Haunting the Grown-Ups: The Borderlands of ParaNorman and Coraline

UNSPECIFIED (2016) Haunting the Grown-Ups: The Borderlands of ParaNorman and Coraline. In: Heholt, Ruth and Downing, Niamh, (eds.) Haunted Landscapes Super-Nature and the Environment. Place, Memory, Affect . Rowman & Littlefield International, London, New York, pp. 199-214. ISBN 978-1-78348-822-7

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Abstract / Summary

Coraline (Selick, 2009) and ParaNorman (Fell and Butler, 2012) are stop-motion animated films featuring eponymous child protagonists. In both films, adults are weak and outsider children can be powerful, occupying a privileged position that recalls Cavallaro’s point (2002) that such children may ‘succeed in conveying a lesson: their ability to live and interact with the unnameable while their adult counterparts blunder by striving to explain and contain it’. This chapter argues that as their emotional and physical journeys take Coraline and Norman through spectacular and haunted landscapes of the past and present so the viewer is offered an alternative landscape of a more fluid future for children to refuse adult prescriptions and prohibitions.
In both films, anxieties dividing children and parents around the constructions and performances of an idealised childhood are played out in across domestic and external landscapes. Coraline and Norman, as well as the supernatural beings that they encounter, are defined by, and exiled to, the borderlands of the relationship between adult and child. The silencing of children is demonstrated as the cost they pay in the enforcement of ideological authority. But transformation is accomplished by Coraline and Norman seeing and listening to other children. As they articulate the desires of the dead and revivify history and memory, they themselves are enabled to speak and, crucially, to be heard.
Norman, communicating with the dead, learns that the ‘real’ landscape offered to children is one only imagined as secure by adults, where ideological struggles over belief, representation and gender are repressed in the service of a commodified and wilfully misremembered history of those conflicts. Coraline is offered an alternative domestic landscape, a house and garden created by the Other Mother as an entertainment designed around an assumed childhood need for the hegemonic narratives of the well-ordered, and properly gendered, home. For both children the revelation that their landscapes are not fixed and immutable becomes an understanding enabling their desires to be validated in the adult world. The uncertain and unstable terrain of adults is revealed as a site of terror, and in remembering the other voices of their landscapes the children can refuse this, claiming an identity of their own fashioning.
As Berberich, Campbell and Hudson have noted (2012) ‘landscape is the visible and invisible meeting ground of culture, place and space – where identities are exchanged, performed and constructed’, but also that encounters with the landscape can be transformative. These arguments underpin the reading here of Coraline and ParaNorman as children move through socially and culturally articulated landscapes structured on the denial of their own identity. These points are further amplified through acknowledging that ParaNorman and Coraline as stop-motion animations are actual constructions of children and landscape by adult film-makers, and in exploring these doubly haunted landscapes as they intersect with character they reveal, following Pallant (2015) and Newton (2015), and Wells (1998, 2002) that these animations are sites of the performances of borderlands and outlands for children.

Item Type: Book Chapter
ISBN: 978-1-78348-822-7
Subjects: Film & TV
Geography & Environment
Film & TV > Film > Hollywood Film
Depositing User: Rebecca Lloyd
Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2017 09:59
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2017 09:59
URI: http://repository.falmouth.ac.uk/id/eprint/2372

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