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Horror Innovator Innovates Horror

So, friend. Let us say that you are a director. A director of films! Films for entertainment purposes! But, sadly, no-one is paying enough attention to your films, for the public, they are crude and tasteless. What do you do? How do you handle yourself? How do you advance your art?

Well, if you are director Tom Six, you basically just stop trying. Or, no, scratch that: You pioneer the art of anti-trying. You, director Tom Six, must now consciously try to make the worst movie ever. Something so reprehensible that people will have to talk about it. They will have to have conversations which include the phrase “[MOVIE DIRECTED BY TOM SIX]”, just so that they can tell each other, “you should never, ever watch [MOVIE DIRECTED BY TOM SIX], for real, it is the worst.”

And thus, Poop: The Motion Picture Experience, AKA The Human Centipede, was born. For the three human beings on earth who haven’t read the plot: Um, don’t? But also,  to get a vague idea of it, just think about the fact that there are a few things that most people would not enjoy experiencing and/or watching, such as involuntary dental surgery and eating dooky. Thus, a movie where a guy gives you involuntary dental surgery, and then you eat dooky. And then, I guess, you die? HORROR!

Ah, but the real horror has only just begun. Because, sad to say, The Human Centipede has paid off well enough for director Tom Six to make a sequel. A sequel that has already been banned in the UK. And with that, let’s consider all the [TRIGGER WARNINGS] you might need to be in effect, OK? And let’s talk about why.

SPOILER: “Why” is rape.

Okay. So, let’s assume if you made it past that “read more” tag, you are ready to read some gory description. Because here is one of those, describing the BBFC’s reasons for banning the Human Centipede sequel:

The principal focus of The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) is the sexual arousal of the central character at both the idea and the spectacle of the total degradation, humiliation, mutilation, torture, and murder of his naked victims. Examples of this include a scene early in the film in which he masturbates whilst he watches a DVD of the original Human Centipede film, with sandpaper wrapped around his penis, and a sequence later in the film in which he becomes aroused at the sight of the members of the ‘centipede’ being forced to defecate into one another’s mouths, culminating in sight of the man wrapping barbed wire around his penis and raping the woman at the rear of the ‘centipede’.

Oh, how nice. And here, for your further entertainment, is an example of Tom Six’s writing craft, as he condemns the BBFC’s decision:

Thank you BBFC for putting spoilers of my movie on your website and thank you for banning my film in this exceptional way. Apparently I made an horrific horror-film, but shouldn’t a good horror film be horrific? My dear people it is a f****cking MOVIE. It is all fictional. Not real. It is all make-belief. It is art. Give people their own choice to watch it or not. If people can’t handle or like my movies they just don’t watch them. If people like my movies they have to be able to see it any time, anywhere also in the UK.

Naturally, there are a few questions raised by this statement. Such as: Can you really “spoil” The Human Centipede II? The previous movie’s entire strategy for success was getting people to talk about the disgusting stuff that happens therein, so that people would watch it to see whether the stuff was really all that disgusting. I am guessing we were meant to be talking about the various genital tortures. It’s not like anyone is going to be walking out of the theater going, “dang, the impact of that sandpaper-masturbation scene was really spoiled, given that I had been warned about it in advance!” It’s a scene where a dude masturbates with some damn sandpaper. I assure you, the viewer will still be shocked!

Also: Is it even remotely possible that director Tom Six is as surprised by this as he would seem to be? I mean, dude. You directed a movie where people have to eat each others’ poop for sex purposes. What were you expecting, a Daytime Emmy? People are still going to see this thing — even in the UK, one suspects, there will be ways for people to do so — and they’re just going to be more excited about seeing it, given that it’s been banned. If anything, their anticipation for the genital torture will be all the more intense.

