“Heathens! Bloody Heathens!”: Postcolonial Gothic in "The Wicker Man"
- John Stephenson (see profile)
- Horror films, Motion pictures, Twentieth century, Paganism, History, Modern, Arts, Gothic, Folklore, Scotland
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- Folk horror, Postcolonial studies, 20th-century film, Modern paganism, Gothic
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- Despite its B-movie release in 1973, "The Wicker Man" now ranks in the top one hundred twentieth-century British films. Depicting a clash between Christianity and pagan belief systems, the film raises perplexing questions concerning morality and cultural domination. The remote Scottish island community that has regressed to pagan barbarity (according to mainlander Sergeant Howie) provides a classic Gothic setting within which to consider the aspects of colonialism. Gothic texts have frequently examined encounters between the self and the exotic or monstrous Other, but "The Wicker Man" portrays the return of an ancient, primitive, and savage religion which horrifies the rational, modern, Christian outsider. What does the film as a Gothic narrative tell us about this arguably postcolonial society and its relationship to that of the mainland/mainstream?
- Paper originally submitted to Huma S-100: Gothic Fiction (Graduate credit), Harvard University Extension School, 14 August 2007. Minor revisions 13 May 2019.
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