Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Notebook Extract


For sociology research student Helen the academic world is clearly dominated by men, a situation which her thesis seeks to undermine by proving the invalidity of existing texts concerning urban legends – all seemingly authored by men. This male domination extends into both her family life (her husband is a university professor) and into the illusionary world created by the supernatural element of the Candyman: the Gothic ‘other’ world created by his hypnotic presence lulls Helen into a hallucinatory state and so makes her an instrument of his murderous desires. She becomes, quite literally, an extension and/or physical embodiment of the antagonist’s desire for violent and murderous actions. In this respect Helen’s submission to the threatening male could be interpreted at a much more complex level, with the narrative itself potentially being in conflict: the male presence of the Candyman can be seen as means of repressing the Female Gothic narrative trajectory by forcing the female protagonist into a typical male narrative, making her a character driven not by emotion and understanding but by base instinct which results in externally aggressive actions.

Regardless of how this interpretation is perceived, at a basic narrative level Helen is forever trapped in a male dominated world, be that in the tangible world of the university or the hallucinatory one created by the Candyman. This oppression culminates into total domination and control, with Helen being simultaneously attracted to and repulsed by the two men in her life. Although she loves her husband, Helen not only suspects him of having an affair with an undergraduate student but is also, unconsciously, jealous of his academic success. As she struggles to deal with these conflicting emotions, her (possible) hallucinations of the Candyman represent a projected externalisation of these anxieties: handsome, well spoken and rich, the Candyman offers Helen immortality if she will be his victim. With his calm voice and promises of power and dominion, Candyman is essential a seducer, a tempter whose own dominance is reinstated by the death of each of his victims.

Unable to distinguish between what is real and what is not, Helen seemingly slips into a state of madness and fully enters into the delusion world the supernatural element may or may not have created. As the film reaches its climax, Helen attempts to save the baby Candyman requires as a final sacrifice. Although she rescues the baby and kills the Candyman, Helen herself dies. But, given the Gothic intensity of the film, death is never the end and in the narrative's final twist, Helen returns from death and using her husband’s lover as Candyman used her, murders him.

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