Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Communication Studies

Department

Communication Studies

First Advisor

Kathleen Torrens

Abstract

“Dual Images of the ‘Monstrous Feminine’ in Three Horror Films” centers on the women in mainstream, psychological horror films. Namely, as an extension of Barbara Creed’s extensive research of the horror genre in works including The Monstrous Feminine: Film, Feminism, and Psychoanalysis (1993), my analysis locates the concept of the “monstrous feminine” in three distinct, yet interconnected films: Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), Carrie (1976), and Single White Female (1992). However, my analysis of these films deviates slightly from Creed’s study of the “monstrous feminine” – whereas Creed examines the representation of singular female characters in horror films, I am exploring the dual representation of women in the horror genre, namely in psychological horror films. The methodological approach to my thesis rests on analyzing each of the films separately, uncovering the ways in which their individual narrative, visual, and auditory components align with visions of the “monstrous feminine” and woman-as- “Other” or “abject” described in The Monstrous Feminine. Moreover, since my analysis hinges on the dual representation of woman, utilizing films that contrast the “monstrous” or “threatening” woman with images of more traditional femininity (according to patriarchal society), this analysis explores how this traditional, “threatened” vision of femininity is constructed within each film. Visions of “normal” femininity prescribed by the films will be compared and contrasted with images of the “monstrous feminine,” ultimately bringing the ideas regarding the representation of woman in the horror genre, established by Creed, full-circle. An interesting tactic utilized within each of the films is their shifting representation of the “monstrous feminine.” The three films, in their utilization of the dual image of woman, alternate between representations of monstrosity and prototypical femininity during multiple moments in the narrative. To put it in another way, there is no clear-cut distinction between the “monstrous” and apparently “normal” feminine in the films; each female character assumes the role as monstrous at different points in each of the films. As a result, these films communicate the idea that, as a whole, the image of woman can never be positive or wholly good; woman will always be outside of the margins of patriarchal discourse, becoming a “monstrous,” “Othered” figure when compared to societal ideals. The doubled visions of female monstrosity presented within these films, then, not only projects male fears onto conflicting images of the female body (as suggested within Creed’s analysis) but, more importantly, helps to endorse a highly problematic, altogether negative portrayal of femininity.

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