Queer Monster Film Analysis
Uploaded by surfchick on Feb 20, 2005
Cultural norms and dominant ideologies determine the manner by which our culture encodes/decodes images. Encoding is the process by which the creator of a work, through conscious or unconscious means, inserts certain meanings into their work. Encoding also takes into the account the context of the work-where it is displayed and by whom it is seen. Decoding are the interpretations that the viewer comes up with, whether they be "intended, unintended, ...(or) even merely suggested meanings".
According to Stuart Hall, this process of interpretation, also called semiotics, can be further broken down into three distinct categories: Dominant-hegemonic reading, negotiated reading and oppositional reading.
Dominant-hegemonic reading describes the viewer/decoder as a passive subject, one whose interpretations is in unanimous agreement with the dominant message. The message/image entirely satisfies their socio-cultural experiences and norms. Oppositional reading is the utter rejection of the dominant reading, one where the reader rejects or reconfigures a message entirely.
Negotiated reading then is more realistic, taking into account that no one message will unquestionably satisfy all our cultural perceptions and that we therefore engage in a state of 'negotiation'. We accept a part of the dominant reading, but also allow our cultural experiences to transform or "even override the meanings imposed by producers and broader social forces". In this process, the viewer takes on an active role of interpretation, using his/her experiences to decode messages within the context of the society in which he/she lives.
The Classic Horror Films were made during the Production Code in 1930, which "forbade...the depiction or mention of homosexuality, or 'sex perversion', as it was classified." Benshoff points out that the Queer Monster immerged during this period and through encoded messages, satirizes the suppression of homosexuality and its stereotypes in popular media.
Using Benshoff's 'negotiated' theories, a close examine at the antagonist characters in The Old Dark House suggest peculiar 'queerness' in them. "Normal" people find themselves trapped by a rainstorm in an obscure looking house inhabited by "freaks" and "monsters", all of whom display some form of homosexual trait or another.
These "monsters" display traits that can be decoded as "incest, necrophilia, ...homosexuality, androgyny, sadomasochism, and orgiastic behavior" (43 Benshoff). Whereas the dominant/hegemonic-reading audience would unquestionably decode these clues as just pure entertainment, it is easy to see that the campy dark humor in this film was intentionally placed to satirize...