Essay about Abjection/women in horror films

Submitted By kelsiee
Words: 1823
Pages: 8

Monstrous Women
As a child, we watched fairytale films with our parents- we did so purely for the entertainment and parents, hoping to instill good morals in us. We may not have thought of this at the time but those fairy tales reflected the time they were made in- they “offer insights into the moral traditions of different cultures.” (Harries, 3) But as we eventually grow older, we find different interests and are introduced to different types of films such as action, drama, romance, and horror. Like fairytales, these genres of films also display the ideologies of the place and time they were made in. The original horror films Carrie and The Exorcist were filmed in the 1970’s, a time where the second wave feminism has been cultivating in society. During this movement, a variety of women’s issues came to light including women’s right to abortion, and rights in a workplace. These national concerns of women’s rights carried over into the realm of horror- the films began to respond indirectly to the women’s rights movements as the producers were male and women were only involved “behind the scenes” in films. Laura Mulvey explains this phenomenon by writing “Woman, then stands in patriarchal culture as a signifier for the male other, bound by a symbolic order in which man can live our his fantasies and obsessions through linguistic command, by imposing them on the silent image of woman still tied to her place as bearer of meaning not maker of meaning.” (Mulvey, 484) Both Carrie and The Exorcist express the fears of men: female liberation. Portraying women as supernatural and evil and/or men as victims expressed the “threat” of women in the films. This then reiterates men as conqueror as well as victim, in a time where men’s roles at home and work were challenged. As women found themselves to be scapegoated in the patriarchal world, they also find themselves to be associated with the “abject.” The abject “threatens life” and “does not respect borders, positions, rule’s that which disturbs identity, system, and order.” (Creed, 8) Not only does the films reflect the dominating patriarchal viewpoints of the time the films were made in, but the theory of abjection, a term coined by Julia Kristeva, is prevalent and related to horror films such as Carrie and The Exorcist.
Barbara Creed points out one of the notions Kristeva discussed as the construction of abjection in the human subject: the mother-daughter relationship. In The Exorcist, the film starts off with Regan living with her mother, Chris. Although society would proclaim them to be an incomplete family because of the absence of the father, they seemed to be happy and content. But this changes as the film continues and we see that Chris has not resolved her problems with her absent husband as she argues with him through the phone. Little did she know that her actions and problems would trickle down to her daughter- the “mother’s swearing becomes Regan’s obscenities; mother’s sexual frustrations become Regan’s lewd suggestions; Mother’s anger becomes Regan’s power.” (Creed, 39) Regan’s gradual possession from drawing sculptures that resembled Pazuzu, communicating with a spirit friend, knocking down the doctor on the floor and then grabbing the psychiatrist’s genitals shows that she has transformed from an angel to a devil. Creed believes this transformation was sexual as Regan attempted to force sexual encounters with her mother. This sexual transformation “suggests that the family home, bastion of all the right virtues and laudable moral values, is built on a foundation of repressed sexual desires including those which flow between mother and daughter.” (Creed, 35) One of the reasons Regan became possessed was her desire to always have a close relationship with her mother since her parents are divorced. The absence of her father and a father figure pushed the mother-daughter relationship into one that resembles a lovers’ relationship. This mother-daughter theme is also