Why People Watch Extreme Cinema


This paper explores the topic why people watch extreme cinema. The paper commences with an introduction that introduces all the points that are going to be discussed in the essay. Various points regarding the psychoanalytic reasons why people watch extreme cinema are discussed. These include points like the need to run away from reality, which is given basis by the problems that some people encounter on a daily basis. Secondly, irrational behavior and the need to explore what these films are about. The need to recount the violence depicted in the Bible and other pre-written narratives. Fourthly, the notion of absence/presence whereby the spectators make something that is not at the scene present through mental pictures. The paper incorporates the works of prominent authors in cinema psychoanalysis such as Etherington-Wright, Miller, and Hayward. Other points discussed include the power of cinema, which manipulates people to go back and watch more, the screen-mirror analogy, and fantasies and dreams that take place during watching the film. The essay provides a critic regarding some of the points regarding why people like watching extreme films and this involves the making of the movie. The essay explores the works of authors such as McCormack who alleges that the way the films are made also contributes to people desiring to watch them. It should be noted that the idea behind how the films are made also motivates some people to like watching extreme films. The author notes that some aspects are added during the filmmaking process, which appeal to a spectator; thus, making a person fall in love with the works of  a certain director, which explains why some people like watching extreme films. The essay incorporates four sources to provide a psychoanalysis of why people like watching extreme cinemas. The essay concludes with recap of main points discussed in the essay.

Why People Watch Extreme Cinema

Extreme cinema usually contains violence, sex, and gore of an intense nature. Analysts have taken the trouble to explore the reason that motivates people to  watch such types of films and the main reason that has abounded is that of human behavior. Psychoanalysis has been applied extensively in explaining this human behavior, and two main reasons have been established regarding peoples’ desire for these movies. The first reason centers on the visual properties of extreme cinemas while the second reason focuses on fiction. The analysis regarding extreme cinemas dates back to as early as 1926, whereby Jean Goudal advanced that the boundary between the conscious and unconscious influenced peoples’ like of extreme cinema as extreme cinema brought to the fore the experience of the surrealist art. In other words, it can be alleged that peoples’ desire for extreme cinema is the need to escape from the real world. This is ascertained by Jean’s point that cinema has a kinship with the dream world. Another reason that explains why people prefer extreme cinema is the fact that a film contains some aspects that enable a person to escape from the tyranny of reason while at the same time indulging in processes of associating and condensing meaning (Kydd, 2011). However, Elspeth Kydd in the book, “The Critical practice of Film” propagates the idea that peoples’ awareness regarding how films are made is what motivates them to watch the cinemas. Thus, this essay provides a critical approach regarding the reason why people like to watch extreme cinema, which is build from the historical reasons of different authors.

According to Hayward (2006), cinema makes what is absent become present. Cinema achieves this characteristic through enabling people to watch what was prefabricated in the past in the form of a narrative to become present. Gender has influenced this characteristic largely whereby a character in the movie is heroized [sic]. This point is depicted mostly in early movies from the west where women were not featured in cinemas. Thus, male characters were used in their place, which increased the viewers desire to watch such cinemas as they adored such characters and followed them closely. For instance, in the 1950s, movies featured Marlon Brandon, who was considered an object of desire by many viewers because of the roles he played in such moves. Other movies that facilitate the absent/present characteristic include Johnny Guitar that was starred [sic] by Joan Crawford. Arguably, the notion of absent/present motivates people to watch extreme cinemas because the characters that are incorporated facilitate the absent/present characteristic indulge in scenarios that keep the viewers guessing and amazed concerning the stunts that the character performs.

Secondly, Miller and Stam (2004) employ the psychoanalysis theory in explaining why people like watching extreme cinema. They are of the opinion that watching extreme cinema can be considered as irrational behavior. Miller and Stam (2004) are interested in Freud’s opinion regarding irrational behavior, which is attributed to the unconscious states of mind. Freud indicates that the unconscious states of archaic infantile derive because of the prohibition that exists regarding watching extreme movies. For instance, a child’s desire to watch extreme cinema is explained  as originating from the parents sexualized desire for sex to their child. The term Oedipus Complex is utilized in explaining why a child will be more inclined to watch extreme cinema in relation to his/her parent’s sexualization desire. According to Miller & Stam (2004), a male child will be more inclined to watch extreme cinema because of a Oedipus Complex, which is a result of the intolerability that the child has on the newly developed ego in relation to his father’s that is termed as the super-ego. On the other hand, girls are deemed as already “castrated” from the fact that they do not receive much threat from their father, which means that their individuation is less complete, their lives have a less installed mechanism of repression. Thus, this is why boys like watching extreme cinemas as compared to girls.

Another reason explained from the psychoanalytic point of view regarding why people like watching extreme cinemas concerns fantasies and dreams. However, it is noted that the application of psychoanalytic theory in the explanation of this point strongly depends on the aspect of the medium that is being  illuminated. Under this point, it is noted that cinemas tend to transform or augment vision. Miller & Stam (2004) assert that cinema works upon a spectator’s mind like an image that is on the screen, which projects the spectator’s dreams. It is also noted by Etherington-Wright & Doughty (2011) that cinema works upon a spectator’s mind to yield perverted pleasures. On the other hand, psychoanalytic film critics observe that the visuals from cinemas that are fictitious act as wish-fulfilling and present our collective fantasies, which explains why people like watching extreme movies.

