Willful Monstrosity

Gender and Race in 21st Century Horror


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About the Book

Taking in a wide range of film, television, and literature, this volume explores 21st century horror and its monsters from an intersectional perspective with a marked emphasis on gender and race. The analysis, which covers over 70 narratives, is organized around four primary monstrous figures—zombies, vampires, witches and monstrous women. Arguing that the current horror renaissance is populated with willful monsters that subvert prevailing cultural norms and systems of power, the discussion reads horror in relation to topics of particular import in the contemporary moment—rampant sexual violence, unbridled capitalist greed, brutality against people of color, militarism, and the patriarchy’s refusal to die. Examining ground-breaking films and television shows such as Get Out, Us, The Babadook, A Quiet Place, Stranger Things, Penny Dreadful, and The Passage, as well as works by key authors like Justin Cronin, Carmen Maria Machado, Helen Oyeyemi, Margo Lanagan, and Jeanette Winterson, this monograph offers a thorough account of the horror landscape and what it says about the 21st century world.

About the Author(s)

Natalie Wilson is a professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Cal State San Marcos in San Diego, California. She writes and teaches in the areas of popular culture, film, television, horror, women’s literature, and feminism.

Bibliographic Details

Natalie Wilson

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 285
Bibliographic Info: 25 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7344-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3726-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Preface 1
Introduction: Monster Matters 5

1. Staying Woke in an Undead World 17
Section 1: Lurching Engagements with Gender, Race and Class 22
Section 2: Eradicating Rape Culture ­Zombie-Style 42
Section 3: The Hopeful Apocalypse and the Zombie Child 54
Section 4: Undead Conservativism: “Legitimate” Zombie Rape and “Necessary” War 66

2. Draining the Imperialist White-Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy 78
Section 1: The Rise of the Vampire Activist 82
Section 2: ­Post-Traumatic Vampire Disorder 89
Section 3: Ethical Vampirism 99
Section 4: Viral Vampires and Dystopian Futures 113

3. Wicked Good 130
Section 1: Revising Witch History 134
Section 2: Patriarchy Be Damned 142
Section 3: ­Post-Millennial Fantasy and Fairy Tale Witches 156
Section 4: Conjuring Retribution 164

4. Woman, Thy Name Is Monster 181
Section 1: Gothic Monstrosity in Feminist Guise 185
Section 2: Get Out of My House! Banishing Systemic Monsters 197
Section 3: Gendered Discontent in 21st Century Creature Features 206
Section 4: Medusa Figures in ­Post-Millennial Horror 225

Conclusion: The Monster’s Tools 238
Chapter Notes 245
Bibliography 251
Film and Television Series 269
Index 271

Book Reviews & Awards

“Wilson’s text is a nice balance of research and a close reading of popular horror media. The result is a book that is a comprehensive analysis of the role that race and gender play in 21st Century horror.”—Signal Horizon Magazine