Great grandfather to the modern slasher film, the posters of Grand Guignol seem to promise something more than blood soaked massacres as entertainment
These posters would never fly today as advertisements for legitimate theater. Frankly, I'm surprised they were accepted in the 1920s, when Grand Guignol was at its brief height.
The point of Grand Guignol was extreme, realistic violence. They had all manner of graphic violence, and showing the violence was something that wasn't at all common---especially with the realistic, buckets of blood approach. The Elizabethans had their go at it, but they were restrained by comparison to Grand Guignol, who really went balls to the walls with this. As the quote below explains the experiences of one actress in the company:
From 1917 to the 1930s, [Paula Maxa] performed most frequently as a victim and was known as "the most assassinated woman in the world." During her career at the Grand Guignol, Maxa's characters were murdered more than 10,000 times in at least 60 different ways and raped at least 3,000 times.
The posters, however, suggest there was something more than just blood lust and seeing realistic violence on stage, for an audience who had never experienced such a thing in their entertainment before.
It was sexual: in particular, it was overt sexual violence toward women.
we see her body stretched out dead, and now her dress is so sheer, we're given a very erotic examination of her body. One of the red figures stands to the side holding something like a dinner platter, the head bent in reverence. He (or she) waits patiently, without horror of what is happening. Below, he has his head, and it is beautiful. Her head tilted slightly, in a slightly flirty way, the serene smile, her perfect curls arranged attractively around the blood, the rosy cheeks, all show us that this was an enjoyable experience for her. Perhaps one may go so far as to say that she herself has had an orgasmic experience, and she exhibits the serenity of afterglow.
I could go on with each poster, but I think I've made my point. Grand Guignol exploited a desire to see women in a sexual and violent situation. This carried on through the centuries (as well as preceded it), but no one did it with as much graphic, blood soaked pageantry.
Grand Guignol is the manic, overly-dramatic great-great-uncle to contemporary death fetish. Check out FetNoir and some of their art. They don't really go into the bloody characteristics, though they have a sparsely occupied gallery called "Wet Work", but it doesn't seem to be what most people at FetNoir are really interested in.
The attraction to gorgeous, dead women is something that hasn't gone away. A long time ago, my creative writing professor told us that no one tortures and kills the weak. We don't need to do that to someone weaker than us because they are no threat. We torture and kill the strong, those who we see as a superior threat.
Perhaps there's an element in this: some see women as so strong, they need to be put down. They need to be in the ultimate passive position: death. The femme fatale is seen as having such power over their desirability, that they can control men as if using witchcraft. If one believes this, one would see women as a threat, especially attractive ones. Torturing and killing them becomes not only an act of salvation and empowerment of men, but with it comes the ultimate sexual experience: pure domination.
I may understand this, but I certainly don't approve.
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I've been extraordinarily open minded about sex ever since my first year in college, when I learned women could have orgasms. (I was a late bloomer in high school.) Nothing shocks me. All of it interests me. I can never get enough of it.
All of the pics in my blog are stolen/borrowed from other websites. I consider myself not really a thief, but a pirate. Arrrrrrr!!!
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