C R E A D M

Centre for Research and Enterprise in Art, Design and Media

‘Monstrous Makeovers: Transforming ‘Monsters’ into Beauty Queens.’ |

Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom 2006

Monsrous Makeovers PB

The May 2003 inaugural conference was designed to investigate and explore the vampire legend and its enduring influence on human culture throughout history. The project has since developed a much wider remit exploring both general and specific themes of the monstrous and monsters. For the 2006 conference, my paper considered the phenomenon of 'Transformation TV', including Extreme Makeover (Living TV), The Swan (Living TV), Ten Years Younger (Channel 4) and Change My Life (Channel Five). This new form of Reality TV promotes notions of everyday 'monsters' whose physical appearances transgress the 'normal' boundaries that are established and maintained by the power of the media. The paper examines and analyses the process by which contemporary culture initially creates and eventually mutates these monstrous 'marks' of difference. Reality programmes employ signifiers that have accumulated meaning from the horror genre, in order to construct monsters within the domestic sphere. In a transformation process reminiscent of Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde in reverse, transgressive bodies are sculpted into culturally acceptable clones. This process is long and arduous, resembling a rites of passage journey into the hierarchy of the glamorous and the beautiful, and it is utilised in various ways to construct various meanings. These 'Monstrous Makeovers' are deconstructed to reveal the nature and meaning of present-day TV monsters and the theoretical underpinning for this utilises and updates the theories of Foucault, body as power structure, Jason Jacob's theory of the 'morbid gaze' and Mulvey's theory of 'the look' and woman as site of spectacle. The research for this paper contributes to my PhD thesis, which considers the design of the body and its use as spectacle and a source of manipulation in the media and its impact on contemporary culture and the everyday, lived experience.

‘Transformation and Truth: The body as signifier of fidelity in Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me’ (2004)Proceedings of the Film and History League Conference 'The Documentary Tradition' 2006

Published as a CD Rom edited by Peter C. Rollins, John E. O’Connor and James Knecht

ISBN: 0-9746905-4-6

Morgon Spurlock Peri Bradley

My paper reflected on the body as narrative agent and made special reference to documentary filmmakers, who place their own bodies, as subjects, in front of the camera. It forms part of the research for a forthcoming chapter in Telling Tales: Visual Design and Narrative in Contemporary Culture, edited by myself and Craig Batty (University of Portsmouth). Topics for the conference included film and television genres such as: documentaries, docudramas, propaganda films and reality programming, which were examined from a range of perspectives such as ethnography, ethnicity, politics, gender, popular culture and religion. My role as Area Chair at the conference, involved sending out the Call for Papers and organising and running that particular panel within the conference. In addition to the conference papers the CD-ROM includes two books, American History American Film and American History American Television, edited by John E. O'Connor. This paper is also part of my PhD thesis, regarding the body as 'ethical' and capable of bringing about radical, political change. It considers the autonomous subject as able to design their own body as an act of resistance. 

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