Published: March 1, 2006 By

[1] The cultural articulation of sexuality to political violence has enjoyed no shortage of scholarly analysis in recent years. Drawing upon libidinal models familiar to readers of renowned German Freudo-Marxists Wilhelm Reich, Herbert Marcuse, and Klaus Theweleit, several monographs published since the mid-to-late 1990s forward compelling arguments about the relationship of modern sexualities to violence with respect to fascism (e.g., Slane; Carlston; Duggan; Hewitt). Much like their critical theoretical predecessors, these texts examine a purported ideological determinacy of homosexuality to fascism. Their renewed attention to the question, however, is inflected by postructuralist critiques of prior heterosexist explanations associated with psychoanalysis (e.g., Foucault). Drawing inter alia from queer masculinity studies (e.g., Halberstam) and critical race theory (e.g., Somerville), these recent reconsiderations of the fascism–homosexuality nexus deploy a deconstructed psychoanalysis largely disarticulated from the anti–capitalist class analysis engaged by Freudo-Marxism while retaining nonetheless a political interest in representations of sexual violence for which the Victorian and Weimar periods still figure as typical historical matrices.

[2] The ensuing critical theses have achieved a modicum of support in the U.S. academy in the midst of two right-wing presidential coups and attendant economic crises, as scholarly interest in left-oriented cultural critique has resurfaced within liberal and progressive academic circles (e.g., Tinkom). Indeed critical theory, which differs from both liberal political economy and orthodox Marxism for its insistence upon subjectivity as the necessary analytic starting point for aesthetic criticism, continues to bear a stigma of disrepute on both political fronts for its sustained interrogation of commodity fetishism at the register of cultural form—what Theodor W. Adorno refers to as the “phoniness” of mass culture (133, 137), its ideological dissimulation of surplus-labor production through intransitive, often intangible occasions of cultural exchange. Recent analyses of fascist sexualities are largely reluctant to examine this material register of culture, sometimes as a result of authorial self-censorship in light of what has been dubbed the “New McCarthyism” (see Ginsberg, “Academic”), but more often out of the sheer intellectual non-knowledge that derives from a century of U.S. anti–leftism, to which I refer elsewhere in terms of the academic institutional phenomenon of neoliberal “dumbing down” (Ginsberg, “‘Dumbing'”).

[3] By the same token, a significant dearth of informed counter-analysis of the fascism–sexuality nexus on the Marxist left betrays an uncannily complementary evasion of critical theory’s crucial, anti–fascist praxis of immanent critique, a methodology of engaging and interrogating the formal contradictions and aporias that symptomatize the ideological reduction of a cultural occasion’s interpretive layering into apparent coherence and viability, and that preclude their re-envisioning, apropos of Marx, as reified principles of historical movement and change (see Antonio 333). Immanent critique poses the dual question of how and why cultural occasions might be theorized, produced, and received other than through methodologies that would assimilate them, their means of conception, expression, and dissemination, into hermeneutic intelligibilities disengaged from the material concrete. As Jewish Marxist theorists Enzo Traverso and Esther Leslie have each argued variously, immanent critique has been misrecognized within poststructuralist schools as dogmatic and elitist for its strong focus on formal structures, and within Marxist circles as counterproductive for its apparent subversion of the conceptual “outside” considered necessary to revolutionary praxis. In fact this methodology pace Marx enables a profoundly radical envisaging and effectuation of political culture. Refusing identitarian formulations and attendant ideological fetishism, it persistently offends those critical tendencies whose theoretical abstractions it may place into serious question by its anti–idealist, anti–romantic, anti–heroic cultural-historiographic praxis and, from some perspectives, its interpretability as a secular, demystified, anti–nationalist but nonetheless non-assimilationist modality of Judaic analytics.

[4] By their albeit politically polarized resistances to differing aspects of critical theory, then, these otherwise interestingly engaged, broadly left perspectives (progressivism, [neo-]orthodox and phenomenological Marxisms) offer but truncated explanations of modern sexualities and their socio-cultural representations. On the one hand, they divest social culture of its economic overdetermination while distilling fascist politics into forms of nihilistic expression. On the other hand, they mistakenly confront objective and subjective fetish formations at the same analytic register, sometimes within the same discursive series, such that the critique of commodification part and parcel to the fullest possible understanding of fascist culture ends up at the same time fostering misrecognition of the corporeal (esp. female and same-sex) desires long misidentified with fascist development as decadent, regressive, and inevitably reificatory mystifications of social need at best tolerable when contained through displacement onto idealized fetish-phantasms. Extant critical recognition of this category error has not succeeded in resolving the phallologocentrism it continues to project, as evidenced by neo-orthodox Marxist Rosemary Hennessy’s rather catholic suggestion that lesbian radicals consider substituting an undeniably heroic-sacrificial image of Che Guevara for female bodily configurations of sexual appeal and beauty, whereupon same-sex love between women is veritably propagated as the revolutionary solidarity of secular female mendicants (203-09). The possibility that same-sex love and desire between and for radical women be understood in terms other than those of a transpersonal phantasmagoria of bodily-sacrificial ego-ideals, and that such love and desire may serve to oppose rather than (re)instantiate both fascism and patriarchy through exemplary obviation of reificatory, indentitarian tendencies between and amongst such women, does not seem conceivable, much less desirable, within Hennessy’s nonetheless important materialist feminist critique of contemporary lesbian cultural theory.

* * * * *

[5] The resurgence of scholarly interest in fascist sexualities accompanies an increased production of mainstream independent films that focus on lesbian relationships which involve, provoke, or otherwise signify class violence. Aimée and Jaguar, La Cérémonie, Bound, Heavenly Creatures, Mulholland Dr., and Monster, for example, rehearse in updated fashion a longstanding cinematic tradition for which lesbianism poses a moral and/or physical threat to established bourgeois norms and practices. Unlike their explicitly feminist predecessors (A Question of Silence; Born in Flames; Daughters of Darkness [Le Rouge aux lèvres]), and echoing contemporary theoretical turns, these more recent films emerge in light of queer theory (esp. Butler), which deconstruction of the heteropatriarchal sex–gender nexus has at once greatly marginalized the Marxist aspects of radical, socialist, and even progressive feminist perspectives while still rendering unconvincing simplistic equations of same-sex orientation with all that is wrong in the world. (Consider as an effect of this turn the demonstrable U.S. public outcry against Christian fundamentalist Pat Robertson’s attempt to blame glbtqs for the 9-11 terrorist attacks.) Queer theory’s “postfeminist” call for interpretive complexity facilitates tolerance of the sex-gender differentiation represented in this recent spate of films but also fosters prevarication around their anti–gay and homophobic projections, even as these may delineate common, often damaging stereotypes. In short, a queer theorization of these films risks forwarding a critical apologetics typical of the discourse, according to which glbtq stereotypes are but welcome, utopic “performances” of suggestive auto-critiques, normative counter-forces and correctives to their otherwise prolific serialization.

