Sunday, January 24, 2010

Movies: Screwfly, don't bother me.

"What would men be without women? Scarce, sir, mighty scarce." - Mark Twain

Before we go any further, there's a pretty nasty section in this post that discusses, in detail, some of the horrible things that real life human beings do to one another. It's not meant to be enjoyable and, in reading the draft, I'm convinced that it is as unpleasant as it is meant to be. I bring this up because it isn't my intention to gross out people who came here for straight out fun. I don't think it's fair to not warn you.

About a fourth of the way into The Screwfly Solution, Joe Dante's '06 contribution the second season of the uneven and oft maligned "Masters of Horror" series, a researcher who is studying an outbreak of lethal attacks against women in Jacksonville, Florida, makes an unusual discovery. He finds similar outbreaks across the globe in a band roughly equivalent to the region between the horse latitudes. To discuss why this is unintentionally (and uncomically) ironic, we've got to work in some backstory. If you've seen the episode, you can skip this intro stuff. I'll put a break in the text with *** when you can leap back in.

Okay, now that they're gone, let's talk smack about them. Just kidding, let's mosey on.

After the surprise mainstream attention Dante got with his ham-fisted and tediously self-righteous anti-Bush jeremiad Homecoming (a low point in contemporary horror's often lame efforts to engage social issues), Dante decided that smart horror built on keen-eyed dissections of complex hot button social issues was the way to make successful horror shorts. But, almost immediately, he decided that was too hard; instead, he'd make really dumb movies built on shallow conventional wisdom around social issues that were little more than excuses for mildly liberal fright fans to engage in some masturbatory moral outrage.

In this case, Dante turns his sponge-sharp political intellect to the issue of violence against women. Based on a story by James Tiptree Jr. (Alice Sheldon), The Screwfly Solution features a strikingly grim and taut premise: Aliens decide to rid Earth of the pest species Homo sapiens sapiens by infecting the male population of the species with a bio-agent that highjacks the male, reprograms them, and turns their normal sexual impulses into murderous homicidal rages. The slightest twinge in the trousers turns into Murder One. The long term result, barring a cure or mass castration, will be the death of all women and the eventual extinction of the species. Scientific questions aside, this premise is as starkly functional and perfectly evolved as a mousetrap. By turning misogyny into a global deathtrap, Tiptree/Sheldon creates a situation as relentless and unsentimental Disch's The Genocides or Blumlein's great short story "The Brains of Rats." Configuring misogyny as an irrational, impersonal, and contagious disease, Tiptree comes dangerously close to excusing anti-female violence as something men can't help; though she reaps thematic benefits in her representation of misogyny as a form of insane suicide. Furthermore, it serves as an emotionally resonant metaphor that strikes deep for anybody who has recoiled in complete incomprehension at news of female life under the Taliban or pondered how their own off-spring seems to pick up potentially harmful gender steretypes despite the their best efforts to inoculate the young against this self-supressing behavior. When the world confronts our self-evident assumptions, it always appears irrational. The extreme other always appears mad. Tiptree's metaphor captures that emotional reality.

Starting with this no-nonsense race chassis and powerplant, Dante expertly precedes to build a family mini-van atop it, complete with faded "Kerry: Ready for Duty" bumpersticker. Running on a half-processed goo of ill-considered engagement with the political subtexts and writing that reads like a Burroughs cut-up of a handful of randomly selected Air America call-in show transcripts, he takes everything that was sharp and lean about Tiptree's premise and makes it sluggish and irresponsive. Dante's characters speak in soundbite non-sequitors, as if they now think in the sorts of clips the staff of the Daily Show regularly lampoons. The acting is wooden, with the exception of Elliot Gould who seems to have lost a bet with his agent. Gould's gay epidemiologist spends the first half of the flick in a semi-camp after-school special mode that makes one wonder if Gould wasn't deliberately trying to distance himself from the project. Dante does frame several powerful moments (the surreal apocalyptic plot finally allows the director to access some of the legacy of his namesake), most notably in a tense and delightfully off-kilter scene in which the passengers and crew of a jetliner start to show the early stages of infection. Though, for the most part, Dante never grasps the magnitude of crisis he's dealing with. Admittedly, he's working within a cable TV budget, but better directors have made starker, more involving visions of dystopia with less. All this would be forgivable, perhaps, if it wasn't for the real flaw of flick: It's inability to conceive of a gendercidal crisis that didn't focus on a white, liberal, middle class, highly-educated woman. Which leads us the unintentionally ironic scene.


