The Unnatural World: Beyond the Monstrous: Dismantling the Body Horror Genre through Machado's Critical Lens - Carmen Maria Machado

American literature essay. Literary analysis of works and characters - Sykalo Evgen 2023

The Unnatural World: Beyond the Monstrous: Dismantling the Body Horror Genre through Machado's Critical Lens
Carmen Maria Machado

The unnerving field of bodily horror is explored by Carmen Maria Machado, literary alchemist of the weird, in her essay collection "The Unnatural World." Machado delves deeply into the grotesque, uncovering its hidden fears and questioning its fundamental principles, rather than merely appreciating it. She exposes body horror as a powerful mirror reflecting society concerns and worries, particularly those related to gender, sexuality, and the ever-changing boundaries of the human body, rather than as a playground for monsters through her razor-sharp analysis and personal observations.

Breaking Down the Patriarchal Monster:

The gendered power relations of the genre are critically examined in the first section of Machado's critique. She contends that a common motif in body horror, the monstrous female body, frequently acts as a conduit for masculine concerns around female autonomy, sexuality, and power. The monstrous feminine becomes a warning tale, a reminder of the perils of female transgression and the need for male authority, from Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" to David Cronenberg's films.

Beyond the Skin: The Monster Inside:

The brilliance of Machado resides in her capacity to stretch the parameters of genre outside of the real world. According to her, the horrific is not limited to hideous bodily changes but also includes the sneaky ways in which society standards can take on a monstrous quality, warping and distorting how we perceive the world and ourselves. In her essay, "The Stepford Wives," she criticizes the movie's depiction of submissive, Stepford-perfect housewives, contending that their artificial beauty and forced obedience are a kind of horrific conformity that destroys the agency and individuality of women.

The Human Form as a Site of Opposition:

In addition to exposing the hideous, Machado also honors the body's capacity for subversion and resistance. In her critique of Daphne du Maurier's "The Birds," she contends that the protagonist's metamorphosis into a bird-like being might be interpreted as a liberating act, a rejection of the limitations imposed on her by patriarchy. In a similar vein, she finds strength in the macabre metamorphoses of David Cronenberg's body horror movies, viewing them as a celebration of the messy, unpredictable nature of the human body and a challenge to conventional ideas of beauty.

In summary:

"The Unnatural World" is a call to action as well as a critical dissection of body horror. Machado challenges the genre's power structures and exposes its hidden worries, forcing us to face our own preconceptions and insecurities about gender, sexuality, and the body. She serves as a reminder that real monsters frequently hide not in the shadows but rather in the strict expectations and conventions of society that aim to define and govern us. Machado gives us the capacity to celebrate our uniqueness, accept the complexity of the human body, and oppose repressive systems that strive to limit us by taking back the story of the monstrous.

Additional Thoughts:

Examine particular instances from "The Unnatural World" where Machado breaks down the body horror subgenre using language, imagery, and critical analysis.
Talk about the connections between Machado's writings and various critical theories, including critical race theory, feminism, and queer theory.
Examine how our perception of the monstrous has been shaped by technology and the growing medicalization of the body.
Think about the ways that Machado's critical viewpoint on body horror is influenced by her personal experiences as a Latina woman and queer person.