Fear of the (Preadolescence) Pre-teen bodies: Black Museum & Watchmen

Curator's Note

Fear of the (Preadolescence) Pre-teen bodies: 

Black Museum & Watchmen

Although I do feel that there is a new brimming argument that works such as Black Museum (McCarthy, 2017), Watchmen (Kassell, 2019), and Lovecraft Country (Green, 2020) are slowly shifting into the New Weird Horror genre, it remains the horror genre nonetheless but now populated with black bodies to a greater extent. In considering the work of both John Mitchell and Robin Wood, I would argue that although things have altered substantially from the nineteen-thirties and nineteen fifties to the present day that the creation of ‘fear of the other’ the role of cultural fears has not changed but morphed into a ‘new other’ resulting in the modern-day representation of ‘new other’ to be feared.  Wood investigated that as a result of the nineteen sixties culture, new concepts of horror were created in cinema. A key concept is, if you do not conform and choose to embrace forms of otherness or difference or delinquency you will be destroyed or at least be viewed as toxic.  Although the nineteen-sixties represented those that could not fit and created movements, which was reflected within the horror genre, present-day horror representations as reflected in Black Mirrors and Watchmen are deeply rooted in what I would argue are the identical same ideas of inequality, discrimination, and objectification.  I do not contend that Watchmen marks the crystallization of the “teen movie” genre as Rebel Without a Cause (Ray, 1955) did in the late sixties; however, I do suggest that there is a similarity between the cultural fears and shifting gender roles and the representations of teens of the present day.  Moreover, postmodern pre-teens have become the previous modern teen in the examination of rebellion.

Although the specific sources and motivations for cultural fears and rebellion have shifted, what has persisted is the film’s singular power to represent rebellion in what could otherwise be seen as every day, and to move viewers to ponder its causes. In his essay “Jim’s Stark’s ‘Barbaric Yawp’” also discusses Jim’s relationship with his weak father and his puppy-killing pseudo-gay pal Plato.  However, Mitchell presents an interesting twist, saying “one might nevertheless read the film as a challenge to Jim’s perspective dad as a man dominated by his wife and mother in which his father becomes a model of a caring and encouraging masculine identity,” a sensitive man willing “to do his share in the domestic sphere” (Mitchell, 2005).  In a similar yet inverted comparison to Jim, Cal Abar a.k.a. Dr. Manhattan (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is not only the caretaker of the home, but he is also the pacifist, whereas his wife is the aggressor. His body does not even commit to labor, we are unsure as to what Cal’s occupation is other than a caretaker for the home and family.  

Additionally, the fears that Mitchell addresses, the fear of the young, and the fear of juvenile delinquents in post—World War II America are fears that are still present in these films providing a new other, the postmodern rebellious preteen and teen.  Albeit subtexts, it is critical to address the representation of the postmodern preteen and teen.  The fears that Mitchell addresses, the fear of the young, and the fear of juvenile delinquents’ fears are present in both films. Preteens Topher Abar (Dylan Schombing) and Parker (Kyros McGee) in Black Museum and Watchmen represent the new rebellious and younger youth within the culture.  Both are ironically similar to the tragic-mulatto trope, repressed anger, not being able to fit into a White or Black World as a whole.  I would think Mitchell would agree with the similarities between the postmodern teen and present-day preteen rebellious nature and aptitude for delinquency.  


Works Cited

Green, M. (Director). (2020). Lovecraft Country [Motion Picture].

Kassell, N. (Director). (2019). Watchmen [Motion Picture].

McCarthy, C. (Director). (2017). Black Mirror: Black Museum [Motion Picture].

Mitchell, J. (2005). Jim Stark’s Barbaric Yawp: ‘’Rebel Without a Cause’ and the Cold War Crisis in Masculinity. In J. D. Slocum, Rebel Without a Cause: Approaches to a Maverick Masterwork (pp. 131-149). Albany: SUNY Press.

Ray, N. (Director). (1955). Rebel Without A Cause [Motion Picture].

Wood, R. (2018). Robin Wood: On the Horror Film: Collected Essays and Reviews. Detroit: Wayne State University.

Woods-Giscombé, C. (2010). Superwoman Schema: African American Women's Views on Stress, Strength, and Health. Qualitative Health Research, 668-683.



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