as monsters that at the same time are involved in a humanization process, offer an ideal vehicle in this respect, since the narrative can move them along a continuum delimited by positive and negative extremes. This fluctuation between two opposites, with a whole spectrum of intermediary positions, is intended to elicit unstable moral relationships between these characters and viewers over the course of the serial narrative. Hence, while the classical dualist structure tends to elicit a stable, unconditional pro-attitude towards the hero and an unconditional con-attitude towards the villain, morally ambiguous characters (MACs) tend to provoke an unstable and fluctuating viewer attitude as the series develops, thereby creating problematic viewer relationships with these characters. Several scholars have associated MACs with the figure of the antihero in recent TV series (Eden, Daalmans, & Johnson, 2017; Kleemans, Daalmans, van Ommen, Eden, & Weijers, 2017; Krakowiak & Tsay-Vogel, 2015. For further discussion of the antihero in the TV series, see Vaage, 2016). I want to extend this association to include sympathetic vampires, as I would argue that they constitute another example of MACs. In fact, this idea was already posited by Williamson in 2003 in her description of the sympathetic vampires Lestat and Louis in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles as MACs. The oscillation between sympathy and antipathy that this kind of character provokes depends on whether the narrative focuses on their positive qualities or on their darker side. I will refer here to narrative strategies that expose the

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vampire’s good side, provoking a pro-attitude toward him, as ‘sympathetic strategies’, and the strategies that reveal their evil side, provoking a con-attitude towards him, as ‘antipathetic strategies’. These strategies can be evaluated either positively or negatively based on moral judgments of justice. According to Dolf Zillmann (1994), moral judgments of justice also dictate how our attitudes towards characters are formed, altered and maintained. Strategies that prompt positive evaluations can be used for eliciting sympathy for them, while strategies that prompt negative evaluations call that sympathy into question or elicit antipathy towards the character. The sympathetic vampire is not the only one who changes; the rest of the characters do, too. In fact, the interrelation of character transformation arcs over the course of the series is a key strategy to guide the viewer’s moral relationship with them. I call this strategy ‘relationship arcs’. We can explore these relationship arcs by taking into consideration ‘convergent’ and ‘divergent’ tendencies between the two transformative arcs involved. Convergent relationship arcs are those in which the initial distance between two characters is progressively reduced. Conversely, divergent arcs work in the opposite direction: the initial close relationship between two characters progressively becomes more distant. Thus, the narrative can use convergent or divergent strategies to manage the relationship arcs between characters, which can be defined in terms of fluctuating patterns of closeness or estrangement between them during the series following the final rupture or final reconciliation. To make the relationship between two characters more conflictive, and consequently more appealing and entertaining, the narrative may develop a particular divergent strategy that I call ‘inverse relationship arcs’. This kind of relationship arc aims at rendering the initially sympathetic character less appealing while conversely increasing the appeal of the initially antipathetic character as the series develops.


Monstrosity/Humanity Continuum: Fluctuating Patterns of Sympathy/Antipathy

The pilot episode of The Vampire Diaries introduces the two brothers Stefan and Damon Salvatore as two sides of the same coin. On the one hand, Stefan, like Edward Cullen in Twilight, is introduced as the mysterious new boy at high school one sunny day. Again, like Edward and also like Bill Compton in True Blood, Stefan belongs to a club of handsome vampires who, rather than being a source of fear, become objects of admiration, much like Louis in Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (Jordan, 1994), who is told by Armand: ‘you are beautiful my friend.’ On the other hand, Damon, who is also a handsome vampire, is introduced as the evil kind of vampire found in previous popular culture, most notably with Christopher Lee’s appearance as Dracula. His first appearance, in contrast with Stefan’s, is on a foggy night, announced by the call of a raven and dressed entirely in black, thus evoking various of the tropes associated with the classical cinematic versions of Dracula.


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Unlike Damon (and like Edward Cullen), Stefan abstains from drinking human blood, and (again like Edward) this refusal to feed on humans is what enables him to repress his darker side. As Williamson suggests regarding two other relevant examples, ‘Angel and Spike [in Buffy the Vampire Slayer] are both signed as ‘good’ and ‘virtuous’ at those moments when they possess a ‘soul’ and thus forsake the gratification of blood’ (2005, p. 43). As several scholars have pointed out, their self-deprivation is part of their domestication process (Gordon & Hollinger, 1997; Tomc, 1997; Williamson, 2005). This abstinence obliges them to look for alternatives, such as getting human blood from a substitute source such as a blood bank, or taking their domestication even further and feeding from animals. After years of subjecting themselves to this process of domestication, the Cullens have learned to suppress their need for human blood. They are vegetarian vampires, a term coined in The Twilight Saga. Being vegetarians allows the Cullens to live among humans with little or no detection. In the first episode of True Blood, Nan Flanagan, a leader of the American Vampire League, stands up for vampire rights on a television programme where she affirms that they no longer depend on human blood since ‘the Japanese have perfected synthetic blood.’ Thus, while Stefan represents the good version of vampirism, Damon represents the bad version. The goals of each one are also presented openly from the beginning, with Damon initially depicted as Stefan’s main antagonist. In the first season, Damon’s role is to inflict pain on humans and especially to torment his brother, thereby fulfilling his promise to subject him to an ‘eternity of misery’ (Williamson & Plec, 2010a). Conversely, Stefan’s goal is to protect humans (especially Elena) from his brother, and even from himself when Damon’s temptations threaten to overwhelm him. As this shows, the narrative initially aims to elicit sympathy for Stefan while at the same time evoking antipathy for Damon, placing the two brothers on opposite sides of a monstrosity/humanity continuum. To do this, throughout the first season, the narrative uses sympathetic strategies to provoke a pro-attitude towards Stefan, combined with antipathetic strategies to provoke a con-attitude towards Damon, with the relationship with Elena functioning as a central vehicle for this purpose. Elena becomes both the object of the brothers’ actions and the character who morally assesses them, falling in love with Stefan because of his position on the good end of this continuum and hating Damon because of his position on the opposite side. To elicit these feelings in Elena and consequently in the viewers, the narrative uses both sympathetic and antipathetic strategies, developing patterns that promote the ideas that ‘Stefan’s actions are pleasant for good characters’ and, conversely, that ‘Damon’s actions are unpleasant for good characters’. From the first episode, Stefan’s main goal is to keep Elena from harm. In the first season, the main threat to Elena’s safety is Damon, who knows perfectly that being around Elena and complicating her relationship with Stefan is the best way to hurt his brother. For example, in the third episode (‘Friday Night Bites’), Damon tries to force Elena to kiss him but the Vervain necklace she is wearing protects her from his influence. Elena seems determined not to allow Damon to manipulate her in any way. In this sense, the narrative is sending a

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clear message to its young audience: women should never allow men to use them. However, Caroline Forbes, one of Elena’s best friends, allows Damon to manipulate her and suffers the consequences: Damon abuses her to get whatever he wants from her, playing the role of the traditional boorish male. For example, in the fourth episode, Damon treats her badly because she makes a mistake; Caroline begs his forgiveness instead of defending herself, effectively granting Damon superiority over her. However, her weakness is temporary as eventually she will be able to break her dependency on Damon. Her subsequent transformation into a vampire turns her into a symbol of female empowerment, representing her personal growth as a woman. She is initially depicted as the (filmically) typical shallow American high school student, but her character matures when she becomes a vampire. Her mother, Liz, recognizes this fact, in the sixth episode of the second season (‘Plan B’), when as part of her acceptance of her daughter’s new nature she admits how ‘strong’ and ‘confident’ she has become (Williamson & Plec, 2010b). In the second episode of the second season (‘Brave New World’), Caroline confronts Damon and reproaches him: ‘you manipulated me, you pushed me around, abused me, erased me memories, fed on me’ (Williamson & Plec, 2010c). She is no longer under his control and, despite Damon’s positive changes as the series progresses, she will become one of his main detractors, and one of Stefan’s main defenders in their relationship with Elena. Unlike Damon, Stefan wins Caroline’s sympathy because he adopts a protective role, helping her in her transformation process. He becomes her mentor, her faithful ally, her friend, her admirer and finally even her lover. According to Caroline, he is ‘the one who always cared’ (Williamson & Plec, 2014a). Yet, Caroline’s sympathy for Stefan is called into question when, in the third episode of the sixth season (‘Welcome to Paradise’), he decides to come back not to look after his friends but to get revenge. However, this is merely part of a temporary questioning process, since over the course of the sixth season, and through the use of sympathetic strategies, her sympathy towards Stefan is again restored as a part of their fluctuating relationship arcs that continue to be developed with more striking oscillations throughout the two last seasons. Thus, the ‘good’ character’s positive or negative evaluations of the actions of the sympathetic vampire is another narrative strategy employed to create fluctuating patterns of sympathy/antipathy for them over the series. An appealing example of Caroline’s empowerment can be found in the fifth season when, in the 15th episode (‘Gone Girl’), her ex-boyfriend Tyler reproaches her for sleeping with Klaus, the most evil of the original vampires, who, among other things, killed his mother. Here, to call her sympathetic status into question, the narrative develops the following antipathetic pattern: ‘the actions of a bad character (Klaus) are pleasant for a good one (Caroline).’ Enjoying a good relationship with a villain should not elicit sympathy for a character but rather the opposite, because it positions the character being assessed as amoral. Caroline’s interaction with Klaus may therefore be branded as immoral, but this judgment is mitigated when we take into consideration the reasons behind it. Klaus is an example of a vampire whose relationship with


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humans directs his transformative arc from the extreme of monstrosity towards the human side of the continuum. In his particular case, his relationship with Caroline makes him a better person, as she discerns vestiges of his humanity. However, because she is the only one who can see it, the rest of the characters even Stefan do not approve of her behaviour. The moral assessment of the viewers, however, is rather more complicated since they share Caroline’s point of view and understand her motivations. Thus, the combination of sympathetic and antipathetic strategies deliberately sets up moral dilemmas for viewers, making their moral assessments more difficult. In this complex situation, it could be argued that the viewers’ moral evaluation will be depending on which character is more appealing to them. This partiality towards the more appealing character to the detriment of the other, promoting side-taking on the part of the viewers, becomes central in their interpretation and evaluation of the conflict between them. This seems to support the suggestion by the cognitive media theorist Murray Smith that moral evaluations are developed in relation to other characters within the fiction (2004, p. 188). According to Smith, ‘on the basis of such evaluations, spectators construct moral structures, in which characters are organized and ranked in a system of preference’ (2004, p. 84). Thus, Smith proposes to go beyond the classical structure, which he refers to as the ‘Manichean moral structure’, and a move towards a ‘graduated moral structure’, characterized by ‘a spectrum of moral gradations rather than a binary opposition of values’ (2004, 197). Scholars who support disposition theories also take this line when they argue that the strength of affective dispositions towards characters oscillates along a ‘continuum of affect’ (Raney, 2009, p. 310, 2005, p. 146). Both these ideas suggest that the viewers’ disposition towards characters is best mapped on a continuum. The position each character holds on this continuum is the result of a cumulative process that evolves over the course of the narrative experience, which is shaped by the narrative but constructed by the viewers. Therefore, the moral evaluation depends finally on each viewer and that viewer’s particular preferences. The ranking of characters and, consequently, the side taken by viewers thus depends not only on narrative factors but also on personal ones. For example, in the case discussed here, the side taken by the viewers may depend on their gender and their stance in relation to this matter. It seems logical to assume that misogynistic males would be more inclined to take Tylor’s side, condemning Caroline for what she did instead of taking a more balanced view. However, this is a hypothesis that would need to be confirmed by evaluating viewer responses, which is beyond the scope of the present chapter. What seems to be beyond question is that the intention behind Caroline’s character transformation arc is to provide its young target audience with a depiction of female empowerment. In contrast with her reaction to Damon’s chastisement in the first season, Caroline asserts her right ‘to make some mistakes along the way’ (Williamson & Plec, 2014b). What she did was her choice and she is living with it and is not willing to allow others to condemn her constantly in an effort to make her feel guilty. As Rhonda Nicol points out, ‘she is

Problematic Relationship with Sympathetic Vampires


asserting her absolute right to make decisions about her own body and her own sexuality and demanding that her autonomy be respected’ (2016, p. 150). To be sexually attracted by ‘bad boys’ provokes problems not only for Caroline but also for Elena. As Damon’s arc leads him from the monstrous to the human end of the spectrum and Stefan takes the opposite course, Elena becomes attracted to Damon and ultimately falls in love with him. This surprising turn of events is made possible by the strategy of inverse relationship arcs discussed above. Like Klaus’ process of humanization, Damon’s begins when he starts becoming involved with humans and especially when he starts opening up to Elena. It is precisely this close relationship with humans which, according to Williamson, makes the vampire sympathetic (2003, p. 102). Nina Auerbach also argues for this ‘intimacy and friendship’ between vampires and humans, suggesting that vampires are rendered sympathetic ‘through their intimate intercourse with mortals’ (1995, pp. 13 14). In short, engagement with humans humanizes vampires, facilitating a process described by Jules Zanger as ‘demoticizing of the metaphoric vampire from Anti-Christ [...] toward the metonymic vampire as social deviant [...]’ (1997, p. 17). Their relationship with humans locates them ‘problematically in the realm of the emotions’ (Williamson, 2005, p. 31), inviting them to take part in love stories, everyday issues and friendship. But their humanization also complicates their relationship with the individuals involved: both from the characters and viewers perspectives. Elena’s original relationship with Damon was easier: he was clearly positioned on the immoral side of the spectrum, and therefore, her feelings for him were unambiguously negative. But this straightforward relationship turns problematic when Damon becomes increasingly human and her feelings about him consequently become ambiguous. However, Damon is not the only one whose transformation problematizes Elena’s emotional experience; there is also Stefan, whose transformation arc takes the opposite course. Yet the intensity of Stefan’s transformation is greater than Damon’s. If this were to be quantified on the ‘monstrosity/humanity continuum’ with 10 levels (5 to −5), whereby the definition of the maximum expression of humanity is 5 and the maximum expression of monstrosity is −5, Stefan’s process could be described as moving from 5 to −5, and then once the crisis is overcome, shifting back from −5 to 5, whereas Damon moves between less extreme degrees: perhaps from −2.5 to 2.5. Thus, Stefan and Damon constitute two examples of the sympathetic vampire figure because, despite their differences, they both move throughout the monstrosity/humanity continuum, reflecting an ambivalent nature that makes human involvement with them problematic. Damon’s self-control positions him at more moderate levels of the spectrum. He is able to consume human blood with control. Conversely, Stefan is driven wild by feeding on human, turning him into a ‘ripper’, the worst expression of vampiric monstrosity. In the last episode of the second season (‘As I Lay Dying’), the fact that Klaus forces Stefan’s transformation means that his journey to monstrosity is not voluntary but rather a sacrifice in order to protect his brother from Klaus (in the last season, he is also forced to do it, in this case by a deal with Cade, the Devil). Although his transformation means that he will kill


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innocent people, his selfless motives give the immoral decision a moral justification. Thus while, on the one hand, the antipathetic strategy calls our sympathy towards him into question, on the other hand, a sympathetic strategy mitigates the effect. In addition, a further sympathetic strategy, contained in the idea that ‘a bad character’s actions are unpleasant for a better character’ (in this case, Klaus blackmails Stefan and threatens Damon, making both brothers victims of Klaus’s immorality) further mitigates the effects of the antipathetic strategy. The case would be quite different if only antipathetic strategies had been employed here, as then the purpose of the narration would clearly be to provoke viewer antipathy towards the sympathetic vampire, with nothing to mitigate it. Damon also has his reasons for suspending his self-control to move towards more extreme levels of monstrosity, although they are less morally justifiable than Stefan’s. In Damon’s case, he decides to switch off his human feelings not because he wants to protect another good character, such as his brother or Elena, but because of the immoral behaviour of an unscrupulous character, that is, Klaus. In the 12th episode of the fifth season (‘The Devil Inside’), Katherine (Elena’s doppelganger and the most significant representation of selfishness in the series), pretending to be Elena, breaks off her relationship with Damon, which leaves him devastated (during the last season the intervention of another devil women, the siren Sybil, forces him to visit extreme levels of monstrosity once more). In addition, the narration invites viewers to consider this to be a punishment well deserved, since Damon, instead of feeling pity for Katherine when she was dying in the previous episode (‘500 Years of Solitude’), tries to make her feel guilty for every bad thing she has done in her life. Although the viewer may feel she deserves it, Damon’s treatment of her seems much too ruthless, especially if his behaviour is compared with that of more sympathetic characters. Both Stefan and Elena display a more compassionate attitude towards Katherina. Stefan, taking Katherine’s side, tries to make her feel less guilty by highlighting the reasons for her monstrous acts. Thus, while Damon encourages other characters to list the injuries they’ve suffered at Katherine’s hands, Stefan focuses on the factors that could justify her wrongdoings. To do this, as is very common in MAC narratives, the narration delves into her past, depicting a traumatic childhood. As Stefan points out ‘she was just an innocent girl that was shunned by her family’ (Williamson & Plec, 2014c). According to Stefan, this makes her a survivor rather than a manipulative or selfish individual. Again, a positive evaluation from a good character renders the bad character less antipathetic. In the 16th episode of the fifth season (‘While You Were Sleeping’), Elena tries to justify Damon’s immoral acts by blaming Katherine for them. But as he himself recognizes, he is the one to blame. He ‘ripped open Aaron’s neck’ because he thought she broke his heart (Williamson & Plec, 2014d). As he also recognizes, his position on the monstrosity/humanity continuum depends less on his self-control and more on Elena’s favourable influence. Likewise, Elena admits that she is under his control because despite his immorality she is still with him. She blames others in an effort to exculpate her boyfriend and thus feel less guilty about being in love with a person capable of committing such

Problematic Relationship with Sympathetic Vampires


atrocities. As she herself recognizes, ‘I have to bend my morals.’ According to Raney, ‘when [people we like] say and do things we dislike, we pardon them, we ‘cut them slack’, we blame something or someone else, we defend them’ (2004, p. 360). Although Elena initially falls in love with Damon because of his humanization process, as we have seen above, she stays with him because she loves him even though, as she suggests, ‘I have to go against every single thing that I believe in.’ Thus, her unconditional favouritism to him puts her in a morally uncomfortable position, forcing her to break up what Damon calls their ‘toxic’ relationship. However, Damon kisses her in the hope of a different ending. The idea of Elena’s sexual attraction to him as the last bond holding their relationship together is explored in the next episode, ‘Rescue Me’, which proposes the ending that Elena needs. She has to go, and Damon has to let her do it. In this case, he kisses her on the forehead in a gesture of respect for her decision. But letting her go will not be easy as it might first seem, as his movements at the end of this season towards the sympathetic end of the continuum greatly complicate Elena’s life. Damon sacrifices himself mainly to save his brother’s and Elena’s lives, and Elena is crushed with grief over losing him. In the first episode of the sixth season (‘I’ll Remember’), it is clear that she is struggling to get over it, as she becomes addicted to a hallucinatory substance that allows her to be with him. This addiction forces her to face immoral behaviour again, but this time her own. Stefan counsels her to move on like he is, but in her case this process is not so easy. Damon’s selfish attitude in not allowing her to break their bond holds her back, and she has to seek external support to deal with it. She is finally able to do so when, in the second episode of the sixth season (‘Yellow Ledbetter’), instead of continuing to focus on Damon’s humanity (she loved him when he showed his most selfless side), she focuses on his monstrosity. However, Damon’s humanity re-emerges in the sixth season, and even during the last episodes, he would be willing to become human, thus eliciting Elena’s love for him again. Previously, in the 18th episode of the fifth season (‘Resident Evil’), the narration gives both Elena and Stefan the opportunity to fantasize about their ideal situation: both are humans living happily together with two children. But this utopian relationship is not real, as Elena herself acknowledges to Damon, and she has to deal with her real relationship with the Salvatore brothers. In neither case is her paranormal romance with them a utopian relationship, as Lynn Marie Houston suggests (2014, p. 285); on the contrary, the latency of their dark side makes the relationship problematic, as we have seen. Houston defends this idea of a utopian relationship because the female human in her relationship with the male vampire suspends her moral judgment (2014, p. 282). In relation to The Vampire Diaries, Houston suggests that Elena’s love for them precludes passing judgment on their dark side (2014, p. 282). However, the fact that she deals with their dark side when it appears does not mean that she accepts it. As we have just seen, when she has to ‘bend’ her morals, she feels guilty. Therefore, the ‘liberatory process’, suggested by Houston, has less to do with the absence of


Fernando Canet

moral judgment, as she argues (2014, p. 285), and more to do with claiming this ethical activity back.



As has been seen, the movement of the sympathetic vampire along the monstrosity/humanity continuum serves to transform the ambivalent sympathy/antipathy that may be felt for them over the course of the series, thereby making an audience’s relationship with them problematic. Movements towards one extreme or the other are stimulated by the moral/immoral behaviour of the characters, which is evaluated positively/negatively by the good characters so as to guide the viewers’ assessments. In The Vampire Diaries, positive moral behaviour, such as selflessness, self-control, taking care of others, empathy, love, honesty or friendship, are associated with humanity; conversely, negative moral behaviour, such as selfishness, revenge, hate, narcissism, or racism are linked to monstrosity. And this continuum can be applied not just to sympathetic vampires but to humans as well. This serial narrative is full of radical humans who behave like monsters because, just like vampires, they can turn off their feelings. The traditional, simplistic division of good versus evil has been abandoned in contemporary narratives like The Vampire Diaries. In this series, monstrosity is not exclusive to the vampire, and likewise, humanity is not exclusive to human beings. Sympathetic vampire narratives teach us that the Other is not always the monster and the human is not always the hero. We can find in both species, on the one hand, reactionary and racist individuals who thirst for revenge and seek confrontations, and on the other hand, reasonable individuals who believe that diversity is a value and that integration is feasible. Thus, The Vampire Diaries also teaches us that a relationship between humans and vampires is feasible despite their different natures because what unites people is their humanity and what brings them into conflict with each other is their monstrosity. This happens at any level of society, from the family to the global stage, in any group, locality or nation. One of the main ways that human vampire relationships are explored is through romantic love stories between a female human and a male vampire, in which the female human, who may even subsequently become a vampire, currently plays a central role. It is the female human who most suffers the consequences of being involved with the sympathetic vampire, but who at the same time enables the vampire to be more human. She is responsible, on the one hand, for encouraging the vampire’s humanity and evaluating it positively, and on the other hand, for reproaching him for his monstrosity and branding it as immoral. As a warning against the seductiveness of the dark side, The Vampire Diaries attempts to show its youthful audience the consequences of getting involved in problematic relationships and, more importantly, tries to teach them that the female must take a firm stand against any kind of male abuse, however, insignificant that it may seem. This active female role is developed as a part of the process of female empowerment, according to which the woman not only

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deserves respect but must also demand it. In short, The Vampire Diaries shows us how important it is to be respectful in any kind of relationship, between couples, parents and children, friends, different races, and so on, if our goal is a more equitable and, consequently, better society.

References Auerbach, N. (1995). Our vampires, ourselves. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Bridgeman, M. (2013). Brigman award winner-forged in love and death: Problematic subjects in The Vampire Diaries. Journal of Popular Culture, 46(1), 3 19. doi:10.1111/jpcu.12013 Carter, M. L. (Ed.). (1988). Dracula: The vampire and the critics. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press. Eden, A., Daalmans, S., & Johnson, B. K. (2017). Morality predicts enjoyment but not appreciation of morally ambiguous characters. Media Psychology, 20(3), 349 373. doi:10.1080/15213269.2016.1182030 Gelder, K. (1994). Reading the vampire. London: Routledge. George, S., & Hughes, B. (2013). Introduction: Undead reflections. Gothic Studies, 15(1), 1 8. Gordon, J., & Hollinger, V. (Eds.). (1997). Blood read: The Vampire as metaphor in contemporary culture. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. Houston, L. M. (2014). Biting critiques: Paranormal romance and moral judgment in True Blood, Twilight, and The Vampire Diaries. In S. Panse & D. Rothermel (Eds.), A critique of judgment in film and television (pp. 269 288). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Jordan, N. (Director) (1994). Interview with the vampire: The vampire chronicles. United States: Geffen Pictures. Kleemans, M., Daalmans, S., van Ommen, M., Eden, A., & Weijers, A. (2017). Explaining the role of character development in the evaluation of morally ambiguous characters in entertainment media. Poetics, 60(February), 16 28. doi:10.1016/j.poetic.2016.10.003 Krakowiak, K. M., & Tsay-Vogel, M. (2015). The dual role of morally ambiguous characters: Examining the effect of morality salience on narrative responses. Human Communication Research, 41(3), 390 411. doi:10.1111/hcre.12050 Lindgren Leavenworth, M. (2014). Transmedial narration and fan fiction. The storyworld of The Vampire Diaries. In M. L. Ryan & J. N. Thon (Eds.), Storyworlds across media. Toward a media-conscious narratology (pp. 315 331). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. Lindgren Leavenworth, M., & Isaksson, M. (2013). Fan fiction. Variations on Twilight, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. Nicol, R. (2016). You were such a good girl when you were human. In A. Hobson & M. Anyiwo (Eds.), Gender in the vampire narrative (pp. 145 160). Rotterdam, Netherlands: SensePublishers. Raney, A. A. (2005). Punishing media criminals and moral judgment: The impact on enjoyment. Media Psychology, 7(2), 191 205.


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Raney, A. A. (2009). Moral judgment as a predictor of enjoyment of crime drama. Media Psychology, 4(4), 353 378. doi:10.1207/S1532785XMEP0404 Senf, C. A. (1988). The vampire in nineteenth-century English literature. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University. Smith, M. (2004). Engaging characters. Fiction, emotion, and the cinema (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Subramanian, J., & Lagerwey, J. (2016). Teen terrors: Race, gender, and horrifying girlhood in The Vampire Diaries. In J. McCort (Ed.), Unpleasant tales: The wonderland of horror in children’s literature and culture (pp. 180 200). Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi. Tomc, S. (1997). Dieting and damnation: Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire. In J. Gordon & V. Hollinger (Eds.), Blood read: The vampire as metaphor in contemporary culture (pp. 95 114). Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. Vaage, M. B. (2016). The antihero in American television. New York, NY: Routledge Ltd. Whedon, J. (Creator). (1996 2003). Buffy the vampire slayer. Mutant Enemy. Williams, R. (2013). Unlocking the vampire diaries genre, authorship, and quality in teen TV horror. Gothic Studies, 15(1), 88 99. Williamson, K., & Plec, J. (Creators) (2010a). Pilot [Television series episode]. In K. Williamson, J. Plec, L. Morgenstein, B. Levy, C. Dries, M. H. Taylor, C. Fiveash, J. Stoteraux (Executive producers), The vampire diaries. Covington, GA: The CWNetwork. Williamson, K., & Plec, J. (Creators) (2010b). Plan B [Television series episode]. In K. Williamson, J. Plec, L. Morgenstein, B. Levy, C. Dries, M. H. Taylor, C. Fiveash, J. Stoteraux (Executive producers), The vampire diaries. Covington, GA: The CWNetwork. Williamson, K., & Plec, J. (Creators) (2010c). Brave new world [Television series episode]. In K. Williamson, J. Plec, L. Morgenstein, B. Levy, C. Dries, M. H. Taylor, C. Fiveash, J. Stoteraux (Executive producers), The vampire diaries. Covington, GA: The CWNetwork. Williamson, K., & Plec, J. (Creators) (2014a). Yellow ledbetter [Television series episode]. In K. Williamson, J. Plec, L. Morgenstein, B. Levy, C. Dries, M. H. Taylor, C. Fiveash, J. Stoteraux (Executive producers), The vampire diaries. Covington, GA: The CWNetwork. Williamson, K., & Plec, J. (Creators) (2014b). Gone girl [Television series episode]. In K. Williamson, J. Plec, L. Morgenstein, B. Levy, C. Dries, M. H. Taylor, C. Fiveash, J. Stoteraux (Executive producers), The vampire diaries. Covington, GA: The CWNetwork. Williamson, K., & Plec, J. (Creators) (2014c). 500 years of solitude [Television series episode]. In K. Williamson, J. Plec, L. Morgenstein, B. Levy, C. Dries, M. H. Taylor, C. Fiveash, J. Stoteraux (Executive producers), The vampire diaries. Covington, GA: The CWNetwork. Williamson, K., & Plec, J. (Creators) (2014d). While you were sleeping [Television series episode]. In K. Williamson, J. Plec, L. Morgenstein, B. Levy, C. Dries, M. H. Taylor, C. Fiveash, J. Stoteraux (Executive producers), The vampire diaries. Covington, GA: The CWNetwork.

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Williamson, M. (2003). Vampire transformations: From gothic demon to domestication? In C. T. Kungl (Ed.), Vampires: Myths and metaphors of enduring evil (pp. 101–107). Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press. Williamson, M. (2005). The lure of the vampire: Gender, fiction, and fandom from Bram Stoker to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. London: Wallflower Press. Williamson, M. (2014). Let them all in: The evolution of the sympathetic vampire. In L. Hunt S. Lockyear, & M. Williamson (Eds.), Screening the undead: Vampires and zombies in film and television (pp. 71 92). London: IB Tauris. Zanger, J. (1997). Metaphor into metonymy: The vampire next door. In J. Gordon & V. Hollinger (Eds.), Blood read: The vampire as metaphor in contemporary culture (pp. 17 26). Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. Zillmann, D. (1994). Mechanisms of emotional involvement with drama. Poetics, 23(1 2), 33 51. doi:10.1016/0304 422X(94)00020-7

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Chapter 11

So Many Chick Flick Moments: Dean Winchester’s Centrifugal Evolution Susan Cosby Ronnenberg

The CW’s long-running horror-drama series Supernatural (2005 ) focuses on the adventures of two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, as they battle assorted ghosts, spirits, demons and monsters. Despite its ratings success, it has been accused of undoing progressive advances in representing gender roles made by Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1996 2003, and from here shortened to BTVS). While it is hard to deny the truth in that claim, Supernatural also problematizes conventional gender roles from a very different approach, one that plays with perceptions of masculinity tied to both social class and race. Buffy Summers may initially seem to have more in common with Supernatural’s Sam Winchester, however, she shares more in common with Dean Winchester. Buffy and Dean both embody gendered stereotypes of popular mainstream young people in their introduction, but it is revealed over time that there is more to them than this introduction suggests. Both transgress conventional gender boundaries, complicating the notion of a binary gender system. With regard to gender roles, both characters reflect the cultural movements taking place at the time of their creation. Supernatural, however, also emphasizes as a part of Dean’s gender performance the white working-class male.


Supernatural as a Masculine Response to Buffy’s Female Focus

In some ways, Supernatural seems to pick up where BTVS left off with twentysomething white characters fighting supernatural forces in America. But instead of a lone figure, it presents two main male characters, brothers following a legacy from their father, who have no supernatural powers themselves; in addition, their Midwestern roots convey a downwardly mobile socioeconomic status. Borsellino (2009) writes, ‘Buffy gave the world a story in which the traditional roles of masculine hero figures were questioned, and Supernatural responded not only by attempting to restore those pre-Buffy tropes, but also by

Gender and Contemporary Horror in Television, 131 147 r Susan Cosby Ronnenberg All rights of reproduction in any form reserved doi:10.1108/978-1-78769-103-220191012


Susan Cosby Ronnenberg

putting the girl back in her grave and leaving her there’ (p. 112). Yet Buffy is not without its own complicated relationship to gender portrayals. Jowett (2005) notes that while ‘Buffy may at first appear progressive in its representation of gender, yet [it] is often contradictory, and at times the strategies taken to try and negotiate the problems of gender representation are problematic in themselves’ (p. 191). As the first and most glaring example, ‘Whedon’s Buffy is nowhere more conventional than when it makes Buffy’s consent to pre-marital sex the trigger that transforms Angel into a marauding monster’ (Wright, 2016, p. 61). From its debut Supernatural’s focus has always been on young men and their perspectives. The horror genre requires the uncanny, which means starting with conventions familiar to the audience; that is also the approach BTVS’s pilot episode takes before shifting gears to present the teenage girl as much more than easy prey for vampires. Supernatural’s early seasons present women as dichotomous props: damsel in distress or dangerous seductress. The focus is never the female characters’ depth or development, but that of the male leads. How do they accurately interpret the situation in front of them absent a strong male guide? Do they rescue, resist or succumb to the woman? Borsellino (2009) also notes an explicit reference to the series’ predecessor when two younger, fumbling would-be ghost-hunters ask, ‘What Would Buffy Do?’ (Callaway & Long, 2006); she claims that this is ‘what Supernatural really sees Buffy’s legacy as: bumbling, inept, absurd male characters out of their depth in the world’ (p. 112). In making a young female capable of heroic physical action requiring supernatural strength, Whedon shifts the position of male characters in relation to Buffy’s existence, making them less vital, even unnecessary, for resolving the physical threat at hand. I would argue that Supernatural series creator Eric Kripke attempts a corrective that puts young male characters back at the centre, then, and makes them competent, capable, wrestling with identity and masculinity, seeking purpose as they navigate their way through a world of loss in relation to their parents and economic/domestic stability. Supernatural addresses male viewers of BTVS who neither identified with Xander Harris as the regular-Joe comic sidekick nor with Angel, the humourless, brooding and supernaturally empowered romantic interest.


Genre and Gender in Buffy

As Clover (1992) has noted, in modern horror films, monsters and heroes have most often been represented as male while victims in need of rescuing have been represented by females. Her well-known study on Final Girls analyses how and why horror films of the late 1970s 1980s feature women who survive and destroy the monsters, thus ‘combin[ing] the functions of suffering victim and avenging hero,’ a combination previously seen only in action films with the main male character (p. 17). BTVS provides a female action hero who saves not only herself but both men and women around her on a regular basis. Supernatural

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features two young male heroes who are often victims in need of rescue themselves. BTVS introduces the main character as a typical teen-aged girl, anxious about appearances, first impressions, fitting in, and making friends as she attends a new high school and settles into a new home with only her mother. However, we’re soon shown that she is not the typical teen. As the Slayer, she has a calling as a protector of the more vulnerable; she demonstrates her super strength, fearlessness, courage, and confidence in her own abilities as a fighter. Whedon emphasizes binary gender expectations regularly, with stereotypical appearances and behaviours introduced only to be disrupted. Buffy is generally not in need of rescue. Late in the series when Buffy asks Angel what he is doing in Sunnydale, he replies, ‘Not saving the damsel in distress. That’s for sure’; she says, ‘Oh you know me, not much with the damseling’. This comes just after her defeat of Caleb, whom she kills mid-misogynist taunt. He says, ‘Stupid girl. You’ll never stop me. You don’t have the ba—’ as she spins a scythe up between his legs, literally splitting him two. As she moves to share her power with other girls and women, she asks them, ‘Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?’ (all Whedon, 2003). Buffy expresses a confidence in herself and her abilities as the Slayer, as well as a toughness, both of which are more often associated with masculinity. When Angelus moves to attack her, he observes, ‘No weapons, no friends, no hope. Take that all away, what’s left?’ Buffy stops the descent of his sword, a phallic symbol, with her bare hands, asserting, ‘Me’. When Angel is contemplating suicide by the sun, Buffy confronts him with ‘Strong is fighting. It’s hard and it’s painful and it’s every day. It’s what we have to do and we can do it together, but if you’re too much of a coward for that, then burn’ (all Whedon, 1998). Buffy’s psychological strength matches her physical strength. As genre hybrids, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural play with the conventions of horror films and bildungsroman stories, in addition to drama and comedy. Each even features a musical episode. In a study of gender-role reversals on The X-Files, Bradley (2001) says, ‘The gender bending is amplified by the series’ equally well-known “genre-bending”’, with the genre-mixing opening a space for exploration of other boundary-crossings as well (p. 31). Clifton (2009) describes BTVS as a site of self-defined morality, determined outside the typical patriarchal system, where fathers as authority figures set the rules for children. This is a coming-of-age story, featuring separation from parental authority, learning to assess people and situations and make decisions for one’s self. This is Supernatural’s narrative, too. The rules that John Winchester gives his sons are revealed to be questionable, and the boys must navigate the world mostly on their own. Clifton adds that at the end of Season 3, Supernatural ‘puts both concepts the masculine coming-of-age, the feminine emotional landscape in a blender, by placing two classic male Hero archetypes in a classically intuitive realm’, adding ‘that’s a gender double-twist’ (p. 123). In short, Supernatural is a male version of BTVS, Clifton seems to claim.



