Film & Media Studies Theory

Whitman College – FMS 387

An Abjective Reading of “Monsters Inc”


Perhaps I am pushing the envelope too far here, but the more I think about it, the more the movie Monsters Inc works as an example of abjection. Namely, the ideas of a monstrous feminine and the motif of a “phallic” vagina.


First, we have this idea of monsters emerging from a closet–the closet being a dark abyss, a womb-like chamber. Or even further, the room of the children in which they get their “scare” power is the comforting and all-devouring womb itself. These monsters are highly sexual beings, they continuously enter various closets, emerging unscathed and more powerful. It isn’t until they become acquainted with a young girl who almost physically Imagetouches them (a completely forbidden and dangerous experience in this monster world) that Sully and Mike encounter their fear of castration. They try everything in their power to not touch her, essentially “enacting on her body the one act he most fears for himself…” (257) that somehow touching her will result in their castration. In this case, the young girl (Boo) encompasses “the concept of the monstrous feminine, as constructed within/by a patriarchal and phallocentric ideology” (252). They then find that Boo has followed them back into the abyss, which can also be seen as abjection of the maternal figure in that Sully and Mike “cannot break away from the mother” (254) and that Boo, as the mother, has a desire to “cling to her offspring in order to continue to ‘have the phallus’” (264), both literally and physically. Thus, Boo can be seen as the generative archaic mother “constructed within patriarchal ideology as the primeval ‘black hole’. This, of course, is also the hole which is opened up by the absence of the penis: the horrifying sight of the mother’s genitals—proof that castration can occur” (261).


Finally, as Sully and Mike (but specifically Sully) become more attached to Boo, we see a shift in motherhood from Boo to Sully. Soon, we see them fighting to make sure Boo does not get captured by Randall (could be seen as the image of a penis!), and reversing the ideology so that Sully becomes the mother that ‘clings to her offspring’.

Also, let’s not forget that the entire premise of this movie is MONSTERS…i.e inculcating the entire horror argument that is discussed in detail in Horror and the Monstrous Feminine.


2 thoughts on “An Abjective Reading of “Monsters Inc”

  1. I think you make a very interesting case here! But do you think Pixar made the movie with this in mind? Or is it simply a super in depth reading of something that that wasn’t meant to be? Maybe it’s because I don’t want to read an “absence of penis” reading into one of my favorite moves…but could a reading of abjection into Monsters Inc. be a little much? That being said, you make an interesting case for it…

  2. I love how you connected this idea to Monster’s Inc. I really like that you chose an opposite of horror, a children’s movie to write on. I think that it is a really interesting way to look at the doors as a female genitalia and how Boo becomes a the “mother.” It definitely gave me a different way to read this movie. I love that you point out that the doors give them scare power, since the doors are what they are most afraid of. Also, that drawing of Randall totally looks phallic.

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