Pain, Porn and Complicity: Women Heroes from Pygmalion to Twilight

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By: Kathleen McConnell

December 2012
194 pages | ISBN 978-1-894987-68-4
$19.00

Why does Bella lie so much in Twilight? Why was Catwoman such a bad movie? What was the reason Dark Angel was so short-lived? Poet and scholar Kathleen McConnell tackles these, and other, subjects in this collection of essays. Drawing on analysis from Freud to chaos theory, and a large body of research, McConnell starts with Pygmalion, and unravels the cultural threads that bind the way women protagonists are characterized in popular culture. This careful, and at times wry, examination considers not only why women are portrayed in these ways, but discusses the effect of those characterizations on the culture that consumes them.  

Excerpt from "The Twilight Quartet: Romance, Porn, Pain and Complicity"

In a world rife with the detritus of marketing failures, the investment in the Twilight quartet of novels and associated transmedia could not have been so outrageously successful if the books didn't somehow promise to satisfy some collective, unslaked thirst felt by the individuals who read them: "The phenomenal sales of the Twilight series, and the fervor of the fans, suggest that the series fills an important void in some girls' and womens' lives" (Behm-Morawitz, 152). And therein lies the difference between composted sheep manure, and books. One is for growing vegetables, the other for growing minds. Just what kind of growth the Twilight books encourage is an issue that engages reviewers, fan bloggers and scholars. Jennifer Aubrey and her co-writers note in "Twilight and the Production of the 21st Century Teel Idol" that  "the core demographic of the franchise is young females" (230); Behm-Morawitz further observes that these readers learn "about boys' thoughts about love, rules for showing affection, and sexual intercourse techniques from them. Thus, for teen readers, romance novels provide a souce of comparison that girls can use to judge their current and future relationships" (141; see also Clasen, 131). Although the Twilight novels succeed as entertainment, their potential for creating unrealistic relationship expectations is gravely problematic.

Contents

1. Introduction
2. Creating People for Popular Consumption: Echoes of Pygmalion and “The Rape of the Lock” in A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
3. Chaos at the Mouth of Hell: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Columbine High School Massacre
4. Flex and Stretch: The Inevitable Feminist Treatise on Catwoman
5. Dark Angel: A Recombinant Pygmalion for the Twenty-First Century
6. The Twilight Quartet: Romance, Porn, Pain and Complicity
     First Quarter: Romance
     Second Quarter: Porn
     Third Quarter: Pain
     Fourth Quarter: Complicity

 

Reviews

Book Reviews (Tara Boswell, Edmund Zagorin and Gina Vaynshteyn, The Los Angeles Review, 07/10/2013)
"These essays manage to address their mass market subject matter with an atypical attention to detail, treating Whedon as seriously as Shakespeare, Meyer as seriously as Wollstonecraft. For any book that genuinely aims at understanding why the disturbing themes of vampires and female bondage have reached such tempestuous heights of popularity in the past few decades, McConnell’s work is precisely the sort of sobering analysis readers might use to decrypt the seduction of careworn Gothic motifs across the North American zeitgeist."

Pain, Porn and Complicity (Courtney Wilson, Once Upon a Bookshelf, 28/06/2013)
“While I’ve never actually seen Dark Angel, I found this essay extremely interesting. In fact, it is due to this essay that I really want to actually watch the show now.... I enjoyed reading this, and would recommend it to those who are interested in looking a little deeper at how female heroes are portrayed in pop culture.”

While I’ve never actually seen Dark Angel, I found this essay extremely interesting. In fact, it is due to this essay that I really want to actually watch the show now. - See more at: http://books.moonsoar.com/archives/2013/06/28/pain-porn-and-complicity-women-heroes-from-pygmalion-to-twilight/#sthash.wXC64zg3.dpuf

Heather Cromarty: on Pain, Porn and Complicity (Heather Cromarty, Lemon Hound, 20/04/2013)
“McConnell’s work, while wholly interesting in itself, also gives a reader a lasting lens through which to view other media. This is precisely what good theoretical explication should do.”

Articles

Fall preview 2012: Canadian non-fiction, part II (Stuart Woods, Quill & Quire, 02/08/2012)
"Poet and critic Kathleen McConnell explores the portrayal of women in pop culture through the ages in Pain, Porn and Complicity: Women Heroes from Pygmalion to Twilight."

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