The final issue of Screen Bodies Volume 6 offers readers an ideal combination of the diverse kinds of work we feature, from a macroscopic theory that proposes a new discipline, to a set of articles that rigorously examine a small number of artworks with respect to a shared topic, to a piece of curatorial criticism on a recent media arts exhibition. The articles collected here offer a fitting cross section of the topics and media we cover, discussing such varied subjects as prehistoric art, Pink Film, artificial intelligence, and video art.
Andrew J. Ball
The Female Reception of Oshima Nagisa's International Co-Productions
Oshima Nagisa's international co-productions, which include the pornographic film In the Realm of the Senses and the war drama with homoerotic themes Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, were noted as the emergence of his female audience. How did this reported demographic change of the audience from male-centered to female-oriented relate to sexualized bodies on screen? In their roundtable discussion about sexual liberation, feminists found emancipatory power from patriarchal society in the face of the actor who played Abe Sada. Girls praised queerness that disrupted heteronormativity in David Bowie's performance in their film reviews. Focusing on the reception of the films within feminists’ discourse and girls’ culture, this article argues that the female audience created political significance of the films by interpreting the bodies as embodied liberation.
Otherness, Responsibility, and Visions of Future Technologies in Ahmed Saadawi's Frankenstein in Baghdad and Jeanette Winterson's Frankissstein
Amal Al Shamsi
Frankenstein's existential dilemmas of humanity and science have led the novel to be upheld as a premonition of the dangers of overreaching technological advancements, a theme that seems more relevant than ever in the current age. Out of the “creative progeny” of Mary Shelley's work, Ahmed Saadawi and Jeanette Winterson's invocations of Frankenstein stand out as they reimagine the text through distinctive political turning points, questioning how horrors of the past can be reworked to fit new terrors. Their respective works, Frankenstein in Baghdad and Frankissstein, contemplate the future of the human body as altered by technology whether incited by warfare or by the introduction of artificial intelligence. Although different in terms of geographical setting and genre, both texts are connected in their reinvestigation of Frankenstein's core concerns of otherness as related to gender and race, responsibility, as well as the future of humanity and literature. Within their works, the relationships of creator and creation, as well as the individual and society, transcend the supernatural elements, revealing a core anxiety about the future of humanity.
Relatable Motives and Righteous Causes; or, Why the Sympathetic Antihero is Not a Moral Psychological Mystery
Morally flawed antiheroes in TV and film, such as Dexter Morgan and Dirty Harry, often inspire sympathetic engagement from audiences. Media scholars have argued that it is these antiheroes’ status as fictional characters that allows audiences to flout their moral principles and side with the antiheroes. Against this view, I argue that these problematic sympathies can be explained without reference to a special fictional attitude. Human morality is sensitive not only to abstract moral principles but also to the concrete motives and situations of an individual moral agent, and the motives and situations of the sympathetic antihero very often seem exculpatory.
The Richness of a Narrative Arrest
Performance and Scenic Composition in the Cinema of William Wyler
The work of Hollywood director William Wyler offers a rewarding case for studying the narrative purposes of rhythmic variations. Film critics have traditionally viewed Wyler's scenes in terms of depth of field but by looking for elements that weaken his pace, we can explain his acclaimed work as the result of how performance and picture jointly serve rhythmic purposes. My study distinguishes between two kinds of narrative arrests in Wyler's films, 1935–1970. The unfocused arrests are critical for Wyler's art and depend on actors’ techniques for adding emphasis and Wyler's techniques for creating pictorial diversions. By halting dramatic progression during key scenes, Wyler seemingly expands the characters’ worlds with meanings in the spectator's eyes. Finally, I show how changing technologies and narrative norms constrained Wyler's later work.
Scenes of Subjection
Slavery, the Black Female Body, and the Uses of Sexual Violence in Haile Gerima's Sankofa
In Haile Gerima's Sankofa (1993), a film that confronts the horrors of slavery, sexual violence is a central and repetitive trope. In this article, I explore how Gerima employs representations of rape as a filmic strategy to expose the brutality of slavery and its aftermath as well as to illustrate the magnitude of Black women's tenacity in the face of subjugation. I argue that, while the visual repetition of the white male slaveholder's sexual violation of the Black female body is a dangerously problematic trope, Gerima's film reenacts the terrible banality of sexual exploitation of the enslaved and significantly performs a conscious objectification to make visible the history of white supremacist violence and Black women's nuanced and complex forms of survival, resistance, and fugitivity.
The Self On-Screen
Pavel Pyś Reflects on The Body Electric
The Body Electric was catalyzed by the frustration of seeing a group of artists of roughly the same age exhibited predominantly within the context of their own generation. The majority were working with new technologies (such as 3D printing, motion capture, avatars, computer-generated animations), and many were grouped under the moniker “post-internet art,” which, by the time the exhibition had opened, had become an exhausted term with little currency (see ). The impetus was to age these emerging and mid-career artists by creating an intergenerational family tree, elevating overlooked voices and demonstrating a healthy skepticism toward the novelty of technology. The through line connecting the artists on view was a shared engagement with the body and its mediated image, raising important questions about representation, especially in terms of identity, embodiment, race, gender, sexuality, class, and belonging. Like Alice disappearing through the mirror, these artists nimbly cross the boundaries separating the physical world and its space on-screen, blurring 2D and 3D, real and virtual, analog and digital. As these distinctions melt away, how are artists questioning the present and warning of what lies around the corner?
Sights and Sounds of the Cinematic Baroque in Pascal Laugier's Martyrs
This article adopts the category of the cinematic baroque not as a marker of the culturally low, but as a tool of film-philosophical analysis to examine how Pascal Laugier's Martyrs () probes limits of representation and spectatorial experience. I approach the ambivalent functions of bodily, architectural, and filmic thresholds that simultaneously mediate containment and transgression. In this vein, I read the excesses of cinematic violence in Martyrs using Saige Walton's phenomenological model of “baroque flesh” in dialogue with theories of enfolded structures of affective intensity that resist “teleological spectatorship.” Drawing these distinct perspectives together, I consider the visual and aural strategies deployed in Martyrs—from the home invasion to the “screaming point”—to examine the formal characteristics of this film's treatment of screened violence.
What Movie Will I Watch Today?
The Role of Online Review Ratings, Reviewers’ Comments, and Users’ Gratification Style
Nuno Piçarra, Níbia Silva, Teresa Chambel, and Patrícia Arriaga
Browsing online ratings and viewers’ comments is an integral part of the experience of choosing and watching a movie. Current theories have broadened the concept of entertainment beyond amusement (hedonic motives) to include experiences of meaning, value, and self-development (eudaimonic motives). With a between-subjects design, we examined the role of reviewers’ ratings (medium rating vs. high rating), comments (hedonic vs. eudaimonic) and participants’ gratification styles on their interest in watching a movie. Results showed that participants (N = 383) reported a higher preference for the high rating movie. Results also revealed a match between comment type and individual gratification style, with participants with hedonic motives reporting more interest for the movie with hedonic comments, and those reporting eudaimonic motives for the movie with eudaimonic comments.