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The Horror of Rape on Cable TV: Exploring Rape Narratives in American Horror Story and The Walking Dead


The Horror of Rape on Cable TV: Exploring Rape Narratives in American Horror Story and The Walking Dead

Cross, Alicia (2016) The Horror of Rape on Cable TV: Exploring Rape Narratives in American Horror Story and The Walking Dead. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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This thesis explores the representation of rape in two successful cable horror programs, FX’s American Horror Story (FX, 2011-) and AMC’s The Walking Dead (AMC, 2010-). I first offer a contextual analysis of the American television industry, focusing on the economic specificities of cable television and the brand identities of FX and AMC networks. I argue that the building of a quality brand within the contemporary television industry demands the valuation of controversial and edgy content, which includes sexual violence. Next, I engage in a textual analysis of American Horror Story: Coven and the fifth season of The Walking Dead. Drawing on narrative theory and film theory on horror, I look critically at the construction of the rape narratives, their visual representation, and their relationship to the conventions and expectations of the horror genre. Overall, this thesis considers how AHS and TWD relate to rape culture, both as products of a particular industrial context that values rape as controversial—yet desirable—content and as texts that depict rape. While both programs articulate feminist understandings of rape, they also include patriarchal and postfeminist discourses. Moreover, through different representational strategies, both programs represent rape as horror. TWD resists portraying literal rape and thus denies any pleasure in watching rape, whereas AHS incorporates rape into spectacles of violence. By aestheticizing and commodifying rape, AHS represents a tension between challenging rape culture and reaffirming it.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Communication Studies
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Cross, Alicia
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:Media Studies
Date:June 2016
Thesis Supervisor(s):Acland, Charles
Keywords:television, television studies, rape culture, rape, horror, popular culture, sexual violence, feminism, american horror story, the walking dead
ID Code:981352
Deposited By: ALICIA CROSS
Deposited On:07 Nov 2016 19:54
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:52


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