Science Fiction Film & Television

‘They brought it on themselves!’: adapting and reflecting cultural fears, from The Shop to Rossum

Science Fiction Film & Television (2017), 10, (2), 231–249.

Abstract

If horror reflects a particular culture’s fears, then the US government represented a major bogeyman in the 1970s; in Stephen King’s Firestarter (1980), for example, the lack of trust in a Vietnam/Watergate era government that operated both secretively and amorally drives the narrative, and the consequences of its actions are dire. By the 2000s, another monster had emerged: The Corporation, operating with little regard for the long-term consequences. In this article, I examine the narrative shift in focus from ‘evil government’ to ‘evil corporation’, and consider the influence of this aspect of King’s work on others, with a particular focus on the novel and film Firestarter (Lester US 1984) and its correspondences with the series Dollhouse (US 2009–10). In Firestarter, the threat of the Cold War leads a secretive government organisation to weaponise a child in order to gain a tactical advantage. In Dollhouse, the corporation plays on client desires and available technology through the systematic dehumanisation of certain individuals. While Firestarter tapped into Cold War fears, Dollhouse examined what happens when money collides with technology and no oversight. Both novel/film and series reflect the culture’s uneasiness with any authority that operates in the (metaphorical) shadows, regardless of what face it shows when dragged into the light.

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Bakan, Joel. The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power. New York: Free Press, 2004. The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power Google Scholar

Bennett, Eve. ‘Deconstructing the Dream Factory: Personal Fantasy and Corporate Manipulation in Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse’. Slayage: The Journal of the Whedon Studies Association 9.1 (2010). http://www.whedonstudies.tv/uploads/2/6/2/8/26288593/bennett_slayage_9.1.pdf. Accessed 28 Jan 2017. Google Scholar

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Hodak, George. ‘Precedents: May 2, 1974’. ABA Journal (1 May 2009). http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/may_2_1974. Accessed 28 Jan 2017. Google Scholar

Indick, Ben. ‘King and the Literary Tradition of Horror and the Supernatural’. Fear Itself: The Horror Fiction of Stephen King. Ed. Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller. San Francisco: Underwood, 1982. 175–88. King and the Literary Tradition of Horror and the Supernatural Fear Itself: The Horror Fiction of Stephen King 175 88 Google Scholar

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Jowett, Lorna. ‘“I love him … is that real?”: Interrogating Romance Through Victor and Sierra’. Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse: Confounding Purpose, Confusing Identity. Ed. Sherry Ginn, Alyson R. Buckman and Heather M. Porter. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. 127–40. “I love him … is that real?”: Interrogating Romance Through Victor and Sierra Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse: Confounding Purpose, Confusing Identity 127 40 Google Scholar

King, Stephen. Danse Macabre. London: MacDonald, 1991. Danse Macabre Google Scholar

King, Stephen. ‘Everything you need to know about writing successfully – in ten minutes’. The Writer’s Handbook. Ed. Sylvia Burack. Boston: The Writer Inc, 1988. 15–21. Everything you need to know about writing successfully – in ten minutes The Writer’s Handbook 15 21 Google Scholar

King, Stephen. Firestarter. New York: Signet, 1980. Firestarter Google Scholar

King, Stephen. IT. New York: Signet, 1986. IT Google Scholar

King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. New York: Scribner, 2000. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft Google Scholar

King, Stephen. ‘Salem’s Lot. New York: Doubleday, 1975. Salem’s Lot Google Scholar

King, Stephen. The Stand. New York: Anchor, 1978. The Stand Google Scholar

Klein, Naomi. No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies. New York: Picador, 2002. No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies Google Scholar

Klein, Naomi. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. London: Penguin, 2007. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism Google Scholar

McCoy, Alfred W. A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror. New York: Metropolitan, 2006. A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror Google Scholar

Magistrale, Tony. Landscape of Fear: Stephen King’s American Gothic. Madison: Popular Press, 1988. Landscape of Fear: Stephen King’s American Gothic Google Scholar