[6] The present article seeks to explain the configuration of lesbian violence in the award-winning Hollywood independent film, Monster, by taking as its starting point this updated cinematic rehearsal in terms that rearticulate a materialist feminist advance on the film’s particular projection of queerness while engaging a critical theoretical qualification of right-residual tendencies within materialist theory that ideologically cull same-sex love and desire between and for women into a likewise potentially damaging mythification of revolutionary praxis. In this way, the article seeks not to reconnect the divergent psychoanalytic and materialist strands of critical theory, as does Sean Homer’s article to that effect in a recent issue of Historical Materialism. Homer’s project is questionable for its critical reduction of mystificatory aspects within both tendencies, and thus for a certain nostalgic envisaging of radical film theory. Instead the present article proceeds along an analytic path that enables it both to recognize and confirm the heterocentric, even anti-glbtq orientation of Monster and to understand its queer projections of lesbian violence as dialectical images of the contemporary class struggle. It does this not least by engaging the film’s cinematic articulation of lesbian desire to working-class resentment, focusing unlike other recent articles addressing cinematic portrayals of lesbian killers (Jay; McDowell) on formal and narrative-compositional structure as well as on characters and themes. The article elucidates, in other words, how Monster’s violent “lesbianism” performs speciously the Bush-Blair regime’s contemporary propagation of total class war, through its figural dissimulation of proto-fascist currents such as those symptomatized by U.S. contravention of an already historically compromised system of domestic and international law, by rearticulating socially transformative impulses readable onto the film’s queerness apropos of critical theorist Ernst Bloch, as politically conservative residuals of reification, as allegorical “memor[ies] of the old, unchanging values…of present consciousness made eternal, a consciousness deficient in utopian thought and lacking an adequately prospective view” (Bloch 55)—in other words, as aesthetic-effects of commodification which “pervert” potentially emancipatory configurations of same-sex desire into ritualized enterprises of capital-induced death.

* * * * *

[7] Monster dramatizes the true story of Aileen (“Lee”) Wuornos [Charlize Theron], a Florida prostitute convicted of murdering seven of her male tricks during an approximate two-year period spanning 1989-91. Wuornos, a lesbian, was subsequently executed by the Florida state judicial system after numerous court appeals which cited the murders as self-defense against rape and beating. Feminists have attributed this institutional intransigence to anti–feminist and heterosexist tendencies in the U.S. media and legal system. For the sheer extent of her actions, Wuornos was prejudicially dubbed the first female serial killer (Schilt 57; Hart). Mainstream corporate television capitalized upon that bias throughout Wuornos’ ten years on death row. Already the subject of sensationalist tabloid reportage since her initial arrest, Wuornos’ worsening situation gained international attention as several television interviews with her were broadcast shortly following her first conviction in conjunction with a feature-length tele-film, Overkill (dir. Peter Levin, 1992), and two reflexive documentaries directed by British filmmaker Nick Broomfield, Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer and Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer. Not coincidentally, similarly exploitative films about exceptional female murderers would be aired throughout the 1990s, one of which is particularly worth mentioning in the present context for its star intertext: Black Widow Murders: The Blanche Taylor Moore Story, in which Elizabeth Montgomery plays a white, working-class Floridian who also murders men with whom she is sexually involved. Not only did Montgomery star famously as a witch who marries a mortal in the campy ABC sit-com, Bewitched; she played the title role in the acclaimed ABC tele-film, The Legend of Lizzie Borden, which concerned a turn-of-the-century New England woman accused of murdering her parents with an axe, and she won an Emmy Award for her role as a barely restituted rape victim in the acclaimed NBC tele-film, A Case of Rape. Years later Montgomery would narrate two political documentaries directed by independent U.S. filmmaker Barbara Trent: Cover-Up: The Iran-Contra Affair and The Panama Deception, each of which incriminate the multigenerational Bush regime in promoting acts of international terror. Also relevant to this intertextual extension is a prior usage of the moniker, “Black Widow,” in the notorious soft-core international porn film, Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS, to describe a sadistic Nazi concentration camp guard who bears lesbian codification (Slane 248; also Rappaport); and the apparent derivation of the present film’s title, “Monster,” from The Monster [Il Mostro], directed by Holocaust filmmaker Roberto Benigni about a thief who is mistaken as a serial rapist (see Viano 29).

[8] With few exceptions, Monster was well-received in the glbtq and feminist as well as the mainstream print media (e.g., Denby; Wilmington; Meyer). Theron won an Academy Award for her role as Wuornos, and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation nominated Monster for its 16th Annual Media Award in the “Outstanding Film-Wide Release” category (GLAAD 1). Typical of Monster’s feminist reception was Angelita Manzano, who writes of the film in the radical feminist monthly, off our backs,

This was not the story of a psychopath but a survivor, not a monster, but a woman struggling to be recognized as a human being, worthy of love, respect, and dignity […] In this context, Aileen’s murders do not seem evil; they appear to be rational, even moral decisions, when made in the context of gross gender and class oppression […] For some viewers, this may be overwhelming. Please be advised that this movie will be painful to watch. (60)

Manzano’s response echoes that of celebrity mainstream film critic Roger Ebert, who, naming Monster best picture of 2003, saw Theron’s Wuornos as a christic figure and Monster as offering a salvific lesson in the “theological virtue of charity.” Her response also approaches views of many academic feminists, for whom Wuornos’ real-life murders were described as liberatory acts performing an oppressed woman’s desire for agency and autonomy in a world dominated by “white, male, Protestant heterosexism,” the “‘reasonable’ man of law,” and likewise by perpetual socio-economic legitimation crises (Hart 137, 141-44; Morrissey 33, 52-53; Schilt 59-60). Lynda Hart’s critique of the media industry’s and justice system’s exploitation of Wuornos’ working-class status and lesbianism is particularly salient in this respect. Hart draws upon the work of feminist criminologist Carol Smart in arguing that Wuornos’ murders are insufficiently explained, indeed naturalized and normalized, by the disproportionate legal and journalistic attention lent the traumatic circumstances of her childhood. For Hart, neither criminal violence nor sex-gender positioning are simply—or at all—an efficient result of childhood experience, however painful or damaging: both poles of the ostensible equation must be seen as socio-economically, politically, and historically overdetermined, and therefore as more complexly related than is evidently conceivable via a direct causal model (Smart 64-65, 70; Hart 151).

