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Bad Seeds and Holy Terrors - coverMy book, Bad Seeds and Holy Terrors: The Child Villains of Horror Film (SUNY Press, 2014), has just been reprinted in affordable paperback and ebook editions and is available now from the publisher, Amazon, and anywhere else you can find it. The paperback is currently available for $24.95, and the Kindle ebook is less than $15.

Professor Gwedolyn Audrey Foster (University of Nebraska-Lincoln), writing for CHOICE reviews, recently described Bad Seeds as ‘a bracing book’ that ‘more than does [its subject] justice.’  Please follow the SUNY Press link below to read more about it. Needless to say, I recommend Bad Seeds to anyone interested in horror film and this curiously popular subgenre; the book addresses questions like why these films emerged and why they’re frightening. However, it also uses horror (a conspicuously ‘adult-only’ domain) to explore a host of powerful roles and meanings adults have projected onto children in western culture — and how they malfunction.

Anyone who does order: thank you so much for your support!

Amazon
SUNY Press

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Astrology

Astrology

 

Scientific explanations of how each instant is split

Into infinite variations,

Possibilities, permutations,

Of the instantaneous chaos of action and reaction,

Keep me motionless.

So that I can only cover my one head with my two arms,

And tumble headlong and blockishly

From one moment to the next,

As if down a flight of stairs.

 

These days I follow astrology,

Wondrous signs and cycles.

Now is the time make travel plans.

This is a good year for work.

Mars is in Libra’s eighth house.

Saturn return will bring change

And realignment.

A language of women with soft voices and folded hands.

I seek contentment in the sigh of tides,

In meanings pinned to stars.

 

But now and again,

I still think of how a couple of rolled dice

Might have glowed like a constellation.

If I had, at just the right moment,

Taken one of my warm hands,

Squeezed one—or both—of yours,

And said something like (or perhaps exactly)

You know, I do love you…

 

But we’re off and away now,

Each soul-deep in a million new tangles,

The twistings of which

Cannot possibly

Be retraced.

Life of Pi (2012): Film Guide

Life of PiMy guide to Ang Lee’s sumptuous and moving film, Life of Pi, has now been published by Insight Publications. This film has been added to the Australian year 11/12 English syllabus, and I hope that readers will find this guide a helpful resource for teaching and studying it.

The guide is 73 pages (approximately 22,000 words), and includes the following: character map; background on the writer and director; detailed synopsis; character summaries; discussion of the film in its historical and cultural context (including debates over religion and reason, as well as animal ethics); detailed discussion of genre, structure, and style; scene-by-scene analysis, including key points and study questions; detailed discussion of characters and their relationships; involved analysis of themes (including fiction versus reality, choosing faith or reason, respect for non-human animals, the ‘true’ nature of non-human animals, the value of both family connections and independence, the general theme of ‘discovery’, and the importance of saying goodbye and letting go).

life-of-pi-screenshot-13It also contains a section addressing different critical interpretations of Lee’s film (including its relationship to Yann Martel’s source novel). A particularly helpful feature of all Insight guides is their focus on essay planning and writing: this guide includes a section on structuring an essay, sample essay topics, a detailed analysis of one of those topics with a sample essay outline (with complete introduction and conclusion), and a complete sample essay in response to another question (written to Year 11/12 A+ standard). The guide also includes a list of references for further reading.

life of pi screenshot 2Life of Pi is a stylistically brilliant yet thoughtfully composed film. It’s also thematically rich, offering a number of very worthwhile points for discussion and study — points that are both serious and provocative, yet accessible enough for the year-levels for which the film has been set. I hope this guide helps navigate, tease out, and enjoyably expand upon all this film has to offer.

Available from the publisher, Insight Publications.

Ageing, Popular Culture and Contemporary FeminismImelda Whelehan and Joel Gwynne’s wonderful collection, Ageing, Popular Culture and Contemporary Feminism: Harleys and Hormones, is now out from Palgrave Macmillan, featuring my chapter “Too Old for This Shit?: On Ageing Tough Guys.”

