Friday, October 02, 2009

Link Proliferation: In which you meet the Iranian Little Red Riding Hood.

You Gotta Be In It, to Win It



Why haven't you entered the Every Damn Comic of Solomon Kane Ever Contest (EDCSKEC)? Do so, right now. I randomly select a winner on Monday.

Ghostly History



A now and then tour of Manhattan sense through the lens of the Ghostbusters flick.

Fairy-Tale History



The Telegraph has an interesting story on the historical age of fairy tales.

The common take on fairy tales is that they were relatively recent when Romantic nationalists started recording them in 1600s. Using "Little Red Riding Hood" and taxonomy techniques borrowed from the biological sciences, one team of anthropologists has teased out a memetic history that traces back more than 2,600 years.

A study by anthropologists has explored the origins of folk tales and traced the relationship between varients of the stories recounted by cultures around the world.

The researchers adopted techniques used by biologists to create the taxonomic tree of life, which shows how every species comes from a common ancestor.

Dr Jamie Tehrani, a cultural anthropologist at Durham University, studied 35 versions of Little Red Riding Hood from around the world.

Whilst the European version tells the story of a little girl who is tricked by a wolf masquerading as her grandmother, in the Chinese version a tiger replaces the wolf.

In Iran, where it would be considered odd for a young girl to roam alone, the story features a little boy.

Contrary to the view that the tale originated in France shortly before Charles Perrault produced the first written version in the 17th century, Dr Tehrani found that the varients shared a common ancestor dating back more than 2,600 years.

He said: “Over time these folk tales have been subtly changed and have evolved just like an biological organism. Because many of them were not written down until much later, they have been misremembered or reinvented through hundreds of generations.


Personally, I find the concept of the meme dubious at best. The application of genetics to abstract concepts like a story's themes and tropes seems to confuse phenotypes with genotypes, leading to lots of false positive "links" between things that are not really related. Still, the variants they've discovered and the range they've recorded is interesting.

Tortured History



Over at Pop Matters's, Marco Lanzagorta turns in another LP-worthy post. This time he ponders the evolution of the "torture porn" flick and traces its roots from Ulmer's The Black Catthrough 70's 'sploiters and up to now.

He contributes some original stages to the common historical narrative, most notably the "Inquisition flicks" of the 1960s and 1970s.

The first clear trend of torture films that emerged during these years can be termed as the inquisition flick. As with The Black Cat, Poe’s work served as inspiration for a film about madness, corruption, and obsession. Roger Corman’s The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) takes place in 16th century Spain and the climax involves a young man trapped in the titular torture device. The torturer, played by the inimitable Vincent Price, is revealed to be the demented son of an inquisitor.

While the violence was kept to a reasonable level, the commercial and critical success of The Pit and the Pendulum is likely to have influenced a series of films that depicted a demented inquisitor torturing, mutilating, and humiliating innocent bystanders. Most of the time, their victim was a young virginal girl who refused the sexual advances of the inquisitor. Not surprisingly, the amount of violence and sexual situations increased with each new entry in this subgenre. The most notorious flicks in this trend include The Witchfinder General (1968), The Bloody Judge (1970), Mark of the Devil (1970), and Mark of the Devil 2 (1973). Evidence of the cruelty and brutality of these films is the fact that most of them have been banned or censored at some point in time.


However, like everybody who has tried to define torture porn as a subgenre, he gets tangled up in his own definition.

Therefore, because of our complex cultural intertextuality, it may be difficult to define the exact generic conventions of the torture porn subgenre. Nevertheless, it is possible to avoid sophisticated intertextual conundrums and identify a torture flick as one where acts of torture are the main visual and narrative drivers of the storyline.

That sounds good until you start looking at examples. For example, the violence in the French Chainsaw-manqué Frontier(s), which is the columnist says can be "considered the pinnacle of the torture porn subgenre," is extreme; but whether it is torture or not (beyond the most basic assertion that any violent captivity would be torture) is dubious and, even if we decided it were, you'd need to defend the claim that torture was the driving narrative force behind that film.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

"...you'd need to defend the claim that torture was the driving narrative force behind that film."

I always felt that "porn" rather than "torture" should be the "driving narrative force" for a film to be considered "Torture porn", the torture part is really just the most convenient way to deliver the money shot, resp. as many of them as possible.

HB said...

Contrary to the view that the tale originated in France shortly before Charles Perrault produced the first written version in the 17th century, Dr Tehrani found that the varients shared a common ancestor dating back more than 2,600 years.

He said: “Over time these folk tales have been subtly changed and have evolved just like an biological organism. Because many of them were not written down until much later, they have been misremembered or reinvented through hundreds of generations.


This mostly makes me wonder if this guy is just trying to find a way to quantify the Joseph Cambell/Jungian approach to mythology, in re: cultural and mythological archetypes. Interesting, but possibly a futile quest.

--heather

Mina Jade said...

When it comes to torture porn, nobody can outshine my world-famous compatriot, my lovely Lady Báthory.

Madelon said...

I've always considered 'torture porn' as being part of the plot device, taking the actual 'porn' part at face-value. As in, movies where torture is linked to sexual gratification. In that sense, I consider Hostel to be torture porn, but not Saw, as the motivation for the torture acts is very different.

Although most people have dismissed the Saw series as torture porn, I never considered the trap scenes to be the 'driving narrative force' of the movies (especially not in the first instalment). They are the outcome of a man's mind and (within the framework of the movie) not considered as torture. This is of course different in the case of Hostel, or indeed, the Inquisition flicks mentioned in this post.

I would opt for a stance where the function of 'torture porn' within the narrative framework of the movie is taking into account, as opposed to a position as a spectator, measuring the amount of blood that is spilled (in that sense, any horror movie could be labeled torture porn).