[9] While I do not disagree in principle with these feminist perspectives, for which Wuornos’ violent acts are possibly nothing less than ordinary responses to extraordinary conditions, Manzano’s complementary failure to take Monster’s cinematicity into account limits the validity of her conclusions with respect to the film’s representation of lesbianism and thus renders her analysis vulnerable to association with much less favorable reviews of the film which essentially blamed Wuornos for her murderous actions and rejected Monster’s sympathetic portrayal for its perceived superficiality, stereotypification, and melodramaticality (Dargis; Sinagra; Christopher). Such negative evaluations in fact served crucially to interpolate Monster’s laudatory mass reception, for despite their criticisms, they positioned Theron’s Wuornos as precisely the pathetic figure a mainstream reviewer like Ebert was to embrace, that is, as a classic victim−perpetrator, sadly guilty of her crimes despite their attributivity to paranoid projections of painful, sublimated memories of childhood sexual abuse and economic deprivation triggered by the ambivalent irruption of an ostensibly liberatory lesbian desire. Such a pathetic positioning, reinforced cinematically by each of the reflexive Broomfield documentaries and, more transparently, by Overkill, and effectively rejected by feminists Manzano, Hart, and Belinda Morrissey, rehearses the social-psychological double-bind not unfamiliar to Freudo-Marxism that Wuornos was a psychotic sexual deviant whose murderous acts might have been prevented with better parenting (Shipley and Arrigo 138) or social family intervention (Davis 189), but barring such progressive institutional mechanisms could not have been helped and are therefore regrettably subject to the harshest disciplinary sanctions in order that no one consider them socially permissible avenues of resistance. Indeed the causal nexus thusly posited of economic underprivilege, sexual perversion, homosexuality, and social violence evokes the mentioned spate of scholarly writing on fascism that draws from Reich and Marcuse, for which political violence is finally a libidinal-economic affair, an effect of psychodynamic processes understood as perverse for their displacement of sublimated corporeal energies onto a phantasmatic field of fetishistically experienced perceptions. The theoretical potential of this model, known commonly as the “repressive hypothesis,” has been criticized along Foucauldian lines for essentializing sexuality into a tautological self-expression of irruptive force (e.g., Hewitt; Ravetto; Carlston). Its apolitical and, on some readings, atavistic conception of sexuality ultimately aestheticizes the grounds of sexual determination and their patterns of interpretability, constructing around them a built-in hermeneutic defense for which the emancipatory promise carried by a political conception of sexual desublimation comes always to require monitoring and control for the concomitant danger its irruptive force supposedly presents to the promise’s very realization (Ravetto 81-87).

[10] Inasmuch as Manzano’s politically informed praise for Monster overlooked the film’s cinematic construction of any such promise, it missed the critical, film theoretical question, likewise neglected by Monster’s dismissals, of how that film is able on the one hand to subvert structurally, by its very inscription of the repressive hypothesis, what one might read and critique is the “real” Wuornos’ radical feminist significance; and, by the same token, how that very, structural subversion ironically reifies Wuornos’ political significance per se, making her, in Adorno’s terms, an “enigmatic personalization of fascist propaganda” (124).

[11] This is by no means to suggest a reactionary reading for which homosexuality equates with fascism, but to argue, critically, that the former is constructed as such in Monster. Unlike Overkill, moreover, which casts a conventionally attractive Jean Smart as an expressly post–traumatic psychopath whose lesbian positionality is more than questionable (see Ciasullo; also Luzzetto and Gvion), I argue that Monster’s particular association of fascism with lesbianism turns on an ineluctable queerness evident not only in the film’s overt representation of same-sex desire between women, but also in its pervasive ambivalence over both the orientation of that desire and its relationship to depictions of violence perpetrated by Wuornos herself, which figure reflexively as politically meaningful in the film. In this respect, my analysis differs from that of Thomas Doherty, which while offering an ostensibly feminist critique of Monster’s “queer” promotion of spectatorial voyeurism, positions queerness in heteronormative terms of gender disorder—”alien[ation] inside her own body” (4)—thus eliding a lesbian feminist critique of “queer” that might have helped him explain why, among other things, the film is entitled Monster even if, as he states, “Aileen [herself] is not a monster” (ibid.).

* * * * *

[12] Monster’s reflexive queerness may be located initially at the film’s characterological register—the critical horizon of most popular reviews. There Lee’s relationship with her lover, Selby Wall [Christina Ricci], who has been sent by her anti–lesbian, born-again Christian father to live with his sister in Florida, is portrayed as both stereotypical and liminal, perverse and uncanny, the women’s sexual bond coming ironically to delimit the “lesbian” into both an antithetical narrative impetus of sex-gender transgression and a moral-allegorical trope of the patriarchal heterosexist imaginary. “Lesbian,” in other words, forms a matrix of attraction–repulsion in Monster, structuring a purgative cipher of identification with difference that turns finally upon a reductive hypostatization of female aggression into the psychodynamic gender disorder commonly misidentified with lesbianism(-cum-fascism) and in turn reinstating the heteronormative sex-gender system apropos of Doherty’s “queer” model (cf. Neroni 59-80). Through this essentially commodificatory construction, that is (see Schmid 20-25), Lee and Selby are effectively encoded as queer lesbian signifiers.

[13] This queer lesbian codification is cursorily visible by Lee’s and Selby’s make-up and costuming, which position the women as both feminine and non-gender-specific. Unisex clothing and hairstyles discordant with corporate media and advertising industry standards of feminine beauty combine with a degree of heterosexual codification that contrasts the culturally pervasive butch–femme caricature of lesbianism as well as resists its common foil, androgyny (the generic inscription of which favors the masculine). Indeed neither Lee nor Selby is ever portrayed as either strictly “passive” or “aggressive” sexually; in contrast to traditional Hollywood and European art cinemas as well as to television’s Overkill, no violent S/M develops or appears dramatically motivated between the women. Moreover neither character ever refers to herself as a lesbian, a point underscored by a comment by Selby’s aunt, who in trying to persuade Selby to break up with Lee, says, “She’s not even gay!” This “queer” difference is underscored by Lee and Selby’s misfit with the film’s “normal everyday” lesbians, who, like the mortals in television’s Bewitched, The Munsters, and The Addams Family (a 1991 Hollywood movie version of which co-starred Ricci), and the modern city folk in The Beverly Hillbillies, gesture uncomfortably at Lee’s unruly deportment—her grotesquely made-up face, hair, and body as well as her volatile temper—and at Selby’s physical and interpersonal awkwardness, both of which preclude the women’s social acceptance and integration into an already marginalized community.

[14] Monster’s characterological transgressiveness is supplemented at the film’s narrative-compositional register, where sex-gender positioning figures a mimetic absence that renders Lee’s and Selby’s lesbianism and its generic context not only queer but, pace Doherty, perverse. Unlike many classic cinematic portrayals of lesbianism, in which explicit sexuality offers a voyeuristic-seductive lure (Personal Best; Desert Hearts; Lianna; The Hunger; Therese & Isabelle), Monster downplays lesbian sexual practice to the point of evacuating its dramatological function. While appearing at worst conventionally tasteful and at best deferential to feminist critiques of female sexual exploitation (e.g., Macciocchi), the two lesbian sex scenes in Monster serve as little more than proairetic nodes, prefiguring and to some extent recapitulating the actually explicit events of the film: Lee’s increasingly unprovoked murders. Rather than any promise of screen sex between Lee and Selby, it is these graphic, serial acts of violence, positioned subsequent to scenes of veiled lesbian encounter and, in turn, explicit heterosexual encounter, which mark the film’s occasioning of cinematic desire and psychodynamic catharsis.