But, finally: I am so, so tired of sexual assault being used to “spice up” horror.  The whole Human Centipede premise is based on a sexualized assault, even if that isn’t explicit: “Their flesh is his fantasy” is the damn tag line. And now Six has decided the best way to up the ante is with even more literal rape. Which just feels common, at this point. Every time somebody wants to “shock” or “horrify” me, every time they want to create something “horrific” and get all hey-bro-check-out-this-fuggin-shit about it, it seems like sexual assault is the go-to. Chainsaw murder; torture; sexual assault; ghosts. These are your basic buttons to push for HORROR!

Which raises the question of whether or not these directors actually know any human beings. Because, aside from being horrible and traumatic, sexual assault is actually just very common. It is one of the more common horrible things that can happen to a person. So, done up horror-movie style with barbed wire or broken glass or, I don’t know, maybe a woodchipper: It actually just seems like the movie is insulting the real-life experiences of a substantial portion of the audience. “What happened to you was horrible! But maybe… NOT HORRIBLE ENOUGH?” Is how this comes across.

I know, I know: Horror is about exploiting primal fears and common worries. Just look at any Stephen King plot. (The car… that kills! The dog… that kills! The cell phone… that, surprisingly enough, also kills!) And starting a horror story with a common real-life scenario — we just moved into a new house, we’re lost in a strange town, I’m pretty sure we won’t get killed by a dude on this totally awesome camping trip, etcetera — is a nice way to ground the bizarre shit that happens later and make it more authentically scary.

But the thing is, sexual assault typically isn’t treated like a real-life scenario. It’s treated like some bizarre shit. And, as such, directors feel entitled to dress it up and make it as sadistic and gory as possible.

Chainsaw murder is pretty terrible, true, but if you are reading this, my guess is that you have never been murdered with a chainsaw. It’s unlikely that a movie is going to cheapen, sensationalize or trivialize your experience as a chainsaw murder victim. You have also probably never been sewn face-first to anyone else’s butt. You have probably never been eaten by a zombie. You probably have not been stalked by an evil little girl who lives in a well; you probably are not interviewing a super-genius cannibal psychiatrist; you do not have to worry that anyone is going to show up and Drag You To Hell. You can watch movies about any of these things, and enjoy the violence on an aesthetic level, because you know that you don’t have to take the feelings of zombie victims all that seriously. It’s monster makeup, Karo syrup, and food coloring. It’s not anyone’s real life.

But if you’ve been sexually assaulted, you don’t have to imagine how scary that might be. You don’t have to watch a movie to be confronted with the possibility. And you do have to take it seriously. Even if you haven’t been assaulted, it’s likely that you know someone who has. So to have this experience treated as a standard horror trope, on the level of scary ghosts and cannibal witch cults and human centipedes and other shit that just doesn’t actually happen… well, it’s irksome. Because, sure, everybody wants to see some extreme and unlikely and violent shit happen in a movie, now and again. Being shocked and scared is fun. But to have rape treated as something unlikely and bizarre, something we can enjoy based on the level of creative violence involved, isn’t actually saying that rape is “horrific.” It’s saying, on some level, that rape isn’t real.

And it is real. Lots of horrible things are real. For example, I just wrote well over 1,000 words about a sequel to The Human Centipede. Contemplate THAT, if you dare.


  1. Timid Aethist wrote:

    I made the mistake of eating while reading this. Ack. Also, while I’ve never seen the movie, I watched Daniel Tosh’s review of the movie. I had trouble eating for the rest of the day. Hurk.

    It never made sense to me that horror movies used rape. As you said, they make it seem unrealistic. I’m lucky in that the assaults I experienced weren’t as terrible as so many others have had, but even small things bring those experiences to my mind.

    Personally, I think that director is an idiot. But what do I know? I hate being scared.

    Friday, June 10, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Permalink
  2. Becca Stareyes wrote:

    This pretty much feels like the director is a bit like the Hyperbole and a Half comic where the young narrator tries to come up with the Scariest Story Ever so that her sister can get nightmares. Because the narrator is a child at the time, this mostly consists of her throwing everything scary she can think of together into a mess of a story. It ends up sounding pretty ridiculous to anyone over the age of seven.