Early in the flick, Gould's character tracks out a zone of extraordinary spikes in violence against women. Ground Zero for the murderous contagion is in Florida where, we learn by piecing together sundry clues from the film, 1,100 women have died in the course of a little more than a month (max time span: 32 days - all of June and the first two days of August). He compares this to other killings and discovers a global band of similar violence spanning the globe.

Here's the unintentional irony.

In this film's fictional Florida, the violence we're talking about involves the homicide of 34 women a day. That's two women every hour.

In modern India - in the real world you and I live in - just "bride burning," the act of killing or horribly disfiguring a woman with fire or acid for insufficient dowry or to remove her as an obstacle to her husband's efforts to remarry - occurs approximately every two hours. This doesn't account for non-marital related homicides, death by neglect (because the dowry system pretty much ensures daughters will be a long-term economic burden - in Punjabi there's a saying, "Raising a daughter is like watering your neighbor's garden" - some families choose to let their daughters die by restricting their access to medical attention), or other acts of violence against women.

I'm not picking on India because I've got something against the country. Rather, I selected it as an example because the film chooses to cite India as a place where violence spikes to suddenly resemble the violence they are seeing in Florida. As if it wasn't already much worse than anything Dante has imagined for his Florida.

On Gould's map, the Congo also falls well in the infected zone. But, again, daily life in the Congo regularly outdoes what Dante imagines unhinged violence against women looks like. Journalists Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn have dubbed the Congo "the world capital of rape." Warring militias find directly confronting one another too dangerous. Who wants to risk getting plugged in a firefight? So, rather than engaging other combatants, the preferred targets of militia violence are non-combatant women. In a single one of Congo's 26 provinces, an estimated 27,000 rapes occurred in 2006 alone. In several provinces, 75% of the female population has been the victim of rape. In some cases, raped women are taken into slavery. UN investigators report that these women are often forced through a program of physical and mental torture meant to break down their sense of their own humanity in order to make them more compliant to their captors. In some cases, women have been forced to eat their own excrement or, worse, the flesh of slain relatives. Those women who are not taken as slaves are often raped with sticks or sharp weapons, such a bayonets. The idea is to create rectovaginal or vesicovaginal fistulas: holes in the lining of the vagina, rectum, and bladder. Aside from the intense pain and the likelihood of death by infection or bleeding, these wounds cause the women to suffer a constantly slow leak of urine and fecal matter through her vagina. Some militias find the work of knives and sticks too unreliable, so they prefer to sodomize victims with a firearm and then pull the trigger. The youngest recorded victim of this particular variation of the militias' signature move was a three-year-old girl. However, in the context of the film, we're supposed to think that an outbreak of violence like the one Dante depicts as occurring in Florida would be notable.

Violence against women, as it is currently perpetrated on a global scale, is something that staggers the imagination of comfortable Westerners like me and, mostly likely if you're reading this, you. In an effort to put a number on the scale of demographic trauma we're dealing with, the Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen applied standard demographic gender disparities to estimates of the global population. In a "standard" world, one expects the male/female divide of the human population to be about 50/50. Actually, in the younger age categories, there are slightly more men because we tend to get weeded out by illness, accidental misadventure, and so on. Comparing the projected demographic split to the actual gender distribution of the globe, Sen found that we're missing an estimated 100 million women. To give you a sense of scale, that's a number of women equal to the populations of California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois combined.

Violence against women is a horror story that actually staggers our ability to tell scary stories. Not only does The Screwfly Solution's vision of a global spike in anti-women violence seem laughable next to the amount of violence women are globally subjected to as a matter of course, but it reveals another issue about horror films that allegedly take a feminist stance: The global status of women might be a horror story, but it's only a horror movie when it happens to middle class, white women.

