Wednesday 8 July 2020

The Room 207 Press Summer Webinar Series – a mid-season relaunch

So towards the start of the lockdown season, I started thinking about what I could do workwise. It's a brutal time for a freelancer. But then I got asked to do a talk for a lovely place in Nashville, and then I thought, you know what, I may not be good at everything but I do have a way with a useless but fascinating fact. So I thought, I'll have an online seminar series. And this has been fun, if exhausting. So far I've explored folk horror, faked ecctoplasm, explained how to brainwash someone and invented a whole genre of horror. But we're not quite halfway through the series, so there's a lot more to come.

The Details

Seminars run on Mondays, and each one runs twice: the first is at 8pm, British Summer Time; the second at 8pm, Eastern Daylight Time (which is 1am BST). If you're in the UK or in a similar time zone, you'll probably want to book for the BST session; if you're in the US or Canada, you'll likely want the EDT session. But anyone can go to either if they can make it.

The seminars are going to run online, using Zoom, because that's what everyone uses, and honestly, it's about the easiest way to do this. Before the talk I'll mail everyone with meeting links and passwords (because there will be passwords).

How much?
Backing my Patreon not only gets you a season ticket to all the talks, but access to videos after the fact, along with all the other benefits. If you don't want to commit to a subscription, each class is available on a Pay-What-You-Want basis (input how much you want to pay in the checkout box), and is limited to 50 attendees, because bandwidth (so please register, even if you decide to come for free). Suggested range for a ticket is £5-10, but seriously, if you can't afford it and you want to come, there's no guilt attached.

Here's a schedule of what's to come. 

Monday 13th July: The Color Turquoise:
giant lizards, award-winning novelists and David Icke

David Icke: goalkeeper, TV sports commentator or enlightened world teacher? Lizard-obsessed conspiracy theorist or basic antisemite? One thing is for sure: the strange career trajectory of one of the world’s most famous alternative thinkers has obscured the origins of his beliefs. In this talk, having read David Icke so you don't have to, I go beyond speculative pathologies and examine the historical origins of Icke’s beliefs, going back more than a century to the heart of the New Age movement, and make a stab at working out just how Alice Walker became a fan of his.

More information here.

Monday 20th July 2020: Lectio Infernalis:
Horror and Spiritual Practice

In Andrzej Zuławski's masterpiece Possession, we are told by Sam Neill's Marc that “God is a disease”, and Possession, while exploring themes of identity in human relationship, attempts to approach the contradiction of what immanent divinity might mean in a godless world.

Using the Benedictine meditative/spiritual practice of Lectio Divina (literally, “Divine Reading”) as an unconventional critical apparatus, the basic tools of transactional analysis, and personal experiences of mental illness as an entry point, Lectio Infernalis reaches towards the practical use of “difficult” or “extreme” cinema – Possession, Martyrs and others – as a lens through which we can explore cathartic and healing approaches to past traumas.

Here's a post from 2018 where I approach this. 

Monday 3rd August: Sex On-Demand:
sex with robots in cinema and TV
Why is it that the sexy robot woman (and occasionally the sexy robot man) is such a staple in film and TV? In this talk, I'll look at the concept of sex with robots in visual science fiction from every position (so to speak) and why the fembot is such a pervy, pervasive and lasting idea in our media.

Here's a discussion of fembots in movies and why they're a problem.

Monday 17th August: Cult Cinema 4 – Sects Education:
the dark-eyed stepchildren of mainstream religion

Question: what's the difference between a cult and a legitimate religion?
Answer: honestly, about a hundred years.

The 19th century saw an explosion in new religions, and among the most successful of them were Protestant Christian offshoots such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, and the Church of the Latter-Day Saints. Cinema’s relationship with them has historically been as variable as that of secular society itself, and this seminar discusses how and why the great Protestant Sects have had such a variety of portrayals in our pop culture.

Here's a post about a Jehovah's Witness-critical movie.


Sects Education: The Dark-Eyed Stepchildren of Mainstream Religion

 Monday 24th August: Your Move, Darwin:
humanity, hope and meaning on the Planet of the Apes

With over fifty years of history and a third reboot in the works, Planet of the Apes hangs on with a gorilla grip as one of the most enduring and perverse of the Hollywood science fiction franchises. Combining bleak warnings about the human disregard for the planet and for the species that share it with us with talking simians, even when the series gets a bit hairy it always reflects our culture in a powerful and memorable way. Come along for a picture of a gorilla in a rain hat, stay for an examination of how a series of post-apocalyptic movies where the apes inherit the earth has one of the best takes on what it means to be human in genre cinema.

Monday 7th September: Cult Cinema 5 – Evangelical Horrors:
the cinematic politics of fundamentalist Christianity

From duplicitous televangelists and six-day creationists to gay conversion camps and politically charged Biblical archaeologists, the USA’s brand of evangelicalism is powerful, vocal, belligerent, and the heart of the Trump Cult. But does its depiction in film and television reflect that? Is there truth in the fiction?

This is a post about gay conversion camps in film. 

Monday 14th September: Cult Cinema 2 – The Atrocity Tour:
the cinematic mythology of Manson, Jonestown, and Waco

Few things are as synonymous with the pop culture idea of the cult as the great cult atrocity stories: the Manson Family murders, the cult massacre at Jonestown, and the siege at Waco have become irresistible gravitational forces of narrative. In this part of the Cult Cinema series, I’m going to look at how these events have become part of the cultural lexicon and how their transformation from fact into legend has been portrayed on the screen.

(This talk was rescheduled, which is why it's still #2, even though it's after #5.)

Here's one of my posts about movies that approach the cult atrocities.

Monday 21st September: Cult Cinema 3 – Exiles:
the ambivalent experience of leaving

Leaving any extreme religious group is never simple. Even more mainstream ones leave their mark upon us. Churches have mechanisms of social control, even if they don't admit to them. And this is never more clear when you see what happens to people who leave, whether willingly or not. Film and TV have treated the void of leaving a religious community behind as a fertile source of story, and in this instalment of Cult Cinema we’re looking at how story shows us the pain of escape.

Here's a post about a TV series centred on a cult survivor.