Thursday, February 23, 2006
Vaginal Imagery in Film
In her scholarly study of the sexual subtext of the modern horror film, Men, Women, and Chain Saws, Carol J. Clover pointed out that women are often symbolically seen as a "portal" through which and in which evil can breed. In much the same way women are designed to receive and foster life within their bodies, in horror films, that same design offers "evil" an opportunity as well. So it's not surprising that the three films that come to mind when thinking about vaginal images in movies are all horror movies (to an extent) -- director David Cronenberg's Videodrome, Tobe Hooper's Poltergeist, and Ridley Scott's Alien. Cronenberg has always dabbled in such imagery (going all the way back to Rabid). But it couldn't be more explicit than it was in Videodrome, when, after being exposed to certain TV signals, the James Woods character imagines a vaginal slit developing on his stomach (pictured top right), big enough for a VHS tape to slide into and literally "program" him. At one point, he even examines this hole with the tip of his gun (a classic phallic symbol in film). In Alien, HR Giger's bio-mechanic and techno-organic designs were incorporated throughout the film (and sexual imagery and references abound/). For example, when the astronauts discover the alien ship that has crashed onto an uncharted planet, they find "a way in" through large vaginal shaped portals on the ship's side (pictured top left). In the climatic final sequence of Poltergeist (after the house is mistakenly believed to be "cleaned" of evil spirits) the home once again erupts as the ghosts make a final stand, and a large, pink, mucus-filled vaginal hole (with a seemlingly large clitoris) develops on the wall of the children's room to draw them back in "to the other side." These "portals" in each film ultimately lead to a form of evil. So, it's no coincidence that most demonic possession horror films (i.e. The Exorcist) involve female victims or that in many slasher films (Friday the 13th, Halloween) sex equals death for the very same reason-- in both, women are "open" and vulnerable to evil.