Intertextuality and the Male Gaze – Scary Movie’s ‘Sexy Chase Scene.’

Intertextuality and the Male Gaze – Scary Movie’s ‘Sexy Chase Scene.’

The opening of Dan Harries’ chapter “Introducing the Anti-canon-as-canon” introduces the reader with an anecdote of a class of teenagers, believing the disaster film Airport to be based on parody film Airplane!. I thought instantly of my own experience, when as a young girl my Northern Irish cousins showed me Scary Movie (2000), a parody of Wes Craven’s Scream (1996). I must have been about 6 or 7 at the time, and having never watched a horror movie, let alone a horror-comedy parody film, I was introduced to the genre from a very satirical angle. What I remember most from watching Scary Movie was the scene of Drew, played by Carmen Electra, running from the masked intruder:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unGJRJ1eo0Q

I think the clip engages with a lot of points that Harries makes about how parody successfully “assault[s] other film canons with humorous effect.”[1] The horror genre in particular is one that has long been parodied and turned into comedy, in part because film parody is “concerned with historical tradition,” and the long tradition of horror and associated tropes, presents the genre as an excellent “target text.”[2]

The target of this scene is the sexist trope of the female victim looking sexy in a scene where they are LITERALLY running for their lives. Aka the ‘Sexy Chase Scene.’ I remember becoming acutely aware of this trope when a drama teacher told 13-year-old me to watch a scene from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), which she said was the best example of an actress not worrying about being beautiful in their pursuit from the murderer. I’ve included the clip as reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UmOsTJWPHFQ

The Scary Movie example thus links into how parody films use trans/intertextuality for comic effect. Harries says “all texts are intertextual,” and thus our reading of one horror text will be based on our experience of having watched other horror films.[3]  The horror genre, especially in the 1990s, was known for having classically ‘sexy’ female victims, who were known for running in provocative clothing. Here is one of MANY examples of the ‘Sexy Chase Scene,’ from Urban Legend (1998). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqOf0y6a9v4

Scary Movie’s ‘Sexy Chase Scene’ pokes fun of this trope by having all Drew’s clothing Velcro-ed for easier removal, and through having the character stop to pose for the camera whilst she runs through the sprinklers. This scene is so self-aware and overtly filmed through the male gaze to successfully parody and mock the trope of the ‘Sexy Chase Scene’ in the horror genre.

[1] Dan Harries, Film Parody, British Film Institute: London, 2000, p.3

[2] Harries, Film Parody, p.9, 22

[3] Ibid., p.23

3 comments

  1. The other trope which is very similar in nature to the oversexualising of the ‘final girl’ that scary movie parodies so well and yet so bluntly is the absolute inability of the final girl to actually ever run away effectively. As shown in the clip when Drew selects the banana out of all the weapons available as well as continually stopping rather than actually running away. Its interesting to consider the ways in which the male gaze plays into the idea of the scared but sexy girl who is unable to defend herself competently.

  2. The presence of Carmen Electra is an interesting occasion of ‘celebrity intertextuality’ (Stam et al., 1992, p.207) because it evokes her star person and previous work. Intertextuality is used to critique the conventions around female celebrity, horror, and socially acceptable norms. Electra’s performance is self-referentially ironic, as it reminisces her previous BayWatch (Michael Berk, Gregory J. Bonann, Douglas Schwartz, 1989-2001, USA) runs.

  3. I think the parody in this scene works well because there are many intertextual reference points that we could link this chase to, especially like you said in 90s films. The ‘sexy chase’ trope is so recognisable, even if we have witnessed it subconsciously while watching horror, which demonstrates perhaps how prolific the male gaze convention is within the horror genre. It might also highlight that parody works best when referencing a repeated trope rather than a specific moment from one other film.

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