Susan Cosby Ronnenberg

From Stereotype to Complexity: Centrifugal Evolution

Supernatural has a slower start and seems to offer gender stereotypes at first where initial introductions establish and differentiate the brothers Winchester, ages 26 and 22 years. Sociologist Michael Kimmel’s (2008) Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men examines young American men aged 16 26 years and their ideas about masculinity; it seems to capture some of the concepts of masculinity portrayed in the brothers’ introduction. Kimmel refers to Guyland as ‘both a stage of life, a liminal undefined time span between adolescence and adulthood that can often stretch for a decade or more, and a place’, where guys spend time together, apart from real-world responsibilities or relationships (p. 4). He also differentiates Guyland from ‘a state of arrested development, a case of prolonged adolescence among a cadre of slackers’ (p. 6). Guyland is where Dean and Sam exist when they are introduced; it is where they remain, in many ways, even heading toward season 14 of the series. Characters and fans refer to them as ‘the boys’ but these characters match the ages of the actors playing them, now 40 and 36. At what point are they men? Consider how the 200th episode, ‘Fan Fiction’ treated them, where the high school girls, Marie and Mauve, burst into laughter at their claim that they are the actual Sam and Dean because ‘You’re way too old to be Sam or Dean. More of a Bobby-Rufus combo,’ Maeve allowed, to the Winchesters’ obvious shock and dismay (Thompson & Sgriccia, 2014). In the pilot episode, the brothers have not been in contact for two years. Sam, a recent college graduate preparing to take the LSAT, expresses no interest in the nomadic hunting life of his father and brother. Initially, Sam appears to embody a ‘new masculinity’, one that eschews violence in favour of intellectualism or reason, evident in his complaint that ‘we were raised like warriors’ and in his correction of Dean’s pronunciation of ‘corporeal’, which Dean responds to with ‘Excuse me, professor’ (all Kripke & Nutter, 2005). Sam has a different plan for his life, distinct from his brother’s. In contrast to Sam’s civility, Dean breaks into Sam’s apartment at night, wrestles his brother in the dark, pinning him to the floor, and then openly flirts with his scantily clad girlfriend when she emerges. Dean appears to represent ‘old school masculinity’, seeking adventure, danger, and fun over long-term goals, education, responsibility, or relationships. His employment of ‘chicks’ to refer to women and ‘bitch’ as a nickname for his younger brother attest to his association with an older form of masculinity, suggesting his objectification of women. That is not accurate, though, from the start. When he flirts with Sam’s girlfriend, Dean’s eyes never leave her face to roam down her body, even as he encourages her not to change into something more substantial (Kripke & Nutter, 2005). It is an odd contradiction, one that serves as a subtle warning about making assumptions about the brothers. Nicol (2014) says that Supernatural employs tropes of masculinity in order to ‘frequently invite critique of these conventions. Masculinity in Supernatural is always in the process of being interrogated and therefore cannot be read as fixed the show often deconstructs masculine tropes even as it deploys them’ (p. 157).

So Many Chick Flick Moments


Dean’s ‘centrifugal evolution’ is his movement away from prevalent mainstream ideas about white working-class masculinity. If Joss Whedon was attempting to ‘create a hero where there’s only been a victim’, as he says in the commentary of the BTVS pilot, then Eric Kripke creates a victim where there is only been a hero, that is, a hero with evident vulnerabilities. Jowett’s (2005) description of BTVS also applies to Supernatural, in that both ‘treat identity as inherently unstable […] in the show identity is always being constructed, reconstructed, and negotiated’ (p. 4). In the series finale, ‘Chosen’, Buffy tells Angel, ‘I’m cookie dough. I’m not done baking. I’m not finished becoming whoever the hell it is I’m going to turn out to be. I make it through this, and the next thing, and maybe one day I turn around and realize I’m ready. I’m cookies’ (Whedon, 2003). In fact, both Buffy and Dean are still in the process of becoming in their 20s, where their futures remain uncertain. The difference is that Buffy anticipates having a future and remains optimistic about it, as opposed to Dean’s pessimistic outlook: ‘I know how my story ends. It’s at the edge of a blade or the barrel of a gun’ (Berens & Singer, 2014). Supernatural’s early Dean is a parody of conventional masculinity, a walking stereotype the shallow, cocky, handsome, dumb, and self-centred jock and yet, eventually, we are shown his awareness that others perceive him as such, something he uses to his advantage at times and at other times something he believes about himself. Kimmel writes that ‘[g]uys often feel they’re entirely on their own as they navigate’ the transition into adulthood, where ‘they couch their insecurity in bravado and bluster, a fearless strut barely concealing [their] anxiety’ (p. 7). Dean’s swagger and bravado clearly mask some serious insecurities, evident in his secret tearful phone call to their father asking for assistance in the pilot episode. Buffy and Dean both transgress conventional gender boundaries, complicating the notion of a binary gender system. As they shift, their regular companions must also shift in regard to gender roles and behaviours. The Winchester brothers orbit one another; a shift in one requires a shift from the other but this domino effect also includes Castiel, an angel. One of the reasons the Destiel (Dean/ Castiel) and Wincest (Dean/Sam) ships sail the way they do is the continuum along which Dean, Castiel, and Sam’s gendered identities frequently shift in relation to one another. In her study of gender roles in The X-Files, Bradley (2004) describes the two lead characters: Scully, the skeptic, stands for the rational-empiricist worldview of male science; Mulder stands for non-rational, intuitive ways of knowing often designated as feminine and subversive. He trusts his instincts, offers supernatural explanations, and bases his life’s work on the memory of a paranormal experience in which he saw his sister abducted by aliens (p. 63). We might apply a similar division of belief systems to Sam and Dean, with Sam operating from the rationalist empiricist sceptical perspective and Dean


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trusting his instincts more, defaulting to supernatural explanations of events, and basing his life trajectory on the traumatic family event when he was fouryears-old. This aligns Dean, as it does with Mulder, with a traditionally feminine way of looking at the world.


Warrior Handmaiden

In a 1976 study, social psychologist Robert Brannon articulated four basic rules of masculinity (Kimmel, 2008, p. 46). Two of these apply to Dean’s behaviours. The first is a ‘relentless repudiation of the feminine’, so as not to appear ‘weak, effeminate, or gay’ [‘No chick flicks’ (Kripke & Nutter, 2005)] (Kimmel, p. 46). Nicol (2014) states that, although he is introduced as the ‘more “authentically” masculine’ of the brothers, who polices his younger sibling’s gender performance regularly, Dean serves as the vehicle through which the show disrupts the male gaze. Dean not only confronts his own conceptions of masculinity throughout the series, but also periodically serves as a kind of surrogate female from a narrative perspective. [...] Dean himself is, and has been from the very beginning of the series, doubly coded. (p. 157) Warrior Dean inspires the LARP troops with a speech from Hoosiers, but also serves as Queen Charlie’s handmaiden (Thompson & Szwarc, 2013). He occupies both positions simultaneously. Despite his hypermasculine performance as a sexual and romantic ‘player’, he longs for domestic stability and emotional commitment. In ‘Dream a Little Dream’ (Humphris & Boyum, 2008), Dean’s dream begins with a domestic emphasis, placing him at a picnic with Lisa, going to pick up Ben and hearing Lisa say she loves him. While he quickly denies to Sam, ‘I’ve never had this dream before,’ it is obvious that he has and that he fosters a longing for domestic stability, a family of his own and the assurance that he is loved. This also raises the question, though, of his fears that such domesticity would distance him from his brother. Captured by a djinn who grants the illusion of his wish, Dean realizes what has happened, finally attempting to wake himself from the dream state, but the djinn manifests fake-Mary, his mom, to appeal to Dean’s deepest desires, offering ‘No more pain. Or fear. Just love and comfort and safety’ (Tucker & Kripke, 2007). Later in the series, when Sam and Dean have moved into the Men of Letters’ bunker, Dean settles in, telling Sam, ‘I haven’t had my own room—ever. I’m making this awesome. I’ve got my kickass vinyl. I’ve got this killer mattress–memory foam–it remembers me. And it’s clean, too. There’s no funky smell. There’s no creepy motel stains’. When Sam teases him about this and about cooking a meal for them, Dean responds, ‘We have a real kitchen now. I’m nesting, okay?’ (both Dabb & Parks, 2013).

So Many Chick Flick Moments



Emotional Expression

Another characteristic of masculinity according to Brannon is presenting a stoic or wholly non-expressive front in a crisis (Kimmel, p. 46). Dean initially resists sentimental emotional expression, setting the mantra in the pilot when he shuts down Sam’s confession with ‘No chick flick moments’ (Kripke & Nutter, 2005). Later in Season 1, shifter-Dean tells Sam what Dean never has ‘He’s sure got issues with you. You got to go to college. He had to stay home, with Dad. You don’t think [he] had dreams of [his] own?’ and ‘Deep down, [he’s] just jealous. You got friends. You could have a life’ (Shiban & McNeill, 2005). Three seasons later, Dean tells Anna, ‘Feelings are overrated, if you ask me’, yet he finally confesses to Sam that he recalls all the pain he felt and inflicted on others in Hell when he says tearfully, ‘I wish I couldn’t feel a damn thing’ (Kripke & Tobin, 2008). In ‘Dream a Little Dream of Me’, dream-Dean tells Dean that his dad understood that he’s ‘A good soldier and nothing else. Daddy’s blunt little instrument’; Dean finally breaks, in a self-protective way, shouting, ‘My father was a damned bastard! All that crap he dumped on me about protecting Sam–that was his crap! He’s the one who couldn’t protect his family. He’s the one who let Mom die, who wasn’t there for Sam. I always was. It wasn’t fair. I don’t deserve what he put on me’ (Humphris & Boym, 2008). Dean points out John’s failure at protecting his wife and baby. He also acknowledges that the pressures his father placed on him to ‘be a man’ and protect his family were inappropriate for a child. In addition to longing for domestic stability and assurance of love, Dean’s emotional expressiveness is another way that he embodies traditional feminine behaviours. In ‘Skin’ when shifter-Dean is speaking to Sam, he has access to some of Dean’s thoughts, among them this acknowledgement: ‘I know I’m a freak. And sooner or later, everyone’s going to leave me’ (Shiban & McNeill, 2005). The driving rock song playing as a SWAT team closes in on the shifteras-Dean contains the repeated lyrics, ‘don’t want to be a freak show pretty boy’ from ‘Mary’ by the Death Riders (Shiban & McNeill, 2005), which seem to connect human and shifter, something the shifter acknowledges, but Dean does not. In ‘Dream a Little Dream’, Dean encounters a dream-Dean, recognizing the symbolism immediately of having to face off with himself, with his own conditioned inner critique of how well he’s performing masculinity. He says, ‘I get it. I’m my own worst nightmare. Is that it?’. Dream-Dean scoffs at him saying, ‘I know how dead you are inside. How worthless you feel. I know how you look into a mirror and hate what you see’ (both Humphris & Boym, 2008). Studies show that ‘Guys hear the voices of the men in their lives fathers, coaches, brothers, grandfathers, uncles, and priests to inform their ideas of masculinity’ (Kimmel, p. 47). In ‘Devil’s Trap’, familiar with his father’s habit of chastising him, Dean recognizes that the figure in front of him isn’t John because it praises Dean. He tells it, ‘He’d be furious that I wasted a bullet. He wouldn’t be proud of me. He’d tear me a new one’ (Kripke & Manners, 2006). When Dean listens to Anna, the former angel describes her assignment on Earth in her previous incarnation as ‘just watching, silent, invisible, out on the road,


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sick for home, waiting on orders from an unknowable father I can’t begin to understand’. He laughs, replying, ‘I can relate’ (Kripke & Tobin, 2008). In Season 11’s finale, when Dean turns to Sam with his familiar old mantra of ‘No chick flick moments’ as he leaves to sacrifice himself to save the world, Sam counters with, ‘Yeah, you love chick flicks,’ to which Dean admits, surprisingly, ‘You’re right, I do’ before hugging his younger brother (Dabb & Sgriccia, 2016). Although he continues to make a superficial effort to perform the expected masculine behaviours that originally defined his character, it is obvious that this is a more mature and expressive Dean.


The Body on Display

Bradley writes that ‘The X-Files objectifies the male body rather than the female’, featuring scenes of Mulder, rather than Scully, undressing or partially dressed, and ‘In these reversals and variations, the camera deconstructs the gendered gaze’ (p. 63). Models for men breaking standard horror conventions on BTVS take the form of Angel as a femme fatale reversal and the display of both Spike’s and Angel’s bodies regularly. On BTVS, ‘Spike’s body is also displayed in scenes of violence and torture, making him the feminized, passive victim as well as the erotic object of the gaze’ (Jowett, pp. 164 165). We see something similar with Dean as the object of the camera’s focus, both in states of undressing and close-ups featuring his psychological or physical anguish. O’Day (2004) described female heroines in action films as ‘simultaneously and, quite brazenly, both the erotic object of visual spectacle and the action subject of narrative spectacle’ (p. 205). Two of many examples of Dean fulfilling this role include in ‘Skin’, when the shifter-Dean removes his shirt as he begins to shed his skin again and in ‘Red Sky at Morning’, when the camera makes a slow pan from dress shoes descending the staircase up Dean’s tuxedo-clad body, representing Bela’s appreciative gaze, subverting the usual gendered roles; Dean even says, ‘Don’t objectify me!’ (Andries & Bole, 2007). Dean is shirtless when having sex with former-angel Anna in ‘Heaven and Hell’ (Kripke & Tobin, 2008). Dean is often displayed in a passive manner though, including images of him in Hell strung up on hooks through his torso and legs, his shirt half-ripped away (Kripke & Manners, 2008). Dean is also frequently presented as excessive, behaving in foolish and childish ways. Dean has talked with and behaved like a dog, including fetching a ball, shout-growling at a mail carrier, and flirting with a female poodle (Charmelo, Snyder, & Andrew, 2013). He has dressed up like a Clint Eastwood cowboy to travel back to the old West (Dabb & Sgriccia, 2016). In another time travel episode, he fanboyed over Eliot Ness (Thompson & Sriccia, 2012). Dean has fallen victim to ‘Yellow Fever’ (Dabb, Loflin, & Sgriccia, 2008), making him intensely fear cats, so that when he encounters one, he screams, loud and long, with none of his usual self-confidence. He openly expresses his excitement over cowboy/ Western-themed locations, donning a Western suit, a bolo tie, and a cowboy hat, while making Castiel wear a cowboy hat, too (Perez & Lopez-Corrado, 2017).

So Many Chick Flick Moments


Dean has been both reverse-aged (Glass & LaDouceur, 2015) and advance-aged (Gamble & Snyder, 2009). In ‘Fan Fiction’ (Thompson & Sgriccia, 2014), Marie tells him that in a later act of her stage version of Supernatural, ‘Dean becomes a woman. Only for a little while.’ He dies repeatedly in ‘Mystery Spot’ (Carver & Manners, 2008), so that it becomes a running gag as to how he will die next in the episode. Dean interacts with cartoons in ‘Hunter Heroici’ (Dabb & Edwards, 2012) and ‘Scoobynatural’ (Adams, Krieg, & Singer, 2017), where he expresses an interest in getting together with Daphne, adopts wearing a kerchief and imitates Scooby-Doo in saying the dog’s name and cartoon series’ title. In ‘Various & Sundry Villains’ (Yocking & Tapping, 2017), Dean falls under a witch’s spell that makes him believe he is in love with her and must obey her. As Wright (2008) has observed, ‘While Dean is aesthetically and narratively valued in terms of blue-collar masculinity’, this presentation of him is ‘often undercut by challenging his authority on the basis of precisely his classed gender performance’ (para 14). Sam is rarely presented in similar excessive ways, reduced for comic effect. Why? Is this because Sam is consistently presented as closer to the ‘new man’ modern ideal, while Dean, as a representation of lingering old school masculinity is punished by being made to look foolish, through excess in a different direction? Or is the punishment because Dean both embodies old school masculinity and resists it at points? Either way it seems to offer a critique of traditional masculinity and in ways that are strikingly similar to BTVS’s portrayal of it as foolish or dangerous.


Responsive to Cultural Movements Regarding Gender Roles

Buffy was created at a time of increasing empowerment for women: Lilith Fair (1997 1999) brought women together, albeit mostly white, across a range of ages; the Riot Girl movement (1990s); third-wave feminism; owning female sexuality; the increased acceptance of lesbianism, etc. Jowett describes Buffy as ‘both a product of and a response to postfeminist and postmodern culture. Analyzing its transgressions and contradictions can bring us closer to understanding how traditional notions of gender are perpetuated and how new versions are being negotiated’ (p. 197). Supernatural addresses the decreasing access, opportunities and power of white working-class males in particular, as circumstances force them into the margins, a cultural movement that has intensified in the 13 years of the series’ production. The interrogation of white masculinity, and rejection of toxic masculinity, is intertwined with social class in this series. George (2014) asserts that ‘Kripke’s original concept for the show and his homage to other masculine genres and texts are displayed and effectively undermined not only to reveal the constructed nature of masculinity, but also to provide a narrative about it that allows for a more complete definition of what it means to ‘be a man’ in post-9/11 America’ (p. 149).



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Social Class and Race

Supernatural set out to explore toxic masculinity and socioeconomic class, the latter of which BTVS addressed minimally, primarily through infrequent references to Xander and his family. Jowett writes that ‘one inescapable though perhaps more invisible message of Buffy is that women can be and do anything only if they are young, white, middle class, and conventionally attractive [...] who begin from a position of privilege’ (p. 195). Presented as a fashionable trend-setter, rarely re-wearing anything, Buffy wants for nothing except a normal life. When Buffy leaves Sunnydale in the second season, she is wearing a large black hoodie, oversized ragged-hemmed jeans, flat-heeled boots, and unkempt hair, catching a bus out of town. She has never worn anything remotely like this before or since. She is slumming, trying to fade into the crowd and disappear. Once in LA, she waits tables and lives in a small, sparse apartment, hearing sirens and traffic constantly; her walk to work takes her past homeless individuals and prostitutes (Whedon, 1998). Her job as a diner waitress shows her to be openly sexually objectified and harassed by older male truckers. In a later episode when Buffy takes a job at the Doublemeat Palace because she needs the money, she observes the dazed hopelessness of the workers going through the motions of work, wondering if there are supernatural forces involved. Xander counters, ‘I think you’re seeing demons where there’s just life’ (Espenson & Marck, 2002). Although Buffy turns out to be right about something alien occurring at the fast food joint, Xander’s point stands. Buffy has little to no understanding of being one among many easily replaceable cogs in the wheels of working class levels of capitalism. Both jobs indicate departures from her identity as solidly middle/upper class, supported by her mom’s salary managing an art gallery. Jowett asserts that ‘Buffy’s strong women are transgressive because they are relatively new representations; Spike is transgressive partly because he presents an older, no longer politically correct version of masculinity’ (p. 160). He is, in some ways, a throwback to old school masculinity, just as Dean is. Describing 1980s Poltergeist movies, Kellner (n.d.) says that these ‘depicted fears of losing your home, economic downward mobility, the family falling apart, and other fears of the era [as] truly horrifying problems that were too distressing and traumatizing for a realist[ic] aesthetic depiction’ (p. 15). Instead, they were expressed through horror/fantasy motifs. Kripke’s Supernatural explicitly offers both, simultaneously, intertwined. In the DVD commentary from Eric Kripke on ‘What Is and What Never Should Be’ (Tucker & Kripke, 2007), he describes the series’ concept as ‘Star Wars in truck stop America’ with Han Solo reimagined as Dean, the reckless, funny, action-hero, and Luke Skywalker becoming Sam, earnest, careful, and seeking a greater purpose. He presents Dean as a ‘blue-collar greasy low-tech worn motor head who listens to classic rock and knows how to handle a chainsaw’ (Kripke). In addition, Chambers (2009) describes the traps and tools the boys eliminate supernatural threats with as ‘decidedly low-rent, old-school solutions’ (p. 168). The Winchesters are essentially drifter con-men and serial killers, with an arsenal of weapons in the

So Many Chick Flick Moments


Impala’s trunk. They live first on the road, in the Impala or a series of seedy motels, then in an off-the-grid bunker. They exist on a diet of take-out or diner food. Their practice involves travelling under the radar of authorities or anyone else trying to track them. The Winchesters’ appearance also identifies them as working class. Their trademark flannel shirts-over-t-shirts, with worn jeans and heavy work boots, are affordable and practical manual labour clothing, as recognized by other characters. A wealthy realtor says, condescendingly, to Dean, ‘Judging from your cheap shoes and your faded jeans, I’m guessing the only house you’re in the market for comes with wheels’, before calling him a ‘hayseed’ (Thompson & Sgriccia, 2014). The suits they wear that allow them access into crime scenes are increasingly custom-fit-tailored season-upon-season, but angels and most demons also wear suits, suggesting that these are required work attire, not a marker of status or achievement. Their emphasis is to blend in, but given their age and gender, they must do so in ways different from Buffy. Wright (2016) notes that the series almost constantly calls attention to class and specifically the heroes’ alienation from the norms of televisual realism: a clean and spacious home with an enormous kitchen [...] that reflects a stable home life and financial ease. [...] a lower class background instantiates a deep vulnerability and uncertainty–an alienation from the [1950s tv conventions presented as] both “normal” and desirable (p. 33). In small but significant ways, the series repeatedly highlights the Winchesters’ status as unstable and working class, necessary for their vocation but also making them more vulnerable. Through flashbacks, we learn that as kids they sometimes went hungry, had to fend for themselves, went for long periods of time with no parental supervision and had little or no education, where Dean dropped out, but eventually earned his GED, assuming that only Sam was smart enough and deserved to try to rise above his situation. Flashbacks also reveal child-Dean stealing Christmas presents for Sam as well as Dean’s teenage arrest for stealing bread and peanut butter to feed Sam. Wright (2008) adds that ‘In Kripke’s Supernatural [...] class rather than sex is the ground of the boys’ vulnerability’ (para 13), providing a very different feature of identity from BTVS’s emphasis on gender. The Winchesters as adults, in ‘Ask Jeeves’ (Charmelo & Snyder, 2014), pull in to park the Impala among expensive, new foreign models. Sam wonders, ‘Think we’re a little underdressed?’ In her study of socioeconomic class, Foster (2005) says, ‘The automobile becomes not just a consumerist fantasy but a vehicle for class-passing’ (pp. 43 44). This is especially true when it is a vintage, American-made classic car with a pre-computerized dashboard that allows the owner to conduct repairs and maintenance on it himself, as Dean’s Impala is. George (2014) observes that ‘Dean and the Impala are directly and


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metaphorically linked in a way that allows them to be both sites where traditionally feminine characteristics are introduced into the Supernatural universe and the construction of hard masculinity is disrupted’ (p. 147). The Impala, after all, is a substitute home for the Winchesters and the place where they debrief emotionally after a case has ended or they have survived a traumatic experience. When Sam attempts to assure Dash LaCroix that the Winchesters are not the bad guys in the scenario, Dash protests, saying, ‘I beg to differ. You’re wearing flannel’ (Charmelo & Snyder, 2014). His sister Heddy adds, ‘I knew those boys were trailer trash the minute they rolled up in that American made car’, although she had been ogling and hitting on Sam since he first appeared (Charmelo & Snyder, 2014). This episode closes on the brothers moving on in the Impala, with Bob Seger’s ‘Memories that make me a wealthy soul’, offering a diegetic commentary on the social-class values presented in this episode, one where Sam and Dean remain outcast working-class heroes who understand the value of nostalgia, memory, clinging to remaining family, and making do with very little material or financial resources in stark contrast to the extended, wealthy, and feuding family they have just left behind (Charmelo & Snyder, 2014).



Despite appearing to embody stereotypical traditional masculinity in his appearance and behaviour initially, Dean Winchester’s presentation proves much more complex. In the centrifugal evolution that shifts him from mainstream to marginal as the series progresses, he occupies two positions simultaneously, that of warrior and handmaiden, just as Buffy occupies both positions of the Slayer and a young woman. Dean’s longing for domestic stability and emotional loyalty, combined with the capacity to express his depth of feeling, convey his association with traditionally feminine characteristics. The series’ frequent use of Dean on display seems to confirm this association. These seeming contradictions of gendered behaviours and appearances do not negate one another; they are somehow balanced in these lead characters, encouraging an interrogation of the shifting nature of identity, including gender roles in a traditional binary system as fragmented, rather than allowing the full expression of a whole individual.

References Adams, J. & Krieg, J. (Writers), & Singer, R. (Director). (2017). Scoobynatural. [Television series episode]. In Berens, R., Buckner, B., Carver, J., Dabb, A., Michaels, J., Ross-Leming, E., Sgriccia, P., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Andries, L. (Writer), & Bole, C. (Director). (2007). Red sky at morning. [Television series episode]. In Edlund, B., Johnson, P., Kripke, E., Manners, K., McG, Sgriccia, P., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW.

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Borsellino, M. (2009). Buffy the vampire slayer, Jo the monster killer: Supernatural’s excluded heroines. In Supernatural TV (Ed.), In the hunt: Unauthorized essays on Supernatural (pp. 107 118). Dallas, TX: Benbella Books, Inc. Berens, R. (Writer), & Singer, R. (Director). (2014). Girls, girls, girls. [Television series episode]. In Buckner, B., Carver, J., Charmelo, E., Dabb, A., Glass, A., Michaels, J., Ross-Leming, E., Sgriccia, P., Singer, R., Snyder, N., & Thompson, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Bradley, L. (2001). Scully hits the glass ceiling: Postmodernism, postfeminism, posthumanism, and The X-Files. In E. R. Helford (Ed.) Fantasy girls: Gender in the new universe of science fiction and fantasy television (pp. 61 90). Lanham, ENG: Rowman & Littlefield. Callaway, T. (Writer), & Long, C. (Director). (2006). Hell house. [Television series episode]. In Hatem, R., Kripke, E., Manners, K., McG, Shiban, J., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Carver, J. (Writer), & Boyum, S. (Director). (2008). In the beginning. [Television series episode]. In Edlund, B., Johnson, P., Kripke, E., Manners, K., McG, Sgriccia, P., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Carver, J. (Writer), & Manners, K. (Director). (2008). Mystery spot. [Television series episode]. In Edlund, B., Johnson, P., Kripke, E., Manners, K., McG, Sgriccia, P., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Carver, J. (Writer), & Showalter, J. F. (Director). (2013). I think I’m gonna like it. [Television series episode]. In Carver, J., Charmelo, E., Dabb, A., Glass, A., Kripke, E., Michaels, J., Sgriccia, P., Singer, R., & Snyder, N. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Chambers, J. (2009). Blue collar ghost hunters. In Supernatural TV (Ed.), In the hunt: Unauthorized essays on Supernatural (pp. 165 174). Dallas, TX: Benbella Books, Inc. Charmelo, E. & Snyder, N. (Writers), & Andrew, T. (Director). (2013). Dog Dean afternoon. [Television series episode]. In Carver, J., Charmelo, E., Dabb, A., Glass, A., Michaels, J., Ross-Leming, E., Sgriccia, P., Singer, R., & Snyder, N. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Charmelo, E. & Snyder, N. (Writers), & MacCarthy, J. (Director). (2014). Ask Jeeves. [Television series episode]. In Buckner, B., Carver, J., Charmelo, E., Dabb, A., Glass, A., Michaels, J., Ross-Leming, E., Sgriccia, P., Singer, R., Snyder, N., & Thompson, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Clifton, J. (2009). Spreading disaster: Gender in the Supernatural universe. In Supernatural TV (Ed.), In the hunt: Unauthorized essays on Supernatural (pp. 119 142). Dallas, TX: Benbella Books, Inc. Clover, C. J. (1992). Men, women, and chainsaws: Gender in the modern horror film. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Dabb, A. & Loflin, D. (Writers) & Sgriccia, P. (Director). (2008). Yellow fever. [Television series episode]. In Edlund, B., Johnson, P., Kripke, E., Manners, K., McG, Sgriccia, P., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Dabb, A. (Writer) & Edwards, P. (Director). (2012). Hunteri heroici. [Television series episode]. In Carver, J., Glass, A., Johnson, P., McG, Michaels, J., Sgriccia, P., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW.


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Dabb, A., & Loflin, D. (Writers), & Bee, G. N. (Director). (2011). Frontierland. [Television series episode]. In Edlund, B., Gamble, S., Johnson, P., Kripke, E., McG, Michaels, J., Sgriccia, P., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Dabb, A. (Writer), & Parks, K. (Director). (2013). Trial and error. [Television series episode]. In Carver, J., Glass, A., Johnson, P., McG, Michaels, J., Sgriccia, P., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Dabb, A. (Writer), & Sgriccia, P. (Director). (2016). Alpha and omega. [Television series episode]. In Buckner, B., Carver, J., Charmelo, E., Dabb, A., Michaels, J., Ross-Leming, E., Sgriccia, P., Snyder, N., & Thompson, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Espenson, J. (Writer), & Marck, N. (Director). (2002). Doublemeat palace. [Television series episode]. In Berman, G., Fury, D., Gallin, S., Rubel Kazui, F., Kazui, K., Noxon, M., & Whedon, J. (Executive Producers), Buffy the vampire slayer. Los Angeles, CA: UPN. Foster, G. A. (2005). Class-passing: Social mobility in film and popular culture. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press. Fury, D. (Writer) & Grossman, M. (Director). (2003). Showtime. [Television series episode]. In Berman, G., Espenson, J., Fury, D., Gallin, S., Rubel Kazui, F., Kazui, K., Noxon, M., Solomon, D., & Whedon, J. (Executive Producers), Buffy the vampire slayer. Los Angeles, CA: UPN. Gamble, S. (Writer) & Singer, R. (Director). (2009). The curious case of Dean Winchester. [Television series episode]. In Edlund, B., Gamble, S., Johnson, P., Kripke, E., McG, Michaels, J., Sgriccia, P., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. George, S. A. (2014). A man and his 1967 Impala: Supernatural, U.S. car culture, and the masculinity of Dean Winchester. In S. G. George & R. M. Hansen (Eds.), Supernatural, humanity, and the soul (pp. 141 154). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. Glass, A. (Writer), & Ladouceur, S. (Director). (2015). About a boy. [Television series episode]. In Buckner, B., Carver, J., Charmelo, E., Dabb, A. Glass, A., Michaels, J., Ross-Leming, E., Sgriccia, P., Singer, R., Snyder, N., & Thompson, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Glass, A. (Writer), & Parks, K. (Director). (2013). Bad boys. [Television series episode]. In Carver, J., Charmelo, E., Dabb, A. Glass, A., Michaels, J., RossLeming, E., Sgriccia, P., Singer, R., & Snyder, N. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Glynn, M. (Writer), & Badham, J. (Director). (2017). Regarding Dean. [Television series episode]. In Buckner, B., Carver, J., Dabb, A., Michaels, J., Ross-Leming, E., Sgriccia, P., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Humphris, C. (Writer), & Boyum, S. (Director). (2008). Dream a little dream. [Television series episode]. In Edlund, B., Johnson, P., Kripke, E., Manners, K., McG, Sgriccia, P., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Jowett, L. (2005). Sex and the slayer: A gender studies primer for the Buffy fan. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.

