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The Monstrous Masculine: Abjection and Todd Solondz's Happiness

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Horror films often use the male as monster, though conventional ideology says that it is not his masculine characteristics that make him monstrous. Barbara Creed writes that in the horror film, the male body is represented as monstrous because it assumes characteristics usually associated with the female body. The thematic thread of Todd Solondz's Happiness (1998), beneath its facade of domestic anxiety, is that of deviant masculinity. In mapping Billy's horrific trajectory towards maturity, the film's project is an abject representation of the specific rites of passage that he must undergo in order to accede to manhood. Masculinity in the film is constructed as monstrous via the very characteristics that are inherent to his experience of becoming a man. While at face value Happiness would seem to elude classification as a horror film, it addresses these issues through the generic conventions of the horror film, employing many of the codes and conventions of horror, evoking an effect on the body of the spectator that is in keeping with the traditional appeal of the genre. Where these films traditionally work to annihilate the threat to patriarchy and repress the abject, Happiness concludes with images of the paternal order in crisis. Billy comes to embody the monstrous masculine, his semen marking the collapse of symbolic law, illustrated by the failure of the paternal figure to prohibit the incestuous bond that is established between mother and child.
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Keywords: Creed; Happiness; Kristeva; Solondz; abjection; monstrous masculine

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Napa Valley College.

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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  • Horror Studies intends to serve the international academic community in the humanities and specifically those scholars interested in horror. Exclusively examining horror, this journal will provide interested professionals with an opportunity to read outstanding scholarship from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including work conceived as interdisciplinary. By expanding the conversation to include specialists concerned with diverse historical periods, varied geography, and a wide variety of expressive media, this journal will inform and stimulate anyone interested in a wider and deeper understanding of horror
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