Horror Film and Gender Roles Research Paper

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" Mimic, however, is to Jones the beginning of horror's conscious assessment of the ideology that spawned the horror in the first place:

[Mimic] is neither campy, nor self-conscious. It is a classic creepy film in the tradition of Them!,…and begins with a plague carried by roaches in the subterranean tunnels of New York city. In order to stop the plague, which is killing the city's children, a female entomologist, who wants to have children herself but can't, invents a new bug by recombining DNA from two different species.

The premise of the film, in fact, would return to cinemas in 2006 in Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men, in which a society that can no longer reproduce is on the verge of annihilation. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the theme of missing children returns, since Cuaron and Del Toro have long been friends.

Gender Roles, Social Themes, and Iconography

The iconographic setting of Halloween typifies most modern horror films: the nice, quiet suburb is seen again and again from a Nightmare on Elm Street to Dawn of the Dead. Hope resides in the restoration of order to the pristine civilized society of suburbia. However, in Mimic the setting is skewed, for, according to Jones, "all such hope is gone":

There is no army out there ready to rescue us from the monsters science has created. We are all left to deal with them alone, after our technological solutions have failed -- alone amidst the ruins of the Radiant City in a dank, dripping subway tunnel. The only solution left is the…prime totem of folk Catholicism, the rosary, employed as the only possible hope of destroying the monsters created by Enlightenment science (Jones, 2004).

Jones, of course, is referring to the end scene, in which the technology of man fails first with the subway train, which is meant to carry the survivors away, then the elevator lift, which snaps. As the men, one by one, offer themselves in sacrificial roles to allow the others a chance to escape -- first occasioned by the officer, then the husband of Tyler. Finally, the female scientist Tyler crosses over from barren scientist to self-sacrificer by drawing blood from her hand with the aid of the crucifix on the rosary.

By first abandoning traditional gender norms for those presented by the Women's Movement, the childless Tyler becomes part of a scientific community that breeds a bug that is meant to save all the children of the social community, but which then threatens to destroy all humanity. Through the subterranean setting, Tyler separates herself from traditional scientific norms, as her group becomes virtually lost in the labyrinth of her own making. Finally, by placing herself in the salvific role, she is restored to that role she did not possess (although she desires it) at the beginning of the film: the traditional gender norm -- the maternal role.

Halloween sparks the modern horror slasher genre, but Mimic effectively takes the horror genre out of itself by giving it a kind of fairy tale virtuosity that reaches all the way back to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and beyond -- to the mythology that helped fabricate the society of pre-Enlightenment years. In this sense, Mimic fulfills the demands of the horror genre, but also removes restrictions by altering atmospheres (terrain to sub-terrain), gender roles (career woman to helpless woman to woman as the role of savior and mother), and social themes (Romantic/Enlightenment horror for Christianized mythology).


Through conventional visuals (such as the iconographic suburb of Halloween or the darkly lit, claustrophobic, subterranean atmosphere of Mimic) and conventional narration (killer on the loose, teenagers in fear; bugs on the loose, humanity in fear), John Carpenter's Halloween and Guillermo del Toro's Mimic typify the story-telling of the horror genre. However, while Halloween serves as the archetypal horror film concerning dominant gender codes (helpless woman in peril from crazed, immortal male character, saved by upright male authority), Mimic departs from the dominant gender codes to re-establish a gender norm that pre-dates Enlightenment ideology. Different film theories help to explain gender codes, but as in any analytical study several theories, such as apparatus and psychoanalytical, give different interpretations. Accordingly, Halloween can be viewed as both a subconscious repudiation of feminist ideals and gender codes, and also as a rejection of tyrannical patriarchy. Mimic, on the other hand, challenges the passive female gender code by having its heroine slip into a number of gender roles, none of which can be construed as passive by any means.

Reference List

Bennhold, K. (2009). Science: The last frontier for women's movement. Deccan Herald. Retrieved from http://www.deccanherald.com/content/57189/science-last-frontier-womens-movement.htmlWho%20do%20you%20want%20to%20contact?

Carpenter, J. (1978). Halloween [Film]. Los Angeles: Compass International.

Del Toro, G. (1997). Mimic [Film]. Los Angeles: Miramax.

Jones, E.M. (2004). Good Entomologist/Bad Entomologist. Culture Wars.

Retrieved from http://www.culturewars.com/CultureWars/Archives/cw_recent/entomologist.html

Mast, G., Kawin, B. (2006). A Short History of the Movies 9th Edition. New York, NY:

Pearson Longman.

Schneider, S.J. (2004). Horror Film and Psychoanalysis [Excerpt]. Cambridge

University Press. Retrieved from http://assets.cambridge.org/052182/5210/excerpt/0521825210_excerpt.htm[continue]

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