Word. I wrote the reception section today (the following is an excerpt from it, and it will also, fingers crossed, be my Console-ing Passions paper this summer) and the majority of the conclusion section, leaving only the paragraph-long transition to Chapter 4 to be written tomorrow. I said I would have the draft “finished” (with the exception of reworking/rewriting some earlier work) by the end of the Christmas break, and I meant it. Once I put this to bed, I can do other things, like have a syllabus and lesson plan ready for WGS 101 on Monday morning, revise a book review, write an article pitched to a magazine, and get a conference panel proposal out by the 10th. Oy vey…
Reception informed by family trauma ranges from relatively subtle (“anyone see any patterns emerging? Families in crisis? Traumatic events?”) to more sophisticated in viewer awareness, with one viewer of A Haunting posting: “I really think a lot of these people are susceptible at the moment these ‘hauntings’ happen, whether because of financial strain of moving into a new home, the emotional strain of a new family, or the absolute horror of being a 12-year-old.” PJ Watcher, acknowledging family trauma while also maintaining belief in the paranormal, writes: “surely some of these incidents are the result of dysfunctional households or mental problems go untreated, in some cases, drug or alcohol abuse must come into play. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that demonic and angelic beings exist but the show strains credulity sometimes.” Other viewers of paranormal reality are more direct in connecting its narratives to family trauma and specifically to domestic violence, as Wild Roses notes that “several of the haunting stories do seem like thinly disguised he-was-an-abuser-stalker-possessive-mentally-unstable mate rather than a haunting . . . except for the mother in an episode a while back, all the men seem really prone to being easily manipulated by spirits or demons.” Such a reading illustrates that viewers of paranormal reality do read these programs as accounts of family trauma. Louveciennes cites a specific episode of A Haunting:
“”Did anyone ever see the episode where the single mother had a daughter with some kind of mental handicap, and the daughter was always looking at nothing and giggling? The mother said she thought the daughter was seeing angels or something nice. Then she met this guy and they got serious really fast and he moved in with her a month later, and all of a sudden bad stuff started happening and they thought the daughter was possessed and yada yada yada. I always had this feeling that it was some weird mind-f*** the boyfriend was pulling on the family, for whatever reason.”
Snow Dog, referencing the “Demon Child” episode of A Haunting in which a young boy’s antagonistic and bizarre behavior is ultimately attributed to demonic possession, writes: “Everything that child went through pointed to abuse – the sudden change in behavior, the destruction of toys, harming more helpless members of the family (the cat), and urinating in the closet are all signs of either abuse or extreme mental disturbance.” These observations, posted publicly in online forums devoted to paranormal reality programming, demonstrate that the subgenre is indeed capable of being received by viewers as evoking trauma in the family even as it relates sensationalized accounts of the paranormal.