    Only, you know, with added rape. Extra-scary rape with torture and stuff. Because that’s how you know it wasn’t created by a bunch of seven year olds trying to gross each other out, but by an Grown-up Movie Director Making Grown-up Movies for Grown-ups.

    It’s actually kind of contemptible.

    Friday, June 10, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Permalink
  3. laguiri wrote:

    I read a synopsis of the Human Centipede more or less by mistake. Then I had to read the ending at to see if it would help shake off the nightmares (it sort of did).

    I haven’t read your post in full because everything is way too horrific. I’m scared to live in a world where someone can make up that script, and someone else believes that it’s worth producing, and other people believe that it’s worth watching.

    Friday, June 10, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Permalink
  4. Emmitt wrote:

    The first Human Centipede is actually a good movie. I’ll take on all centipede naysayers. It’s surprisingly reserved (there’s very little gore for a story about mouths and butts being sewn together) and incredibly mature about its concept, poop eating and all. It’s anything but sensationalistic.

    I obviously can’t speak for the sequel but I can express dissatisfaction with the fact that the UK banned it. Censorship is stupid, etc etc.

    I also think that the depiction of sexual assault/rape depends on the context. I won’t deny that most movies, horror or otherwise, are incredibly stupid when it comes to such depictions. However, I don’t feel okay applying a statement like that to every single horror movie that depicts rape. For one, it ignores legitimately good movies that do treat the matter with sensitivity and intelligence, like Rosemary’s Baby. Then you’d also have to find a way to have that co-exist with the idea that horror movies are inherently about sex and sexual violence. You don’t have to be a psychoanalyst to see anything in a movie about a guy running around stabbing usually-nude women.

    Maybe Tom Six really is an idiot who’s playing up the violence in the sequel in order to be shocking. I dunno. The sandpaper masturbation scene does sound like it shows a degree of self-awareness, to the point that the film may even be about the concept of a film called The Human Centipede, but that could easily be undone by not treating the material (rape and all) with the same seriousness as the first one.

    Friday, June 10, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink
  5. Sady wrote:

    @Emmitt: Yeah, but you can do “psychosexual horror” without putting explicit rape in your movie. Alien is about little else. Black Swan, no matter how you feel about it, is a story about psychological and sexual abuse. (I’d classify that movie as “horror,” although people have different opinions about that.) Those movies tap into fears of having one’s body invaded or compromised, and it sexualizes those fears to a certain degree, but nobody gets straight-up rape-tortured on screen.

    And I think movies, even horror movies, can actually handle sexual violence pretty well when they decide to do so. Red Eye isn’t exactly horror, and I haven’t watched it in a good long while (so who knows how I’d feel about it now) but as I recall, it was sort of refreshing in terms of how it handled the subject. It was made clear that the protagonist had been sexually assaulted before the events of the movie took place, that she’d done some serious work to come back from that, and that it had shaped her as a person. But it didn’t make her “broken” and it wasn’t played for gross-out potential or voyeuristic satisfaction. You just knew that when she fought back against the villain, she was fighting extra hard because of what she’d been through in the past. That makes a lot of sense to me, as a story. And it was good to have a survivor as a strong protagonist, instead of a wounded animal or a broken victim. I like that, as a choice.

    Friday, June 10, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Permalink
  6. smadin wrote:

    However, I don’t feel okay applying a statement like that to every single horror movie that depicts rape.

    Good thing Sady neither did that, nor demanded that anyone else do that, then!

    In case you missed it, here’s what she said:

    sexual assault being used to “spice up” horror

    But the thing is, sexual assault typically isn’t treated like a real-life scenario. It’s treated like some bizarre shit. And, as such, directors feel entitled to dress it up and make it as sadistic and gory as possible.

    to have rape treated as something unlikely and bizarre, something we can enjoy based on the level of creative violence involved, isn’t actually saying that rape is “horrific.” It’s saying, on some level, that rape isn’t real.

