One comment on “Scarlett Johansson’s murder van

  1. I wrote:

    “Aren’t we all playing gender roles to some extent anyway, so what do we really mean when we say that she plays at being a heterosexual woman? What if the alien inside the attractive woman is a he, or both male and female, or neither?”

    And it just occurred to me that yet another fairly trashy sci-horror film in fact does work in a much more interesting way with the social and gender politics left defiantly unexplored in ‘Under the Skin‘. ‘The Hidden‘ (1987) is definitely not what I’d call a masterpiece, a work of art, or even a particularly a good film, but it is at least an interesting one that beneath the predictable mainstream story beats is attempting to say something about the potentially monstrous consequences of untrammeled Reaganomic-Randian (a/im)morality.

    The film’s body-hopping (and very revolting) parasite leaves a trail of sexual deviance, gluttony, greed and horror in its wake because… well, it enjoys sex, violence, money, death and all other types of excess. Because it can, and nobody can stop it. It gleefully takes over a rich businessman and makes him behave like even more of a prick than normal businessmen. It loves guns and it loves driving fast cars like it’s playing Grand Theft Auto. It takes over a stripper, apparently because it’s been a total prick of a businessman and now it wants to experience being the object of this kind of prick’s attention, then turning it around and fucking it all up. It’s like all of Michael Bay’s interests condensed into a hairy, tentacled slug parasite thing. Unlike the parasite known as Michael Bay, this parasite aggressively bends gender, sexuality, class. Although within the narrative it’s some kind of escaped extraterrestrial deviant criminal pursued by a manichean “good” counterpart (who is also a host-puppeteer symbiote, inside Kyle MacLachlan), morally speaking it’s clear that the Reaganite parasite meets its eventual Waterloo for causing numerous deaths to innocent people on this planet and who knows how many others, and above all for taking all of its pleasures (and host bodies) with a rape mentality, non-consensually. We see the havoc it wreaks just because it can, and how sadistically it enjoys the suffering it causes, so within the story its defeat feels richly deserved. We never get the impression– within the narrative, or from the film makers– that the parasite is being “punished” for mixing up genders, identities and sexualities, for turning straight men on under false pretences, or for knowingly adopting an identity at odds with its biology.

    Thinking about it again in light of this comparison, the denouement of Under the Skin just gets worse and worse. The would-be rapist sets the alien alight because the object of his desire has been revealed as physically repugnant, and “not really” the object he was initially aroused by, making him retrospectively disgusted by his own desire. A hop and a skip from there and we’re in the horrible real world in which women deemed transgressive (which can mean too sexy, too outspoken, too going about their business on their own, too anything) and potentially any LGBT person– in, out, or anywhere in between– can suffer similar threatened or actual ultraviolence, for similar reasons.

    TLDR version: Under the Skin shares its plot with countless horror and exploitation B (or C or Z) movies, but even some of those old pieces of lowest-common-denominator crap have more progressive sexual politics than UtS does. I love shitty horror movies and I love art films, but this film is like the mutant child of both, with few of the good traits of either parent.

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