Furby, Jacqueline; Joy, Stuart (Columbia University Press, 2015-07)
A consistent preoccupation of Christopher Nolan’s films is the psychological afflictions of their male protagonists, who variously experience flashbacks, hallucinations, amnesia or hyper-vigilance, and whose signs of emotional damage often stem from grief or guilt. However, mental trauma is not only a trait of Nolan’s films but is discernible across a range of genres, with a noticeable surge of psychologically disordered male characters in films of the new millennium. Akin to their post-war noir predecessors, such representations of masculinity suggest that the unstable mental state of the twenty-first century protagonist may relate to the effects of a post-9/11 milieu. What makes Nolan’s oeuvre distinctive is that his new millennium films tend to be fore-grounded by this feature, to the extent that mental aberration governs the narrative, thereby implying such characterisation as an authorial tendency. As Will Brooker notes, ‘Nolan’s authorial interest in psychological drama, his recurring themes of fear and memory and his characteristic experiments with narrative have now become established traits’ (2012: 22).
Pheasant-Kelly, Frances; Holden, Lisa (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016-06)
Part way through the most recent Bond film, Skyfall (Mendes 2012), villainous antagonist, Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) removes his facial prosthesis to reveal a horrific disfigurement. It emerges that Silva is a terrorist who targets political sites and public transport systems in a manner similar to Al-Qaeda’s attacks on the United States in 2001 and the London Underground in 2005. Alongside other productions of the new millennium, Skyfall illustrates how the terrorist figure is increasingly signaled, and even defined by physical impairment. Such films often display a particular fascination with the character’s peculiarity to the extent that it becomes not only pivotal to characterization but also to the narrative. Indeed, in Skyfall we learn that the cause of Silva’s disfigurement motivates his terrorist activities and certain scenes consciously present his physical difference as a source of spectacle, rather than as being merely incidental to the narrative. Although villainy has long been associated with some form of physical difference, since 9/11, it is especially associated with facial deviation. Moreover, if facially disfigured villains have appeared in films before 9/11, they did not necessarily display psychological or physical weakness. Contrastingly, the disfigured post-9/11 perpetrator is either psychologically or physically compromised in relation to his/her physiognomic aberration and is also often simultaneously coded as ‘other’ through subtle suggestions of homosexuality and foreignness, these combined features ostensibly constituting a ‘new wave’ of cinematic terrorist representation. While there is no obvious explanation for such a trend, these portrayals may be informed by real-world mediated imagery of radical Muslim cleric, Abu Hamza. Hamza, who had long been suspected of terrorist activity and was convicted of supporting terrorism in 2015, lost an eye and both hands, allegedly in a terrorist incident. One of his hands is replaced by a hook, and he is often pictured holding up his arm, the hook encircling his functional eye. Otherwise, this contemporary mode of signifying the on-screen terrorist may be a conscious effort to depart from other currently contentious terrorist stereotypes (especially the Islamic middle-Eastern character). Indeed, the film Iron Man (Favreau 2008) attracted criticism for its depiction of Afghani fundamentalists because of its portrayal of their leader, Raza (Faran Tahir) as a “typical Middle Eastern hysteric [who] rages about in inflated, un-translated gasps of Arabic” (Catalan). The association of facial disfigurement with bodily weakness and/or psychological instability stems from a broader trend in representations of masculinity, this itself connected to a range of issues beginning well before 9/11. The combination of physical and/or mental fallibility and facial anomaly therefore constitutes a unique development in post-/11 portrayals of terrorist figures. This essay therefore considers the association of disfigurement with the on-screen terrorist by arguing that recent representations of the post-9/11 era, though retaining allusions to ‘foreignness’, depart from Middle Eastern stereotypes to focus on deformity as an alternate means to reconfigure the ‘other’. With emphasis on the Bond franchise – because of its long lineage and preoccupation with villainy - and primarily referring to Casino Royale, and Skyfall, this chapter compares pre- and post-9/11 villains, and engages with theories of ‘freakery’ (Garland-Thomson), criminality (Lombroso), and terrorism (Kassimeris; Jackson; Nacos; Whittaker).
This chapter is from a book which analyzes post-9/11 literature, film, and television through an interdisciplinary lens, taking into account contemporary debates about spatial practices, gentrification, cosmopolitanism, memory and history, nostalgia, the uncanny and the abject, postmodern virtuality, the politics of realism, and the economic and social life of cities. Featuring an international group of scholars, the volume theorizes how literary and visual representations expose the persistent conflicts that arise as cities rebuild in the shadow of past ruins.
Pheasant-Kelly, Frances (John Hopkins University Press, 2018-12-12)
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a novel that centers on a scientist who collects organs and limbs from dead bodies to construct a new being, illustrates the complex, interwoven history of science and science fiction. The novel’s attention to the animation of assembled body parts reflects contemporaneous scientific interest in the reanimation of corpses by galvanism. In this article, I extend the science/science-fiction relationship developed in the novel by analyzing the visual differences between two of its subsequent film adaptations. Although scholars have extensively scrutinized and speculated about Shelley’s influences, limited consideration of contemporary scientific influences on later film versions exists.
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