[15] This inverse structuring does not, however, forge a direct, causal connection of lesbian sexuality to violence. Just as Monster’s diegesis contains no recognizable model or discursive framework by which Lee and Selby may identify themselves as lesbians, the film’s evacuation of lesbian spectacle lends the cinematic action ensuing from it a hyperreal, performative quality, whereupon the concomitant inversion of narrative objectivity in conjunction with Lee’s and Selby’s non-gender-specificity becomes interpretable as a negative dialectical effect (cf. Seltzer 17). Recalling cultural historian Bram Dykstra’s reference to the patriarchal designation of Woman as naturally self-effacing and narcissistic, as prone to chaos, madness, and perversity for her purported essential lack of (phallic) grounding (122-39), lesbian sexuality in Monster does not simply cause but actually entails violence, which itself then comes to serve the rhetorical function of its own, displaced potentiation apropros of the repressive hypothesis. In this way, Monster positions lesbian sexuality as a supplemental telos of death and destruction, as literally “monstrous” in its non-linear, irruptive, “queer” capacity to effectuate baseless—antifoundational—desire, that is, to provoke needless action (see Hewitt 29). In effect, Lee and Selby are not only queer lesbians, they are sexual perverts; for in Monster, “queer” and “perversion” are one and the same.

[16] This does not however mean that Monster’s queer lesbianism is completely bereft of phallic significance, and that it therefore, to invoke Adorno, “falls in line with…the ‘stereopathy’ of those susceptible to [fascist] propaganda” as it manipulates the subjective alienation of the working-consuming masses through compulsive idealization of an “instinctual economy” (Adorno 133-35; see also Dykstra 129). In fact the film is armed with what Judith Butler would refer to as a “lesbian phallus” (Butler 57-91; cf. Roth), which functions in Monster to underscore a certain masculine aspect of the women’s “queer” lesbianism while nonetheless bolstering its irrational, proto-fascist orientation in terms of what a heterocentric Adorno can apparently only attribute to a reputedly feminine socio-sexual weakness and vulnerability.

[17] Indeed Monster’s lesbianism initially recalls what lesbian feminist film and cultural theorists Teresa de Lauretis and Patricia White each define as modern lesbian desire: the subliminal dynamic overdetermining an imaginary orientation of female desire to women’s (own) bodies. On this definition, lesbian desire is non-phallic because its corporeal orientation neither metonymizes phallic power, as in a psycho-erotic “merging” that involves female bodily appropriation, nor metaphorizes it through agonistic mimesis, that is, aggressive competition between women for social reward. Locatable to an unconscious, uncannily proto-feminist misrecognition of women’s social alienation, modern lesbian desire is conceived as a non-pathological disavowal of the fact that female same-sex desirability—female love and desire for the woman’s body per se, that is, by practical extension, for the conditions of women’s enfranchisement and equality—symptomatizes a profound impossibility for the continued functioning of patriarchal capitalism. For White following de Lauretis, this lesbian disavowal finds representational form not as the proverbially envied phallic vehicle or cipher, as Hennessy misreads it (191-92), nor even as Butler’s “lesbian phallus,” but as an imaginary signifier of the very occlusion (dis)enabling lesbian desire itself, a differential configuration which in commercial industrial Hollywood cinema may indeed be troped into allegorical fetish-phantasms that perform—masquerade as—both the conditions and operability of lesbian desire’s social-systemic absenting. By no means pre-symbolic, pre-genital, pre-social, or otherwise primal-atavistic, then—as a secondary narcissistic phenomenon, it is by all means dissonant, frictional, misrecognitional, and for White echoing Hewitt on male (hetero)sexuality, undoubtedly subject to reification—what the post–marxist de Lauretis calls “the practice of love,” of female libidinal-corporeal intercalation, does not necessarily figure the phallus (Ginsberg, Rev., 322).

[18] Viewed at the film’s dramatological register, Monster’s queer lesbianism would seem at first to adopt this definition in one of its arguably more alienated formulations. Lee and Selby are often portrayed in conflicts that involve the psychological projection part and parcel to imaginary differentiation and disavowal. Lee misrecognizes Selby as an ego ideal, the imaginary key to her own salvation from prostitution and unhappiness; Selby misrecognizes Lee paranoiacally, as recklessly exploiting her own need for care and support. These psychodramatic episodes present a non-competitive, non-objectivizing but nonetheless socially mediated relationship that affirms, according to New York Times film critic Stephen Holden, the affair’s “sad case study of dysfunction and desperate co-dependency.” By the same token, these conflictual scenes will also gradually supplement the film’s perverse narrative displacement of sexual lure onto scenes of Lee’s increasingly heightened violence, paralleling what Holden likewise calls “the impersonal semi-urban wasteland of central Florida with its strip malls, seedy bars and gas stations.” The dramatic episodes between Lee and Selby in this way come to function akin to White’s reificatory fetish-phantasm, allegorizing a dialectic of lesbian desire that necessitates a rhetorical evacuation of explicit lesbian sexual activity, for which explicit heterosexual activity remains a pervasive dramatic substitute. At the narrative-compositional register, moreover, Monster offers an ideological compensation for this super-alienated displacement by reinstating the corporeal absence it circumscribes as phallic lack and “routinizing” (Farr 74) that lack in the form of a queer lesbian caricature.

[19] The cinematic mechanism of this semiotic fix is a disidentificatory gaze, Monster’s construction of which affirms progressive film critic Stuart Klawans’ astute reading of the film as a projection of political disillusionment reminiscent of Iranian cinema. Monster constructs this gaze through a series of shots punctuating the narrative that consistently figure Lee looking at her reflection in mirrors and other shiny objects, and which turns upon a structural disjunction between the film’s narrative and compositional registers that ironically subverts the cinematic gaze itself. The framing and mise-en-scène of these shots pattern Lee’s characterological development along lines typical of modern gay and lesbian cinema, as moving from “closeted” to “out” lesbian (while the “real” Wuornos had already come out by this time). Among other things, this pattern qualifies Monster as a coming-of-age story that traces a Marcusean development from so-called primal one-dimensionality to an ostensibly more mature because well-rounded subjectivity. The fact that this development is accompanied by Lee’s increasingly heightened violence, however, mitigates any coming-of-age trajectory with a politically mediated discourse of regression of the sort commonly deployed to infantilize and demean lesbians.

[20] The first of the mirror-shots follows a preliminary kissing scene between Lee and Selby outside a roller rink popular with teenagers. Both single and close-up, this shot figures Lee one-dimensionally, as isolated and abstract. A later shot alters this character dynamic by figuring Lee in full-shot vis-à-vis her mirror reflection and in spatial proximity to a television set. The resulting two-dimensional effect suggests Lee’s maturation: apparently on the road to reform after having committed her first murder and subsequently deciding to quit prostitution in order to stabilize her relationship with Selby, Lee is now granted spatial grounding and determinacy; she is no longer floating or spectral. Viewed furthermore in narrative context, this secondary, two-dimensional construction figures as a positive node along Monster’s film-length trajectory, to which liberatory aim Lee’s voice-over will soon refer as “making your mark on the world.”

