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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Reflecting on parents in horror

Happy Fathers' Day! In honor of the occasion, I reviewed my horror list for fatherhood-themed possibilities, but in addition to noticing that I have not included the dad vs. stepdad Domestic Disturbance, I didn't turn up much else.

This prompted a rumination on the roles of mothers and fathers in horror films. I've noticed that fathers tend to fall into two categories: knights and dragons. Domestic Disturbance shows this nicely. The stepfather is a wolf in sheep's clothing, a monster, while the dad is a hero who comes to his son's rescue. Both of these roles are fairly clean-cut, without a lot of depth. Whether good or evil, the father role typically relies on strength, either as the stength to protect the child or the strength to harm it. Whatever his motive, ultimately the father must do some kind of battle.

On the other hand is the role of the mother, which comes in more forms. While the mother can be the knight or the dragon (Jolie in Changeling vs. Bates in her quasi-motherly role in Misery), these roles are few compared to the other character available to mothers: the kinds of monsters that breed monsters, psychologically (Psycho, Carrie) or literally (The Brood). This could be because horror tends to center on male characters, which sets the stage for Oedipal mother-son relationships. I think there's a lot left to mine out of father characters besides muscle. And in addition, I'd like to see someone take a different approach to the father-son, father-daughter, mother-daughter, and mother-son relationships that are so rooted in tradition that we can see them coming a mile away.

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