This is ultimately why The Screwfly Solution fails so profoundly. In it's effort to make a statement about global hegemonic misogyny, it never bothers to grasp anything beyond fear that white Western women might lose what they've gained. That their vision of an apocalyptic nightmare is, in fact, the daily reality of an enormous percentage of the female population simply never occurs to the filmmakers. It uses dispatches from the developing world to reinforce the idea that it is so utterly wrong that the Western world should look like these savage, uncivilized, dark-skinned places. Though even this is done dismissively; the film deploys images of dead exotics in a selfish way - solely with regard for how it will impact our Western eyes - without even the slightest knowledge of what life is like there. There are gorier movies out there, but few so cynical.

Much of this has to do with Dante's own unreflective politics. Dante's is to politics what Billy Joel is to music: the voice of the suburban solipsist. The thrust of Homecoming is that the Iraq War had made America a less pleasant place to live. That's the source of its horror. The issues regarding Iraqis, from the cost of freedom from Saddam to the implications of Saddam's son coming to power to the horrific costs in Iraqi lives, never come up. For Dante, the single worst crime of America's latest Middle East adventure isn't the legal institution of torture or the fact that Iraq is now potentially poised to democratically hand over its government to religious extremists. Rather, he hates - hates hates hates! - the idea that he should be subjects to the rants of a person like Anne Coulter.

Though not all the of the blame rests with Dante. Part of the problem - hate mail goes in the comment section - is the profoundly limited imagination of American feminist horror filmmakers and critics.

In late 2009, a writer for one of the main horror sites, I now forget which one, suggested that there was no such thing as a feminist horror film. His logic, to be honest, was sketchy at best. He argued that since he'd never considered any horror film to be feminist, there was probably no such thing as a feminist horror film. This is the logical equivalent of a color-blind man claiming that, because he's never seen red, the color red does not exist. Rightly, this writer was taken to task for his un-observation. Unfortunately, the much needed correction rallied around a definition of feminist horror that was, in my opinion, the single most Dantesque - and I mean the director of Gremlins and not the man who penned The Inferno - response you could have imagined. The flag was raised on platform that held real feminist horror is would be a movie in which being the protagonist's being a woman was neither a factor in her being threatened nor a factor in her victory over that threat. The result of this approach is to essentially efface the female characters. Boiled down, this approach produces female characters that are basically male horror characters in drag. It steals the structure, concerns, and characterizations of existing "masculine" horror flicks and just swaps out the gender of the hero. It eliminates the distinctions between male and female characters without demanding that attention be given to the real world conditions that are unique to being a women. There's something profoundly wrong with this world and it impacts women in a mind-bogglingly disproportionate way. We're not missing five states worth of men. Those missing women are the accusing ghosts at the table of so-called feminist horror. Where are they? And why should we pretend their story isn't unique and important?

A truly feminist horror film would embrace the fact that, for most women, being unpopular in high school isn't the single most horrific thing most women experience. It would recognize that there's something existentially different about navigating the world as woman rather than man and root the uniquely feminist experience of horror in that fault line. It will recognize that the Buffy-esque conception of horror is both dubiously limited in its ability to speak to a common female experience and grotesquely rooted in what is essentially one dude's stoke fantasy. Perhaps the hardest bit to digest will be that fact that "male" horror doesn't flatter the better angles of man's nature; horror embraces all those things that we don't want to talk about or can't say in polite company. It a reflection of masculinity at its worst, explored by witnesses from the inside. A truly feminist horror tradition won't be a celebration of the importance of flexing one's girl power. It will be an open-eyed confrontation with the crap that scares you. Not only the horror in the world outside you, but the things you're afraid to confront within yourself. In the brothels of the developing world, the former enslaved prostitutes sometimes become the whip-wielding madams. There's more genuine feminist horror in that one sentence than in a million episodes of Buffy.

