Once Upon A Bookshelf

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

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 9:46 am June 28, 2013.
Category: Non-Fiction
Book Author(s):
Publisher(s):

Author: Kathleen McConnell
Originally Published: 2012
Publisher: Wolsak and Wynn Publishers Ltd.
Source: Received from the publisher

The Story

Pain, Porn and ComplicityFrom the back of the book:

In a wide-ranging collection of essays, author Kathleen McConnell considers how the female hero is portrayed in popular culture. Insightful, biting an darkly humorous, Pain, Porn and Complicity: Women Heroes from Pygmalion to Twilight investigates how the changing roles of women play out in our books, on our televisions and in our movie theatres.

The Response

Pain, Porn and Complicity contains five essays by Kathleen McConnell:

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

As with any collection, there are some that stand out much more than others. While I found that the essay on Catwoman fell a little flat for me (the form it was written in made me focus more on the structure and less on the content), I found the essays on Buffy, Dark Angel and Twilight all quite interesting and thought-provoking.

The Buffy essay was perhaps the one that I enjoyed the most, in that it opened my eyes and really made me consider things from a different perspective. It looked at why, in the light of the Columbine shootings, the television broadcaster cancelled one episode of season 3 and postponed the series finale of the same season… and why this caused such an uproar from viewers and those involved in the show. It also, however, examined how much BTVS is a metaphor for real high school, and how every school is seating on their own Hellmouth.

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. It examines the main character and compares the show both to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as well as Ovid’s telling of the Pygmalion myth. This show sounds so freaking good.

And Twilight… ah, what do I have to say about Twilight? I will admit that I loved the first novel. In the second novel, I loved every second that Alice was in. The third didn’t do anything for me, and I didn’t read the fourth. I also haven’t seen any of the movies. That said though, I am well aware of everything that happens in the fourth book. And I quite enjoy ranting about the series whenever I get the chance. This essay was amazing and gave me new points to really look at – such as how Bella is very much a archetypal 70’s romance heroine, and Edward is very much the 70’s romance hero. It compared each of their characteristics to what one would expect to see in a romance novel from 40-50 years ago. But one aspect of this essay that really made me pause was when McConnell compared Twilight to Freud’s article “‘A Child is Being Beaten': A Contribution to the Study of the Origin of Sexual Perversions.” This was … highly interesting and examined Bella and Edward’s relationship. I’m very much in the camp that Edward is not healthy for Bella, and this explored why exactly it isn’t healthy – because, according to McConnell, Bella is a masochist who only feels herself worthy if she’s in pain. How McConnell presented it was very convincing and is definitely worth thinking about it.

The Bottom Line

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.