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Committee Members

Andrea Harris (Committee Member), Hope Jennings (Advisor), Christine Junker (Committee Member)

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Master of Humanities (MHum)


This thesis is a survey of contemporary horror films from the perspective of fundamentalist American audiences. Using Judith Butler’s work on gender performativity and religious studies scholarship as framework, I investigate how five visual texts perpetuate patriarchal family structures. The five texts I explore are The Last Exorcism (2010), The Conjuring (2013) and The Conjuring 2 (2016), The Witch: A New England Folk Tale (2015), and The Exorcist television series (2016). In each chapter, I analyze a key family member per patriarchal norms, and how violations of these norms contribute to the family’s supernatural crisis. The figures I analyze for each text is The Weak Father, The Bad Mother, and The Unstable Daughter. The texts’ shared, repetitious message implies that societal order can be (re)established once individuals adhere to fundamentalist patriarchal standards, reinforcing many scholars’ conclusions that fundamentalist Christianity continues to be a pervasive, dominant force in American culture.

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