Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more
Download
Standard view
Full view
of .
Save to My Library
Look up keyword
Like this
4Activity
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Mommie Dearest: Aliens, Rosernary’s Baby and Mothering by Rhona Berenstein

Mommie Dearest: Aliens, Rosernary’s Baby and Mothering by Rhona Berenstein

Ratings: (0)|Views: 1,382|Likes:
Published by JennyRuben

More info:

Categories:Types, Research
Published by: JennyRuben on Apr 05, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less

05/13/2014

pdf

text

original

 
Mommie Dearest:
Aliens,
Rosernary’s
Baby
and
Mothering
Rhona Berenstein
The female body. is impure, corrupt, the site of discharges, bleedings, dangerous tomasculinity,
a
source
of
moral and physical contamination, “the devil’s gateway.” Onthe other hand, as mother woman is beneficent, sacred, pure, asexual, nourishing; andthe physical potential for motherhood-that same body with its bleedings and mysteries-is her single destiny and justification in life.Adrienne Rich1
In American patriarchy can
I
say: “Mother knows best”? This phrase(a ‘bastardization’) encapsulates a dictum which western society hashistorically denied, belied, belittled and bemoaned; for as one repeatedly‘admits’, n western patriarchy
it
is Father who knows (best or otherwise).Mother and her body does figure in this scenario-she is known andfeared, the object of discursive scrutiny and definition, an institutioninstitutionalized. And here begins her contradictory relationship tohorror; she is one
of
patriarchy’s terrifying Others, psychoanalysis’“unsitely” threat and wound, the cinema’s monster and object of itsgaze. As such, her presence and absence demand her perpetualdomestication and warn of her enduring threat of empowerment.Mothers have
it
seems been strikingly marginal to and/or absentfrom the horror film genre;
so
absent, that
I
wonder whether the monsteris precipitated by that absence or whether
it
serves as a double for themother who is not there.2
Psycho,
hailed as the film which changedthe faceof h~rror,~erves as an almost overstated clue
to
the mother-monster relationship. Though Norman Bates perpetrates the murders,it is the womb from which he came-his in drag persona-that servesas the ultimate culprit, the real monster. Yet, there have been a fewhorror films in which mothers (and not their “transvestite” sons) haveplayed a pivotal role and
so
in the following pages,
I
will address twofilms which have been primarily concerned with Mother’s presence.
Rosemary’s Baby
(1968)
and
Aliens
(1986)
serve as potent (althoughpregnant may better describe their value) examples
of
the horrifying statusof motherhood in American patriarchal c~lture.~
55
 
56
Journal
of
Popular Culture
The horror film genre has passed through a number of changesin the last twenty years. George Romero’s
Night
of
the Living Dead
(1968), a B-picture with a fondness for the hand-held camera, helpedshift the genre’s predilection for the monster as foreigner (either Europeanas in the case of Count Dracula or other-worldly as in
invasion
of
theBody Snatchers)
or as the result of human mal-creation (as in the figureof Dr. Frankenstein’s creation or Mr. Hyde) to the monster as emergingfrom and through society. Society could
no
longer be viewed as a havenor the realm to be protected
from
the monster. Appearing as it did, inthe midst of the Vietnam war and the 60s youth and civil rightsmovements, Romero’s film addressed itself directly to those socialupheavals.
Rosemary’s Baby
has been similarly addressed in relation toits historical positioning. While Marjorie Rosen asserts that “Hollywoodin the mid-sixties was.. .[unable] to reflect the tapestry of the youthculture,”5 until films like
Easy Rider
(1969), Ray Narducy notes thatPolanski’s film was “influential in causing the horror genre to focuson the child as evil.
.
.
This trend.
.
may be a cultural reaction to theradical, protesting ‘children’
of
the 1960s.”6 In the
70s,
films such as
The Exorcist
and
Halloween
further explored the relationship betweenhorror and the social and especially familial spheres. Robin Wood notesthat the most popular80shorror films fall into two major categories,the “teenie-kill pic” and the violence against women movie;’ the latterquite possibly being a backlash against 60s and
70s
feminism. In thesummer of 1986 James Cameron’s
Aliens
became a block-buster hit andwhile it did include violence against women, it seems much moreconnected to Polanski’s 1968 film than to its contemporaries.While
Rosemary’s Baby
and
Aliens8
are separated by 18 years, theyare both centrally concerned with motherhood and monsterhood.Moreover, they were both financial successes when released, suggestingif not a simplistic a- or trans-historical connection, then a fascinatingendurance or inversion of the popularity
of
the representation of theOtherness and horror of the female reproductive process. In a sense, thesefilms pose the collapse of the utility of the patriarchy’s nature-culturebinarism i.e. they appear on one level to erect that dualism as locatable,while on another they deconstruct the separation
of
its terms. In theend, the division between nature and culture collapses in the relationshipbetween the mothers and the monsters.The institution of motherhood has been the topic of a number ofin-depth feminist inquiries,g which have mobilized varying methodo-logical and critical perspectives in attempts to describe and in certaininstances to resolve the nature-culture conflict which characterizesMother’s position in the west. Adrienne Rich notes in
Of
Woman Born
that the “idea
of
maternal power has been domesticated. In transfiguringand enslaving woman, the womb-the ultimate source of this power-
 
