Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Inside-Out: Eating Disorders in Contemporary Horror Films

**Beware Los Spoilers**

Many horror film theories are in reaction to gender and how could they not be? Men and women are constantly set against each other and their actions and outcomes. A lone male attacker terrorizing a group of young women until one woman is resourceful enough to fight back is a common horror plot. It is a rare occasion where the woman is the attacker (see Friday the 13th Part1, Misery, Haute Tension) but when the woman is the attacker she must have a clear and direct motive no matter how inconsequential it may seem to the rest of the characters.

Two prominent horror films release in the last two years have dealt with the notion of the female psyche inflicting itself on the world around them with disastrous results for the main characters. In Black Swan (2010) Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) deals with her rising star as her eating disorder overtakes her. Black Swan is explicitly about an eating disorder as the theme is introduced to the audience in the first five minutes of the film. Nina in particular is a tragic figure as her eating disorder is so apparent yet no one does or says anything. It is shown but never talked about.
Sam Rami's Drag Me To Hell is indirectly related to eating disorders. Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) is a mild-mannered bank clerk looking for a promotion. She struggles contantly with her white-trash roots and a photo of her younger self at a fair with the banner "Swine Queen" above her reveals her over-weight past. A gypsy woman curses Christine when she is not given the bank loan she desires and Christine spends the next few days trying to evade the curse until finally she is sucked into hell. Interestingly, Christine is never attacked unless there is food present and often her attacks involve being vomited on.
In both films it is revealed that the majority of the trauma occurred simply in their heads which leads to the question of why is the female trauma personal and the male trauma public? The regular argument would be that male aggression, anger or tension is more socially acceptable. I think both these films attempt (to different degrees of success) to relate the lack of language present for women. Neither Christine nor Nina has an outlet or someone to aid them. They are already locked in their own hell.

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