Suburban Gothic

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Suburban Gothic is a subgenre of Gothic fiction, film and television, focused on anxieties associated with the creation of suburban communities, particularly in the United States, from the 1950s and 1960s onwards.

Criteria[edit]

It often, but not exclusively, relies on the supernatural or elements of science fiction that have been in wider Gothic literature, but manifested in a suburban setting.

Description[edit]

Suburban Gothic is defined by Bernice M. Murphy as "a subgenre of the wider American Gothic tradition which dramatises anxieties arising from the mass urbanisation of the United States and usually features suburban settings, preoccupations and protagonists".[1] She argues that a common trope of the suburban Gothic is the danger within a family or neighbourhood, rather than an external threat.[2] Teenagers and children are often major protagonists or sources of threat and characteristic conflicts often focus on issues of individuality and conformity.[3]

Examples[edit]

Important early works identified with the subgenre include Richard Matheson's I Am Legend (1954) and Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House (1959).[4]

Important films include Stanley Kubrick's take on Lolita (1962), Wes Craven's original A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)[5] and Tobe Hooper's Poltergeist (1982).[6] Works that incorporate environmental concerns include Ira Levin's The Stepford Wives (1972), Anne Rivers Siddons's The House Next Door (1978) and the Todd Haynes film Safe (1995).[7] A more recent book identified within the genre is Bret Easton Ellis' mock memoir Lunar Park (2005).[8] Several works by David Lynch, notably the television series Twin Peaks (alongside the 1992 feature Fire Walk with Me)[9] and the film Blue Velvet have been identified as part of the suburban gothic subgenre.[10] An earlier cinematic example of this is Nicholas Ray's 1955 classic Rebel Without a Cause.[10] Films with threats from a female protagonist, including Fatal Attraction (1987) and Disclosure (1994) have also been identified as part of the genre.[11] In addition, films that feature a more character-driven or dramatic standpoint also inform the genre notably Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures, Todd Solondz's Happiness,[12] Sam Mendes's American Beauty, and Richard Kelly's Donnie Darko.[13] TV series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, and Desperate Housewives have also been seen as dealing with concerns about hidden Gothic worlds behind the suburban façade.[14] Other films described as within the suburban gothic genre include Brian De Palma's version of Stephen King's Carrie (1976), John Carpenter's Halloween (1978), The Amityville Horror (1979),[15] Fright Night (1985), The Stepfather (1987),[16] Joe Dante's The 'Burbs (1989),[17] Parents (1989),[17] Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands (1990),[17] The People Under the Stairs (1991; also by Wes Craven),[16] John Waters's Serial Mom (1994),[16] Little Children (2006),[16] The Girl Next Door (2007), The Sisterhood of Night (2014), The Invitation (2015),[16] Snowtown (2011)[18] and The Babadook (2014).[19]

Another televised example is the Emmy-winning American Horror Story.[20]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ B. M. Murphy, The Suburban Gothic in American Popular Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), ISBN 0-230-21810-5, p. 2.
  2. ^ B. M. Murphy, The Suburban Gothic in American Popular Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), ISBN 0-230-21810-5, p. 3.
  3. ^ B. M. Murphy, The Suburban Gothic in American Popular Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), ISBN 0-230-21810-5, pp. 2–3.
  4. ^ B. M. Murphy, The Suburban Gothic in American Popular Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), ISBN 0-230-21810-5, p. 15.
  5. ^ The 15 Best Suburban Gothic Films — Page 2 — Taste of Cinema
  6. ^ J. E. Hogle, The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), ISBN 0-521-79466-8, p. xxv.
  7. ^ B. M. Murphy, The Suburban Gothic in American Popular Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), ISBN 0-230-21810-5, p. 4.
  8. ^ Scott, A. O. (August 14, 2005). "'Lunar Park': Hero and Heroin".
  9. ^ The 15 Best Suburban Gothic Films — Page 2 — Taste of Cinema
  10. ^ a b The Anadromist (2012) American Gothic Films: An Incomplete List . The Anadromous Life, [blog] November 7, 2012, Available at: [1] Accessed: December 9, 2012.
  11. ^ K. I. Michasiw, "Some stations of sub-urban Gothic", in R. K. Martin and E. Savoy, eds, American Gothic: New Interventions in a National Narrative (University of Iowa Press, 2009), ISBN 1-58729-349-8, p. 240.
  12. ^ The 15 Best Suburban Gothic Films — Page 2 — Taste of Cinema
  13. ^ The 15 Best Suburban Gothic Films — Page 2 — Taste of Cinema
  14. ^ B. M. Murphy, The Suburban Gothic in American Popular Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), ISBN 0-230-21810-5, p. 166.
  15. ^ Hughes, William (2015). The Encyclopedia of the Gothic. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9781119210412.
  16. ^ a b c d e Crow, Charles L. (2013). A Companion to American Gothic. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9781118608425.
  17. ^ a b c Mulvey-Roberts, Marie (1998). The Handbook to Gothic Literature. NYU Press. ISBN 9780814756096.
  18. ^ The 15 Best Suburban Gothic Films — Page 2 — Taste of Cinema
  19. ^ The 15 Best Suburban Gothic Films — Taste of Cinema
  20. ^ The 15 Best Suburban Gothic Films — Page 2 — Taste of Cinema