After long consideration and for very different reasons, I'm going to side with the man who declared that there is no such thing as a feminist horror movie. Admittedly, there are movie out there that are convinced that the issues and troubles of sliver of the female population - notably that segment most likely to pony up cheddar to help some studio's bottom line - are just about the most important things in the world. But this is, most charitably, best described as Western, white, young, middle-class feminist horror. Until somebody makes a movie that genuinely captures the scope of the dread that one feels when one sees the state of women beyond our own limited existence here in the stable, still relatively affluent West, that universal label is just a self-aggrandizing brag.

I don't believe there will ever be a genuine feminist tradition in horror films. Not because of some flaw in feminism. Indeed, the most enduring and most destructive legacy of human existence on this planet has been the widespread oppression of women. Humanity needs feminism.

Rather, I believe this because "-isms" are not the point of horror. Horror upsets. It's a no, not a yes. Even in its most playful and less sinister moods, it is carnivalesque. It overturns that which is supposed to be. It reveals the ugly, the risible, the unwanted, the shunned - without ever truly transforming from the ugly, the risible, the unwanted, the shunned. It's not a revolutionary; it's a trickster figure. Feminist horror, if it existed, would speak the darkest fears of the movement. It would exist not to celebrate feminism's achievements, but to constantly warn us of the things that lurk in the shadows beyond the well-lit village's boundaries. It would act as a Cassandra: an unheeded but incessantly nagging check on the political, ideological, and social ambitions of feminism itself. This is why Dante's Homecoming, while acceptable as liberal agitprop, was crappy horror. It existed to convince the viewer that their conception of the world was spot on. It told liberals, "Hey, every bizarro world notion about your enemies you've ever held was spot on, because you're awesome and they suck." A truly liberal horror flick would have, I don't know, featured a president who pulled out of the conflict on time table to score votes at home only to be invaded by zombie Iraqi corpses angry that we wrecked their country and lives to stop short because the costs of what we were doing was making our fat and comfortable asses unhappy. These zombies would force us to confront the fact that we claim to hold ideas of freedom and liberty as sacred, but would rather not confront tyranny abroad if it means burnishing the war-time prez cred of a candidate we dislike. Horror that confirms an audience's self-congratulatory prejudices isn't worth the label horror. Just call it therapy. Then at least you could charge the going hourly rate for it.

Anywho, The Screwfly Solution is a middling installment in the MoH series. Good premise, flawed execution.


Pauline said...

Thanks for the early head's up. It would be a shame not to know ahead of time. And - as always - a gracious and well thought out review.

Sarah said...

Boiled down, this approach produces female characters that are basically male horror characters in drag. It steals the structure, concerns, and characterizations of existing "masculine" horror flicks and just swaps out the gender of the hero. It eliminates the distinctions between male and female characters without demanding that attention be given to the real world conditions that are unique to being a women.

Except for the last sentence (which I included just cos I liked it), and if I remember correctly, this is what Carol Clover pointed out in her book, although mostly that the final girls in 80s slasher films had either boy's names or names that can be for either genders.

As for the argument over whether feminist horror exists, I'm going to have to sit down for awhile and think about it. Good post!

CRwM said...


I probably made the case more forcefully than the merits of my argument deserve, but I'm glad you thought it well done.

CRwM said...


I wasn't thinking specifically of Clover's book, but you're right. She does talk about the purging of the final girl's gender traits prior to survival, as if she has to be de-feminized before she can escape. I was thinking more in terms of theme and plot, but that's a great example.

Sasquatchan said...

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the show ?

(no swipes at twilight being chick-horror ?)

CRwM said...


I've got no particular beef with the Twilight franchise. Sure, I'm not interested in seeing them, but because they're not my cup of tea and not because I have some sense that they're not legit horror products.

I'm not sure they really fall under the purview of what we're talking about here, but I'm certain the overt gender identification of the franchise is no small part of why it isn't considered legitimate horror. (Certainly there's no logical reason to exclude the franchise: I have yet to see a legitimate definition of the genre that would, say, keep Monster Squad in the genre while reasonably excluding Twilight.)

Sarah said...

Since I'm not going to be able to formulate a longer response until sometime tomorrow afternoon, I'll throw this question into the ring:

Would you consider Teeth a feminist horror film?