Blurb from the publisher:

The past decade has seen an increase in popular cultural representations of ageing, in response to the realities of an ageing Western population and an acknowledgement of the economic significance of consumption by seniors. Yet, while contemporary film often depicts late middle to old age as a time of renewal and acceptance, most popular depictions of ageing focus on images of loss, decline, and the fear of physically ageing ‘naturally’. Ageing in popular culture is a battlefield, with increasing numbers of euphemisms used to disguise the fact of age.

Feminist discourse has kept forever young, even though some of its most eminent proponents are ageing and dying. In the field of popular cultural studies the emphasis on the discourse of postfeminism and the ‘girling’ of culture has foregrounded the concerns of young women at the expense of a focus on older women, or what ‘gender’ means for middle-aged to older people generally. This collection demonstrates how popular culture constructs ageing as a perilous experience for not only women but also for men, while also underscoring the possibilities (and problems) of positive representations of ageing in the wider culture and in feminist criticism.

Bruce Willis in Die Hard 4.0 (2006)My chapter addresses the resurgence of several iconic cinema tough guys in the 2000s, including Bruce Willis in new installments of the Die Hard franchise (2007 and 2013), Sylvester Stallone in Rocky Balboa (2006) and Rambo (2008), and a veritable brigade of ageing beefcake in The Expendables (2010). I argue that the re-popularization of these stars was indicative of renewed cultural interest in traditional gender roles in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Generally in these films, physical violence is used to shore up masculinities perceived to be threatened by the ageing process. However, I argue that even though these tough-guy heroes may have come back (‘with a vengeance’), the films in which they appear also acknowledge that the ageing male will not always be able to ‘legitimize’ his status through stunning demonstrations of violence. Consequently, several of these films seek to navigate for their male heroes ways of maintaining prestige beyond its persistent physical enforcement.

Ageing, Popular Culture and Contemporary Feminism at Palgrave; at Amazon.

West African Groundnut Stew

I don’t post recipes; that I am choosing to do so in this instance will thus indicate my satisfaction with this one I’ve been fiddling with. Following the directions below will leave you with a luxuriously thick, healthy and cruelty-free West African Groundnut Stew. A colleague kindly passed this recipe on to me (exact source unknown. . . West Africa!). I’ve made it several times, gradually making a few amendments that make it both tastier and more nutritious.

Preliminary note: I don’t own or care about actual measuring cups. I use drinking mugs, so when I say 1 Cup, just throw a mug-full in there. If you do this consistently it’ll all balance out in the end!  (Or you can use exact cups if you like; I’m sure it won’t matter.)

Ingredients: (Serves 4)
1 half of a 375g jar of crunchy peanut butter (approx 1/2 cup)
2 garlic cloves, pressed (minced from the jar is fine; 2 generous teaspoons)
2 teaspoons of grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (adjust to taste; this is supposed to be spicy but not infernal)
3 tablespoons of peanut oil
[optional: 1 & 1/2 cups of chopped green beans; this will make it a little more filling though)
2 teaspoons of salt (adjust to taste, you might like an extra half-teaspoon or so)
3 cups of cubed sweet potato (I recommend approx 1/2-inch cubes, or you’ll be waiting forever for them to soften)
2 fistfuls of chopped fresh coriander leaves
1/2 170g bag of fresh spinach leaves, or two decent handfuls (optional but recommended; I like a lot of green on the scene. Add even more if you like.)
2 cups chopped onion (approx 2 good-sized onions)
3 cups of tomato juice
1/2 cup of apple juice
2 generous-sized chopped tomatoes
4-5 cups of fresh chopped choy sum (a.k.a. bok choy sum; i.e. a whole bunch as purchased)

Sidekick: your favourite thick and crusty bread (to be toasted in slices).

