4/28 – Corporeality, Sensation, History, and Spectatorship

Body genres known as pornography, horror, and weepies all produce bodily functions. Porn causes one to feel excited to a point where there is orgasm/ejaculation. Horror makes our heart race/jolt/scream/panic/gasp and weepies make us, well, weep. Porn and weepies providing an actual release of bodily fluids. As Linda Williams describes in Film Bodies: Gender, Genre, and Excess, they are all provided through film. Which first I want to say that I always knew, but never acknowledged. Its kind of crazy how physical emotions that people have can be manipulated and provided by things we visually see on screen although they are not real and all made up. Emotions are something other people stir in us, but us as humans are so sensitive and for the most part have no control over what we feel that our bodies can be turned against us. Not everyone wants to be turned on, shocked, or cry while watching something. For the most part, its our emotions getting the best of us, our body being sort of a vessel to relate ourselves to what we’re watching.

Starting with porn, Williams notes that it is mostly watched by and aimed to men because women are the ones most seen in porn. Its noted that since the 18thcentury the bodies of woman have functioned as something to be idolized and fantasized about. For most porn cinema, the women are victimized. With this said, it is sadistic in that men are usually displayed in the film as taking advantage or having control over the woman. This type of porn enforces the long old age idea that men are dominant over women. This is mostly due to the castration complex, if women have control then their power would be taken away from them and they are left weak. Williams also touches upon the subgenre of porn, sadomasochism. Here, she describes the woman having to be ‘devious in her pursuit of pleasure.” She has to become passive to obtain pleasure which leads to the double standard of good girl/bad girl role-playing. According to her, this dichotomy of the passive ’good girl’ and the sexual active ’bad girl’ can be solved by masochistic role-playing by combing the two. “The passive ’good girl’ can prove to her witnesses (the superego who is her torturer) that she does not will the pleasure she receives. Yet the sexually active ’bad’ girl enjoys this pleasure and has knowingly arranged to endure the pain that earns it.” Porn offers a way to explore these fantasies and provides a ’release’ for many (mostly men) through the visual art of film. But to repeat her question, “Are the orgasmic woman of pornography and the tortured woman of horror merely in the service of the sadistic male gaze?”

The body genre of horror is something new to me. Though one of my absolute favorite genre’s I have gotten a lesson that I won’t soon forget. As she also relates to porn, horror is a genre in which is closely related to the human body – the display of it. Horror is all about the violence, terror, gore, and fright. But who is usually the victim? A female. And who is usually the killer? A male. Why? Because apparently women ‘make the best victims.” She describes this genre as another form of ecstasy closely related to porn in that there is a pleasure of sadism. Studying genre, I was originally aware that the ’bad girl’ or the non-virgin usually dies because she is morally corrupt and sexually active. With that, she has to die to re-enforce the audience that if you are bad, you will die… or just have to face punishment. While the ’good girl’/virgin goes on to live because she is pure at heart. Another reinforcement of morality and delivering a message to the audience that they too should be pure. What was new to me was the idea of sexuality in these films of women castrating men. According to Williams, the slasher is “sexual disturbed but entirely human monsters.” Williams references the film Halloween in that the female victim “turns the tables” on the killer by grabbing a phallic shaped object to kill him. “A gender-confused monster if foiled, often symbolically castrated by an “androgynous” “final girl.”” Being a big fan of horror films, this has never clicked, but after reading this I went through many films in my head and realized how true it really was.

Weepies are mostly aimed towards women because they are seen as the most emotional and ‘delicate.’ In society, men have to be the ‘tough‘ one, seldom having or seen having emotions. She describes as masochistic because women sit through these ‘tear-jerker‘ films already knowing there is a high chance they will cause themselves a physical pain in relation to feeling a closeness to a character. They suckered into getting themselves attached to the person they see on screen through camera techniques. Then when something happens to said character, they too feel they’re pain and cry. And they enjoy it which is why Williams describes it as masochism. An example she uses is Steel Magnolias. “the woman viewer… does not simply identify with the suffering and the dying heroines of each. She may equally identify with the powerful matriarchs, the surviving mothers who preside over the deaths of their daughters, experience in the exhilaration and triumph of survival.”

What’s most interesting is how each have to do with the female and the female body. Pornography – more than naked men are naked women, women being taking advantage of, and women playing into the ‘good girl’/’bad girl’ roles. Horror, in that the victim is usually the female and the way to defeat her killer (usually a male) is by using a phallic shaped object (gun/knife/bat/etc) to overpower and defeat her killer. And lastly, weepies that are completely aimed to women, because they are seen as the most emotional and unbalanced to which they would always have to feel the need to cry – because men, of course, aren’t ’allowed’ to.

She also points out that there are other genre’s that affect the body such as comedy. But she makes a point in not characterizing it as a body genre because we feel differently than the character. When we laugh at something ’funny’ we laugh at the pain or poor choices of others. An example she uses is a clown. “…the reaction of the audience does not mimic the sensations experienced by the central clown. Indeed, it is almost a rule that the audience’s physical reaction of laughter does not coincide with the often dead-pan reactions of the clown.” When he slips on a banana peel he’s unhappy, but most of the audience is laughing… at him.

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