I mean aside from the fact that vagina dentata doesn't really exist, the girl in the film at first inadvertently kills the quasi-boyfriend who tries to rape her, then purposefully maims/kills her stepbrother who has been perving out on her for years. It goes in line with the statistic that women are most likely to be raped or assaulted by the men in their lives, not strangers.

CRwM said...


I wish I could answer, but I've never seen Teeth. I'll put it in the queue.

Ivan said...

Great essay!
After the disappointment of "Homecoming," I had no intention of watching "Screwfly," but thanks for taking a bullet for the rest of us.

Jo Amelia Finlay said...

Fantastic stuff. A lot to think about here!

It's posts like this which make me want to hand you this:

Do with it what you will :)

CRwM said...


Muchas gracias!

I believe there's a special exemption for folks who have already done the award ritual, but I appreciate knowing that you find it worth the click to check out these ramblings o' mine.

And you can't tell, but I'm blushing under the lucha mask.

Anonymous said...

Excellent review/essay. I don't have time to write a lengthy response, so I'll just add a couple of points:

1. I think you're too hard on Dante here, resp. blame him for having had intentions I don't necessarily see - Dante clearly has an American / Western audience in mind here and tries to make a statement within the confines of a (at heart) still fairly conventional or traditional B-horrormovie (something I'd call something of a trademark with him). However, I also believe that any socio-political statemetn has always come as a distinct second in Dante's works and Screwfly solution is no exception here, in a way, these aspects should be thought of as a "bonus", but I feel you treat the episode as if Dante's main intention was to say something about violence against women (or should have and I admit that that is a position one can take, although I feel it is also one that will lead to disappointment 99% of the time and isn't very likely to be shared by a majority of viewers).
Essentially, I feel you could make similar points about any of Romero's zombie films (to name just one example) - there are plenty of diseases currently around that are arguably just as horrific as the dead coming back to life and that have had just as strong an impact on societies around the world.

2. I don't intend to downplay the issue in any way, but some of your figures seem a bit too high to me and Sen is someone who is increasingly being seen as very unreliable within economics. Doesn't change your basic points of course, just something I feel I should add.

3. I'm not sure if your points on "truly liberal horror" are all that valid. personally, I'd agree with you, but in the end, what you're suggesting is just a replacement of one particular storyline with another one (that is just as specific in its own way) and I feel that's too specific an approach - if there is such a thing as "liberal horror", it would have to be something that can be defined in an abstract way, but going with your argumentation, I believe that is most likely not possible.

4. Let's not forget that horror can also serve as a form of escape and allow us to deal with issues that are otherwise much too frightening/ depressing in real life. I believe this is something Dante tried to do here (bringing up the issue, not necessarily participate in the discussion) and I think it's arguably also the best approach one can take when given a format such as the MOH series.

5. Dante also seems to be focused only on the destructive force of sexuality itself, whereas your examples always have several additional socio-political dimensions (and let's remember that rape is not about sex). One might feel that he is misguided here, but I'm not sure if it is really fair to blame him for failing to address points, he never intended to address in the first place and that are arguably not within the scope of his chosen approach. You make some excellent points about why he should have chose a different approach, but I think you overdo it when you extend that criticism to his execution.

Jo Amelia Finlay said...

Haha, love it :D

CRwM said...


Thank you for the thoughtful critiques. In the heat of my initial post, I staked out a position that not only fails to reflect the diversity of the genre but also, and this is worse, is hypocritical in its exclusionary impulse. This leads to two big problems:

First, I write as if there is only one reason to create horror and one mode which is acceptable. I wouldn't have bought that position if somebody else was selling it, so a shouldn't have tried to sell it off here. I do believe that there is, currently, an extremely restrictive sense of what can or can't be a feminist horror film. However, replacing that with a vision that is equally restrictive, simply in the other direction, is no solution. If I had the post to write over again, I'd give that particular issue more thought.