[21] Closer analysis of this later shot’s mise-en-scène, however, reveals it as contradicting the sense of positive development underscored by the narrative sequencing. The television set in the shot’s background, for instance, connotes the commodity and (female) sexual fetishism propping up the media advertising industry, which when juxtaposed virtually with Lee’s mirror reflection insinuates an alienated, phallic interpellation affirmed by Lee’s comment during an ensuing shot: “I’ve got you [Selby]…I’m gonna git you the house, car, the whole fuckin’ shebang.” Far from orienting liberation, Lee’s desire to make a “mark on the world” is already being refigured in this scene as violent and perverse. That refiguration in fact extends the structural contradiction between mise-en-scène and narrative in terms of the gaze, as the shot in question positions the spectator into alignment with Selby’s point-of-view—Selby, whose sexual, social, and economic needs Lee has hardly satisfied. As s/he watches an ostensibly individuated Lee vis-à-vis the mirror and beside an alienating but nonetheless contingently placed television set, that is, the spectator is hailed into sympathy with Selby’s dissatisfaction, and into understanding and misrecognizing it as an effect of Lee’s queer lesbian perversity rather than, say, of an advertising industry which thrives on degrading images of women (see Coward). The scene as such conveys Lee’s apparent development not as positive maturation but as negative projection of hubris (i.e., penis envy) that can only ever defer the liberatory promise she has persistently held out to Selby.

[22] The ideological problematics of this disidentificatory structuring are only reinforced as Lee is finally granted ostensible three-dimensional status. The sequence in which this occurs is crucial, insofar as it predicates a characterological reversal between Lee and Selby, by which Lee’s obverse maldevelopment is revealed contingent upon her increasing exploitation and domination by both Selby and the spectator. This reversal figures a narrative fulcrum that condenses and captivates the structural disjunction marked out by the previous mirror scenes, confirming the desire it (re)directs as both phallic and impossible, that is, nihilistic. The occasion in question involves Lee, now a seasoned murderer, sexually consummating her relationship with Selby. Just prior to this event, Lee is once again portrayed in one dimension, but this time her mirror image reveals her scarred and bruised body as well as her face. Suddenly the camera cuts from this abstract reflection of bodily mutilation to piles of money, stolen from murdered tricks, now stacked on Lee and Selby’s bed; and shortly following the cut comes the rather anticlimactic sex-scene, typically veiled and shadowed, but with a previously passive Selby now “on top.” Viewed in sequence, these shots reaffirm the perverse, fetishistic trajectory of the previous mirror scenes. Yet subsequent to and literally allegorizing the sexual encounter is a shot of Lee aiming her pistol at another of her mirror reflections, now figuring an additional third dimension not in relation to some qualitative diegetic shift but as a division in the mirror itself, that is as a strictly imaginary phenomenon. Taken in conjunction with the previous mirror-shot of abstract bodily mutilation, the quasi-Wellesian pistol-shot effectively hystericizes Lee’s developmental trajectory, subjectivizing its violent impulsion as a paranoid projection of inherent mental anguish, which while not necessarily self-induced nonetheless figures as deserved for its apparently self-perpetuating provocativeness. This reading is affirmed by the immediately preceding scene, in which Lee, again having murdered a trick, attempts to appease an increasingly demanding Selby by treating her to what for them is an expensive meal at a local diner. Just as the women are shown experiencing the least amount of interpersonal conflict thus far depicted in the narrative, Lee is asked by the maitre-d’ not to smoke. Recalling a memorable, similar scene in the bohemian favorite, Five Easy Pieces, Lee forsakes all reason and propriety, violently overturning several tables, disrupting the rare celebratory mood, and exacerbating spectatorial anxiety over the direction of her fate.

[23] In effect the more murders Lee commits, the more visual dimensionality she accrues; but the more she is thereby positioned to lure the spectator into a precession of violent acts, the more she is inclined toward socially evacuated and/or anti–social displays, the purposelessness of which is subjected repeatedly to conventions and rules (including those signified by the occasional lecherous cop) which limit her ability to experience or provide genuine satisfaction at any register—and which in effect define and delimit her desire as perverse. This disillusioning predicament, a right-libertarian nightmare which will culminate in her trial and execution, recalls cultural theorist Andrew Hewitt quoting Walter Benjamin:

“One of the fundamental rights and demands of the workers is the right to be represented and reproduced,” and to deny them this “narcissistic” satisfaction is to reduce their desire to the very, rhetorical function otherwise attributed to the narcissistic register itself, and in turn to incite a truly perverse desire, a desire for lack, dissatisfaction, repression, even bodily mutilation and dismemberment—in essence, a desire for self-destruction or -effacement easily adducible to rationalizing murder and genocide. (29)

Lee’s legitimate desire for self-representation through reciprocal, non-violent, non-phallic love, for what Benjamin calls the narcissistic satisfaction necessary to the people’s collective well-being, is refigured via Monster’s mirror tropology as an endless spectral desire for deprivation, mutilation, and self-destruction—what critical theory has adduced, in its analysis of advanced capitalist culture, to the mass genocidal dynamics of fascism (see Schmid ibid.). Monster’s queer lesbianism is not only perverse, that is, but fascinating; it figures not merely a textual symptom of the dangerous and demeaning stereotypicality—phallic lack and envy—Hart argues the “real” Wuornos herself actually resisted through the modicum of lesbian feminist consciousness she was able to achieve (she would eventually engage the National Center for Lesbian Rights for legal aid). Not entirely unlike Hennessy’s christic Che, this perverse lesbian matrix figures an ideological personalization, a (dis)embodied dissimulation of what Erich Fromm would call the genuine, inalienable need whose persistent denial through sacrifice is the true serial murder represented by the working class “monster,” Lee (see Anderson 82-119; cf. Sharrett 13). This (dis)embodied, reificatory quality is clearly evident in Monster’s anti–feminist intertext, as no public interview with Charlize Theron neglected to emphasize her corporeal transformation into the overweight and conventionally unattractive lesbian/Wuornos (e.g., Holden), as well as by its plethora of close-ups, mirror-shots, and pervasive interior settings—all of which stand, in effect, to figure Aileen Wuornos as a lesbian phallus, an autotelic, endlessly mimetic allegory who in this, extreme case performs a naturalized inclination to keep killing the perverse refraction of her lesbian(-feminist) desire into apocalyptic infinity.

* * * * *

[24] Like many of Monster’s critics, the Aileen Wuornos cinematic intertext also proffers varying degrees of sympathy for her repeated violent acts, both in terms of the expectations which that intertext raises in spectators who will patronize Monster, and of the generic features of women’s melodrama traversing the intertext which have been theorized to rhetorically “exceed” narrative-compositional discourse (see Gledhill). In view of the film’s queer lesbian structure, however, Monster’s melodramatic excess, the locus of the sympathy which critics have attributed to the film, is subject to an ideological containment beyond narrative-compositional horizons. That containment finally positions queer lesbian Lee along medieval lines, as a “heretic”: a person whose very existence is compromised by her refusal or inability to assimilate or adapt to a perfidiously instituted, ubiquitously conceived status quo (see Ames 1-4).

