Legion: Or, the Exorcism Movie that Makes Me Sad for Roddy Piper

I recently came to be interested in professional wrestling. For awhile there — as in most of my life — I thought wrestling to be beneath me, an entertainment that degrades those who do it and those who watch it. I was wrong: there are many layers to this sports entertainment, and it is quite fascinate to experience and observe.

My coming around to professional wrestling means I am learning more about the history of the business and the players in the drama. While I am still not a fan of Hulk Hogan, I have come to like more of the old timers and the greats, such as Stone Cold Steve Austin or Goldberg or Bret Hart or the ladies of G.L.O.W. And I really like Rowdy Roddy Piper; any man with a Celtic slant, such as Piper’s kilt, is going to go over well with me (I am a fan of current Celtic Warrior, Sheamus).

rowdy-roddy-piper-over-hulk-hogan-autographed-photograph-3370771Piper tried to break into Hollywood as an actor as his fellow wrestlers had done, such as Hulk Hogan, or would do, such as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Dave Bautista. Piper did not have as much success, although he did star in a John Carpenter movie. The 1988 film They Live was not a blockbuster upon its release, but it has become a cult classic. The film’s theme about consumerism’s impact on our freewill and our society seems to become more relevant as the years pass. In the film, Piper played a “Man with No Name” character, who stumbles into a conspiracy and becomes the only man who can save humanity. Piper was perfectly cast as the strong and silent type of a sly sense of humor.

Unfortunately, his career never took off. Perhaps he was too late, as Hollywood’s leading men changed as masculinity changed in the 1990s. He’s had roles here and there, including voice work, but mostly his acting credits are associated with his wrestling career, such as his appearances on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia as indie circuit wrestler Da’ Maniac.

All of which is a shame, because he has a charm on the screen.

And all of this is to bring me to this entry in our exorcism cinema project: Legion: The Final Exorcism aka Costa Chica: Confession of an Exorcist (2006). This film definitely fits into the B-movie pantheon on this project, which includes the foreign knock-offs and exploitation films of the 1970s and the more recent B-movies that were spawned from the success of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, such as Blackwater Valley Exorcism. As with Jeffrey Combs in that movie, I was interested in this one because of Piper’s involvement.

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Pete Warden: Why Nerd Culture Must Die

CarrieLynn D. Reinhard:

Pete Warden provides some insider thoughts on what has gone wrong with nerd culture. His points about the ingrained tendency to not listen to critics, to fall back on victimization, to become insular all provide thoughts for the types of fractures we are currently seeing in fandom, in general, especially along gendered and racial lines.

Originally posted on Pete Warden's blog:

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Photo by Attila Acs

My first girlfriend was someone I met through a MUD, and I had to fly 7,000 miles to see her in person. I read a paper version of the Jargon File at 15 and it became my bible. Just reading its descriptions of the internet I knew it was world-changing, even before the web, and as soon as I could I snuck into the local university computer labs with a borrowed account to experience the wonder of Usenet, FTP, and Gopher. I chose my college because Turing had once taught there, and the designer of the ARM chip would be one of my lecturers. My first job out of college was helping port the original Diablo to the first Playstation, and I spent five years writing games. I’ve dived deep into GPU programming. I’ve worked for almost two decades at both big tech companies and startups. I’ve…

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Feminist Tensions in The Last Exorcism and The Last Exorcism Part 2

At the Midwest Popular Culture Association‘s 2014 conference, Chris and I presented the first analysis from our exorcism cinema project. The presentation is titled: Feminist tensions in exorcism cinema: Case study analysis and comparison of The Last Exorcism and The Last Exorcism Part II. What follows are the notes for the presentation, which constitute an early draft of a paper for this analysis.

This project is concerned with a subset of horror cinema that deals with a specific type of monster, that of the possessed person. According to Noel Carroll from The Philosophy of Horror (1990), monsters provide the foundation for horror movies by being contradictions. In horror stories, monsters are seen “as abnormal, as disturbances of the natural order” (p. 16). Thus monsters are impure, unclear and threatening because they are frequently presented as “categorically interstitial, categorically contradictory, incomplete, or formless” (p. 32). Monsters embody opposing binaries by simultaneously embodying features, themes, and metaphors that represent either good or bad – vampires and zombies are dead yet animated creatures, aliens are physical unknowns, werewolves are humans made animal, giant insects are the miniscule made large, and possessed people are humans yet demonic.

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These stories model fear and disgust as the natural reaction to this unnaturalness, and thus position audiences to react with “horror” to abnormal manifestations just like the characters do. Horror movies are horrifying because they contain monsters that “are not only physically threatening; they are cognitively threatening. They are threats to common knowledge.” (p. 34) Therefore, viewers become scared emotionally because they fear the illogic of what they see embodied in the monster.

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Fan Studies Network Conference 2014

CarrieLynn D. Reinhard:

A good recap of the most recent Fan Studies Network Symposium. I really appreciate hearing about other scholars who are talking about and calling for more attention and discussion of the problems and negative aspects of fandom. Their desires align with my own interest in fractured fandom, and I will be looking more closely at what the scholars have discussed on this topic.

Originally posted on Nicolle Lamerichs:

This weekend I attended the Fan Studies Network Symposium (26-27 September 2014). It was an engaging conference, and I’d love to talk about it some more here about its main themes and sketch some future directions in which fan studies may develop.

