How To Learn ‘RoboCop’ as an Exploitation Movie



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Meg Shields

Might 20, 2020What we’re watching: a video essay that means another studying of ‘RoboCop’ as an exploitation revenge movie
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So far as exploitation movies are involved, there are few subgenres as problematic and paradoxical because the “rape-revenge movie.” Historically related to video nasties and 1970s grindhouse fare, rape-revenge movies see girls exacting revenge on their assailants by means of gratuitously violent means. Traditionally, rape-revenge movies have been dismissed as exploitative and sensational. Typically with due trigger: many entries are likely to fall into the entice of assuming the male gaze of their assailants with a troublingly un-self-aware diploma of enthusiasm.
And but not all rape-revenge movies are created equal. And lots of handle to side-step the ethical pitfalls of their precarious subject material. The ghostly masterpiece Kuroneko is presently streaming on The Criterion Channel; Pedro Almodóvar’s The Pores and skin I Stay In is as subversive as it’s surprising; Woman Snowblood matches bloodshed with pathos, and Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge flips the script by confronting the assumptions of exploitation movie itself. Additionally deserving of point out is Paul Verhoeven‘s Elle: an unconventional rape-revenge entry that explicitly frames sexual violence as a symptom of rampant misogyny fairly than a sensationalized, remoted incident.
Verhoeven is not any stranger to mixing violence with sexual politics. And that understatement of the century brings us to the intriguing proposal of tradition critic Maggie Mae Fish: does RoboCop have the identical construction as a rape-revenge movie?
Rape-revenge movies are likely to observe a predictable three-act construction. In Act I, a girl is tortured/assaulted and left for lifeless. In Act II, she survives and arms herself. And eventually, in Act III, the lady locates and kills her assailants, exacting revenge. RoboCop does certainly mirror this construction: Murphy’s physique is destroyed by Boddicker’s gang, and what’s left of him is recovered by the OCP and remodeled right into a lethal weapon. Lastly, RoboCop (now conscious that he’s/was Murphy) tracks down the gang members and brings them to justice by killing them in spectacularly violent methods. Fish by no means means that Verhoeven took direct inspiration from exploitation movies, however the comparability does unearth some intriguing analytical rabbit holes. As an illustration, there’s a widespread (and justified) critique that, of their quest for vengeance, girls in rape-revenge movies assimilate the hole bloodlust of their assailants. Murphy is sort of actually weaponized after his assault, his humanity seemingly stripped, and his set off finger as itchy and bombastic as any member of Boddicker’s gang. And but, as a result of RoboCop‘s satire is ruthless and unavoidable, the irony of Murphy’s weaponization is obvious to us, and his journey again to reclaiming his sense of humanity hits exhausting.
The first concern of Fish’s essay is to tease out the methods during which Verhoeven’s movie grapples with identification and gender. Within the context of her bigger evaluation, the literal objectification of Murphy’s physique concurrently heightens and compromises his sense of self and the best way he experiences his masculinity. It’s an fascinating angle that definitely softens the stickiness of viewing Murphy by means of the lens of an exploitation heroine. And actually, is the comparability any extra audacious than equating him to Jesus?
You possibly can watch Maggie Mae Fish’s evaluation of RoboCop right here. She mentions the movie’s formal ties to the rape-revenge subgenre at across the 12:50-minute mark:

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Who made this?
Maggie Mae Fish is a Los Angeles-based comic, actress, and tradition critic who releases brief movies and video essays on her YouTube account. Fish has been featured on CollegeHumor, Screenjunkies, and JASH. She was additionally a former lead actor and author at You possibly can observe Fish on Twitter, right here.
Extra Movies Like This

Right here’s the unbelievably sleazy unique trailer for the rape-revenge basic I Spit On Your Grave
One other long-form deep dive from Maggie Mae Fish, this time on Struggle Membership
Right here’s Warped Area SciFi Membership with a mashup of two documentaries on the making of RobocCop. When you have any questions on how the movie was made, that is the place to start out
Right here’s Movie at Lincoln Heart with a taped post-screening Q&A with Paul Verhoeven
An especially chaotic second within the Academy’s historical past the place ED-209 fights Pee-wee Herman

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