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.

Women self-identifying as digital game addicts: Their interpretations of power

[This paper comes from 2007 and was completed for a qualitative methodology course at Ohio State University under the amazing Patti Lather. She encouraged us to try different methods of communication research results; so I did a comic book, which you can see here.]

What is digital game addiction?

A number of approaches, theories, and entire discourse communities have arisen in the past century to understand this thing called “addiction” (West, 2001; Bailey, 2005). According to West (2001), beginning with a behavioral psychology perspective, addiction “typically involves initial exposure to a stimulus followed by behaviors seeking to repeat the experience. After a number of repetitions of the behaviour-stimulus sequence, the addiction becomes established.” (p. 3). All the approaches, theories and discourses have attempted to explain this process of addiction. What leads to the initial exposure? What about the stimulus or the engaging with it leads to a desire to repeatedly seek it out? How does this repetition become so ingrained that it is hard, if not physically impossible, to stop using it?

Medical, psychological, sociological, anthropological, economical, theological — all have weighed in on what causes this repeating behavior that is seen as ultimately deleterious to the person, even to the point of being perverse and sociopathic. Addiction is seen by all as a loss of control, only the reason for this being lack of control changes depending upon one’s metatheoretical viewpoint. However, while many have used qualitative, phenomenological methods, such as in-depth interviewing, to understand the perspective and experiences of the addict, there has been no systematic attempt to theorize addiction from an interpretive or constructivist viewpoint (Davies, 1998; Hirschman, 1992; Larkin & Griffiths, 2002). That is, a common approach has been an a priori application of some theory developed from someone looking at the addict and not a grounded theorizing approach of looking at addiction as an addict.

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[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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