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Monstrosity, Performance, and Race in Contemporary Culture

Bernadette Marie Calafell

In a society that increasingly touts post-racial and post-feminist discourses, the trope of monstrosity becomes a way to critically examine contemporary meanings around race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability. Focusing on ways in which historically marginalized groups appropriate monstrosity as a means of resistance, as well as on how we can understand oppression and privilege through monstrosity, this book offers another way to conceptualize the politics of representation. Through critical analyses of experiences of women of color in the academy, the media framing of alleged Aurora shooter James Holmes, the use of monstrosity in unpublished work from the Gloria Anzaldúa archives, post-feminist discourses in American Mary and The Lords of Salem, and Kanye West’s strategic employment of ideologies of monstrosity, this book offers new ways to think about Otherness in this contemporary moment.
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Chapter 4. American Mary and The Lords of Salem: Post-Feminist Nightmares


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Post-Feminist Nightmares

Two thousand twelve saw the release of two horror films that explored themes of agency and control over women’s bodies. American Mary, written and directed by twin sisters Jen and Sylvia Soska of Dead Hooker in a Trunk (2009) fame, featured scream queen Katharine Isabelle of the cult hit Ginger Snaps (2000), as Mary Mason, a medical student who drops out of medical school after she is drugged and raped by her professor. Following her rape, Mary enters the world of underground surgeries and body modification. A few months later, writer and director Rob Zombie’s Lords of Salem was released. The film featured scream queen and Zombie’s partner, Sheri Moon Zombie, as Salem radio personality Heidi LaRoc. After receiving a mysterious record from a group called the Lords, Heidi finds herself pulled into a world that blurs the lines between the past and present. After giving birth to the spawn of Satan, Heidi becomes an (un)holy Madonna figure.

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