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A more measured criticism of Drag Me To Hell - The Ex-Communicator

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June 7th, 2009

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10:34 am - A more measured criticism of Drag Me To Hell
nihilistic_kid picks Drag Me To Hell apart in a more comprehensive way here. He's obviously managing to see it more clearly than I can because he's not emotionally overloaded by the issues in the way I am.

He correctly says the film appears to be racist towards gypsies/Roma/travellers. I do think this is true. Generally when I am watching a film I'm expecting apparent racism to be exploded - for instance if all the black people in a film seem to be venal and stupid I expect the film to overthrow that in the end, revealing that something else entirely is the case. I was expecting that to happen in this film. It didn't.

nihilistic_kid also points out - and this is another area where I tend to emotionally overload quite rapidly - that the other social group which is 'punished' in this film are social climbers - that is the lower class girl is punished for wanting nice things, wanting a middle class job and a middle class boyfriend. Again, I thought this would revert itself. At first she does various ruthless things, and betrays her own principles, to try to escape the torment. At the end she refuses to do that. She refuses to hurt anyone, and she refuses to give up. I thought this would be redemptive. But no - she can do nothing to save herself. And yet the 'sin' she has committed is no worse than wanting to have the nice things that everyone else around her is born into.

And isn't this exactly the ground on which poor people are criticised by privileged people. For venality, greed, envy, desire for more than they are born to. A person who already has money can say 'Oh, I never think about money' while tucking in to lovely food in a lovely house. A person with lots can look down at a person with little, and call the poor person greedy.

This seems a good time to raise a common trope of horror films - that the malignant and evil power is generally associated with a group who in real life are powerless, and have had suffering imposed on them. Often children are the source of evil, but in real life they are thousands of times more likely to have evil done to them by adults than vice versa. In US films the horror often emerges from Native American graves ('Indian burial ground').

A charitable view would be that the horror is an embodiment of the suppressed but unappeasable guilt of the victors, the perpetrators of genocide. Or in the case of this film, a vague uneasy guilt of mainstream society at how the traveller community is generally treated.

A less charitable - and I think more accurate - view is that attributing hidden power and malevolence to the oppressed group is psychologically comforting to the powerful people in society.

Or as nihilistic_kid puts it:

(this film is) trafficking in the sort of stereotypes and libels that continue to inform the persecution of the Roma worldwide.. a Romany woman finds herself unable to pay the mortgage. Of course, she has the power to drag people to hell, but she can't seem to scrape a few extra bucks together?... If Roma (or Indians, or the less intimidating sort of Will Smithian black folk, or woppy old ladies or whomever they give powers to in movies these days) had magical powers, they really wouldn't have problems. You know who'd have the problems? White fucking people would have the problems.

(5 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:June 7th, 2009 01:44 pm (UTC)
Of course, she has the power to drag people to hell, but she can't seem to scrape a few extra bucks together?

It reminds me of a judge whose name I can't recall; except I think he was Scottish and 16th or 17th-century, who was often trying accused witches who themselves had confessed and thought they really were witches, being not quite right in the head. He wasn't satisfied with confessions (he was evidently a sceptic) and was in the habit of asking them to demonstrate what they claimed to be able to do ("if you turned a woman into a cat, can you now turn a cat into a woman?"). He also tended to point out to their accusers that if they could indeed fly, it was rather singular that they were in court at all.
[User Picture]
Date:June 7th, 2009 04:52 pm (UTC)
If anything good came of all that witch trial period, surely it's that we now have definitive proof that torture doesn't uncover the truth.
[User Picture]
Date:June 7th, 2009 01:56 pm (UTC)
Shan't be watching this anyway (don't do horror) but the cliche of "being dragged to hell" immediately makes me think of two things, neither of them helpful: (i)the Jeeves & Wooster story where Wodehouse makes mock of a superstitious bunch who think Old Boggy will drag them to hell by their garters and (b) the performance of Don Juan at Wexford where the Don, being dragged down to hell, stuck in the stage trapdoor (he was what used to be known as an amphora tenor) and a voice from the audience commented "Hurrah boys, hell's full!"
[User Picture]
Date:June 7th, 2009 05:56 pm (UTC)
You wouldn't have liked the bit in this film where she kills a poor kitty to try to appease the demon (you don't see it happen).
Date:June 25th, 2009 05:21 pm (UTC)

Don't listen to Nihilistic Kid

The film is NOT racist towards gypsies. It clearly indicates that the little old lady in the bank is helpless and human, and that the DEMON that casts the "curse" on Christine is an exaggerated and demonic IMITATION of the poor little old lady. Christine's damnation is brought about on her own! If you watch the film, notice the "Day 1, Day 2, Day 3" illustrations in the opening credits. "Day 1" is swirling leaves, and we first see swirling leaves in the parking lot, BEFORE the curse on the button has been cast by the Demon Thing in the form of the old woman. Christine is already being haunted!

And Nihilistic Kid is wrong. The movie isn't punishing her for being a social climber, it's punishing her for her cruelty in pursuit of her goals. We feel bad for her, we sympathize with her, as that bitchy mother of her boyfriend looks down on her, but does that excuse her being cruel to the old lady when she COULD have given her the loan extension? No, it doesn't.

You are right about how oppressors tend to demonize victims, but isn't that what "Drag Me to Hell" is about? It extrnalizes Christine's demonization of her victim, the little old lady, which then torments her, and she does increasingly vicioius things to avoid the "curse" she has created in refusing to accept responsibility for her own cruel actions. In the end, she ultimately demonzes poor old Mrs. Ganush, who has died, by digging up her grave, violating her body and cursing her to eternal torment. The ultimate blaming of the victim. THAT is what damns her, not the silliness of who owns the button. The button was a trick of the demon in the parking lot, in it's Demonic Form of the Victim.

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