Ask Advice From The Socially Conscious Horror Fan

You've Asked Anne and Dear’d Abbey, but what about when you need to parse through a Horror Problem? That’s when you need to call The Socially Conscious Horror Fan: BJ Colangelo!

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Italian Films Are Pretty, Pretty, Preeeeetty Misogynstic.

I was getting ready to introduce a girl I went on a few dates with to some classics of Italian cinema, but as I was mentally trying to pick the film, I realized that a lot of these films that I find entertaining could be seen as, societally, highly controversial. Like Suspicious Death of a Minor is a really entertaining film, but it does render its female characters basically just to props and plot points. What should I tell her to get her excited about these films despite being woefully unwoke? 

Thanks, 
Woefully Unwoke

Dear Woefully Unwoke,

When analyzing non-American films, it’s important to look at the culture in which these films are being created. Reason being, it’s unfair to attach modern, Western ideals onto a European film from the 70s. Italian films, giallo films in particular, are rooted deeply in symbolism. The weaponry is often extremely phallic, the kills are dripping with sexual overtones, and the killer is often kept in black or shadows compared to the frequently pale and beautiful female victim. Because Giallo films are almost predominantly from the perspective of the male killer, the film is going to be shown through the lens of a male gaze. We are seeing what the killer is seeing, and these killers are bad people. My suggestion is to start the introduction of Italian films by using the filmography of Dario Argento as his films are direct responses to the misogynist criticisms of the genre, and progress to the seemingly more blatantly misogynist films. Once you get your feet wet (so to speak) with the culture and style of the films you’re looking to explore, it becomes easier to digest.


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How Can I Like These Films and Still Call For Gun Control?
I can’t help it, I really like Charles Bronson. I don’t know what it is about him, possibly because he is so unlike the action stars of today, but I find his performances to be absolutely magnetic. But when I watch his Death Wish movies, I feel a little bit like I need to watch it in Incognito Mode, ya know? In terms of action movies, they are a blast of grindhouse cinema. But in today’s terms, I understand that the films are highly problematic and controversial, from their views on guns to their treatment of anyone who’s not a white dude. Most recently the film Brawl In Cell Block 99 sparked similar controversies, but I was still able to view it purely as entertainment while still taking note of what people were taking offense to. Should I be ashamed that I can still deride entertainment from these films, especially in the wake of the recent spate of mass shootings?

Signed, 
Straight Shooter.

Dear Straight Shooter,
What we enjoy for entertainment does not always have to align with how we live our lives. Most of the joy of cinema is the escapism we’re allowed by going to another world. You’ve already done the difficult leg work of realizing that the films you enjoy can be seen as problematic. I challenge you to analyze within yourself WHY you find these films enjoyable. Are you drawn to the nostalgia factor of seeing films that resemble ones you watched when first discovering films? Do you enjoy the shoot-em-up style because it’s such an over the top portrayal of how justice actually works? Or do you enjoy the films because you enjoy seeing a white man in power during an age where other voices are being raised up? If you are drawn more to the third option, you should do some serious self reflection. Never feel ashamed of what you find entertaining, but rather analyze the reasons behind why you are entertained. As far as the recent spate of mass shootings, everyone is going to respond to tragedy in a different way and it’s unfair to think everyone should have the same reaction. Personally, I find ultraviolent films cathartic during times of tragedy because it allows me to deal with negative emotions with a safe distance. Ultimately, it’s going to be different for every person. And that’s okay. 
 

Op-Ed, ColumnsBJ Colangelo