[25] This neo-structuralist phenomenology is readily discernible with respect to Monster’s voice-over, narrated in hindsight throughout the film by a deceased Lee. The voice-over’s post–mortem status and melodramatic intertext easily reference the classic camp noir, Sunset Boulevard, thereby reinforcing a cursory sense of Lee’s and Selby’s “queerness,” for which each woman is at once a femme fatale and a societal dupe performing the insipid boundaries of a nostalgically conceived reality (see Forgacs). Insofar as its enunciation is non-diegetic, moreover, the voice-over aurally sutures Monster’s disjunctive formal registers with an impossible yet audible series of speech-acts, suggesting a lesbian aesthetic not incompatible with the deLauretis/White configuration. By the same token, however, Lee’s voice-over precedes her execution at film’s end in the form of a religiously coded farewell testament, which serves to mystify the lesbian aesthetic.

[26] The scene in question depicts Lee in a Florida courtroom undergoing trial and sentencing. As she finally exits the courtroom into an indeterminate space prefigured by an eerie white-out as a death chamber, her voice-over recites almost verbatim the quintessential Jewish prayer, the Sh’ma: “I shall always love you [Selby] with all my heart, all my soul, and all my might.” Importantly, this religiously coded recitation accompanies a visual direct address which, like the two-dimensional mirror/television scene, hails the spectator alongside Selby, whose betrayal of Lee to the police will make her partly responsible for Lee’s execution. Instead of invoking divinity, the voice-over in conjunction with Lee’s visual direct address invokes human subjectivity and implicates it in Lee’s tragedy. To be sure, this technique serves to shame the perpetrators and bystanders of Lee’s arrest and execution apropos of Ebert’s christological interpretation. More complexly, it signifies a secular transfer of divine sanction apropos of Benjamin’s famous theory of “aura,” which critiques the bourgeois displacement of social value from feudal domain to capitalist property. On that line, the queer “excess” of Lee’s post–mortem voice-over functions to dissimulate commodificatory telos, naturalizing Lee’s victimization not simply as an inevitable result but as an essential matrix of her unrelinquished stake in the system that has so ruthlessly exploited her. In this postmodern version of the repressive hypothesis, Lee’s vocal imputation of aura to Selby symptomatizes the discussed extremity of both women’s alienation as well as performs its phallic captivation as juridical fiat. In other words, the voice-over’s (de)sacralized quality hyperrealizes the film’s lesbian aesthetic, reifying Lee’s continued idealization of Selby by positioning same-sex female desire as divinely ordained while refiguring Selby’s reciprocal fetishization of Lee as a proverbial fear of God that has compelled Selby a recently “out” lesbian, regretfully to confess her wrongdoings and deliver her recalcitrant, unrepentant lover to the cops.

[27] Put another way, Lee’s post–mortem voice-over renders her “heretical” by enunciating a transcendent, not merely transgressive, modality of female sexual desire, what Irigaray might call a “sacrifice of the sacrifice of woman” (Keenan) for its reduction of lesbian aesthetics along lines that misidentify it with necessarily unattainable ideals. In Monster, this misidentification congeals concepts of so-called Jewish election (“chosenness”) and lesbian “androgyny,” which in fact are politically mediated products of social justice struggles that since have been travestied and co-opted into their ideological opposites (see Broderick; also Heschel; cf. Kibbey 136-37). Their congealed projection in Monster as transcendent sacrificial nodes mystifies the racism and heterosexism actually endured by the historical subjects of those struggles, which today are being engaged at Abu Ghraib and Guanatanamo Bay, in the U.S. prison-industrial complex, and vis-à-vis U.S. judicial and legislative roll-backs, epitomized if not initiated by the Bush II administration, all of which acutely affect Latino/as, indigeneous populations, Blacks and Asians, especially Muslims, alongside women, glbtqs, and Jews—not least those of working-class status. In the context of Monster’s punitive courtroom, this hyper-sacrificial tack merely aggravates the memory of the “collective historical injustices” (Benjamin qtd. Felman 11-12) which Lee, a multiple rape and battery victim, both sustains and metaphorizes, even as they are offered diegetic hearing during the brief trial scene. This is especially true insofar as the trial is largely synoptic and contains a minimum of diegetic speech that is eventually trumped by the testamentary voice-over. (I employ “diegetic” here in its original Greek sense of juridical testimony.) In effect the film’s veritable hyperrealization of Lee’s vocal perspective functions less to provide her with enunciative ground than to position her as fundamentally abject—not only perverse, not only phallic, but a pathetic martyr for whom queer lesbianism is, apropos of Hart (18-21), a “negative theology” of interminable, erotically charged sacrifice.

[28] Indeed the spectral Lee does nothing short of consolidating the paradoxical desire embraced by Christianity for prohibited, indefinitely postponed corporeal pleasure vis-à-vis the “unsecured” woman (see Keenan), the non-fulfillment of which is only ever furthered through containment, rather than fundamentally reversed or rectified, by positive phantasies of lack (Lacan’s “aphanisis”). Such elevated, self-abnegatory phantasies encourage a relinquishing of satisfaction in deference to perpetual, serial stand-ins (Lacan’s petit objet a, Irigaray’s “the Son,” Butler’s “lesbian phallus,” Marx’s commodity), which in turn form purgative icons of a pervasively exploitative social system (cf. Clague 58-59). This paradoxical dialectic, according to Reich, traces the romantic phenomenology which modern fascism culls into a homosocial “creed of asexuality,” the sacrificial fetish-phantasms of which are the heretical “sexual deviants” and “Christ-killers” whose inquisitions and legalized executions symptomatize, echoing Fromm, the patriarchal capitalist dissimulation of real social needs and attempts genuinely to satisfy them and the desires they interpolate (qtd. Forgacs 232; cf. Reich 118-119).

[29] Hence when Lee admits after her first murder, “I always wanted to be President of the United States”; when Monster evades Wuornos’ Michigan (Northern liberal) origins by relocating them to (Southern right-libertarian) Florida; when Lee, follow her first murder, is portrayed wearing a cap inscribed with the word “Colorado” (a right-wing Christian bastion); when her subsequent attempt to pursue a mainstream job opportunity is forestalled by an African-American state agent (evoking anti–AA/EO resentment); and when, in Theron’s Oscar-winning monologue, Lee finally confesses her multiple murders to a disingenuously incredulous Selby, rationalizing them as justified political acts against an immoral, hypocritical society, the film’s transcendent sacrificial hermeneutic makes available moral-allegorical readings that position Lee and the spectators who may sympathize with her not as commendable, if strange and peculiar social activists (e.g., Lesbian Avengers), but as the much more familiar, lumpenproletarian counterparts to—abject Others of—the elite-populist Bush II regime and its imperialist-fascist crusade.