    Friday, June 10, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink
  7. Mazarine wrote:

    Speaking as a person who worked in a domestic and sexual violence agency, SA and DV are FAR more common than horror movie directors like to think.

    Sensationalizing, sexualizing and generally glorifying sexual violence is wrong, I don’t care WHO is doing it, I don’t care HOW artistic it is, No. Just NO.

    Stop making peoples lives a little worse every time they watch your movies. Make something that will improve how people see the world, not degrade it.

    No matter how many times people claim artistic license when showing a woman being raped, it always sounds like the whine of a little boy who broke a window and doesn’t want to take responsibility for it. Boys will be boys. Movie directors will be movie directors. Women will be given the victim/harpy role. Or be removed entirely from the discourse.

    Frankly, I think movies like this should only be described, not shown, as an example of why we need a stronger feminist movement.

    Friday, June 10, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Permalink
  8. Sady wrote:

    @Emmitt: And, on the “banning” tip — I don’t have to like it, or approve of it, to think the movie sounds exploitative. I’m kind of consciously not talking about the “censorship” issue here, as I don’t understand all the issues in play. Much as I don’t like censorship, I can’t really get it up to defend this particular film franchise. But as I understand it, the British have a weird history with horror films, and a history of banning them; there was a murder case in which two pre-adolescent boys killed a toddler, in a way that was said to recreate a scene from “Child’s Play,” and that case sparked (or maybe just fed into) a big moral panic around “video nasties” and whether folks should have access to them. So, the decision to ban this movie would seem to rely on some cultural context and an ongoing debate that I just don’t know enough about to discuss freely.

    Friday, June 10, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Permalink
  9. Matarij wrote:

    Being British, I am just glad that the BBFC, for once, had the guts to say no to a what sounds like a violent, misogynistic nightmare of a film. I mean, WTF? Yet another film that serves up rape as entertainment as if it is completely divorced from reality, as Sadie points out. I worry a lot about the mental health of directors like Tom Six – what kind of mind has he got that would result in such an awful concept? Also, what kind film industry to we have that allows a film like to pass through every barrier to get to the stage where it is complete. Who were the trial audience members? Like I say, WTF?

    Friday, June 10, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Permalink
  10. MCM wrote:

    Sady, I definitely agree with your overall point but I’m not sure I agree with your more general ideas about horror.

    No, -I- was never murdered with a chainsaw. I did see my dad hit himself in the face with a running chainsaw when it bounced off a knot in a stump. I’ve never been eaten by a zombie, but I have been attacked by a dog (ok, I tripped over it while drunk, but still)(and really zombie movies aren’t about the horror of zombies eating people, but that’s a whole other topic). Alien is horrifying because pregnancy is real (and scary!). And of course ghosts aren’t real – except that most Americans think they are (same goes for angels and demons). Paranormal Activity is about the most normal stuff in the world – weird sounds at night. Jaws? I’m pretty sure sharks are real.

    Horror movies are successful when they tap into normal fears and then make them more compelling, whether by going super over-the-top or by going creepy and subtle. Blair Witch Project? It’s a movie about being lost. It’s completely normal. How the fear kills them (witches, wild dogs, whatever, doesn’t matter) is totally irrelevant.

    So, in that respect, sexual assaults are not an unusual feature for horror movies. If sexual assaults were rare, then sexual assaults (or the threat/fear of them) probably wouldn’t feature so prominently in movies. But sexual assault is real, and the fear of it is real and normal.

    What would be weird is if sexual assault WASN’T featured in horror movies.

    Lots of movies are going to feature things that people were themselves victims of: home invasions, kidnappings, muggings and beatings, bullying and embarrassments, and, yes, sexual assault.

    Like many movies (and horror movies), I suspect that the Human Centipede series stems from a deep misogyny. Whether or not that manifests as sexual assaults on women is not important. Lars von Trier’s Antichrist (which I did see) was blatantly (and probably more seriously than Human Centipede) misogynistic, and featured the sexual assault of a man by a woman. A bit off track by now, but I think my main point was that I disagree that horror movies are about weird things. They are about taking normal scary things and amping them up.

