Monsters Carrying the Feminine

Why do so many movies from the fifties have monsters/robots carrying these passive women? (King Kong may have started it in the thirties.)

It looks like some kind of some monstrous/masculine energy combined with an almost comatose feminine.

The fifties were a time of  fear of nuclear annihilation and Betty Crocker/Susie Housewife models of the feminine.

Are there any women out there who like these posters?  Want to be carried away by a robot/monster  (or giant mushroom?}

It was quite a repressed and fearful time.   (Remember  The Blob?)

-More will be posted — any ideas out there why is this such a dominant theme from the fifties?

Produced by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, King Kong is a tragic tale of a giant ape that is taken from his jungle home and put on display in the big city of New York. He escapes while pursuing a girl he has become enamored with and dies a tragic death at the hands of a squadron of Biplanes. Who among us can forget the classic ending line `It was Beauty that killed the beast’. King Kong played to record numbers during its East Coast release in the first week in March 1933(It was released in April on the West Coast). In two theaters in New York the film grossed $89,931 smashing all records. Keep in mind this was during the depression!

Lugosi’s character, Dr. Eric Vornoff, is experimenting with nuclear power  in a primitive laboratory in his mansion with the help of his assistant, Lobo (Tor Johnson) . His goal is to create an army of mutated supermen to do his bidding. Newspaper reporter Janet Lawton (a role originally intended for Dolores Fuller but given to Loretta King Hadler starts investigating, as do the local police. Meanwhile, an Eastern-bloc agent or spy named Professor Strowksi (George Becwar) appears and tries to persuade Dr. Vornoff to return to their homeland. In the end, Lobo betrays Vornoff and Vornoff becomes a monster and is then blown up in an atomic explosion. (Wikipedia)

The Robot Monster has been sent to Earth as the advance party of an impending invasion. Ordered by The Great One to capture several humans, the Robot Monster becomes confused once it learns more about humans. Ro-Man, an alien that looks remarkably like a gorilla in a diving helmet, has destroyed all but six people on the planet Earth. He spends the entire film trying to finish off these survivors, but complications arise when he falls for the young woman in the group.  (1953)

When a Japanese yacht is damaged in a storm, its crew and passengers make their way to a nearby island. The island is apparently deserted, though the castaways soon discover a beached research ship on the other side of the island. An examination of the ship, the insides of which are encrusted with a thick mold, soon reveals that it had an international crew which appear to be involved in radiation and fallout research. Despite this it seems that the crew survived for some time after the ship was beached, however there is no indication of their current whereabouts.

Although mushrooms are unusually plentiful on the island, the ship’s captain warns the passengers not to eat them because of the danger of poisoning, and to concentrate on birds and turtle eggs. However, it is soon discovered that birds are afraid of the island and that turtle eggs are scarce. A small supply of canned food is found on the research ship, but this only buys the crew some time. Inevitably, members of the crew begin eating the mushrooms. In the meantime, they also discover that the crew of the abandoned ship hadn’t vanished as completely as they’d originally thought.  Attack of the Mushroom People   (“Fungus of Terror) (1963)

As projected here, a thinly-disguised NASA, working with nuclear rockets, is ready for manned flights in the mid-fifties…but Dr. Ralph Harrison doesn’t think so, and resigns in protest. Colleague Prof. Nordstrom promptly enlists his aid in developing an alternative robot Spaceman! Naturally, foreign spies are keenly interested… Uses documentary footage of early space research.  Dr. Harrison and Prof. Nordstrom develop the robot Tobor for space flight, intending that he should be controlled by ESP. They announce their plans at a press conference which will spread the news worldwide, then they become concerned that press conference security was breached because an extra person attended and they wouldn’t want the information falling into the wrong hands! The extra person was a spy; he and his henchmen kidnap Nordstrom and his grandson, but Nordstrom cleverly signals Tobor to charge to the rescue. The spies tear open the boy’s shirt and threaten to use a blowtorch on him, and the composition makes the torch appear to be pointed at the boy’s temple while he concentrates on summoning his hero Tobor (the boy’s father has been dead for several years, but it looks like Harrison is striking up a relationship with his mother)  (Tobor the Great, 1953)

A hallmark of the science fiction genre as well as a wry commentary on the political climate of the 1950s, The Day the Earth Stood Still is a sci-fi movie less concerned with special effects than with a social parable. A spacecraft lands in Washington, D.C., carrying a humanoid messenger from another world (Michael Rennie) imparting a warning to the people of Earth to cease their violent behavior. But panic ensues as the messenger lands and is shot by a nervous soldier. His large robot companion destroys the Capitol as the messenger escapes the confines of the hospital. He moves in with a family as a boarder and blends into society to observe the full range of the human experience. Director Robert Wise (West Side Story) not only provides one of the most recognizable icons of the science fiction world in his depiction of the massive robot loyal to his master, but he avoids the obvious camp elements of the story to create a quiet and observant story highlighting both the good and the bad in human nature. . (The Day the Earth Stood Still, 1951)


5 Responses to Monsters Carrying the Feminine

  1. Reminisecent of Rubens’ painting ‘The Rape of the Sabines’ if you ask me.
    But this is also where I think women have to stand up and be counted. The idea of being carried away is very seductive, in fact the idea of seduction is seductive!! I think many women would agree that there is a part in each of us that would like someone to overwhelm us, it’s a passion thing, and the bad guy is more interesting sometimes than the good one. But culturally this can be quite destructive, because women are able to absolve themselves of responsibility in the relationship and blame men instead. And there are some women who prefer to do this, they get to stay little girls and have daddy look after them.

