Deliver Us From Evil: The Danger of Possessing Men

As we have repeatedly seen during this project we are calling Tensions in Exorcism Cinema, there appears to be a narrative made popular by the success of The Exorcist (1973). There is a reason we like to say that the 1973 movie is the one that started it all, even though there had been films before The Exorcist that depicted demonic possession and exorcism rituals. The success of the 1973 horror classic led to many other film producers, around the world and across time, to attempt to capitalize on its success by essentially redoing the film’s central narrative and conflict. A common narrative and conflict emerged across the movies that were released after The Exorcist. In our analysis of The Last Exorcism and The Last Exorcism Part II, we call this commonality the “traditional exorcism narrative.”

In this traditional exorcism narrative, a demonic or evil force possesses a girl or young woman, leading her to behave “badly,” as defined by society and culture. This afflicted person must then be saved, and thereby the danger to the rest of use removed, by some member of a religious order, usually a male priest, reverend, pastor or rabbi. This male religious figure can be read as representing a patriarchal order that seeks to maintain a status quo in which women are not a threat. By removing the possession and returning women to a state of innocence, the threat the woman represents is undone and traditional order is restored.


We have seen this pattern repeated over and over again, across time and cultures. Few films reject or subvert this narrative. As we have discussed, The Last Exorcism Part II does subvert this narrative. Additionally, while exceedingly rare, there are stories that focus on the possessed being male. Most of these films come to us by being associated with The Exorcist, and thus could be read as attempting to keep the franchise fresh. For example, The Exorcist III could be read at William Peter Blatty’s attempt to reignite the passion generated from the first movie. Furthermore, while Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist featured a possessed African boy, the movie was scrapped by the studio as the official prequel to The Exorcist, leading to Exorcist: The Beginning returning to the possessed woman as threat narrative. Additionally, the “true story” behind The Exorcist, Possessed, which featured a possessed young boy, only aired on Showtime. These three films, then show examples of trying to capitalize on The Exorcist by presenting twists on this traditional exorcism narrative, but none were financially or culturally successful.

Beyond this franchise, there have been occasions of men being possessed during the course of an exorcism cinema film, such as in The Devil Inside or The Rite. However, these possessions were secondary to the main female possessions that were at the center of the film or were the inciting incidents of each film’s narrative. Only in The Rite does the possession really feature the conflict between a possessed person and a man of faith how is struggling with his faith, this conflict being so central to the traditional exorcism narrative. In a sense, the presence of a possessed man in exorcism cinema is more novelty than commonality.

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On Transgressing Audiencehood: Web 2.0, Interactivity, and Becoming What We’ve Always Been

I think I have now determined what my main research trajectory will be, and I wanted to take the opportunity to organize these thoughts to provide the beginning of a structure for how to organize my research, past, present and future. For awhile now, I’ve been convinced that how the new media has affected our understanding of “audience” is by highlighting certain behaviors that have … Continue reading On Transgressing Audiencehood: Web 2.0, Interactivity, and Becoming What We’ve Always Been

The Whats versus Hows of Film Spectatorship

[What follows is a 2007 paper I wrote for a graduate level course on film studies.  It was this paper that started me thinking about what I’ve come to term minutia reception studies.  I’ve edited the paper for length, and I’ve included a picture of the reception worksheets my brother filled out as part of this “study”.  The full paper can be found here.  I hope to be able to start doing more research on this topic soon, starting with a paper using part of the Virtual Worlds Entertainment project to do so.]

Since the arrival and construction of the “new” media, it seems that the variety of disciplines that have at some point in their history theorized and researched the relationship between human beings and works of fiction and nonfiction are converging.  However,  from social sciences and the humanities there still fall two different dimensions that dissect the fields on how they approach the study of the person-text relationship.  The first dimension carries the active-passive debate.  While few see the person as always active or always passive, the variation along this dimension still serves to separate research.  The second dimension carries the implied-actual debate; simply stated, this dimension concerns the extent to which research focuses on the reader as implied by the text versus the actual reader who exists external to the text.

The purpose of this essay is not to further differentiate how these dimensions are at work in the variety of disciplines studying the reader-text engagement.  This essay takes such distinctions as the current state of affairs and operates instead from a particular position on both dimensions to further an argument about the reader-text relationship when the focus of the research is the spectator-film engagement.  I shall stake my claim on being further into the always active and actual reader approaches, which places me in a camp surrounded by “uses and gratifications” media scholars, information scientists, cognitive scientists, new media scholars, and cultural studies scholars.  It is from this position that I shall argue for the need to understand the actual reader engaging with the film text in order to expand the ways in which this engagement can impact overall reception of the text.  My thesis will be supported by a preliminary empirical study that is also intended to promote a possible means for studying moment-by-moment spectator-film engagement in order to see the process of reading and its relation to overall reception.

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Minutia reception analysis

Methods for understanding the moment-by-moment reception of interactive media Oftentimes in media studies that focus on understanding media reception by the audience or the user, there is a focus on reception writ large and post-hoc. That is, there is a tendency to consider the reactions to a media product by the audience/user after the engagement has occurred and as an aggregate of engagements instead of … Continue reading Minutia reception analysis