Infestation, Transformation, and Liberation: Locating Queerness in the Monsters of ‘Body Horror’ Open Access
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Given the increased public enthusiasm for the genres of Horror and Science Fiction, as well as the renewed and ever-evolving interest in indie horror films (propelling them into the mainstream), there is a noticeable increase of public eagerness to consume films that toy with the ideas of anxiety and the body. While many of these films seem to fit the rubric of heteronormative and mainstream Hollywood productions that occupy a neat world of perfectly defined gender identities, we can still excavate bodies that fall outside of such neat definitions. On the one hand, we are presented with a defined female or male character, thrust into a chaotic situation through which they must endure tremendous anxiety and pain and strive to survive. On the other, these bodies seem to survive and thrive despite not fitting in with the simple heteronormative worlds in which they dwell. The purpose of this thesis is not to provide a stand-in or voice for the queer body, nor is its purpose to create an index of films that fall under the sub-genre of ‘Body Horror,’ but to explore how films in this genre that seem to privilege performances of able-bodiedness and heteronormativity actually treat queerness and queer topics in very different ways. This thesis wishes to explore these bodies as they cruise through their respective dystopian technofetishistic worlds; as their bodies are infected, their figures transformed, and their psyches liberated as they attain physical, sexual or psychological release. To facilitate both observation and maintain its central focus, this paper will be divided into three main parts. The first chapter will define key terms and phrases that are the central focus of this paper. The second chapter will explore the concept of ‘Infestation,’ which will focus on the queer and disabled bodies as they are occupied, annexed, and attacked by external forces or internal strife. This chapter will consider the concept of ‘Transformation’ and further examine the manner through which the “monstrous queer” emerges through the definition of normalcy and the anomalous. Lastly, the final chapter will revolve around the concept of ‘Liberation,’ and review these observations in terms of how these performances reconcile and imagine their own respective ideas of queer futures. This final chapter will expand the narrative of queer futurity while also dwelling on notions of the inevitable “queer dystopia” in ‘Body Horror’ films. The voices and scholarship in the fields of Queer and Disability Studies, Psychoanalysis, and Film Studies will guide this reading as it seeks out these bodies and unearths the deeply affective, psychological, and physical states of transformation they undergo.