Talk talk talk

I caught the bug. I’ve finally come to my senses after being at Bates for almost three whole semesters now, barely noticing the programs that countless clubs, departments, and grants bring multiple nights each week. I’ve finally started attending lectures. And it’s a wonderful thing.

As I’m sure has been evident from my blogs so far this semester, I’ve been making more of an effort lately. At first, it was because my own professors or clubs had organized the talks– a digital poet, an alum who skied the North Pole, etc. However, as I became aware, as I began to read emails announcing things and keep my ears open for opportunities, I realized that even if I wasn’t bound by academic obligations, these talks were very interesting and very good opportunities to enrich my understanding of a variety of subjects, both familiar and unfamiliar.

Take, for example, “American Horror Cinema in the ‘Age of Terror’: Reading the Politics of Eli Roth’s ‘Hostel,'” a lecture sponsored by the college. This lecture was about torture porn. WAIT! I know what you’re thinking. It’s what I was thinking too- because I had NO idea what any of it was about. So I looked it up. Try checking out this article, from New York Magazine, which gives a bit of context to the trend, and seems to have been the birthplace of the term. It refers to a style of incredibly popular horror film with excessive torture, gore, pain, and violence. Okay, I’m first to admit, I’m not a brave soul when it comes to watching movies. You can ask my father, who will attest that when “The Ring” first came out on DVD however many years ago it was, I made him watch it with me at 7:00 am on a Saturday to make sure that a) he could protect me from anything scary and b) I would have enough daylight to try to get over the intense fear that the movie had  lodged in my head. But, in preparation for this talk, I watched ‘Hostel.’ I went home after class, got in my bed, and spent my afternoon watching Eli Roth’s story depicting American tourists captured and brutally tortured. First of all, I was concerned that my neighbors would all think I was crazy from all the my-eyeball-is-hanging-out-of-my-face and you’re-sawing-my-heel-in-half screams. I opted for headphones. But here’s the funny thing: I really got into it. I really liked the movie. So I was even more thrilled to go to hear University of Rochester’s Professor Jason Middleton’s lecture.

I had done my best to publicize the lecture, and the Keck classroom was very full- the crowd was a mix between students, faculty, staff and the like. Professor Middleton jumped right in.

He began with a simple answer to a question he anticipated. “Do I like Hostel?” he asked himself. “The answer is not simple.”

Now I have about 4 pages of notes from the lecture but half of them are half sentences that I thought made a lot of sense, but out of context of the whole talk say merely “torture porn is the intersection of most culturally desectioned film genres– slasher horror/porn” and “constructs scenes of torture as musical #s or set pieces– story is flimsy pretext drawing brutality together.” Maybe one-third of them are my silly musings that, while slightly embarrassing, are worth noting. My favorites being: “I could be listening to NPR right now, my mom will be so jealous” and “Avatar = Dances with Wolves… IN SPACE!” Whatever percentage is left were the political points.

Professor Middleton’s lecture suggests that the trend of torture porn films “tightly aligns” with the timeline of the Bush administration. The whole concept of how social otherness = monstrosity; these American tourists go out into the scary, “other” world and meddle with those missing teeth and speaking jumbled words and are captured and killed. They should have known. We also discussed the genre of horror film and its usual rules and restrictions — and how ‘Hostel’ ignores many of them. 

I was totally engaged, sitting on the edge of my (obviously front-row) seat until the very end. Now I’m hooked. Now I’m watching lots of movies. Now I’m looking at them from a political standpoint and seeing how closely they stick to the typical plot line of a horror film. But I’m going at it kind of blindly– it’s a real pity that Professor Middleton can’t come work at Bates so I could take his class on horror cinema and feed this sudden thirst for film knowledge!

Oh, this blog is called “talk-talk-talk” implying more than just one. Well the other two talks I’ve been to recently were equally as interesting: one, the most prolific Franco-American author, Normand Beaupre who spent an hour and a half slipping in and out of French in such a way that both challenged and delighted me; two, Jessica Anthony, a Bates grad and current professor who published a very successful novel “The Convalescent.”

I guess it’s incorrect for me to say “go see talks”- it just sounds incredibly incorrect. So, instead I say this; go listen!


About nbrouder
I'm a senior at Bates College getting ready for thesis and the real world!

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