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The new Asian female ghost films: Modernity, gender politics, and transnational transformation

Hunju Lee, University of Massachusetts Amherst


My dissertation investigates the textual, intertextual, and contextual aspects of the Asian films that I identify as the 'New' Asian female ghost films; I focus closely on the films' visualizations of the monstrous feminine and other gendered/gendering representations. I examine how the Asian countries' traditions of female ghost filmmaking, cultural heritages (such as the religions of Buddhism and Confucianism, folktales, legends, myths, plays, and paintings), and other generic conventions for cinematic horror influence the particular 'hybrid' representational modes of the 'monstrous-feminine' in the 'New' Asian female ghost films. My dissertation also considers the ways in which the newly-revived female ghost films in East Asia and some Southeast Asian countries reflect the local people's anxieties about the 'compressed modernity' that resulted from the Asian economic crisis and some gendered parts of the relevant social discourse. In terms of the Asian genre's hybridity, I examine this significant feature as one of the grounds to explain the films' global popularity, especially in relation to the current trend of Hollywood's remaking of the Asian films. My dissertation, through a case study of four 'New' Asian female ghost films (Ju-On, Shutter, The Eye, A Tale of Two Sisters), responds to the question of how the discussed historical and contextual elements involved with the emergence and development of the 'New' Asian female ghost films and the culturally reciprocal relationships of the Asian films with other American/Western horror films are concretely reflected in the gender representations present in the individual films. I also analyze the American remakes of the four Asian films for the purpose of exploring the specific transformations that take place in the reworked versions, especially in terms of the monstrous feminine images and other representations divided along the lines of sex and gender. I postulate several factors that have influenced the transformations, such as the involved producers' and filmmakers' own readings of the differences and otherness in the original Asian texts; these individuals' own knowledge and assumptions about honor filmmaking; Hollywood conventions of the cinematic horror genre; and Western ideas about the geopolitical place of Asia: Asian cities and nations, and Asian women.

Subject Area

Asian Studies|Gender studies|Film studies

Recommended Citation

Lee, Hunju, "The new Asian female ghost films: Modernity, gender politics, and transnational transformation" (2011). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3445167.