Insect Politics: Presidential Optics and the Promises of Manly Monsters in 1980s Horror Film

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In their own terms, the intellectual and political spheres of the American 1980s spoke on conversations on gender through human bodies. Feminist theorist Sandy Stone wrote the foundational text for transgender studies in 1987 at the height of the Reagan Administration, which was defined by its own masculine politics. Between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, their White House Office of Communications staffers were tasked with upholding this image of masculinity, specifically upholding the physical bodies of men, going against 1980s feminist theorists that upheld binary views on gender. Horror filmmakers in Hollywood, however, more closely aligned with feminist thought regarding the flexibility of gender, and like the White House Office of Communications, used the bodies of characters onscreen to convey their ideas. This thesis is a comparative history of Washington and Hollywood in the 1980s, using the psychoanalytic framework of Julia Kristeva’s abject as a means to look beyond the gendered boundaries set by Washington and seeing how those same boundaries were manipulated by Hollywood.