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Kellner, D. (N.D.). Buffy the Vampire Slayer as spectacular allegory: A diagnostic critique. (1 22). Retrieved from Kimmel, M. (2008). Guyland: The perilous world where boys become men, understanding the critical years between 16 and 26. New York, NY: Harper Collins. Kripke, E. (Writer) & Boyum, S. (Director). (2010). Swan song. [Television series episode]. In Edlund, B., Gamble, S., Johnson, P., Kripke, E., McG, Sgriccia, P., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Kripke, E. (Writer), & Manners, K. (Director). (2006). Devil’s trap. [Television series episode]. In Hatem, R., Kripke, E., Manners, K., McG, Shiban, J., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Kripke, E. (Writer), & Manners, K. (Director). (2008). No rest for the wicked. [Television series episode]. In Edlund, B., Johnson, P., Kripke, E., Manners, K., McG, Sgriccia, P., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Kripke, E. (Writer), & Nutter, D. (Director). (2005). Pilot. [Television series episode]. In Kripke, E., McG, Nutter, D., Hatem, R., & Shiban, J. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Burbank, CA: The WB. Kripke, E. (Writer), & Nutter, D. (Director). (2005). Wendigo. [Television series episode]. In Hatem, R., Kripke, E., McG, Shiban, J., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Burbank, CA: The WB. Kripke, E. (Writer), & Tobin, J. M. (Director). (2008). Heaven and Hell. [Television series episode]. In Edlund, B., Johnson, P., Kripke, E., Manners, K., McG, Sgriccia, P., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Nicol, R. (2014). ‘How is that not rape-y?’: Dean as anti-Bella and feminism without women in Supernatural. In S. A. George & R. M. Hansen (Eds.), Supernatural, humanity, and the soul (pp. 155 168). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. O’Day, M. (2004). Beauty in motion: Gender, spectacle and action babe cinema. In Y. Trasker (Ed.), Action and adventure cinema (pp. 201 218). New York, NY: Routledge. Perez, D. (Writer), & Lopez-Corrado, N. (Director). (2017). Tombstone. [Television series episode]. In Berens, R., Buckner, B., Carver, J., Dabb, A., Michaels, J., Ross-Leming, E., Sgriccia, P., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Ross-Leming, E. & Buckner, B. (Writers), & Singer, R. (Director). (2015). Dark dynasty. [Television series episode]. In Buckner, B., Carver, J., Charmelo, E., Dabb, A., Glass, A., Michaels, J., Ross-Leming, E., Sgriccia, P., Singer, R., Snyder, N., & Thompson, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Shiban, J. (Writer), & McNeill, R. D. (Director). (2005). Skin. [Television series episode]. In Hatem, R., Kripke, E., Manners, K., McG, Shiban, J., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Burbank, CA: The WB. Siege, J. (Writer) & Beeson, C. (Director). (2010). 99 problems. [Television series episode]. In Edlund, B., Gamble, S., Johnson, P., Kripke, E., McG, Sgriccia, P., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Siege, J. (Writer) & Rohl, M. (Director). (2009). The monster at the end of this book. [Television series episode]. In Edlund, B., Johnson, P., Kripke, E.,


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Manners, K., McG, Sgriccia, P., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Thompson, R. (Writer) & MacCarthy, J. (Director). (2012). The girl with the dungeons and dragons tattoo. [Television series episode]. In Gamble, S., Glass, A., Johnson, P., McG, Michael, J., Sgriccia, P., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Thompson, R. (Writer), & Pesce, P. J. (Director). (2015). Book of the damned. [Television series episode]. In Buckner, B., Carver, J., Charmelo, E., Dabb, A., Glass, A., Michaels, J., Ross-Leming, E., Sgriccia, P., Singer, R., Snyder, N., & Thompson, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Thompson, R. (Writer), & Sgriccia, P. (Director). (2014). Fan fiction. [Television series episode]. In Buckner, B., Carver, J., Charmelo, E., Dabb, A., Glass, A., Michaels, J., Ross-Leming, E., Sgriccia, P., Singer, R., Snyder, N., & Thompson, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Thompson, R. (Writer), & Sgriccia, P. (Director). (2014). There’s no place like home. [Television series episode]. In Buckner, B., Carver, J., Charmelo, E., Dabb, A., Glass, A., Michaels, J., Ross-Leming, E., Sgriccia, P., Singer, R., Snyder, N., & Thompson, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Thompson, R. (Writer), & Sgriccia, P. (Director). (2012). Time after time. [Television series episode]. In Edlund, B., Gamble, S., Johnson, P., Kripke, E., McG, Michaels, J., Sgriccia, P., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Thompson, R. (Writer) & Singer, R. (Director). (2013). Pac-Man fever. [Television series episode]. In Carver, J., Glass, A., Johnson, P., McG, Michaels, J., Sgriccia, P., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Thompson, R. (Writer) & Singer, R. (Director). (2013). Slumber party. [Television series episode]. In Carver, J., Charmelo, E., Dabb, A., Glass, A., Michaels, J., Sgriccia, P., & Singer, R., & Snyder, N. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Thompson, R. (Writer) & Szwarc, J. (Director). (2013). LARP and the real girl. [Television series episode]. In Carver, J., Glass, A., Johnson, P., McG, Michaels, J., Sgriccia, P., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Tucker, R. (Writer), & Kripke, E. (Director). (2007). What is and what should never be. [Television series episode]. In Johnson, P., Kripke, E., Manners, K., McG, Shiban, J., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW. Whedon, J. (Writer & Director). (1998). Amends. [Television series episode]. In Berman, G., Gallin, S., Greenwalt, D., Rubel Kazui, F., Kazui, K., & Whedon, J. (Executive Producers), Buffy the vampire slayer. Burbank, CA: The WB. Whedon, J. (Writer & Director). (1998). Becoming: Part 1. [Television series episode]. In Berman, G., Gallin, S., Greenwalt, D., Rubel Kazui, F., Kazui, K., & Whedon, J. (Executive Producers), Buffy the vampire slayer. Burbank, CA: The WB. Whedon, J. (Writer & Director). (1998). Becoming: Part 2. [Television series episode]. In Berman, G., Gallin, S., Greenwalt, D., Rubel Kazui, F., Kazui, K., &

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Whedon, J. (Executive Producers), Buffy the vampire slayer. Burbank, CA: The WB. Whedon, J. (Writer & Director). (1989). Anne. [Television series episode]. In Berman, G., Gallin, S., Greenwalt, D., Rubel Kazui, F., Kazui, K., & Whedon, J. (Executive Producers), Buffy the vampire slayer. Burbank, CA: The WB. Whedon, J. (Writer & Director). (2003). Chosen. [Television series episode]. In Berman, G., Espenson, J., Fury, D., Gallin, S., Rubel Kazui, F., Kazui, K., Noxon, M., Petrie, D., & Whedon, J. (Executive Producers). Buffy the vampire slayer. Burbank, CA: The WB. Whedon, J. (Writer), & Smith, C. M. (Director). (1997). Welcome to the hellmouth. [Television series episode]. In Berman, G., Gallin, S., Greenwalt, D., Rubel Kazui, F., Kazui, K., Solomon, D., & Whedon, J. (Executive Producers), Buffy the vampire slayer. Burbank, CA: The WB. Wright, J. M. (2008). Latchkey hero: Masculinity, class, and the gothic in Eric Kripke’s Supernatural. Genders 47. Wright, J. M. (2016). Men with stakes: Masculinity and the gothic in U.S. television. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Yockey, S. (Writer), & Tapping, A. (Director). (2017). Various & sundry villains. [Television series episode]. In Berens, R., Buckner, B., Carver, J., Dabb, A., Michaels, J., Ross-Leming, E., Sgriccia, P., & Singer, R. (Executive Producers), Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: The CW.

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Chapter 12

Depictions of Gender, Homes and Families in the TV Version of The Exorcist Samantha Holland



In this chapter, I will examine the depiction of gender in ten episodes of the first season of the TV version of The Exorcist (2016 2017), using the themes of families, domestic violence and homes as a springboard for the discussion. The chapter will consider the boundaries, limitations and possibilities of the home, especially for women, and the gender roles and expectations that still face women within homes and families. There are two main elements to the depiction of gender roles in the first season which are women’s (often thwarted) relationship to power in the workplace: how domesticity and power are at odds, and how women experience domestic violence (in this case, represented by demonic possession) in a domestic setting. The first season centres on the Rance family, who are a White, well-off, urban family living in Chicago. Two family members have recently been involved in accidents, and Angela believes that there are voices in the walls of her house and that her eldest daughter may be possessed by a demon. Events quickly unfold against a backdrop of an impending visit by the Pope to Chicago. Angela Rance is played by Geena Davis, who has in the past had roles which challenge gender roles and/or were explicitly feminist, most notably Thelma and Louise (1991), A League of Their Own (1992), Cutthroat Island (1995) and Long Kiss Goodnight (1996). The character of Angela Rance/Regan MacNeil is an interesting and rare character in the relatively narrow gendered confines of the horror genre in that although she is a woman older than 50 years, she is portrayed as physically attractive, and when the season begins, she is both confident and successful and shows leadership and competence in her job. The original film (1973, William Friedkin), based on the novel by William Peter Blatty, was about a preadolescent girl, and Regan MacNeil who was saved from demon possession by two male priests: Father Lankester Merrin and Father/Dr Damian Karras. As Ian Olney (2014, p. 561) notes, The Exorcist film

Gender and Contemporary Horror in Television, 151 161 r Samantha Holland All rights of reproduction in any form reserved doi:10.1108/978-1-78769-103-220191013


Samantha Holland

sought ‘to maintain the heteronormative status quo by repressing the spectre of homosexuality invoked by priestly fraternisation’. Similarly, in the TV version, Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) is subtly shown to be gay (in a scene where his gaze meets the eye of another man in a bar), whereas Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) is explicitly shown to be heterosexual. Throughout the first season, Tomas’s sexual appetites are stronger than his priestly convictions, and this comes to the fore when he has sex with a married woman. Although we see him agonising over his attraction to Jessica, he chooses to initiate sex with her nonetheless. The television viewer is therefore left with no doubt that the two male priests are not attracted to each other. The film made in the era of the second-wave Women’s Liberation Movement, just after the Stonewall Riots of 1969 and the same year as the Roe vs Wade case addressed this and other anxieties of the time. For example, noticeably about young women and sexuality, and about the fracturing of the nuclear family and the rise of the single-parent family, most commonly with a woman seen as the head of the household. The film (to which there are references in several episodes of the TV version) showed how Chris MacNeil (played by Ellen Burstyn in the film and Sharon Gless on TV), a working actress and single mother often left her 12-year-old daughter Regan (played by Linda Blair) alone or unsupervised, thus allowing a demon (Captain Howdy/Pazuzu) to prey on Regan’s loneliness and insecurities. Some of these social anxieties are also included in the TV version, despite an interval of more than four decades between the two versions, a period during which women had strived to achieve parity.



As has been argued elsewhere (Holland, 2013), women often conflate leisure and domestic work activities in the home and can find satisfaction and even pleasure in those activities; however, it remains more problematic for women to leave the home to undertake leisure activities and hobbies than for men, especially when they have children (Holland, 2009). But as Betsy Wearing (1998) points out, the home is also a space where women can achieve some sort of agency. Nonetheless, historically, women have been associated with the kitchen, with cooking and cleaning and maintaining both the house and the people in it, no matter how much they earn or work outside the home. Women of all ages still perform most of the housework (Horne et al., 2017; Nitsche & Grunow, 2016). Therefore, Angela Rance is not typical. Whilst there is no mention of the Rance family having a maid or cleaner, there is no indication that Angela has previously cooked or cleaned. Throughout Season 1, the viewer is reminded that Angela’s success at work has come at a price: that is, she has not been a housewife, cook and hands-on parent. For example, in episode 2, Angela apologizes to her youngest daughter Casey for not being at her lacrosse game. However, Casey’s older sister, Kat retorts that she went because ‘someone should be there’. None of the family seem to expect Henry, the husband and father, to go. There are several references to Angela’s lack of domesticity and

Depictions of Gender, Homes and Families


none to Henry’s during family mealtimes: when Casey says ‘Dinner’s good, mom. You’re really good at this whole cooking thing’ in episode 2, Henry exclaims, ‘You’re cooking?’ in episode 4. In episode 5, Angela is cleaning but this is clearly a sign of her distress, just as later in the same episode when she starts to organize a large pile of family photographs, saying that the task has gone undone for years. This begs the question: could Henry never do such domesticated tasks? In episode 8, when Angela’s reawakening of the demon Pazuzu within her becomes apparent and shortly before she kills Chris, she says scathingly, ‘We could cross-stitch pillows together that say “Mom. A Girl’s Best Friend”. Or we could burn our mouths on the soup you and I make from scratch’. Here, we see that domesticity is alien to both Angela and Chris: Chris takes Angela’s sarcasm at face-value because she sees the scenario as unfeasible and bordering on even the comical. The progress of the demon’s invasion of the Rance home is in stages, but it is not until episode 3 that it is directly seen inside the home. Angela says, ‘There are things going on in the house, my house. I come down in the morning and all the chairs have been moved away from the table. Or the bookshelves, all of the books on the floor. There are voices inside the walls.’ Father Tomas encounters the demon in the form of Casey wearing a white nightdress, for the first time in the attic (episode 1). The nightdress is a significant component of the horror genre, not only because children (signifying purity) wear nightdresses but because most people sleep nude beneath them. This state of ‘covered’ nakedness reveals people as being helpless when sleeping. This helplessness also becomes a form of both virginal-like sexuality and vulnerability, where both states ‘are heightened because she is a comely maiden wearing a nightdress’ (Grant, 2015, p. 4). The nightdress remains significant because of its connection to the bedroom and the bed, places that are expected to be both safe and comfortable. As Kimberly Jackson (2016, p. 1) reminds us, ‘the nuclear family has always been the focus of the horror genre and the site where gender relations and tensions often play themselves out [where] horror films are located in the spaces where such anxieties are born: the family home’. Traditionally, homes have been where women are contained, oppressed even and the home is not necessarily a safe space for many women. The teenage girls’ bedroom represents both childhood and burgeoning sexuality and is a key site of struggle in The Exorcist, both in the original film and in the TV series. ‘Bedroom culture’ is also a central concept in feminist scholarship, in which girls are more likely to be found in their bedrooms, consuming popular culture and music rather than outside the home producing it, and thereby developing physicality and agency and subcultural capital (Lincoln, 2014; McRobbie & Garber, 1991; Thornton, 1995). But Casey’s room is gradually encroached upon by the demon in stages, through what Grant (2015, p. 6) calls ‘the monstrous penetration of the bedroom’. This takes place in stages: insects are found under her pillow; Casey vomits in her bathroom; the demon sits in a chair watching her dress, looking relaxed and familiar with his surroundings. Finally, the room is emptied of Casey’s belongings, boarded up, padded with mattresses and fitted with chains. This idea of the bedroom as the sanctuary of the teenage girl is


Samantha Holland

echoed from the movie when it is revealed that Angela had not integrated with the demon after all. Instead, it transpires that she had actually hidden herself in her childhood bedroom as an interior protective sanctuary within herself, in her psyche: ‘I thought I got every last piece of you […] You’ve been hiding from me […] Little Rags found herself a burrow, all those years ago. A place where you wouldn’t feel anything at all’. This internal bedroom is where Angela has her final showdown with the demon, illustrating how the bedroom represents Angela’s (and teenage girls’) power and sense of self, as well as their need for a safe space to retreat to. In the middle-class neighbourhood of the Rance family, we see no children playing, no neighbour hails a Rance as they arrive or leave their house, no friends or family phone or visit, and no aunts or cousins are mentioned. Kat had a relationship with Julia (seen very briefly in episode 3, Season 1) but there is nothing to suggest that her family had met her. Casey seems to have no friends at all including no boyfriend or girlfriend. Henry is angry that Angela lied about her mother being dead (episode 6) but nothing is ever said about his own parents, even when Chris arrives and Kat is trying to decide whether to refer to her as ‘grandmother’. Kat briefly interacts with other ballet dancers at Julia’s memorial, and Angela has a short business meeting with Maria Walters. But the Rance family exists in a strange vacuum: their world is a bubble containing just the four of them and later, briefly, Chris. Their contact with anyone else (medical staff, Mother Bernadette, an attacker on the train, the police) is fleeting and often fraught, but quickly concluded. During their visits to St Anthony’s Church, they talk only to Father Tomas. They are almost entirely isolated, even in a big city in the age of social media. Perhaps this is the point; big cities and social media mean we may ‘know’ more people but we do not know them truly. But as Lorna Jowett (2017) argues, women in horror often operate without female friends and often in opposition to other women (although Buffy Summers appears to be a notable exception to that rule). Friends, mentors, saviours and influencers almost always tend to be male. Women are defined by at least one of the following: monstrosity, passivity or victimhood. All of these are behaviours which can either destroy or repel friendships, and behaviours which both Angela and Casey Rance experience at some point. Even when their house is literally besieged by the press and the public, the Rances are alone, and running the gauntlet of a yelling mob right outside their front door: as Jackson (2016, p. 8) says, ‘Until just recently the general trend in horror has been to place the family under siege, only to re-establish the patriarchal order at the end’. The Exorcist does place the family under siege, and patriarchal order is eventually restored: in the final scene of the final episode Angela is physically incapacitated in a wheelchair, and Henry is the active, upright one.


Power and Workplace

There are two ambitious, successful women in The Exorcist: one is Angela Rance, the other is Maria Walters. Both are married to men who are ill in some

Depictions of Gender, Homes and Families


way and need extra care. The two characters are opposites, ultimately representing ‘good’ and ‘bad’ yet whilst Maria experiences disappointment and anger, Angela undergoes physical violence and fear. Angela is tall, beautiful, imposing and successful; she has 400 employees under her in her job and is the head of her household because her husband has suffered a brain injury in a recent freak accident at work. She has two daughters. In the first scene of episode 1, Angela is conducting a telephone conversation with a work colleague; it becomes clear that she wants to solve a problem at work but cannot because she has to stay at home to care for her husband. The caller says to her ‘go be with your family’ at which point Angela makes a frustrated noise, indicating that she would rather be able to go to work. As this conversation progresses the camera pans across a hall table crowded with framed family photographs, implying that this is a close-knit family or, at least, a long established one. The physical contrasts between the two women are stark, harking back to the blonde angel/dark devil of film noir: Angela is tall and slim, Maria is not; Angela has long fair hair, Maria has short dark hair. Maria is childless, and extremely wealthy, although she states that the money came from her husband, whilst it is not made clear whether she caused her husband’s illness in order to gain control of his wealth. Maria is portrayed as an unfulfilled woman, a large and overweight woman, who is seemingly both generous (she gives money to help Father Tomas save his parish) and pious and whose glamour comes from her money and her clothes. Both women have the privilege of being white and wealthy. Nonetheless, both encounter misogyny where female success is punished. Maria is told repeatedly by men of power around her that she has an air of desperation about her, of weakness. In episode 10, Father Simon says to Maria ‘know your place’, showing her that she may not be chosen to be integrated with a demon and she may encounter a glass ceiling even here, despite her wealth and loyalty. In the same episode, Father Marcus goads Maria, recognizing how she has been thwarted and overlooked because of her sex, age and physical size: How many times have you been passed over for someone younger, more desirable? How many times did they choose a man instead? You give them some sweet girl, they can’t wait to pluck that flower. But show them a couple of miles on the clock and who do they go for? A man. As Ian Olney (2014, p. 561) argues of the original film, ‘while seemingly invested in the spectacle of the rebellious, possessed female body [The Exorcist] actually works to preserve the patriarchal order by purging it of the monstrousfeminine’. In the same way, the TV version repeatedly punishes women who pursue careers, women whose ambition and success has made them monstrous. Female ambition is constantly punished. Angela is shown to be domestically ‘monstrous’: incompetent in the kitchen and a loving but inattentive mother. She is unwillingly obliged to put family before career after Henry’s accident.


Samantha Holland

Her daughter Kat is angry with her for constantly putting her career first. In turn, Angela is angry with her own mother for leaving her at home alone to go out to work. Kat is a successful ballerina but is involved in a car accident, killing her girlfriend, and injuring herself; afterwards, she does not return to dancing. Maria is wealthy and well-connected but cannot quite get past the barriers to advancement that her sex puts in place (Maria’s comeuppance does not occur until Season 2, which I do not discuss in this chapter). In the world of The Exorcist, being a woman means being subjected to horror from both the ‘real’ and the ‘unreal’ world.



Clover (1995) would argue that the themes played out in The Exorcist are inherently ‘feminine’ (rather than female) in that they focus on many of the key issues around gender roles, such as mother daughter relationships, and home and domesticity, with a female lead actor known for previously playing strong female and feminist characters. Throughout Season 1, The Exorcist examines the complex relationships between mothers and daughters, where love, resentment and misunderstanding hold equal sway. Angela’s relationship with her elder daughter is often tense or hostile, and Casey steps in as a peace-maker. Angela’s perception of Kat as the most difficult daughter influences her initial belief that it is Kat who is possessed by a demon. Later, the viewer finds out that Chris is the mother of Angela (Regan/Rags), which uncovers old feelings of abandonment and betrayal. In horror, ‘the psychological and physical torture inflicted on the families, the horrors they endure, the sense of isolation and abandonment, suggest that the issues confronting gender identity and the nuclear family in the twenty-first century are grave indeed’ (Jackson, 2016, p. 5). The Rance women are not the only female family members in The Exorcist. There are other families who are connected not by blood but by belief and purpose. The nuns at the convent are an autonomous, matriarchal and maternal family, where they are all ‘sisters’, and led by Mother Bernadette. When a policeman refers to her as Sister she sharply corrects him: ‘Mother’. The nuns heal with love, acceptance, trust and forgiveness; they heal with singing and prayer. They pray to Mary, the Mother. Their convent is a peaceful place but is invaded by men and demons, leading to its destruction and their deaths. There are other ‘family’ groups which represent chaos, disorder and physical pain, which are led by or dominated by men. One such group are the Friars of Ascension who are a group of powerful people, primarily men (sitting around the table there are 13 men and five women, and a man is chosen to become a vessel of evil much to Maria’s anger and disappointment). Later events show that the priesthood has been infiltrated by members of the Friars of Ascension, exemplified by St Aquinas, a retirement home for ‘broken’ priests, led by Father Simon, himself integrated with a demon. There are echoes of the many contextual revelations about paedophilia and abuse carried out by men in the Catholic church, such as in the film Spotlight (2016, Tom McCarthy) and in the serialized

Depictions of Gender, Homes and Families


documentary The Keepers (2017). In the church of The Exorcist, we find Fathers and sons, and God as the ultimate Father (‘Our Father’) called upon during exorcisms to banish the demons. The delineation of good and evil in The Exorcist is often blurred. The Exorcist mines many established tropes of modern horror, engaging with societal morés and moral panics such as family or marriage breakdown, sexuality, infidelity, homelessness and loss of faith. Grant (2015, p. 1) notes that horror movies made in the 1950s reflected ‘a period when popular culture was emphatically repositioning women within domestic space’. Kimberly Jackson (2016, p. 7) outlines how the horror film developed in its attitudes to families: in the 1950s and 1960s, families were seen as a moral centre which offered and needed protection; in the 1960s and 1970s, the family was morally compromised, mainly by feminism, and women were blamed for breaking family structures and were punished with demonic offspring; in the 1980s, the blame shifted to the father, with children and women as victims: ‘paternal failure and madness is common’ (Jackson, 2016, p. 15). The Rances are the only nuclear family portrayed in The Exorcist even the priests were both orphaned as children, with Tomas sent to live with his grandmother, and Marcus sent to live in an orphanage. Both situations resulted, in different ways, in them becoming priests and exorcists. The Rance family has been dealt two terrible blows in the recent past. Henry Rance suffered a brain injury following a freak accident at work. As a result of his injury, Henry says very little is often confused and treated like a child; in this respect, Henry’s character seems to occupy the one-dimensional role usually given to the wife of a male protagonist. The second blow is when Katherine was in a car accident which killed her girlfriend, Julia causing Kat to become depressed and reclusive. It eventually transpires that both ‘accidents’ were caused by Pazuzu as part of his plan to entrap and destroy Angela and her family. In episode 2, in a metaphor for the precarious nature of family life, the Rances play a game of Jenga where the removal of one piece can bring all the others crashing down. Casey, possessed by the demon, removes a load-bearing piece but for several moments the structure still stands, to everyone’s amazement. Casey/Pazuzu stares at Angela, letting her know that she/Pazuzu has the power to keep the family together, or let it break up.


Domestic Violence

Silver argues that ‘Horror is based on recognizing in the unfamiliar something familiar, something attractive even as it is repulsive’ (Silver & Ursini, 2004, p. 5). By replacing ‘horror’ with ‘domestic violence’, those suffering domestic violence (and it is overwhelmingly women) often see in their attacker a ‘familiar’ who once wooed them, but who is a now-repulsive person brutalizing them. Arguably, Season 1 is an extended rumination on the insidious destructive results of domestic violence, albeit through the employment of religion/belief and demonic possession as a prism to explore those issues. Male horror directors such as Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter and Wes Craven shone a light on social


Samantha Holland

anxieties by creating worlds defined by darkness, and homes where no-one and nowhere is safe. Bedrooms, and certainly not the gap under the bed, are not. Neither are garages, wardrobes, laundry rooms and all the familiar places that should be safe in their daily mediocrity. For the horror genre, horror (and with it domestic violence) transforms these areas into places of murder and mayhem. Domestic violence is at the heart of the home, committed by the very person who often claims to love you the best. In England and Wales, approximately 1.9 million adults aged 16 59 years experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2017, of which 1.2 million were women and 713,000 were men. About 70% of victims of domestic homicides recorded between April 2013 and March 2016 were females (Crime Survey for England and Wales, ONS). Similarly, the Femicide Census report in the UK (December 2017) revealed that 113 women were killed by men in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2016, of which 9 in 10 were murdered by someone they knew, 78 were killed by their current or former male partner, and 65 were killed in their own home. As the report clearly indicates, ‘By collating these femicides together in one report, we can see that these killings are not isolated incidents; too many of them follow a similar pattern of male violence against women’ (Women’s Aid). In the case of The Exorcist, the Rance’s well-furnished, suburban, neatly maintained house becomes Clover’s ‘Terrible Place, most often a house or tunnel, in which the victims sooner or later find themselves is a venerable element of horror’ (1995, p. 39). Websites to advise and assist those who experience domestic violence list common behaviours of abusers before they commit physical violence, which include being overly jealous and possessive; acting charming one minute, abusive the next; having sudden mood changes; being constantly critical of you in public; embarrassing their partner often in front of family and friends; playing mind games so partners are unsure of their own judgement; monitoring partner’s movements including checking phone and social media use; and threatening or intimidating acts. In The Exorcist, we can see that this list of behaviours arguably correlates to those experienced by Casey and earlier, by her mother when she was a child, at the hands of an abuser, in much the same way that abuse in families spans generations. Admittedly, the abuser is a demon in this case, but the argument remains the same. Angela explains to Chris that ‘at first he made me feel special’ (episode 5) and that she had no memories of the possession but that she felt dirty afterwards (episode 7). But in episode 8, Angela is transported to her own past, where she sees herself as a girl, on her own in a basement, and discovers/remembers that Pazuzu sexually assaulted her. She asks him, in fury and sorrow, ‘Why did you pick me?’ to which he sneers his reply, that it was not because she was special but because ‘you were under my foot, you stupid bitch’. There are many such analogies to domestic violence in The Exorcist. For example, in episode 4 the demon says to Casey that she made him hurt her because it was her fault. In episode 9, Angela/Pazuzu asks Casey how it felt to be possessed by the demon. Casey says ‘Like nothing about me was mine anymore.’ Angela/Pazuzu’s reply clearly indicates the threat and intimidation was Casey’s own fault: ‘Because he was inside you, right? It’s as deep as anyone can

Depictions of Gender, Homes and Families


get. It’s so intimate […] At a certain point you asked for it. So much shame for enjoying it.’ Victim-blaming is a common and recognized weapon in domestic violence: the perpetrator tells the victim that it is their behaviour, their appearance and their actions, which cause the violence; they are the trigger and the keeper of the perpetrator’s temper but it is the victim’s failure, not the offender, when tempers are lost and violence erupts. Like many real-life domestic abusers, the demon Pazuzu starts off as being charming, a confidant, taking Casey’s side, offering her gifts whilst simultaneously working to separate her from her family and friends. It becomes someone who pretends can save her, or help her to save herself. Father Marcus warns Casey, ‘Has he hurt you yet? Because he will.’ Angered by Marcus’s jibes, Pazuzu tells her she is ugly (episode 4). Following the incident with Father Marcus, Casey is getting ready to go to a memorial for Kat’s girlfriend Julia, who died in the car accident caused by Pazuzu. The demon encourages Casey to steal an expensive and revealing dress, and she is seen in front of a tall mirror being compelled by him to burn her genitals with a hot curling iron. The scene lingers on her face, on her expression of pain and horror and pleasure the very expression in pornography which has promulgated the view that females like, enjoy and continually want ‘rough’ sex no matter the situation or them saying ‘no’. This idea is echoed only a short time later, when Casey is assaulted by a male stranger on the train who says to her, as he threatens her ‘If you wanted it rough you only had to ask’. In this case, though Casey, possessed by Pazuzu, retaliates by attacking and seriously injuring him, abruptly shifting her from a passive victim to the avenging monstrous feminine. Transformation is a key theme of horror, where individuals, countries and eventually virtually whole worlds become vampires or zombies. This also happens when female characters change from weak to strong, despite themselves and despite what they feel able to do. Whereas the ‘Final Girl’ (Clover, 1995) is usually the person who seems least likely to be able to survive at the outset of the film, most notably seen in the character of Halloween’s Laure Strode (1978, John Carpenter), this is nothing new to cinema. A key element of the Woman’s Film of the 1930s through to the 1960s, is a form of onscreen transformation, where ‘Women frequently transform, either at key points in or over the narrative, sometimes on a physical level, sometimes in more abstract ways’ (Greven, 2011, p. 1). David Greven (Greven, 2011, p. 1) argues that the Woman’s Film did not die out but transformed into ‘female-centred modern horror in which the trope of female transformation not only persists but really flourishes’. It is not difficult to see this argument applied to the main female characters in The Exorcist, where they become narrative-centric and through which the main events unfold. Interestingly, the transformation of Angela an older woman, a mother into the ‘Final Girl’ closely follows Clover’s ideas, when she finds enough strength and resolve in herself to fight back against Pazuzu, despite the horrors and the tortures she has endured. Although Angela is afraid of the demon, and although she believes she cannot defeat him even though she has before, she


Samantha Holland

finds in herself reserves of courage. Kimberly Jackson (2016, p. 10) describes ‘a final showdown in which various modes of femininity mothers, wives […] daughters, sisters enter into violent negotiations’. In The Exorcist, the final scenes are of Tomas, Kat, Casey and Henry praying together to vanquish the demon and, internally, Angela using the last of her courage and resolve to attack the demon and beat him to death. She shouts that she is tired of being afraid and he replies ‘You have no right to do this. You’re just a damn woman’. Angela Rance may overcome the demon in her life but is left physically damaged, without her mother, and away from her home and career. This sounds less like victory than punishment but reflects the reality of domestic abuse.



The Exorcist examines gender roles and gendered behaviours reflecting many of the concerns of contextual times, and it also echoes many of the very same concerns of the original film, made almost half a century ago. In particular, the TV version often centres on women’s relationships and women talking to women: Maria to Angela, Angela to her daughters, Chris to Angela and Mother Bernadette to Angela. Angela remains virtually central to most of the interactions and plot actions throughout the series. Nonetheless, The Exorcist is set in an explicitly misogynistic world, where human males and demons brutalize and marginalize women, as has been demonstrated with dialogue such as ‘Know your place’ and ‘You’re just a damn woman’, where male perpetrators choose the younger, gentler daughter for their abuse, and overlook the older woman for reward. Patriarchal family structures are replicated across the different groups, whereas the two family groups led by women experience terrible violence and punishment. Misogyny is implicit, such as the anger at Angela for being career-focused instead of being domesticated, and the scorn directed at Maria for wanting to have power. Usually in horror it is women’s bodies which are tortured, beaten, stabbed, after they have been stalked and terrorized. In the real world, domestic violence is an everyday occurrence, which is then replicated and played out in melodramatic stages across Season 1 of The Exorcist. In the real world, grooming, possession (of a sort) and the violence meted out against a victim has a clear trajectory. In the case of The Exorcist, this is the same, but played out in horror conventions. Angela, Kat and Casey and also Maria all become victims both within and outside the domestic (and business) sphere. Likewise, the oldest woman, Chris, is murdered at home. Much of the season takes place within the Rance house, where Angela starts to have feelings of suffocation and dread, which eventually lead to her being trapped in a tiny ‘safe space’ in her psyche. Even when Angela and Casey Rance are able to reclaim some measure of emotional autonomy, Angela continues to be physically trapped in a wheelchair. She may have become ‘a clean Regan’ but the experience of demonic/domestic violence has changed her life forever.

Depictions of Gender, Homes and Families


References Clover, C. J. (1995). Men, women and chainsaws. Gender in the modern horror film. London: BFI Publishing. Grant, B. K. (Ed.). (2015). The dread of difference: Gender and the horror film. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. Greven, D. (2011). Representations of femininity in American genre cinema: The woman’s film, film noir, and modern horror. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Holland, S. (2009). Preparation + determination: 3 Vignettes of gendered leisure. Journal of Gender Studies, 18(1), 35 45. Holland, S. (2013). Three generations of women’s leisure: Changes, challenges and continuities. Journal of Gender Studies, 22(3), 309 319. Horne, R. M. et al. (2017). Time, money, or gender? Predictors of the division of household labour across life stages. Sex Roles. doi:10.1007/s11199-017-0832-1 Jackson, K. (2016). Gender and the nuclear family in twenty-first-century horror. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Jowett, L. (2017). ‘The Final Girl? Isolated heroines and the absence of female friendship in teen horror’. Panel Presentation presented to: Investigating Identities in Young Adult (YA) Narratives, The University of Northampton, 13 December 2017. Lincoln, S. (2014, August). “I’ve Stamped My Personality All Over It”: The meaning of objects in teenage bedroom space. Space & Culture, 17(3), 266 279. McRobbie, A., & Garber, J. (1991). Girls and subcultures. In A. McRobbie (Ed.), Feminism and youthculture. From Jackie to Just Seventeen. London: Macmillan. Nitsche, N., & Grunow, D. (2016). Housework over the course of relationships: Gender ideology, resources, and the division of housework from a growth curve perspective. Advances in Life Course Research, 29, 80 94. Olney, I. (2014). Unmanning The Exorcist: Sex, gender and excess in the 1970s eurohorror possession film. Quarterly Review of Film and Video, 31(6), 561 571. Silver, A., & Ursini, J. (Eds.). (2004). Horror film reader. New York, NY: Limelight Editions. Thornton, S. (1995). Club cultures. Music, media and subcultural capital. London: Polity Press. Wearing, B. (1998). Leisure and feminist theory. London: Sage.