    (And minor quibble, but apparently Human Centipede made Mr. Six about $250k. I wish he was motivated solely by money but I sense, like Lars von Trier, that there is actually something deeply wrong with him.)

    Friday, June 10, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Permalink
  11. zar wrote:

    MCM, the problem isn’t that horror movies portray sexual assault. The problem is HOW they portray it. They do it wrong.

    Have you been sexually assaulted before? I have (as have loads of people), and for some reason, the way it’s shown in movies always rubs me the wrong way. It’s usually done for shock value or an excuse to throw titties in; there is rarely ever a sense of empathy with the victim, I think.

    In good horror movies, we are asked to identify with the victim(s). We feel scared for Laurie Strode, because we kind of see ourselves in her shoes. We’ve spent the whole movie with her, we’ve gotten to like her, and we really want her to be okay. This just isn’t the case with sexual assault in movies. We’re rarely asked to identify with the victim. Most of the time, the audience’s role is that of a spectator or even a perpetrator. Characters who are raped in horror movies (from what I’ve seen) are usually bit parts or throwaway characters; they’re never the characters who actually matter.

    Friday, June 10, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Permalink
  12. speedbudget wrote:

    You can watch movies about any of these things, and enjoy the violence on an aesthetic level, because you know that you don’t have to take the feelings of zombie victims all that seriously.

    This really resonated with me. Once the rape scene occurs in the movie (which is an awful lot. Practically every movie has a rape scene or a scene in which consent is questionable.), I am thoroughly and utterly distracted. Because I have been through a rape, I know the feelings, physical and emotional, that result. No matter how inhuman the character was before that, I now empathize with this character, and those feelings bring me right up out of suspension of disbelief. The movie is no longer fun. I have to worry about this character and hir feelings and recovery. It’s exhausting, and sexual assault is a goddamn trope. I can’t get away from it.

    Friday, June 10, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Permalink
  13. Glittertrash wrote:

    Strangely enough for over-1000-words about the incredibly boring tendency of film directors to reach for RAPE! when they’re trying to be SHOCKING!, I laughed all the way through this post. I will never watch or feel the need to watch these films, but goodness me I’m glad you’ve taken the time to write about them so that whenever somebody tries to mention them to me as some kind of cutting-edge film-watching experience they’ve had, I can laugh in their face.

    Not related to the article, but the other day I laughed and laughed and laughed all the way home from a conversation with some wide-eyed self-described-feminist men who kept telling me they couldn’t possibly understand, relate to, or in fact credit as real any of my experiences of everyday fear and/or actual experiences of violence as a woman in the world. Ha! Hahahaha! You people are FUNNY and also I want to cry, but right now I’m going with trenches humour and laughing at you, because mocking you is a valid form of power reclamation and I’ll take what I can get.

    Friday, June 10, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Permalink
  14. Mejane wrote:

    I think that Melissa Lafsky had it right when she said that The Human Centipede doesn’t even really qualify as horror – it’s fetish porn. There’s a place where these two things sort of intersect, but honestly? The distinction is generally pretty clear (I’d say once you’ve got people eating shit for the sexual gratification of a lunatic doctor you’ve pretty much gone over to the dark side). At any rate, it seems to me that conceptualizing the movie in these terms is helpful, in that you don’t have to treat it like a legitimate offering in the genre. It’s a different sort of thing entirely, even if it shares some of the tropes.

    Friday, June 10, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Permalink
  15. Em wrote:

    I agree, Glittertrash. This was the funniest post I have ever read on a topic I’d prefer never to read about.

    Friday, June 10, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Permalink
  16. Em wrote:

    Just curious: are all comments moderated now? I used to not be modded but the past half dozen times or so I’ve been put in the queue. Just curious if I need to comment more often to be recognized as legit by the spam-filter, or if it’s the new normal.