Magistrale, Tony. ‘Why Stephen King Still Matters’. A Companion to American Gothic. Ed. Charles L. Crow. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013. 353–65. Why Stephen King Still Matters A Companion to American Gothic 353 65 Google Scholar

Muntersbjorn, Madeleine. ‘Disgust, Difference, and Displacement in the Dollhouse’. Slayage: The Journal of the Whedon Studies Association 8.2/3 (2010). http://www.whedonstudies.tv/uploads/2/6/2/8/26288593/muntersbjorn_slayage_8.2-3.pdf. Accessed 28 Jan 2017. Google Scholar

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Nadkarni, Samira. ‘“In My House and Therefore in My Care”: Transgressive Mothering, Abuse, and Embodiment’. Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse: Confounding Purpose, Confusing Identity. Ed. Sherry Ginn, Alyson R. Buckman and Heather M. Porter. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. 81–95. “In My House and Therefore in My Care”: Transgressive Mothering, Abuse, and Embodiment Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse: Confounding Purpose, Confusing Identity 81 95 Google Scholar

Noone, Kristin. ‘Rossum’s Universal Robots: Karel Capek Meets Joss Whedon in the Dollhouse’. Inside Joss’ Dollhouse: From Alpha to Rossum. Ed. Jane Espenson. Dallas: Ben Bella, 2011. 21–32. Rossum’s Universal Robots: Karel Capek Meets Joss Whedon in the Dollhouse Inside Joss’ Dollhouse: From Alpha to Rossum 21 32 Google Scholar

Palast, Greg. The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: The Truth About Corporate Cons, Globalization, and High-Finance Fraudsters. New York: Plume, 2003. The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: The Truth About Corporate Cons, Globalization, and High-Finance Fraudsters Google Scholar

Palmer, William J. The Films of the Eighties: A Social History. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1993. The Films of the Eighties: A Social History Google Scholar

Rochlin, Margy. ‘Slay Belle’. TV Guide (2 Aug 1997): 17–21. Slay Belle TV Guide 17 21 Google Scholar

Sewell, Anne. ‘“The Dead Zone”: Did Stephen King Predict the Rise of Donald Trump?’ Inquisitr (16 Mar 2016). http://www.inquisitr.com/2895400/the-dead-zone-did-stephen-king-predict-the-rise-of-donald-trump/. Accessed 28 Jan 2017. Google Scholar

Souza, Christopher. ‘Boyd Langton and the Fantasy of Trust’. Inside Joss’ Dollhouse: From Alpha to Rossum. Ed. Jane Espenson. Dallas: Ben Bella, 2011. 205–17. Boyd Langton and the Fantasy of Trust Inside Joss’ Dollhouse: From Alpha to Rossum 205 17 Google Scholar

Suvin, Darko. Defined by a Hollow: Essays on Utopia, Science Fiction, and Political Epistemology. Bern: Peter Lang, 2010. Defined by a Hollow: Essays on Utopia, Science Fiction, and Political Epistemology Google Scholar

Tupper, Peter. ‘Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse: 21st Century Neo-Gothic’. Inside Joss’ Dollhouse: From Alpha to Rossum. Ed. Jane Espenson. Dallas: Ben Bella, 2011. 47–61. Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse: 21st Century Neo-Gothic Inside Joss’ Dollhouse: From Alpha to Rossum 47 61 Google Scholar

Weinstein, Harvey M. Psychiatry and the CIA: Victims of Mind Control. Washington: American Psychiatric Press, 1990. Psychiatry and the CIA: Victims of Mind Control Google Scholar

Wilcox, Rhonda. ‘Echoes of Complicity: Reflexivity and Identity in Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse’. Slayage: The Journal of the Whedon Studies Association 8.2/3 (2010). http://www.whedonstudies.tv/uploads/2/6/2/8/26288593/wilcox_slayage_8.2-3.pdf. Accessed 28 Jan 2017. Google Scholar

Wilcox, Rhonda. Why Buffy Matters: The Art of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. London: IB Tauris, 2005. Why Buffy Matters: The Art of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Google Scholar

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Giannini, Erin