Abu Ghraib and torture porn cinema : how the Saw, Hostel, and I Spit on Your Grave series manifested social fears of torture following the release of the Abu Ghraib photographs
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This qualitative study examines how the 'torture porn' film franchises Saw (2004-2010), Hostel (2006, 2007), and I Spit on Your Grave (2010, 2013) manifested societal fears of torture following the release of the Abu Ghraib photographs in April of 2004. These photos depicted U.S. soldiers torturing and sexually humiliating Iraqi prisoners and served as a flashpoint within a larger narrative on torture, morality, and the War on Terror. This study is divided into two main chapters: a textual analysis and a paratextual analysis. The textual analysis chapter examines the major thematic connections between the three torture porn series and the issues surrounding Abu Ghraib, and is supported by a study of the stylistic choices of each movie and how these choices supported key themes from Abu Ghraib by challenging viewers' identification with characters. The second chapter examines Abu Ghraib iconography present in torture porn to consider how symbolic imagery such as the Hooded Man photo manifested larger social issues of torture, as well as how this iconography permeated the public sphere via graphic movie posters and suggestive trailers that encouraged Western viewers to address the threat of torture at a paratextual level. Previous research has examined how the horror genre adapted to a post-9/11 society, though far fewer studies have directly connected these movies to the events at Abu Ghraib. This study contributes to existing literature by combining the two research methods to consider how the Saw, Hostel, and I Spit on Your Grave torture porn series not only continued the horror genre's tradition of tapping into social anxieties, but also how these movies pushed this relationship into a more direct place by exploiting fears of torture following Abu Ghraib.