Second, and far worse, I'm guilty of dismissing the genuine lived experience of a entire section of the female population. Admittedly, the issues facing white, relatively affluent women in the Western world are of vastly different scale than those that plague many women in developing countries. However, that doesn't make these issue any less real or worthy of artistic investigation. We should note the fact that these expressions speak from specific place and are not the voice of all women, but that qualification doesn't invalidate the legitimacy of their expression. I forgot the words of Plato: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." Dismissing the experiences of certain women because they don't meet some personal victim-test is, if you'll pardon the expression, a real dick move and I have to own up to it. In social policy, I think it is valid to triage issues in terms of scale. But art doesn't work that way.

As for some of the other issues . . .

The sexual impulse/social issue angle actually gets conflated in the Dante flick. This is a hallmark of Dante's political work. In Homecoming, Dante made sure to show that his conservatives were, once the cameras were off, S&M freaks - and the pleasure they get from inflicting suffering is, in some ways, part and parcel of their politics. In Screwfly, the infected men believe that they are imposing the will of God on the communities around them. They talk about their mass murdering ways in sexual, religious, and military terms. Because, I believe, Dante thinks that way. We could discuss the social and cultural factors of women's oppression in developing countries, but Dante would claim that it all really just comes down to men's violent sexuality. Dante likes to think that culture's are dividing into good, right-thinking, moral social agents and amoral, perverted sociopaths. Everything else is just costuming. Conflating social issues with sexual issues isn't my reduction, it's his.

That brings us to Sen. The only stat I pulled from Sen is the 100 million missing women. That specific number has been challenged, but the essential argument that there's a massive gender imbalance and that the reason for this imbalance is intentional human action has never suffered a credible and sustained challenge. Other researchers have place the number as low as 89 million - a smaller number, but still a monstrously large one. Others have suggested various disease and genetic factors are more to blame for the imbalance, but the most viable of these attacks (that Hepatitis B was more responsible than intentional human action) was recanted by the researcher who created the counter-theory in the first place. While we can debate the exact figure Sen proposed, the basics of Sen initial hypothesis seem solid to me.

For the other statistics, I pulled information from Goldberg's The Means of Reproduction, Kristof and WuDunn's Half the Sky, Irene Khan's Unheard Truth, as well as some online resources.

Sarah said...

I do believe that there is, currently, an extremely restrictive sense of what can or can't be a feminist horror film.

How so?

I'm just curious, mostly before I eventually write what will likely be a long-ass response on yesterday's post. And partially because I've recently limited how many horror blogs I read nowadays.

CRwM said...


Though it hardly spoke for all bloggers, many bloggers rallied around this definition of feminist horror, posted on Pretty Scary: Any film with a female protagonist in horror who does NOT use her sexuality to survive or kill is a feminist horror film because it promotes EQUALITY between the female and male characters in the movie and does not create a situation where women must use or abuse their sexuality in order to have any kind of power. It's that definition I'm reacting to specifically.

That seems restrictive, especially in horror. Many of the most powerful icons in horror - those that feminism confronts as symbols of empowerment or denigration - have a potent air of sexual power about them: the vampire, the siren, the gorgon, the witch, and so on.

Furthermore, there's a long tradition of maternal nightmares that specifically situate horror in the sexuality of women, whether its as the component of a nightmarish reproduction (Bride of Frankenstein, Rosemary's Baby, The Brood) or as nightmarish mother (Psycho, Friday the 13th, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte).

Sexuality aside, the idea that only films that depict the equality of men and women could be feminist is dubious to me as well. Recently a blogger suggested that Hostel II was misogynistic because it essentially male-normed its female characters into what were essentially male killers. According to the definition above, Hostel II would count as feminist simply because it normed all characters and made something other than sex - in this case money - the source of a woman's power. Which one is right? (Neither, I think, but that's not the issue right now).

I think there's lots of ways to promote a feminist agenda beyond depicting semi-sexless female characters in a forced equivalency with male characters. If we're going to grant that female experience is vast and multi-faceted, then it seems we need to also grant that the strategies for making feminists works would reflect just as much variation.

