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Contributing writer for The Artifice.

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    Latest Topics


    The perception of mental illness in Hitchcock's Psycho (1960)

    Analyze the trope of the violent schizophrenic in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Take into consideration the construction of Norman Bates and consider the contemporary treatment of psychosis. Ask yourself whether or not the trope of the violent schizophrenic serves an artistic end or merely perpetuates an existing stigma and stereotype against the mentally ill.

    • To push this further, and if you want to open up the discussion to the more general question of representing mental illness on screen, you should look at other films that deal with this issue. Psycho won't be enough to open up the discussion, although it is a great one to focus on. An extra paragraph at the end exploring more representations through other films would be interesting – Rachel Elfassy Bitoun 9 years ago
    • Rachel Elfassy Bitoun! Thank you for expressing interest. I think that a comparative study would be very valuable, indeed. – InAugust 9 years ago
    • I think to expand this topic into further films would be a good idea, with The Shining and Jack Torrence being another one tha would be good to look at, as well as Black Swan for a more modern and female perspective. As for mental illness being represented itself in film (and especially in Psycho and The Shining) is the character that usually has the illness is villainised. I think this is a reflection of how society looks down on those who suffer with mental illnesses. There's a grey area whether the villainisation is of the people who suffer the ilness or the illness itself. I would say in earlier films the former would be true, where the latter would hopefully be true of more recent film portrayals. – Jamie White 9 years ago
    • I would look at Bates Motel maybe? Or just a more recent film in its depiction of mental illness. Cause although a classic it is an old representation of mental illness and bringing it to today's existing stigma seems like an issue. Not to say it shouldn't be talked about, more the relevance on the portrayal is called into question. So either look into more recent depictions OR bring up the relevance of such an analysis on a classic. Are we still doing this? Does this film have influence on other portrayals including today? Did it start a pattern in film? – Erin Derwin 9 years ago
    • I know that this film is seen as a horror film, especially in the year of 1960. This film is actually quite sad to me. You see that Norman Bates is externally happy, but you can sense that he isn't quite there. Many people think that this characteristic in one is intentional, but it often is unavoidable due to lovely biology. It is all what it comes down to; yes, Norman ended up murdering within this film. What this film leaves us at, if we haven't seen Bates Motel, is what caused him to be this way? Was he always like this? There are so many questions that I don't think is fair in the retrospect of the monster is proclaimed to be. – caitlinndwyer 9 years ago

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    Latest Comments

    So… I’m really pleased to find a reading of 200 lbs and I think your connection between the film and broader Korean society is spot on, but, I’m concerned with the moralistic overtones that shape the piece. Your use of the word obsessive bothers me and it makes me wonder who the audience is of your piece and which dominant culture you’re responding to–a Korean one or an American perception of Korean surgery. Thank you for posting.

    200 Pounds Beauty: South Korea's Plastic Surgery Industry

    I really love your inclusion of the two cops kissing. I’d be interested in reading more interpretative work on the piece itself. Knowing the context would help me situate the piece in both time and space. Thank you for sharing.

    Banksy: The Elusive Street Graffiti Artist

    Just to play devil’s advocate…

    In defense of Mathew I think that he is attempting to make a valuable distinction between two different modes of reception: interpretation and entertainment.

    Admittedly, Matthew’s claim is false but his categories are valid. There is a mode of reception common to art films and mysteries which finds pleasure in association, interpretation, and clarifying obscurity.

    Likewise there exists a mode of reception common to romantic comedies, horror films, and thrillers which engages the body, stimulating thrills, chills, and arousal in the bodies of viewers.

    I think that the categories need to be thought through in more details; but I think it is fair to assert that they are distinct viewing experiences: bodily arousal (thrills, chills, and heartache) vs. cognitive arousal (interpreting, associating, and theorizing).

    The Relevance of Fan Theories: Interpretations vs. Intentions

    I feel like the language of Ancestry, (i.e., Descent), in the title gives the reader the impression that this essay is in some ways a genealogy, à la Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Foucault.

    I’m in agreement with @Twila that this this project could benefit from a study of the “roots,” i.e., Judeo-Christian, Greek, and Roman hero narratives.

    I think that the assertion, “The elements that created Batman are scattered through the human consciousness,” sounds an awful lot like a Foucauldian claim that Batman is a body of discourse in the same way that notions of gender, race, and the primitive Other are discursive constellations.

    Methodologically, I think that this essay would benefit from an explicit nod to either intertextuality theory or Foucauldian genealogy, (which are both articulated, (to an extent), in Foucault’s essay “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History.”

    In general, I think that this essay is fantastic and opens up a possible inquiry which could easily fill an entire book. Thank you.

    The Ancestry of Batman

    I have to agree with Jamie. I think that you have a solid claim that the character we have come to identify as Batman is an amalgamation of several dark heroes, i.e, Holmes, Dracula, and Zorro.

    However, I think that your argument is complicated by the many reiterations and reinventions of Batman that we’ve seen over the last eight decades, i.e., Batman played by Christian Bale is not the same Batman seen in “Batman: The Animated Series.”

    I think there is interesting room for inquiry into the nature of Batman retellings; there seems to be a correlation between Batman portrayals and America’s economic development over the last eighty years.

    More importantly, if you want to make a claim to the original Batman’s character, it would be fruitful to dig into the cultural history of 1920s and 1930s Noir detective stories to get a better sense of the literary tradition from which Batman emerges.

    The Ancestry of Batman

    Meghan Kelly,

    I don’t mean to be an asshole, but you might want to copy edit the essay published online. There is a minor typo in the second sentence:

    “after jut earning a Bachelor’s Degree from an unnamed Northeastern college,”

    Why 'The Graduate' Still Resonates Today

    On the close of your article you seem to abnegate the authority of your interpretation writing,

    “These readings, however, are just that: readings, inferences influenced by the opinions of an individual perspective. […]

    The film is, it would seem, exactly what you make of it.”

    I don’t know if this conclusion is necessary, especially since the first half of your essay builds substantial evidence for a coherent and authoritative reading of the film, which roots the images within a history of romanticist paintings and which verifies your impressions with quotes from Tarkovsky.

    I think that you’re right to allow other viewers their own interpretations, but I was under the impression that your research process granted you particular insights and a sense of intimacy with the film that justify authoritative interpretations.

    For example, you highlight the role of nostalgia for Tarkovsky which evinces an intimate knowledge with his on going obsessions in other films. When you write,

    “Indeed, Stalker’s remark upon entering the Zone, ‘home at last’, and his consternation upon returning to his family home, embody the term ‘nostalgia’, ‘the pain of the return home’ so central to Tarkovsky’s films”

    I get the impression that you are speaking from a place of authority, as one who has entered into the unique symbolic framework of Tarkovsky, as one who understands the particular meaning of ‘home at last,’ ‘nostalgia,’ and ‘the pain of the return home.’

    I think that your intimate understanding of those three senses, experiences, or categories is more than enough basis from which you can establish an authoritative interpretation of the film. I think that you do enough work for me the reader, such that I can now look at your evidence to contest and accept claims.

    While I respect your restraint and your use of understatement to describe your work as a series of “inferences,” I wish that you had taken the risk of putting yourself out there, to make claims that can be defended underneath the scrutiny of others.

    Thank you.

    Tarkovsky's 'Stalker': Deep as a Mirror

    This was an excellent piece. Thank you for demonstrating care and rigor in your thinking.

    The Games of 90s Indie Cinema: "Welcome to the Dollhouse" and "Sex, Lies, and Videotape"