Theory And Critique Based Faster

Films and society are inter-related in the sense that the former often reflects the latter and may be impacted by the latter. This can also be seen in the central argument from Kracauer who argued that changes in the style and content of German films between 1919 and 1933 resulted from changes in the psychological disposition of the German people as the wars brought about great change in the German hopes and fears and the collective mentality of the German people was reflected by the movies of the period (Kracauer, 1947). This essay discusses the public psyche theory and offers a critique of the theory on the basis of the movie, Faster Pussy Cat Kill Kill 1966. The critique is based on the book From Caligari to Hitler. The film Faster Pussy Cat Kill Kill 1966 may be seen as a form of prophecy in line with Kracauer’s oft-debated paradigm because the film reflects on the changes in the society with respect to violence, misogynism and feminism.

Kracauer (1947) talks of “those deep layers of collective mentality which extend more or less below the dimensions of consciousness” to explain the nature of collective mentality (p. 6). In other words, the public psyche or the collective mentality of the people is reflected in films. To look at it from a different way, one may say that films can provide insight into the mindset of the time in which it was produced and therefore, films can also be historical aids that help to understand the social fabric, social mores and consciousness at a particular time. In Germany, the public psyche can be seen in the seminal The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, which was made in the 1920s, which also saw a turning point in the German public psyche which wanted an escape from the harsh realities of war and violence (Schonfeld, 2002, p. 174). However, not all movies can be said to reflect public psyche, because if that were so there would be no failures at the Box Office. It is here that the public psyche theory of Kracauer (1947) can be said to be lacking in insight. Secondly, there cannot be a fixed national character or a definite public psyche as there are many points of divergence in the social conciousness and at best what we have are groups of people who may agree of something strongly enough to form a collective consciousness. Nevertheless, it is also to be noted that films do follow real life in many ways and in that sense a film can be a historical document, which is able to provide an insight into the society of the time. An example of this can be seen in the cult classic, Faster Pussy Cat Kill Kill.


The themes in the film revolve around violence, misogyny, capitalism, and sex. Applying the public psyche theory, one would have to argue that not only the themes of the movie but its outcomes must be such that appeal to public psyche in order to be a commercial success. In other words, film makers will make movies that will appeal to the mass desires so that the films are successful (Kracauer, 1947, p. 67). Therefore, the films that are successful in commercial terms may be useful at a later point in time for providing an insight into the public or collective psyche of the time. The movie Faster Pussy Cat Kill Kill 1966 revolves around a crime spree that starts with three go-go dancers, Billie, Rosie, and Varla, who decide to race their sports car across the California desert after their dance at the club. From the very start of the film, it is easy to see why the three dancers are going to get into trouble because they seem to be on a spiral. In a way, the public would have expected that the three dancers must get into trouble and that is the ending that the director provides as if in deference to public psyche.

The dancers play a high-speed game of chicken on the salt flats first and they do not seem to be inhibited by any fears regarding their safety or those of others. Then they encounter a young couple, Tommy and Linda. These two are running a time trial. The irony is that while the dancers are speeding their car for the sake of fun and trouble, Tommy and Linda are involved in the same activity for professional reasons. However, the three dancers involve the other two as well into their violent activities, which ends with Tommy breaking his neck in a fight with Varla. Eventually, Varla ends up kidnapping and drugging Linda. At this point, the sadism of the three dancers and their disregard for human life is apparent. Is sadism a theme that appealed to larger groups of people in American society in the 1960s? It may be said that the morbid and sadistic themes do titillate cinemagoers and this may not mean that the society itself is sadistic, but that there is a common interest in the theme.

The film goes on to see the three dancers with Linda, ending up in a race to get a misogynist old man to reveal where he has kept the fortune. Now the film takes a different turn. Earlier, the activities of the three dancers were not motivated by gain, but by sadistic pleasure in violence. Now, they are definitely motivated by the desire to get their hands on the money of the old man in the small desert town. Capitalism is a major principle of the American society and the preoccupation with the ‘American life’ and the ‘good life’, may at times be perceived as showing a definite collective interest in money. Therefore, the turning point in the movie also points at a more structured criminal activity which is motivated by private gain, something that the American public may find easier to understand rather than people going off on crime sprees just for the fun of it. Thus, the obsession with the old man’s money is also a reflection on the American society’s preoccupation with the capitalist and the material aspects of life.

The old man himself is wheelchair bound but he gets his muscular, dim-witted son to do his bidding. The old man’s elder son, Kirk is also at the ranch when the women go there with the old man. Varla tried to seduce Kirk into revealing where the money has been kept, while Linda manages to escape from the drunken Billie and runs away into the desert. The old man and the younger son follow and catch Linda. Kirk tries to take Linda into town in the truck, but end up setting across the desert on foot when the old man says that he has thrown away the keys to the truck. Now the film starts to definitely identify and distinguish the good guys (Kirk and Linda) from the bad (everyone else). This is again a reflection on the American collective conscience which will want to see the bad people getting punished and the good people rewarded (preferably by finding the money).

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At the beginning of the film, it is easy to foresee that the movie will end in violence brought on by the three dancers upon themselves, and now the sequence starts to come true with Varla asking Billie and Rosie to help kill the men and Linda. However, Billie finally refuses to go along with the plan and meets her death by knifing from Varla. Then Rosie and Varla hit the old man with their car and kill him. Ironically, the money was in the wheelchair, which they find. However, Rosie is stabbed and killed by the younger son and Varla finally dies when Linda hits her with a car as she is in hand to hand combat with Kirk. The film ends on a somewhat sombre note with Kirk and Linda driving off together in the truck. Here, the public psyche which is in favour of good seems to be realised in the ending of the film, which punishes the bad people and rewards the good people. Kirk and Linda have found each other and also the old man’s money and can now go and live a life of comfort. The three dancers and the old man are all dead and this seems to be justified by their own evil actions and motivations. There is another way in which the film may reflect on the changing public psyche, in that it is deeply feminist, with undertones of female empowerment. Men are shown to be weaker and easily manipulated or threatened by women in the film. This may be a reflection on the feminist movement within America at the time. 1960s saw feminist movement taking on stronger tones and this is reflected in the movie and the viewership to which it appealed. Therefore, it may be said that the public psyche theory can explain to a great extent the interlink between films and society.


  • Kracauer, S. (1947). From Caligari to Hitler: A psychological history of the German film. Princeton University Press.
  • Schonfeld, C. (2002). Modern Identities in Early German Film: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. In T. Cresswell, & D. Dixon, Engaging film: Geographies of mobility and identity (pp. 174-190). Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

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