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Chapter 13

How iZombie Rethinks the Zombie Paradigm Dahlia Schweitzer

Contemporary zombie cinema is known for exploring what the end of the world might look like, with its widespread infections, biological warfare gone haywire, uncontrollable violence, chaos, and looting, all of which are images that resonate in a post-9/11 America. The chilling aspect is not that the world might fall apart, but that it is already happening. This is a crucial component in recent zombie narratives; they depict a world that, while fantastical, still seems fairly plausible, if not inevitable. In 2015, an article by John Knefel in Rolling Stone was titled ominously ‘Apocalypse Soon: 9 Terrifying Signs of Environmental Doom and Gloom’, and listed numerous reasons for this: rising sea levels, earthquake threats, and oil spills, and more, and that the world as we know it might be ending. As outlined in Going Viral: Zombies, Viruses, and the End of the World, our real-life backdrop of economic crises, never-ending war, increasingly obvious climate change, environmental pollution, and corrupt politicians often leaves one feeling as if the only viable alternative is a zombie apocalypse (Schweitzer, 2018). Based on the comic book series of the same name created by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred in 2010, iZombie (the television series) was brought to the CW network by Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright in 2015. The show would manage to rethink the entire zombie paradigm. Not only does it envision how zombies would manifest in everyday life, without the requisite apocalypse, but it also subverts the antiquated gender politics common to the genre. The show’s protagonist, Olivia ‘Liv’ Moore (played by Rose McIver) catches the ‘zombie virus’ while attending a party. Prompted by the transformation, Moore rethinks her career path as a heart surgeon, as well as ending her relationship with her fiancé. In order to facilitate her access to brains, Moore gets a job at the King County morgue, where she can covertly eat the brains of the bodies as they arrive. Her boss, Dr Ravi Chakrabarti (Rahul Kohli), soon figures out Moore’s condition and becomes determined to help her find a cure. In so doing,

Gender and Contemporary Horror in Television, 163 173 r Dahlia Schweitzer All rights of reproduction in any form reserved doi:10.1108/978-1-78769-103-220191014


Dahlia Schweitzer

the show both complicates the traditional zombie narrative and adds a totally unexpected level of richness, nuance, and satire. Despite iZombie’s postmodern reboot of virtually every zombie trope, zombies are not a new creation. Zombies have been lurking on the peripheries of American culture since the publication of William Seabrook’s The Magic Island, a journalistic expose of Haitian voodoo culture, in 1929. Directly inspired by the book, Victor Halperin’s White Zombie would be released in 1932, bringing zombies to American movie screens. As the first zombie film, White Zombie would also go to great lengths to make sure audiences understood what was at play. Not only did the ‘opening titles launch the word across the screen a letter at a time: Z-O-M-B-I-E, but one of the characters explains: “They are not men, monsieur. They are dead bodies. The living dead. Corpses taken from their graves and made to work”’ (Luckhurst, 2015, pp. 81 82). It would take about a decade, and the onset of World War II, for other zombie films to follow, including: The Ghost Breakers (Marshall, 1940), King of the Zombies (Yarbrough, 1941), Revenge of the Zombies (Sekely, 1943), I Walked with a Zombie (Tourneur, 1943), Voodoo Man (Beaudine, 1944), and Zombies on Broadway (Douglas, 1945). Some aimed to repeat the horror of White Zombie; some, like Revenge of the Zombies, stayed contextually current by integrating evil Nazis with zombies, a combination that would continue to bear fruit, even recently with the Nazi Zombie game mode in various releases of the Call of Duty (Ward, 2008) videogame or with the film Dead Snow (Wirkola, 2009), while others, like The Ghost Breakers, opted for a more-parodic approach to their subject matter. In addition to these minor variations, there would be a major shift in the figure of the zombie after World War II. The image of a solitary and hulking monster, or of a ‘gang of pitiful slaves under a single master’ would be replaced with ‘an anonymous, overwhelming mass’ (Roger Luckhurst, 2015, p. 109). Another change would be the integration of radiation or nuclear bombs into the narrative, as well as deadly and out-of-control technology, as both an explanation for the source of the monster and yet another threat. In Teenage Zombies (Warren, 1960), for example, a mad scientist backed by foreign agents turns kidnapped teenagers into zombies using an experimental nerve gas. In Night of the Living Dead (Romero, 1968), the zombies are caused by radiation from a fallen space satellite. The 1980s not only featured Romero’s third zombie feature, Day of the Dead (1985), a depiction of a world overrun with zombies, but more zombie movies than any previous decade (Russell, 2005, p. 151). However, many of these would be cheaply and quickly made, with such titles as Bloodsuckers from Outer Space (Coburn, 1984), I Was a Teenage Zombie (Michalakis, 1987), and Beverly Hills Bodysnatchers (Mostow, 1989) indicating the poverty-row approach given to them. By the 1980s, and with massive strides made in make-up and sfx, zombie films were popping up everywhere. George A. Romero made Dawn of the Dead (1979), influencing other filmmakers like Dan O’Bannon to make films like Return of the Living Dead (1985), which was, itself, part of a production dispute between Romero and his original writer, John A. Russo and the Italian Lucio

How iZombie Rethinks the Zombie Paradigm


Fulci, who, with his slow-paced, though fascinating Zombie Flesh Eaters aka Zombi 2 (1979), City of the Living Dead (1980), The Beyond (1981) and The House by the Cemetery (1981) used advances in gore-fx to revolt audiences. But everything has its time, and the zombie film soon virtually all but petered out by the end of the decade. It would be in 1996, with Capcom’s release of the video game Resident Evil (1996), that zombies finally became a big budget affair. Originally called Baiohazādo, which translates literally to ‘Biohazard’, 23 different versions of the game have since been released, as well as comic books, seven novels, six films, two CGI films, and numerous action figures. The highest grossing film series to be based on video games of all time, the combined box office gross of all the Resident Evil films is over $1.2 billion (Box Office Mojo). Fittingly, Romero’s zombie films had been a key inspiration for the game (Luckhurst, 2015, p. 169). So far, the twenty-first century has been full of horror films including remakes, reboots and originals, and the preoccupation with zombies and the apocalypse now fills both television and movie screens. The move from niche to mainstream ‘zombiedom’ is evident. In 2005, Steven Wells from the Guardian exclaimed that ‘there were zombies everywhere’, while the New York Times declared a ‘zombie literary invasion’ in 2006 (Bishop, 2010, p. 10). This invasion continues, with over forty-one zombie-themed films listed for 2008 alone, and the most popular basic cable drama of recent years, The Walking Dead, AMC’s contribution to the zombie canon, debuted in 2010 and is still (at time of publication) still going strong. The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) lists the fifty most popular zombie films from 2015. Focusing only on the ‘most popular’, the list is not exhaustive, implying that there were many from which to choose. There are now seemingly too many to count. In fact, more films featuring the living dead have been released around the world since 2005 than in the previous seven decades combined (Russell, 2014, p. 186). In early Haitian incarnations of the zombie figure, as seen in White Zombie, a voodoo master controls and creates the early zombies. In contrast, the modern zombie terrifies because ‘no singular agent acts to possess the victim’s mind’ (Muntean, 2011, p. 83). The zombie’s individuality and mind are both blank, replaced only with an insatiable appetite. Modern zombies drift aimlessly and mindlessly, driven only by their search of food, an appropriate shift considering that de-centralized networks have become ‘the most common diagram of the modern era’ (Galloway, 2004, p. 31). This shift to de-centralized networks can be seen as directly linked to the deterioration of the traditional nation-state as globalization has grown in power and relevance, as illustrated by transnational labour, the global outsourcing of production, the growing distribution of products worldwide (cultural and otherwise), and the reliance on networked machines by military and law enforcement personnel. Political, economic, and social activities became worldwide in scope. In turn, as individual governments and nations saw their power erode, multinational corporations saw their power increase. This led to the further proliferation of decentralized networks into everyday life and everyday function. Media scholars Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker write that the ‘networks of


Dahlia Schweitzer

FedEx or AT&T can be seen as more important than that of the United States in terms of global economies, communication, and consumerism’ (Galloway & Thacker, 2007, p. 9). Corporations of this magnitude can now play a large role in ‘determining the economic, political, and social welfare of many nations’, allowing them to control ‘much of the world’s investment capital, technology, and access to global markets’ (Gilpin, 2002). The growth of these corporations and their networks further encouraged the shift from the vertical and hierarchical to the horizontal and networked. These shifts had another, more personal impact. As national identities evolved or evaporated, so, too, did traditional understandings of individual identity, rendered even weaker by the increased role of technology and the ensuing anonymity it fostered. Significantly, unlike Frankenstein or Dracula, zombies are stripped of their personal identity, losing their individuality as well as their connections to others. Or, as Marina Warner describes, a zombie represents ‘a body which has been hollowed out, emptied of selfhood’ (Warner, 2006, p. 357). While vampires and werewolves can be seen as representing attractive states of being (primal, sexual, emotional, intense, and charismatic), thus becoming hyperbolic versions of themselves, zombies become empty versions, with no identity or consciousness. Zombies are fuelled by a desire to consume vacantly, eating their way to the end of civilization, infecting us with their emptiness. Indeed, Warm Bodies (Levine, 2013), with the tag line ‘He was dead inside until he met her’, and the television show iZombie (2014 ) are two rare exceptions where the zombie has an actual point of view. Contemporary zombie narratives speak to a present-day America because of their portrayals of networks with indeterminable centralized figures, because of their emphasis on diminishing individuality and diminishing individual agency and because of the incorporation of our increasing fears of viral outbreak. Unlike the original Haitian voodoo zombie, who could only be created by a non-zombie, and unlike the zombie incarnation of the 1950s where the zombie outbreak would often be blamed on radiation, the contemporary zombie is frequently created via infection. Columnist Ezra Klein writes for The Washington Post that if ‘werewolves represent our fear of the wild, aliens our fear of the unknown and vampires our fear of sex, zombies represent our fear of infectious disease’ (Klein, 2015). While this fusion of zombies with viruses may feel like a new twist, the unity is not unprecedented, on or off screen. On screen, in White Zombie, Bela Lugosi played Murder Legendre, a voodoo master who turns his victims into zombies via potions that are little more than primitive pharmaceuticals. Steven Pokornowski, in his article ‘Insecure Lives: Zombies, Global Health, and the Totalitarianism of Generalization’, recounts a scene from the film in which Legendre describes zombification as a ‘curious medical experiment’ (2013, p. 200). Off screen, zombies and viruses also have commonality. In fact, during the early years of the HIV crisis, many believed that Haiti was the source for AIDS. Even the Journal of the American Medical Association speculated, under the headline ‘Night of the Living Dead’ that HIV might be ‘spread by Voodoo rituals using human blood’ (Luckhurst, 2015, p. 181). Conversely, Richard

How iZombie Rethinks the Zombie Paradigm


Preston, in his nonfiction thriller The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus, would describe Ebola as triggering ‘zombie-like behavior’ (1995, p. 98). Linking the zombie condition to a specific scientific or biological cause, as many of these recent films and television shows do, further reinforces the connection between science and zombies. The specificity of the connection also emphasizes anxieties about microbiological health interventions, as well as about the dissemination of pharmaceuticals without proper vetting and research. In Resident Evil (Anderson, 2002), for example, the zombies are a result of the Umbrella Corporation’s T-Virus. In 28 Days Later (Boyle, 2002), it is the Rage Virus, a manufactured virus similar to rabies, somehow caused or triggered by televised images of violence, that causes the zombie outbreak. In Resident Evil: Extinction (Mulcahy, 2007), Dr Sam Isaacs (Iain Glenn), the head of Umbrella Corporation’s Science Division, creates the zombie in his laboratory, accidentally turning himself into a monster in the process. In I Am Legend (Lawrence, 2007), the Krippen virus, a manufactured virus based on measles, produces the zombies. Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror (2007) also ascribes a scientific cause to the zombie outbreak. When one of the first men to catch the ‘zombie virus’ goes to a hospital, the doctor who examines him (Josh Brolin) originally describes the symptoms as ‘chronic viral lesions’ in advanced stages of gangrene and containing epidermal rot, with a ‘black, abscessed tongue’, all of which reshape the zombie as literally diseased and infected. The zombies in Zombieland (Fleischer, 2009) are the result of a mutated strain of mad cow disease that became ‘mad zombie disease’. While there is no specific virus in The Walking Dead, in Season 1, episode (‘TS-19’, tx. 10 December 2010), Dr Edwin Jenner (Noah Emmerich) documents how the walkers came to be using the words ‘microbial’, ‘parasitic’ and ‘fungal’, ascribing biological qualities to the walkers and their ‘infection’. He explains that the virus ‘invades the brain like meningitis’. Both infected and infectious, these new zombies are modern-day lepers, hyperbolic manifestations of the real-life viruses that lurk behind the television set or off the movie screen. Despite all these evolutions in the cause of the zombie condition, the treatment of sex and gender in traditional zombie cinema has largely remained the same. ‘Generally regressive and reactionary’, describes Ian Olney, writing that women in early zombie movies, like Victor Halperin’s White Zombie and William Beaudine’s Voodoo Man, were ‘reduced by black magic to little more than living dolls at the beck and call of male masters’ (2017, p. 83). In Eurohorror zombie films like Amando de Ossorio’s Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972) and Lucio Fulci’s The House by the Cemetery, the zombie outbreaks would be triggered, in fact, by ‘liberated femininity’ (p. 84). In other zombie films, Olney argues that the female body is either an erotic object, as in The Return of the Living Dead, or a source of horror, as in The Evil Dead (Raimi, 1981). Whatever the decade, whatever the basic plot points, ‘the zombie film has traditionally been indifferent or hostile to women’ (Olney, 2017, p. 84). If there is a strong female, such as the characters of Michonne (Danai Gurira) or Carol (Melissa McBride) in the television show The Walking Dead, she is still the exception


Dahlia Schweitzer

rather than the rule. And if there is a strong female, it is guaranteed that she is fighting zombies, not existing as one herself. This is precisely the point at which the recent CW television show iZombie dramatically rethinks the zombie paradigm. Not only does the show envision how zombies would manifest in everyday life, without the requisite apocalypse, but it also subverts the antiquated gender politics common to the genre by providing viewers with a female zombie protagonist, Olivia Moore (Rose McIver). Moore, through whose eyes the show is told, temporarily absorbs personality traits and memories belonging to the brains she eats, from frat boy to magician, stripper to housewife, journalist to painter. This device creates such a cornucopia of roles for McIver to explore that it brings to mind the work of American photographer Cindy Sherman, best known for her portraits of herself as a wide range of women. The constant evolution and complexity of Moore’s personality provides the rarity that is a multi-dimensional (zombie) woman on TV. Not only does the character of Olivia Moore offer viewers an alternate perspective on zombies, one where the zombie is not only highly functional, but also female and with plenty of agency, but the ‘zombie virus’, rather than being a death sentence for Moore, actually provides liberation and opportunity for personal exploration. Prior to becoming a zombie, Moore had been an overachieving medical student, on track to becoming a heart surgeon. However, she trades in that future for one in the morgue so as to facilitate her steady diet of brains. In iZombie, if a zombie goes too long without brains, they become a ‘Romero zombie’, indicative of the more classic zombie stereotype, where all traces of humanity have been eradicated, and the zombie is driven only by the mindless pursuit of brains. However, thanks to her steady diet of easily accessible brains, Moore avoids this uncomfortable transition. She both performs her various duties in the morgue, as well as volunteering her time to help Seattle cop Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin) solve homicides. Thanks to her ability to channel the victims’ memories by eating their brains, Moore proves to be a remarkable asset for Babineaux. Beyond Moore’s skill at making the most of a difficult situation, her zombie status actually becomes a blessing in disguise. In the episode ‘Brother, Can You Spare a Brain?’ (24 March 2015), Moore says, There were so many nights I could have been with Major that I stayed home studying. Days I could have spent sucking the marrow out of life, I spent building a résumé for a life I’d never have. There were parts of me that were dead even before I became a zombie. So maybe that means it’s possible for parts of me to spring to life, even now that I’m dead. Prior to catching the zombie virus, Moore had been focused so singlemindedly on one career path that she overlooked everything else. She even alludes to her desire to be different, to feel more alive, after the death of Holly White (Tasya Teles), a former sorority sister, in the episode ‘Flight of the Living

How iZombie Rethinks the Zombie Paradigm


Dead’ (14 April 2015). Holly was ‘adventurous and free’ Moore recounts, in marked contrast to her own ‘disciplined and safe’ persona. ‘Even though I didn’t understand her’, Moore says via voiceover, ‘part of me wished I could be her’. The thing is, however, that by eating some of Holly’s brains, Moore does adopt elements of Holly’s adventurous persona, soon zipping around the rainy Seattle streets on a bicycle, ready for any escapade. It is this ability to adopt elements from the personalities of the people she eats that allows Moore to develop a complexity of character not commonly seen on television, where female characters are frequently one-dimensional, accessories for the men who drive the plots. The popular late-night comedy show Saturday Night Live (NBC, 1975 ) specifically spoofed this phenomenon through their ‘One-Dimensional Female Character Sketch’ (performed by Cecily Strong). Debuting in 2014 on the show’s ‘Weekend Update’ segment, the “onedimensional female character from a male-driven comedy” highlights not only the limited portrayals of women in movies, but also ‘the ridiculous tropes that a lot of male-driven comedies tend to perpetuate—like a female character’s attractiveness simply being obscured by a pair of large-framed glasses’ (Lane, 2016). On one episode of the show that aired on 16 April 2016 (‘Saturday Night Live with host Julia Louis-Dreyfus’), Strong, as the ‘One-Dimensional Female Character’ explains that if she gets too angry, she is not ‘sexy anymore’. Her character explains: ‘I’m just a nag, and I’m not old enough to play the nag. You have to be 28 for that. I’m somewhere between 18 and 27, but I date 40 and up—the fatter the better’. In fact, the character hits so close to home that many of the jokes in Strong’s sketches fall flat. Jos Truitt, Executive Director of Feministing, a publication by and for young feminists, writes that ‘female characters in pop fiction rarely get to be full, complex people’ (2013). Similarly, journalist Kat George writes that ‘Women as a collective force, have not yet challenged us in film and television […] [W]e haven’t yet been truly asked to accept women as fully active, autonomous, erratic beings within the cinematic sphere’ (2013). While this sweeping generalization does not apply to all women, of course, it does apply to many, once again marking the rule rather than the exception. On iZombie, Moore addresses this one-dimensionality in the episode ‘Abra Cadaver’ (17 November 2015), when she explains that she may always be Britney (as in Britney Spears), but sometimes she is ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ Britney, and sometimes, she is ‘Shaved Head, Smashing Car Windows’ Britney. With this statement, Moore acknowledges that it is possible for the same person to be both a vixen in a Catholic schoolgirl uniform and an angry and emotional woman cutting off her hair and smashing car windows. The two personalities can co-exist within the same body. Or, as Moore’s boss, Ravi Chakrabarti, puts it, Moore is ‘a bit mercurial’ (‘Method Head’, 12 January 2016). While this statement may seem derisive, it also acknowledges how different Moore is from so many of her on screen counterparts who are known for their character’s consistency or one-dimensionality, while also emphasizing how much more mercurial ‘zombie Moore’ is than ‘original Moore’.


Dahlia Schweitzer

In the episode ‘Virtual Reality Bites’ (CW, 21 April, 2015), Moore reminisces via voiceover that, prior to her zombie status, she had been ‘sure about everything with Major’, her former fiancé, played by Robert Buckley. She says: ‘There was no debating whether or not he was the one. I didn’t worry I’d get bored of being with the same person year after year. He was it for me. I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with Major. And I guess I did. But apparently my death is a new chapter. Bizarre as that may be’. Death, for Moore, provides her with a way to rethink her life, a freedom from the ten-year plan she had mapped out and colour-coded, as she puts it in the show’s pilot episode (17 March 2015). Becoming a zombie provides her with freedom from the one-dimensional life she had otherwise been destined. Becoming a zombie also provides her with her the freedom to pursue alternate career paths, without the traditional pursuit of matrimony and career success forcing her hand. Rather than remaining focused on the relentless hunt for a very specific ideal life, becoming a zombie provides Moore with opportunity to explore beyond the realm of the comfortable, the familiar, and the socially acceptable. Suddenly, marriage and a career as a heart surgeon are both replaced with a more uncertain (yet adventurous) outlook. Moore’s frequent use of voiceover is also worth mentioning. Karen Hollinger, when analysing the work of German film director Margarethe von Trotta, writes that von Trotta ‘allows her female characters to tell their own stories, something rarely done in mainstream film. Most of von Trotta’s films are told from the female perspective, using introductory framing scenes and voice-over that clearly identify the female protagonist as the source of the narrative’ (2012, p. 241). Kaja Silverman echoes Hollinger’s argument about the scarcity of female voiceover in cinema, writing that, instead, the female subject ‘is associated with unreliable, thwarted, or acquiescent speech…excluded from positions of discursive authority both inside and outside the diegesis’ (1990, pp. 309 310). The voiceover traditionally conveys agency and authority, literally demonstrated by the power to narrate, thereby controlling the viewer’s impression of both characters and events. It is not only that Moore has permission to be ‘mercurial’, with all the complexity that entails, but that she also has the power to narrate our journey through that complexity. At the same time, that iZombie added nuance to the character of the zombie through the creation of a ‘female feminist narrator zombie’ the show also added an extra shade to the contemporary zombie text’s reliance on the trope of infection, portraying ‘zombie-ness’ as a chronic contagious illness with many similarities to HIV. The concept of ‘zombie-ness’ as a contagious infection is used not only to complicate the show’s narrative, but also to force Moore to re-examine her life fully, separate from her imminent nuptials. For instance, in Season 1, ep. 3 (‘The Exterminator’ 31 March 2015), Liv tells her boss that she had to break up with Major once she became a zombie because she could not risk giving him ‘the big “Z”’. Ravi agrees with Liv that zombie blood ‘could be a contaminant’ and without any effective prophylactic, intimacy is too dangerous to risk. This not only forces Moore to spend time alone, but it also forces her to date again, as well as to re-evaluate her relationship with Major.

How iZombie Rethinks the Zombie Paradigm


As a result, there is much conversation on iZombie about how to have sex without spreading the zombie virus. Moore insists that people with HIV have sex without infecting their partners, so the same should apply to those with the zombie virus. However, Chakrabarti insists that condoms will not protect against the transmission of the zombie virus because it is ‘a hundredth the size of a typical virus’ (‘Max Wager’ 10 November 2015). In an earlier episode (‘Love & Basketball’ 3 November 2015), Liv reluctantly tells her ex-fiancé, with whom she has reunited, that they need to stop kissing because ‘We don’t know enough about how zombie is transferred’. Concerned about transmission, when he insists that kissing will be fine, she responds by asking him if he has any open sores in his mouth and how hard he has been brushing his teeth. Rob Thomas, co-creator and executive producer of iZombie, explains that another aspect of HIV that is important to the show is ‘the sense that it’s a condition in which people suffering from it wouldn’t want to tell anyone’. In this regard, ‘zombies are very much in the closet’. However, the zombie virus is even more restricting than HIV because condoms cannot stop it from spreading. Thomas explains that this factor would be integral to the plot, allowing the writers ‘to create a tragic scenario where the couple at the base of the show couldn’t be together, or at least they couldn’t be together on a sexual level’ (R. Thomas, personal communication, 18 October 2016). Not only does contagion foster isolation because no prophylactic is absolute, but restrictions like this force Moore and Major to be creative with their relationship. As this chapter describes, zombies have evolved from slaves in Haiti to evil Nazis to anonymous hordes, from victims of first voodoo masters, then nerve gas or radiation, to most recently, victims of infection. And yet, despite all this evolution, the most transgressive change of all might be the creation of a feminist zombie. Rethinking the zombie stereotype so completely allows iZombie not only to question gender roles in horror film and television, but also to question gender roles off screen. After all, how difficult is it to be both ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ Britney and ‘Shaved Head, Smashing Car Windows’ Britney?

References Anderson, P. W. S. (Director). (2002). Resident evil [Motion picture]. United States: Constantin Film. Beaudine, W. (Director). (1944). Voodoo man [Motion picture]. United States: Banner Productions. Bishop, K. W. (2010). American zombie gothic. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. Box Office Mojo. (n.d.). Resident evil. Retrieved from http://www.boxofficemojo. com/franchises/chart/?id=residentevil.htm Boyle, D. (Director). (2002). 28 days later [Motion picture]. Great Britain: DNA Films. Coburn, G. (Director). (1984). Bloodsuckers from outer space [Motion picture]. United States: One of Those Productions.


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Douglas, G. (Director). (1945). Zombies on broadway [Motion picture]. United States: RKO Radio Pictures. Fleischer, R. (Director). (2009). Zombieland [Motion picture]. United States: Columbia Pictures Corporation. Galloway, A. (2004). Protocol. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Galloway, A., & Thacker, E. (2007). The exploit: A theory of networks. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. George, K. (2013, July 25). Why are women one-dimensional? Thought Catalog. Retrieved from Gilpin, R. (2002). The challenge of global capitalism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Retrieved from Hollinger, K. (2012). Feminist film studies. New York, NY: Routledge. Klein, E. (2015, November 15). Don’t be afraid of fast zombies. The Washington Post. Retrieved from Knefel, J. (2015, August 18). Apocalypse soon: 9 Terrifying signs of environmental doom and gloom. Rolling Stone. Retrieved from apocalyse-soon-9-terrifying-signs-of-environmental-doom-and-gloom-20150818 Lane, C. (2016, April 17). SNL’s one-dimensional female character gets less screen time in movie with her name on it. The Mary Sue. Retrieved from Lawrence, F. (Director). (2007). I am legend [Motion picture]. United States: Warner Bros. Levine, J. (Director). (2013). Warm bodies [Motion picture]. United States: Summit Entertainment. Luckhurst, R. (2015). Zombies: A cultural history. London: Reaktion Books Marshall, G. (Director). (1940). The ghost breakers [Motion picture]. United States: Paramount Pictures. Michalakis, J. (Director). (1987). I was a teenage zombie [Motion picture]. United States: Periclean. Mostow, J. (Director). (1989). Beverly Hills bodysnatchers [Motion picture]. United States: Busybody Productions. Mulcahy, R. (Director). (2007). Resident evil: Extinction [Motion picture]. United States: Screen Gems. Muntean, N. (2011). Nuclear death and radical hope in Dawn of the Dead and On the Beach. In D. Christie & S. J. Lauro (Eds.), Better off dead: The evolution of the zombie as post-human (pp. 81 97). New York, NY: Fordham University Press. Olney, I. (2017). Zombie cinema. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. Pokornowski, S. (2013). Insecure lives: Zombies, global health, and the totalitarianism of generalization. Literature and Medicine, 31(2), 216 234. Preston, R. (1995). The hot zone. New York, NY: Anchor Books. Raimi, S. (Director). (1981). The evil dead [Motion picture]. United States: Renaissance Pictures. Romero, G. (Director). (1968). Night of the living dead [Motion picture]. United States: Image Ten.

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Romero, G. (Director). (1985). Day of the dead [Motion picture]. United States: United Film Distribution Company. Russell, J. (2005). Book of the dead: The complete history of zombie cinema. Godalming: FAB Press. Russell, J. (2014). Book of the dead: The complete history of zombie cinema. London: Titan. Sekely, S. (Director). (1943). Revenge of the zombies [Motion picture]. United States: Monogram Pictures. Schweitzer, D. (2018). Going viral: Zombies, viruses, and the end of the world. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. Silverman, K. (1990). Dis-embodying the female voice. In P. Erens (Eds.), Issues in feminist film criticism (pp. 309 329). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Tourneur, J. (Director). (1943). I walked with a zombie [Motion picture]. United States: RKO Radio Pictures. Truitt, J. (2013, August 25). Female television characters are two-dimensional. Salon. Retrieved from Ward, Infinity. (Developer). (2008). Call of duty [Videogame]. United States: Activision. Warner, M. (2006). Phantasmagoria: Spirit visions, metaphors, and media into the twenty-first century. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Warren, J. (Director). (1960). Teenage zombies [Motion picture]. United States: GBM Productions. Wirkola, T. (Director). (2009). Dead snow [Motion picture]. Norway: Euforia Film. Yarbrough, J. (Director). (1941). King of the zombies [Motion picture]. United States: Monogram Pictures.

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Chapter 14

Damaged Survivors in The Walking Dead. Gender and the Narrative Arcs of Carol and Daryl as Protectors and Nurturers Marta F. Suarez

The Walking Dead (2010 ) is a zombie survival US TV series. The narrative starts almost two months after the outbreak of an unknown agent that turned the majority of the population into zombies (or ‘walkers’). The series’ main protagonist, Rick Grimes, wakes up from a coma and embarks on a mission to find his family, whom he finds in the third episode in a survivors’ camp, where he also meets Daryl and Carol. The following chapter will discuss the evolution of these two characters, in relation to their gendered character journey and the way in which they either challenge or embrace traditional representations of femininity or masculinity.


Gendered Experiences

Gender is understood here broadly within Butler’s notion of ‘performativity’ (1999, p. 177), where attributes of masculinity and femininity are not more than a ‘corporeal style’ constructed through ‘sustained social performances’ (p. 180). As Butler asserts, ‘gender is the mechanism by which notions of masculine and feminine are produced and naturalized’ (2004, p. 42), yet we can also ‘craft our genders within that scene of constraint’ (2017). Whilst Butler does not suggest ‘that gender is fluid and changeable’ (2014), she does advocate for greater individual freedom to define the gendered experience, which in some instances might include a more flexible understanding of the term and its binaries. This chapter discusses the extent to which Carol and Daryl are portrayed within conforming gender characteristics, in the context of performing gender within hegemonic gender attributes. These characters start their journeys as archetypes linked to gendered stereotypes that position their femininity or masculinity as inadequate. Through the seasons, these characters evolve by acquiring characteristics

Gender and Contemporary Horror in Television, 175 186 r Marta F. Suarez All rights of reproduction in any form reserved doi:10.1108/978-1-78769-103-220191015


Marta F. Suarez

commonly associated with the opposite gender, yet recent events take their character arc to resolve the gendered inadequacies of their initial portrayals. The refusal of essentialist gendered binaries is also part of Yvonne Tasker’s (1993) and Elizabeth Hills’ (1999) analyses of female action heroes, especially in relation to appearance. Tasker addresses the characters of Sarah Connor and Helen Ripley as they visually transform into soldiers with clothing that emphasises a more muscular body. This transformation is made evident by what Tasker refers to as ‘musculinity’. Visually, these characters adopt a more masculine appearance through weaponry and the display of muscles, which embody associated notions of strength. A similar claim is made by Barbara Creed when she states that the portrayal of the female hero as ‘resourceful, intelligent and dangerous’ does not make her ‘a pseudo-man’ (1993, p. 127). Arguing against analysis of the female action hero as ‘figurative males’, Hills adds that the binary masculine/feminine of the ‘figurative male’ implies characterising femininity in terms of ‘lack’ (1999). Instead, Hills prefers to discuss the evolution of the female action hero as one of transformation, in which traits commonly associated to masculinity might be embraced for their connotations as signifiers of strength or skill, without actually transforming the heroine into a ‘figurative male’, but into a more complex heroine instead. Similarly, Daryl’s character is not feminised by performing tasks linked to stereotypical notions of gender, and instead, his portrayal evolve into representations of the ‘contemporary male’ who finds ‘a variety of different ways in which to construct their gendered identities, to explore their personal relationships and to balance their working and domestic responsibilities’ (Feasey, 2008, p. 154). This chapter positions itself within this notion of transformation as evolution, in which the characters of Carol and Daryl start off within gendered positions deemed inadequate. Both evolve through the seasons constructing a version of themselves that embraces signifiers of both genders, yet it is also a transformation that is ultimately also concerned with resolving the gendered behaviours that were deemed inadequate. By doing so, these characters evolve in complexity and resolve the internal conflict that defines their character arc. Their initial gendered characterisation focuses on traits that can potentially make their group vulnerable, as Carol is portrayed as too weak and Daryl too unpredictable. These traits are the characters’ initial flaws, which give them ‘a starting point of imperfection or incompleteness from which a character can grow’ (Vogler, 2007, p. 33).


The Ordinary World

Carol is initially characterised as a timid and abused wife, mother to one child and often portrayed doing domestic chores such as ironing and washing up. In contrast, Daryl is a volatile redneck with a complicated childhood and great hunting skills. Carol’s abilities become less useful once they are nomadic, whilst Daryl is seen as a liability despite his valuable skills. Thus, their transformation is needed in relation to their perceived value as members of the group.

Damaged Survivors in the Walking Dead


Positioned within the spectrum of stereotypical femininity and masculinity (albeit one presented as inadequate), both evolve by transgressing essentialist characterisation, moving away from the archetypes of the abused wife and the aggressive redneck and embracing signifiers commonly attributed to the other gender. One of the scholarly critiques that The Walking Dead universe received was the portrayal of characters in stereotypical and gendered roles (Baldwin & McCarthy, 2013, p. 86; Garland, Phillips, & Vollum, 2018; Simpson, 2014, p. 686). These scholars argue that women are in charge of domestic chores and ‘bearing babies’, whereas male characters are tasked with gathering resources and leading the group. This portrayal is a constant in the comics (Garland et al., 2018), yet these stereotypical portrayals do not define the characters of the TV show. Whilst it is true that these are characterisations that appear in the first seasons (pp. 1 3), one must take into consideration that the slow demise of social constructions, institutions and structures is part of the on-screen universe of The Walking Dead, including the patriarchal and gendered society in which they start. By Season 8, the series has established female leadership in at least four settlements (the Hilltop, the Heapsters, Oceanside and Georgie’s group). Carol, one of the few main female characters to follow a narrative arc of endurance, evolves from the meek wife to the female warrior. Her character is introduced alongside her daughter in the opening credits of ‘Tell it to the Frogs’ (Season 1 ep. 3) but as part of the background and often obscured by other characters or the mise-en-scene. When the camera finally focuses on her, it is to characterise her as submissive, compliant and afraid of her husband. Her characterisation as obedient, apologetic and fearful of her husband Ed is explored further towards the end of the episode when Ed hits a fearful Carol in front of the rest of the women in the group. As Shane intervenes and beats up Ed until almost unconscious, Carol begs him to stop in muffled cries and runs to Ed’s side in sorrow. Framed with medium close-ups at a high angle through the initial verbal confrontation between the women and Ed, Carol is positioned through the argument towards the corners of the screen or partially obscured behind other characters, who take her place and talk on her behalf. It is only when Ed grabs her arm and hits her that she is clearly positioned at the centre of the screen, in a medium long shot that suggests vulnerability against Ed’s towering presence. At the end of the scene, bent down to care for Ed, a low-level handheld camera tilts from her to her bloodied husband and back to her, situating the audience at her level and connecting both characters as receptors of violence. Carol is introduced in this episode as passive, weak, apologetic, compliant, scared, lacking agency and connected to signifiers of mother and wife. In contrast, Daryl is introduced in this episode as fearless, foul-mouthed and aggressive. Having been previously defined as ‘volatile’ by another character, his first appearance characterises him as hostile, impulsive and an outsider. Significantly, the figure of the redneck is one that Clover (2015, p. 135) has related to the Other ‘held responsible for all manner of American social ills’, which further conveys the meanings of the outsider in contrast to the main leaders of the group for this season, both white male deputy sheriffs embodying


Marta F. Suarez

hegemonic American values. After the group finds a walker eating a deer, they surround it and hit it with sticks and weapons until it is eventually decapitated. At this point, Daryl comes through the forest with a crossbow and a dozen dead squirrels hanging from his belt. As if the situation were completely natural to him, Daryl kicks and swears at the lifeless body of the walker, complaining about having ruined his deer but ignoring its proximity to the camp. This careless attitude suggests that not only has he normalised the presence of walkers, but also that he is not concerned about the wellbeing of the group, an attitude that positions him as reckless and an outsider. Looking around at the survivors who are still standing in silence and fear, he moves the walker’s head and reveals it to be still in motion. As he puts an arrow through one of its eyes, Daryl states the superiority of his knowledge and survival skills with the lines: ‘Come on people, what the hell? It’s gotta be the brain. Don’t y’all know nothing?’.


The Hero’s Transformation through Pain

Despite their differences, both Daryl and Carol are constructed within the fundamental characteristics of the mythic hero as described by Christopher Vogler (2007). Whereas Carol is a more typical hero who overcomes her flaws to fight evil, Daryl falls under the descriptions of both the wounded Anti-Hero and the Loner Hero. As wounded Anti-Hero, Daryl is a ‘loner who has rejected society or been rejected by it’ (Vogler, 2007, p. 35), but he is also a Loner Hero because his story begins ‘estranged from society’, his ‘natural habitat is the wilderness’ and his ‘natural state is solitude’ (Vogler, 2007, p. 36), clearly conveyed in the first two seasons as Daryl lives away from the rest of the group, closer to the woods. Both Daryl and Carol are wounded heroes, as they are both survivors of abuse. In Carol’s case, this abusive relationship is quickly established as that with her husband; in Daryl’s case, its rooted in his childhood with the figure of his father and his absent brother Merle. Not only are Daryl and Carol’s narratives connected through their abusive past, but they also share important characteristics of the Hero such as ‘the loss or a death in the family’, ‘sacrifice’ and a ‘symbolic death’ (Vogler, 2007, pp. 32 33). Their hero’s journey, however, evolves differently. For Carol, the first journey is one of becoming more skilled with weapons, independent and resolute, taking her from the abused wife to the warrior; for Daryl this first journey implies trusting others, opening up emotionally and achieving a sense of belonging to the group, taking him from the outsider to the co-leader and protector of the group. For both, this transformation starts from a position of pain and loss. The first events that connect these characters through their pain are established in ‘Tell it to the Frogs’ when Carol’s cries over Ed’s bloodied face are followed by a scene in which Daryl cries over Merle’s amputated hand, who has cut it to escape from walkers.

