The Subject of Torture

The Subject of Torture: Psychoanalysis and Biopolitics in Television and Film

Hilary Neroni
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 200
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/nero17070
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  • Book Info
    The Subject of Torture
    Book Description:

    Considering representations of torture in such television series as24,Alias, andHomeland; the documentariesTaxi to the Dark Side(2007),Ghosts of Abu Ghraib(2007), andStandard Operating Procedure(2008); and "torture porn" feature films from the Saw and Hostel series, Hilary Neroni unites aesthetic and theoretical analysis to provide a unique portal into theorizing biopower and its relation to the desiring subject. Her work ultimately showcases film and television studies' singular ability to expose and potentially disable the fantasies that sustain torture and the regimes that deploy it.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53914-2
    Subjects: Film Studies, Sociology, Performing Arts, Philosophy, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: CONFRONTING THE ABU GHRAIB PHOTOGRAPHS
    (pp. 1-22)

    In late April 2004, the shocking photographs from Abu Ghraib depicting American military personnel and their prisoners were made public. It is not by chance that the representations in these photographs brought the question of torture to the foreground. Representations of torture have been at the heart of the torture debate in recent years, and the outcome of this debate will undoubtedly revolve around what sort of representation becomes the accepted standard. Thus, a book on the theoretical implications of torture must be, I contend, at the same time a book on the media representation of torture. This is the...

  5. 1 TORTURE, BIOPOWER, AND THE DESIRING SUBJECT
    (pp. 23-48)

    Recent years have seen a remarkable rise in scenes of torture on television and in film. How the scenes are depicted and situated in narratives reveals not only America’s various cultural reactions to the attacks of September 11, 2001, but also the latest development in a far-reaching ideological shift that impacts every facet of contemporary existence. The various deployments are far from simple or one-sided; instead, these violent scenes are often used in opposing ways in different films or television series. Since September 11, 2001, however, some clear patterns across these various representations have begun to establish themselves. By examining...

  6. 2 THE NONSENSICAL SMILE OF THE TORTURER IN POST-9/11 DOCUMENTARY FILMS
    (pp. 49-70)

    The contemporary torture fantasy relied upon by the Bush administration and reinforced by television shows like 24 became the object of an attack by a spate of documentary films appearing after the Abu Ghraib photographs revealed torture and abuse in U.S. military prisons in Iraq. In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, documentary films played an important role in providing the facts behind the War on Terror that emerged in response to these attacks. The deployment of American power by the Bush administration occurred through unprecedented opaqueness and concealment, and the documentary form acted as a counterweight to...

  7. 3 TORTURE PORN AND THE DESIRING SUBJECT IN HOSTEL AND SAW
    (pp. 71-94)

    The termtorture pornhas a recent vintage. David Edelstein coined the term in an essay that appeared in the January 28, 2006, issue ofNew York Magazine. The essay, entitled “Now Playing at Your Local Multiplex: Torture Porn,” identifies a group of films that seems to belong to the horror genre and yet has characteristics of pornography (which is why this moniker has stuck). Scholars, film critics, and filmmakers alike now refer to this group of films that revel in depictions of torture as “torture porn.”¹ The odd yet popular term describes the recent spate of films that reveal...

  8. 4 24,JACK BAUER, AND THE TORTURE FANTASY
    (pp. 95-114)

    The contemporary torture fantasy suggests that torture can retrieve information housed within the body of a terrorist. This information can then stop a terrorist’s plot to kill untold numbers of people. The fantasy justifies torture as the only adequate response to an imminent threat, and it inculcates us with the impression that the body contains truths that one can access directly if one knows the proper means. This torture fantasy grows out of the ideology of biopower. Prior to the emergence of biopower, torture certainly existed, but our contemporary torture fantasy did not. The depiction of this fantasy in media...

  9. 5 THE BIODETECTIVE VERSUS THE DETECTIVE OF THE REAL IN ZERO DARK THIRTY AND HOMELAND
    (pp. 115-138)

    The appearance of Kathryn Bigelow’sZero Dark Thirty(2012) came a little less than a decade after the torture practices at Abu Ghraib and other sites were made public (in April 2004). The original exposure of the torture through photographs taken at Abu Ghraib sparked a very public and well-reported debate in America about the validity of torture. Much seems to have changed since 2004, with Barack Obama becoming president, many of those involved in the torture scandal tried and convicted, and countless documentaries and books arguing against torture. Nonetheless, much has also stayed the same, and the release of...

  10. 6 ALIAS AND THE FICTIONAL ALTERNATIVE TO TORTURE
    (pp. 139-160)

    Unlike 24’s consistent attempts to shore up the validity of torture,Alias(2001–2006), of a similar genre and moment in history, seeks truth in a way that undermines the validity of torture.Aliasdepicts a type of national security that not only doesn’t rely on torture but actually posits its unreliability. The series also refuses to base the effectiveness of its operations on surveillance techniques or investigations of the body, such as one might see on a contemporary police drama that focuses on forensic evidence. Paramilitary action, surveillance, and forensics play a part in the successful missions thatAliasdepicts,...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 161-184)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 185-188)