Slashers, Sex, and the Death of a Beautiful Man Parts One & Two

by on Sep.06, 2010


Ways in which The Silent Scream (available on the Netflix instant) conforms to the standards of classic slasher flicks:

  • killer targets oversexed “teenagers” (who appear to be played by late-twenty-somethings)
  • gruesome family secret
  • eyeball peering from behind wall
  • cobwebby don’t-go-up-there stairs
  • fake blood galore
  • jilted girlfriend goes permanently mad
  • lobotomy
  • grizzled out-of-the-loop detectives
  • super stabby (and the knife penetrates fabric, doors, bodies, etc. etc.)

Ways in which it does not conform:

  • the eyeball behind the wall belongs to a woman, who also does the lunatic shushing, knife-wielding, fake-out-first-death, and much hauling and dressing up of corpses.

  • first victim is the rich, white, ablebodied, oversexed, grabby-handed dude

  • male bodies get segmented for viewing pleasure: crotches, thighs, feet, asses, and this guy spends most of the film more nekkid than the woman who oversexes him (who, incidentally, kicks him out of bed after the sex because she wants to go back to studying).It’s telling that I can’t find ANY images online of the nekkid men, but take my word, or watch the film for egregious crotch-shots (complete with the foot long flies of late 1970s pants)  (And note that even in the psych ward scene, we see the well-muscled buttocks of a male orderly waggling headlessly behind our villainess).

What would Laura Mulvey say?

What would Poe say?

What would Elisabeth Bronfen say?


When Poe tells us there is nothing more poetic than a beautiful dead woman, this is just one poet’s fancy.  Surely a beautiful dead man is worth a second look.  Lay him out nude on the bier, and fold his hands between his gently arched pectorals.  Wrap about his thigh a loose white sheet and drape him across the pathologist’s table.  Dig him up, just one week dead, and cover his eyes with new copper pennies.  Braid his sepulchral tresses, a nest for mice and sparrows.

Like most beautiful creatures, these male bodies are selfish.  They will continue to disrupt the poetic with their yawning, farting, and gabbing. Do not lose hope.  Much can be made of them pre-mortem.  While we cannot deny the male body participates but squeamishly in reproduction, The New York Times reveals the potential of the fragile male nipple.  Nearly five percent of male bodies experience mammary swelling during their partners’ pregnancies.  Their timid ducts produce a fluid akin to breast milk.  We must encourage these fledgling efforts. Photograph, paint, and compose odes to the weeping male nipple.  Envision the holy suckle—a halo about the fatherly head, the infant crown, the male areola glowing.

Further, admit the male body into commerce.  Allow the male body to follow the female body in its utility as objet d’art, from fine to commercial.  Where Calvin Klein has gestured with hip bones and abdominal muscles, let us extend and explode.  The shy glimpse of shaft in the open toothed zipper.  The youth, barely legal, stripped with his wrists and ankles bound to the gears of a printing press.  A stubbled chin and ripe tongue pressed to the bleached grout in a shower stall.

Consider the societal benefits.  Our eyes tire from centuries of pierced female bosoms and coy female buttocks, from the many abstractions of the labial fold and the endless parade of pubic hairstyles.  The beer is skunked and the couch on the porch stiff with spunk.  Let’s get the party started elsewhere.  Think how new, how underexploited the many attitudes of the cock, the ball sack, the little strip of flesh between scrotum and anus.  Consider the artistic benefits.  Women poets, from our privileged position inhabiting and constructing the body, must reach out to those who merely construct.  Must pierce and abrade, crack open and diagram, until they too experience the immanence of skin and bone.  Do not allow them to remain with their senseless noses pressed to the glass of our exquisite coffins.  Rather, grant them the opportunity to consider with every word written, with every article of clothing donned, and every step taken—Is it me or my body they admire, deface?  Is my greatest creation the poem or the child?  Which one shall I feed when both are hungry?  Is this violation an act of sex or power?  Would I be better loved headless and always, always erect?

3 comments for this entry:
  1. Adam Strauss

    D–this post is fabulous! I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO with you on the delightful potential in really really workin’ the objectification of the male body! Men–well, hot ones–are soooooo hot and so ripe for this kind of representation! (Tho it also seems like this mode could be concurrent to harassment). In some ways isn’t this much of what gay male representation already does, or am I totally off and Tom of Finland or somesuch is not really relevant here. I hope all’s well!

  2. Danielle

    Hey, Adam, thanks for the comment! Hmmm…it’s true, that male bodies certainly get represented this way in certain arenas, and even here & there in the mainstream, but I guess I’m thinking more about the way the globalizing effect of a male gaze that has been trained to seek out the death of a beautiful woman. A segmented female form. Etc. We ALL, each and everyone of us, get taught to gaze in this fashion, to assess the female form with it, so for this (satirical/not satirical!) plan of mine to work, we’re going to have get it into every home in every town.

  3. adam strauss

    Oh I am very much with ya on the desire that this objectification not just be in certain fringe spaces; all I was tryin’ to suggest is that some gay male representation does seem to do what you’re advocating. Although this is inchoate at this point, I wonder if the dominance/preponderance of the male gaze is thoroughly tied up in heterosexuality/heterosexism–and, ugh, women get the shit end of the heterosexual position (along with privilege which at this point lacks a solidly recognized lens so as to almost be illegible). I love the Thunder Down Under (or whatever the show is called) billboard near the Vegas airport in large part because it does put the thoroughly objectified male in a very visible public space. The one thing I am weary of is if this objectivity continues to valorize the cock–pecs,abs, biceps, asses, hurdygurdy thighs and quads, oh yeah, but there’s already–explicitly or implcitly, perhaps too much hard-on already out there. And the woody may be inextricable from the male gaze, from body as viewer instead of body as viewed. As is hopefully clear, I’m lovin’ thinkin’ ’bout these issues.

    I hope all’s well!