Imam zadovoljstvo da obavestim da smo dobili još jednog horor-magistra. Moj dragi prijatelj Bojan Baća je usred Mađarske, u Budimpešti, juna 2009. odbranio tezu pod naslovom MALICE IN WONDERLAND: THE SOCIAL CONSCIOUS AND THE POLITICAL UNCONSCIOUS IN AMERICAN HORROR FILMS OF THE 1970S.
Teza je odbranjena na CEU (Central European University; Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology) kao deo obaveza potrebnih za sticanje zvanja Gospodara Umetnosti (tj. Master of Arts). Mentori su mu bili prof. Jean-Louis Fabiani i prof. Jasmina Lukić.
Mr Baća je boravio na Central European University godinu dana (2008/2009), na Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology kao posledica stipendije za master studije, za godinu dana.
Za tih godinu dana ispratio je dva semestra: dao ukupno 13 ispita (od kojih je Feminist Film Theory imao kod Terese De Lauretis, ključno ime u feminističkoj teoriji filma, koja je bila gostujući profesor na CEU u 1. semestru).
3. semestar od nekih mesec i po dana je bio posvećen izdradi teze: zahtev je bio da bude u dužini od 12.000 do 15.000 reči, a da bude formatirana po pravilima American Sociological Association. Pošto mu je to bilo prekratko, uspeo je nekako da iskamči još 5.000 reči (a da mu se to ne reflektuje na konačnu ocenu, jer oni ne vole da se limit prekoračuje).
Prvi mentor je sa tog dipartmenta: prof. Dr Jean-Louis Fabiani (poznati francuski sociolog kulture, čovek koji je predavao na nekim od najvećih svetskih univerziteta), dok je drugi mentor sa Department of Gender Studies: prof. Dr Jasmina Lukić (naš poznati književni kritičar, autor nagrađivane knjige "Metaproza: Čitanje zanra", koja vec godinama predaje na CEU).
Dalja sudbina ovog teksta je da se (u svojoj integralnoj, pročišćenoj i doteranoj, a malo i izmenjenoj verziji) objavi kao monografija, ali se još oko toga pregovara. Neki delovi će se najverovatnije pojaviti u stručnim časopisima na engleskom.
Teza je odbranjena sa najvećom ocenom, koja se nimalo lako ne daje na CEU: A - with high honours.
Eto, to su osnovni fakti.
Bojan je najmlađi u trijumviratu crnogorskih žanrovskih ezoterika, koji čine još i Aleksandar Bečanović i Ratko Radunović. Na ovom blogu imate radove sve trojice: Bojan je sa nama podelio svoj prikaz serije EDGE OF DARKNESS, a Bečanović svoj osvrt na Pusti pravog unutra, 2008. Pored toga, na blogu možete naći i moj prikaz Bečanovićeve zbirke priča OPSJEDNUTOST - Aleksandar Bečanović kao i njegov prikaz moje: STUDIJA STRAVE: prikaz s one strane . Bečanović mi, jedini sa ovdašnjih prostora, pravi društvo u nekoliko značajnih inostranih publikacija, a najnovije u 101 SF and Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die. Ratko Radunović je najaktivniji saradnik bloga, i do njegovih tekstova ćete najlakše doći ako sa strane, u listi saradnika, kliknete na njegovo umetničko ime: Tripp, ili na neki sličan način pretražite blog.