    Friday, June 10, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Permalink
  17. Emmitt wrote:

    I’m not sure what creating this distinction between The Human Centipede and other horror films accomplishes. It just reminds me of how some people disregard some examples as torture porn, like they’re creating some sort of high art vs. low art dichotomy in a genre that’s already considered low art.

    @Sady: There’s seems to be something really vile about an actual rape showing up in a film full of metaphorical rapes. There’s a Friday the 13th movie, the New York one or whatever, where a rape is about to occur before Jason steps in but that doesn’t really wash out the bad taste left from the previous scene. Come to think of it, there might be something to the idea that the sensationalizing of rape within horror films implies that rape isn’t real. The murders (metaphorical rapes) are all shown to be the normal and expected thing in horror films and the actual rape is depicted as the most extreme. This has actually given me a bit to think about. Reading through the concept of Human Centipede 2, it seems to concern a character who sets out to make a more extreme version of the first film. That the sequel does show a self-reflexive nature does give me some hope that its depiction of sexual violence isn’t merely an attempt to be shocking and edgy.

    On the banning issue, maybe my position of “censorship is bad” isn’t the most nuanced one. If I leave it at that, I open myself up to slippery slope folks who question where do I draw the line. Maybe a more nuanced position would be that if all parties involved became so of their own accord and were not harmed or threatened in any way, then I question why someone should be prevented from seeing it. I’m not from the UK either so I fear I can’t comment much without getting a lot of my info wrong.

    Actually, what I find most interesting is the reason for the ban, that the film “poses a real, as opposed to a fanciful, risk that harm is likely to be caused to potential viewers”. I have to wonder what audience it is they’re seeking to protect.

    Also since you brought up Red Eye, I have to ask what do you think of the use of rape as a metaphor (is that the right term? figure of speech maybe?). It’s been a while since I’ve seen Red Eye too but from what I recall, it did seem to draw on rape as a metaphor for acts of terrorism. Chinatown uses it to comment on political corruption (the villain is raping the land like he’s raping his daughter). Do you feel like this trivializes rape in any way? I only ask out of curiosity.

    Saturday, June 11, 2011 at 12:30 am | Permalink
  18. Mejoff wrote:

    Emmitt, quick question: Are you consistantly referencing the works of Polanski for a particular reason?

    Monday, June 13, 2011 at 7:44 am | Permalink
  19. Sooz wrote:

    Emmitt, you might want to rethink your idea of murder as “metaphorical rape.” The two things have VERY DIFFERENT effects and, while both horrible things, are not really comparable.

    Monday, June 13, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Permalink
  20. Emmitt wrote:

    @Mejoff: Actually I didn’t even notice that until you mentioned it. I certainly didn’t mean to imply anything by it.

    @Sooz: I’m talking about horror flicks (particularly slashers) from a psychoanalytical position. This is stuff that’s been written about countless times, be it Psycho, Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, whatever. I don’t mean to imply an equivalence between the two. The point is that the violence is incredibly sexualized (the shower scene in Psycho being a famous example).

    Monday, June 13, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Permalink
  21. Victoria wrote:

    “horror movies are inherently about sex and sexual violence”

    Is there a reason this is an acceptable expectation? Because it seems pretty vile as a basic trope to me.

    Monday, June 13, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Permalink
  22. rebekah wrote:

    Can we please not try and couch diagnose him please?
    I’d also like to point out that a lot of rape survivors read, write, and watch psychosexual books and films as a way to heal from their assault, so assuming that any of that genre is automatically unacceptable is a really fucked up concept.
    note, I am not accusing sady of this as she wasn’t the one to say so

    Monday, June 13, 2011 at 8:42 pm | Permalink
  23. Christopher wrote:

    It actually just seems like the movie is insulting the real-life experiences of a substantial portion of the audience. “What happened to you was horrible! But maybe… NOT HORRIBLE ENOUGH?” Is how this comes across.