Damaged Survivors in the Walking Dead



Overcoming Flaws, becoming Protectors

Daryl and Carol are often the first witnesses to each other’s transformation. For example, after Ed’s death in ‘Wildfire’ (Season 1 ep. 4), Daryl raises the pickaxe to pierce Ed’s brain and prevent him from reanimating. Before he brings it down, Carol intercedes and requests to do this, holding a weapon for the first time on screen. From a medium shot, the camera zooms into a close-up as she raises the pickaxe and when she finally hammers it down, the framing becomes an extreme Dutch angle at almost 90°. By doing so, the cinematography increases the dramatic effect, suggesting disorientation and presenting the action as intense and out-of-character. The mise-en-scene, however, positions behind Carol the newly acquired muscle car, a Dodge Challenger, which conveys notions of strength, power and independence to her actions, and foreshadows her evolution. The loss of her husband in this episode follows the loss of Daryl’s brother in the previous one, linking these scenes to the hero’s ‘loss or death in the family’, a stage in their journey that will shape them more than once in later episodes. For Carol, a second loss occurs when her daughter Sophia goes missing (Season 2 ep. 1), only to be found several episodes later as a walker (Season 2 ep. 7). For Daryl, when not long after reuniting with his brother (Season 3 ep. 8), he finds Merle transformed into a walker (Season 3 ep. 15). These deaths free Daryl and Carol from the links they had with their old lives and the abusive past, taking these characters into a new path towards a symbolic rebirth. Whereas Sophia’s disappearance highlights Carol’s lack of agency and dependence of the group, it incites in Daryl a sympathetic and caring behaviour, in some ways becoming the ‘sensitive new man’ (Feasey, 2008, p. 153) that characterises contemporary male heroes. As such, Daryl looks for Sophia at every opportunity, with Rick acknowledging his skills and giving him a position of responsibility by saying that ‘Daryl knows the woods better than anybody, I’ve asked him to oversee this’ (Season 2 ep. 1, ‘What Lies Ahead’). In contrast, Carol does not join the initial search party and stays behind unless safe to join. By doing so, she is connected to ideas of passivity and an in-waiting attitude that also emphasises notions of bad mother. Suggestions of inadequate motherhood are conveyed through her failure to react to protect her daughter, not only by not joining the searching party unless asked, but also by suggesting to Daryl to stop searching (Season 2 ep. 7), by refusing to attend Sophia’s funeral once found (Season 2 ep. 8), and by acknowledging during a prayer that Ed was ‘looking at his own daughter with whatever sickness was growing in his soul’ (Season 2 ep. 1) but that she did nothing other than pray to make him stop. Her character is presented as fearful and weak, and despite her worry and concern for her daughter, these characteristics prevent her from acting as a true nurturer and protector. Even though she is characterised by notions of motherhood, her mothering nature is portrayed as flawed and must be resolved. Carol’s first journey does so by overcoming her fears and becoming a skilled fighter, whereas a second journey allows her to align these skills into protective nurturing by saving young Henry (Season 8 ep. 14). This scene sees her saving the young boy in a sequence that mirrors Sophia’s disappearance by using the same location for the


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last place where Sophia is seen alive, and the place where Henry is found alive, a connection that is further conveyed through the child actors, who are siblings. By allowing Carol to search, find and save the child from walkers, her journey completes a full circle that restores meanings of nurture and motherhood in terms that comply with a more adequate performance of gender. Where this journey takes the character is still to be seen, as Carol has seemingly resolved her character flaws and new internal conflict will have to be revealed if her character is to survive and retain complexity. If Carol shows glimpses of her strength by stopping Ed from reanimating (Season 1 ep. 4), Daryl shows his caring nature in the interactions with Carol during the episodes related to Sophia’s search. In one of the episodes that more clearly represents this emotional opening (Season 2 ep. 4), Daryl brings Carol a Cherokee rose and tells her the following legend: The story is that when American soldiers were moving Indians off their land on the Trail of Tears, the Cherokee mothers were grieving and crying so much because they were losing their little ones along the way… exposure and disease and starvation… a lot of them just disappeared. So the elders they… uh, said a prayer, asked for a sign to uplift the mothers’ spirit. Give them strength. Hope. The next day this rose started to grow right where the mothers’ tears fell. I’m not fool enough to think there’s any flowers blooming for my brother, but I believe this one… bloomed for your little girl. Clearly contrasting with his previous portrayal in Season 1, Daryl brings a flower from the woods with the intention to make Carol feel better, but in the process he also acknowledges his own pain by mentioning his missing brother. Bringing objects to others in order to give them hope or joy is a recurring trope for Daryl’s character from here on, such as a doll for baby Judith (Season 3 ep. 5), a special soda can for Denise (Season 6 ep. 10), alcohol for Beth (Season 4 ep. 12), and even car keys for his nemesis, Dwight, at the very end of Season 8 (Season 8 ep. 16). By doing so, Daryl quickly moves away from his selfinterested attitude in Season 1 and is portrayed as a caring protector of the group, a behaviour connected with his potential as a leader.


Rebirth and Transformation

These characters’ first transformation takes place over several seasons and is marked by a series of symbolic re-births, in line with the ‘resurrection’ event of the hero’s journey (Vogler, 2007). Towards the middle of Season 3, Carol disappears in a prison’s corridors chased by walkers, which leads the group to presume her dead when they find her bloodied shawl. However, Daryl finds her a couple of episodes later, exhausted and bloodied, her knife dug deep into a walker. The shots of Daryl carrying Carol out of the cell-block mirror the scene

Damaged Survivors in the Walking Dead


in which Rick carries his newborn daughter Judith, while the editing connects both actions and brings meanings of re-birth to Carol’s reappearance. After this episode, Carol becomes more assertive and independent. For example, she confronts a prisoner, she voices her opinion in discussions affecting the group, she keeps watch in the tower, and she even stays to defend the prison during the season finale, instead of leaving for the woods with the more vulnerable members of the group as she did at the start of the season (Season 3 ep. 1). In a similar visual connection with baby Judith, Daryl’s first rebirth is established through protection and nurturing of the newborn. If with Carol this link was made via juxtaposition of scenes, the connection between Daryl and the baby is made directly in Season 3 ep. 5 (‘Say the Word’), shortly after Judith’s birth. With Rick in shock due to his wife’s death during childbirth, Daryl steps up as leader and organises a scouting trip with Maggie to retrieve baby formula. As they return with the supplies, he rushes in, takes Judith from her brother’s arms, and feeds her the formula shushing her comfortingly. Smiling with a proud stance, he is framed with a low angle and dominating the image. With the camera behind other characters, the shot makes him the centre of the scene and the object of the gaze of both the audience and the characters. Judith’s face is not directly seen. Making the group laugh when he softly talks to the baby and names her ‘Little Ass-Kicker’, the shot changes into an aerial view with Daryl at the centre, symbolically now at the centre of the group through their emotional connection to the baby. This portrayal connects Daryl with a ‘shift from a violently heroic masculinity to a masculinity that revolves around home and family’ (Coon, 2014, p. 149 citing Cohan and Jeffords) and a masculinity that ‘is able to expand to incorporate roles traditionally associated with both men and women’ (p. 151). His first rebirth makes him part of the group and gives him a sense of belonging. The second one, discussed below, makes him reconcile his pain and anger, opening him to new relationships and a path of healing. This second event takes place in Season 4 ep. 12 (‘Still’), a character-driven episode in which Daryl and Beth look for alcohol. Early during this episode, Daryl takes valuables from a country club and makes sneering remarks towards the wealthy. As the episode progresses, they end up in a log cabin that according to Daryl is strikingly similar to the one in which he grew up. Messy and full of cigarettes, the cabin becomes a symbol of his childhood as Daryl narrates stories from his past and plays ‘I have never’ with Beth. It soon becomes evident that his childhood memories are painful, rooted in abuse and surrounded by poverty, drugs, and alcohol. Following Beth’s suggestion, they set fire to the cabin by spilling the remaining alcohol over the floor and lighting up the money collected earlier in the episode. As they raise their middle finger to the flames, the nondiegetic music follows with the lyrics ‘There’s gonna come a day when you feel better / You’ll rise up free and easy on that day’, further associating the scene with the ideas of rebirth. Daryl and Carol’s rebirth moments are connected to overcoming their initial flaws. Carol is found only after successfully fighting and killing a walker with her knife, starting her path as female warrior. Daryl feeds the baby and burns the cabin, becoming the protector of the group and placating his internal anger.



Marta F. Suarez

Transformation after Rebirth

For both Carol and Daryl these moments of rebirth are not only linked to leaving their position as outsiders and becoming an integral part of the group: for Carol, it addresses her survival skills, and in the case of Daryl his nurturing nature. From here on, Carol quickly becomes skilled with weapons, joins the small council that makes decisions on the community and turns into a resourceful fighter who protects and saves the group, such as releasing Rick’s group from the cannibals in ‘Terminus’ (Season 4 ep. 1), protecting the town of Alexandria against a vicious attack from the ‘Wolves’ group (Season 6 ep. 2) or saving King Ezequiel and Jerry, the only two survivors of The Kingdom after the Saviors’ massacre. After his rebirth, Daryl becomes Rick’s right-hand man and volunteers to any mission that might protect the group. This portrayal contrasts with Season 1 when it is suggested that he tags along because of the safety in numbers, or Season 2 when he refuses to find Hershel and Rick because ‘he is done looking for people’ (Season 2 ep. 8) and ‘being an errand boy’ (Season 2 ep. 9). Yet, Daryl’s sidekick role frames him as Other, as Daryl is often placed ‘in the role of Indian sidekick to Rick’s Lone Ranger persona, an image reinforced visually by Daryl’s crossbow and arrows’ (Rees, 2013, p. 90), a relationship also inferred by Clover’s assertion that the redneck in the horror genre is replacing anxieties of the Indian (2015, p. 135). Yet, if the character evolution of Carol follows a path towards reconciling her fighting and nurturing skills, Daryl’s evolution seems to be evolving at this point (end of Season 8) towards claiming leadership, which would reconcile his hunting skills and aggression with a position of protector and leader of the group. These changes are represented visually in Carol through the use of weapons, military-style clothing and further visual display of her arms, whereas Daryl’s new function as protector is symbolised through his poncho and the vest with wings. The poncho is used when he rides with Maggie to retrieve the baby formula, with intertextual meanings linked to the Stranger of A Fistful of Dollars (1964), as the loner hero who steps up to save the child. In the same episode, when feeding the baby, Daryl’s vest shows angel wings on the back. Even though the angel wings on the leather vest are a biker-related symbol, the notions of protection and guardianship linked to angels fit with his new desire to guard and protect those around him. As Tenga and Bassett argue (2016, p. 1284), this transformation ‘has reshaped his values, or perhaps validated values that were underappreciated in his former life, and honouring these values is now an important source of his personal worth’. As Carol becomes more involved in the defence of the group, her association with purely domestic tasks reduces. Significantly, whilst she still looks after the children and bakes for the community, these tasks appear as transgressive by being at the service of the ‘fighter’ signifier that Carol is developing. For example, when in charge of the children’s learning at the prison (Season 4), she secretly teaches them how to use weapons or kill walkers. Later in Season 5, her cooking and baking are used to deceive and access places. After arriving at Alexandria, she volunteers to cook casseroles for the vulnerable as a way to get

Damaged Survivors in the Walking Dead


information from the residents. Later on, Carol uses her cookies to threaten into silence young Sam. Not long afterwards, she takes a casserole to his house, where she threatens the boy’s father because he is beating up his wife and children: in one hand she holds her casserole dish, in the other her knife under his chin. The framing, partly in shadows, suggests her strength and duplicity, and accentuates the transformation by showing her in control and unafraid despite the difference in size and the unfamiliar territory. In contrast to Carol’s transition into a guarded and duplicitous character, discussed in the next paragraph, Daryl overcomes his mistrust of strangers and actively attempts to fit in. This new cycle of transformation is marked not only by a rebirth moment but also another ‘sacrifice’. Carol had already started this transformation cycle when she killed one of the young girls, Lizzie, in order to keep baby Judith safe. A hardening event, this killing has a profound impact on her, as Lizzie had become a surrogate daughter to Carol. For Daryl, his new sacrifice comes not long after his second rebirth, when Beth is shot whilst trying to rescue her. Failing to protect those they loved, both Daryl and Carol battles with the difficulty of dealing with these deaths and express guilt. However, whereas for Carol this materialises as a hardening process that will see her avoid emotional bonds and lose hope on children’s survival, for Daryl, this event makes him reflect on the need to have a stable and strong group. Thus, he refuses to plot with Rick and Carol to take control of the town and instead Daryl joins Aaron as a recruiter for Alexandria. Carol’s reaction to joining the town of Alexandria is significantly different from that of Daryl, who although feels like an outsider on arrival, quickly embraces his new role as recruiter and gatherer. Carol behaves as if she did not know how to use a weapon, holding it awkwardly and smiling as if embarrassed, presenting herself as a lucky woman who was protected by the rest of the group (Season 5 ep. 12, ‘Remember’). When Alexandria’s leader interviews her, she comments on Ed saying that she misses ‘that stupid wonderful man every day’ and that ‘You know, I really didn’t have much to offer this group, so I think I just sort of became their den mother’, clearly making her interview an untrustworthy statement to the audience and highlighting her duplicity at this stage. Daryl, however, answers in his interview that he is there for the boy and the baby, indicating a desire to protect the children of the group that once more connects to his more nurturing side. This interview highlights Carol’s mistrust for the new community and her desire to be perceived as unthreatening. For the remainder of Season 5, Carol masquerades her actions and develops two levels of performance: one, which presents her as an ‘invisible’, harmless and innocuous housewife (Season 5 ep. 13, ‘Forget’), and two, the ruthless killer and expert in weapons that the audience knows, which is not revealed to the Alexandrians until it comes under attack (Season 6 ep. 2, JSS).


Second Transformations and the Guilt of the Hero

Following the complete revelation of her skills to the rest of the town, Carol embraces this duality by visually combining clothing and accessories that had


Marta F. Suarez

been representative of these two personas. At the start of ‘No Tomorrow Yet’ (Season 6 ep. 12), the opening sequence addresses this desire to reconcile both performances as one. The sequence begins with a tracking shot on food conserves and ingredients, from which Carol chooses and picks, whilst an upbeat non-diegetic song plays. The next scene takes Carol to the woods, where she kills a walker and covers herself in blood whilst picking nuts. As she leaves the shower on the following shot, she browses through her wardrobe, choosing a flower-patterned shirt and a cardigan, clothing that had been representative of her housewife life. A further scene focuses on Carol baking in the kitchen as the camera circles and tracks around, showing the full display of ingredients and recently baked cookies, smiling as she carefully puts them into boxes. Finally walking around the town delivering these cookies to the children and Sam’s tomb, she encompasses these two personas by combining the brighter clothing and the cookies with the gun holster and the knife, elements that had not been brought together up to this point. Being this her new ‘ordinary world’ for her second hero’s journey, the events from here on make Carol reflect on the struggle between her nurturing side and the need to kill to protect those she loves, which fills Carol with guilt and leads to self-inflicted isolation, from which she only returns after accepting the need to fight Negan. Embracing once more her fighting skills to protect those around her, she also regains her lost hope when she finds Henry in the woods in an emotive scene where she apologises to the boy for not believing he could survive, with echoes to Sophia’s disappearance. Whereas Carol chooses to isolate herself, Daryl is imprisoned by the Saviors and tortured. He is beaten up, has to wear a ragged tunic, is used as a servant, kept in a dark cell, prevented from sleep with music, and shown pictures of her dead friends, who had been beaten to death by Negan. Although he eventually escapes and re-joins the group, Daryl feels guilty and responsible for Glenn’s death at Negan’s hands. His escape initiates a desire to seek revenge that eventually splits the group and sets the conflict for Season 9. This stage in his journey connects with Coon’s discussion on The Pacifier, where he ‘does not take on the role of a victim who has been defeated by his enemies, but instead returns to seek vengeance and finish the job’ (2014, pp. 154 155). Carol’s second journey, which culminates with Henry’s rescue, allows her to redeem herself in relation to the notions of inadequate motherhood that were presented in Season 2. Daryl’s second journey is currently steering towards dismantling Rick’s leadership (and potentially claiming it), which would reconcile notions of inadequate masculinities by aligning his aggression towards leadership and protection of the group. This leadership struggle is metaphorically introduced in a fight between Rick and Daryl, in which Daryl gets Rick into a chokehold, mirroring the scene in which Daryl is introduced to Rick in Season 1. Not only Daryl wins this encounter, which he had previously lost, but in Season 1 this fight had started when Daryl attacked Rick for personal reasons, whereas in Season 8 this fight has to do with a desire to protect the group and differing views on how to do so.

Damaged Survivors in the Walking Dead




These two characters embark on personal hero’s journeys in which they have to overcome initial flaws attached to gendered archetypes of meek housewife and aggressive redneck. These transformations take place through two main character journeys: in the first one, they become more-rounded and complex characters by the processes of hardening and bonding, which are visually represented in scenes of rebirth. In the second journey, the characters go through a period of guilt to then face their initial gendered flaws. That is, the weak mother who would not put herself at risk for her daughter and the volatile outsider who would react with aggression and selfishness. At this moment in time, shortly after the Season 8 finale, Carol finally reconciles her skills as mother and fighter during her search for Henry, and Daryl contests Rick’s leadership in order to better the chances of survival of the whole group and seek the revenge that many of the group desire. These journeys are still developing, but by the end of Season 8 connect Carol to meanings of motherhood, and Daryl to meanings of leadership, thus bringing their narratives into a full circle.

References Baldwin, M., & McCarthy, M. (2013). Same as it ever was: Savior narratives and the logics of survival in The Walking Dead. In M. Balaji (Ed.), Thinking dead: What the zombie apocalypse means (pp. 75 88). Plymouth: Lexington Books. Butler, J. (1999). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. London: Routledge. Butler, J. (2004). Undoing gender. London: Routledge. Butler, J. (2014). Gender performance: The transadvocate interviews Judith Butler (C. Williams, Interviewer) TransAdvocate. Retrieved from Accessed on March 13, 2018. Butler, J. (2017). Judith Butler on being attacked in Brazil. (S. Jaschik, Interviewer) Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from 13/judith-butler-discusses-being-burned-effigy-and-protested-brazil. Accessed on April 11, 2018. Clover, C. J. (2015). Men, women, and chain saws: Gender in the modern horror film (Princeton Classics) (Kindle Edition ed.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Coon, D. R. (2014). Look closer. Suburban narratives and American values in film and television. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. Creed, B. (1993). The Monstrous-feminine. Film, feminism, psychoanalysis (2007 ed.). New York, NY: Routledge. Feasey, R. (2008). Masculinity and popular television. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Garland, T. S., Phillips, N., & Vollum, S. (2018). Gender politics and The Walking Dead: Gendered violence and the reestablishment of patriarchy. Feminist Criminology, 13(1), 59 86.


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Hills, E. (1999). From ‘figurative males’ to action heroines: Further thoughts on active women in the cinema. Screen, 40(1), 38 40. Rees, S. S. (2013). Frontier values meet big-city zombies. In C. J. Miller & A. B. van Riper, Undead in the west : Vampires, zombies, mummies, and ghosts on the cinematic frontier II: They just keep coming. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. Simpson, P. L. (2014). The zombie apocalypse is upon us!: Homeland insecurity. In D. Keetley (Ed.), “We’re All Infected”. Essay’s on AMC’s The Walking Dead and the Fate of the Human (Kindle Edition.). Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc. Tasker, Y. (1993). Action heroines in the 1980s: The limits of musculinity. In G. Turner (Ed.), The film cultures reader (pp. 295 310). London: Routledge. Tenga, A., & Bassett, J. (2016). “You kill or you die, or you die and you kill”: Meaning and violence in AMC’s The Walking Dead. The Journal of Popular Culture, 49(6), 1280 1300. Vogler, C. (2007). The writer’s journey: Mythic structure for writers. Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese Productions.

Chapter 15

‘Some Normal, Apple-pie Life’: Gendering Home in Supernatural Jessica George In the first episode of the US horror series Supernatural (2005 ), Sam Winchester, one of the show’s two protagonists, has opted to settle down in an apartment with his long-term girlfriend, Jessica, rejecting his family’s life of itinerant monster-hunting. ‘So, what are you gonna do?’ his brother Dean asks, incredulously. ‘You’re just gonna live some normal, apple-pie life?’ (Kripke & Nutter, 2005). By the end of that first episode, Jessica is dead, Sam’s ‘normal’ life is in ruins, and he has returned to monster-hunting in the show’s parlance, just ‘hunting’ alongside his brother. With its referencing of the iconic American road narrative (its main characters are named after Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty, of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road), the centrality of the car, and the lack of a stable home base for its characters until its eighth season, Supernatural makes clear that its monster hunters will not have ‘normal, apple-pie’ lives, or homes, of their own as long as their story continues. Home is, however, a vitally important theme in the show, and one that plays a large part in both constructing and deconstructing its contemporary masculine Gothic. This chapter will explore the ways in which Supernatural both sets up an idealized, feminine domestic sphere in opposition to the masculine world of monster hunting and works to deconstruct the separation between the two.


‘I Can Never Go Home’

In her study, The Monster Hunter in Modern Popular Culture, Heather Duda (2009) writes specifically about male monster hunters, noting that they ‘usually remain on the fringes of the society they protect’ (p. 17). They are often outsiders in some way, separated from those who live more normal lives by nationality, education, or refusal to participate in heterosexual domesticity (p. 13). This outsider status gifts the monster hunter with a ‘necessary understanding […] distancing [him] from the culture around him just enough to notice the

Gender and Contemporary Horror in Television, 187 199 r Jessica George All rights of reproduction in any form reserved doi:10.1108/978-1-78769-103-220191016


Jessica George

inconsistencies that inevitably show the vampire’s true colours’ (p. 13). It also serves to link him inextricably with the monster he hunts, which is defined as such by its inability to participate in its society’s normalizing institutions, among which the heteronormative family home must surely be numbered. Although she does not make the connection explicitly, Duda’s male monster hunters have clear resonances with the protagonists of what Kate Ferguson Ellis (1989) calls the ‘masculine’ or ‘outsider’ Gothic (pp. 45, 57), which ‘focuses on the experience of exile from the domestic world and on the desire for revenge called forth by the experience’ (p. 132). Though traumatic, this experience of exile is ultimately necessary, for ‘in an individualistic culture, the development of an authentic identity, and especially an authentic male identity, requires expulsion from the net of family ties’ (p. 157). The world outside the family home is here a dangerous and potentially corrupting sphere, and the women whose domestic innocence must be protected are excluded from the outsider Gothic narrative (p. 172). Duda’s monster hunters seek to protect the society from which they are marginalized, and Ferguson Ellis’s Gothic heroes seek to return to it, but both types of narrative exist with reference to what Alison Blunt and Robyn Dowling (2005) call ‘a dominant or ideal version of house-as-home, which typically portrays belonging and intimacy amongst members of a heterosexual nuclear family’ (pp. 100 101). These separate spheres are explicitly gendered, and the narrative of masculine exile from a feminine domestic ideal plays out in classic form in Supernatural’s early seasons. The show’s pilot episode begins in 1983, with a scene of suburban domestic bliss. A shot of the outside of the Winchester family home, surrounded by threatening black trees, gives way to a warmly-lit interior where the Winchester parents, Mary and John, put their infant sons to bed. Their idyll is inevitably shortlived: Mary wakes in the night to find a mysterious figure standing over baby Sam’s crib; she is murdered in a fashion suggestive of ruptured maternity, with a caesarean-style slash across the abdomen; and the house is destroyed by fire, leaving John to raise his sons on the road while he hunts for the demon responsible. The timeline then skips forward 22 years to focus on Sam, now a student at Stanford University, who has attempted to leave behind the ‘family business’ of monster hunting and forge a ‘safe’ life for himself, centred on a home shared with a female romantic partner (Kripke & Nutter, 2005). This attempt at domesticity is disrupted when Dean, who, with his muscle car, heterosexual promiscuity, and insistence on ‘no chick flick moments’ (Kripke & Nutter, 2005), performs an exaggerated burlesque of American masculinity, breaks into Sam’s apartment and persuades him to help look for their missing father. The world of the masculine Gothic erupts into the feminine domestic sphere and prefigures its destruction at the end of the episode. The split between masculine road narrative and feminine domesticity also plays out in the episode’s B-plot. The monster-of-the-week is Constance Welch, the ghost of a woman who murdered her children and committed suicide after discovering her husband’s infidelity. Constance repeats, ‘I can never go home’, but ultimately does so: after she leads Sam to her abandoned family home, the ghosts of her children materialize, declaring, ‘You’ve come home to us,

‘Some Normal, Apple-pie Life’


Mommy’, and all three spirits disappear together (Kripke & Nutter, 2005). As a ghost, Constance is excluded from the domestic sphere, but as a woman, she must return to it. Sam’s attempt to return home, in contrast, is thwarted, leaving him exiled once more. Women, domesticity, and heterosexual relationships are clearly linked here. Female characters serve as representatives of the domestic sphere which is both pretext for and excluded Other to the Winchesters’ hypermasculine identity as hunters; the home to which they can never return. As Carol Poole (2009) puts it, in this narrative, Mary ‘is clearly not a subject of her own experience’ (p. 146). Rather, she is ‘Mom’, defined by her significance to male characters, and ‘her role […] is to be the object of other people’s feelings’ (p. 146). Something similar can be said of Jessica and Lisa, the women with whom Sam and Dean attempt to build conventional relationships and homes. Their individual characters are less important than what they represent. Other early-season episodes reinforce the gendered divide. In the Season 1 episode ‘Home’ (Kripke & Girotti, 2005), the Winchester brothers return to the family residence where Mary died, now restored and inhabited by a young mother, Jenny and her two children. Sam and Dean discover that their childhood home is haunted by both Mary’s ghost and a malevolent poltergeist attracted to the house by its violent history. The poltergeist is vanquished when Mary’s ghost manifests, protecting both her children and Jenny’s family from its malevolence. Though Mary acts as a protector here, her influence is severely limited as she remains trapped in the house where she died. After the poltergeist is removed, Sam and Dean, in the foreground of the shot, head for their car, while the female supporting characters remain behind with the house and children. These male monster-hunters may protect the domestic sphere, but they cannot return to it. As Julia Wright (2016) puts it, ‘[t]he suburban house remains a site of loss, of a childhood terror that voids all desire for it’ (p. 108). Such returns can only be illusions, as we see near the end of Season 2. In ‘What Is and What Should Never Be’ (Tucker & Kripke, 2007), Dean is dosed with hallucinogenic poison by a djinn, and finds himself in a dream world where Mary and Jessica never died, and Dean lives a ‘normal, apple-pie life’ of his own with a girlfriend named Carmen. He is haunted, however, by images of a young woman in a white dress, reminiscent of Mary and Jessica, both of whom died in white nightdresses and reappear as visions or ghosts. In the ‘real’ world of the show, this woman is one of the djinn’s other victims, strung up opposite Dean in the warehouse where the djinn is keeping them both. Her appearance grows increasingly dirty and bloodstained each time Dean sees her, and he eventually realizes that in this world, all the people he, Sam, and John have saved from monsters are dead. With her suggestive resemblance to Mary and Jessica, this unnamed woman represents the feminine domestic ideal as well as the victim Dean must protect by leaving the dream world and killing the djinn. The home, embodied in women, is to be protected, but should be kept separate from the monster-hunter’s world. This is reinforced by the domestic ideal Dean imagines for himself. By this point in the series, we have already encountered both Dean’s ex-girlfriend Cassie (Buckner & Ross-Leming, 2006) and the young female monster hunter Jo, who ‘[carries] a torch’ for him (Humphris & Tobin, 2007). Dean


Jessica George

cannot, however, imagine domestic happiness with either of these women, both of whom, like him, have lost family members to the supernatural. Instead he creates an entirely fictional partner in Carmen, one untouched by the masculine world of hunting. The show’s sixth season plays out this narrative of expulsion from the home again, reiterating the incompatibility of the domestic world with the hunter’s life, and making it clear that hunters view domesticity as emasculating. At the end of Season 5, Sam jumped into Hell with Lucifer in order to trap him there, and Season 6 picks up a year later, Dean having believed his brother dead, in the interim. Before sacrificing himself, Sam echoing Dean’s own words from the pilot extracted a promise from Dean that he would retire from hunting and ‘go live some normal, apple-pie life’ with his old flame, Lisa, and her son Ben (Kripke, Gerwitz, & Boyum, 2010). At the beginning of the Season 6 premiere, Dean is still living that life: black-and-white flashbacks of his life on the road with Sam are juxtaposed with brightly lit colour scenes in which Dean cooks breakfast, hands out beers at a backyard barbeque and shows Ben the inner workings of a truck (Gamble & Sgriccia, 2010). This sequence makes clear the contrast and incompatibility of the two worlds, as well as the way that Dean is haunted by the past. For Ellis, ‘[i]n the world of the masculine gothic […] it is a person who is haunted, not a place’ (p. 166), and Dean cannot simply leave the world of monster-hunting behind by moving into the domestic sphere. His presence contaminates it, and the supernatural is soon making new incursions into his everyday domestic life. Sam, it transpires, has been hunting with the Campbells, a group of relatives on their mother’s side who were raised as hunters. These new hunters are openly contemptuous of Dean, questioning his both hunting abilities and his masculinity. Gwen, a distant cousin of the Winchesters, remarks on Dean’s ‘delicate features’ and, after being allowed into the home he shares with Lisa, picks up a fashion magazine and enquires, ‘Yours, or your wife’s?’ (Gamble & Sgriccia, 2010). It seems significant that it is Gwen, the only woman in the group, who engages in this gendered taunting. Gender identity does not guarantee an acceptably masculine hunter identity; rather, that identity must performed and rigorously policed, and the comforts of home speak of a suspect femininity. With its insistent rejections of a feminized domestic sphere, Supernatural’s narrative often seems to bear out Jacob Clifton’s (2009) contention that it ‘takes place in a universe of Otherized and fetishized femininity that surrounds the narrative’s all-male viewpoint’ (p. 139), maintaining by stereotype and exclusion the masculinity of the road narrative and the monster-hunting world.


‘Never, In Fact, Homeless’

Although Supernatural keeps its protagonists exiled from an idealized, feminized and middle-class domesticity, it also introduces alternative, and alternatively gendered, concepts of home. The first of these is the stereotypically masculine space of the car, the 1967 Chevrolet Impala that Dean inherited from his father,

‘Some Normal, Apple-pie Life’


and in which the brothers traverse the back roads of the US. The series repeatedly makes the explicit claim that the Impala is the Winchesters’ family home. The Season 5 finale is punctuated by a voiceover from Chuck Shurley, the show’s personification of the author-god, who asserts that Sam and Dean ‘were never, in fact, homeless’, despite their exile from the domestic sphere (Kripke, Gerwitz, & Boyum, 2010) and in a later episode, Sam insists, ‘We are home’, as he and Dean drive off after solving the case of the week (Thompson & Wright, 2015). The Impala is certainly a home, if not the ideal home invoked in Sam and Dean’s failed attempts at domesticity. Its gendered status, however, is ambiguous. While the masculine iconography of the muscle car, connoting personal autonomy and freedom, is clearly present, this specific car is consistently referred to with feminine pronouns and the endearment, ‘Baby’. Melissa Bruce (2010) has argued that while the Impala ‘offers a visual space that is typically masculine’, it also facilitates ‘emotional exchanges […] that may not be typically acceptable in the realm of the masculine within our culture’ (1.1) by providing the backdrop for Sam and Dean’s intensely emotional conversations. Its positioning as home is, Bruce argues, in itself a form of gendering, placing it ‘within a specifically feminine framework’ (4.3). Similarly, Jules Wilkinson (2009) views the car as a ‘metaphoric womb’ thanks to its role as ‘nurturer and sanctuary’ (p. 199), effectively a replacement for the lost mother. Thomas Knowles (2016), in contrast, reads the car as in itself Gothic, a moving version of the classic Gothic castle which serves as both ‘safe haven and prison’, rendered uncanny by its hybridity, the way it embodies desires for both familial domesticity and a potentially dangerous freedom (p. 34). The Impala’s association with patriarchal authority is made clear. Dean has inherited it from his father, who chides him for failing to take care of it correctly (Humphris, Shiban, & Wharmby, 2006), and his authority as the older brother is cemented by the fact that he habitually drives the car. This association is central in the first three episodes of Season 2. The season opens with the Impala wrecked after a crash, while Dean lies in a coma in hospital, saved from death only when John trades his own life for his son’s. While his brother is still unconscious, Sam argues that it is worth trying to save the car, insisting, ‘We’re not just going to give up on…’ and then breaking off, inviting the viewer to fill in the gap with the assumption that he is really talking about Dean (Kripke & Manners, 2006). In the second episode of the season, the Winchesters investigate a case driving a borrowed minivan that makes Dean ‘feel like a frigging soccer mom’, while the Impala awaits repairs (Shiban & Sgriccia, 2006). Here, the car stands in for the state of Dean’s mind and the family relationship, as both brothers grieve the loss of their father. In the absence of John’s authority, the brothers and their family home itself are wounded. This is also the episode in which Sam and Dean meet Ellen and Jo Harvelle, mother and daughter monster hunters. Dean pulls up outside their bar in his emasculating minivan, and when the brothers break in to investigate, they are swiftly surprised and held at gunpoint by the Harvelles, a moment framed in explicitly gendered terms. When Dean feels Jo’s gun at his back, he says, ‘Please let that be a rifle’; she responds with,


Jessica George

‘No, I’m just real happy to see you’ (Shiban & Sgriccia, 2006). The phallic imagery and reference to sexual threat complete the emasculation of the minivan. Without the presence of John, and the car that represents the handingdown of fatherly authority, the Winchesters’ place as masculine heroes comes under threat. The third episode of the season opens with lingering shots of a repaired and gleaming Impala and a much more cheerful Dean (Gamble & Singer, 2007). This episode works to reinstate the Winchesters as heroes, and to place them as masculine authorities in their own right, by contrasting them with another monster hunter, Gordon Walker. Ellen Harvelle warns that Gordon is ‘dangerous to everyone and everything around him’, and it transpires that the vampires he has been killing are peaceful and avoid human blood (Gamble & Singer, 2007). Gordon hunts for fun, rather than to protect, and this is reinforced by scenes which use horror-movie cues to position the vampire as victim and Gordon as monster: a young vampire woman runs through the woods, stalked by a shadowy figure who emerges from nowhere to decapitate her; a security guard hears a strange noise outside and is attacked while investigating. Ultimately, Sam and Dean overpower Gordon and help the peaceful vampires escape. Gordon is one of very few recurring black characters on Supernatural, and the episode’s problematic racial politics have been discussed elsewhere (Wright, 2016, pp. 114 115, for example). The image of Sam and Dean protecting the vampire Lenore, a white woman, from a black man whose ‘bloodlust’ is positioned as monstrous, clearly works to reinforce a white version of patriarchal authority, and to position the Impala as its representative. ‘Home’ outside the feminine, domestic sphere may be possible, but it must remain a space tied to traditional masculinity. The Season 5 finale ‘Swan Song’, mentioned earlier, does work to complicate this gendered separation. The Impala, we are told, is ‘the most important object in […] the whole universe’ (Kripke, Gerwitz, & Boyum, 2010). This is explicitly because of the sentimental value it holds for the Winchesters, and the work they have put into their particular form of homemaking. In this episode Sam has been possessed by Lucifer, and it is seeing the family memories embodied in the Impala that gives him the impetus to break free of Lucifer’s control. It is not the iconography of the muscle car that is important here, but the marks inscribing the Winchester family history into the fabric of the Impala, ‘[t]he army man that Sam crammed into the ashtray’ and ‘[t]he Legos that Dean shoved into the vents’, as well as Sam and Dean’s initials carved into the car’s interior (Kripke, Gerwitz, & Boyum, 2010). Significantly, we learn that ‘when Dean rebuilt [the Impala] from the ground up, he made sure all these little things stayed, cause it’s the blemishes that make her beautiful’ (Kripke, Gerwitz, & Boyum, 2010). Dean has ensured the family history embodied in the Impala is preserved, and this work of preservation has resonances with Iris Marion Young’s ideas about home. Young (1997) acknowledges other feminist critiques of ‘house and home’, which have suggested that they are constructs which ‘mean the confinement of women for the sake of nourishing male projects’ (p. 134) and which reduce

‘Some Normal, Apple-pie Life’


women to vehicles for reflecting men’s identity. Supernatural’s portrayal of feminine domesticity as pretext for, and Other to, the male monster-hunter’s quest certainly seems visible in these critiques. Young, however, suggests that ‘home’ should not be rejected completely, for it ‘expresses uniquely human values’ (p. 134). Young’s anthropocentrism may be problematic for viewers of monster narratives, which often challenge human exceptionalism, but the idea that ‘uniquely human values’ exist is largely reinforced by the Season 5 finale (if not by the narrative of Supernatural as a whole). It is Lucifer’s contempt for human beings, whom he describes as ‘hairless apes’ (Edlund & Boyum, 2009), that makes him villainous, and Sam’s memories of his unique human history are what defeat him. The fact that Dean has worked to preserve these family memories within the space of their home aligns him with the traditionally feminine work of preservation which, Young argues, needs to be revalued by feminists. Far from just being ‘housework’, preservation of the home and the memories within it ‘give[s] material support to the identity of those whose home it is’ (pp. 149 151). This is explicitly contrasted with the ‘nostalgia’ that, in Young’s analysis, forms the basis for men’s self-affirmation in relation to the home (p. 139) and which we find in Supernatural’s earlier relationship to domesticity. Instead of nurturing ‘fantasies of a lost home from which the subject is separated and to which he seeks to return’, preservation allows individuals to face an uncertain future with confidence in their own identity (p. 154). Recognizing its value allows for the possibility of a new concept of home, one in which preservation work is both valued and degendered. That Dean does this work for his family through the Impala complicates any notion of it as either a maternal womb or an exclusively masculine space.