Instructions:

  • Groundnut Stew - simmerSaute the onions in the oil for about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in the cayenne and garlic; saute for a couple more minutes.
  • Add the choy sum, sweet potatoes and saute, covered, for a few more minutes; but lift off to stir it around a bit. That’s a lot of choy sum in there, but it’ll reduce down of course.
  • Mix in the juices, salt, ginger, coriander, and tomatoes. If you go too heavy on the apple juice this will be too sweet and it’ll be a pain in the ass to re-balance it. I recommend starting with a half-cup (no more); you can always add a splash more later.
  • Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender.
  • If you like, you can put the chopped green beans in at this point, then simmer for another 5 minutes. This is where I add the spinach instead. There isn’t any reason why you can’t add both — never too much veg, right?
  • Stir in the peanut butter, then gently simmer until ready to serve. Give it slurp to see if it’s spicy enough. If you like it a little sweeter, add a further splash of apple juice. If you can’t get enough of that peanutty taste, spoon an extra dollop in there. You know what you like.

If it gets too thick, simply add more tomato juice; it’s a stew but you don’t want it too boggy. Also, naturally you’ll lose liquid when you reheat later, so add a little more tomato juice before you do so.

Add your favourite garnish and serve with the lightly toasted bread.

Groundnut Stew

SUNY Press, 2014 http://www.sunypress.edu/p-5921-bad-seeds-and-holy-terrors.aspx

SUNY Press, 2014

I’m delighted to announce the publication of my book, Bad Seeds and Holy Terrors: The Child Villains of Horror Film, by State University of New York Press. The book is currently available in electronic form, and the hardcover edition will be released on November 1.

This book wrangles with the numerous child villains who have haunted horror cinema over many decades, including Damien Thorn (The Omen), Regan MacNeil (The Exorcist), Samara (The Ring), and Rhoda Penmark (The Bad Seed), and the psychic terrors of Village of the Damned (pictured on the cover), among others. It interrogates in detail and with a variety of theoretical tools a cultural obsession with imagining children as objects of terror. In doing so, it highlights popular horror cinema as a vital topic of analysis, exposing it as a site of deep and volatile ambivalence toward children.

Available in print and digital form from the publisher, SUNY Press; Amazon; and others.

“This is impeccably well researched and presented. It holds its own at the top of film studies scholarship. Sprightly in its survey across key areas of cultural anxiety and able to draw on a range of lucid examples, Lennard produces sophisticated and complex extended analyses where necessary. A pleasure to read.”  — Linda Ruth Williams, University of Southampton, United Kingdom

“Deftly organized, elegantly written, and graced throughout with numerous stills and frame blowups, Bad Seeds and Holy Terrors has something to offer both the lay reader and the scholar.” — CHOICE

Reading the Bromance

Reading the BromanceI’m very thrilled to have my work included in this terrific new book on the ‘bromance’ phenomenon, Reading the Bromance: Homosocial Relationships in Film and Television, edited by the wonderful Michael DeAngelis (DePaul University), out in June from Wayne State University Press in both print and ebook formats.

Reading the Bromance examines a wide range of films and TV shows replete with bromantic affection. As well discussion and analysis of bromance staples like The 40-year-old Virgin (2005), Knocked Up (2007), Superbad (2007), and I Love You, Man (2009), the book also focuses analytical attention on texts like Grumpy Old Men (1993), TV’s House, and Scream (1996); it addresses cross-cultural bromances as well, buddies in Hindi cinema, and much more. Readers will find discussion of men engaged in bromance’s obsession with mimicking homosexuality while insisting that these displays are indeed only mimicry.

My chapter is titled “‘This ain’t about your money, bro. Your boy gave you up’: Bromance and Breakup in HBO’s The Wire.” As its title indicates, this piece focuses on the acclaimed HBO crime drama The Wire. This show probably isn’t the first thing that jumps to mind when one thinks of bromance, yet The Wire abounds with close male partnerships. Centrally and critically celebrated is the relationship between drug kingpin Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris) and his right-hand man, Russell “Stringer” Bell (Idris Elba), which is phrased in terms of family but—I argue—consolidated in a series of romantic and virtually sexual gestures.

Authors include Hilary Radner, David Greven, Nick Davis, Meheli Sen, Jenna Weinman, Ken Feil, Peter Forster, Ron Becker, Murray Pomerance, and editor Michael DeAngelis.