In her book “Cinesexuality”, MacCormack (2008) argues that people fancy extreme cinemas for the art bit that is depicted. However, the author notes that extreme images usually cause problems because some people consider them offensive or silly. In addition, she asserts that most of the gore pervertions depicted in the images are usually hyper-perfomative and way over the top. This explains why some people detest extreme films, but according to MacCormack (2008), they convey art in the extremity. Thus, concerning “Cinesexuality”, the author indicates that all people who love cinema derive few moments of invocations and pleasure from the images. This, the author asserts that it depends on the infinite spectator-desire combinations to find the pleasure and invocations from a finite number of images.

In the book “The Critical Practice of Film”, Kydd (2011) critically observes the main intention behind the creation of films and why some people end up liking them more than others. The author notes that there is some visual pleasure and narrative aspect that appeals to some viewers. However, Kydd (2011) notes that films mostly appeal to males because of sexual objectification. The author explicates the aforementioned idea through discussing the various types of spectatorship that  derive from the subconscious engagement in the movies. Thus, the three “different looks”, as explicated by Kydd (2011), include the camera in the recording action, the practically voyeuristic act, which is depicted by the audience in the process of watching the film, and lastly, the interaction of characters from the beginning to the end of the movie. From the above analysis, the author deducts that males have actively developed their role in “looking” while females have perpetuated the passive role of being looked at, which explains why males have a high liking of watching films. Kydd (2011) also notes that the films are created in a sense that female characters are given roles that are encoded with strong erotic and visual element, and this sums up why males like watching extreme films. The author sums up by noting that female characters in films usually do not impact significantly on the plot of the film as they have passive role of ensuring the continuity of the story line. In addition, they bear the brunt  of sexual objectification that the male character cannot do.

Another psychoanalytic view regarding why people like watching extreme films centers on the power that films have. Miller & Stam (2004) point out that the power of the film is manipulative and profoundly dangerous. Thus, the western Marxists, including Theodor Adorno, who explored this issue in relation to Freud’s analysis regarding group analysis and commented that some governments of capitalistic nature discovered the power that films had; thus, employed them to get the population to be docile and compliant. This means that some governments make movies that will have an immense impact on the population; thus, lure them to go back to the theaters and enjoy themselves while the government is undertaking its business. Another point that is closely related to this is the fact that people who like watching extreme films are trying to escape from reality. From the psychoanalytic point of view, this is true because some people find a lot of pressure in the natural world and in order to find some reprieve from the hardships that they face, they resort to spending the whole day in  theatres in order to cool off. An example of a student who confessed to spending many hours in theaters watching movies is provided. The boy asserted that school was putting a lot of pressure at him while, at the same time, his parents were not fun to spend time with and at home they quarrelled from time to time. This explains why he spent many hours in the theater because it provided good feelings to him. The boy notes that the music in theaters is soothing, and the scenes are entertaining. From the above example, we find proof that people like watching extreme films because it helps them run away from reality.

Hayward (2006) employs the screen-mirror analogy in explicating why people like watching extreme films. Hayward notes that the screen can be compared to mirror-misrecognition, which is a concept advanced by Lacan. The significant difference that denotes from Hayward’s analogy is that a person cannot see himself/herself in the cinema. For a clear explanation, this means that when people go to watch films, it is like the analogy advanced by Hayward above, which denotes a sense of a person being behind a mirror but cannot see himself or herself. There is only an illusionary sense of identity, which is formed in the spectator’s mind. Thus, this is another explanation why people like watching extreme movies as it satisfies their illusionary sense of being in the movie as their favorite characters.

MacCormack (2008) points out that there is some religious aspect related to why some people like watching extreme films. This follows the Bible stories where ancient people were involved in wars that God helped them sail through. According to MacCormack (2008), this religious aspect makes people want to recount how the Bible stories transpired through the movies, and that is why some people spend most of time watching extreme films. The Bible story about Jesus also has violent scenes, which include the way Jesus was tortured before his crucifixion. Notably, many Christians celebrate the life and death of Jesus annually;thus, they watch the movie in an attempt of recounting his life and the torture that he underwent before his death. This also forms a point regarding why people like watching extreme films.

In conclusion, violence, gore, and sex of an intense nature are usually present in extreme films. Human behavior contributes significantly to them desiring to watch extreme films. Thus, different opinions have abounded regarding why people like watching extreme films and they have been argued from a psychoanalytic point of view. Firstly, Etherington-Wright & Doughty (2011) have pointed out that films bring out perversive desires to human’s mind. The art bit of the extreme films has also been indicated as a factor that contributes to people liking to watch movies. This is so despite the counter-arguments regarding how extreme films corrupt morals with what they try to depict. Irrational behavior also contributes to people watching extreme films in that some people derive some sort of fetish from watching extreme films. Another point asserted regarding why people watch extreme films concerns the need to escape from reality. Research on the topic of discussion intimates that some people prefer watching extreme films as a form of entertainment and escape from the harsh reality of life. Another essential point regarding the desire to watch extreme films centers on the fact that, the films facilitate the making of the absent/present. Miller & Stam (2004) were also of the opinion that men are the ones cultured to be lovers of films. They indicate that males have the habit of watching while women have adapted to being watched at. This explains why in many films women are not featured as the lead characters, but they play subordinate roles, which will ensure the continuity of the plot.

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