mardi 12 janvier 2010

The Psychotronic Construction of Sadomasochism 1

Until recently unnoticed or discarded by many cultural historians pyschotronia (in the all-encompassing sense given to the term by pioneer Michael J. Weldon (1)) presents a particular interest for the archeologist of modern and post-modern constructions of sexualities. Beyond the canonical debate on popular versus high culture and the sociology of taste and distinction psychotronia constitutes a “new frontier” of genre analysis and film theory, confronting us with a world of paradoxes. Paradox of a non-genre that displays an hypertrophy of genre-jamming, hybridazitions and constant proliferation of sub-genres, pushing the cinematic genre construction to its limits, paradox of the creators (from formulaic cash-in of precedent trends to wild originality, from outcasts to mainstream and back), of the audiences (from teen-age rednecks to urbanite fandom, cultism and institutional recuperation), of the products themselves (different versions according to different markets and different collages and revamping of previous footages producing loose narratives that become the sign of primitivist and “authentic” creation), of their position in the cultural field (outside of the mainstream but constantly mirroring it, pushing its cynical exploitative dynamics) and their reception (rejected as trash but legitimized by the post-surrealist apology of “bad” art’s subversive potential), paradox, at last, of an alternative and off-beat but often profound and sometimes premonitory take on the major shifts of collective mentalities.

The psychotronic construction of sexuality specially illustrates this last point, being at the cross-roads of the different forces that shape the overall cultural engineering of sex and yet creating a specific vision by its massive emphasis on the interplay of Eros and Thanatos or of cruelty and sexual arousal. Evolving through the different “sexual revolutions” of the so-called “century of sex” this often disturbing vision mirrors, but often differs from other narratives and discourses, specially the medical and legal construction of sado-masochism itself. It is this “différance” that we would like to address here, dividing different “stages” of its progress and finally concentrating on a major shift both in psychotronia and in cultural history, that of the “rise and fall of sexploitation”.

1 The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film, Ballantine Books, 1987.

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