And this doesn't even get into the weeds of the issue that a feminist perspective could find a work valuable not for its intentions or explicit message, but for what it ended up saying about the female experience. It value could be that it lays bare some ugly truths about how we think about gender. (For example, it's hard to seriously consider Russ Meyers as a feminist fellow traveler, but many feminists find something powerful and resonant in Fast Pussycat, Kill Kill - another film that wouldn't pass the Pretty Scary definition.)

I look forward to your response.

Sarah said...


Blogger has a character posting limit that I didn't know about, so I posted my response at my blog. I hope you don't mind.

CRwM said...


I left a comment on your blog. Good points. Perhaps better than this deserves. The more I think about this post, the more I think I erred in the other direction.

Sarah said...

Hey C,

I went looking for the original quote from PS to double-check on the context...further down in the thread Heidi does say something that makes more sense in regards to feminism and horror:

Any film where a woman doesn't display any sexist patriarchally-imposed sexual identity is, in my opinion and in real feminist theory, 'feminist'.

Chicks who like to see women portrayed in an opposite, but still ridiculously distorted way, like to see gun-toting feminists who kick ass and act like men. But acting like a man and having traditional male characteristics doesn't make a feminist icon - a woman who can be a woman, and have an identity separate from her vagina, is a feminist character. That means, she can be a bad person, a nice person, a coward, a liar, a murderer - just as long as it isn't all surrounding her vagina and how men react to it, like MOST horror movies about 'feminist', anti-men, 'kill all men' movies (ahem, Jennifer's Body).

Granted, it's a bit simplistic, and in the initial post that you quoted, some of her examples are way off-base. Teeth, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, and Ginger Snaps are way more complex than "hot girls using their sexuality to kill men." From what I've heard about Jennifer's Body, it's also a bit more complex than it was advertised or that most people give it credit for.

And I still think her rage towards Diablo Cody is kind of unjustified, which was another reason why I stopped reading PS' blog. Cody is good example of "Don't hate the playa, hate the game."

So I think my doing a post would be a moot point now. I'm not sure I could've done it in less than 5 treatises anyway. Feminism is one big complicated ball, and so is horror.

CRwM said...


I you change your mind, the offer will remain open. Just let me know.

Honestly, though the extra text from HM seems more sensible, I find it a little confused. For example, "a woman who can be a woman, and have an identity separate from her vagina, is a feminist character." It would seem to me that separating a woman from her vagina should, in fact, have a huge impact on her character. As much as losing one's penis should seriously alter a male character's being. I'm certain she's using the body part as a sort of metaphor for female sexuality - but it still smacks this female eunuch thing: A feminist character can't be mannish, and she has to be a women, but a woman who is cut off from the uniquely female sexual characteristics of the species. What does that leave? Nuns?

I sympathize with HM's position and, as somebody who did it with this post, understand that thinking issues through in public means you try different angles and don't necessarily produce a single, unified idea. That said, it's too reductive for my taste and leads to reductive readings of very good, intensely feminist films.

Sarah said...


Oh, I agree, it's reductive thinking. If I wrote anything at all, it would have to be about how there is more to the films that HM listed than "hot chicks killing guys." And taking a second look at the quote, it reads as more of an anti-racist premier more than anything, just switch any skin color or race for "woman" and "vagina". So that's odd.

Maybe it's me and the fact I've accepted that I'm just going to have to stay in my little part of the blogosphere and do my own thing, and/or it's my English major training, or because I've been hangin' with the post-riot grrrl zinesters for the past 11 years and we basically look at things from other sociological perspectives (race, class, and hell, the psychological state) -. from the viewpoint that everyone should be equal, no matter what. But I really do not understand just looking at these films to determine whether or not they are feminist, or I guess just feminist to a certain group of feminists.

And if I wanted to, I could easily call any hate towards Diablo Cody's success or Megan Fox unfeminist. You don't have to support them or like their movies, but referring to Fox as a "skinny bitch", as I saw one feminist blogger do, isn't very feminist. Don't make me bring out the old Bikini Kill quotes.

To answer your question of what it would leave, it would leave nuns in everything except The Killer Nun. The lead nun and her roommate use their sexuality. I will not spoil which one is the killer nun.

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