Scary films, stoning, and social control

Stuart Lawrence stuartwl at
Sat Nov 23 09:46:01 MST 2002

What do Hollywood horror films and public stonings of adulterous women in
Nigeria have in common? Arguably they both serve as messages about the
consequences of female sexuality, in which some young female protagonist
meets a violent death because of her sexual transgression. It is the unique
genius of Western culture to be able to perpetuate messages of social
control through the virtual representation of violence while disdaining its
actual practice. As tempting as it is to equate the sexual exploitation of
women in bourgeois society with the oppresion imposed under the guise of
religious law, there is a difference between being innundated with images of
violence and being subject to officially sanctioned murder if one steps out
of line.

Honestly, I can't stand horror films, and I think cinematic narrative relies
much too heavily on violence and death for motive energy and emotive impact.
Something as easy to pick up and build a plot around as violence and fear is
something that most moviemakers will use in an irresponsible or unthinking
way. Mostly they end up reinforcing the overwhelming message of fear of the
other, and fear of our own desires, that we are constantly fed by mass


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