Saturday, September 12, 2015


Hi guys! As you can probably tell, this post (and most likely the next few, at least) is going to be different than my usual posts. I will be creating content for two of the English classes that I am taking this semester which happen to be Critical Theory and Currents in American Literature. Today, for Critical Theory, I'm going to attempt to make connections between two things that seem entirely unrelated: welcome to the life of an English major.

Last night I went to see Sinister 2 with my boyfriend and, as expected, I was royally disappointed. I mean it's not like I went into it with the highest of expectations anyways.

I'm not going to waste much of my time recapping the plot for you, because a) I'm still kind of confused by it to be completely honest and b) it's not that important when it comes to the point that I'm attempting to make. As someone who is reasonably jumpy and easily spooked, it means something for me to say that I didn't find this film to be that scary at all. Sure, there were a few moments where I was disgusted by the gore or I jumped but the most shocking aspect of the movie was not supernatural in the least. 

For this next part, you might need a little bit of backstory for you to follow me so here we go:

Sinister 2 follows a family (single mom with two twin nine year old boys) who moves to a farm in rural Indiana where some real crazy stuff has happened in the past. I'm talking some really messed up stuff. But that's besides the point. The mom is fighting for custody of her twin sons, as it is revealed over the course of the movie that their father is extremely abusive towards his wife and children, even sending his own son to the emergency room at one point.

Yes, I am aware that Sinister 2 is a horror film that on its superficial surface is about a demon that recruits children to do his bidding and murder their families. However, I can't shake the feeling that deep in the underbelly of this messy mythology there's something more sinister lurking than the Boogeyman. The subplot that addresses the domestic abuse that the mother and her two sons endure, to me, doesn't seem like much of a subplot at all. When I walked out of the movie last night, I couldn't stop pondering whether I had just watched a horror movie or a manifesto on the issue of basic human rights. As my boyfriend said to me after the movie was over, "You totally just analyzed that movie like an English major".

I know it's been a strange journey to this point, but here we are connecting Wimsatt and Beardsley's The Intentional Fallacy and The Affective Fallacy to Sinister 2. These two concepts, brought to you by New Criticism, question the role of the author and reader when it comes to trying to decode the meaning of a work. In this case, I suppose we are dealing with the author and the observer although the relationship between the two are highly similar.

According to Wimsatt and Beardsley, everything I just said about thinking Sinister 2 was about domestic abuse is irrelevant because the only way to know the "truth" is to look to the text, or in this case the script. If I asked Scott Derrickson, one of the writers, if he intended for the movie to actually be a giant metaphor for domestic abuse, with the Boogeyman character who tries to steal children away representing the twin's father, he may have absolutely no idea what the hell I'm even talking about. In most cases, the author doesn't even know his/her own intention! Therefore, how can the observer know the author's intention if he/she is unaware of it?

Also, the emotional effect that the film had on me personally is irrelevant as well in the eyes of Beardsley and Wimsatt. Just because it makes you feel something, doesn't mean that it's of any importance from a critical perspective. Harsh but true, man.

And that, my friends, is why new criticism was replaced by reader-response theory. Insert mic drop here.

until next time,


  1. Congrats on your first post here! Can you find a way to add some social media buttons to each post so that I can easily share your work on Twitter or Facebook?

    I love the way you personalize the theory, and connect it to your life now. I think this will be really appealing to other students, and hopefully folks will comment and engage with your provocative thoughts!

  2. Hi Shannon! This is a good post on how we (English majors) see the world very differently sometimes. I like how you connected what we talked about in class with something that happened in real life. I wonder what W&B would have thought of applying their theories to film? What does the intercession of a director, actor, cameraman, post-production team do the concepts of the intentional and affective fallacies? There seems so many levels of interpretation from the written script, to filming to the watcher (consumer/reader) that I wonder who's view, exactly, we are to discount? Who's dead, here? Very interesting to consider. Great post!


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