Što se tiče Bojanovog magistarskog rada, moj sud je da je to izvanredno ozbiljan, savršeno teoretski potkovan, pronicljiv i produbljen pogled na horor kao filmski žanr uopšte, a posebno na neke od njegovih najistaknutijih naslova nastalih u, po meni, najplodnijoj i najzanimljivijoj deceniji u dosadašnjoj istoriji – 1970-im. Iako se rad zanosi ka levičarima i frojdovcima i feministkinjama malo previše za moj ukus, s time se nije preteralo, i tekst nije uškopljen time, nego je na prilično ubedljiv način na date filmove primenio odabranu teoriju. Takođe, u radu postoji slant ka sociologiji i politici koji rad donekle udaljava iz sfere estetike a približava ga sferi ideologije, ali čak i to je sasvim u skladu sa današnjim 'filmskim studijama' u kojima se piše o svemu, a najmanje o filmu. Da se ovo ne shvati kao backhanded compliment, žurim da pojasnim: ovaj socio-slant je razumljiv zbog mesta na kome je rad odbranjen a verujem da je Bojan bio na nekoj filmskoj školi ne bi se toliko bavio pojedinim smaračima koje je ovde morao da uzima u obzir. U svakom slučaju, ovo je rad svetskog ranga, što se može reći za vrlo mali broj magistarskih radova pisanih i branjenih u našim tužnim balkanskim zemljama, te stoga ima Ghoul's seal of approval. Na žalost, bilo je prekasno da se njegov deo uvrsti u jedan značajan svetski zbornik za koji as we speak i sam pišem rad (o HAUTE TENSION), ali siguran sam da će Bojan uspeti da ovo plasira gde treba i kako treba a ja ću se svakako i nadalje truditi da u tome pripomognem koliko mogu.
(PS: Sve fotke kojima se ilustruje ovaj tekst nastale su na Sajmu knjiga 2008. prilikom Bojanove podrške promociji NOVIH KADROVA!)
Ovo što sledi su apstrakt i sadržaj rada kako biste stekli bolju ideju o tome o čemu se tu radi, a odmah zatim sledi i uvod (sve je na engleskom, naravno):
After the “linguistic turn”, the issue of representation became one of the central problems of social sciences. This paradigm shift enabled film to constitue itself as a discourse. Consequently, film was extensively utilized as an interpretative framework. In addition to this, I argue that film possesses one more dimesion that is relevant for sociology and anthropology: ability to operate as a theoretical model. And I find that the most suitable films for fulfilling this function are the ones that belong to the horror genre of the 1970s. Drawing primarily on theories of Slavoj Žižek, Jacques Derrida and Frederic Jameson, I argue that only this genre can provide examples which can illustrate the universality of antagonisms in social reality. Furthermore, once constituted as a theoretical model, the horror film can uncover “unconscious” ideology behind everyday life practice.
KEYWORDS: horror film, ideology, antagonisms, cinema of the 1970s, political unconscious
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- Introduction: THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
- Literature Review: EXPLAINING THE SOCIAL CONSCIOUS
- Toward a New Theoretical Model: MAPPING THE POLITICAL UNCONSCIOUS
- Why Fiction?: Film as a Useful Tool for Sociology and Anthropology
- Between Différance and Sinthome: Where Every Monster Resides
- Mapping the Political Unconscious: The Lair of the Monster
- Analysis: ALL HEADS TURN WHEN A MONSTER GOES BY
- A World Without “False Consciousness”: Shivers, Rabid and The Brood
- Ideology Always Triumphs: It’s Alive, The Omen and The Exorcist
- The Return of the Repressed: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes
- Thou Shall Enjoy Your Sinthome: Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Dawn of the Dead
- Conclusion: THE MONSTER – AN EULOGY
In order to understand today’s world, we need cinema, literally. It’s only in cinema that we get that crucial dimension which we are not yet ready to confront in our reality. If you are looking for what is, in reality, more real than reality itself, look into cinematic fiction.
