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.
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.
[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.
This is an experimental research paper relaying women’s stories, gathered with Sense-Making Methodology interviews, of times they felt they were addicted to video games. My analysis, and thus the framing for this paper’s “narrative”, focuses on the dynamics of power in and around the women’s lives during this period of addiction. This representation of the research paper was constructed to play with the ideas of a dialogic research paper and the validity issues of how a researcher can provide voice(s) to those studied.
I’m late in putting this out there, but it’s worth watching. This is a video from a Star Trek convention from 1973: that’s before the motion picture that reignited the franchise. So these are the true believers, those who followed the television series, and perhaps were starting with the short lived animated series.
These were the precursors for all the conventions that would come, and the conventions that would become the mega-merchandising and marketing affairs of Comic-Con in San Diego.
But what struck me most about this video was not the way people discussed how they related Star Trek to their everyday lives. This is something we find all the time in fandom — and perhaps is a primary reason in why fans, especially scifi/fantasy fans, are marginalized in society and pop culture (until recently, due to how much money Hollywood can make off them).
No, what I found amazing was the presence of women at the convention, engaging in cosplaying and discussing the significance of the series in their lives. Growing up in the 1980s, I thought I was abnormal for being a female geek/nerd. I grew up isolated in the country, in the era before the Internet. I remember a love for Star Wars when the first movies were out — I should tell you the story of my Ewok stuffed doll some time, don’t let me forget — and I even dressed up at Princess Leia once for school (1st grade, get that image out of your head). But I don’t remember any of the kids I went to school with sharing my love. There were only 17 kids in my class, and by the time I got to a bigger school in 6th grade, Star Wars had receded in my mind, and I didn’t really find anyone to talk to about my other loves of The Turtles, The Ghostbusters or The Thundercats outside of my two younger brothers.
And the idea of a girl to talk to about any of this? In elementary school, there were only five other girls in my class. My best friend was the girl who lived closest to me, and we definitely did not share that interest. Even when I did find my re-love of all things science fiction in high school, it was boys that I hung out with, not girls (although I did try D&D once with some girls, and that was interesting). Whenever I saw nerds/geeks in the pop culture, they were boys.
Maybe I just had my head in the sand. Maybe I just wanted to think I was special for being a female nerd/geek, so I could curry favors from the boys around me. But I just did not think women were that prevalent in fandom, and for that long.
Of course, maybe this film is showing the women because they were outliers in the sampling: that they were as uncommon as I thought they would be, and thus were special people to interview.
What I do know is — I’m a fan of fan studies, because as a geek I find all of these questions interesting and fun to investigate.