Remaking, or Not, the Classics

Straw Dogs and Biocultural Stability in Rape-Revenge Movies


David Andrews


Over the past decade, American film producers have re-made many of the classic examples of rape-revenge cinema. However, though the reboots differ from their precursors in important ways, they closely resemble the originals in theme, motif, and messaging. This article explains the generic stability visible in this phenomenon by applying a biocultural approach to rape-revenge films. It proposes that because this genre is built from uniquely basic human impulses linked to rape and revenge, it is exceptionally restrictive and cannot depart too far from the outcomes predicted by our evolved nature. Hence, generic stability remains the rule in this popular form even when an auteur wants to say something new through a remake, as shown here through an analysis of the recent Straw Dogs reboot. The article concludes with an exploration of how the major avenger types evident across rape-revenge films relate to human nature.