Praise for Reading the Bromance:

Everything you always wanted to know about the bromance, but were afraid to ask! This new volume explores contemporary masculinity, homosocial desire, and homosexual/homophobic knowing as it plays out across film and TV texts such as I Love You, Man, Superbad, The Wire, Jackass, and Humpday. In thoughtful and provocative ways, DeAngelis and his authors cover the history, forms, and multiple meanings of this curious phenomenon. Essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary models of gender and sexuality.

– Harry M. Benshoff, Professor of Radio, TV, and Film at University of North Texas and author of Dark Shadows (Wayne State University Press, 2011)

This lively and perceptive collection of essays posits the ‘bromance’ film as an ambivalent response to gay liberation and the women’s movement that allows for expanded representations of male intimacy even when operating within heteronormativity. Reading the Bromance is a valuable volume for those who want to understand the role of gender and sexuality in contemporary popular cinema.

– Mary Desjardins, author of Recycled Stars: Female Film Stardom in the Age of Television and Video and co-editor of Dietrich Icon

Reading the Bromance‘s remarkably sophisticated essays analyze the twisted generic complexity of a long history of representing male-male relations. Studying the formula’s homosocial and heteronormative behaviors, these authors demonstrate how these texts permit fluid cultural and social adventures involving emotions, maturity, gender, taste, and physicality. A terrific collection.

– Janet Staiger, William P. Hobby Centennial Professor Emeritus in Communication and Professor Emeritus of Women’s and Gender Studies.

Reading the Bromance is available in June from Wayne State University Press.

 


 

My Kitchen Ideology Rules

mkrlogoOn the weekend, my partner and I went to the Royal Hobart Regatta, which includes a few water-focused attractions, but primarily exists as a series of carnival rides, sideshow games, and food stalls. Nevertheless, Hobartians are afforded a public holiday in the Regatta’s honour, and since the sun was shining we decided to walk my dog Ahab down there (where I popped a handful of balloons with a dart and won a fluffy toy, which Ahab—with an immediate thrill—recognised as a gift). I didn’t expect to encounter any vegan food there, and we only intended to visit quickly, so I decided I’d just have lunch when I got back home.

regatta1However, once we arrived I was delighted to spot a van advertising both vegetarian and vegan tacos. To find such an offering felt like a small coup; I made sure I grabbed one of those vegan tacos on the way out—and very fresh, delicious, and challengingly spicy it was too. Nor was I the only purchaser: the operators had three more vegan tacos poised to go. At a carnival, surrounded by corndog and fairy floss vendors, vegan food was being served—and selling. Ten years ago, I seriously doubt whether the young person serving would have known what a vegan was. Moments like these are satisfying because they bring to attention that for an increasing number of people eating is an act invested with moral significance. More and more people are bothering to consider where their food comes from, how much it suffered when it was an animal, and whether the mere taste of something is worth an animal’s suffering or being killed at all.

mkr1Yet to watch the Seven Network’s My Kitchen Rules is to be transported to an earlier time—one almost Medieval in its emphasis on varieties of animal flesh, and on animals as not more than mere ingredients. Let’s bear in mind that a 2009 survey indicated that 7% of the Australian population identified as vegetarian (5%) or vegan (2%). In addition to vegan food now being served by carnival vendors, there are several reasons to suspect that this figure has increased since 2009 (e.g. the growth and large-scale campaigns of Australian anti-cruelty alliance Animals Australia; the emergence of a majority consumer-preference for cage-free eggs and other products with a higher welfare value). Yet any vegetarian or vegan viewer of My Kitchen Rules is struck hard by how thoroughly the show excludes all ethical comment on meat and dairy consumption. Veal is a perennial favourite on MKR, as it is on rival Network Ten’s hit cooking show Masterchef. Both Masterchef and MKR do not address, critique, respectfully (or even disrespectfully) disagree with cruelty-free diets; they enforce the dominant ideology of meat-eating by pretending that they do not exist at all.

The purpose that products of animal death are put to on My Kitchen Rules and Masterchef is transparently frivolous—is purely recreational: this is sport-cooking. Consequently, it is in the show’s interest to exclude totally any questions of whether it is ethical to eat meat as a general matter, and to broadly disacknowledge that such questioners exist within the general public.

