[REC]2: When Possession Becomes Infectious

If you are not aware of it, then I should warn you — we are kind of in a period where zombie fervor has some what taken over American pop culture.  We’ve been in this period for awhile now, over a decade in fact, tracing back to movies like Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later… (2002), Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead (2004), and Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead (2004). There have been good entries, and there have been bad entries; there have been those that treat the “zombie apocalypse” as serious and realistic and those that lampoon our seeming obsession with and belief in the possibility of zombies (prompting even the federal government via the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to get in on it).

And, since Hollywood is the preeminent source of storytelling and entertainment-based industry in the world, other countries and cultures have responded to this American obsession. A basic zombie movie is one of the most commonly made horror movies because it can be so cheap to make and yet still look well-done. And since the creatures less of a concrete cultural and historical starting point as compared to other monsters, they can be more flexibly adapted into different contexts.  At the base of the zombie obsession is the fear that the people around you could become mindless killers almost instantaneously.  Given our increased urbanized lives in the 20th and now 21st centuries, everyday we are surrounded by people we just do not know who could have such a monster lurking inside. The media’s stories of violent individuals “disturbing the peace” only helps to fuel our perceptions of this possibility.  Even the people we think we know become suspect with stories of domestic abuse and violent stalking.  Anyone could become a monster at  a moment’s notice.

Which actually makes the zombie a monster akin to the individuals who suffer demonic possession.

Exorcist Zombie

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My Philosophy of Media Reception Studies

Along with my thoughts on the encoding-decoding-recoding model, what follows comes from my dissertation on gendered media engagings and describes how I consider the fundamental elements of media reception and audience studies.

What are media products?      

Media products are the technologies, channels and contents that constitute our understanding of what is ‘the media’. They are the items produced for the purposes of disseminating meaning in the form of information, whether or not it is deemed to be entertaining, from one person to other(s). All three aspects are necessary in order to transmit meaning from sender to receiver; that is, a media product exists as some combination of the three. Thus, for example, the media product Orange is the New Black is a specific content that exists only in the Netflix channel which utilizes online technology. When these three aspects converge, we can analyze them as ‘texts’ in that they are created by human beings to serve human beings and are thus imprinted with the meaning-making processes of human beings that can be decoded.

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Oldboy: A case study in intercultural adaptation theory

Christopher J. Olson makes a compelling argument for how adaptation theory needs to take into account different cultural contexts when texts are adapted from one culture into another. His analysis of the three primary versions of the Oldboy text serve to illustrate his call for an intercultural adaptation theory.

Read all about it in: Oldboy: A case study in intercultural adaptation theory.

Amityville II: The Possession — and the Rapes

So…this movie.

The Amityville Horror (1979) has had a long lasting cultural impact, spawning a remake in 2005 and numerous sequels, prequels, sidequels, TV references, and more. Based on a true story, and another example of a supernatural occurrence investigated by the Warrens (of The Conjuring fame), the original film focuses on a family where a father becomes increasingly unstable and a threat to his family, seemingly due to the past events that occurred within the house they recently purchased. While the father’s fall from grace may be due to possession, and the Catholic officials who visit the house experience some immensely negative reactions to it, there is no exorcism in the film.

The sequel to this film, which serves as a prequel to it, does.

It also features incest, rape, and pedophilia.

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The Convergent Nature of Professional Wrestling (CFP)

UPDATED: Submissions Due Wednesday, September 24th

Earlier this year, I wrote about my experience meeting Mick Foley, my new found interest in professional wrestling, and my initial academic thoughts on professional wrestling and Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment in particular.

Since that time, I signed up for the WWE Network, the new online-only initiative recently launched by the WWE to serve as their “television network.” With the network, we can watch old matches, including the ECW and WCW shows, and we can watch the live pay-per-view extravaganzas as well as current shows like Main Event and NXT. We haven’t explored too much yet, but we have found it fun to have this huge library of content available.

wwenetwork_img1Now, this post is not a plug for the network. From an academic angle, the existence of the network is interesting, although it may be doing more harm than good for the company at this time. What the presence of the network indicates is another example of what interests me about professional wrestling: the convergent nature of it.

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An Encoding-Decoding-Recoding Model of Media Studies

This blog posts continues the dissection of my dissertation that I began by introducing the topic of gendered media engagings earlier this year. This post focuses on a model I used in my dissertation to understand the array of media studies conducted to investigate the ways in which gender is involved in how people engage with media products. As with so many interested in understanding audience reception of the media, I have been highly influenced by the late, great Stuart Hall’s work on what has become known as the “encoding/decoding model” in media studies. Now, I, with much humility, wonder if this classic model could be improved with one more step: recoding.

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The Humanity in the Planet of the Apes

6727441_9743863_lzI remember coming to the Planet of the Apes not through the original movies but through other cultural products. There was the musical rendition on The Simpsons. There was the end of the neighborhood in Spaceballs. And I am sure there were others. I was, after all, not born when the series started, and given my love of science fiction even as a child, it would have been nearly impossible for me not to stumble upon the twist ending before seeing it.

But knowing the twist ending did not impair my love of the movie when I first saw it. Yes, the reveal is a perfect Twilight Zone ending to drive home the anti-war message of the movie. But the movie has many more layers than just containing an anti-war message. Indeed, a movie about apes was able to speak to many aspects and problems of humanity of the 1960s and 1970s, but also of the centuries before and the time after that tumultuous period. And the movies that followed have continued the thematic nature of the first, all the way up to the current Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.  

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Blackwater Valley Exorcism: Equating Demonic Possession with Sexual Assault

When The Exorcist (1973) was first released, it spawned numerous foreign rip-offs and B-movie exploitative versions.  From Şeytan (1974) in Turkey to the reworking of the Italian film ‘Lisa e il diavolo’ (1974/1975)into The House of Exorcism, foreign producers created their own takes on the story of young women being possessed, with more or less successful results. Other foreign appropriations and perspectives include:

  • the German film Magdalena, Possessed by the Devil aka Magdalena: The Devil Inside the Female aka ‘Magdalena, vom Teufel besessen’(1974)
  • the Braziilian film The Bloody Exorcism of Coffin Joe aka O Exorcismo Negro (1974)
  • the Italian film The Antichrist aka The Tempter aka “L’anticristo” (1974)
  • the Italian film Beyond the Door aka Chi sei? (1974)
  • the Spanish film Exorcismo (1975)
  • the Italian film The Night Child aka Il medaglione insanguinato (1975)
  • the French film Exorcisme aka Exorcism aka Les possédées du diable (1974/1975)
  • the British film To the Devil a Daughter (1976)

Similarly, in the United States, Abby (1974) aka The Blaxsploitation Exorcist brings a different cultural perspective to this idea of possession and exorcism.  The extent to which these movies deal specifically with demonic possession and subsequent exorcism, or are just marketed as being about such, varies from movie to movie, but the existence overall represents an attempt to capitalize on the popularity and financial success of the exorcist film that started it all.

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