Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Monstrous Mother in House

It seems that we have examined House from every possible angle in our class discussions, from talking about the historical and cultural problems of post-war Japan, manifest through the generational tensions and the conglomerated appearance of traditional Japanese culture and western cultures, to discussions of the carnivalesque, abjection, and the monstrous feminine.  I find that Creed's use of abjection in discussing the monstrous feminine to be the most interesting way of looking at the women, both monsters and victims, in House.

Kristeva's understanding of abjection is rooted in her discussion of what she calls the "semiotic" which in Lacanian terms is the imaginary, the pre-Symbolic phase in which the infant has not yet been differentiated from the mother. Women therefore, according to Kristeva, have a greater opportunity to re-access the pre-Symbolic. They are also more closely linked to the abject through menstrual blood and the birthing process. One notion of abjection then becomes the "confrontation with the feminine" which hearkens back to the son-mother incest prohibition. This confrontation with the feminine (and Kristeva notes that we regard as feminine anything that is seen as other "without a name, which subjective experience confronts when it does not stop at the appearance of its identity" Maybe we can retire the word "feminism" and use "otherism"?) is the "coming face to face with an unnamable otherness" (59). This confrontation with the feminine/unnamable otherness/abject is according to Creed a significant element of horror film watching: "Viewing horror film signifies a desire not only for perverse pleasure (confronting sickening, horrific images/being filled with terror/desire for the undifferentiated) but also a desire, once having been filled with perversity, taken pleasure in perversity, to throw up, throw out, eject the abject" (10). The key word that ties all of this together is the desire for the "undifferentiated" which, if we bring yet another person into the discussion, Bataille would argue is the obliteration of the self that happens in death and sex. Confronting the monstrous/abject feminine therefore threatens obliteration, and this threat is desirable because, as a viewing audience, we are able to confront it and overcome it, thus solidifying our own sense of subjectivity.

Now, applying all of this to House. There are several scenes that support this idea of becoming subsumed back into the pre-Symbolic world of undifferentiation.   The most obvious for me is the scene where the cat is spewing bloody liquid into the house, drowning and dissolving Prof in this amniotic fluid, drawing her into the space of pre-Symbolic and undifferentiated state of being, an obliteration of both her body and subjectivity.   We also see it when Gorgeous sees herself, her aunt, and her mother in the mirror before she burns up and is subsumed by house.

Gorgeous, however, plays a different role from Prof because she is not only dissolved and consumed by Auntie, she is incorporated into her to the point where we are unsure of the boundary between Auntie and Gorgeous. She maintains her appearance as Gorgeous, and becomes the consuming mother with Fanta. Is she Gorgeous? Is she the Auntie? We may even see her as her own mother, especially in the last scene where she kills her father's new bride. Rather than a lack of boundaries, however, we may see these women all existing within the same abject boundary, undifferentiated from each other,but separate from the rational world.

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