Parents, possession and the paranormal: a study of American horror film

Williams, Jessy (2014) Parents, possession and the paranormal: a study of American horror film. BA dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    By looking at the cultural contexts of The Exorcist and Poltergeist, Chapter 1 discussed ideas of parental separation and divorce anxiety. This was achieved by paying attention to the shifts in gender roles during this time period and analysing the representation of children in these films. It was discovered that both films have a recurring theme of Black Magic versus White Science and represent maternal characterisation as important, thus portraying the father as less significant.
    Chapter 2 looked at the cultural context of Insidious and concluded that the film was a comment on the American economic crisis and a rejection of current trends in American horror films. Despite seeing an importance in the representation of the mother and femininity, the chapter had a stronger focus on masculinity, concluding that this was an emerging theme in contemporary supernatural horror films. Chapter 2 discovered that themes of Black Magic versus White Science and fears of separation were still present, showing that there are continual patterns in the representation of the family.
    Chapter 3 focused on PA3 and concluded that the male's association with the supernatural saw the film alter the representation of the Black Magic versus White Science debate. It was concluded that the family are rightfully punished at the film's end due to their materialistic tendencies and their inability to unite. The representation of femininity and children are again important; the supernatural continues to be coded as feminine and the children are the main victims. The chapter focused on PA3's found-footage aesthetic to explore its more 'real' representation of the home and family.
    This dissertation concludes that supernatural horror films of the 1970s to 2000s represent the family similarly. The theme of Black Magic versus White Science is present in all the discussed films and the characterisation of the mother and femininity is typically represented as the most significant. The role of the father is gradually increasing in importance. However, there is usually a significance in a child's lack of a father figure, which is usually portrayed as a cause for a possession or a haunting within the home. Additionally, the possessions and hauntings of the home could be read as representations of separation. By looking at the shifts in gender roles and the emerging themes of morality and greed, all chapters concluded that a film's cultural context is significant when discussing the representation of the family and the home.

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries > School of Media and Performing Arts
    Depositing User: Jane Polwin
    Date Deposited: 17 Oct 2016 09:53
    Last Modified: 17 Oct 2016 09:53

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