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Has the monstrous feminine contributed to the feminist movement with contemporary horror films since the release of Teeth (2007)?

‘God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs. Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth.’ (Jurassic Park, 1993)

To research this theory two contemporary horror films shall be the primary object of analysis in investigating whether the sub-genre of horror films, the monstrous feminine, has not only influenced the feminist movement but aided it. These two films are Teeth (2007), directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein, and Jennifer’s Body (2009), directed by Karyn Kusama. These two films shall be the main focus of research due to their release around and before a resurgence of interest in the feminist movement within Western society. It is also important to note that each film has a director of a different gender allowing for fairer depiction and representation of the monstrous feminine as seen by both man and woman.

Aliens (1986) Directed by James Cameron [Film]. California: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Brandywine Productions, SLM Production Group.

This is a science-fiction action horror film that encompasses the sub genre of monstrous feminine. It depicts a female lead against a species of aliens seen to be led and protected by a queen like a specimen of their species.

The reasons for researching this film are the numerous examples of women as more than victims through the film. Not only is it a film with the top three characters being female (Ellen Ripley, Newt, The Queen) it is also a film that seems to exist in a world where women were never thought of as less than men, for example, the military unit sent to the planet with Ripley are not all men. It is a prime example of Barbara Creed’s explanation of the amoral primeval mother as well as depicting the more rational side of motherhood via Ripley’s role. It depicts numerous variations of what a woman can be and is specifically mentioned in Barbara Creed’s The Monstrous Feminine: Film, feminism, psychoanalysis.

Basic Instinct (1992) Directed by Paul Verhoeven [Film]. United States: Carolco Pictures, Canal +

This film depicts a woman as a beautiful but deadly killer as stated by Barbara Creed in her book The Monstrous Feminine. This film shows the Venus fly trap-like state of similarity women are often depicted in however it takes it a step further by revolving the film almost entirely around the main character and offering further insight into the many layers people, including women, have to their character. By evaluating the roles shown in the film it shall be easier to better theorize the relevance such films have to their audiences.

Carrie (1976) Directed by Brian De Palma [Film]. California: United Artists

This is a film that depicts a woman as a witch which is part of the monstrous feminine genre. By evaluating the way in which the tale is told and the depiction of Carrie herself as both victim and monster it is part of the plan to gather a further understanding of the genre itself and its importance to feminism.

Carrie (2013) Directed by Kimberly Peirce [Film]. California: Screen Gems

This is a remake of the earlier Carrie film which shall be mentioned and referenced in the dissertation due to the revival of the tale and the reimagining of the film by a female director.

Creed, B. (1993) The Monstrous Feminine. London: Routledge.

Barbara Creed’s The Monstrous Feminine is a book which challenged and still challenges the patriarchal view of women as a victim within the genre of horror movies. It evaluates in-depth the genre and leans towards the theory that the female body, specifically the reproductive body was the beginning of all monstrous designations.

This book is important to the dissertation as it directly looks into the relationship between feminism and the horror genre and it is the literature where the monstrous feminine is most notably mentioned. The book not only offers the definition of the monstrous feminine but evaluates the depth of the horror which will further allow a person to understand if the genre has influenced the feminist movement in any way. In addition to these factors, the book also looks into the background of the monstrous feminine in an attempt to better understand the sub-genre itself and its influences.

Dijkstra,B. (1986) Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-De-Siècle culture. New York: Oxford University Press.

Fin de siècle refers to the end of the century, in this case, the 1800s. The book itself examines the turn of the century sexism and misogyny in the works of artists, writers, and scientists of the time and highlights the apparent distrust and poor view of women that lingers today.

This book is integral due to its insight into what came before the horror film i.e. art and literature and the creation of some of the opinions of women that reside in society still. It highlights the works of art and literature which may have helped spur the monstrous feminine horror movie genre into being as well as the myths which have aided in its creation i.e. The Myth of Medusa.

From this book, references to Oscar Wilde’s Salome and Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations for the tale will be noted, and with it too choice opinions of the age.

