"Giving Up the Ghost" provides an in-depth analysis of comedy and romantic ghost films. Using post-Freudian and feminist approaches, "Giving Up the Ghost" examines a range of popular movies, including Heaven Can Wait
(1978), Truly, Madly, Deeply
(1991), and Ghost
(1990). Katherine A. Fowkes outlines startling similarities among recent ghost films and films from the late 1930s and 1940s, speculating on the significance of ghosts and angels as subjects of film narrative.
"Giving Up the Ghost" explores gender blurring to achieve an alternate conception of voyeurism and visual distance in cinema, linking films as diverse as the melodramatic Always (1989) and the comedy Ghost Dad (1990). The author provides an analysis of films that traditionally have been overlooked by academics and popular critics as being "mere fantasy" and "fluff," and reveals a significant cinematic phenomenon that defines ghost films as a distinct and important genre related not only to fantasy, romance, and comedy, but also to melodrama, occult, and horror.
A counterpoint to "body" genres, such as the slasher and male-focused action movies which focus obsessively on the physical body, ghost films take up an opposite strategy by engaging in a denial of the body. Emblematic of a cultural confusion with -- or an insistence on working through -- problems of gender, comedy ghost films can be related to horror films and other Hollywood genres through their common difficulty with gendered identities. Fowkes ultimately argues that the devices used in ghost films prove to be uniquely suited to a comic and romantic agenda, both visually and narratively. A creative, original work on a neglected genre of films,"Giving Up the Ghost" investigates the present popularity of comedy ghost films and explains their appeal to both male and female audiences.
Arguing that our enjoyment of ghost films is linked to masochistic pleasure, Giving up the Ghost provides us with a new way of thinking about the relation between film viewing and gender. A deft but readable application of psychoanalytic theories, especially masochism (by way of Deleuze and Studlar), extends the utility of psychoanalysis to the understanding of film genre and film audiences. It is indispensable reading for scholars and students of film theory.