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Posted on March 31, 2021

“A World of His Own” and the Replaceability of Women in The Twilight Zone

Elizabeth Erwin

From the outset, Rod Serling’s vision for The Twilight Zone was a specifically political one. Understanding that the tropes of the science fiction genre made it the perfect vehicle to slip pointed social critique past television’s censoring bodies, Serling was long interested in using the series to push back against social norms. With a body of work exploring men escaping to worlds of their creation as a response to emasculation, Richard Matheson was the perfect writer to help execute Serling’s vision.[1] Of the 16 episodes Matheson wrote for the series, “A World of His Own” (broadcast in the first season on July 1, 1960) is the one whose framework is most readily reflected in modern dystopian narratives such as AMC’s Humans and Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale.   As a reaction to the era’s shifting cultural power dynamics between men and women, this episode establishes a template for male domination over the female body, both psychologically and physically, that is still obvious in satire today.

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Posted on December 10, 2020

Freaky: His Body, Herself

Dawn Keetley

Directed by Christopher Landon and written by Landon and Michael Kennedy, Freaky (2020) is a thought-provoking and fresh incarnation of the slasher formula. It’s bloody, wonderfully directed, serves up great performances by its leads, and is chock full of references to other slashers. In short, Freaky is a fantastic experience.

As is evident from the title, Freaky offers an R-rated take on Mary Rodgers’ classic children’s novel, published in 1972, Freaky Friday, in which a mother and her 13-year-old daughter wake up one morning to find they have switched bodies. In Freaky, an escaped psychopath on a killing spree, the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn), stabs heroine Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton) with an ancient Aztec knife called “La Dola.” They wake up the next morning to discover they have swapped bodies. The plot follows Millie’s attempts to persuade her best friends Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich) along with crush Booker (Uriah Shelton) that, even though she looks like Vince Vaughn, she is in fact a teenage girl. Once she’s accomplished that, the friends set out to reverse the ritual and restore Millie to her body before it’s too late. Meanwhile, having quickly adjusted to Millie’s body, the Butcher continues on his killing rampage—targeting, in particular, all of Millie’s many high-school nemeses.

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Laura Palmer screaming
Posted on August 19, 2020

When the Woman Screams: A Digital Humanities Podcast

Elizabeth Erwin

The image of the screaming female in horror films is so ubiquitous that it has become a hallmark of the genre. And it is an image that has garnered more than its fair share of controversy. In a special episode of At the Movies that aired in 1980, film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert decried the barrage of Halloween film rip offs that were popping up in theaters on an almost weekly basis. At the center of their critique was the argument that these films victimize women and are inherently anti-feminist.  Read more

Posted on August 26, 2015

Barbra’s Androgyny in Night of the Living Dead (1990)

Elizabeth Erwin

In a previous post, I wrote about how Barbra’s ability to see in Night of the Living Dead (1990) aligns her with the monster. Upon rewatching Tom Savini’s remake, I was struck by how the characters as a whole disrupt the audience’s expectation of behavior attributed to females. To understand how Barbra employs a uniquely androgynous form of killing, we must consider her in relation to the other women who occupy the house. Unlike Helen who has Harry, and Judy Rose who has Johnny, Barbra is not sexually linked to any male in the house. This sexual independence marks her, like a monster, as abnormal. Also entering the equation is how each female is situated to represent an aspect of the feminine.

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