Friedan, B. (1965) The Feminine Mystique. St Ives: Clays Ltd.

Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique is a book which attacked the stereotypes on offer for women at the time of its creation which is largely regarded as having kicked off the contemporary woman’s movement, the beginning of second-wave feminism within the united states which went on to spread primarily throughout the western world at first.

This book is important to the dissertation as it evaluates the era and the roles of women around the time of the film Psycho (1960) which is one of the films incorporating the monstrous feminine and discussed in B. Creed’s book.

Friedan’s book can offer insight into the age which birthed one of the most notorious and popular monstrous feminine films as well as information on why it was so crucial for women to step beyond the roles society had set out for them during the time.

It Follows (2014) Directed by David Robert Mitchell [Film]. New York: RADiUS-TWC

This film is about a young girl who after a sexual encounter is haunted by a creature who plans to kill her unless she has sex and passes the haunting onto someone else.

This film although encompassing a heavy historical and religious message that sex is bad before marriage embodies the monstrous feminine idea of a deadly woman by way of the lead having the ability to choose who she passes the haunting on to next.

Jennifer’s Body (2009) Directed by Karyn Kusama [Film]. California: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

This is a contemporary film about a cheerleader who is turned into a succubus after a band uses her for a ritual that goes awry. She goes on to kill males interested in her and the story focuses on her best friend’s attempts to stop her.

This film along with Teeth shall be the primary focus of contemporary monstrous feminine in the horror genre due to their visceral and multifaceted depiction of women.  This film is also important due to the presence of a female director and the time of its release which coincides with a revival in social interest in feminist issues.

Jurassic Park (1993) Directed by Steven Spielberg [Film]. California: Universal Pictures

This film although not in the horror genre as such involves horror elements and a quote which shall be integral to the dissertation by way of furthering Freud’s theory of man fearing the power of women.

Kristeva, J (1982) Powers of Horror: An essay on abjection. New York: Columbia University Press. California State University online. [online] Available here. 

This is an essay that evaluates horror and the power upon people which may be integral to the dissertation due to the relevance of how the monstrous feminine has impacted the feminist movement if it has done so in any way. The essay also evaluates abjection in the horror film genre which is integral to understanding the possible importance of the monstrous feminine to feminism.

Psycho (1960) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock [Film]. California: Paramount Pictures

This is a film that depicts a woman as a castrating mother, as mentioned by Barbara Creed in The Monstrous Feminine. The initial display of women as villains despite the little screen time will further allow understanding of the genre of monstrous feminine and the roles and depths allowed in it which may or may not have aided the feminist movement. By better understanding the variations on offer within the genre of monstrous feminine the importance of the role depicted can be better understood, in this case, the castrating mother and the power such a role allows her character within the film.

Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing (2014) Medusa’s Head. Available here

This is an essay where Freud equates decapitation with castration thusly making the tale of Medusa or rather the image of her something that represented castration, furthering his theory of the castration complex. Although further research has undermined this theory the importance of Freud’s Theory is great due to the evolution of understanding found in it. By studying this theory one can better understand the role of women in horror and how and why they can be so effective to the feminist movement.

Teeth (2007) Directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein [Film]. California: Momentum Pictures, Roadside Attractions, Golden Village Entertainment.

This is a comedy horror that encompasses the sub-genre of the monstrous feminine at its most historical roots with the myth of the vagina dentata, the toothed vagina. This sort of film due to its recent release and basic depiction of such a historical and feminine horror image makes it intrinsic to research and the dissertation. It not only encompasses the monstrous feminine in the most obvious way but allows research to stretch further into the history of the subject i.e. vagina dentata and the psychoanalysis involved. It is a prime example of women viewed not only as victims but as monsters in need of taming by man which in itself is an interesting idea in the development of gender equality.

Has the monstrous feminine contributed to the feminist movement with contemporary horror films since the release of Teeth (2007)

‘God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs. Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth.’ (Jurassic Park, 1993)

To investigate the question a mixture of visual and textual analysis shall be used in addition to a basic understanding of psychoanalysis and contemporary knowledge of the feminist movement. Along with these methods, a basic understanding of the current societal conditions of both feminism and the horror film genre shall be used to analyze the research materials which are primarily film due to the direction and focus of the question.