‘Mommy’s Gone’

The tension between these aspects of the Impala, and the hunting world more generally, also creeps into Supernatural’s portrayal of the domestic sphere. Beginning in Season 4, the show begins to complicate its previously stereotypical portrayal of feminized domesticity as a separate sphere. (It should be noted that this is not a simple linear progression, as the later Lisa storyline illustrates; rather it illustrates an ongoing tension and contestation between different, and differently-gendered, versions of ‘home’.) In an early Season 4 episode, Dean is sent back in time and encounters his parents before they were married. To his surprise, he learns that the Mary he remembers, ‘Mom’, the representative of the foreclosed domestic world, never existed. Mary’s parents were themselves monster hunters and raised her to follow in their footsteps. By marrying John and building a domestic life of her own, she tried to escape the hunting world in a gender-reversed version of the attempts her sons would later make, deliberately choosing a husband who ‘believe[d] in happily ever after’ and was ‘everything a hunter isn’t’ (Carver & Boyum, 2008). Here, however, she also seems well aware that the reality of domesticity rarely lives up to the ideal: while investigating a case, it is Mary who


Jessica George

uncovers that a young boy has sold his soul to a demon in order to escape the alcoholism and domestic violence that haunted his ‘normal and ordinary’ home (Carver & Boyum, 2008). Later in the episode, Mary will make a demon deal of her own, setting in motion the events that will ultimately kill her in order to save John’s life and ensure her domestic ideal will still happen. The home, then, has never been ideal, and ‘Mom’ has never been the embodiment of a feminized domestic sphere to be protected. Home is always already haunted by its monstrous Other, the world of hunting, and Mary is an individual who makes the same mistakes as her sons with similarly dire consequences. Mary’s return to the show, after she is resurrected in the Season 11 finale, also works to undo the association between femininity, domesticity, and ‘Mom’ and their fencing-off into a separate sphere. We learn that, far from being the ideal housewife and mother Dean remembers, she cannot cook (Buckner, RossLeming, & Wright, 2016) and never in fact retired from hunting (Yockey & Badham, 2016). Early on in Season 12, she chooses to go on the road and hunt monsters by herself instead of remaining with her sons in their home base. Her story plays out as an exploration of the impossibility of separating the two spheres. Haunted by the knowledge that her own actions resulted in the destruction of her sons’ childhood home, Mary is unable to countenance any kind of domesticity, even the alternative kind that Sam and Dean have developed and combined with their hunting life. In her isolation, she becomes involved with the British Men of Letters, a secret supernatural society who aim to take over monster-hunting in the US, killing any hunters who stand in their way. Mary is brainwashed by them, trapped in a memory of the domestic ideal inside her own mind while Dean attempts to contact her and break her programming (Berens & Showalter, 2017). Within this dream, Mary acts out a scene from the brothers’ early childhood, before her death, and is initially oblivious to Dean’s attempts to speak to her, instead promising the imaginary, infant versions of her sons, ‘I’ll never let anything bad happen to you’ (Berens & Showalter, 2017). It is only after present-day Dean reminds her of the consequences of her actions, the monsters that have always haunted the domestic ideal, that she is able to break out of her brainwashed state and rescue her adult son in the ‘real’ world. During Dean’s speech to her, we hear him move from the anger of an abandoned child to the understanding and forgiveness of a hunter who recognizes his own monstrous side and sees it reflected back at him. It is when Mary ‘really look[s] at him’, recognizing both her son and herself, that the spell is broken (Berens & Showalter, 2017). In order to fully enter into the hybrid space of the Winchester family, Mary must recognize herself as somebody who straddles both worlds, as both mother and hunter and not the stereotyped ‘Mom’ of gendered domesticity.


‘On the Other Side of This, We Can Start Over’

Supernatural offers two alternative visions of home, the Impala, already discussed, and the Men of Letters bunker which Sam and Dean inherit in Season 8, and which becomes their permanent base, moving the show away from the road

‘Some Normal, Apple-pie Life’


trip format. Their paternal grandfather, Henry, who vanished when John was young, is revealed to have been a member of the Men of Letters, a secret society devoted to studying the supernatural, and as his descendants, Sam and Dean are ‘legacies’ (Glass & Ladouceur, 2013). The American chapter of the Men of Letters was wiped out by a demon in the 1950s, but the last survivor gives the Winchester brothers the key and coordinates after learning they are Henry’s grandchildren. Effectively, they acquire it via patrilineal inheritance, something which would seem to position it as being representative of patriarchal authority, like the Impala. It is filled with weapons, and was built by a group with a gendered name (though we learn that the Men of Letters did in fact accept female members), reinforcing the impression of it as a masculine space strongly associated with the supernatural world. As with the Impala, however, this association is not straightforward. Indeed, in the episode after the brothers move into the bunker, Dean immediately takes up the work of homemaking (or ‘nesting’, as he puts it), cooking and carefully arranging family photographs in his bedroom (Dabb & Parks, 2013). His preservation work is more clearly aligned with traditionally feminine housework here, with hints of the frustratingly cyclical nature of ‘women’s work’ in a Season 9 episode, for example, the encounter between the supernatural world and the domestic is played for laughs when Dean finds the bunker’s kitchen wrecked by a wicked witch and immediately exclaims, ‘Damn it, I just cleaned in here!’ (Thompson & Singer, 2013). With a stable home that is nonetheless visibly different from the domesticity he has previously failed to attain, Dean immediately relaxes his hypermasculine performance. When Sam expresses his surprise at realizing Dean is a good cook, he responds, ‘We have a real kitchen now’ (Dabb & Parks, 2013). The space itself, this suggests, has enabled him to engage in homemaking activities both for family nurture and as a way of staking his claim to the bunker. This new home exists with reference to both the hyperseparated spheres of feminine domesticity and masculine hunting but is confined to neither. The spectre of the Gothic castle, particularly with reference to patriarchal authority, rears its head again in Season 12. The penultimate episode of the season, ‘Who We Are’ (Berens & Showalter, 2017), acts as a finale to the storyline involving the British Men of Letters. This is the same episode in which Mary is brainwashed, and during the earlier part of the episode, the Men of Letters, represented here by Mary’s ex-lover Arthur Ketch, manage to take control of the bunker and seal Sam and Dean inside. With the bunker’s oxygen levels getting dangerously low, the home threatens to become its Gothic Other, the subterranean dungeon in which victims, in particular Gothic heroines, are trapped. We might read this as an attempt to reassert the hyperseparation of home and hunting, as in earlier seasons, suggesting that by attempting to combine the two, the Winchesters have made themselves vulnerable. This time, however, the home is not repudiated. The Men of Letters are defeated, and all three Winchesters return to reclaim the bunker at the end of the episode. Significantly, here we also see another alternative home built by hunters, that of Jody Mills, a sheriff who also hunts monsters, and her adopted daughter Alex. Echoing the Season 2


Jessica George

episodes with Gordon, ‘Who We Are’ also works to set the Winchesters and their friends up as legitimate authorities, in contrast to the illegitimate authority of the Men of Letters, but by this time the gender politics of home and hunting have been thoroughly complicated. These hunters gather and live in hybrid spaces where rigidly gendered separations of hunting and home no longer apply, and in doing so, they build a community that is able to protect its own members and defeat its enemies.



Supernatural, then, initially offers a fairly straightforward version of the masculine Gothic, presenting us with male monster-hunters who are exiled from a feminized domestic world, and who must rigidly maintain the boundary between that world and their own to maintain their identities as hunters. As the series progresses, however, tensions emerge, this hyperseparation giving way to a suggestion that the feminine domestic ideal has always been haunted by its monstrous Other, and to the possibility of alternative versions of home that exist entirely neither in one gendered sphere nor another. Rather than gendered distinctions precluding the possibility of home, their relaxation allows home to exist in an old car, or a concrete bunker. In turn, these become spaces where the pressure for hypermasculine performance lessens, and where homemaking is everybody’s business.

References Berens, R. (Writer) & Showalter, J. F. (Director). (2017). Who we are. [Television series episode.] In E. Kripke, R. Singer, McG, D. Nutter, K. Manners, J. Shiban, P. Sgriccia, S. Gamble, B. Edlund, J. Carver, J. Michaels, T. Aronauer, A. Glass, A. Dabb, B. Buckner & E. Ross-Leming (Executive producers), Supernatural. Kripke Enterprises, Wonderland Sound and Vision & WBTV. Berens, R. (Writer) & Singer, R. (Director). (2016). The foundry. [Television series episode.] In E. Kripke, R. Singer, McG, D. Nutter, K. Manners, J. Shiban, P. Sgriccia, S. Gamble, B. Edlund, J. Carver, J. Michaels, T. Aronauer, A. Glass, A. Dabb, B. Buckner & E. Ross-Leming (Executive producers), Supernatural. Kripke Enterprises, Wonderland Sound and Vision & WBTV. Blunt, A., & Dowling, R. M. (2005). Home. London: Routledge. Buckner, B. and Ross-Leming, E. (Writers) & Shapiro, P. (Director). (2006). Route 666. [Television series episode.] In E. Kripke, R. Singer, McG, D. Nutter, K. Manners, J. Shiban, P. Sgriccia, S. Gamble, B. Edlund, J. Carver, J. Michaels, T. Aronauer, A. Glass, A. Dabb, B. Buckner & E. Ross-Leming (Executive producers), Supernatural. Kripke Enterprises, Wonderland Sound and Vision & WBTV. Buckner, B. and Ross-Leming, E. (Writers) & Wright, T. J. (Director). (2016). Mamma Mia. [Television series episode.] In E. Kripke, R. Singer, McG, D. Nutter, K. Manners, J. Shiban, P. Sgriccia, S. Gamble, B. Edlund, J. Carver, J.

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Michaels, T. Aronauer, A. Glass, A. Dabb, B. Buckner & E. Ross-Leming (Executive producers), Supernatural. Kripke Enterprises, Wonderland Sound and Vision & WBTV. Bruce, M. N. (2010). The Impala as negotiator of melodrama and masculinity in Supernatural. Transformative Works and Cultures, 4. doi:10.3983/twc.2010.0154 Carver, J. (Writer) & Boyum, S. (Director). (2008). In the beginning. [Television series episode.] In E. Kripke, R. Singer, McG, D. Nutter, K. Manners, J. Shiban, P. Sgriccia, S. Gamble, B. Edlund, J. Carver, J. Michaels, T. Aronauer, A. Glass, A. Dabb, B. Buckner & E. Ross-Leming (Executive producers), Supernatural. Kripke Enterprises, Wonderland Sound and Vision & WBTV. Charmelo, E., Snyder, N. and Reed, D. (Writers) & Eliasberg, J. (Director). (2010). You can’t handle the truth. [Television series episode.] In E. Kripke, R. Singer, McG, D. Nutter, K. Manners, J. Shiban, P. Sgriccia, S. Gamble, B. Edlund, J. Carver, J. Michaels, T. Aronauer, A. Glass, A. Dabb, B. Buckner & E. RossLeming (Executive producers), Supernatural. Kripke Enterprises, Wonderland Sound and Vision & WBTV. Clifton, J. (2009). Spreading disaster: Gender in the Supernatural universe. In & L. Wilson (Eds.), In the hunt: Unauthorized essays on Supernatural (pp. 119 142). Dallas, TX: BenBella. Dabb, A. (Writer) & Parks, K. (Director). (2013). Trial and error. [Television series episode.] In E. Kripke, R. Singer, McG, D. Nutter, K. Manners, J. Shiban, P. Sgriccia, S. Gamble, B. Edlund, J. Carver, J. Michaels, T. Aronauer, A. Glass, A. Dabb, B. Buckner & E. Ross-Leming (Executive producers), Supernatural. Kripke Enterprises, Wonderland Sound and Vision & WBTV. Duda, H. L. (2009). The monster hunter in modern popular culture. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. Edlund, B. (Writer) & Boyum, S. (Director). (2009). The end. [Television series episode.] In E. Kripke, R. Singer, McG, D. Nutter, K. Manners, J. Shiban, P. Sgriccia, S. Gamble, B. Edlund, J. Carver, J. Michaels, T. Aronauer, A. Glass, A. Dabb, B. Buckner & E. Ross-Leming (Executive producers), Supernatural. Kripke Enterprises, Wonderland Sound and Vision & WBTV. Ferguson Ellis, K. (1989). The contested castle: Gothic novels and the subversion of domestic ideology. Urbana & Chicago: University of Illinois Press. Gamble, S. (Writer) & Singer, R. (Director). (2007). Bloodlust. [Television series episode.] In E. Kripke, R. Singer, McG, D. Nutter, K. Manners, J. Shiban, P. Sgriccia, S. Gamble, B. Edlund, J. Carver, J. Michaels, T. Aronauer, A. Glass, A. Dabb, B. Buckner & E. Ross-Leming (Executive producers), Supernatural. Kripke Enterprises, Wonderland Sound and Vision & WBTV. Gamble, S. (Writer) & Sgriccia, P. (Director). (2010). Exile on Main Street. [Television series episode.] In E. Kripke, R. Singer, McG, D. Nutter, K. Manners, J. Shiban, P. Sgriccia, S. Gamble, B. Edlund, J. Carver, J. Michaels, T. Aronauer, A. Glass, A. Dabb, B. Buckner & E. Ross-Leming (Executive producers), Supernatural. Kripke Enterprises, Wonderland Sound and Vision & WBTV. Gamble, S. (Writer) & Showalter, J. F. (Director). (2011). Let it bleed. [Television series episode.] In E. Kripke, R. Singer, McG, D. Nutter, K. Manners, J. Shiban, P. Sgriccia, S. Gamble, B. Edlund, J. Carver, J. Michaels, T. Aronauer, A. Glass,


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A. Dabb, B. Buckner & E. Ross-Leming (Executive producers), Supernatural. Kripke Enterprises, Wonderland Sound and Vision & WBTV. Glass, A. (Writer) & Ladouceur, S. (Director). (2013). As time goes by. [Television series episode.] In E. Kripke, R. Singer, McG, D. Nutter, K. Manners, J. Shiban, P. Sgriccia, S. Gamble, B. Edlund, J. Carver, J. Michaels, T. Aronauer, A. Glass, A. Dabb, B. Buckner & E. Ross-Leming (Executive producers), Supernatural. Kripke Enterprises, Wonderland Sound and Vision & WBTV. Humphris, C. and Shiban, J. (Writers) & Wharmby, T. (Director). (2006). Dead man’s blood. [Television series episode.] In E. Kripke, R. Singer, McG, D. Nutter, K. Manners, J. Shiban, P. Sgriccia, S. Gamble, B. Edlund, J. Carver, J. Michaels, T. Aronauer, A. Glass, A. Dabb, B. Buckner & E. Ross-Leming (Executive producers), Supernatural. Kripke Enterprises, Wonderland Sound and Vision & WBTV. Humphris, C. (Writer) & Tobin, J. M. (Director). (2007). Born under a bad sign. [Television series episode.] In E. Kripke, R. Singer, McG, D. Nutter, K. Manners, J. Shiban, P. Sgriccia, S. Gamble, B. Edlund, J. Carver, J. Michaels, T. Aronauer, A. Glass, A. Dabb, B. Buckner & E. Ross-Leming (Executive producers), Supernatural. Kripke Enterprises, Wonderland Sound and Vision & WBTV. Knowles, T. (2016). The automobile as moving castle. In M. Edmundson (Ed.), The gothic tradition in Supernatural (pp. 25 36). Jefferson, NC: McFarland. Kripke, E. (Writer) & Nutter, D. (Director). (2005). Pilot. [Television series episode.] In E. Kripke, R. Singer, McG, D. Nutter, K. Manners, J. Shiban, P. Sgriccia, S. Gamble, B. Edlund, J. Carver, J. Michaels, T. Aronauer, A. Glass, A. Dabb, B. Buckner & E. Ross-Leming (Executive producers), Supernatural. Kripke Enterprises, Wonderland Sound and Vision & WBTV. Kripke, E. (Writer) & Girotti, K. (Director). (2005). Home. [Television series episode.] In E. Kripke, R. Singer, McG, D. Nutter, K. Manners, J. Shiban, P. Sgriccia, S. Gamble, B. Edlund, J. Carver, J. Michaels, T. Aronauer, A. Glass, A. Dabb, B. Buckner & E. Ross-Leming (Executive producers), Supernatural. Kripke Enterprises, Wonderland Sound and Vision & WBTV. Kripke, E. (Writer) & Manners, K. (Director). (2006). In my time of dying. [Television series episode.] In E. Kripke, R. Singer, McG, D. Nutter, K. Manners, J. Shiban, P. Sgriccia, S. Gamble, B. Edlund, J. Carver, J. Michaels, T. Aronauer, A. Glass, A. Dabb, B. Buckner & E. Ross-Leming (Executive producers), Supernatural. Kripke Enterprises, Wonderland Sound and Vision & WBTV. Kripke, E. and Gerwitz, E. (Writers) & Boyum, S. (Director). (2010). Swan song. [Television series episode.] In E. Kripke, R. Singer, McG, D. Nutter, K. Manners, J. Shiban, P. Sgriccia, S. Gamble, B. Edlund, J. Carver, J. Michaels, T. Aronauer, A. Glass, A. Dabb, B. Buckner & E. Ross-Leming (Executive producers), Supernatural. Kripke Enterprises, Wonderland Sound and Vision & WBTV. Poole, C. (2009). Who threw momma on the ceiling? Analyzing Supernatural’s primal scene of trauma. In & L. Wilson (Eds.), In the hunt: Unauthorized essays on Supernatural (pp. 143 154). Dallas, TX: BenBella. Shiban, J. (Writer), & Sgriccia, P. (Director). (2006). Everybody loves a clown. [Television series episode.] In E. Kripke, R. Singer, McG, D. Nutter, K.

‘Some Normal, Apple-pie Life’


Manners, J. Shiban, P. Sgriccia, S. Gamble, B. Edlund, J. Carver, J. Michaels, T. Aronauer, A. Glass, A. Dabb, B. Buckner & E. Ross-Leming (Executive producers), Supernatural. Kripke Enterprises, Wonderland Sound and Vision & WBTV. Thompson, R. (Writer), & Singer, R. (Director). (2013). Slumber party. [Television series episode.] In E. Kripke, R. Singer, McG, D. Nutter, K. Manners, J. Shiban, P. Sgriccia, S. Gamble, B. Edlund, J. Carver, J. Michaels, T. Aronauer, A. Glass, A. Dabb, B. Buckner & E. Ross-Leming (Executive producers), Supernatural. Kripke Enterprises, Wonderland Sound and Vision & WBTV. Thompson, R. (Writer), & Wright, T. J. (Director). (2015). Baby. [Television series episode.] In E. Kripke, R. Singer, McG, D. Nutter, K. Manners, J. Shiban, P. Sgriccia, S. Gamble, B. Edlund, J. Carver, J. Michaels, T. Aronauer, A. Glass, A. Dabb, B. Buckner & E. Ross-Leming (Executive producers), Supernatural. Kripke Enterprises, Wonderland Sound and Vision & WBTV. Tucker, R. (Writer), & Kripke, E. (Director). (2007). what is and what should never be. [Television series episode.] In E. Kripke, R. Singer, McG, D. Nutter, K. Manners, J. Shiban, P. Sgriccia, S. Gamble, B. Edlund, J. Carver, J. Michaels, T. Aronauer, A. Glass, A. Dabb, B. Buckner & E. Ross-Leming (Executive producers), Supernatural. Kripke Enterprises, Wonderland Sound and Vision & WBTV. Wilkinson, J. (2009). Back in Black. In & L. Wilson (Eds.), In the hunt: Unauthorized essays on Supernatural (pp. 197 207). Dallas, TX: BenBella. Wright, J. M. (2016). Men with stakes: Masculinity and the gothic in US television. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Yockey, S. (Writer), & Badham, J. (Director). (2016). Celebrating the life of Asa Fox. [Television series episode.] In E. Kripke, R. Singer, McG, D. Nutter, K. Manners, J. Shiban, P. Sgriccia, S. Gamble, B. Edlund, J. Carver, J. Michaels, T. Aronauer, A. Glass, A. Dabb, B. Buckner & E. Ross-Leming (Executive producers), Supernatural. Kripke Enterprises, Wonderland Sound and Vision & WBTV. Young, I. M. (1997). Intersecting voices: Dilemmas of gender, political philosophy, and policy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

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Chapter 16

Female Audiences’ Reception of American Horror Story in Greece Despina Chronaki and Liza Tsaliki



Netfix, Hulu and HBO productions have revived audiences’ interest in the medium of television horror and apparently on texts that engage with controversial topics and representations of violence and horror. Texts such as The Vampire Diaries, True Blood, Van Helsing, The Walking Dead, American Horror Story (referred to as AHS for brevity) and Outcast are only a few out of numerous TV series that possibly signal the re-establishment of the horror cycle as a genre first introduced by Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Charmed (some might also include the X-Files here) in the mid-1990s (Jancovich, 2001). Although audiences do not necessarily consider AHS as horror (Eleni, 29; Lina, 25; Milaena, 30), in this chapter, we discuss it as such because of the narrative and aesthetic elements that situate it within the Gothic genre (Keetley, 2013; Taylor, 2012) while acknowledging that ‘genre is what we collectively believe it to be’ (Tudor, 1986, pp. 6 7) at certain cultural, social and historical circumstances. Whether terrified or just sceptical about it, pleased or disgusted, audiences are engaging with such popular TV texts in multiple and complex ways, accounting of them in terms of identity, cultural capital and media literacy. Testing boundaries in the context of encountering horror have long been of interest to scholars. For example, there have been cultural accounts of how audiences negotiate with what is frightening or disgusting on screen (Buckingham, 1996; Hill, 1997; Hills, 2010), and also accounts of the nature of the text itself, drawing upon psychoanalysis, feminism or cultural-historical perspectives (Aloi, 2005 interalia; Copjec, 1991; Russo, 1994; Waller, 1987; Young, 1991) for their arguments. Notwithstanding the international interest on the genre and its audiences, the horror genre has not been examined in the Greek context so far. This chapter is an attempt at a first investigation of how certain groups of Greek viewers engage with the horror genre, drawing upon the argument that engaging with it is a complex process through which audiences tell stories about

Gender and Contemporary Horror in Television, 201 213 r Despina Chronaki and Liza Tsaliki All rights of reproduction in any form reserved doi:10.1108/978-1-78769-103-220191017


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themselves, their background, and their social and cultural practices more broadly (Hill, 1997). They account of the ways in which they engage in a dialectic process with the text but also with its creator(s), resulting in establishing a significant relationship with the genre. AHS was chosen because it is a popular text (at present the makers are preparing for Season 8), it comprises diverse horror narratives and invests much of its running time focused on female characters. The discussion of this chapter focuses mostly on participants’ portfolios of interpretation (Hill, 1997, p. 108) through which they engage with horror texts.


Looking for Audiences among Feminist, Psychoanalytic and Effects-laden Readings: The Contribution of Cultural Studies

Academic discourse about horror is still predominantly text-oriented, while in most cases both classical and more recent analyses draw upon feminist, psychoanalytic or broader effects-laden approaches. As Snelson (2009, p. 174) argues, ‘the idea that the horror genre is addressed to a male audience has become an almost common-sense assumption in scholarship, while recognition of any potential female pleasure derived from horror spectatorship is certainly assumed to be a contemporary phenomenon’. Along similar lines, most effects-laden approaches are looking to prove that horror texts are victimizing viewers (Freeland, 1995) or that audiences are bombarded with violent representations which contribute to the cultivation of certain attitudes towards violence. This is especially true when it comes to young audiences (Barker, 1984). As it happens with other contested and taboo, topics such as pornography, the debate about representations of horror is mostly informed by policy, whereby public and academic accounts stress the need for audiences to self-regulate and relate to such text in (self) censorious ways. As this chapter focuses on audiences of horror, discussions about the vast body of analysis of the genre will not be engaged with in any great degree. Rather, the chapter will focus on a brief discussion of the work related to female audiences and to audiences more broadly. There is a significant body of feminist work mostly textual approaches drawing upon psychoanalytic approaches and feminist theory to discuss the centrality of male gaze and female victimisation, vilification or female Otherness in horror texts (e.g. Creed, 1993; Smith, 2012; Williams, 1984/2001). The argument that horror texts are predominantly produced and consumed by men, signifying an essentially misogynistic genre (cf Jancovich, 2001), has been popular among feminist scholars. Along the same lines, it has been argued that female spectators are expected to associate with the monstrous or vilified representation of women (Williams, 1984/2001) and that the monster is in many instances defined as female (Creed, 1993). Among the few feminist accounts that problematize this stereotypical ‘violence-against-women’ reading, is Clover’s (1987) account about the final girl as the female rather than male hero, a proof that women’s readings in

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horror is not as simplistic as argued elsewhere. Moreover, Tincknell (2010) discusses feminine identities and adolescents in the context of the Gothic horror hybrid of early 2000s, working with texts such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Pinedo (1997) balances between her feminist academic and horror fan identities to provide a cultural feminist account about the pleasures of horror film viewing for women, while Snelson (2009, p. 173) attempts within a similar frame of mind to ‘challenge the pervasive theories that suggest female pleasure or identification is unattainable in horror spectatorship’. Although these accounts problematize established feminist approaches to female spectatorship, they are not, nonetheless, reception studies. Amongst the rare studies to include an ethnographic approach to female audiences is Schlesinger, Dobash, Dobash, and Weaver’s (1992) large-scale study on women’s responses to television violence; Hill’s (1997) discussion of women’s responses to violent movies as part of her larger reception study on audiences of horror, and Cherry’s (1999) work on female horror fans, where she stresses the need to turn to audiences in horror studies in order to understand the social and cultural locatedness of horror spectatorship. Most non-feminist academic work on spectatorship talks on behalf of audiences without addressing audiences themselves (Jancovich, 2001). On the one hand, many studies approach horror via psychoanalytic or semiotic approaches, pointing at the functions of the Uncanny when forgotten fears, instincts or collective memories return to consciousness through horror text reading (Gelder, 2000). On the other hand, there is research focusing on cases like the video nasties and Childs Play 3 (in the UK), feeding public anxieties about the negative effects of horror on audiences (Barker & Petley, 1997/2005; Kermode, 1997/ 2005). Effects-laden studies (usually of quantitative nature) claim to explore cognitive, attitudinal but also behavioural effects such as predictors of horror film attendance and appeal to the genre (e.g. Tamborini & Stiff, 1987), or the role of the need for affect in the experience of emotions and meta-emotions with horror texts (e.g. Bartsch, Appel, & Storch, 2010). Work of the kind discussed above almost expects audiences to withhold an ‘inner desire’ to get pleasure from violence or horror (Tudor, 1997), an expectation to self-govern in a social context of ethical or appropriate behaviour. As it stereotypically happens with audiences of pornography, reality shows, soap operas and audiences of any ‘low-brow’ text, audiences of horror are predominantly understood and constructed as Others in most of the public and academic discourse, in a sense that they are being consumed by a desire to engage with violent thoughts and instincts within the safety context of popular cultural consumption (Hill, 1997). In any case, the activity of liking violent representations, even if this is just enjoying talking about them, is central among audience-related anxieties. The authoritative nature of such approaches has been tackled by cultural studies accounts: Barker’s (1984a, 1984b) influential work on video nasties mentioned above, and Hill’s (1997) explorative study of audiences’ portfolios of interpretation of violent/horror texts sit alongside Buckingham’s (1996) account of children’s responses and constructions of horror, and Holland’s (1997/2005)


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discussion of the construction of childhood at risk and the call for censorship in the light of the James Bulger case. Alongside these accounts (that inform this study), sit reception studies like Cherry’s (2010) work on fan consumption of horror through online communities and the use of the internet for marketing by filmmakers and Hills’ (2010) study on violence/horror fan’s participation at film festivals conventions. It is within such a cultural studies context we situate ourselves, drawing upon the critical work of the aforementioned scholars to explore Greek women’s tastes in AHS.


Research Method and Practice

This chapter employed a qualitative approach to female audiences of horror in Greece. Ten in depth interviews with women aged 25 40 and discussed a range of issues relating to taste in the genre, the culture of horror production and AHS as a popular horror text. Participants were recruited via social media (posts on Facebook fan pages) but also via snowballing, and all signed a consent form agreeing to participate in this study. Prior to the interviews, they were informed about anonymity and confidentiality, the interview agenda, and about their rights to refuse to answer questions that would make them feel uncomfortable or to abandon the process at any point. To ensure participants’ protection but also for ease of readership, names have been given to the participants, rather than Candidate A, Candidate B, etc. Most interviews were conducted via Skype for participants located in different places across the country, or for reasons of convenience. It was felt that offering participants the chance to participate in the study from the comfort of their domesticity would increase the chances of having longer and more detailed conversations. In terms of data analysis thematic and discourse analysis were employed as these are two approaches that offer a mapping of participants’ diverse engagements with the text (Miles & Huberman, 1994), and provide ways of examining how people use the available range of discourses to make sense of their cultural and social practices (Potter & Wetherell, 1987). More specifically, discourse analysis offers an analytical insight to audiences’ shifts among identities and deployment of interpretative repertoires. In what follows after, participants’ responses to horror as a spatial matrix of political, feminist and cultural identities that appear as a result of the significant dialectic work they do with AHS and the horror genre more broadly, are discussed.


Making Sense of American Horror Story: How are Greek Women’s Tastes in the Text being Shaped

Audience research in horror so far illustrates that men, women and young people enjoy, or are interested in talking about horror (Buckingham, 1996; Morrison et al., 1993). Regardless of age, people can tell the difference between what is real and what is not (Gray, 1992). In fact, as this study indicates, the

Female Audiences’ Reception of American Horror Story in Greece


combination of realism and fantasy in the same text makes it even more interesting and pleasurable for them (‘I really like a realistic story in a fictional narrative’, Sonia, 38; ‘I prefer the supernatural kind of texts, it helps me escape everyday routine’, Mary, 35; to watch something unrealistic, is sometimes relaxing. It takes me away of my own problems’ Mina, 30). Most of our participants preferred gothic horror (the haunted house narrative), witchcraft and other supernatural narratives (‘witchcraft stories are fun, you see something that can’t really happen, but is set in the real world, these stories are relaxing’, Lina, 30; ‘I like the witches [Coven], because I like the supernatural, the outwordly’, Anna, 35; ‘I prefer watching witches getting killed, because they ‘ll live again, right? Witches, fly, leave, they live again (laughs)’, Aliki, 30). They have a particular sensitivity to religious narratives (narratives about exorcism) which could be possibly explained by the religious nature of Greek culture (‘I saw The Exorcist as a kid and I was terrified because they told me it was a real story’, Eri, 36; ‘I am ok with religion and churches and stuff, but I can’t cope with exorcism and such stories’, Katerina, 30). Audiences get different sorts of pleasure from texts, and build relations with the characters in a narrative, whether of sympathy, empathy or hate (Hill, 1997), and this is what was witness with our own interviewees: (‘I knew that this little, blonde, much-hated guy (Joffrey, Game of Thrones) would die, so I was really looking forward to see how this would happen’, Mina, 30; ‘they (the producers) killed Abraham (The Walking Dead), which was awful for the character, because I really liked him’, Mary, 35). Self-censorship practices (‘I might change to another channel when something happens, but I’ll see it anyway’, Anna, 35), as well as opting for home viewing (in itself serving to create a safety net between reality and fiction) are also elements that define audience experience and have already been identified in research (Hill, 1997) (‘if I am to watch it alone, I’ll watch something else afterwards, it won’t be the last thing to watch in the evening, Alexandra, 31; ‘I’ll watch Friends’ (afterwards) maybe, so that [AHS] won’t be the last thing to watch before going to bed, Katerina, 30). Nevertheless, the point of this analysis was an attempt to probe deeper into the exploration of what Pickering (2004) calls audiences’ ‘horizon of expectations’, a conceptual framework within which our participants’ tastes for AHS are being shaped in the light of the complex and significant work they do with the text. It appears that AHS is a rich text given that it has already attracted scholarly interest this volume included: Benson (in this volume) discusses female vampires in texts like AHS and Hotel, and Parcei (in this volume) discusses the representation of older women through the different characters that Jessica Lange embodies in the first four seasons of AHS. Taylor (2012) offers a semiotic approach to issues of sex and class in AHS drawing upon Kristeva’s (1982) and Creed’s (1993) psychoanalytical work on horror and sexuality, as well as on Foucault’s (1990) work on sexuality as a repressive and productive technology. From a similar feminist psychoanalytical perspective, Subramanian (2013) discusses the technologies of producing monstrous femininities through special effects, while Keetley (2013) offers an approach to the entropic turn of US culture reflected in the Gothic nature of the first season of AHS. This textual


Despina Chronaki and Liza Tsaliki

approach to AHS offers a great deal of analytical insights to the text, but it cannot talk on behalf of audiences. Participants are deploying their portfolios of interpretation of AHS, attempting to unpack the discursive ways in which they develop a taste (or distaste) for the text. Mina (30) commented on the autonomous narratives of each season, which audiences may choose and enjoy, or reject without the overall text losing coherence: […] each storyline finishes at the end of the season, so if I want, I can only watch that season, anytime I want, and this keeps the audience. […]it employs the same actors in different roles, which is very interesting and it creates familiarity with each new storyline. With AHS, you feel that the series is ‘one thing’. The double role of the text as both autonomous and coherent, with elements of homogeneity (genre, actors, characters and other links between seasons) make it a successful and memorable text for Mina and a few other participants. Such a practice is welcomed by audiences, given that all of them mention watching a number of different series over a period of time. On another level, Lina (25) comments on the credits of the series as the ‘creepiest’ part of the text: […] it has many photos on fire, photos of babies […] which is always creepy. Then it’s the score of the music box on the Freak show, […] this sweet music from childhood […] and the clown at the same time. Alexandra (31) also noted that ‘what I can’t stand is the music theme at the opening credits; it makes me sick, it’s creepy, I can’t bear it’. Many of our participants found the credits disturbing, even more so than the actual body of the text itself. The element of music (and surround sound), both inherent elements of the horror genre, are what participants mentioned as indicative of an authentic horror text whereby ‘music affects me a lot, when something is about to happen, I shut off my ears’, Alexandra, 31; and that the ‘music can be very creepy’, Eri, 36). On a different level, Mary (35), drew on her status as the administrator of the most popular Facebook page of foreign TV series for Greek audiences (16,245 followers), to engage in a direct and critical dialectic process with the producers of AHS. She engaged in filming discourse in ways that almost illustrate a contribution to the scenario: […] some storylines came out of the blue, and didn’t serve anywhere, they begin as fillers apparently, to fill the season and then are cut short because they can’t make it to the season finale. AHS does this with filler storylines, which are exhausted before the season finale because they are of no further use.

