Fantasy Film and Social Alienation
Southern Illinois University Press, Paperback, 9780809326242, 240pp.
Publication Date: March 10, 2005
Situating representative fantasy films within their cultural moments, Joshua David Bellin illustrates how fantastic visions of monstrous others seek to propagate negative stereotypes of despised groups and support invidious hierarchies of social control. In constructing such an argument, "Framing Monsters" not only contests dismissive attitudes toward fantasy but also challenges the psychoanalytic criticism that has thus far dominated its limited critical study.
Beginning with celebrated classics, Bellin locates "King Kong" (1933) within the era of lynching to evince how the film protects whiteness against supposed aggressions of a black predator and reviews "The Wizard of Oz "(1939) as a product of the Depression's economic anxieties. From there, the study moves to the cult classic animated "Sinbad" Trilogy (19581977) of Ray Harryhausen, films rampant with xenophobic fears of the Middle East as relevant today as when the series was originally produced.
Advancing to more recent subjects, Bellin focuses on the image of the monstrous woman and the threat of reproductive freedom found in "Aliens" (1986), "Jurassic Park" (1993), and "Species" (1995) and on depictions of the mentally ill as dangerous deviants in "12 Monkeys" (1996) and "The Cell "(2000). An investigation into physical freakishness guides his approach to "Edward Scissorhands" (1990) and "Beauty and the Beast" (1991). He concludes with a discussion of "X-Men "(2000) and "Lord of the Rings" (20012003), commercial giants that extend a recent trend toward critical self-reflection within the genre while still participating in the continuity of social alienation.
Written to enhance rather than undermine our understanding of fantastic cinema, "Framing Monsters" invites filmmakers, critics, and fans alike to reassess this tremendously popular and influential film type and the monsters that populate it.
Framing Monsters is a significant study of the ideological workings of fantasy films from classics such as King Kong and The Wizard of Oz to contemporary favorites like Jurassic Park and Lord of the Rings. Invested as both fan and academic, Bellin meticulously argues that this genre reinforces structures of alienation relating to race, class, gender, and disability.”Rob Latham, author of Consuming Youth: Vampires, Cyborgs, and the Culture of Consumption