[30] It is perhaps no coincidence in this respect that Christina Ricci has recently been cast in the role of Sophie Scholl, a devoutly Protestant, southern German college student executed by the Nazis in 1945 for her heroic antiwar activism, in the upcoming Hollywood remake, The White Rose. It is perhaps likewise no coincidence that Monster extends portrayal of Lee’s albeit truncated three-dimensionality past the mirror/pistol scene onto the final murder scene involving a retired police officer who was apparently only seeking sex because his wife is disabled. In a move by now typical for the film, this scene once again aligns the object of Lee’s perverse desire with the cinematic gaze. This time, however, the object is not actually a mirror but a police badge, over which Lee’s voice-over utters self-referentially, “Sooner or later it’s gonna catch up with you.” Here the reflective object, typically an imaginary signifier of socio-sexual alienation, that is, now also signifies state law enforcement. As Lee prophesizes her fate vis-à-vis this “loaded” object, the scene registers a hermeneutic collapse; its subjective and objective fields congeal a visual synecdoche of social conscience, fostering sympathy not with a righteously indignant Lee but with a dead cop whose typological intertext (corrupt, inept, sadomasochistic) easily allegorizes Lee’s murderous trajectory as the predictable effect of thuggish resentment. Itself a product of impossible hope for justice in a perceived irremediable world, such resentment marks an utopian impulse that will qualify Lee’s capital punishment as a paradoxically hopeful ceremony, that is, in Lee’s own narrative hindsight, a socially necessary ritual staged to monitor and contain the latent and deep-reaching drive for justice manifest perversely not only in her violent acts but in her voluntary confessions throughout the film (e.g., “I’m a hooker; I’ve always been a hooker”).

[31] On this reading, Monster is hardly a pro-lesbian film; it is conservative multiculturalism at its worst. For all the sympathy it may project onto Wuornos’ plight, this independent Hollywood film conveys “lesbian violence” as an allegory par excellence of right-libertarian crusade, of Bush II’s fundamentalist global venture conceived and justified christologically as seat of transnational redemption. This insidious, postmodern fascist agenda recalls a prophetically applicable quotation from German author Michael Mann, with which this article shall conclude: “The American Empire will turn out to be a military giant, a back-seat economic driver, a political schizophrenic, and an ideological phantom […] The result is a disturbed, misshapen monster, stumbling clumsily across the world” (qtd. Pal).