    But isn’t this same thing true of murder, too? Serial killers are real. They do horrible things to people.

    And doesn’t dressing them up as hulking brutes wearing gimmicky masks and waving chainsaws around make the exact same claim of “Hey, sorry your loved one was murdered, that’s horrible, but maybe… NOT HORRIBLE ENOUGH”?

    Why is it okay to sensationalize and trivialize that violence?

    Monday, June 13, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Permalink
  24. Crys T wrote:

    Can I second what Rebekah said?

    And also there is Christopher’s question, which, though I suspect he’s just saying it as a rape-culture apologia and not out of any concern over survivors of attempted murder, I think is valid given Sady’s take on horror.

    Why *is* it ok to have a guy in a mask wielding a chainsaw and not some outre sexual assault? And I think the answer is: it all depends on who the viewer is expected to identify with.

    Horror movies are nightmares–they serve a similar function as getting on a roller coaster: they’re a safe way to confront some fears. I’ve seen the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and I never got the feeling we were supposed to identify with anyone but the victims. We live their nightmare, and, with the last victim, feel the relief of getting away. In Halloween, we identify with the Jamie Lee Curtis character, and again, get to feel the relief of surviving. With a lof recent slasher/gore flicks, however, I get the feeling we’re supposed to see through the killer’s eyes, and get off on someone else’s pain. It’s no longer our nightmare, but a cruel, hateful revenge fantasy we’re supposed to be living out.

    And the same thing goes for sexualised violence in horror. If it’s done so that the viewer identifies with the victim, I can’t say that I’m always ok with it, but sometimes I can see a point to it. However, in most horror films, that is NOT the way it works: we are supposed to feel like the aggressor, and share in the glee of hurting someone–someone who is almost always a woman.

    That is, to me, the difference.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 6:36 am | Permalink
  25. Emmitt wrote:

    @Victoria: It’s the association of sex with death that’s been around since who knows how long. The big joke always made is that the characters who have sex in horror movies end up dead, leading to the virginal Final Girl surviving and taking on the killer.

    If anybody is interested, Carol Clover’s “Men, Women, and Chain Saws” is pretty much required reading on this stuff.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink
  26. LeftSidePositive wrote:

    Emmitt, has it maybe occurred to you that the “association of sex with death” is in and of itself a very misogynistic trope? That maybe this makes sexuality seem dangerous, deviant, and destructive, and that since women are “the sex class” we are the ones who are marginalized for it? That the longstanding view that sluts should be punished is itself a huge basis for justifying and perpetuating the horror genre? That sex (which should be a happy, affirming, fulfilling, pleasurable thing) is conflated with fear, destruction, and pain is a cultural narrative that normalizes violence against women?

    Taking one of the most common misogynistic tropes and just saying it has been around a long time is not analysis. It is not deep thinking. It is not respecting the viewpoints of those who have been hurt by those tropes. It is just making excuses for things you are privileged to enjoy because you only see them as “exotic” and totally ignores the experiences of those for whom these issues are very real and destructive.

    Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 10:50 pm | Permalink
  27. Tim wrote:


    Whether it is misogynistic or not is pretty irrelevant. I don’t think Emmitt was saying that the ‘association of sex and death’ should be considered a ‘great thing’. I think he was just pointing out that for one reason or another, it exists, without really passing judgement.
    I think you’re rather shooting the messenger a bit.

    If you were to ask me- I’d say that first of all it is not an association of sex and death per se, rather it is an association with sex and hatred of life, which is subtly different. Death is itself a part of the life process.

    Rather our unhealthy association of sex and violence stems from our deepseated view that sex is ‘sinful’ and ‘shameful’, that still exists today in the language of pornography and sexual titillation (sex is ‘dirty’, ‘naughty’ etc). The natural response to the great amount of guilt or self-hatred that results from this is a self-destructive hatred of life that can manifest itself in fantasies in which the lines between sex and violence blur.

    At least that is my theory.

    Thursday, June 23, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Permalink