112th Annual Conference - Riverside Convention Center, California
Friday, October 31 - Sunday, November 2, 2014

This page is about the 2014 conference. For 2015 conference info, go to PAMLA 2015.

"They're all gonna laugh at you!": The Politics of Adapting Carrie in the 20th and 21st Centuries

Daniel Ante-Contreras, MiraCosta College

In this paper, I focus on the 2013 film adaptation of Carrie as indicative of shifts in discourse about violence and adolescence in the 20th and 21st centuries. I examine why the film adaptations emerged in certain historical moments and look at the queer and feminist potentials of adapating a novel like Carrie in the post-Columbine digital world.


Though adolescence has always been central to American popular culture, the discourse about this group has changed radically throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. From the rise of the terms “youth culture” and “subculture” in the 1950s and 1960s to the decline of those terms and the emergence of awareness campaigns about bullying, autism, and suicide by teenage members of the LGBT community in the 1990s and 2000s, attempts have been made to police and understand adolescent behavior in response to fears of violence and antisociality. Two underlying nodes in this shift is the way school shootings, which are integral to our understanding of children in the 21st century, and advances in technology associated with youth have become central to American culture. However, most of these discourses I’ve mentioned are thought of through an adolescent subject implicitly (and often explicitly) coded as male.

In this paper, I want to look at these shifts through a female character as a way of expanding discourse about bullying and school violence as both a feminist and queer project. To do this, I will place Stephen King’s short 1974 novel Carrie (and, to a lesser extent, the 1976 film adaptation by Brian De Palma) up against the 2013 film adaptation by Kimberly Pierce. I want to do this for two reasons: first, to look at the politics of adapting a written text about the supernatural and school violence into a visual text and what the formal features of both offer for discussions of these two topics in terms of female identity; and second, I want to think of the gap of time between Carrie’s written version and newest visual version as significant in terms of offering a different way of accounting for transitions in identity and politics usually explained through male subjects. In this, I will think of Carrie both within and potentially without a type of cultural production circulating around the negative feelings of students that ultimately culminates in what I call the post-Columbine school shooting text. That the written and first film versions of Carrie were made before Columbine, whereas the new adaptation is post-Columbine, will be central to the radical potentials I see in adapting certain texts into visual form in the 21st-century. This will involve recuperating the newer film, which is criticized as too similar to the original, as productive in its minor differences in ways that point to larger discourses.