Female Audiences’ Reception of American Horror Story in Greece


Mary negotiated meanings and techniques with the production of AHS: by criticizing filming and literary techniques through projections of literacy about the conventions of the horror genre, she deconstructed the text and critically reflected on producer/director work and choices. On the same page, Lia (29) critically addressed production through a human rights claim for the employment of physically disabled people: […] people told me that there are some pervy scenes with dwarfs. I feel that they are being used, exploited upon to provoke horror, disgust. I don’t like that. In talking about disabled people’s sexuality in terms of exploitation, Lia actually reproduced a long-established concern about people with disabilities lacking sexual agency or social and cultural standing. The discomforting figure of the disabled person an eighteenth-century construction through medical discourses of hygiene and purity is, not surprisingly, denied any social, cultural and not least, sexual agency (Foucault, 1975/2003). It is therefore a rather favourable element not just in AHS but within the horror genre more broadly (Smith, 2012). Smith (2012, p. 95) argues about the ‘enfreakment of disability on which our cultural texts rely, indicating the reliance of all classic horror films not just on mythic monsters but also on culturally shaped views about more quotidian impairments and their bearers’. The notion of freak and all its cultural connotations of pathology, abnormality, illness or just ‘otherness’ is reflected through the mediation of a distanced but ‘real’ human figure that creates a cultural and social discomfort for audiences. The disabled figure in AHS is a recurring element in Seasons 1, 2 and 4, and disabled actors/characters appear in vital roles for the plot. For example, in Seasons 2 and 4 Pepper is a mentally disabled character (although played by a non-disabled actor); and, Adelaide (Jamie Brewer, who has Down Syndrome) in Season 1 appears as a go-between the dead haunting the house and the living, using this power to claim social acceptability from the new neighbours, whilst being portrayed as a fun, clever, intelligent girl who struggles with the social stigma of her disability whilst being constantly reminded by her mother (Jessica Lange) and claiming agency to attractive femininity and ‘normalcy’. Freak Show (Season 4) is focused on people with disabilities in a narrative is built around the cultural locatedness of freak shows, the social stigma of this social group and their commercial exploitation. What is interesting for us is the discomfort that Season 4 caused to our participants, who described it mostly in terms of pity and empathy. Eri (36) for example positions herself critically towards hiring disabled people to play roles of ‘freaks’, using an ideological dilemma: I disliked the fact that they exploited people with some peculiarities [i.e.disabilities], well, you could also say that they were given a chance to stand out, they are not offered [that] many […].


Despina Chronaki and Liza Tsaliki However, to put such individuals in a freak show, to ridicule them in front of people, takes us back to the 1600s.

Eri’s comment on producers’ choices comes through ethical discourses about the representation of disability in horror. Although she acknowledges disabled people’s chance to become visible, her ethical critique towards production casting choices reiterates a notion of pity about people who are socially considered as Others. A dialectical relationship with the producers through the text was established by Eleni (29) too, who nonetheless positioned herself ideologically towards the text and was problematized by the production’s choice to choose many gay actors (‘Looking at the AHS actors/actresses, I realised that it has about 80% openly gay actors, and that intrigued me.’ Yet, she also raised issues about gayness and challenges normative anxieties and beliefs of the US culture more broadly (Keetley, 2013): For me ‘horror’ in the title is misleading. I think that at the end it’s an American Story […] it deals with issues that disturb Americans, taboo issues like adultery, psychiatric problems, gayness etc. Her account about AHS [Cult] remains primarily political: When I saw the opening scene (Season7: s.7) where she [Sarah Paulson] cries and shouts, it reminded me of myself, cos I was afraid that he (Trump) would be elected. I didn’t like it, I didn’t want it, I was deeply concerned. […] The morning following his election, I was sad, I couldn’t believe it and I felt bad about the US people’s choice. For Eleni, the text was deeply political and she engaged with a political identity to rationalise the identification process with Sarah Paulson in this season. In engaging ideologically with the text through her own experience (Hill, 1997), she makes a political claim about US politics and the US political culture in the Trump era. Along the same lines, Aliki (30) also reflected on the ideological nature of the text and its focus on identity politics, especially in Season 7 (Cult): I saw that a lot of identity politics issues are going on; it raises political issues through the killings, and issues about social groups, current affairs and hot. Drawing on her professional and general interest for politics, Aliki also discussed extensively how AHS clearly raised social, cultural and political issues

Female Audiences’ Reception of American Horror Story in Greece


touching upon sensitive aspects of the US culture that produced it, stating that (Cult) was ‘political, it links to the politics of fear, identities, queer family, racism, everything is presented very harshly. […].’ She also projected a feminist political self in making ideological comments about the moralistic nature of both US and Greek cultures, when she commented on the topics of adultery and homosexuality raised in the text: […] they are cool in how they deal with lesbians having a family but very sensitive with adultery. In Greece it’s the opposite I think, but in AHS adultery is something very bad. In season 1, the guy has killed five people and everyone cares about the doctor having sex with his student. Through claims about morality, Aliki reflects critically on social and cultural anxieties in different cultures, and adopts a cosmopolitan identity that has been informed by a liberal, humanitarian understanding of being human. Without engaging with whether the text reflects an entropic turn of the US culture in what concerns sexuality and class (Keetley, 2013), or with the vilification of non-mainstream sexualities, queer sexuality and the monstrous womb (Taylor, 2012), Aliki celebrates the text’s interest in raising sensitive topics through a taboo-breaking process. In the areas of representing ageing femininity and motherhood (the former of which is the main focus of Parcei’s study elsewhere in this collection, and which is are topics discussed extensively by Subramanian, 2013), participants praised the talent and strong performances of actresses like Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates and especially Jessica Lange, the absence of whom sometimes led to a renegotiation and redefining of the contract between the viewer and the text: It’s the whole atmosphere that she created around her, her physique, this aristocratic physique. And it’s not usual that actresses at this age have a starring role. […] When Jessica Lange left, it was weird; it took me time to watch AHS again because she was one of the main protagonists in all seasons. (Mina, 30) Similarly, Sonia (38) applied feminist discourses in her appreciation of Kathy Bates’ embodiment of characters in numerous seasons of AHS, stating that ‘She’s authoritative, she’s dominant, wherever she appears, as the leader of the asylum for example, even in Season 1 where she was just the gossiper of the neighbourhood.’ The engagement with feminist discourses is particularly interesting for this study as they seem to indicate that participants’ agendas are significantly different than what textual approaches imply so far. Unlike concerns expressed by both feminist and effects scholars, our participants demonstrated sophisticated and agentic ways in which they work with AHS, many times rejecting the possible preferred readings of the text as victimizing or intimidating femininity


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(Subramanian, 2013). Some participants position themselves with the series through their real-life roles as mothers or daughters, showing that these are social conventions that redefine their relationship with horror text (‘Since I became a mum, I became more sensitive in these issues, anything related to children and horror makes me feel scared’ Anna, 35; ‘Once my aunt had her kids, she stopped watching horror with children’, Lina, 25; ‘Motherhood is an emotion we’ve all experienced in some way and it ties you with the story further, Sonia, 38’). On another level, participants read the feminine element of the text through postfeminist discourses of empowerment, celebrating ‘girl power’. Eri (36) said that ‘Season 3 (AHS: Coven) is all about women, even Evan Peters didn’t have a script, it was a good season, a girl-power season’; whilst Lia (29) felt that ‘In Season 2 (AHS: Asylum) where Sarah Paulson gets out as a winner of all the sick situations. She even kills her own child at the end, she’s a goddess.’ However, some of the participants reflected critically on AHS when they found it too melodramatic, failing to fulfil the expectations of horror: for example, Alexandra (31) found that ‘I saw the whole season 3, it wasn’t too fake, there was too much girl drama though, it was too much sometimes.’ As our findings indicate, female audiences of horror have much to say about how their taste in such texts develop through feminist, ethical, political and cultural discourses, and through assertions of cultural capital and media literacy. Although not discussed at their full extent, our data implies that talking about a specific text involves a broader engagement with the genre, a confession about one’s private and public self and a claim to participation in arenas about current public issues and concerns.



Our research appears to be one of the few addressing audience consumption of horror and specifically through a gender perspective. It indicates that the question of what audiences make of the horror text a question still underresearched is important to understand people’s discursive agendas in the course of their engagement with these texts. Even more, audiences’ agendas include some of the following complex and significant elements: first, diverse processes of identification with the texts, processes inextricably linked to their cultural and personal background. Second, projections of their horizons of expectations in relation to the text, reflecting the many ways in which they are sophisticated audiences in dialectic positions with the texts they consume (unlike dominant assumptions about audiences consuming texts uncritically). Third, our participants put forward their political, ideological and social concerns about culture, politics and diversity. The significance of the horror text for the audiences of our study is illustrated in the multiple discursive ways in which they construct the topics represented, the production process and the aesthetics of the representations. In what concerns the issue of gender, our participants make claims about the agentic, postfeminist woman in AHS and about broader issues that appear as

Female Audiences’ Reception of American Horror Story in Greece


themes in horror texts, through the assertion of cultural and political capital. They do not seem to engage with the text through discourses of vilification, victimization or even monstrification, as most feminist textual accounts indicate. In fact, they seem to be projecting the agentic, ideologically and culturally driven work they do with each text, highlighting the importance of this social practice as one of civic and cultural engagement. For them, the text is animated, multidimensional and a platform for significant identity work. Therefore, although textual approaches to AHS, and other horror texts and the genre more broadly offer significant analytical frameworks to work with, it seems that research with what audiences make of the horror text in terms of cultural identity, civic participation and media literacy is needed to a larger extent. Even more significantly, future studies might aim at why women engage with horror texts or rationalise horror representations more deeply than men (‘I think women look more into it than men, either because of fear, or uhm, I don’t know, in general’, Eleni, 29; ‘Guys don’t want [the text] to raise socio-political issues, to have to struggle, to think, to problematise’, Aliki, 30). Our analysis may be the result of a small-scale study about a specific text and thus not generalizable yet our findings indicate that much more extensive research with audiences (c)would reveal the broader scope of the social, political and cultural practices and technologies that audiences female audiences more specifically employ in their engagement with horror texts.

Acknowledgements We would like to thank the team of undergraduate students at the Faculty of Communication and Media Studies, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens who transcribed our research material (Theoni Papa, Eva Ieridou, Giorgos Rizos, Katerina Kalimera, Alba Koka, Dimitra Platia, Nikoleta Damigou, Eleni Aravani, Xanthia Mavraki, Eleni Maragou, Irini Konstanta).

References Aloi, P. (2005). Beyond the blair witch: A new horror aesthetic? In G. King (Ed.), From Hollywood to reality TV and beyond: The spectacle of the real (pp. 187 200). Bristol: Intellect. Barker, M. (1984). The video nasties: Freedom and censorship in the arts. London: Pluto Press. Barker, M. (1984a). A haunt of fears: The strange history of the British horror comics campaign. London: Pluto Press. Barker, M. (1984b). The video nasties: Freedom and censorship in the arts. London: Pluto Press. Barker, M., & Petley, J. (Eds.). (1997/2005). Ill effects: The media/violence debate. London: Routledge. Bartsch, A., Appel, M., & Storch, D. (2010). Predicting emotions and Metaemotions at the movies: The role of the need for affect in audiences’ experience of horror and drama. Communication Research, 37(2), 167 190.


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Buckingham, D. (1996). Moving images: Understanding children’s emotional responses to television. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Cherry, B. (1999/2001). Refusing to refuse to look: Female viewers of horror film. In M. Jancovich (Ed.), Horror: The film reader (pp. 169 178). London: Routledge. Cherry, B. (2010). Stalking the web: Celebration, chat and horror film marketing on the internet. In I. Conrich (Ed.), Horror zone: The cultural experience of contemporary horror cinema (pp. 67 86). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. Clover, C. J. (1987). Her body, himself: Gender in the slasher film. Representations, 20, 187 228. Copjec, J. (1991). Vampires, breast-feeding and anxiety. October, 58(1/2), 24 43. Creed, B. (1993). The monstrous feminine: Film, feminism, psychoanalysis. London: Routledge. Freeland, C. A. (1995). Feminist frameworks for horror films. In L. Braudy & M. Cohen (Eds.), Film theory & criticism (pp. 627 648). New York , NY: Routledge. Foucault, M. (1975/2003). Abnormal: Lectures at the College de France, 1974 1975 (trans. Graham Burchell). London: Verso. Foucault, M. (1990). The history of sexuality: An introduction (Vol. 1). New York, NY: Vintage. Gelder, K. (Ed.). (2000). The horror reader. London: Routledge. Gray, A. (1992). Video playtime: The gendering of a leisure technology. London: Routledge. Hill, A. (1997). Shocking entertainment: Viewer response to violent movies. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Hills, M. (2010). Attending horror film festivals and conventions: Liveness, subcultural capital and ‘flesh-an-blood genre communities’. In I. Conrich (Ed.), Horror zone: The cultural experience of contemporary horror cinema (pp. 87 102). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. Holland, P. (1997/2005). Living for libido; or, Child’s Play IV: The imagery of childhood and the call for censorship. In M. Barker & J. Petley (Eds.), Ill effects:The media/violence debate (pp. 41 47). London: Routledge. Jancovich, M. (Ed.). (2001). Horror: The film reader. London: Routledge. Keetley, D. (2013). Stillborn: The entropic gothic of American horror story. Gothic Studies, 15(2), 89 108. Kermode, M. (1997/2005). I was a teenage horror fan: Or, ‘how I learned to stop worrying and love Linda Blair’. In M. Barker & J. Petley (Eds.), Ill effects: The media/violence debate (pp. 48 55). London: Routledge. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. London: Sage. Morrison, D., MacGregor, B., & Thorpe, A. (1993). Detailed findings of the editing groups. In A. M. Hargrave (Ed.), Violence in factual television. London: John Libbey and Company Ltd. Kristeva, J. (1982). Powers of horror: An essay on abjection (trans. L. S. Roudiez). New York, NY: Columbia University Press. Pickering, M. (2004). Experience as horizon: Kosellek, Expectation and historical time. Cultural Studies, 18(2 3), 271 289. Pinedo, I. C. (1997). Recreational terror: Women and the pleasures of horror film viewing. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

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Potter, J., & Wetherell, M. (1987). Discourse and social psychology. London: Sage. Russo, M. (1994). The female grotesque: Risk, excess and modernity. New York, NY: Routledge. Schlesinger, P., Dobash, R. E., Dobash, R. P., & Weaver, C. K. (1992). Women viewing violence. London: British Film Institute. Smith, A. M. (2012). Hideous progeny: Disability, eugenics and classic horror cinema. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. Snelson, T. (2009). From grade B thrillers to deluxe chillers’: Prestige horror, female audiences, and allegories of spectatorship in The Spiral Staircase (1946). New Review of Film and Television Studies, 7(2), 173 188. Subramanian, J. (2013). The monstrous makeover: American horror story, femininity and special effects. Critical Studies in Television, 8(3), 108 123. Tamborini, R., & Stiff, J. (1987). Predictors of horror film attendance and appeal: An analysis of the audience for frightening films. Communication Research, 14(4), 415 436. Taylor, T. (2012). Who’s afraid of the Rubber Man? Perversions and subversions of sex and class in American horror story. Networking Knowledge, 5(2), 135 153. Tincknell, E. (2010). Feminine boundaries: Adolescence, witchcraft and the supernatural in new Gothic cinema and television. In I. Conrich (Ed.), Horror zone: The cultural experience of contemporary horror cinema (pp. 245 258). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. Tudor, A. (1986). Genre. In B. K. Grant (Ed.), The film genre reader. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. Tudor, A. (1997). Why horror? The peculiar pleasures of a popular genre. Cultural Studies, 11(3), 443 463. Waller, G. A. (1987). Introduction. In G. A. Waller (Ed.), American horrors: Essays on the modern American horror film (pp. 1 13). Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press. Williams, L. (1984/2001). When the woman looks. In M. Jankovich (Ed.), Horror: The film reader (pp. 61 66). London: Routledge. Young, E. (1991). Here comes the bride: Wedding gender and race in Bride of Frankenstein. Feminist Studies, 7(3), 403 437.

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Chapter 17

‘Mother, I’ve Really Had Enough of This! You Can’t Just Leave Me Alone in This Abyss Where I Can’t Find You!’ Norman/Norma and Bates Motel Steven Gerrard



In 1960, two horror films one British and the other American transformed the Gothic horror revival as seen through Hammer Films’ productions from ‘the past’ and into the modern era. Whereas Hammer and others had relied on the tropes of the Gothic novels of yesteryear for their narratives, these two films supplanted the blasted heath to the cityscapes and parched desert towns of London and Phoenix, respectively, and monsters such as Frankenstein’s creations, Count Dracula, the Wolfman and the Mummy with the boy next door. However, one film was deemed a contextually critical and commercial flop, whilst the other was a box office sensation. The two films are Peeping Tom (Michael Powell) and Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock). The films, both set in the modern day, strove to tell the story of how the monster of the past has transformed into the monster of today. Peeping Tom is now regarded as a classic but was lambasted upon its release, with critics calling the film tawdry, badly acted and badly scripted. Perhaps they were more shocked that it came from Michael Powell, who had previously supplied cinema with a whole raft of beautifully crafted films such as A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Black Narcissus (1947) and The Red Shoes (1948) that often bordered on bad taste in their subtexts. For Hitchcock and considering his whole canon of work up to that point, it did seem (like Powell alongside him) that he had pushed the boundaries of acceptability (at least in his own work) further than he had gone before. Hitchcock made Psycho with a small TV crew and with actors who were not quite in the upper echelons of Hollywood. Being filmed in black and white, as opposed to the luxuriousness of his previous film North by

Gender and Contemporary Horror in Television, 215 223 r Steven Gerrard All rights of reproduction in any form reserved doi:10.1108/978-1-78769-103-220191018


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Northwest (1959) helped keep the budget low, and it certainly gave the film a desolate look. It is Psycho and its impact to which this chapter will now turn.

17.1.1. Psycho Psycho’s story was simple: a young, real-estate secretary, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) steals US$40,000 from her employer’s client so that she can run away to marry her boyfriend, Sam Loomis (John Gavin). As she sets out from Phoenix, Arizona to Fairvale, California, she stops at the Bates Motel. Booking in for the night, she talks to the owner, a young man called Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) who lives with his mother at the gingerbread Gothic mansion overlooking the site. Marion makes up her mind to return the money and confess to her crimes. As she takes a shower before going to bed, she is brutally attacked and killed by Mrs Bates. When Norman discovers Marion’s body, he hides it in the back of her car which he drives and sinks into a mud pit. Returning to the site of the murder, Norman begins to meticulously clean up the blood splattered bathroom. A few days later, Marion’s sister Lila (Vera Miles) employs a private detective, Milton Arbogast (Martin Balsam) to investigate her disappearance. Arbogast is brutally killed by Mrs Bates, after he suspects Norman of lying about his implication in Marion’s possible disappearance. When Lila goes into the mansion cellar, she finds Mrs Bates’ skeletal remains propped up in a chair. Norman, dressed in his mother’s clothes and wearing a wig, attempts to kill Lila but he is stopped by Sam. At the local courthouse, a psychiatrist explains that Norman has two personalities: his own and that of Mrs Bates. The final image lingers on Norman as his mother’s voice (in his own mind) says that ‘I wouldn’t even harm a fly […]’


Psycho’s Legacy

Psycho was a box office smash. According to, the film made US$32 million from a production budget of US$806,947. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Leigh), Best Cinematography (John L. Russell) and Best Black-and-White Art Direction (Joseph Hurley, Robert Clatworthy and George Milo). The film’s reviews were mixed, but the public loved the sensationalism of the story and its shocking climax. What certainly helped was that not only was the story shocking for its time, it also demonstrated how the monsters of yesteryear and faraway lands was actually living a normal life next door to the audience. Made at a time of prosperity, Psycho reflected that feeling: America had battled through the war, undergone rapid social change (including such things as the rise of the teenager, more affluence, industrialization and modernization). Throughout Psycho, there is a feeling that the old is being replaced by the new: Marion’s old car, her sexual prowess and her eagerness to escape dull town life; the old mansion making way for the new motel; and Norman’s reflection of conservative, but affluent, young Americans were played against the older forces of law and order. Everything about Psycho was pitched perfectly.

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Such was its success that other filmmakers followed its narrative (with slight variations). Hammer Films produced a series of Psycho-inspired melodramas, including Taste of Fear (1961, Seth Holt) and Maniac (1963, Michael Carreras); Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Blood Feast (1963) was an ultra-violent and badly made exercise in early gore effects, and these in turn led to stalk-‘n’-slash films such as Black Christmas (1974, Bob Clark), Halloween (1978, John Carpenter) and Friday the 13th (1980, Sean S. Cunningham) that proliferated horror cinema from the Seventies and into the Eighties, and once again in the post-millennial era. Even Mel Brooks parodied Psycho, with a sequence in High Anxiety (1977) that sees Brooks’ Dr Richard H. Thorndyke (the ‘H’ stands for Harpo, as his mother was a fan of the Marx Bros.) assaulted in his shower by an over-aged bellboy using a rolled-up newspaper as his instrument of choice. As the ink swirls down the plughole, Brooks says, ‘That kid gets no tip.’ Apparently, Hitchcock was so happy with this reference that he sent Brooks champagne as a gift. Psycho directly inspired two cinema sequels and a shot-for-shot remake. The first sequel, Psycho II (1983, Richard Franklin), was set 22 years after the original. Norman is now declared sane and returns to live at the motel, which has been looked after during his absence. Working in a diner during the day, Norman befriends a young woman who moves in with him. However, she is Lila’s daughter, and the two set about driving Norman mad. Psycho III (1986) was directed by Anthony Perkins. Norman is now running the motel, and as he does so another spate of murders occur. Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990) was a made-for-TV movie, directed by Mick Garris and starring both Perkins and Henry Thomas (in flashbacks) as Norman. Situated as a prequel to the original chiller, the film sees how Norman’s relationship with his mother (Olivia Hussey) leads to events in Psycho. In 1990, another TV movie appeared: Bates Motel starred Bud Cort as Alex West, a young man who befriends Norman (Kurt Paul) at an institution for the insane, who eventually ends up owning the hotel and mansion. The film was originally produced as the pilot for an anthology TV series but was not picked up by the network. Gus van Sant’s Psycho (1998) was an interesting attempt at updating the concept but filmed in a shot-by-shot way. The film was a fair box office and critical success.


Bates Motel: (2013 2017)

With a renewed interest in TV-based horror, Bates Motel was conceived and developed by Carlton Cuse, Kerry Ehrin and Anthony Cipriano, produced by Universal Television and broadcast on the A&E Network. It ran for five seasons, with each season hosting 10 episodes that formed a cohesive narrative arc. The British actor Freddie Highmore played Norman Bates, the American actress Vera Farmiga played his mother, Norma. Guest actors included Max Thieriot (Norman’s brother, Dylan Massett), Olivia Cooke (Norman’s friend, Emma Decody), Nestor Carbonell (Sheriff Alex Romero) and Kenny Johnson (Norma’s brother, Caleb).


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Bates Motel sees Norma and her son, Norman move from Arizona to the town of White Pine Bay in Oregon. She has recently been widowed and decides to invest her money in a small motel, overlooked by a huge, crumbling house. She names the motel after her and her son. Across five seasons, Norma begins to realize that Norman has a split personality, brought on by both his violent father and his love for Norma. To Norma, Norman is the centre of her world. To Norman, Norma is the same until he begins to fall in love with girls of his own age. Norma falls in love with Sheriff Romero, and the two of them get married. However, Norman becomes more psychotic with each passing day, and during the course of his stay at the motel murders and rapes his teacher, whilst possibly killing more people. The synopsis uses the same basic principles as its original filmic source but offers variations across its five seasons. During each season, there are various references to the past Psycho outings, including the appearance of singer Rihanna as Marion Crane (season 5, various episodes) in which she goes to take a shower (shown through the same shots as in the original version), but turns the water off and says, ‘Screw this shit.’ As she rides off into the sunset, helped and abetted by Norman, her philandering lover, Sam Loomis turns up at the motel, checks in and takes a shower only for him to be murdered by Norman. It is this post-modern and bricolage effect of simultaneously paying both homage and parody to the past that makes Bates Motel so appealing. The cast is good, and the ideas are strong, but the way that it showcases the importance of gender remains at its forefront.


The Monstrous Feminine/Masculine: Parallax Views of Norma/n

In Slavoj Zizek’s (2006) investigation into ideas of ‘parallax’, he argues that the expression of what constitutes that phrase where a visible change of an object is seen through two different perspectives can find its way into three main areas: philosophy, science and politics. According to Misek (2008, p. 1), parallax in philosophy means the ontological difference between subject and object; in science, it is the difference between ‘Real’ mathematical formulae and what constitutes reality through experience, and in politics, it is a catch-all heading for all irreconcilable antagonisms between both individuals and groups. As Misek states, parallax is clearly defined, but wide in its encompassment, and therefore can be applied to numerous areas away from those studied by Zizek. For Misek, he examines the visual aesthetics of the original Psycho in comparison with van Sant’s remake, offering up parallels throughout. In the case of this chapter, it can be related to the characters of both Norman and Norma. Creed (1993, p. 1) argues that the horror film is populated with female monsters. Most of these monsters have evolved from ‘images that haunted the dreams, myths and artistic practices of our forebears many centuries ago.’ She calls this female monster the ‘Monstrous Feminine’ and that the panoply of these terrors include (but are not limited to) the amoral primeval mother,

Norman/Norma and Bates Motel


vampire, witch, woman as monstrous womb, woman as bleeding wound, woman as possessed body, castrating mother, woman as beautiful but deadly killer, aged psychopath, femme castratice, woman as non-human animal, woman as life-in-death and the monstrous boy-girl. If there are monstrous feminine creations, so there must be monstrous masculine ones. As far as Creed is concerned, this occurs only when the male body assumes the characteristics usually associated with the female. That is, his monstrousness is defined by those traits that make him not male (Creed, p. 118). From the categories listed in the previous paragraph, and especially in relation to Norma and Norman, the two exhibit the following notions of monstrousness: Norma as witch, castrating mother and woman as beautiful deadly killer; Norman becomes through himself a killer, but through his split personality, which sees him becoming Norma, he becomes witch, woman as possessed body, castrating mother, woman as beautiful but deadly killer and the monstrous boy-girl. Over the course of five seasons, Norma’s character arc rapidly changes. The opening shots of her are when she is driving an old Mercedes through the countryside and towards her and Norman’s new home in White Pine Bay. She is seemingly carefree and animatedly discusses their future lives together. However, the first episode also sees Norma raped and then she kills her attacker. This action triggers her fake memories (told via flashbacks) in which her husband was found dead, presumably down to an accident, in his garage. It is later revealed that Norman killed him during an argument. At the end of the episode, Norma (aided by Norman) dumps the body in the bay. In the second episode, Norma’s older son, Dylan, turns up, and it is revealed that he is the result of her incestual relationship with her brother, Caleb. Later in the season, she learns that the main road is to be rerouted onto a highway which spells financial disaster for her new business venture. By the end of the third season, Norma has protected Norman from finding out he killed and raped his school teacher. As the narrative moves forward and into Season 4, the focus is on Norma becoming more fearful of Norman, and she gets him placed into a sanitorium. Whilst he is incarcerated, she marries Sheriff Romero, so that his insurance will pay for Norman’s psychiatric care. However, this backfires, and Norman escapes back to the motel. There, he kills Norma in an apparent suicide. What makes Norma’s trajectory so fascinating is that she is able to move throughout the narrative in numerous guises: mother, friend, neighbour, girlfriend, wife, confidant, lover, business woman and murderer. As she moves from one to another, each showcasing her hidden talents at juggling between them all, she becomes more and more mentally unhinged. This stems back from her childhood relationship with Caleb, something that she still cherishes and loathes in equal measure. Her hold over her own sanity and behaviour is often questioned, by Norman, Dylan, Caleb and Romero as relatives and by those in positions of authority, namely the town’s business council, Norman’s councillor and Dylan’s wife. This clearly shows a woman under strain from both the confines of her past and the societal and familial boundaries of her present. As events conspire against her, she is killed by her true love, Norman. However, even though she is


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dead, she still controls Norman from beyond the grave. Her appearance, where Norman has dug her up from her grave, had her stuffed like his animal collection and moves her around the house becoming more ghastly and cadaverous each time she is seen (the poster for Season 5 shows her as a gaunt matriarch sitting on a throne, whilst Norman sits cradled at her lap), enables her character to fulfil her character trajectory: from sister, mother and wife to manipulative cadaver. That Norman then finally takes on her entire persona becomes the next logical step in her character arc. She has become the truly monstrous feminine. For Norman, his character arc reflects that of his mothers. The opening episode sees Norman in the car with Norma. When he is told of her plans for the motel, he immediately behaves like a spoilt child and throws a tantrum. However, it becomes apparent that his Oedipal worship of his mother remains a latent, though penetrative force within him. During the course of the series, Norman has a number of girlfriends, all of whom either end up dead or psychologically damaged in some way. He brutally rapes and then kills his school teacher, but this is only done when ‘Mother’ has surfaced from his Norman-self and out into his Norma-alter-ego. This ‘monstrous boy-girl’ that Creed discusses is clearly at the heart of Norman’s character. This approach to the character, dealt with in both comedic and horrific ways by the production team, clearly shows Norman’s dual personality. Whilst it was always left ambiguous within the first three seasons, by Season 4, the Norma/n monster has become, at least from a parallaxian point of view, clearly evident. When Norman is visible to himself (he is always visible to those around him), his demeanour remains calm and focused, his slight frame hidden behind conservative jumpers, shirts and jeans. But when ‘Mother’ begins to break free into his id, he sees himself in her clothes: a grey-toned silk dressing gown, a red dress, paisley green frock with blonde wig, and acts as if he is she. With the mother present, and continually discussing the way that Norman should behave, the blurring of Norman and Norma remains a constant, both commenting on his psychological state and clearly involving the audience to be ‘in on the joke’, however, convoluted that joke may be. This melding of two personalities into one becomes, as Lacan (1977) says, ‘the desire of the Other’. That is, both Norman and Norma want to be each other. Whilst Norman’s unconscious life is made up of many external influences and that his personality is made up of these outside forces (albeit mostly from Norma) his ideas of ‘identity’ and ‘Self’ becomes a blurred, often fractured lines between normality (or ego states) and multiple personality disorder (MPD). This abnormal condition, in which Norman’s personality becomes so splintered that each part cannot recognize the other, becomes more and more evident and robust with each separate occasion. By the end of Season 5, the distinction between Norma-within and Normanoutside is only noticeable by a slight feminizing of the way Norman tilts his head, purses his lips, flicks his hair or holds his hands to his side. At the end of his narrative, Norman for a split second realizes what he has become and the damage he has inflicted on others. That he dies in the arms of his brother, Dylan, remains a poignant moment in the horror canon: the most memorable monsters are those that remain lingering in the memory long after the adventure

Norman/Norma and Bates Motel


has ended. In the case of Norman Bates (played superbly by both Perkins and Highmore), he remains both as monster/hero right up to his death, whilst maintaining sympathy from his audience. From Creed’s perspective, when transference has occurred, Norman becomes Norma: the monstrous boy-girl. But, from another perspective, Norma/n remains both hero and heroine combined.


