'I Looked for You in My Closet Tonight': Staging the Violence of the Real Through 'Candy-Colored' Suburban Dreamscapes

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Contribution to Book

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The friction between theatrical surfaces and a dark unconscious nightmarish world is ruled by sexual violence; uncertain, and therefore frightening, sexual desires; and the rupturing rage of primal fantasies that theatrically stage the Real in films such as Blue Velvet (1986) and American Beauty (1999). The artificiality that leaks into the theatricality of the lawns, flowers and robins in Blue Velvet and the dancing plastic bag of American Beauty disguise a surface that dissolves into violence, menace and hidden contours of sexual desire and fear. Both films have been written in relationship to suburbia and its dark hidden underbelly, much like ants weaving in and out of the severed ear found by Jeffrey, the protagonist and ideal boy next door of Blue Velvet. This chapter will argue that it is in the theatricality of the suburban and its opposite that the boundary between the two becomes fluid and momentarily made present in the other in violent ruptures that allow the insects below the manicured lawn to be seen in their full predatory glory. This encounter with the Lacanian Real occurs onscreen through both the theatrical utopian space of suburbs and the grotesqueries of staging the lurking violence of the Frank Booths of the world, who cannot be contained in the fantasy and the fantasy that cannot be contained in the world other than as a kind of a ‘candy-colored clown’ of a dream staged: a mystery uncovered and then re-hidden as the curtain closes.

Document Object Identifier (DOI)



David Forrest, Graeme Harper, & Jonathan Rayner


Palgrave Macmillan





Publication Information

Filmurbia: Screening the Suburbs

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