–– Slavoj Žižek
When it comes to interpreting social reality, cinema is no different than any other discourse: it acquires “inspiration” from it, re-creates it by “rephrasing” it into a narrative, and ideologically (through formal and substantial elements of cinematic language) evaluates it. In other words, it “exploits” reality through “surplus value” of representation – interpretation. Furthermore,
(2000:262) asserts that “the very fact that the movies amplified certain aspects of [American] culture and attenuated others had a profound effect”. In this way, film has engaged in the major debates, which consequently established discourse of the film as a part of larger discourse(s) of society. Therefore, film is a reflective analytic text that “follows” social events, and engages post festum in a dialogue with them. For that reason, as Jameson (1992, 1995) stated, the only way to think the visual is to understand its relation to the historical context in which it had emerged. Monaco
After the infamous “linguistic turn” and the notorious “crisis of representation”, film was established as a “systematically organized discourse” (Stam 2000:186). As a consequence of this (postmodernist) shift of focus from the signified to the signifier, the relevance of cinematic representation became incalculable. For that reason, the famous assertion that “life imitates art” must be rephrased: cinema is postulated as a discourse in clearly defined discourses inside the sphere of social sciences, where it is not a simple commentary on social reality but an actual agent within it. As a result, a binary relation is established: social history (the major issues) and film history (the representation of those issues) interact in a dialectical relationship. In this way, film is disseminating the meaning of the original social event (Belton 1994).
My thesis is an attempt to uncover one more dimension that the film as a discursive representation of social reality possess: the one of theoretical model. I argue that the most suitable films for fulfilling this function are the ones that belong to the horror genre of the 1970s. As stated before, the horror film of that era acquired inspiration from a large number of events that questioned and challenged dominant social, cultural and political norms of that period. Issues like abortion, feminism, migration from rural to urban areas, “body politics”, minority rights, the “secret government”, hippie culture and sexual freedoms were just a few of the many trends that Hollywood efficiently used to measure the pulse of the American society (see Friedman 2007, Keyser 1981). However, as these phenomena were not an exclusive property of American social landscape, I focus on the cinematic representation of these issues as they participated in American culture. Furthermore, I argue that the horror film in the 1970s was an active participant in social, cultural and political events on much deeper level than ever before. This was a consequence of a crucial change in the horror narrative: line that was separating good from evil disappeared, and consequently normality was brought into question. In view of that, my claim is that the horror film of the 1970s did not deal with social reality only consciously, but more importantly it provided some of the most significant insights on the “unconscious” level. Consequently, I distinguish the social conscious and the political unconscious of cinematic discourse. By the former I mean critical representation of sociopolitical phenomena specific for a given period, and by the latter – “unbiased” uncovering of universality of unresolvable antagonisms that are ideologically mystified in that period. The goal is to postulate the horror film as a theoretical model for non-ideological contemplation on ideology.
But what do I mean when I say the “horror film”, and why is this genre so special? Jameson (1989:106) defines genres as “essentially literary institutions, or social contracts between a writer and a specific public, whose function is to specify the proper use of a particular cultural artifact”. This contract imposes conventions which ensure proper reception of a particular cultural artifact. However, instead of a writer, in cinema the contract is established between the industry and the audience. This contract states that the horror genre is focused on the antagonistic relationship between the Order (man, social groups, society, the system of values) and the Other (represented in the figure of the monster) which cannot have peaceful resolution. Central to the horror genre is the figure of the monster, whose identity transforms according to social and cultural changes (Hutchings 2004, Wells 2000). Therefore, the figure of the monster is most commonly used as a unit of analysis. The majority of academic readings view the Monster as an entity that violates and potentially destabilizes a particular way of making sense of the world, which constitutes the status of the Monster itself as transgressive. As Hutchings (2004) explains, horror films can be seen as the reaffirmation of social categories through elimination of the “unnatural” creature; but on the other hand, the very existence of the Monster reveals that these categories can be breached, that they – for all their apparent “naturalness” – are fragile, contingent, vulnerable. In other words, monsters are not only represented as threats to the social order, but also as a potential transformation of the order. Therefore, if the very nature of the Monster is subversive, then its representation functions differently in different contexts (Carroll 1990, Hutchings 2004).
