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Horror-Ritual: Horror Movie Villains as Collective Representations, Uncanny Metaphors and Ritual Transgressors

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posted on 22.05.2017, 04:28 by Mario Rodriguez
This paper explores the ritual function of horror movie villains from multiple perspectives within ritual studies, with particular emphasis on the functionalist branch and Roy Rappaport's definition that ritual is "the performance of more or less invariant sequences of formal acts and utterances not entirely encoded by performers." First, the paper considers the ways in which horror movie villains are hybrid collective representations in the sense of French sociologist Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) and uncanny metaphors mobilised through media as described by Steven Schneider. Second, a Neo-functionalist analysis of ritual defines the reinforcement of binary categories (child/adult, human/divine, war/peace, and so on) as a fundamental aspect of rituals. We can elaborate the notion of the ritual bi- nary to then demonstrate the multiple ways in which the horror movie villain transgresses these to fulfill his or her ritual role. Third, the paper elaborates six specific ways in which horror movie villains transgress social binaries, such as those of gender, the space of the body, and life and death. The function of horror villains as transgressors gives them a critical, ritual role in horror movies from a functionalist ritual perspective: to reconstitute binaries. Fourth, according to Carolyn Marvin and David Ingle it is the job of media to perform ritual re-presentation of the original blood sacrifice of soldiers who died for the nation, a blood sacrifice that replenishes the Durkheimian totem of the US flag. Horror villains could be perceived as one such media re-presentation. This section builds further evidence for horror villains as both collective representations and ritual transgressors. The paper concludes with a comparison of the fates of anti-heroes in two films from the new ultra-violent genre of horror (that is, "torture-porn") with two recent Academy Award-winning films to understand how the villain as construction for ritualised punishment may be changing.


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