Aliens, Rosemary’s Baby and Mothering
57
has historically been turned againstusand itself made into a sourceof powerlessness.”10Though Rich fails
to
explore many of the specifichistorical variations incurred in and by western motherhood in a detailedmanner (or one which can truly allow for the co-existence
of
contradictionand ambiguity), her argument serves as a kind of feminist “reminder”that there may be a balance between an attention to historical specificityand a notion
of
patriarchy which often seems to propose historicalcontinuity in its forms
of
social oppression. In adhering
to
this kindof trans-historicism, Mother (at once an icon and a “real” woman) thusserves as one
of
patriarchy’s principal Others and as Wood notes,“Otherness represents that which bourgeois ideology cannot recognizeor accept but must deal with.. .either by rejecting
it
and if possibleannihilating it, or by rendering
it
safe and assimilating
it
into itself.””What differentiates Mother from Wood’s description is that instead ofmerely transforming her into a replica of Father,
it
is he who has becomethe western bestower of life, the ultimate creator and social progenitor.12
As
such he must constantly be engaged in his own re-creation; beingof woman born he must,
if
not deny that fact, then transcend it.The term Other must be understood as both relational andoppositional i.e. Other
than.
It is the implicit appendage of
than
whichprovides the framework for understanding Otherness both as it points
to
the “defining” subject-as a mechanism for defining subjectivity inrelation to adother-and as
it
stands in opposition
to
that subject-Other than the “I” at times connoting an object
of
fear, derision, hatred.Sander Gilman notes in
Difference
and
Pathology
that “there is no realline between the self and the Other, an imaginary line must be drawn.”lgAccording to this description, the Self is constantly engaged in a processof displacement and destruction of the Other, while that very processposes an impossibility. In order
to
truly annihilate the Other, one mustsimultaneously destroy the Self. Mother, under patriarchy, serves as aconspicuous signpost of the blurred division which stands between thewestern Self and its projected other. Historically, she has been repressedin both social and psychoanalytic senses and it is likely that that repressionhas been guided by the patriarchal subject’s simultaneous relationshipof proximity
to
and distance from her.’* It is thus not surprising thatoften when she appears in the horror film with the full force of thereturn of the repressed, that she emerges in nightmares.The nightmares which plague the female protagonists in
Aliens
and
Rosemary’s Baby
serve as our primary introduction
to
the monsters inthese filmsi5 and
it
is
no
coincidence that these monsters are intimatelylinked to reproduction, or what can be termed a “pregnancy anxiety.”In
Aliens,
Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) first nightmare (there is a second,but we do not
see
it) is highly stylized. Burke, the company representative,sits by Ripley’s hospital bed and tells her that she was in hyperspace

Activity (4)

You've already reviewed this. Edit your review.
1 thousand reads
1 hundred reads
frasebm liked this
Mis Anne Thropa liked this

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->