Monster metaphor and film

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Harry Benshoff notes: “Since the 1970s, the genres of horror, fantasy, and science fiction (and often hybrid combinations of two or more of them) have become driving forces in contemporary media culture. Whereas once these genres were ghettoized as B movie fodder for immature adults and precocious children, today they are central to the very formula of mainstream blockbuster franchising. Their fantastic spaces invite audiences into imaginative worlds and allow for the metaphoric exploration of actual human differences, even as that trend potentially reclosets human differences behind monstrous signifiers. For example, it has been noted that Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth in his Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001–3) contains no black characters— only black-coded monsters. Avatar (2009) uses the color blue to signify its racial Others, barely disguising the fact that they are meant to suggest Native Americans caught up in the white Western world’s genocidal imperialism. Similarly, gay people [-p.103] in the Harry Potter universe are mostly metaphorized as bachelor wizards or werewolf schoolteachers. (The uproar that author J. K. Rowling created by “outing” the wizard Dumbledore demonstrates that many audiences actively seek to deny such readings.) It seems that contemporary Hollywood prefers metaphoric antagonists to real-life ones, since monsters and wizards (unlike real-life minorities) do not have antidefamation leagues. Thus a science fiction western like Serenity (2005) can feature stereotypical bloodthirsty Indians, as long as they are refigured as cannibalistic monsters from outer space called “Reavers.”” (pp.102-103)

“Far from being meaningless fluff, fantasy franchises like Dark ShadowsHarry Potter, Twilight, and The Lord of the Rings penetrate deep into Western cultures and continue to contribute to the ongoing hegemonic negotiation of real-world issues and ideologies.” (p.103)

Ref: (italics in original) Benshoff, Harry M. (2011) Dark Shadows. Wayne State University Press [http://muse.jhu.edu/books/9780814336328]

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