  2. The women are all in the same pose. And all very boobacious in the same way. These posters remind me of the covers of romance novels. Again, women being “taken” by big, strong, muscly men. I imagine it plays to many women’s sexual fantasies of submitting/surrendering. …… And then we have the “Attack of the 50-Foot Woman” — the flipside, I suppose. The Dominatrix. (hehehe, I’m about to click the button to “Submit”)

  3. In the 1950s, the nation was faced with an interesting dilemma: women who had been encouraged (beseeched?) to enter the workforce to aid in the military effort realized they LIKED working outside the home and earning money. When the men came back, many women didn’t want to relinquish the jobs they had obtained. Many people feared the family unit would break down if women’s roles didn’t remain the same. I’m sure economically there was a fear that there wouldn’t be enough jobs for men who were the primary wage earners. The archetypal feminine at that time was as happy homemaker. Notice how the women are dressed in the posters: clingy dresses that accentuated large breasts. Notice, too, that rather than a look of horror their faces hold a look of ecstasy. The message, I think, is to show women that submitting the the big, strong man is ideal. This will make her happy. In King Kong, the monster is not as brutish as the people who try to kill him making the submission even more attractive. There’s not much difference now, if you think about it. Even the poster with the giant woman works on the feminine sex object rather than any substantial power. Why isn’t she clothed? The strong, powerful men archetypes are. Why isn’t she of average or below average attractiveness? Why do television shows often pair up out-of-shape average males with athletic, beautiful women? Even “Ugly Betty” makes Betty beautiful in the end. What, a woman cannot be strong and sexy and still of moderate attractiveness?

  4. 6/6/2011 (JungCentral on Facebook linked to this article this past weekend.)

    Hello Dr. Parker. Thanks for posting this, it‘s fascinating.

    1) These images appeal to men’s inherent need to be rescuer/protector/ Knight in Shining Armor. There is a damsel in distress to save. I noticed most of the movie summaries lacked a story arc in which a woman needs rescue, but there it is on the poster.

    You didn’t even have time to upload the posters of women being carried off by giant exoskeletal arthropods on other planetscapes! There probably weren’t even female characters IN THOSE movies!

    2) Here is an urban legend, which I have witnessed being told as if it were fact, by 4 different WHITE women living alone (divorced or widowed), who don’t know each other, at 4 different times in 4 different cities. “Did you hear about [Gladys]? She woke up in the middle of the night with a big black man standing over her bed with a knife.”

    — No one could ever answer, “What happened?”
    — I’ve never heard it told as white, Asian, Hispanic, man of small or medium build, multiple men…
    — I’ve never heard it told with gun, crowbar, baseball bat, duct tape, Ninja throwing stars……

    I think it’s some kind of sick demented rape fantasy that old lonely white women get. But I’m not a psychologist! I hope to become an old white woman myself someday, but NOT like THAT! So I guess old-school racist white people project hyper-super-sexuality onto a black man. Speaking in terms perhaps TOO elementary, the knife is a phallus, but a threatening one, beyond a woman’s ability to handle.

    Perhaps these poster images are an extension of that “fantasy,” just featuring truly grotesque Boogeymen.

    3) In the 50’s, what other role was there for a woman? A fatigues-wearing member of the army fighting the invader? A scientist who comes up with the way to defeat it? The President? Good ol’ days my ass! :^)

    4) Madonna/Whore complex. The women are all young, buxom, beautiful and half-clothed. No evil-doer is carrying away a matron or crone. I grew up in the 70’s/80’s when horror (and frankly porn) movies were a male backlash against women taking control of their own sexuality. It took Jason Voorhees a few silent seconds to kill boys, but moments of screaming anguish to kill girls…

    Maybe it’s been going on since the beginning of filmdom. Are you a woman who is sexual and feeling healthy about it? This is what’s going to happen to you, you’re ASKING to have your self-determination taken away physically, be demeaned, terrorized, taught a lesson… We don’t have burqas, but we have this.

    Got a little heavy there but I think there’s some truth in it.

  5. It seems to me that the “woman gets carried away by monster” is still going on. “King Kong” was remade, the immensely popular “Twilight” series is continues the monster prey on female theme.

    In the past two, monsters were generally men and their prey generally women. Bluebeard, Dracula, Frankenstein. Sure there were witches too but they tend to be monsters to be vanquished, rather than scary monsters.

    I saw these posters as part of an even larger collection on the homepage of a social psychologists. You don’t know who I mean do you?

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