Shocking Blocking (45)
By: Joshua Glenn | Categories: Spectacles

candyman 4

According to horror exegetes, Bernard Rose’s Candyman is a parable about race, class, and gender in America: Helen (Virginia Madsen), a grad student studying urban legends, is punished because she’s a woman who intrudes upon a male realm (academe), and/or a middle-class Caucasian who intrudes upon an underclass African-American realm (Chicago’s Cabrini-Green project). Such readings miss the point! Instead, Candyman ought to be read as a mashup of Sidney Hayers’s 1962 horror movie Burn Witch Burn, in which a Psychology professor who explains away witchcraft as superstition is tormented by what might be witchcraft, and (in a first-time-as-farce, second-time-as-tragedy way) Frederick Crews’s 1963 parody The Pooh Perplex, a collection of exegetical essays — by fictitious Marxist, Freudian, Christian, Leavisite, and Fiedlerian literary critics — on the topic of Winnie-the-Pooh. The uneasy embrace, in the early scene shown here, between Helen and her husband, a Sociology professor who explains away urban legends as superstructural phenomena, foreshadows the uncanny, Todorovian “fantastique”-type state into which Helen and we will be drawn; like Rose’s earlier movie Paperhouse, this one teeters between realist and supernatural modes. Candyman is a parable about interpretation; its unmentionable boogeyman is hermeneutic vertigo.

PS: Virginia Madsen’s character in this movie must have been the inspiration for Gillian Anderson’s Dana Scully in The X-Files. Her hairdo, her sardonic smile! Who’s with me?

PPS: Below, blackboard scenes from Candyman and Burn Witch Burn.

burn

candyman blackboard 1

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An occasional series analyzing some of the author’s favorite moments in the positioning or movement of actors in a movie.

THIRTIES (1934–43): It Happened One Night (1934) | The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) | The Guv’nor (1935) | The 39 Steps (1935) | Young and Innocent (1937) | The Lady Vanishes (1938) | Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) | The Big Sleep (1939) | The Little Princess (1939) | Gone With the Wind (1939) | His Girl Friday (1940)
FORTIES (1944–53): The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946) | The Asphalt Jungle (1950) | The African Queen (1951)
FIFTIES (1954–63): A Bucket of Blood (1959) | Beach Party (1963)
SIXTIES (1964–73): For Those Who Think Young (1964) | Thunderball (1965) | Clambake (1967) | Bonnie and Clyde (1967) | Madigan (1968) | Wild in the Streets (1968) | Barbarella (1968) | Harold and Maude (1971) | The Mack (1973) | The Long Goodbye (1973)
SEVENTIES (1974–83): Les Valseuses (1974) | Eraserhead (1976) | The Bad News Bears (1976) | Breaking Away (1979) | Rock’n’Roll High School (1979) | Escape from Alcatraz (1979) | Apocalypse Now (1979) | Caddyshack (1980) | Stripes (1981) | Blade Runner (1982) | Tender Mercies (1983) | Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)
EIGHTIES (1984–93): Repo Man (1984) | Buckaroo Banzai (1984) | Raising Arizona (1987) | RoboCop (1987) | Goodfellas (1990) | Candyman (1992) | Dazed and Confused (1993) |
NINETIES (1994–2003): Pulp Fiction (1994) | The Fifth Element (1997)
OUGHTS (2004–13): Nacho Libre (2006) | District 9 (2009)

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READ MORE essays by Joshua Glenn, originally published in: THE BAFFLER | BOSTON GLOBE IDEAS | BRAINIAC | CABINET | FEED | HERMENAUT | HILOBROW | HILOBROW: GENERATIONS | HILOBROW: RADIUM AGE SCIENCE FICTION | HILOBROW: SHOCKING BLOCKING | THE IDLER | IO9 | N+1 | NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW | SEMIONAUT | SLATE

Joshua Glenn’s books include UNBORED: THE ESSENTIAL FIELD GUIDE TO SERIOUS FUN (with Elizabeth Foy Larsen); and SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS: 100 EXTRAORDINARY STORIES ABOUT ORDINARY THINGS (with Rob Walker).

MORE HORROR ON HILOBROW: Early ’60s Horror, a series by David Smay | Phone Horror, a series by Devin McKinney | Philip Stone’s Hat-Trick | Shocking Blocking: Candyman | Shocking Blocking: A Bucket of Blood | Kenneth Anger | Sax Rohmer | August Derleth | Edgar Ulmer | Vincent Price | Max von Sydow | Lon Chaney Sr. | James Whale | Wes Craven | Roman Polanski | Ed Wood | John Carpenter | George A. Romero | David Cronenberg | Roger Corman | Georges Franju | Shirley Jackson | Ray Bradbury | Edgar Allan Poe | Algernon Blackwood | H.P. Lovecraft | Clark Ashton Smith | Gaston Leroux |

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Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based semiotic culture and brand analyst. He is editor/publisher of HILOBROW and the Radium Age science fiction imprint HILOBOOKS. In addition, Josh is co-author of several books, including (with Mark Kingwell and the cartoonist Seth) THE IDLER'S GLOSSARY and THE WAGE SLAVE'S GLOSSARY, the object-oriented story collections TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY and (with Rob Walker) SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS, and (with Elizabeth Foy Larsen) the family activities guides UNBORED, UNBORED GAMES, and the forthcoming UNBORED ADVENTURE. In the ’00s, Josh was an editor and columnist for the BOSTON GLOBE's IDEAS section; in the ’90s, he published the high-lowbrow zine/journal HERMENAUT.