Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!

Capitalism in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (’74)

I did this speech in my senior year of college. Very proud of it and thought I’d share it with you. I’ve changed it to make it easier to read since it was a speech outline. Sorry about the formatting, I can’t quite get it in tabbed form [editor’s note: Got you covered, Kyle! – Nick]. Regardless… hope you enjoy!

I was first introduced to Leatherface at a very young age while watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre (TCM), which was released in ’74 (before the world was exposed to the glories of the gorehound). I was frightened and young and this movie somehow gave me a high that I have coming back to since. My love for horror films has brought me to delve into deeper themes and symbols within them. Not many people associate the representation of capitalism with the TCM but after thinking and pondering about it, I suddenly see how clear the theme is! For me to clearly explicate this movie in 6 ½ minutes, I’ll discuss the main story line and its influences, a brief analysis, and the personality of the sick and infamous the Sawyer family and Leatherface.



A. It was intense then, and it’s still intense now, and stands as a very influential movie.

1. One of the first horror films to star youths as the main characters.

2. I can’t pinpoint the exact budget but it was either $80K, 140, but definitely less than 300K. Regardless…

3. …the 2003 remake had an estimated budget of about $9.2 million.

a. different time, different place…

B. Spawned 2 sequels, 1 remake, 1 prequel to the remake, and even a play in Germany! We’ll probably see a few more too.

C. It’s the story of a troupe of 5 teenagers traveling to check out one of their relatives properties.

D. As they go continue on their travels, they meet the Sawyer family.

1. … which are clearly deranged and sadistic.

E. First, one couple is captured and killed, then 2 others, and 1 is left standing in the end.

F. Directed by the Texan Tobe Hooper

1. … who would go on to direct a more recent Poltergeist. Now that says something!

G. There were many influences for this movie.

1. Modern version of Hansel and Gretel with current cannibals and serial killers?

2. Heavily influenced by the transsexual Edward Gein who was very disturbed

a. …who reportedly had “skulls on bed posts” and “human heart in a frying pan”.

b. Also, the influences for Psycho, The Silence of the Lambs, and other films.

II. After getting past the horror, THEMES are seen more visibly.

A. Perhaps the boldest is capitalism.

1. Prior to them pulling up, they pick up a crazed hitchhiker who cuts himself, then continues to cut another member of the troupe.

a. They kick him out and he smears his bloody hand over the side of their VW van. A good introduction to a horror film.

2. In an early scene, we see the troupe pull into a gas station, Gulf Oil (now known as ChevronTexaco and the 2nd largest oil corp. then)

3. We soon find out the gas station serves BBQ, cannibal BBQ!

a. So they come for gas, leave without gas but with some great and tasty human BBQ.

b. This is the oil industry in Texas now- dry and desolate.


B. In the opening scene we hear a narrator over the radio describing a horrible grave robbing incident, while we visualize it on the screen.

1. It’s not enough for us to visualize the gruesome scene. Someone is describing the filthiness while we see it. The hidden family has been uncovered and is now revealed to mainstream media.

2. This becomes more realistic and different in that we are being told what happened, while seeing what is going on, rather than interpreting ourselves.

3. As the film progresses, the narration ceases and we are left to interpret on our own.


A. The corporate oil business had a great stronghold in Texas until the wells dried.

1. From about 1907 until the early 1970s, Texans drilled for oil constantly.

B. Between the 1930s and 70s, Texans produced about 40% of the nation’s oil (I forgot my source for this but I got no reference for this).


III. The most salient (and my favorite) character in this movie is definitely ::duh::duh::duhhh:: LEATHERFACE (a.k.a. Gunnar Hansen)

A. The character was clearly mentally retarded and sexually confused.

1. Unable to speak correctly and “squealed” like a pig.

2. Wore the body parts of others.

B. Robin Wood’s analysis visualizes the Sawyer family as the “exploited and degraded proletariat”, i.e. the presence & proof of a capitalist society (in her book An Introduction to the American Horror Film).

C. In the abrupt absence of the oil corporations, society was unable to return to its past state.

1. The entire area became solely dependent on oil, and unable to find work, leading to high unemployment and a opportunity for less accepted methods of living to arise.

2. Corporations took both, all the oil and the people’s livelihood.

D. LF was the 1st invincible monster in the industry.

1. All other monsters prior had weaknesses. Dracula and sunlight?

2. LF has a killing desire that cannot be stopped because nothing satisfied him.

a. Victim? Who’s the victim, the troupe of teens or our confused LF?

3. As the movie closes, we see the final statement of the movie as the sole survivor is picked up by a car and Leatherface is left still swinging and angry.

a. Capitalism is still alive and well.

In conclusion, this movie is serious and complex, and 6 ½ minutes is simply not enough to interpret and expound the crevices of meanings. Though, it is enough for us to catch a glimpse of its beauty. With the knowledge of the general story and its influences, a brief critique of the movie and of the dysfunctional family, we can understand this movie a bit more. Even if you watch movies as simple entertainment, just remember that this one has more to it. It’s much more than horror movie. It’s capitalism in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Can you believe that I got a B in this class? Not to brag but I got an A in all my senior level biology and environmental classes. Yeah, don’t put off your freshman level classes until you’re a senior. You’ll feel like a complete moron when you your being judged like a freshman. Hope you enjoyed my explication.


One response to “Capitalism in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (’74)

  1. Pingback: Review: Texas Chainsaw 3D (’13) | The Culture Cast with Zack and Nick

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