Unmasking Fascism and Promoting Anti-fascism with Films

By: Claudia Springer  

Fascist ideologies often describe their hierarchical social models by using corporeal metaphors--the head, hand, fist. Their references to the human body naturalize totalitarian forms of control that rely on intimidation and terror. However the same metaphors can also be turned against fascism. This paper proposes that examining fascism can spark student discussions about democracy, an especially important undertaking given the current rise of far-right groups. One effective way to open up dialogue is to screen a sequence from each of two films--Snowpiercer (2013) and Life is Beautiful (1997)--in which body metaphors denounce fascism and its tactics, including the persecution of scapegoat groups for fascist failings. "Fascism does not work," explains Slavoj Žižek, "and because the reason for its difficulties cannot lie in the antagonistic relations between head and hand, between capital and labor, the cause of the social disequilibrium is projected onto some cancerous formation, some external enemy." With non-realist styles and cinematic artistry, the two film sequences succinctly unmask fascist rhetoric and encourage anti-fascist alternatives.

Anti-fascism, Fascism, Democracy, Films, Body metaphors, Teaching
2020 Special Focus - Against the Grain: Arts and the Crisis of Democracy
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Claudia Springer

Associate Professor, English, Framingham State University

I'm an Associate Professor in the English department at Framingham State University in the U.S., where I teach the university's film studies classes. My film studies Ph.D. is from Northwestern University. I authored the books Electronic Eros: Bodies and Desire in the Postindustrial Age (University of Texas Press, 1996) and James Dean Transfigured: The Many Faces of Rebel Iconography (University of Texas Press, 2007), and co-edited Acting (a volume in the Behind the Silver Screen series, Rutgers University Press, 2015).