Maternity and the Aging Female Body in Postmodern Hollywood Horror Film Open Access

Tate, Maron (Spring 2019)

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Beginning in the 1960s and progressing rapidly with the closure of the classical period in 1968, Hollywood departed from the supernatural “thing” theme of the horror genre and became fascinated with the familiar, and specifically, the familial. An era of maternity-coded films emerged, specifically with the debut of Psycho (1960), progressing to where Hollywood horror cinema stands now: a conglomeration of remakes, reinventions, and revisitations to recognizable themes entrenched in white (and often female) victimhood, paranormal visits, inexplicably violent strangers, and disease. This list of contemporary horror themes, though generalized, encapsulates the intrinsic instinct to remain alive. From this understanding, more specified themes emerge like the fear of being exiled from society. Horror monster archetypes represent these specific fears, and they often exhibit, at least in their physicality, death rapidly approaching or a closer relationship to morbid bodies. Horror films often rid themselves first of the most disposable characters and obstacles so that the antagonizing being may at last come head-on with the protagonist--someone who the audience has stakes in, perhaps identifies with, and very much does not want to die. Scholarship confirms that The Final Girls, the categorically pure, beautiful, and young women who frequently represent femininity in horror. The mobilization of a female victim hero does not necessarily represent a feminist movement, nor do women characters occupying the genre who strictly prey on male victims. I’m less interested in this final woman, and far more interested in the use of female monsters to attract viewership, but most specifically, old female monsters. My aim is to scrutinize the aging female body as projected in the postmodern horror film genre, and analyze how these representations of women characters function as antagonizing forces, especially in maternal roles. I hope to dissect the ways that the female body, when it is at its most repellent towards the heterosexual male character, instills fear. Femininity wielding violence over manhood is one subject, but aging femininity that wields such violence represents a kind of untouchable and even inhuman depiction of femaleness. To be young and fruitful, often times for women, is to possess utmost humanity, though when that fruitfulness and youth is betrayed, these women become deadly. This project is divided into three chapters: Controlling Mothers and Their Violent (Grown-Up) Children, Maternal Possession and Deterioration, and Body (and Mind) Horror: Old Women Who’ve Lost Their Minds.

Table of Contents


Chapter One: Controlling Mothers and Their Violent (Grown-Up) Children...12

Chapter Two: Maternal Possession and Deterioration...32

Chapter Three: Body (and Mind) Horror: Old Women Who’ve Lost Their Minds...52


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