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Sir Anthony Hopkins Performs an Exorcism in The Rite

Sir Anthony Hopkins is one of those interesting actors. Best known as an incredible actor throughout his entire career, sometimes he will do movies that are, for lack of better words, slumming it – doing a movie for a paycheck. Freejack. Alexander. The Edge. The Wolfman. Red 2. To be fair, I cannot really blame him. It must be hard to be considered one of the best actors of your generation, and to have such high expectations for everything you do. Sometimes you just want to act, to try new things, to do something different. When you are someone as talented as Hopkins, with so much creative power at your fingertips, it has be to unleashed lest you explode.

So I guess Sir Hopkins is allowed to make a movie where he chews the scenery as a renegade priest performing exorcisms without sanction from the Vatican. And since he is allowed to do so, we need to watch it as part of our project on feminist tensions in exorcism cinema.

The Rite (2011) is one of the more recent entries in this list of exorcism cinema, and it belongs to the recent trend of such films needing to portray themselves as realistic in order to be scary. I’m not sure how much I would classify this film as a horror movie, as I did not find it terribly scary. Perhaps, by the time we watched this film, I had seen so many others that I was becoming desensitized — or perhaps I really only can be scared by found footage horror films now. Either way, this movie reminded me more of Stigmata (1999) than The Devil Inside (2012). And as I sit down to write this post, several months after having seen the movie, what I read in my notes is somewhat of a revelation for me, as I do not remember a thing about this movie.

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In Defense of Fans via Fractured Fandom

In defense of fans and fandom, I want to make clear that I would not argue that fractured fandom happens all the time or involves a majority of the population of any particular fandom. What I would say about fractured fandom is that it reflects a larger social and cultural issue, in the United States at least. An issue that involves a problem of an increasing inability to “listen first, talk second” when people interact with one another — especially with someone to whom they are opposed for some reason, be it ideological, value, or behavior. An issue that involves the collapsing of traditional identities and identity boundaries, which can be seen by some as an opportunity while others will see it as causing confusion and uncertainty and even fear. These are very real, very serious issues about the human condition in our post-modern, 21st century world, and they are issues reflected in our very human interactions in our fandoms.

So, to me, as a fan of many things for as long as I can remember — I must remember to tell you my stuffed Ewok toy story — I am not saying that the presence of fractured fandom means a fandom, and its fans, are wrong in some way, that they are poor reflections of the human condition. Indeed, they are just human, just as much flawed and wonderful as everyone.

But the issue of fractured fandom is about a need to be aware of such issues and problems at work within a fandom, amongst fans. Only with awareness can we work out what we are doing good, what we are doing poorly, and what we could do to make things better. Only with awareness of the fractures within a fandom, and what is happening to create and/or perpetuate them, can fans work together to address the problems they experience.

And I do think this has to be about fans working together within a fandom to address their own fractures. It cannot be about people outside of the fandom trying to impose new values, codes, and behaviors within the fandom. I do believe that fans may be more likely to listen to other fans than to anyone else. Because I believe that, it means we need to start a focus on dialogue, on communication, on respectful listening there. We as fans need to improve our social literacy skills and focus first on understanding a situation, on understanding others, and from there work together to address problems.

Hopefully, by doing so within any fandom, what is learned about addressing a fractured fandom could be applied to other areas of life. Hopefully by addressing fractured fandom, we could better address how these issues and problems are impacting the various public arenas of U.S. society and culture.

Fan Privilege and Fractured Fandom

Lately, almost every day reveals another story that could be related to a phenomenon I have been discussing on this blog: fractured fandom. Just within the past week, we have had stories about Men’s Rights Activists being misogynists in video gaming communities (here and here), a consideration of how the generation gap is causing problems on the convention circuit, and how sexual threats against video game critic Anita Sarkeesian forced her from her house. Many stories circulate online, but how many more do we not know? How many people are being physically, sexually, emotionally, mentally threatened and abused because they dare to love something that, perhaps, was not traditionally targeted at them? And why? Why feel so threatened by others enjoying something you like, or asking for that thing to be more inclusive?

I’ve talked about how men can feel threatened by the influx of women into the various geek and nerd fandoms, and perhaps that helps us understand people like the MRA men who do not want to have to change how they do things. I’ve talked about misperception and cognitive dissonance and perhaps this psychological approach can help us to understand the mindset of those who would perpetuate tensions and problems in the fandoms. But I think we can go one step further and consider a topic that has been discussed in many places of our public discourse lately: the phenomenon of “privilege.”

whiteprivilege_knightAccording to this sociological concept, some individuals have an advantageous position in society simply because of the race, gender, class and other demographic categories to which they are born. This does not mean that such people do not work hard to succeed, only that the social, cultural, political, and economic systems are set in such a way that helps to remove barriers to their success in those systems. Advantages are built into these institutions, consciously or unconsciously, overtly or covertly, that give certain people a leg up on others simply due to the group they belong to due to birth.

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Valhalla Rising and the Demythologization of Male Violence

In a reworking of some analysis from his Master’s thesis, Christopher J. Olson presents his analysis of Nicholas Winding Refn’s existential film Valhalla Rising. In his analysis, Chris argues that Refn portrays a violent version of masculinity in order to critique globalized popular culture’s tendency to portray men in such rigid and limited ways.

Read the entire in-depth analysis of the film and global cinema’s over reliance on archetypes in his analysis: Valhalla Rising and the Demythologization of Male Violence.

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