Tag Archives: film

SubErasure Poems

SubErasure Poems

By Derek Newman-Stille

There is a constant problem in theatres. Hearing people demand that subtitles be turned off because they are “distracting”. The privilege their comfort over any access by D/deaf or hard of hearing people. It is an act of audism and it is an act of erasure.

I decided, since I often can’t access films without subtitles, I would create poetry made exclusively from subtitles. I would use hearing erasure to comment on the lack of inclusion of those of us who need subtitles.

Although I am dealing with text on a screen (subtitles), I decided I would interact with this screen text as text, using techniques from erasure poetry to construct a narrative out of what is hidden between the text on the screen.

Since subtitle representations of non-speech sound – generally represented like this “[crashes]” – often try to make sound effects translatable for the D/deaf and hard of hearing community, I thought they would be fascinating as a primary text. I wanted to see the narrative they create in order to convey the soundscape to a D/deaf or hard of hearing audience.

In these poems, I explore mostly horror, action, and science fiction films since they tend to have the most fascinating renderings of sound as subtitles.

I included some speech subtitles from the films that I watched, while relying primarily on the renderings of sound as subtitles.

Erasure poem provided a space here to comment on audism, the entitlement of hearing audiences for films, and the erasure of D/deaf and hard of hearing experiences. These poems are meant to point out erasures, exclusions, and gaps constructed by a hearing world.

Click here to see the first poem: SubHorror

Click here to see the second poem: SubAction Under the Surface

Click here to see the third poem: Off Screen

 

Advertisements

The Cinematic MRI

A review of Paul McGuigan’s “Victor Frankenstein” (Davis Entertainment Company, 2015).
By Derek Newman-Stille

I’ve been giving thought to the cinematic gaze lately and the way that is configures disabled bodies. Frequently camera angles focus in on bodily difference, breaking disabled bodies on screen into dismembered parts – zooming in on prosthetic legs, panning to blind eyes. The camera breaks the disabled body up into parts of difference, divorcing it from its bodily context and from the personhood associated with it. 

This figuring of the disabled body as parts mimics the medicalized lens, brining attention to individual parts of the body in isolation, as pathologies rather than parts of a bodily and identity wholeness. Much like the freak show and the medical theatre, film seeks to break people down into their parts

“Frankenstein” was written by Mary Shelley as a body text, exploring the idea of how life and death are entwined into bodily existence and examining the perception of medical science that it could conquer the body and bring nature to heel. 

In the many adaptations of her text, the monster’s body has taken an iconic voice of its own, the monster losing his original eloquence to become the childish, silent figure of film, a creature that was all body and no voice.

Paul McGuigan’s film “Victor Frankenstein” continues his bodily silence and performs the medical apparatus of the body. Building on the investigative lens used by the BBC’s Sherlock, with camera panning into key pieces of evidence, the camera work of “Victor Frankenstein” takes a medical investigative approach to the body, giving both Victor and Igor the ability to see the inferiority of bodies, medically diagnosing them with a glance. Bodies are written over by anatomical drawings, writing skeletal and cardio-pulmonary systems on the exterior of the body.

The body is rendered a passive object, offering up its inferiority to the diagnostic gaze.

We first get introduced to Igor at the circus where he is functioning as part of the freak show due to his hump. He becomes the circus medic through private learning and thus has the potential to complicate the notion of disabled body/ medical doctor by inhabiting both roles. However, when first seen by Victor Frankenstein, he is rendered a passive subject by Victor’s medical gaze, prefiguring him as an object in the same way that people witnessing the freak show had done. 

Freak show transforms into medical theatre when Victor takes Igor, still treating him as property, and alters his body without his permission, piercing his hump and forcing him into corrective clothing to adjust his posture. His body becomes property of science and he loses any ability to disrupt the simple binarism of medical practitioner and medicalized body offered by his own knowledge of medical science.

Igor is partially complicit in his own enfreakment, desiring normative bodied identity and visiting a medicalizing lens on the body of the monster that he and Victor construct as a medical fix-it for death. 

Victor Frankenstein” constructs an enhanced medicalized lens by not only focusing the camera on parts of the body that are non-conforming to ideas of bodily normalcy, but also by rendering the interior of these bodies onto the externality of the body, turning the camera into medical equipment – part cinematic camera and part MRI. This lens, combined with the treatment of bodies as open to experimentation and modification, marks the film as one of disabled bodily passivity and medicalized control.