These five films are horror movies that have helped me become a better feminist. Listed in the order of which I saw them, these films showed me that femininity and purity are not the only things women have to offer the horror genre and society in general.
Scream – Following a string of grim murders, this film opened my eyes to the way horror films could be and how women could be in them. With the main character Sidney Prescott’s self-awareness and acknowledgement of the less than flattering depiction of women in horror, I saw hope. Women could be realistic; they could keep their clothes on and still offer a great deal to the film and the horror world. Suddenly my favourite genre showed me a capable average woman who could survive betrayal, loss and numerous attempts on her life. Sydney taught me that women can be just as resilient as men whilst laughing in the face of death and still living her life throughout. Not a virgin but still a survivor, this film gave me hope for the whole genre and the depiction of women in general.
Aliens – Following the first movie, this film features Ripley still coping with the loss of her crew and dealing with a group of marines who have to face off against the infamous xenomorphs. This film is here because it depicts maternal instinct at its best. It opened my eyes to the strength of women, the grit and determination possible to overcome situations even with the odds stacked against us. As with the previous film Ripley depicts great reliance whilst remaining clothed, dedicated and in touch with her humanity. This film gave me Ellen Ripley as an idol, an example that helped me through day to day life. Sure I never had to fight off aliens but we all have our struggles and Ellen showed me it was not only possible but just part of being a woman.
Halloween – Following the death trail of Michael Myers as he stalks Laurie Strode I saw this film after seeing Scream and was thusly painfully aware of the sexism rampant in this movie. With Laurie a clever and virginal lead it is her misbehaving, drug taking, promiscuous friends who die offering a biblical message; the sinful are punished and the pure survive. Although this is a great movie the facts are there and this is a problem not only in the horror film industry but society. This film highlighted the common mindset that a woman’s behaviour entitle her to be punished i.e. a scantily dressed woman deserves harassment. A golden oldie of the genre for sure this film is enjoyable if you ignore the typical message of fun = death and virgin = survival.
Ginger snaps – As a teenage girl this film helped me understand myself. Following two sisters the film mimics a coming of age film for Ginger who reaches puberty and happens to be bitten by a werewolf. Lining up the symptoms of becoming a werewolf with starting her period, it is a tale of change and a young girl becoming a woman with all the power that entails. It is this animalistic depiction of female sexuality that helped me understand myself (and stop hating my period) and my gender. Where most horrors depict men as powerful, this film offers the other side of the coin. Sure Ginger becomes a werewolf but I consider it the best coming of age film around and a clever depiction of how things change when a girl comes of age.
I Spit on your Grave – In a time where sexual harassment is a day to day thing this film gave me strength. Although not condoning retribution, this film showed me how important it is that the law responds to reports of abuse and harassment. A truly visceral depiction of vigilante justice this film highlights the needs that still exist in today’s society. Following the assault and resulting revenge of a single woman this film offered me a cathartic experience allowing me a release for all of my frustration at cat-callers and men who think harassment is ok. This film is here because it shows the desperation a woman can go through in such situations and how necessary justice is.
Written by Lola Newman
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