As I have been writing about for awhile now, Chris and I are working on a book project that explores the tensions depicted in exorcism cinema. That is, we are analyzing films that depict possession and exorcism to understand what is being said about the world through those representations. Part of this analysis has been to develop and understand how the “traditional exorcism narrative” established by The Exorcist has become the main genre convention across all of the films in the horror subgenre of exorcism cinema.

For this latest episode of the podcast, we focus on The Exorcist as the one that started it all to define this trope, argue for what that means, and discuss the trope’s prevalence as a combination of social and cultural forces as well as the political economic forces of the movie industry. Thus we deconstruct the film, and then relate it to all the films that came after it, from Abby to Grace: The Possession. Repeatedly, the same archetypes and metaphors established in The Exorcist reappears, which makes sense given Hollywood’s desire for genre conventions to attempt to replicate the success of the first film.

At the same time, the sociocultural atmosphere of the 1970s and now seem to relate to the preponderance of these films appearing. We understand exorcism films as depicting the oppression of non-dominant groups so that traditional powers and norms can remain in place, and this metaphor is prevalent across this subgenre, tracing back to this film and even before it. As we discuss in the podcast, there seems to be a connection between the prevailing sociocultural atmosphere and the utilization of the traditional exorcism narrative in these films.

And apparently the curse of The Exorcist found them and caused problems with their audio that required post-production inserts! Happy Halloween!

2 responses to “The Pop Culture Lens Episode 16: The Exorcist (1973)”

  1. chillerpop Avatar

    Fantastic! Thank you for this, and happy Halloween. An aside related to your queer reading of The Exorcist: in Blatty’s novel, Legion, there is a scene where Lt. Kinderman arrests a man who groped him in a movie theater. Very reminiscent of police stings of cruising areas, and general gay panic/homophobic views contemporary to the times. That didn’t make it into the Legion movie.

    It also made me think of Blatty’s committed Catholicism. It seems like he might oppose gay rights, based on some things I found:

    Thanks again for the food for thought, and looking forward to more of your podcasts!


    1. CarrieLynn D. Reinhard Avatar

      Ah, good information about Blatty! I will pass that along to my co-author, see if that is something to incorporate.


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