Download Generation Multiplex: The Image of Youth in Contemporary American Cinema PDF

TitleGeneration Multiplex: The Image of Youth in Contemporary American Cinema
PublisherUniversity of Texas Press
ISBN 139780292777712
CategoryArts - Film
File Size5.9 MB
Total Pages349
Document Text Contents
Page 2

generat ion mult iplex

Page 174

The Youth

Horror Film

155glect, sexual aggression or confusion) on their own, lest they face his wrath, a

wrath that was in the last instance wrought by the victim’s own weakness.

Judith Williamson added:

In social terms it is possible to read Krueger as the unsavory working classes
suppressed and fought off by the aspiring, middle-American parents who are
presented as at best inadequate—alcoholic mothers and dictatorial fathers
abound. Freddy is their victim even as their children, in a vicious cycle of
effects, are his.28

This cyclical contest of power for teen characters was considerably differ-

ent from the Halloween and Friday the 13th series, in which the protagonists

spent more time eluding the alien killer than confronting their own familiar

fears. In the Nightmare series, the true danger comes from within, and the clas-

sic teen achievement of higher self-esteem and confidence becomes the only

effective weapon in avoiding destruction. These films tell teens that they must

grow up smart and tough or else perish. Wes Craven himself called horror films

a “boot camp for the psyche” and said that teens like horror films because

they “put them under terrifying conditions and show that you can survive.

You come out feeling better and stronger.”29 Craven must have also realized

that only certain characters survive, and that their actions embody particu-

larly admirable human qualities such as integrity, purity, intelligence, and loy-

alty—a veritable pledge for teen horror heroines and heroes.

The first Nightmare on Elm Street was perhaps the most typical of past

slasher films, with its connection of sex and death, gradual stalking of teens

who are brutally killed, and revelation of the killer avenging his past. On oth-

erwise quiet Elm Street in Springwood, Ohio, a girl has a nightmare in which a

man with a burned face and fingers with razors chases her through a boiler

factory, and is later surprised to find that her friend Nancy (Heather Langen-

kamp) had a similar dream, as did her boyfriend and their friend Glen (Johnny

Depp). The next night, after having wild sex with her boyfriend, the girl dreams

of the same man and she is brutally murdered. Nancy then becomes the fo-

cus of the rest of the film as she continues having visions of the nightmare

killer and his victims: while her cop father ineffectively works on the case, she

realizes that she can confront the killer in her dreams and becomes deter-

mined to fight him. At one point, Nancy later takes a bubble bath in which

she nods off and finds the killer pulling her under the water (a particularly

Page 175




ominous shot of the razor hand reaching up between Nancy’s naked legs pro-

vokes a tension of brutal virgin rape), yet she escapes his clutches and real-

izes that she must stay awake in order to avoid further attacks.

Nancy’s mother, rapidly becoming an alcoholic, tells her that the man is

Freddy Krueger, a local child murderer who was unjustly freed years before,

and so she and other parents had set him on fire in a boiler factory. When the

mother tells her, “He’s dead because Mommy killed him,” the connection of

parental revenge and child victimization is clear: Nancy and her friends have

been suffering the attacks of Freddy through their dreams because of their

parents’ repressed anger and guilt from killing Freddy. Or, as David Edelstein

saw it, “the children are vulnerable to their nightmares because their drunken,

divorced, and inattentive moms and dads have failed them. That’s a reaction-

ary message, but it’s still the source of children’s most powerful nightmares.”30

Douglas Rathgab proposes that the teens are more culpable: “Although the

sins of the parents are clearly being visited upon the children, the children’s

sexual offenses provide more than enough horrorific justification in the film’s

moral scheme for their own victimization. Their mores have become some-

how identified with Krueger’s own sexual offense.”31 This is an issue that will

however be challenged in the sequels (which Rathgab’s 1991 article, oddly

The Final Girl of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Nancy (Heather Langenkamp),
uses her ingenuity and determination to confront and conquer the psychic stalker
Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund).

