Westboro Baptist Church or the Argent Family

So I’ve just finished watching the first episode of Teen Wolf season 2. It was intriguing for several reasons. But as the narrative in popular discourses suggest, there is a battle enraging throughout the West, and particularly within the United States, about how the LGBTQ community and the non-allied religious groups can/should coexist. What was striking particularly about this episode was the introduction of Gerard, the ostensible Patriarch of the Argent family:

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This is a photo of Gerard and his son Chris Argent, AKA Allison’s father.

na-phelps

 

And here’s a picture of Fred Phelps, reverend and founder of the Westboro Baptist Church.

Whilst I may be uncovering a tenuous metaphor or allegory between the WBC and the Argent Family, it is an interesting parallel to note. I’m not going to use this as a forum to bash the WBC and Fred Phelps, particularly under the present circumstances regarding his encroaching demise (click on Fred Phelps picture to read the article about his impending death), I will say that if this link is true post episode 201, then the werewolf serves an intriguing purpose. Their narrative world revolves around the binary of normal vs. werewolf, much the same as the WBC has dichotomised normal versus queer; the former being the notion of right and good versus the latter being evil and kill-worthy. Consequently, these binaries leave a lot of room for grey area, which is particularly interesting in regards to the numerous soldiers’ funerals the WBC have protested in front of and in terms of the show, those characters who accept into society the werewolf (see Stiles and Scott’s friendship, which also parallels the friendship and acceptance between Danny and Jackson).

I look forward to unearthing more parallels between LGBT identity and representation through the use of the werewolf on this show.

 

Teen Wolf: Understanding a looney Phenomenon

So my new venture in the world of television is Teen Wolf (2011). It was suggested to me as a potentially addicting and worthy show and that I should catch up on it, considering most of my mediated existence revolves around horror themed texts. Fair enough. I am giving it a shot.

My overall impressions thus far are as follows:

  • Teen Wolf revolves around this:

 Scott Shirtless

  • It also revolves around this:

Derek Hale Shirtless

  • It revolves nothing around this:

Michael J Fox Original Teen Wolf

To sum up my initial reactions and understandings of its immense success bolstered from the original: shirtless men versus a campy notion of 80s werewolves.

Of course, my initial reactions have not been totally superseded. The show still revolves heavily around moments where they can get the main men to take their shirts off. Not to mention that they consistently discuss sexual relations once every, oh, seven minutes, give or take. Now, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to do either of these things. Where would True Blood (2008) be without its intense sex scenes of all varieties? Or where would American Horror Story: Murder House, Asylum, or Coven (2011, 2012, 2013) be without their blatancy towards confronting our notion of traditional sexualities? What I am saying, however, is that, when you base an entire show around the idea of men taking their shirts off, flaunting teen sex and/or homosexuality, then you have to have some substance. 

Now, I know that I will possibly upset the Teen Wolf fandom here by saying that there is very little substance to this fledgling television series, but I would think that most agree the acting is atrocious, plot elements laughable and character development lamentable. This, however, does not make it worthy of my time or anyone else’s for that matter. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. For me, the charm of this lies in these exact camp features: the so bad that it’s so good nature of the programme. It’s not my favourite thing to watch by any means, but I definitely enjoy this current iteration of the high school werewolf and it’s a far cry from the depiction in The Vampire Diaries (2009).

But, I will say this, the show surprises me and I still have 36 more episodes to go until I’m fully caught up with the current airing schedule. There were moments where I felt that, wait, I didn’t want that character to die even though I really should hate them. Also, I know that you aren’t supposed to like specific characters, but I really, really do like those ones that you are supposed to hate. Ironically, they are the ones who have better back stories and should feature more heavily, rather than peripherally (Here’s looking at you Jackson!). And, sad to say, but I’m becoming, slowly, a questioning devotee to the Sterek (Stiles and Derek) ship-dom.

Sterek

(For your viewing pleasure.)

When I have finished Season 2, I will blog my further reactions and possible craziness about the Sterek shipping. We shall see. I shall see.

Goodnight, Good luck.

P.S. – All of the photos link back to their original sources, from whence I kindly lifted them.

Hellbent: A Queer Occurrence

Slasher has gone through many phases, cycles, changes from its early inceptions to the present day. These films have a varied founding, with conflicting ideas of their origination (some saying with TCM or Black Christmas in 1974 and others pointing to Hitchcock’s Psycho). Whatever the case may be, there have been many imaginations of the formula. Hellbent (2004),

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directed by Paul Etheredge,

is a re-imagining of the horror subgenre, not in that it does something new with the narrative structure, rather it plays with notions of gender and sexuality.

