April 19, 2019

Why Women Are Marginalized in Horror

“He’s coming. Hide. No, not there. Oh god. No. No! *Fade to black* “What’s happening? WHAT’S HAPPENING?! IS SHE DEAD? DID HE KILL HER?” I hear my boyfriend sigh. This is how I watch horror movies, with my hands mostly over my eyes. I watch through my fingers, obscuring all the scary parts. It’s like being a prisoner, nose to the bars of my cell. I miss a lot, or sometimes nothing at all. Sometimes I’m not fast enough. Like with Hereditary, that moment provoking a collective gasp from the entire theatre, or, more recently, with “The Haunting of Hill House,” where ghosts drop into the scene with the phantom grace of house spiders. I jump and scream and laugh, but as sure as this is the sense of injustice — I know that at night I will have to keep my light on, check under my bed, shut the doors until they click. I know that every shadow, every sound, every movement will terrorize me. But even though I know this, I will do it again and again and again. This torture, I will welcome it.

There is no genre I enjoy more than horror even though, as a woman, it seems that I shouldn’t. There’s Don’t Breathe, in which an old blind man who started out as the victim actually ends up trying to artificially inseminate the young woman who burgled him; It Follows, in which a young woman is haunted by the sentient STD her boyfriend gave her; The Innkeepers, in which a young woman is trapped in a cellar with the ghost of an ancient bride who was jilted by her groom; Drag Me to Hell, in which a young woman who refuses an old woman a loan ends up cursed, her face gnawed by a toothless demon. These are the horror movies in the past 10 years that I have been unable to get out of my mind, that I have loved — despite the nightmares — four movies about young women who are tormented, none of them written or directed by women. What does that say about me? What does that say about horror?

* * *

In 1992, the year Tony Todd’s Candyman stalked Virginia Madsen’s grad student, the seminal book on women in horror shed some blood of its own. Carol J. Clover’s Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film had been written after a sudden rush of low-budget horror movies, starting in the mid-70s, which newly revolved around young women; specifically, young women whose perspective became that of the audience. Cinemagoers of both genders thus became female prey fleeing male predators. “Taken together, these films offer variant imaginings of what it is, or might be, like to be a woman,” Clover wrote, “to menstruate and be pregnant, to be vulnerable and endure male violence, to be sexually violated.””

Read more

JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"After five years of war with the Islamic State, the biggest problem for the winners is coping with the losers. The aftermath has produced one of the world’s most perplexing postwar challenges..."

"What do we mean when we say that the “soul of the city” is under threat? Often, it’s really about politics, nostalgia, and the fear of community change."

"...the pendulum of history never stops moving. Indeed, one of the few constants of history is unceasing change. While we seem to be heading in one direction, we must remember that there will surely be pauses, turns, and reversals."

""Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé," premiered early Wednesday and it was the fulfillment of all the ancestors' hopes and dreams. Beyoncé also dropped "Homecoming: The Live Album.""

"Seven in 10 adults ages 18 to 34 received financial support from their parents in the last year, including more than half of those in their early 30s. Almost three in five millennials said they couldn’t afford their lifestyles without the support."

"Social media influencers have helped turn public lands into tourist-infested swamps. And one cantankerous man is fighting back."

"One particular myth that attached itself to Ledger was that his death was somehow a result of immersing himself in the character of the Joker."

"In 2018, for the second year in a row, American publishers released fewer translated titles: 609 books were published, down from 650 in 2017 and the industry high in 2016 of 666."

"Egg freezing had become so routine among my single peers that when I hit 35, I never thought twice. Here’s what I wish I had known."

"When it comes to Passover cuisine, most home cooks know to avoid wheat, oats, rye, and other forbidden ingredients. But what consumers might not realize is just how much cotton they eat during the holiday."

"A masked figure looms over your recumbent body, wielding power tools and sharp metal instruments, doing things to your mouth you cannot see."

"Passover is a holiday that commemorates the Jewish people escaping slavery in Egypt. It is often referred to as the “festival of freedom.” My Passover in prison was at a place called the Wallkill Correctional Facility..."