Williams, Linda. "Film Bodies: Gender, Genre, and Excess." Film Quarterly 44.4 (1991): 2-13.
Within her article Williams sets out to reveal that there is value to a system of excess that is present in cinema. At the low end of the spectrum of this system are films that are critiqued as being low brow and taboo and largely overlooked by academia. Williams draws from Clover and dubs these genres “body genres”. The kind of genres that fall under the heading of “body genre” are those that go to the extreme in representing the body in various states of distress and elation. An analysis of the structure, the function and the effect of this system of excess and how it’s critically interpreted can be tremendously beneficial to the study of genre and gender construction. The three main body genres that Williams focuses on are melodrama (more specifically the female melodrama or ‘the weepie’), pornography and horror. These films all make a spectacle of the body and often cause a reactionary convulsion or spasm in the audience. The success of these films similarly depends on the reaction of the audience. Good horror films make people scream, ‘weepies’ make the audience cry and pornography causes arousal. The bodies within these films are typically those of women and are often in the process of being “moved or moving” (4) while men are typically the ones who move women.
The author refers to Clover again emphasizing the importance of her reflection on the oscillation between masochism and sadism in the horror genre. The final girl within slasher films moves from “abject terror gendered feminine” (206) to powerful and androgynous heroine that defeats a gender confused monster. Similarly films from the body genre often move from powerlessness to power. This move demonstrates how the body genre is in fact plural when it comes to portrayal of gender. The presence of either power and pleasure of the female victim is also said to be consistent in the body genre. Williams states the bisexuality of viewer identification is another common attribute of the genre. The fluidity of gender and identification is both a revealing and consistently challenges gender classification. Williams states,
"The deployment of sex, violence, and emotion would thus seem to have very precise functions in these body genres. Like all popular genres, they address persistent problems in our culture, in our sexualities, in our very identities. The deployment of sexualities, violence, and emotion is thus in no way gratuitous and in no way strictly limited to each of these genres;it is instead a cultural form of problem solving" (9).
Body genres challenge the normality and taboo while at the same time revealing insight on the changing idea of gender. The popularity of the body genre demonstrates the importance of a more in depth reflection on this genre. These films should not simply be dismissed as misogynist and sadistic but rather as texts that champion the subversion of normative gender roles. (12)