One commonality amongst many slasher films is the final girl. Carol Clover coined this term in 1993 in her book Men, Women and Chainsaws, which, simply enough, identified that there was typically one surviving female character who was ultimately victimised and terrorised until she is either saved by a man or saves herself. Hellbent reinvents the final girl by shifting her gender to a male character, thus creating the final boy.

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Not only is the final surviving character’s gender altered, but so too is his sexuality. What remains, then, is a semblance of the same heroic male figure who must sacrifice himself in some form for the final victim’s survival.

What Hellbent has done, however, is not change solely the final surviving character, rather, the entire stereotypical character pool has undergone a sexuality shift. Where they haven’t shifted, however, is through the fetishisation or sexualisation of the minoritised body.

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As you can see in the photo above, both men are figured as sexual objects to one another. But through their positioning, we understand that the final boy is looking at/lusting after his male, shirtless, counterpart. Not only is this preconfigured through editing and positioning, but it is also configured through the accentuated lighting, which highlights in darkness an idealised/fetishised male physique. Moreover, we can even move as far to say that, through our identification with the final boy, we the viewers are meant to fetishise the sexualised male. However, this is not meant to be a critique of filmic practices, rather an exploration of their alteration to queer an arguably heterosexual subgenre. I do find this an important step of progress in filmmaking, considering that, since the release of this film, there have been several new installations of queer horror.

One criticism I will give this film is that it is overly indebted to negotiating gay male stereotypes, which I find as a gay man to be at times frustrating. Etheredge obviously has in mind a vision to combat negative stereotypes often attributed to homosexuality, however he does not do so effectively with all of them. In fact, through this attempted negotiation, he perpetuates them further, entrenching the gay community into frivolity, capriciousness and promiscuity. The final boy is not the chaste figure the final girl presents, even though this is not so much an issue. What is an issue is that the final boy is easily provoked into sexual relations, a signal that even the most ‘moral’ of gay men are not moral. I admit that sexual interactivity is important to become visible, but not through weak characters. I’d rather see man whores who are proud of their various partners than a character forced into something. Moreover, it positions the final boy as a feminine character, moving away from an independent queer ideology that can be read from the final girl.

My final thought is this: I appreciate the efforts of the film and enjoy it as a film, but as a film that trumpets itself as ‘the first gay slasher’ it really needs to take a page out of Sleepaway Camp (1983) and focus on more non-normative affects of sexuality and identity.

The Hollow

Per my mom’s suggestion, I watched the horrible movie The Hollow,

which does feature the one and only Nick Carter. Let me just say that that was a surprise in and of itself. Watching Nick run around on screen, pleasantly overweight, spouting off horrible dialogue, and consistently playing the asshole, brings back so many fond memories of my friends Ainsilie and Nikki. They were incredibly obsessed with the Backstreet Boys, which, for a boyband, did have decent music. (Photo taken from IMDB.com)

First, I just want to mention that this campy flick did have an excellent shout out to Fangoria, one of the best horror magazines I’ve ever encountered – and I was supposed to be a freelance writer for them! Though, that did not help the movie from having horrible actors, unrealistic dialoguing, and obviously amateur cinematography and direction. There was

little to no social commentary, which could have added a redeeming quality, like we see in many of the Troma films. Probably the best thing going for this movie would be the fact that Kaley Cuoco (Big Bang Theory) is the female protagonist, playing opposite the incredibly attractive Kevin Zegers (Photo from IMDB.com, as well). 

For those of you interested in

this fantastical take on the Headless Horseman and Ichabod Crane, the story is thus: Ian Cranston (and yes they go in to detail about why the name changed) moves to Sleepy Hollow (a much better rendition – referring to Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, circa 1999) with his family, where the legend is set to take place. Of course, Ian is the natural legacy to Icabod – they couldn’t even think up a better name than Ian – and has to face the Horseman head on. Like all decently thought out slasher films, which this one would lend itself to that sub-genre, there are the stereotypical characters: sluts, jocks, rebellious kid that just so happens to be the main guy, the atypical cheerleader type who falls for the protagonist, the crazy drunk that enacts the stories subplots and the film’s modus operandi, and the disbelievers.

The minimal plot, along with its several plot holes (mentioning characters’

names that we’ve never met, or incongruously know though we only recognize them because of their comical demise), advance the opportunities for the main guy to get the girl and his chance to shine, thus saving the day – or, in this case, the night. I will admit, however, that there were several campy elements I thought this film did well. Some of the better ones, that actually seemed pretty spooky and in relation to another film Trik ‘r Treat (2007 [2009]) – a much better Halloween film if you ask me – the best feature belongs to the rendering of the Horseman with a pumpkin head. If you really want to celebrate one of the first US Halloween legends, then add the Jack-o-Lantern!

Well, I will leave you on this note: for those that enjoy simplistic horror films with actors and actresses you may have only seen a few times, and with an outrageously campy feel, then I believe you would enjoy The Hollow.