Adapting the metaphor of psychopathology to look back at the mad, monstrous 80s
This chapter examines American Psycho and Donnie Darko, two films that look back at aspects of the American experience in the 1980s. These titles represent only two out of a larger series of recent 'Monstrous 80s' films, including Capturing the Friedmans and Monster. Each of these films adopts the framework and language of psychopathology in contextualising its monstrous protagonist. The apocalyptic tenor of the films suggests an emerging national metaphor, as if the cultural pathology which was latent in the 1980s is finally becoming manifest in the retrospective understanding of history. The retrospective analysis of US history through film and the overarching metaphors of psychopathology and prophecy that characterise the cycle of movies are explored as constituting an adaptive interpretive process in the horror genre. Horror films are consistently reactionary in terms of their internal politics and serve to reinforce normative values and ideas.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book shows that Terry Gilliam sometimes enjoyed a remarkable degree of financial support and creative freedom, especially with films linked to Monty Python. Gilliam employs an extraordinary variety of genres: medieval comedy; children's historical adventure; dystopian satire; the fantastic voyage; science fiction; Gonzo Journalism; fairy tale; and gothic horror. Peter Greenaway speaks of admiring Gilliam and fellow Python Terry Jones for their anarchy and irreverence. Derek Jarman puts 'glorious Terry Gilliam's Brazil' on a very short list of British 1970s and 1980s films he would keep. Gilliam's American work in the 1990s determines that he does appear in British Cinema of the 90s. The book argues the centrality of hybridity to Gilliam's films.
As in the case of the major European film industries, Australia's history of filmmaking represented a source of nostalgia, pride and regret for those who sought the rebirth of the national cinema during the 1970s. The standard to which all other national forms of film expression are compared is that of Hollywood, and the American film industry casts an equally long shadow in economic terms. The ideological purpose behind the dominant representations and images of nationhood produced by the Australian cinema is linked to enduring colonial, cultural associations. The stereotypes of Australianness which emerged in early, successful or favoured cinematic representations have entered the consciousness of local and foreign audiences. The Adventures of Barry McKenzie and They're A Weird Mob stressed the contrasting commercial and generic influence of America in Australian cinema. These films depict the solitary Australian either abroad or at home and successful at home and overseas.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book. The book is about the British film director Terence Fisher. It demonstrates that an appreciation of Fisher's films is aided by thinking about them in terms of that British accent. Ultimately, perhaps, this provides the best way of trying to understand what it is about Fisher's films that makes them so distinctive. It takes us closer to explaining why some of these films have captured the imagination of so many for so long. A way of establishing Fisher's work as significantly British is through locating it in relation to an indigenous gothic tradition. A revealing exchange of views about 'Britishness' and one especially pertinent to an understanding of Fisher's work occurred during the pre-production of The Curse of Frankenstein, Fisher's first horror film.
As in Gothic literary studies, it is possible to produce an initial taxonomy of Gothic television in order to distinguish the genre from the other generic categorisations which are applied to its texts. A study of Gothic fiction on television in the UK and US which attempted to be encyclopaedic in its coverage would include consideration of the some programmes, such as A Ghost Story and The Night Stalker. The uncanny is located in the moments in Gothic television in which the familiar traditions and conventions of television are made strange, when television's predominant genres and styles are both referred to and inverted. The chapter presents some key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book aims to construct what Umberto Eco might call a 'model viewer' by reading the Gothic television drama's modes of address and by scrutinising its semantic and syntactic elements.
The politics of ‘Crazyspace’, children’s television and the case of The Demon Headmaster
Máire Messenger Davies
The BBC drama series The Demon Headmaster managed to combine the contrasting terrains of 'quality' children's television drama with the more commercial requirements of 'wacky kidvid' to produce a very radical piece of television. The Demon Headmaster series was a loud counter-blast to all this. It turned on the critics of children and childhood and pointed out the link between their formal, rote-learning methods of education and totalitarianism. The Demon Headmaster was the top-rated children's programme in 1995-96, with an unprecedented audience share of 70 percent of nine-to-twelve-year-olds. Childhood, in The Demon Headmaster stories, is not a problem for the adult world to solve; the problem is the other way around, with children rescuing adults from themselves. This message was doubly underlined because it appeared on television, in 'crazyspace'.
This chapter discusses two hybrid forms of Gothic drama in the 1960s, firstly the Gothic family sitcoms The Munsters and The Addams Family, and secondly the Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. In a sense, both The Addams Family and The Munsters 'worried at' the home lives of their viewers, albeit in a humorous way, thus acting as classic American Gothic texts. An examination of the formation of Gothic television in the US shows that, as with early British television drama, the Gothic anthology series on American television was prefigured by the genre's popularity on the radio. This highlights the relationship between the domestic reception context and the Gothic text. Dark Shadows' particular brand of the 'fantastic-marvellous', the blending of stock characters and narrative events from the soap opera and the Gothic genre, therefore bringing into congruence the ordinary and the supernatural, might be seen to render viewer identification somewhat mystifying.
The male ensemble film, in its first phase up to Breaker Morant, is strongly influenced by the posture of the ocker; blunt, loud, hedonistic and conservative in the populist manner. The first revival film to foreground the male milieu and masculine ethics was Sunday Too Far Away. The absence of female characters in Sunday Too Far Away highlights the exclusivity of the male group and professional affiliations. The Club's depiction of sporting and business rivalries within a football club offers a further example of a male-dominated milieu within Australian society. The inevitability of fate in Gallipoli is comparable with the inexorable socio-political forces exerting their influence over the characters of Between Wars. Portrayals of male mates in later Australian film have outstripped the ambiguities, recessiveness or conservatism characterising the earlier cycle of male-centred dramas.
This chapter suggests that Van Sant's film Psycho extracts, exteriorises, and diffuses gender onto the surface of consciousness. The film is less of a romantic secret to be penetrated through shadowy hints and cloaks of anxious ambiguity and more a uniform topography of social fact, presence, utility, and kinesis. If it was earlier a catafalque and chrysalis for desire, it is now a banality, like weather. The rainstorm through which Marion Crane drives to the motel, once pathetic fallacy, is now nothing more than a realistic setting. There is realism, too, as Marion packs to take flight in underwear that is money green. The film brings to the surface of awareness and attention a stash that was earlier a guilty secret. Dying a second death, Marion is not packaged in guilt or gender, but is only and pathetically a passer-by in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Terry Gilliam suggested a film based on Lewis Carroll's nonsense verse, 'Jabberwocky', taken from Through the Looking Glass. Gilliam reworked the traditional fairy tale narrative, so that the storyline would precipitate 'a collision of fairytales'. In Holy Grail the many-eyed monster had been an animation, but that was not an option in Jabberwocky. Drawing from Carroll, Pieter Bruegel, Paolo Pasolini and others, and incorporating elements of social document, social satire, evocative nonsense, slapstick comedy, distorted fairy tale, the grotesque and the monster film, Jabberwocky did not play safe. Jabberwocky offered Gilliam the chance to represent the intricacies of medieval society, celebrate its vital humanity, offer a comically inflected critique of his own world, and learn his craft. Despite its huge success, in terms of Gilliam's career as a film-maker Life of Brian was a step backwards from Jabberwocky.