In Animal Liberation, Peter Singer described the process of indoctrination through which budding scientists were inured to the ethical problems raised by animal testing. Students’ success and certification depended on their learning to regard animals as replaceable laboratory equipment (equipment that was in many cases purchased from the same catalogues and suppliers as non-sentient items like clamps and scalpels). For the scientists described by Singer, ethical questions were not fundamental to animal use but an irrelevant and irrational (and thus ‘unscientific’) interference in scientific progress. The use of animals clearly differs in the case of My Kitchen Rules: living animals are not tortured by MKR contestants the way they are tortured by the scientists Singer mentions. However, MKR, like Masterchef, subjects contestants and viewers alike to a culinary culture in which ethical questions are similarly irrelevant. The animals concerned are ‘ingredients’ and do not warrant ethical contemplation. Historically, many scientists and students who have opposed animals’ treatment as ‘equipment’ have found their professional and educational opportunities blocked. Willingness to disregard animal suffering is constructed as an inherent and non-negotiable sign of one’s ability and identity as a ‘serious’ scientist. Similarly, the deliberate disregard for cruelty-free diets in MKR and Masterchef perpetuates a culinary ideology in which ethical objections prevent one from being a ‘serious’ chef. Consequently, the show perpetuates the myth that vegetarianism or veganism is ‘anti-culinary’ in its exclusion of particular, ‘important’ ingredients, and that vegetarian/vegan cooking has marginal culinary, artistic, or labour value.

Harry and Christo of Seven's My Kitchen Rules. Much to the judges' and their own disappointment, they fucked up the veal dish. Imagine how the calf's mother felt.

Harry and Christo of Seven’s My Kitchen Rules. Much to the judges’ and their own disappointment, they mucked up the veal dish. Their clumsiness attained the status of moral breach; the use of veal per se, however, escaped all question.

MKR presents a domain in which meat operates as a signifier of many things. It may signify class belonging, due to a particular meat’s expensiveness or cooking difficulty; labour or artistry, through a delicate balancing of flavours and textures; familial bonds or affections, through recipes bestowed and inherited; it may signify national or ethnic belonging, or operate as a signifier of friendship between contestants. Yet it never signifies what it most nakedly is: the flesh of a once-living creature, and an artifact of slaughter. In this totalising and certainly deliberate disacknowledgement of meat’s origin, MKR constructs a kind of consumer fairyland, located in an ethical vacuum—a simulated reality in which eating animals raises no more ethical question than shooting someone in a videogame. Contestants (and viewers) are invited to ‘play’ with it to the fullest extent—to revel in its variety, smells, tastes, textures, to take an almost hysterically bourgeois interest in its presentation. Here is food as an artistic medium seemingly without material origin.

But, crucially, it does have an origin: it comes from sponsor and supermarket monopolist Coles, who flood the show’s breaks with advertisements for the products utilised by contestants. And here of course lies the reason for the veritable matrix of normative consumer-behavior the show constructs. In the world of MKR, the animals killed for meat-products are non-existent; they are ‘absent referents,’ as Carol Adams famously described the animals we eat. Absent also is the farming, transport, stocking, and scientific labour involved in food production. Instead, food is the fresh and seemingly ‘magical’ production of the supermarket giant. Clearly, contrasting ethical positions are deliberately disregarded because of the sponsor’s desire to profit from the sale of animal products. Yet the show’s ‘reality’ format makes especially insidious its manufacturing of a cultural and consumer landscape bereft of all ethical questioning and protest.

 

Cited:

Adams, Carol J. The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory. 1990. Continuum, 2010.

Singer, Peter. Animal Liberation. 1975. London: Pimlico, 1995.

 

 

Scent of Rain (music)

Here’s one for all you heartbroken lovers. Free stream/download/lyrics here. You can also listen via Soundcloud (below).

 

Tyrant QueenThe new track from Black Lotus, titled “Tyrant Queen (Whip of the Wind)”.

If you can’t handle Dave Mustaine’s early Megadeth vocals (or his later ones), this will be too much dirty rock power for you. But if you can, I hope you have fun with this.

Lyrics and free stream/download here.
You can also listen on Soundcloud or Youtube.