Date of Degree

6-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Liberal Studies

Advisor(s)

Carrie Hintz

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Comparative Literature | Film Production | Other Film and Media Studies | Television

Keywords

adaptation, incest, movie, television, consent, novel

Abstract

Nowadays we can see a steadily growing acceptance of queer relationships in our films and novels, whether they are romance films or violent war movies. What we don’t get to see are examples of incestuous relationships that are consensual and harmless. For example, when Luke and Leia accidentally share some romantic feelings in Star Wars, that bond is suppressed. We don’t get an acknowledgment of a brother and sister’s emotional support in the movie adaptation of V.C Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic. This erasure stems from a long history of cultural and legal censorship of incest that only discusses harm. Even though we can imagine stories of genuine care and compassion, our novels, films, and television series still produce and censor along traditional ideas regarding what is taboo. In light of contemporary theorists of sexuality, these taboos can be challenged. Thinkers like David Lexter in “Incest” focus our attention on implicit research biases that read acts of incest and violence as the same experience. They reveal how the prevalence of survivor discourses have skewed the way people are expected to understand incestuous narratives.

Representations of incest are not implicitly harmful. If we, as both creators and audiences, keep these relationships behind closed doors or wrapped up in rape stories, we stand to lose viewing an aspect of life that can beautiful and supportive. Despite a history of cultural and legal actions against these relationships, this thesis argues that censorship practices on representations of taboo incestuous sexualities must be reexamined and ultimately rejected.

With an acknowledgment of the history of film censorship, this thesis looks to deconstruct these practices by examining four modern, mainstream works: George Lucas’s Star Wars movie franchise, George R.R. Martin’s “A Game of Thrones” novels and television adaptation by David Benioff, both the 1987 and 2014 film adaptations of V.C. Andrews’s novel, Flowers in the Attic, and Joao Emanuel Carneiro’s recent Brazilian novella A Regra do Jogo. In examining these works, I look to understand how portrayals of incest differ between standalone films and film franchises, and between genres as it performs before an imagined audience. To do this, I will first examine the social, religious, and legal perceptions of incest. From there, I will discuss both the brief romance and gradual revision of twins Luke and Leia’s relationship in Star Wars as model for revising even harmless incestual relationships. Next, I will address the differences between novel and film adaptations of Flowers in the Attic, focusing specifically on how it sets a precedence for rewriting consensual relationships as violence. I compare these revisions with the secret relationship between Cersei and Jaimie Lannister in A Game of Thrones. These relationships will be read alongside the romance of two cousins in the Brazilian novella, A Regra do Jogo, and the brother and sister relationship in Flowers in the Attic. This paper will analyze the ways incestuous relationships are: introduced or implied, defended or criticized within the narrative, maintained as focus of the main plot, and resolved if they need to be. Promotional material for serialized works, Star Wars and A Game of Thrones, will also be addressed. Some attention will be given to changes between novel and film/television adaptations of A Game of Thrones and Flowers in the Attic.

 
 

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