Monday, May 07, 2007


In regards to my previous post, I have to admit that was quite surprised and mildly embarrassed at how much Kira Cochrane's Guardian article (combined with Mike White's op-ed) set me off. Usually I can just read something like that and let it slide, so at first I wasn't 100% why I just couldn't let it go after I had read it. So, my previous post was one of those entries that I simultaneously felt very relieved and very self-conscious that I wrote/posted what I did. Still, I'd like to offer some explanations.

I think it was mainly citing Grindhouse as being endemic of some sort of cultural malaise as well as the line: "In most of these films, both men and women end up being sliced, gored, dismembered, decapitated. In that sense they offer audiences equal-opportunity gore. But it's the violence against women that's most troubling," (emphasis mine) that made me think there was some real intellectual dishonesty going on. Does this mean that having women being victims in horror films At All is unacceptable?

I think it's the Zero Tolerance attitude that annoys me. In other words, are white, heterosexual men the only acceptable victims in these kinds of films? (I'm not against men being cut up in these types of films, but was that what Ms. Cochrane is getting at?)

Also, when the article asked: "Watching Grindhouse, I felt fundamentally depressed: who would seek out this experience as entertainment?" I was mildly offended, because it implied that people who enjoyed the movie are somehow morally/psychologically unhinged/inferior. I'm sorry, Ms. Cochrane (and Mr. White), but who the hell died and left you in charge of what I should and shouldn't enjoy in my entertainment? Watching a film as an adult, I can make qualitative judgments, discern reality from fantasy and good from bad, thank you very much.

Now, having said all of that, I will say I'm very much in agreement that the marketing campaigns for many of these movies are very ugly, cynical and mean-spirited. I haven't seen The Hills Have Eyes 2, Turistas and Captivity, so I can't comment on their content, but I will agree that the marketing campaigns focus on misogynistic imagery.

With most of the modern horror films I've seen (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, the Saw movies, House of 1,000 Corpses, The Devil's Rejects, Wolf Creek), I don't see much misogyny as I do suckiness. (To me, the problem with the shitty remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre isn't that it's misogynistic, it's that it's made, as Roger Ebert wrote, "by and for those with no attention spans.") The makers of most of these films are under the false impression that nasty imagery is a suitable replacement for tension and suspense.

Actually, the Lil' Sistois talks about this much better than I could.

I'll be writing about some other stuff later this week on different subjects (mostly related to theatre). So, thanks for bearing with me on this, folks.

A total crank,

James "Grampa McCrudden" Comtois

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Blogger Alison Croggon said...

Hi James

Thanks for your mail, btw, and sorry I didn't get back to you. Life's a bit chaotic at the moment.

I think what disturbs Ms Cochrane (and certainly what disturbs me, and what I think of as misogynistic) is that, contra the violence against men, the violence against women is sexualised. That makes it not equal opportunity at all, but gives it a markedly different quality to the violence propogated against men. It's a similar point to the fact that, for instance, the evil women in schlocky Hollywood movies (Fatal Attraction being a classic) are the sexual women.

Me, I feel very ambivalent about Tarantino anyway. I've enjoyed his movies, but there's something emptily parasitic about his style: like in Kill Bill, the different between Hong Kong fight movies or actual anime and what he's doing there. But that's another question.

5:33 PM  
Blogger Jamespeak said...

Oh, no problem, Alison. Even though my show's closed, things over at my end are also overwhelming (I really don't know why that is; actually, I do: now that I'm not in production, I have to make up for lost time by seeing about a billion shows).

No, I realize there's something messed up going on there when and where the violence against women in these films are highly sexualized (i.e., to be base, their sex organs are being cut up and punished). I am wondering how much of that is the marketing campaign than the movies themselves. (Now, if the studios are trying to entice people to see these movies because they feature rape and it's false advertising...wwwwwow. That's a level of cynicism I'm having trouble stomaching.)

A number of the modern horror movies I've seen that I've mentioned haven't strike me as particularly misogynistic so much as...well...just shitty. (I really want to root for Rob Zombie's movies, but at the end of them, I realize that I kinda wasted my time. He's got the visual style and look down perfectly, but he hasn't figured out how to create suspense, because he doesn't really create characters you either care about or believe for a split second that they're going to survive. Considering his next movie is a remake of the original Halloween, I'm guessing I should just stop holding my breath.)

Tarantino is an interesting case. I'm admittedly a big fan; I really like how he's able to switch gears in his storytelling, which gives a lot of his movies a nice sense of suspense that few films offer (i.e., any of the characters in his movies could die at any moment). When I first saw it, I could barely look at the screen when Bruce Willis put the key in his apartment door in Pulp Fiction.

However, I'm aware that with his work, rather than where most action movies deal with the thrill of kinetic movement and speed, he seems to focus on physical pain. I'm not saying this is good or bad, right or wrong, but it is justifiably off-putting for a lot of people.

(Odd side note: I find it interesting to hear that Wes Craven, the creator of "The Hills Have Eyes" and co-author of the sequel to the remake, walked out in disgust at a screening of "Reservoir Dogs" during the infamous torture scene.)

I still think that Grindhouse is a particularly bad example, because a.) it's clearly a pastiche and a deliberate throwback to trashy movies of the '70s and '80s (the whole point was -- is -- to go as far as you possibly can in every way without getting an NC-17 rating or outright ban) and b.) for both films (Planet Terror and Death Proof) the heroines (not the heroes) take charge and Save the Day. I really do think you have to do some selective mental re-editing of Grindhouse to make a case for misogyny (by my recollection, men, women and children are being slaughtered left and right in Planet Terror. Tarantino plays a villain in it and gets ready to rape Rose McGowan's character, but he's unsuccessful and she kills him, much to the delight of the audience. Another character has a habit of severing and collecting testicles).

I obviously have more to say on this subject (as I'm sure you do); I'm realizing I've just spent nearly 600 words just getting started. But of course, I just came across this...

...which I of course find very interesting (the MPAA Ratings System being something perpetually stuck in my craw). My guess (thinking on my feet here) is there is something of a vicious circle going on with pornographic imagery becoming less and less tolerant in mainstream society (in the '70s and '80s, Penthouse and Hustler were fairly mainstream and in the 60s, even Roger Ebert was reviewing porno films) and it therefore becoming more and more depraved and deviant in underground circles. I could of course be super-wrong in this assessment.

12:17 PM  

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