[“This trinket of sensation you feel now will be a delight compared to the onslaught of agony that awaits at our hands -“

Gary Tunnicliffe; Hellraiser : Revelations]

Damsels in distress have been a part of cinematic grammar since the medium’s invention, from Pearl White narrowly escaping certain death in the “Perils of Pauline” serials to the tried-and-true crowd-pleaser known as “woman in jep” (showbiz parlance for “woman in jeopardy”). But the genre took a radically darker turn in 1992, when the psycho-thriller “The Silence of the Lambs” won five Oscars, including best picture.

Suddenly a film in which the women-in-jep were being flayed alive — and the story’s wily, charismatic anti-hero was a cannibal, no less — left the confines of hoary melodrama or B-grade pulp and became respectable, glossed with the patina of awards-worthy seriousness. Soon, films from “Seven” and “Kiss the Girls” to “Sin City”…were upping the dubious ante on how gruesomely women could be raped, tortured, disfigured or otherwise degraded — with extra points if the victims were under 18.

Not only have the perils of Pauline become exponentially more perverted, pornographic and pervasive, they’ve become the lazy screenwriter’s go-to springboard to get the action underway…

Ann Hornaday
In movies, violence against women lets filmmakers indulge toxic fantasies
The Washington Post, 19th September 2014

the first werewolves

March 8, 2020

wolfwoman

There is a certain irony here, because many of the first werewolves to be outed in society from the 16th through the 18th centuries were actually women. Just as our American ancestors had their Salem Witch Trials, Europe had its Werewolf Trials, and a large number of the so-called “werewolves” tortured and burned at the stake were female…In the 17th-century werewolf trials of Estonia, women were about 150 percent more likely to be accused of lycanthropy; however, they were about 100 percent less likely to be remembered for it.

There’s also a pronounced lack of female werewolves in popular culture. Their near absence in literature and film is explained away by various fancies: they’re sterile, an aberration, or — most galling of all — they don’t even exist. Their omission from popular culture does one thing very effectively: It prevents us, and men especially, from being confronted by hairy, ugly, uncontrollable women. Shapeshifting women in fantasy stories tend to transform into animals that we consider feminine, such as cats or birds, which are pretty and dainty, and occasionally slick and wicked serpents. But because the werewolf represents traits that are accepted as masculine — strength, large size, violence, and hirsutism — we tend to think of the werewolf as being naturally male. The female werewolf is disturbing because she entirely breaks the rules of femininity.

Julia Oldham
Why Are There No Great Female Werewolves?

the key to a new sexuality

February 27, 2020

Trying to exhaust himself, Vaughan devised an endless almanac of terrifying wounds and insane collisions: The lungs of elderly men punctured by door-handles; the chests of young women impaled on steering-columns; the cheek of handsome youths torn on the chromium latches of quarter-lights. To Vaughan, these wounds formed the key to a new sexuality, born from a perverse technology. The images of these wounds hung in the gallery of his mind, like exhibits in the museum of a slaughterhouse.

J.G. Ballard
Crash

Ever since the word “robot” first appeared in the English language in the early 1920s (although it was invented by a Czech writer), science fiction writers have warned about the blurring of the distinction between human and machine.

Robots are becoming more and more like humans, such that it may one day become difficult to tell the two apart. But were they ever really so different? Philip K. Dick suggests possibly not, and his vision of replicants in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) – which was to become a classic movie, Blade Runner – certainly poses a lot of important questions.

It’s not just robots we have to worry about these days. AI is now perhaps an even bigger threat than its robot cousins. From the ominous HAL 9000 in Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), to the “benevolent” AI character Mike in Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966), we’ve been warned that the power of AI to infiltrate every aspect of our daily lives might one day prove our undoing – and we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

Mike Ryder
Visions of the future: five dark warnings from the world of classic science fiction

Attention! Product Recall!

February 22, 2020

Belief in the returning dead

February 22, 2020

Although he makes no reference to it in his notes, Stoker was always interested in Irish folklore. Long before Dracula, he wrote a series of horror tales, based on Celtic themes, for children. He spent time in the West of Ireland, his mother’s home country, where Gaelic and the old traditions still hung on in his day. The word for bad blood in Gaelic is drochfhuil and the genitive singular is drochfhola, which is pronounced very much like the word Dracula. Belief in the returning dead was very strong in Ireland. Stone were piled over the graves of the dead to try to discourage them from rising out of the ground.

Radu R Florescu and Raymond T. McNally
Dracula, Prince of Many Faces: His Life and His Times

robot consent

February 8, 2020

I adore robot love stories because I adore robots. As characters, I mean — I’d probably be terrible with robots as they exist in our society now. Robots are an incredible filter for questions about humanity, what we value and what we are seeking as we push the boundaries of art and science. But when a human falls in love with a robot, or even engages with intimacy of any form with the human, there is a question posed by the very nature of their relationship:

Is consent possible?

And when we use the term consent in this context, we must address it both broadly and minutely. Can the robot consent to a relationship at all? Are they likely to base it on their programming? Can they consent to any form of intimacy? Are they created to do so? Can they be taken advantage of either emotionally or physically? Can they take advantage of others? Is the person who wants to enter into a relationship with the robot considering these issues at all? Is the robot?

Emmet Asher-Perrin
All Robot Love Stories Are Conversations About Consent

altered as human beings

February 4, 2020

In films, we are voyeurs, but in novels, we have the experience of being someone else: knowing another person’s soul from the inside. No other art form does that. And this is why sometimes, when we put down a book, we find ourselves slightly altered as human beings. Novels change us from within.

Donna Tartt
Interview with Laurie Grassi for Chatelaine Book Club, 8th November 2013

female monsters

February 4, 2020

Passionate female monsters don’t tend to end well. Their choices are limited: tamed and cuddly, dead, or alone, usually through some desperate tragic act that kills a loved one. Their passions tend to be all about sex or rage, with very little in between. Grendel’s mother is driven by revenge, Lucy in Dracula by lust/hunger, Sil from Species is motivated by sex for procreation and none of them is particularly sympathetic. We see them and other female monsters through the hero’s eyes, or more much more rarely, the Final Girl’s. Not their own.

Female monsters only become sympathetic if they renounce what they are. This is generally achieved by falling in love with the hero. There are rare exceptions, like the sisters in the Ginger Snaps films, or Irena in Cat People, who remain both monstrous and sympathetic, but they aren’t the norm.

Catherine Lundoff
Monstrous Females and Female Monsters