Dissecting the Autopsy of Jane Doe

The Autopsy of Jane Doe, unlike the previous movie featured in class (Triangle), is without a doubt a horror movie. The marketing team left no room for discussion on its horror genre qualifications, which is quite evident in the trailers and movie posters released. Therefore, using any other approach to argue for the horror genre characteristics of the movie would be unnecessary.

Needless to say, I really enjoyed the movie. Not only did I find it scary, I appreciated the fact that they did not merely use jump scares to frighten the audience. Instead, they presented a whole lot of tools to scare you with and used it to their full potential. From the expected dead bodies in the morgue to a “not-so-innocent” song on the radio, the movie is versatile in delivering horror. Another thing that I enjoyed was the father and son’s journey in unraveling the mystery of Jane Doe. In my previous entry, I have mentioned my fondness for thrillers and plot twists. The film had a certain characteristics that may be likened to thrillers, such as the plausible hypotheses they present in the movie in attempt to explain the mysteries.

However, in light of the Robin Wood reading, the movie was given so much more depth with the concept of “the other.” In the article, Wood goes on for more than half of the reading about psychoanalysis and repression. Basically, he argues that every society is to a certain degree, repressive, in order to shape its community and individuals. In this shaping and definition of what a member of that certain society should be, those who do not satisfy this criteria or definition are therefore repressed, or in Wood’s terms, “othered.” One concrete example would be sexuality. In certain society’s, the definition for sexuality should always be heterosexual. Those who are homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, etc. have no place in society and are then othered. He goes on to say that the other is usually rejected and destroyed by society. If possible however, the other is taken in and transformed to be one with society.

So how exactly does this relate to horror movies? Essentially, horror movies are tools to show what societies repress and is dramatized as objects of horror and terror. For instance, the Autopsy of Jane Doe showed hints of reference to the real life incident: the Salem Witch Trials. The trails involved several women, wrongly convicted of practicing witchcraft and sentenced to death. Applying Wood’s framework of the “the other,” we can argue that the Puritan society has othered these women for, basically, using unfamiliar medicine, which I believe to be herbs. Society has othered them by objectifying them. And to objectify is to take away one’s autonomy, specifically the ability to decide who and what they are. Constantly holding back feelings will result in inevitable outburst. On a much larger scale, the same goes for what society constantly represses; it will always return. And in this processing of othering by society, deeming them unfit to be one of them, ostracizing them, they are turned into “monsters.”  And this is what horror movies utilizes as subjects and tools of horror.

I believe the film is aware of this framework and tried to present it inexplicitly. In their attempt to discover what Jane Doe is, they have found several evidences linking Jane Doe to the Salem Witch Trials. Tommy immediately assumes that she was one of the convicted witches. However, Austin quickly dismisses this theory and argues that there were no witches, and the trials were, in fact, done without justice. They conclude then that she was literally made a witch through the Salem trials, which involved torture, humiliation and othering. In this short yet vital scene, we can see how the movie adapts the concept of othering.

Learning about the concept of the other not only gives me a deeper understanding and appreciation for horror movies, but it also gives me a better perspective on how societies work. It helps me be critical about my own society and how I may subconsciously participate in the process of othering certain people. It makes me aware of the injustices happening around me, especially in our country and the issues surrounding extrajudicial killings, cross dressing, and incompetent senators spitting out bible verses to justify the death penalty. Going back to the discussion about the movie, I think the movie was great, but I could’ve been done better in certain aspects. I was quite disappointed with the resolution of the movie because it was somewhat predictable. Towards maybe half of the movie, we all know Jane Doe is supernatural. In the peak of the plot, they revealed that she was actually a witch, which isn’t such a surprise anymore. Nonetheless, I would recommend the film to my peers.

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