Pontianaks, Ghosts and the Possessed: Female Monstrosity and National Anxiety in Singapore Cinema

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19 Citations (Scopus)


In its self-conscious transformation into a global city with a national culture that strains to include post-industrial values, contemporary Singapore has had to struggle with the repressed anxieties that threaten to return and disrupt its entry into the advanced stages of global capitalism. This article argues that such struggles are ritually performed in a selection of contemporary Singapore films that feature female monstrosity. By adopting the psychoanalytic theory of the monstrous-feminine developed by Barbara Creed (1993), this article analyses the pontianak of Malay folklore in Return to Pontianak (2001), the vengeful ghost of a murdered Filipina domestic worker in The Maid (2005), and the beautiful female psychologist possessed by the spirit of a tiger in Tiger's Whip (1998). The three Singapore films are modern rituals that serve to bring Singapore's national anxieties under control by subjecting female monstrosity – their grotesque embodiment – to patriarchal discipline.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-170
Number of pages20
JournalAsian Studies Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010

User-Defined Keywords

  • Singapore cinema
  • monstrous-feminine
  • castration anxiety
  • national anxiety
  • patriarchal society


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