Page 348


329Virgin Queen of St. Francis High, The

(1988), 298n.16

Virgin Suicides, The (2000), 212, 226, 235

Vision Quest (1985), 73–74, 239, 290n.32

Wacko (1981), 178

Wahlberg, Mark, 223

Waiting to Exhale (1996), 124

Walker, Justin, 66

Walker, Kim, 64

war and youth, 100, 105, 199, 201–205,

207. See also Cold War; military;

nuclear war; patriotic purpose;

Persian Gulf War; Vietnam War;

World War II

Ward, Megan, 200

WarGames (1983), 8, 104, 180, 182, 197,

201, 202–204, 203, 205, 207

War Party (1989), 84

Warriors, The (1979), 293n.34

Washington, Isaiah, 132

Wayne’s World (1992), 182–183

Weeks, Janet, 22

Weinraub, Bernard, 122

Weird Science (1985), 182, 193–194, 195

Welcome to Normal (1989), 299n.28

Welcome to the Dollhouse (1996), x, 1, 33,

37–38, 218, 225, 235, 289n.11

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994), 154,

157, 160–161, 295n.33

West Side Story (1961), 4, 91

Wet Hot American Summer (2001), xiii

Whale of a Tale (1976), 96

Whatever (1998), 122

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), 220,


Where the Day Takes You (1992), 85

Where the Heart Is (2000), 253

White, Armond, 24, 258

White Fang (1991), 95

White Fang 2: Myth of the White Wolf

(1994), 95

White House Office of National Drug

Control Policy, x

White Squall (1996), 100

White Water Summer (1987), 100

White Wolves. See Cry in the Wild/White

Wolves franchise

Whiz Kids television show, 197

whizzes. See nerds

Wilcox, Lisa, 158–159

Wild America (1997), 96

Wild Angels (1966), 5

Wildcats (1986), 75–76, 290n.32

wilderness survival films, 99–103

Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken (1991), 95

Wild in the Streets (1968), 6

Wild Life, The (1984), 7, 29, 84

Wild One, The (1953), 4, 82

Wild Pony (1983), 95

Wild Style (1983), 87

Wild Things (1997), 122, 212, 235

Wilkes, Donna, 113

Willemen, Paul, 12

Williams, Olivia, 55

Williams, Treat, 290n.23

William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet

(1996), 10, 220, 223, 224–226

Williamson, Judith, 155

Williamson, Kevin, 10, 49, 141

Wilmington, Michael, 44

Windrunner (1994), 75

Wing Commander (1999), 296n.9

Winnicott, D. W., 20, 286n.34

Winter, Alex, 55

Wise, Robert, 91

witches. See occult topics

Witherspoon, Reese, 67, 223, 236

Wizard, The (1989), 200, 297n.11

Wizard of Oz, The (1939), 113

Wonder Years television show, 30

Wood, John, 203

Wood, Natalie, 4, 30

Wood, Robin, 13, 145, 171

Woods, James, 249

World War II, 3

Wraith, The (1986), 169

wrestling, 69, 72–74. See also athletes

Page 349


330 Young Love: Lemon Popsicle 7 (1987),


youth: culture of, 3–4, 7, 10–11, 20–21, 24,

27, 86, 207, 235, 258, 261, 264;

definitions of, 3, 17–18, 20–23, 257;

power of, 8, 41, 44, 65, 68, 83, 111, 113,

116–117, 120, 122, 144, 177, 183, 185,

196, 198, 203–208, 214, 254, 260–262;

studies of, 19–25, 258, 263–264,

286nn.34,37, 287n.40. See also fear

of youth

youth film as a genre, 2–3, 6–8, 10–12, 15,

17, 23–25, 124, 255–264, 265–282,

284nn.10,11, 287n.55

You’ve Got Mail (1998), 208

Zapped (1982), 182, 191–192

Zapped Again (1989), 196

Zebrahead (1992), 293n.38

Zeffirelli, Franco, 297n.4

Zero Boys (1986), 100

zombies, 141, 147, 256. See also horror

Zornow, Edith, 25

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