SPOILERS IN THIS EPISODE
A note from Marshall about the next few planned episodes of Collective Nightmares:
The representation of particular real life horrors has long been an interest of mine. Monsters, ghosts, haunted houses, and the other fantastical elements of scary films are clearly interesting to me and Laura. My entry point to the conversation of the politics and problematics of representing real horror began with representations the Holocaust. That conversation in turn was started for me by Lynne Dahlgren who taught us Maus in my 20th century novel class at CU Boulder. She was an incredible teacher. More recently, and by that I mean several years ago, I became fascinated with the Sonderkommando after being forwarded this article by a different friend regarding the film Son of Saul (2015). More on that later.
For this coversation, the Holocaust and sexual assault share similarity in that they are not fantastical. So much discussion of horror films is for me intellectually interesting, sociologically intriguing, or just downright entertaining. Representation of real horror, of historic genocide that is (unbelievably) still doubted, of sexual assault that is an enduring threat and experience of an unfathomable and unacceptable number of people on this planet, these are things that matter.
Of all the horror films I watch and re-watch precisely because they are horrify me, depictions of sexual assault are difficult for me to process on a fundamentally different level. Sexual assault in films, whether as plot device, threat, or assault, is by far the most upsetting content for me to endure. My PhD focused on gender and sexuality. I have taught rape and sexual assault in sociology classes in colleges and universities for many years. The rate of sexual assault in the U.S. and globally, and the lack of will and action to address it, is offensive, infuriating, and sad beyond words. That these rates of assault have remained remarkably stable in so many places for so many years is an utter failure of humanity and modern civilization. These are very personal and serious topics for me.
There are justifiable reasons for including sexual assault in media. But this must be done with respect for victims, survivors, advocates, allies, and everyone impacted by the experience and threat of sexual assault. It must be done with thought, care, intention, and concern for how any representation of sexual assault will be distributed and interpreted out in the world.
With all that in mind, we approach the sub-genre of rape-revenge films. We begin with arguably the first and most infamous, I Spit On Your Grave from 1978. Should our discussion cause you concern of any kind please let us know your thoughts.
National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673
This episode in particular was inspired by this article from Vice written by Sarah Fensom . I sent it to Laura when it came out and she just recently turned it around and agreed that the film was something we should address. So now here we are, leaning in to sexual assault in horror for better or for worse.
Please keep in mind during our discussion that this is a second viewing of the film for Marshall and the first for Laura.
As always, thanks for listening (if anyone actually is listening). Please let us know if you are!
Patreon coming soon!
“Horror films are our collective nightmares.” Robin Wood.
House of a 1000 Corpses (2003) – Minor spoilers
Vertigo (1958) – NO spoilers
Halloween (1978) – NO spoilers
Peeping Tom (1960) – NO spoliers
TOPIC INDEX – I Spit On Your Grave (1978)
00:57 – The article that inspired our re-visiting the film
4:10 – Marshall’s Visual Sociology class at CU
4:45 – Laura’s first take
8:26 – Relative available of representations of rape
13:48 – Matthew, the rapist with some sort of developmental disability
17:29 – Matthew’s death
~23:00 Women and boys
31:56 – The playing card
33:00 – Jennifer becomes the author of her own story
37:13 – Nudity. MPAA double standard on nudity (one of many, see This Film is Not Yet Rated for more). And how that double standard protects these men rapist characters in this film.
38:35 – Specifically the scene with Coveralls (Johnny) in the bathtub.
43:25 – Laura on Jennifer’s killing methods
54:00 – Except the axe
54:55 – Laura and I view movies very differently (also my father, who miraculously taught me to love movies, while simultaneously being the person least impressed by films basically ever).
55:07 – Peeping Tom (1960) – NO SPOILERS
57:54 – The goddamn church scene
1:00:23 – Camille Keaton, the lead actor
1:02:00 – The remake and other rape revenge films we may discuss – NO SPOILERS
I Spit on Your Grave (2010)
The Brave One (2007)
1:04:00 – Beginning the discussion on the difficulties or representing sexual assault