“Your Story’s Real, and People Feel That”: Contextualising Torture

Steve Jones

The text redresses two common critical suppositions. The first derives from defences that treat torture porn as an allegory for the Bush Administration’s War on Terror. Cumulatively, those allegory interpretations imply that torture porn is stimulating chiefly because of the immediate political context. To read torture porn merely as a re ection of its contemporaneous context is to divest the subgenre of its potential long-term meanings. The second assumption is narratological. Detractors have claimed that torture porn is sadistic, alleging that the films are mainly focused on torturers’ pleasures. This supposition again arises from pre-established discursive narratives. Slasher films, for instance, have stood accused of fostering sadistic pleasure because they regularly include camera shots that emulate antagonists’ first-person perspectives. Numerous critics have vilified horror films for encouraging audiences to ‘identify’ with killers, suggesting that first-person camerawork facilitates sadistic attitudes. This established critical paradigm has been transposed onto torture porn without examining the subgenre’s content. As Chapter 4 illustrates, torture porn narratives are aligned with sufferers’ perspectives much more consistently than they are with torturers.

Key words: torture porn, subgenre, subjective view, antagonist, horror, identi cation.

The integral version of this article can be found in the printed KINO!