This imposes the question of the meaning of the Monster. The main approach is to interpret it as a metaphor for psychologically and socially specific fears and anxieties. For that reason, proliferation of horror films is symptomatic for great sociopolitical and economic crises. For example, the monsters from the 1930s are seen as representations of mass unemployment and accompanying sense of weakness (O’Flinn 1986, Skal 2001). The 1950s saw the emergence of the modern horror film, the one that made a shift from gothic ambience to urban setting. This was a consequence of Cold War politics, a period in which American society in totality was in danger from an external threat: the monsters have been interpreted as metaphors for the nuclear bomb or as a fear of potential communist invasion (Biskind 1983). As such, these films were deeply xenophobic and were promoting the idea that only the state – through military, scientific and governmental elites – has the power to protect the nation (Tudor 1989). However, Jancovich (1996:2) asserts that “the threats which distinguish 1950s horror do not come from the past or even from the actions of a lone individual, but are associated with the processes of social development and modernisation”. This threat was the “process of rationalisation”: reorganization of the social, economic and cultural life through scientific-technical rationality in then very bureaucratized and conformist
. Furthermore, Lucanio (1987) connected these films with Jungian psychoanalysis: these films were operating with iconographic images that were in dynamic relationship with collective unconscious, and as such were symbols of transformation to an individuated life. On the other hand, when the threat was of biological nature, the horror film changed its focus immediately: monsters in the 1980s were viewed as metaphors for AIDS (Guerrero 1990). United States
As Gianetti (1996) notes, every film, no matter what its intentions are, is expressing certain position on social reality through formal elements that are there to reflect reality as much as project it. Since the horror film utilize the figure of the monster as a symbol or a metaphor for social injustice, it is exceptionally conscious of the sociohistorical moment in which it is made. Furthermore, in the 1970s in the
, these films started to operate as a very lucid critique of many aspects of the dominant order. This discursive quality of the horror film is elaborated in the chapter “Literature Review: Explaining the Social Conscious”. Moreover, in this chapter I discuss the nature of horror genre, key concepts and main theoretical approaches. On the other hand, discussion on the horror film’s political unconscious is divided in two chapters: in the first one, “Toward a New Approach: Mapping the Political Unconscious”, I provide theoretical background for this concept, using primarily theories of Slavoj Žižek, Jacques Derrida and Frederic Jameson; while in the second, “Analysis: All Heads Turn When a Monster Goes By”, I apply this theoretical model to 10 films in order to uncover the political unconscious in the horror film of the 1970s. In the conclusion, “The Monster – An Eulogy”, I summarize my findings and show its relevance for social sciences, especially sociology and anthropology. United States
Therefore, the main question is: How can the horror film be useful for sociology and anthropology? In order to explain this, I use discourse analysis. According to Foucault (2002:54), discourses are “practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak”. Therefore, I postulate film as a discourse – a set of communicative practices that constitute the object they relate to. Discourse analysis, as a “primarily a qualitative method of ‘reading’ texts and documents which explores the connections between language, communication, knowledge, power and social practices”, can “reveal how knowledges are organized, carried and reproduced in particular ways and through particular institutional practices” (in Jupp 2006:74). For this reason, discourse analysis “emphasizes the way version of the world, of society, events and inner psychological worlds are produced in discourse” (Potter 1997:146). This method is convenient for my case-studies because it is anti-realist and constructivist. As Potter (1997:158) asserts, discourse analysis is trying “to see things as things that are worked up, attended to and made relevant in interaction rather than being external determinants”. Therefore, this method locates text as a social practice. As such, it explores the representation of external reality that can be accessed through text, without trying to present its interpretation as an objective one. Consequently, discourse analysis can reveal much of the context in which these films were produced. Furthermore, when it comes to the film itself, it can reveal how values, institutions and practices are constructed and represented through particular configuration of knowledge (Given 2008). Therefore, it reveals social, cultural and political conditions that made the text possible, but can also expose the processes that disqualified individuals or social gruops as the Other. In this way, discursive analysis can reveal how text produces and disseminates ways of knowing in a particular culture (Pickering 2008). Discourses as such are always part of their context, but have the ability to speak of what these contexts can potentially turn into. And that is what the analysis of the horror film provides us with: hypothetical situations placed in a real context.
Now let us uncover the political unconscious of the horror film and expose that which is present in every society and culture – universality of antagonisms.