The Monstrous Other Bates Motel

The Gingerbread House and

Freud argued that in his study of the Uncanny, […] neurotic men declare that they feel there is something uncanny about the female genital organs. This unheimlich place, however, is the entrance to the former Heim (home) of all human beings, to the place where each one of us lived once upon a time and in the beginning. There is a joke saying that ‘Love is homesickness’; and whenever a man dreams of a place or a country and says to himself, while he is still dreaming: ‘this place is familiar to me, I’ve been here before’, we may interpret the place as being his mother’s genitals or her body. In this case too, then, the unheimlich is what was once heimisch, familiar; the prefix ‘un’ (‘un-’) is the token of repression. (orig. 1917 19, trans. 2001, p. 245) Here, Freud is reasoning that the German term ‘an unheimlich place’ not only comes to represent at least in psychosexual terms the visible female genital organs, but also the internal/hidden part of the female: the womb. As Creed (p. 54) argues, and following on from Doane’s (1987) arguments, the house is haunted by memories and occurrences that return the individual back towards those memories. This theme is fundamental to Bates Motel’s Gothictinged tropes, though rather than as Creed suggests the female being central to the hauntings of another woman (wife, mother, lover, etc.), in the case of Norma and Norman, the motel and the house that overlooks it forces them both to become the victims of the property. Norma spends her money on doing the house up, making it habitable (although she keeps the original décor virtually intact and says she likes the old-style furniture), whilst in the very first episode, she is raped by an assailant, and after Norman knocks him unconscious, kills him; Norman spends hours locked away in the cellar, murders people there and drags corpses from upstairs into its dark recesses. Doane (1987, pp. 72 73) argues that the house hides these horrors until the final moments of the narrative. She states that there is also a sexual aspect to the house, whereby parts of it become fetishized erogenous zones that are attached to sexuality. Therefore, the house on the hill and the motel below it not only contain a variety of horrible secrets before the narrative commences, but also are locations in which terrible incidents happen and become the keeper to. These


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terrible deeds include Norma dumping a body in a cesspit, and Norman hacking Sam to death in the shower. Each one is hidden from prying eyes methodically and with purpose, whilst the locale never reveals its grisly secrets. Indeed, as Creed (p. 55) says, the house ‘becomes the symbolic space the place of beginnings, the womb where these three dramas (conception, sexual difference, desire) belong.’ In the case of Norman and Norma, whilst they both lead separate lives, they spend most of their time working and living together, eating at the table at set meal times, and on more than one occasion see them sharing Norma’s bed as they cuddle up together from the world outside. As the property is so central to the narrative, its presence almost constantly onscreen or at least referred to, so it becomes a character within its own right. The motel is set at road level, with 12 cabins and a front desk (the back of which is Norman’s private office space). The motel is purely functional, serving its guests as places where their own tawdry secrets can get played out for example, Marion Crane’s affair with Sam, or the local drug baron’s dealer occasionally rents a room there. Due to the very practical nature of the property, with its straight lines and logical purpose, it becomes masculinized. That masculinity impacts upon Norman, as he strives to make the business a success. He takes control of the front desk, tidies the rooms, paints the motel, unblocks the drains, takes out the trash and then retreats into the confines of its office his office. The house, however, becomes feminized through Norma’s dressing of the property. The inside, with its gloomy corridors and dark and dusky rooms, is the archetypal haunted house. Yet, Norma transforms it into a place of beauty. She opens the curtains to let the light flood into the living room; the room is decorated in colourful prints, the warm fire gives a strong glow, and she plays old songs on the record player. She replaces broken glass with a beautifully stunning piece of glasswork. This feminizing of the living space impacts upon Norman, and during the latter seasons, he becomes not only more feminine but wanders into the living room dressed in his mother’s clothes. The property, and Norma’s transformation of it into a more feminine space, creates a fracture within Norman that aids in his ‘transformation’ into Norma. The kitchen, with its tall glass-fronted cupboards, and pots and pans hanging from the ceiling, remains (for the most part) Norma’s domain. Even though she was raped in the kitchen and then kills her assailant there, the kitchen seems to become a reflection of her and therefore focuses her power on controlling Norman. Time and time again she is seen cooking at the stove, baking cakes, cutting pastry, heating up meals, pouring wine and chopping and preparing food. At every stage of these, she is placed centre-stage, thus dominating Norman and showing her stature within the house. Yet, it is the house that actually controls her. In the opening episode, when the house interior is shown for the first time, Norma runs her fingers through the dust on the kitchen worktops and says that she can change this into a family home: it could be read that the house has called to her, exploited her wanting to change, and simultaneously entices her into its sphere, whilst at the same time she is exhibiting traditional feminine traits. Later in the series, when Norman has become ‘Norma’, he tries

Norman/Norma and Bates Motel


to assume her place within the domestic sphere. Dressed in his mother’s 1950sstyle dresses and dressing gowns, Norman/ ‘Norma’ moves through the kitchen with ease: he cooks for invisible guests, props his dead mother up at the table and eventually meets his demise between the kitchen and the living room the two areas in which Norma controlled the household. Creed (p. 56) sees the house as initially depicting a place of refuge, a place where the victim seeks safety whilst the monster shelters within and hidden from the outside world. This world is then overturned and that the place of solace becomes a location of violence. Whilst this might seem cliched, with victims hiding in basements or attics from which there are no escape, in the case of the Gingerbread Gothic Mansion and the motel, there is a distinct use of violence within its confines. It is a home to Norma and Norman. It represents their future happiness as a loving mother and son. Yet, it also impacts upon them psychologically. They argue and fight, their mealtimes become forced, and the house seems to be constantly bearing down on them. People are killed there, and their bodies are stuffed and placed into the cellar. This violence reaches a crescendo in the last episode of Season 4. As Romero races back to the house, Norman has deliberately blocked all the windows and turned on all the gas faucets in the property. Romero breaks in and finds Norma and Norman both motionless on the floor in her bedroom, lying side by side. As the sheriff bursts into tears, Norman wakes up. The whole plot has been to frame Romero for attempted murder, and the house has seemingly driven Norman to commit this act. The property has assumed control over Norman (rather than his mother in this instance) and the linking between Norman and Norma, through the property creates the idea that mother, son and the house remain inextricably linked: they become one unit, derived from four separate entities Norman, Norma, the house and the motel; Monstrous Feminine; Monstrous Masculine; Monstrous Other. That is the power of Bates Motel.

References Creed, B. (1993). The Monstrous-feminine: Film, feminism, psychoanalysis. London, Routledge. Doane, M. A. (1987). The desire to desire. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Freud, S. (1917-19, trans. 2001). The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud: An infantile neurosis and other works. London: Vantage. Lacan, J. (1977). The subversion of the subject and the dialectic of desire in the Freudian unconscious. In Alan Sheridan (trans.) Écrits: A Selection. New York, NY: W. W. Norton. Misek, R. (2008). A parallax view of Psycho. International Journal of Zizek Studies, 2(1). Retrieved from Accessed on 1 July 2018. Zizek, S. (2006). The parallax view. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Conclusion Steven Gerrard

The world of television horror, and in particular how gender is portrayed within its confines, is a fascinating area for study. Whilst the works of the Gothic novelists focused on atmosphere and narrative, they also discussed the various ways in which gender was portrayed. It was no surprise that the popularity of horror moved from the novel into theatre, then cinema and finally into the home. Since its inception, horror has remained one of the mainstays of television. There have been many televisual changes in technology since 2000. Streaming, Netflix and Amazon Prime have all had an impact on how we consume TV. Narrowcasting has become an accepted norm for some channels devoting their schedules purely to fantasy, horror, science fiction, etc. Due to this narrowcasting, tabooer subject matter can now be dealt with, but this does not mean that mainstream channels shun horror. Indeed, since the turn of the millennium, horror has had a genuine resurgence both in cinema and in television. This is in no small part due to more fantasy-oriented franchises like the Harry Potter one, or indeed the seemingly never-ending Marvel Cinematic Universe outings. Undoubtedly, as far as American TV horror is concerned, both The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer remain at the cornerstone to televisual horror, where their affects can still be seen today in programmes like Dexter and Hannibal. For Britain, the incredibly successful revitalizing of Doctor Who, with its terrific monsters, high-concept ideas and bold imaginations, has certainly ensured that programmes such as Being Human and The Fades can find a dedicated and healthy audience of both fans and general audiences. The importance of Doctor Who cannot be underestimated in terms of gender, and it is with baited breath that everyone wants to see what a new female Doctor will look like as the millennium moves into its third decade. Despite horror’s overriding objective to terrify and horrify, there is a fundamental outlook at the very cornerstone of any horror outing. Us. Whilst the vampire may be an invader, or Frankenstein’s creation a sad reflection of humankind, the basic idea of the human element remains. We are projected both onto and out of the work, however, fictionalized it is. Therefore, whilst the best horror stands the testament of time, so they also reflect ourselves, the

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culture and the society that produced it. This is where the importance of investigating gender in horror becomes so readily apparent. Whilst there are many other areas of televisual horror not included in this book, for example the European horror series revival, through shows like Svartsjôn (TV3, 2016), Jordskott (SVT, 2015) and Dark (Germany; Netflix, 2017) or the Australian Wolf Creek (Stan, 2016), it is hoped that work will be undertaken in these areas ‘away’ from the heavily-based USA and UK horror shows that have/are being broadcast as this book is being written. There is a whole panoply of other work waiting to be discovered, each one as important as the last, and each one reflective of their time of construction. Whilst genres certainly fluctuate in their own fortunes, horror in its numerous approaches is clearly one that has staying power. Whether that is because of the storylines, the narrative arcs, the evolving characters, the feelings of nostalgia, the gore or a combination of all of these is open to investigation. For the purpose of this edited collection, and part of the ongoing Emerald Studies in Popular Culture and Gender Series, of which this book and its cousins that look at representations of gender and contemporary horror in film and cult media form a part, perhaps this is just the beginning of being able to delve deeper into the murky world of what makes ‘us’ so horribly ‘us’. Gender, in all its twenty-first-century constructions, and its representation through horror television, clearly needs further investigation, and it is hoped that this edited collection has prompted you to seek out more work in this vast area. Above all else, this book has been written for you to enjoy.

Select Bibliography

Books Abbott, S. (2017). Undead apocalypse: Vampires and zombies in the 21st century. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Allmer, P., Brick, E., & Huxley, D. (Eds.). (2012). European nightmares: Horror cinema in Europe since 1945. London: Wallflower Press. Auerbach, N. (1995). Our vampires, ourselves. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Barker, M. (1984). A haunt of fears: The strange history of the British horror comics campaign. London: Pluto Press. Barker, M. (1984). The video nasties: Freedom and censorship in the arts. London: Pluto Press. Beauvoir, S., & Parshley, H. (1947; 2007). The second sex. London: Vintage. Boluk, S., & Lenz, W. (Eds.). (2011). Generation zombie: Essays on the living dead in modern culture. London: McFarland. Braudy, L., & Cohen, M. (Ed.). Film theory and criticism: Introductory readings. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Browning, J. E., & Picart, C. J. (Eds.). Draculas, vampires, and other undead forms. Essays on gender, race, and culture. Plymouth: Scarecrow Press. Brunsdon, C., & Spigel, L. (2008). Feminist television criticism. A reader. Buckingham: Open University Press. Butler, J. (1999). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. London: Routledge. Butler, J. (2004). Undoing gender. London: Routledge. Carter, M. L. (Ed.). (1988). Dracula: The vampire and the critics. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press. Clare, A. (2000). On men: Masculinity in crisis. London: Chatto & Windus. Clover, C. J. (2015). Men, women and chainsaws. Gender in the modern horror film. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Connell, R. W. (2005). Masculinities (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Polity Press. Conrich, I. (Ed.), Horror zone: The cultural experience of contemporary horror cinema. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. Creed, B. (1993). Monstrous-feminine: Film, feminism, psychoanalysis. London: Routledge. Creed, B. (2005). Phallic panic: Film, horror and the primal uncanny. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. Doane, M. A. (1987). The desire to desire. Bloomington, IN: University Press. Dolan, J. (2017). Contemporary cinema and ‘Old Age’: Gender and the silvering of stardom.


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Erens, P. (Eds.). Issues in feminist film criticism. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Feasey, R. (2008). Masculinity and popular television. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Ferguson Ellis, K. (1989). The contested castle: Gothic novels and the subversion of domestic ideology. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. Foucault, M. (1978). The history of sexuality Vol. I: An introduction. New York, NY: Pantheon. Freud, S. (1917 19, trans. 2001). The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud: An infantile neurosis and other works. London: Vintage. Gelder, K. (1994). Reading the vampire. London: Routledge. Gelder, K. (2000). The horror reader. New York, NY: Routledge. Gordon, J., & Hollinger, V. (Eds.). (1997). Blood read: The vampire as metaphor in contemporary culture. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. Grant, B. K. (Ed.). The film genre reader. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. Greven, D. (2011). Representations of femininity in American genre cinema: The woman’s film, film noir, and modern horror. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Gullette, M. M. (2004). Aged by culture. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. Hall, S. (Ed.). (1997). Representation. Cultural representation and signifying practices. London: Sage: The Open University. Heiland, D. (2004). Gothic and gender: An introduction. Oxford: Blackwell. Helford, E. R. (Ed.). (2000). Fantasy girls: Gender in the new universe of science fiction and fantasy television. Hollinger, V., & Gordon, J. Blood read: The vampire as a metaphor in contemporary culture. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. Hollinger, K. (2012). Feminist film studies. New York, NY: Routledge. Hunt, L., Lockyear, S., & Williamson, M. (Eds.). Screening the undead: Vampires and zombies in film and television. London: IB Tauris. Jackson, K. (2016). Gender and the nuclear family in twenty-first-century horror. Jancovich, M. (Ed.). (2001). Horror: The film reader. London: Routledge. Janicker, R. (2017). Reading American horror story: Essays on the television franchise. Jowett, L., & Abbott, S. (2013). TV horror: Investigating the dark side of the small screen. New York, NY: I.B. Taurus and Co. Kirkham, P., & Thumim, J. (Eds.). (1993). You Tarzan: Masculinity, movies and men. London: Lawrence & Wishart. Kristeva, J. (1982). Powers of horror: An essay on abjection (trans. L. S. Roudiez). New York, NY: Columbia University Press. Lehman, P. (1993). Running scared: Masculinity and the representation of the male body. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press; London: Palgrave Macmillan. Luckhurst, R. (2015). Zombies. A cultural history. London: Reaktion Books. Means Coleman, R. R. (2011). Horror Noire: Blacks in American horror films from the 1890s to present. London: Routledge. Mulvey, L. (1989). Visual and other pleasures. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press; North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. Russo, M. (1994). The female Grotesque: Risk, excess and modernity. New York, NY: Routledge.

Select Bibliography


Silver, A., & Ursini, J. (Eds.). (2004). Horror film reader. New York, NY: Limelight Editions. Waller, G. A. (Ed.). (1987). American horrors. Essay on the modern American horror film. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. Warner, M. (2006). Phantasmagoria: Spirit visions, metaphors, and media into the twenty-first century. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Weedon, C. (2008). Feminist practice and poststructuralist theory (2nd ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub. Wheatley, H. (2006). Gothic television. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Williamson, M. (2005). The lure of the vampire: Gender, fiction, and fandom from bram stoker to buffy the vampire slayer. London: Wallflower Press. Wolf, N. (2002). The beauty myth. New York, NY: Perennial. Wright, J. M. (2016). Men with stakes: Masculinity and the gothic in US television. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Zizek, S. (2006). The parallax view. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Periodicals Advances in Life Course Research, 29 Canadian Review of American Studies, 40(3) Cinema Journal, 48(4) Communication Research, 14(4); 37(2) Critical Studies in Television, 8(3) Cultural Studies, 18(2; 3) Feminist Studies, 7(3) Film Criticism, 21(3) Film International, 12(1) Gothic Studies, 8(2); 15(1) Horror Studies, 8(2) Human Communication Research, 41(3) Journal of Aging Studies, 18(1) Journal of American Studies, 49(4); 50(4) Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 35(3); 37(2) Journal of Film and Video, 68(2) Journal of Gender Studies, 18; 22(3) Journal of Popular Culture, 46(1) Journal of Popular Film and Television, 29(2); 35(1) Jump Cut, 24 Literature and Medicine, 31(2) Media Psychology, 4(4); 20(3) Networking Knowledge, 5(2) New Political Science, 38(4) New Review of Film and Television Studies, 7(2) Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 4(1) Quarterly Review of Film and Video, 31(6) Reason, 48(2) Science Fiction Studies, 36(1)


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Screen, 31; 40(1) Space & Culture, 2014 (Aug), 17(3) The Irish Journal of Gothic The Journal of Popular Culture, 49(6) The Review of Education, Pedagogy and Cultural Studies, 32(3) The Saturday Review Women’s Studies in Communication, 39(3) Women’s Studies, 37(4)

Websites See individual chapters for details.

Select Filmography

TV Series The Addams Family (1964 1966) Afterlife (2005 2006) American Gothic (1995 1996) American Horror Story (2011 ) Ash v The Evil Dead (2015 2018) Bates Motel (2013 2017) Beasts (1976) Bewitched (1964 1972) Black Mirror (2011 ) Boris Karloff’s Thriller (1960 1962) Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1996 2003) Carnivale (2003 2005) Channel Zero (2016 ) Count Dracula (1977) Dark Shadows (1966 1971) Dead Set (2008) Dexter (2006 2013) Doctor Who (1963 ) Dracula (2006; 2013 2014) The Exorcist (2017 2018) The Fades (2011) Frankenstein (2007) Ghostwatch (1992) Hannibal (2013 2015) Harper’s Island (2009) iZombie (2015 ) Jekyll (2007) The Keepers (2017) Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974) Lore (2017 ) Masters of Horror (2005 2007) The Munsters (1964 1966) Mystery and Imagination (1966 1970) The Night Stalker (1972) The Night Strangler (1973) Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954) The Norlis Tapes (1973)


Select Filmography

The Outer Limits (1963 1965) Penny Dreadful (2014 2016) Psychoville (2009 2011) The Quatermass Experiment (1953) Quatermass II (1955) Quatermass and the Pit (1958) Salem’s Lot (1979) Sapphire and Steel (1979 1982) Scared Famous (2017) Scooby Doo! Where Are You? (1969 1970) Scream Queens (2008 2010) Scream Queens (2015 2016) Scream: The TV Series (2015 ) Slasher (2016 ) The Stone Tape (1972) The Strain (2014 2017) Stranger Things (2016 ) Supernatural (2005 ) The Twilight Zone (1959 1964) Twin Peaks (1990 1991; 2017) The Vampire Diaries (2009 2017) The Walking Dead (2010 ) The X-Files (1993 2018) True Blood (2008 2014) Z Nation (2014 )

Films 28 Days Later (Danny Boyle, 2002) Â Fistful of Dollars (Sergio Leone, 1964) A League of Their Own (1992) Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985) Basic Instinct (Paul Verhoeven, 1992) Beverly Hills Bodysnatchers (Jonathan Mostow, 1989) Black Christmas (Bob Clark, 1974) Bloodsuckers from Outer Space (Glen Coburn, 1984) City of the Living Dead (Lucio Fulci, 1979) Crush (Alison MacLean, 1990) Cutthroat Island (1995) Dawn of the Dead (George A. Romero, 1979) Day of the Dead (George A. Romero, 1985) Dead Snow (Tomas Wirkola, 2009) Friday the 13th (Sean S. Cunningham, 1980) Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978) Halloween: Resurrection (Rick Rosenthal, 2002) Hannibal (Ridley Scott, 2001) Hannibal Rising (Peter Webber, 2007) I Am Legend (Francis Lawrence, 2007)

Select Filmography I Walked with a Zombie (Jacques Tourneur, 1943) I Was a Teenage Zombie (John Elias Michalakis, 1987) Interview with the Vampire (Neil Jordan, 1994) King of the Zombies (Jean Yarbrough, 1941) Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) Manhunter (Michael Mann, 1986) Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968) Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau, 1922) Peeping Tom (Michael Powell, 1960) Planet Terror (Robert Rodriguez, 2007) Prom Night (Paul Lynch, 1980) Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) Red Dragon (Brett Ratner, 2002) Resident Evil: Extinction (Russell Mulcahy, 2007) Return of the Living Dead (Dan O’Bannon, 1985) Revenge of the Zombies (Steve Sekely, 1943) Scream 4 (Wes Craven, 2011) Se7en (David Fincher, 1995) Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1984) Sleepaway Camp (Robert Hiltzik, 1983) Spotlight (Tom McCarthy, 2016) The Beyond (Lucio Fulci, 1981) The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) The Evil Dead (Sam Raimi, 1981) The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973) The Ghost Breakers (George Marshall, 1940) The House by the Cemetery (Lucio Fulci, 1981) The Last House on the Left (Wes Craven, 1972) The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue (George Grau, 1974) The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1984) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974) The Twilight Saga (2008 2012) Thelma and Louise (Ridley Scott, 1991) Tombs of the Blind Dead (Amando de Ossario, 1972) Voodoo Man (William Beaudine, 1944) Warm Bodies (Jonathan Levine, 2013) White Zombie (Victor Halperin, 1932) Zombie Flesh Eaters (Lucio Fulci, 1979) Zombies on Broadway (Steve Sekely, 1945)


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Index AHS. See American Horror Story Aldrich, R., 74 AMC production, 25 American folklore horror, 49 American freak, 4 American Gothic, 3 American Horror Story Asylum, 4, 6, 11, 14, 47, 49, 56, 71, 201, 204 American Horror Story Coven, 49, 52 53, 205, 210 American Horror Story Cult, 5, 208 209 American Horror Story Freak Show, 4, 14, 23 24, 37, 49, 54, 57, 207 American Horror Story Hotel, 11 20 American Horror Story Murder House, 14, 49 50 American Horror Story Roanoke, 204 210 American independent horror scene, 2 American TV, 2, 27, 225 American Vampire League, 120 Amplifying cultural perceptions, 47 Androgynous appearance, 41 42 Antagonistic dualisms, 31 Anthology series, 2, 14 Anti-Hero, 178 Antipathetic strategies, 119 Apocalypse identity, 110 Archetypal death, 27 Asian horror films, 2

Associated homophobia, 14 Audience anxiety, 100, 103 Auerbach, N., 11 14, 123 Authoritarian forces, 32 Barred attitudes, 4 Bastardized mutations, 30 Bates Motel, 6, 84, 215 223 Baudrillard, J., 63 Bedroom culture, 153 Beginning of adulthood, 88 Being Human, 225 Belief systems, 135 Benshoff, H. M., 6 Berlatsky, N., 4 5 Berry, L., 25, 86 Bewitched, 3 Biological lifeforms, 41 Biological warfare, 163 Biological-materialist fantasy, 109 Biomedical perspective of ageing, 48 Bird, S. E., 67, 100 Bisexual, 11 20 Bisexual desire, 16 17 Bisexual display, 16 Bisexual display or commodity, 16 Bisexual fashion designer, 17 Bisexual figures, 17 Bisexual gaze, 16 Bisexual possibility, 15 17 Bisexual spectacle, 17 Bisexual vampire, 11, 13 14 Bisexual vampire trope, 13 Bisexual visibility, 13 Bisexual woman, 12 Bisexuality, 12 13, 16 17



Bishop, K. W., 30, 165 Bodelia, B., 3 Border-crossing zombies, 25 Boris Karloff’s Thriller, 2 Bourdieu, P., 24 Bricolage effects, 4 British horror films, 2 British Indian, 111 British male identity, 107 British masculinity, 108 Broadcast, 2 3, 104, 108, 112, 217, 226 Broadsheet serializations, 2 Brooker prizes, 107 Brunsdon, C., 24 Brutalization, 111 BTVS. See Buffy the Vampire Slayer Buffy, 3, 5, 117 118, 120, 131 See also Female Focus Butler, J., 26, 127 Case, S., 12, 14 Character matures, 121 Character provokes, 118 Character transformation arcs, 119 Character’s actions, 124 Christensen, K., 90 Christian tales, 31 Cinematic audience, 97 Cinematic gaze, 38 Cinematography and editing, 15 Classical cinematic versions, 119 Classical dualist structure, 118 Classical structure, 122 Close relationship, 119, 123 Clover, C. J., 83, 90 Competitive business ethos, 14 Competitive economic politics, 13 Concept of the ‘gaze’, 100 Concepts of femininity, 29

Concepts of masculinity, 21, 44, 107, 113, 134 Constance Langdon, American Horror Story, 49 51, 56 Contemporary horror, 226 Contemporary zombie cinema, 163 Contextual differences, 14 Conventional relationships, 189 Convergent relationship arcs, 119 Creed, B., 6, 11 13, 17 18 Criminally Insane, 98 Daalmans, S., 118 Damon, 120 125 Dead Set, 107 112, 114 Derrida, J., 25 Dexter, 4, 225 Dialectal stereotypes, 29 Dialectical relationship, 208 Dika, V., 85 Discursive negotiation, 24 Divergent Relationship Arcs, 118 Doctor Who, 3, 5, 35 37, 39 40, 43 44, 225 Doctor Who Flesh and Stone, 36, 39, 41 42 Dolan, J., 55 Domestic homicides, 158 Domestic violence, 151, 157 160, 194 Domestic world, 188, 190, 193, 196 Down Syndrome, 50, 207 Dracula, 2, 4, 215 Dramatic effect on behaviour, 75 Dyer, R., 41 Eadie, J., 12 14, 16 17 Effects-laden studies, 203 Elena’s doppelganger, 124


Emotional autonomy, 160 Emotional conversations, 191 Emotional experience, 5, 123 Emotional expression, 137 138 Emotions and meta-emotions, 203 European horror series revival, 226 Exorcist, The, 36, 84, 151, 153 160, 205 Extremities of violence, 78 Fades, The, 4, 225 Fairclough, N., 59 Faludi, S., 61, 62 Female action hero, 132, 176 Female dichotomy, 29 Female empowerment, 68, 90, 118, 121, 122, 126 Female focus, 131 Female leadership, 177 Female lovers, 16 Female Otherness, 202 Female protagonists, 11, 90 Female rebellion, 66 Female sexuality, 20, 139 Female stardom, 55 Female vampire, 11 13, 16 20, 64 65, 205 Female/feminism-centric episode, 28 Female-centric feminist theory and practice, 28 Female-centric ideology, 28 Feminine archetypes, 36, 44 Feminine characters, 92 Feminist discourse, 92, 209 210 Feminine empowerment, 92 Feminine stone statues, 36, 38, 41, 44 Femininity, 24, 27, 29, 43 44, 48, 50, 62, 66, 75, 101, 160, 167, 175 177, 190, 194, 207, 209 210


Feminist critique, 23, 192 Feminist ethicist, 37 Feminist ethics, 43 44 Feminist icon, 29 Feminist lens, 24 Feminist production-wise, 24 Feminist scholarship, 153 Feminist television criticism, 24 Feminist television, 24 Feminist TV, 23, 25, 32 Feminist zombie TV, 32 Ferguson, L., 23, 188 Figurative male, 176 Figure of identification, 12 Final Girl/s, 83, 85 87, 89 92, 104, 132, 159, 202 Film adaptations, 102 Film classics, 85 Film genres, 84 Film noir, 102, 155 Films, 2 3, 5, 8, 47, 83 86, 90 modern horror, 65, 132, 157, 159 original, 84, 87, 151, 153, 155, 160, 218 postmodern culture, 139 Fluctuating patterns, 118 119, 121 Foucault, M., 25, 64, 205, 207 Freak Show, 14, 49, 54, 207 Freud, Sigmund, 31, 38, 75, 221 Frizzoni, B., 24 Garber, M., 153 Gender, 11 17, 97 105, 151 160 Gender-blind vampire, 11 Gender changes, 97 105 Gender depictions, 104 Gender differences, 73 Gender identity, 102, 156, 190 Gender of characters, 97 Gender presentation, 103, 105



Gender roles, 5, 29, 92, 132, 135, 139, 142, 156, 160, 171 Gender socialization, 5, 29, 73 Gendered archetypes, 185 Gendered behaviours, 142, 160, 176 Gendered bodies, 114 Gendered character journey, 175 Gendered concept, 100, 190 Gendered experiences, 175 176 Gendered hierarchy, 114 Gendered roles, 138, 177 Gender-fluid performance, 109 Gender-focus, 100 Genre, 1 3, 5, 17, 24 26, 47, 59 61, 168, 182, 203 204 Genre of horror, 59 Genre-bending, 133 German expressionist horrors, 2 Gerrard, Steven, 1 2, 4, 6 Gershon, G., 29 Ghostwatch, 3 Gothic castle, 191, 195 Gothic genre, 100, 201 Gothic heroines, 195 Gothic horror, 1, 47, 203, 205, 215 Gothic horror novels, 1 Gothic horror revival, 215 Gothic note, 38 Gothic novel, 2, 215, 225 Grant, B. K., 6, 153, 157 Greek context, 201 Greek mythology, 38 Greek viewers, 201 Gullette, M. M., 48 Graduated moral structure, 122 Guardian, 4 Halloween, 54, 83 85, 89 91 Hammer Films, 2, 215, 217 Hannibal, 4, 6, 84, 97 105

Hannibal Rising, 97 Haraway, D., 31 Harris, T., 97 100 Hegemonic discourse, 59 60 Hemmings, C., 16 Heteronormative expectations, 112 Heteronormative family, 188 Heteronormative models, 112 Heterosexual domesticity, 187 Heterosexual relationships, 189 Hierarchies of taste, 24 Hierarchy of patriarchy, 114 Highleymen, L., 14 Historical confluence, 113 Horror audiences, 4 Horror auteur, 63 Horror cinema, 6, 60, 217 Horror-cycle, 2 Horror films, 2, 4, 102, 132 133, 153, 165, 207, 215 Horror genre, 1, 59, 132, 151, 153, 158, 182, 201 202, 204, 206 207 Horror heroines, 5 Horror-movie cues, 192 Horror output, 4 Horror production, 65, 204 Horror’s subject matter, 1 Horror TV, 5, 61 Hunger, The, 11 18, 36 Hutcheon, L., 25 Hypermasculine performance lessens, 196 Hyper-masculinity, 107 Idealized figure, 107 Ideological effect, 59 Independent Woman, The, 77 78 Internet Movie Database, The (IMDB), 165 ‘Intimacy and friendship’, 123 iZombie, 4, 163 164, 166, 168 171


Janicker, R., 47 Jowett, L., 1 2 Jowett, L., & Abbott, S., 17, 61 Kissell, R., 14 Landis, J., 66 Lawson, R., 14 Lecter, H., 97 Loner Hero, 178, 182 Low budget movies, 2 Mainstream channels, 225 Mainstream medium, 1 Male delinquency, 107 Male gaze, 101 Manhunter, 97 Marginalized social groups, 27 Masculine features, 36 Masculine iconography, 191 Masculine Order, 112 Masculine performance, 109 112, 136, 195 196 Masculine Response, 141 Masculinity, 27 29, 37, 44, 62, 85, 100, 102, 104, 107 Masters of Horror, 59, 63, 66, 67 Masters of Horror ‘Deer Woman’, 63, 66 67 Media platforms, 2, 5 Metaphoric womb, 191 Meliés, George, 2 Middle-class domesticity, 190 Middle-class feminism, 28 Mighty Boosh, The, 67 Misogynistic world, 160 Monstrous, 6, 155 Monstrous feminine, 6, 11, 15, 18, 35 36, 43 44, 159, 218 220, 223 Monstrous feminine creations, 219 Monstrous masculine, 6 Morally ambiguous characters (MACs), 118


Mortal monsters, 17, 81 Multiple personality disorder (MPD), 220 Mulvey, L., 24, 38, 90, 100 Mythology and gender representation, 36 Nakazawa, D., 75 Neo-Slasher tradition, 88 Nicol, R., 118, 122, 134, 136 Nixon, N., 14 Noddings, N., 37, 43 44 Non-normative masculine identities, 109 Norma Bates’ transformation, 222 Norma Bates-alter-ego, 220 Norman Bates’ character, 220 Notion of woman, 78 Now-passive gaze, 101 Nurturer and sanctuary, 191 On-screen universe, 177 Otterson, J., 56 Out-of-character, 179 Palmer, P., 12 Paranormal romance, 117, 125 Patriarchal authority, 107, 191 192, 195 Patriarchal capitalism, 63 Patriarchal counterpart, 29 Patriarchal notion, 73 Patriarchal order, 68, 112 114, 154 155 Patriarchal social construction, 75 Patriarchal society, 12, 20, 43, 62 63 Patriarchal survivalist fantasy, 111 Patriarchy-lite, 114 Penny Dreadful, 1, 4, 71, 77 Performance of gender, 180



Performativity, 175 176 See also Gendered experiences Peripheral characters, 47 Perseus, 38 Perspectives on Ageing, 47 48 Phallic masquerade, 112 Post-apocalyptic analogy, 28 Post-apocalyptic context, 114 Post-Great War years, 2 Post-millennial resurgence, 71 Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), 30 Postmodern period, 85 Power relation, 59, 73 Power transition, 53 Pre-marital sex, 132 Primal motivation, 110 Psycho’s legacy, 216 Psychoanalytical viewpoint, 6 Psycho-inspired melodramas, 217 Quality Trash TV, 23, 32 Quality TV, 23 25 Queer audiences, 12, 24 Raney, A. A., 122, 125 Rationalist—empiricist sceptical perspective, 135 Rebirth and transformation, 180 Red Dragon, 97 98, 102 Relationship arcs, 119 Riot Girl movement, 139 Rolling Stone, 163 Romantic companion, 18 Romantic interests, 18 Romantic relationships, 18, 117 Romantic relationships and transformations, 18 Salvatore brothers, 125 Scared Famous, 84 Scoobynatural, 139

Scream, 4, 86 Scream Queens, 84 87, 91 92 Scream The TV series, 84 Second Sex, The, 71, 78 79 Senf, C. A., 117 Sensation-seeking audience/public, 1, 2 Serial killer/s, 17, 54, 83, 99, 101 102, 104, 140 Serial murders, 98 See also Serial killer/s Serialized, 1, 156 Series progression, 49 Sexual activity, 89 90 Sexual agency, 207 Sexual appetites, 152 Sexual difference, 12, 65, 222 Sexual licentiousness, 88 Sexual orientation, 85, 90 Sexual politics, 11, 20 Sexual practices, 14 Sexual promiscuity, 52 Sexual relationship, 103 104, 189 Sexual transgressor, 90 Sexual voracity and danger, 17 Sexuality, 4 5, 11 13, 15 17 Sexualized presentation, 65 Silence of the Lambs, The, 84, 97 98, 100, 103 Simons, M., 72 Slasher subgenre, 84 85, 87, 92 Smith, M., 36 Social demographic, 56 Social structure, 24, 67, 114 Social-class values, 142 Sontag, S., 48 State of immanence, 73, 81 Sue-Ellen Case, 12 Suffragette ambitions, 78 Suffragette movement, 78 Sugg, K., 25, 113


Supernatural explanations of events, 136 Supernatural, 6, 67, 131 135, 139 142, 187 188, 190 194, 196 See also Masculine Response Swan Song, 192 Symbolic death, 178 Symbolic rebirth, 179 Symbolic relations, 12 Sympathetic strategies, 119 ‘Sympathetic vampire’, 117 System of preference, 122 Taylor, T., 14, 89, 201 Television audiences, 84 Television horror, 6, 201, 225 Television incarnation, 105 Television series, 97 102, 163 Televisual landscape, 2, 5 Theoretical perspectives, 47 Theoretical reading, 71 Totalitarian system, 28 Traditional television series format, 49 Traditional zombie cinema, 167 Transgressions, 90 Transgressive power, 136 Trash, 23 24 Traumatic experience, 113, 142 Traumatic family event, 136 True Blood, 117 120, 201 Twigg, J., 48 Two-dimensional imagery, 52 Unconfined figures, 12 Unconventional encounters, 12 Unequal socioeconomic structures, 32 Universal Studios, 2 Utopian relationship, 125


Vaage, M. B., 118 Vampire/s, 11 20, 97 104 Vampire Diaries, The, 118, 126 Vampire relationships, 126 Vampiric attack expression, 40 Walking Dead, The, 4, 6, 23 25, 27, 29, 32, 71, 84, 165, 167, 175, 177, 185, 201, 205 Weaver, A. D., 87, 89 90, 203 Weedon, C., 73 Weeping Angels, Doctor Who, 35 44 Whedon, J., 117, 132 133, 135, 140 Williams, L., 38 Witch Supreme, American Horror Story Coven,, 49, 52 53 Wolf, N., 74, 215 Women-centric narratives, 24 Working-class heroes, 142 World of TV horror, 68 X-Files, The, 3, 5, 133, 135, 138, 201, 225 Youth-oriented franchise, 56 Yuen, W., 25 Z Nation, 4, 23 32 Zanger, J., 117, 123 Zevallos, Z., 25 Zillmann, D., 119 Zimmerman, B., 12 Zombie Moore, 169 Zombie narrative, 107 108, 112, 163 164, 166 Zombie renaissance, 108 Zombie survival, 175 Zombies, 25 26