Image from film "The Skin I Live In" featuring a woman in a mask laying on a table for a cosmetic surgical procedure

PROJECTING HORRORS REAL, IMAGINARY AND METAPHORICAL: TRANS AND OTHER GENDER-NON-CONFORMING BODIES IN HORROR CINEMA (LA Online)

Date/Time
Date(s) - Thu. May. 27, 2021
7:30 pm PDT - 8:45 pm PDT

Instructor
Cerise Howard

Admission
$10 BUY TICKETS HERE or buy a Miskatonic LA Full Semester pass for $40 HERE

Gender non-conformity has long been a marker in cinema for murderous villainy and psychosis or has been presented as reason enough for anyone thus marked to be dispatched from their narrative universes with excessive (and often casually misogynistic) force.

For transgender and gender-diverse people, everyday life can be the stuff of horror, ranging from the bureaucratically ontological – can you think of many other peoples the notionally most advanced of societies will attempt to legislate out of existence? – to enduring the constant background noise of the threat of violence, felt especially by trans people of color. A lot of screen media production, notwithstanding that it mightn’t all be read as “horror” by genre afficionadi, has only served, through stereotyping and ignorance, to perpetuate the real traumas and horrors experienced routinely by trans people.

Necessarily then this lecture will debunk no small number of harmful myths about transgender people propagated by the screen media-industrial complex and in the horror movies historically produced within it. But that’s not all…

We’ll explore the ubiquity of trans narratives and imagery within horror cinema – even if they’ve most often been deployed at a metaphorical remove from being transgender narratives and imagery, per se.

Horror films concerned with body dysmorphic conditions – whether blights borne upon the surface of a body, or of mutilation or recombination of its constituent parts, inside, outside or inside-out… or concerned with unsought-after metamorphoses from causes natural, surgical or supernatural, and even possession narratives – all can be read as allegories for gender dysphoria…

Frankensteinian narratives, which long pre-date the availability of gender affirmation surgery for those who seek body modifications to reconcile their sense of self with their corporeal housing, present even more points of metaphorical intersection, between horror cinema and trans lived experience, to dissect.

We’ll move beyond the metaphorical and also celebrate the increasing participation of transgender people behind and in front of the camera, pausing to unpack challenges posed by the latter development. Trans performers and characters often appear only for a film to foreground their transness; a trans identity is very seldom secondary. But here’s the rub: even when it doesn’t matter, it matters. Take Bit (dir. Brad Michael Elmore, 2019): a 21st century Lost Boys for a kyriarchy-sensitized viewership which features trans actor Nicole Maines as a protagonist whose gender identity is never problematized – what a blessing! But… perhaps also a curse, in that, while transness has been rendered visible (a trans actor in a lead role!), hers is simultaneously invisible (her transness is erased narratively, and many viewers mightn’t apprehend that the actor is trans). Can any of us truly be what we can’t see?

Please note these are live events – they cannot be downloaded and watched later, so please be sure you are available at the time and timezone the classes are being offered in before registering.