Works Cited

  • Addams Family, The. ABC, 1964-66.
  • Adorno, Theodor W. “Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda.” The Essential Frankfurt School Reader. Ed. Andrew Arato and Eike Gebhardt. New York: Continuum, 1993. 118-37.
  • Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer. Dir. Nick Broomfield. UK, 2003.
  • Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer. Dir. Nick Broomfield. UK, 1992.
  • Aimée and Jaguar. Dir. Max Färberböck. Germany, 1999.
  • Ames, Christine Caldwell. “Does Inquisition Belong to Religious History?” The American Historical Review 110.1 (2005).
  • Anderson, Kevin. “Erich Fromm and the Frankfurt School Critique of Criminal Justice.” Erich Fromm and Critical Criminology: Beyond Punitive Society. Ed. Anderson and Richard Quinney. Urbana and Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2000. 83-119.
  • Antonio, Robert J. “Immanent Critique as the Core of Critical Theory: Its Origins and Developments in Hegel, Marx and Contemporary Thought.” British Journal of Sociology 32.3 (1981): 330-47.
  • Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” 1939. Trans. Harry Zohn. Illuminations. Ed. Hannah Arendt. New York: Schocken, 1969.
  • Beverly Hillbillies, The. CBS, 1962-71.
  • Bewitched. ABC, 1964-72.
  • Black Widow Murders: The Blanche Taylor Moore Story. Dir. Alan Metzger. US, 1993.
  • Born in Flames. Dir. Lizzie Borden. US, 1983.
  • Bound. Dir. Andy and Larry Wachowski. US, 1996.
  • Broderick, Mick. “Better the Devil You Know: Antichrists at the Millennium.” SCMS conference, London, England, March-April 2005.
  • Butler, Judith. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex”. New York and London: Routledge, 1993.
  • Carlston, Erin G. Thinking Fascism: Sapphic Modernism and Fascist Modernity. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1998.
  • Case of Rape, A. Dir. Boris Sagal. NBC, 1974.
  • Chesney-Lind, Meda. “Media Misogyny: Demonizing ‘Violent’ Girls and Women.” Making Trouble: Cultural Constructions of Crime, Deviance, and Control. Ed. Jeff Ferrell and Neil Websdall. New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1999. 115-40.
  • Christopher, James. Rev. of Monster. London Times 1 April 2004.
  • Ciasullo, Ann M. “Making Her (in)Visible: Cultural Representations of Lesbianism and the Lesbian Body in the 1990s.” Feminist Studies 27.3 (2001): 577-610.
  • Clague, Julie. “Divine Transgressions: The Female Christ-form in Art.” Critical Quarterly 47.3 (2005): 47-63.
  • Cover-Up: The Iran-Contra Affair. Dir. Barbara Trent. US, 1988.
  • Coward, Rosalind. Female Desires: How They Are Sought, Bought and Packaged. New York: Grove, 1985.
  • Dargis, Manohla. Rev. of Monster. Los Angeles Times 26 Dec. 2003.
  • Daughters of Darkness [Le Rouge aux lèvres]. Dir. Harry Kümel. Belgium/Italy/France/FRG, 1974.
  • Davis, Carol Anne. Women Who Kill: Profiles of Female Serial Killers. London: Allison and Busby, 2001.
  • De Lauretis, Teresa. The Practice of Love: Lesbian Sexuality and Perverse Desire. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1994.
  • Denby, David. Rev. of Monster. The New Yorker 2 Feb. 2004.
  • Desert Hearts. Dir. Donna Deitch. US, 1985.
  • Doherty, Thomas. “Aileen Wuornos Superstar.” Cineaste 29.3 (2004): 3-5.
  • Duggan, Lisa. _Sapphic Slashers: Sex, Violence, and American Modernity_. Durham, NC and London: Duke UP, 2000.//
  • Dykstra, Bram. Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Siecle Culture. New York and Oxford: Oxford UP, 1986.
  • Ebert, Roger. Rev. of Monster. Chicago Sun-Times 1 Jan. 2004.
  • Farr, Kathryn Ann. “Women on Death Row: Media Representations of Female Evil.” Memory and Representation: Constructed Truths and Competing Realities. Ed. Dena Eber and Arthur Neal. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State U Popular P, 2001. 73-86.
  • Felman, Shoshana. The Juridical Unconscious: Trials and Traumas in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2002.
  • Five Easy Pieces. Dir. Bob Rafelson. US, 1970.
  • Forgacs, David. “Days of Sodom: The Fascism-Perversion Equation in Films of the 1960s and 1970s.” Italian Fascism: History, Memory and Representation. Ed. R. J. B. Bosworth and Patrizia Dogliani. London and New York: Palgrave, 1999. 216-36.
  • Foucault, Michel. _The History of Sexuality_. Vol. 1: _An Introduction_. Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage, 1980.
  • Ginsberg, Terri. “Academic Integrity Travestied at Columbia Middle East Studies Conference.” Z-Net 14 March 2005.
  • —. “‘Dumbing Down’ and the Politics of Neoliberalism in Film and/as Media Studies,” Review of Education, Pedagogy and Cultural Studies 25.1 (2003): 15-33.
  • —. Rev. of unInvited: Classical Hollywood Cinema and Lesbian Representability, by Patricia White. Quarterly Review of Film and Video 18.3 (2001): 321-28.
  • GLAAD, Media Matters Jan. 2005.
  • Gledhill, Christine, ed. Home Is Where the Heart Is: Studies in Melodrama and the Woman’s Film. London: BFI, 1989.
  • Halberstam, Judith. Female Masculinities. Durham, NC and London: Duke UP, 1998.
  • Hart, Lynda. Fatal Women: Lesbian Sexuality and the Mark of Aggression. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1994.
  • Heavenly Creatures. Dir. Peter Jackson. UK/Germany/New Zealand, 1994.
  • Hennessy, Rosemary. Profit and Pleasure: Sexual Identities in Late Capitalism. New York and London: Routledge, 2000.
  • Heschel, Susannah. “Jesus as Theological Transvestite.” Judaism Since Gender. Ed. Miram Peskowitz and Laura Levitt. New York and London: Routledge, 1997. 188-99.
  • Hewitt, Andrew. Political Inversions: Homosexuality, Fascism, and the Modernist Imaginary. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1996.
  • Holden, Stephen. “A Murderous Journey to Self-Destruction.” New York Times 12 Dec. 2003: E1.
  • Homer, Sean. “Cinema and Fetishism: The Disavowal of a Concept.” Historical Materialism 13.1 (2005): 85-116.
  • The Hunger. Dir. Toby Scott. US, 1983.
  • Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS. Dir. Don Edmonds. US/FRG, 1974.
  • Jay, Betty. “‘Let’s Moider Mother’: Heavenly Creatures and the Politics of Delusion.” Genders 42 (2005).
  • Kibbey, Ann. “Mutations of the Supernatural: Witchcraft, Remarkable Providences, and the Power of Puritan Men.” American Quarterly 34.2 (1982): 125-48.
  • Keenan, Dennis King. “Irigaray and the Sacrifice of the Sacrifice of Woman.” Hypatia 19.4 (2004): 167-83.
  • Klawans, Stuart. “The Hunt for Hussein.” The Nation 2 Feb. 2004.
  • Lacan, Jacques. Feminine Sexuality: Jacques Lacan and the école freudienne. 1975. Trans. Jacqueline Rose. New York and London: Norton/Pantheon, 1982.
  • La Cérémonie. Dir. Claude Chabrol. France/Germany, 1995.
  • Legend of Lizzie Borden, The. Dir. Paul Wendkos. ABC, 1975.
  • Leslie, Esther. _Walter Benjamin: Overpowering Conformism_. London and Stirling, VA: Pluto, 2000.
  • Lianna. Dir. John Sayles. US, 1983.
  • Luzzatto, Diana and Gvion, Livia. “Feminine but Not Femme: The Dual Lesbian Body.” Journal of Homosexuality 48.1 (2004): 43-77.
  • Macciocchi, Maria-Antonietta. “Female Sexuality in Fascist Ideology.” Feminist Review 1 (1979): 67-82.
  • Manzano, Angelita. “Monster: The Retelling of the Aileen Wuornos Story.” off our backs Jan.-Feb. 2004: 60-61.
  • Marcuse, Herbert. _One-Dimenstional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Capitalist Society_. Boston: Beacon, 1964.
  • McDowell, Kelly. “Unleashing the Feminine Unconscious: Female Oedipal Desires and Lesbian Sadomasochism in Mulholland Dr.” The Journal of Popular Culture 38.6 (2005): 1037-49.
  • Meyer, Carla. “Theron Gets Gritty as Prostitute Murderer in ‘Monster.'” San Francisco Chronicle 26 Dec. 2003.
  • Monster. Dir. Patty Jenkins. US, 2003.
  • Monster, The [Il Mostro]. Dir. Roberto Benigni. Italy, 1994.
  • Morrissey, Belinda. When Women Kill: Questions of Agency and Subjectivity. New York and London: Routledge, 2003.
  • Mulholland Dr. Dir. David Lynch. US, 2001.
  • The Munsters. CBS, 1964-66.
  • Neroni, Hilary. The Violent Woman: Family, Narrative, and Violence in Contemporary American Cinema. Albany: SUNY P, 2005.
  • Overkill. Dir. Peter Levin. UK, 1992.
  • Pal, Amitabh. Rev. of Incoherent Empire, by Michael Mann. The Progressive Feb. 2004: 41.
  • Panama Deception, The. Dir. Barbara Trent. US, 1992.
  • Personal Best. Dir. Robert Towne. US, 1982.
  • Question of Silence, A. Dir. Marleen Gorris. Netherlands, 1982.
  • Rappaport, Lynn. “Holocaust Pornography: Profaning the Sacred in Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS.” Shofar 22.1 (2003): 53-79.
  • Ravetto, Kriss. The Unmaking of Fascist Aesthetics. Minneapolis: U of Minneapolis P, 2001.
  • Reich, Wilhelm. The Mass Psychology of Fascism. 1946. Trans. Vincent R. Carfagno. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1970.
  • Roth, Debra. “Engorging the Lesbian Clitoris: Opposing the Phallic Cultural Unconscious.” Journal of Lesbian Studies 8.1-2 (2004): 177-89.
  • Schilt, Paige. “Media Whores and Perverse Media: Documentary Film Meets Tabloid TV in Nick Broomfield’s Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer.” The Velvet Light Trap 45 (Spring 2000): 50-61.
  • Schmid, David. Natural Born Celebrities: Serial Killers in American Culture. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2005.
  • Seltzer, Mark. “Wound Culture: Trauma in the Pathological Public Sphere.” October 80 (Spring 1997): 2-26.
  • Sharrett, Christopher, ed. Mythodogies of Violence in Postmodern Media. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1999.
  • Sinagra, Laura. “The Butcher Girl.” Village Voice 24-30 Dec. 2003.
  • Slane, Andrea. A Not So Foreign Affair: Fascism, Sexuality, and the Cultural Rhetoric of American Democracy. Durham, NC and London: Duke UP, 2001.
  • Smart, Carol. Women, Crime and Criminology: A Feminist Critique. London and Boson: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1976.
  • Shipley, Stacey L. and Bruce A. Arrigo. The Female Homicide Offender: Serial Madness and the Case of Aileen Wuornos. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall/Pearson, 2004.
  • Somerville, Siobhan B. Queering the Color Line: Race and the Invention of Homosexuality in American Culture. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2000.
  • Sunset Boulevard. Dir. Billy Wilder. US, 1950.
  • Therese & Isabelle. Dir. Radley Metzger. US/FRG, 1968.
  • Theweleit, Klaus. _Male Fantasies_. Vol. 1: _Women, Floods, Bodies, History_. Trans. Stephen Conway with Erica Carter and Chris Turner. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1987.
  • Tinkom, Matthew. Working Like a Homosexual: Camp, Capital, Cinema. Durham and London: U of North Carolina P, 2002.
  • Traverso, Enzo. _Understanding the Nazi Genocide: Marxism after Auschwitz_. Trans. Peter Drucker. London and Stirling, VA: Pluto, 1999.//
  • Viano, Maurizio. “Life Is Beautiful: Reception, Allegory, Holocaust Laughter.” Film Quarterly 53.1 (1999): 26-34.
  • White, Patricia. unInvited: Classical Hollywood Cinema and Lesbian Representability. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1999.
  • White Rose, The. US, 2006.
  • Wilmington, Michael. Rev. of Monster. Chicago Tribune 7 Jan. 2004.