This article explores the archetype of the slob, narrowing in on its depiction in the episode “King-Size Homer” from The Simpsons (1989–), the long-running satirical animated series created by James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, and Sam Simon. More than simply analyzing what constitutes the slob, this article focuses on how the slob operates. Attention is paid to the enmeshing of fatness and disability. The undercurrent of neoliberal ideology that runs through the episode is made apparent. The article works intersectionally to understand the slob as being someone who is abject in a multitude of ways. Finally, it considers the topic of disidentification and the possibilities that it opens up for a better analysis and understanding of the episode. And throughout the article, the key themes of failure and the pursuit of failure are explored.
Screening the Slob
Neoliberal Failure, Fatness, and Disability in “King-Size Homer”
Undoing Male Fantasies and Narrative Reliability in Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden
In this article, I analyze Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden (Ah-gassi, 2016) by addressing its puzzle narrative and complex interactive dynamics as embodied and affective categories. In particular, I employ Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of the chronotope together with Giuliana Bruno’s work on media theory and Steffen Hven’s notion of the embodied fabula to show how the film, in all its aesthetic complexity, enacts a creative and transformative experience based on the continuous subversion of the power dynamics I describe. Furthermore, I demonstrate how this semantic and experiential reconstruction couples viewers’ alignment with the two main characters in their rebellion against patriarchal power and obsessive male fantasies. Ultimately, then, in this article I aim to connect the experiential and affective engagement of the film with a critical reading of power dynamics as ecologically situated structures to be challenged and revolutionized through a creative process of becoming.
Brendan Rooney, Hanna Kubicka, Carl Plantinga, James Kendrick, and Johannes Riis
Eisenstein’s Attractions, Mirror Neurons, and Contemporary Action Cinema
This article investigates the concept of cinematic attractions through an analysis of current research on mirror neurons. It suggests that when developing his conception of attractions, Sergei Eisenstein isolated the effect of visceral spectatorship, which today’s science associates with mirror neurons. The involuntary nature of some of Eisenstein’s attractions helps to dissociate them from Tom Gunning’s later conception of the cinema of attractions. Whereas Gunning’s attractions targeted viewers’ conscious engagement, Eisenstein’s attractions tapped into preconscious and automatic responses. Moreover, while Gunning contrasted the cinema of attractions with the cinema of narrative integration, Eisenstein’s attractions were compatible with narrative. Eisenstein’s attractions were a closer precursor to the contemporary impact aesthetic than Gunning’s cinema of spectacle and display, and the concept of attractions, returned to its original sense and paired with the literature on mirroring, may better explain the functions and effects of contemporary action cinema.
Cinema and the Haptic in Modern Japan
The process of modernization in Japan appeared as a separation of the senses and remapping of the body, particularly privileging the sense of vision. How did the filmmakers, critics, and novelists in the 1920s and 1930s respond to such a reorganization of the body and the elevation of vision in the context of film culture? How did they formulate a cinematic discourse on remapping the body when the status of cinema was still in flux and its definition was debated? Focusing on cinematic commentary made by different writers, this article tackles these questions. Sato Haruo, Ozu Yasujiro, and Iwasaki Akira questioned the separation of the senses, which was often enforced by state. Inspired by German cinema released in Japan at that time, they explored the notion of the haptic in cinema and problematized the privileged sense of vision in this new visual medium.
Disrupted PECMA Flows
A Cognitive Approach to the Experience of Narrative Complexity in Film
Veerle Ros and Miklós Kiss
Over the past two decades, Hollywood cinema has seen the proliferation of disruptive narrative techniques that were previously thought to be exclusive to the realms of (post)modern literature and art cinema. Most scholarly contributions on contemporary complex cinema have been classifications, attempting to position these films relative to the “classical” mode of narration. This article sidesteps these efforts at categorization and, by offering a cognitive approach to cinematic narrative complexity, aims to provide an overview of the mental processes that complex films elicit in their viewers. Using Torben Grodal’s PECMA flow model, we theorize how the experience of complexity arises out of a confrontation with plot devices that disrupt the embodied viewing process by breaching or subverting familiar narrative conventions. In conclusion, we suggest five different scenarios—all following from different PECMA flow disruptions—and describe how one of them can affect the experience of complex (post)classical cinema.
This issue of Screen Bodies features a Screen Shots section focusing on screening disability, including essays on new disability documentaries, vacillation and the dis/abled male body—especially as it plays out in Fred Zimmerman’s 1950 film The Men—and questions of masquerade and representations of Richard III on stage and screen. It also includes general essays on “undoing” gender through complicity and subversion, the rise in the importance of the haptic in Japanese society, culture, and filmmaking in the 1920s, and an investigation of uncertainty and the “generosity paradox” with regard to gender, sexuality, and ability in cyborg cinema.
From the Editor
The Generosity Paradox
This article explores interactions with difference, highlighting what I call the “generosity paradox,” a term that refers to how we suspend disbelief and certainty in favor of a constructed potentiality not limited by preexistent knowledge or categories of authenticity and legitimacy. Touching on overlapping concepts from rhetoric, philosophy, gender studies, disability studies, and queer theory, the discussion explicates fictional encounters with radical alterity in the film Her (Spike Jonze, 2013) to show that attempted respite from frustrating, confusing, and frightening interactions limits our voice, undermines difference, and favors a unifying persuasive intent, which more likely than not involves an attempt to change Others rather than allowing our mutual differences to generatively remain.
The Male Body as Vacillation
Disability, Gender, and Discourse in The Men
This article considers the representation of gendered disability in The Men (Fred Zinnemann, 1950), Marlon Brando’s first film. A groundbreaking yet deeply ambiguous text, the film explores notions of normative and non-normative physicality through the lens of masculinity, sexuality, and their implications for human status. In the light of key works by disability scholars and of Judith Butler’s discussion of the cultural construction of the body, this article examines the multiple and subversive meanings made available by the film, and the extent to which The Men allows for a different bodily identity based on dissent.