Investments in Cinematic Constructions of the Female Serial Killer: Re-conceptualising Spectatorial "Identification"

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Arguing that the psychodynamic complexities of the film-viewing encounter remain inadequately theorised, this paper seeks to critique and to challenge existing Screen theory and cultural studies’ accounts of spectatorial “identification” by reconceptualising the process as one of psychosocial investment (Hollway and Jefferson 2000a). Extracts are used here from interview data gathered using a series of in-depth free-association narrative [FANI]/biographical interpretive [BNIM] interviews (ibid.,2000a, Wengraf 2001, 2013), which were carried out as a part of the author’s PhD research. Focusing specifically upon three key film texts, this empirically based and psychoanalytically-oriented psychosocial audience study explored the ways in which individuals are psychologically and biographically motivated to invest differently - both consciously and unconsciously - in cinematic constructions of the female serial killer.

In this paper, it is suggested that cinematic investments of this kind can usefully be understood in terms of self-primacy, since viewers seem to read the films (differently) through their own selves. This phenomenon is theorised using the concept of narcissism - which is argued here to be both psychologically and socio-culturally significant - and in relation to the psychoanalytic notions of projection (Grant and Crawley 2002: 18) and phantasy (Glover 2009: 47-8). In doing so, a contribution is made to the field of media audience studies, by offering a more nuanced understanding of how and why individuals’ own biographical experiences - and the narratives of self that they construct over their life course - bear so significantly upon their psychosocial engagements with, and investments in, a given film text.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFree Associations
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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