To support this method both psychoanalysis and feminism shall be researched using textual analysis to better understand and evaluate the materials used, the subject matter, the supporting texts, and the films found listed in the Literature Review.

Feminism

The first section of this investigation will look into the feminist movement so to understand what it means, where it comes from, and what role it plays in today’s society. To do this a basic understanding of feminism will be used as well as Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique (1963). This section will firstly look over a brief history of the movement before moving onto current attitudes and on to media representation.

The Monstrous Feminine

In the second section of the dissertation, the origins of the monstrous feminine shall be looked into as well as the psychological standpoint which explains how this genre of mythology, art, film, and literature is effective. That standpoint is psychoanalysis which will lead to the third point of this section, the role of the monstrous feminine in the feminist movement.

Monstrous Feminine in Film

This section shall look into a variety of films of the sub-genre of horror, the monstrous feminine so to better understand the link and power the genre has upon the movement. By evaluating these films in brief the evolution of the monstrous feminine shall become clear and how it has changed through the years and with it, the possible effects it has had upon the feminist movement through influence on its audiences.

Contemporary Monstrous Feminine Horror

As the previous section looks into a spattering of films from the horror sub-genre of the monstrous feminine this section shall look into the two films around which most of the investigation shall be made. These films are Teeth (2007) and Jennifer’s Body (2009) and will be the primary focus for analyzing and evaluating the possible influences they have had on the feminist movement. It Follows (2014) shall also be included in reference but due to its recent release the effects of this film on the feminist movement are unlikely to be seen yet and access to this film for a thorough analysis has been more difficult than the other films included in this investigation due to it having only been released in cinemas.

Own Thoughts

Having evaluated the areas mentioned in the above sections this section shall look into the resurgence of feminism’s popularity, the existence of breaking stereotypes, the importance of a variety of female representation in films and stories and shall conclude with the influences on my own work as an artist.

Feminism

During the late nineteenth century, the suffragette movement began what would later evolve into the feminist movement. The suffragette movement was the struggle to accomplish and the later success of gaining women the right to vote on an international scale. This movement first reached success in the Pitcairn Islands, a British Overseas Territory in 1838 before reaching the United States in 1920, and the United Kingdom in 1918 where women over thirty were only allowed to vote if in possession of property qualifications or were graduates of a university of the United Kingdom. This was then extended in 1928 to the same conditions as men where all women over the age of twenty-one were allowed to vote.

This was the first wave of what would be known as the feminist movement and gave women a voice with which to express their opinions on the socio-political climate they lived it. The second wave of the movement came almost thirty years later with the approval of the first contraceptive pill in 1960 and the release of The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan which is regarded by many as fuelling the second wave struggle for women’s rights. Friedan became the voice of the movement in her realization of a problem, ‘It is my thesis that the core of the problem for women today is not sexual but a problem of identity.’  (1963, pg 68).

It is this problem which regardless of continued efforts on a variety of fronts since the second wave began still exists today where women have yet to fully accomplish total equality with men. An example of this is the recent declaration of marital rape as illegal in the United Kingdom in 1994 and the continued struggle for understanding, recognition, and representation as human beings beyond their sexual role.

As society and generations become more aware of the situation of gender inequality, most likely aided by the advancements of technology via social media, the efforts to accomplish more appear to be ever-growing. An example of this is the first Slut Walk in Toronto in 2011 which is an active protest against the climate of victim-blaming in incidents of rape where what a woman was wearing is made relevant in assessing blame in cases of rape. This being the first of later protests addresses a climate of rape culture where women are held accountable to varying degrees when victimized by men.

Until equality is obtained The Feminine Mystique still holds relevant to today’s society for in accordance with Friedan ‘Is this all?’ (1963, pg 13). The feminist movement has come far in the last hundred years but still has a way to go before obtaining all of its goals.

The Monstrous Feminine

The origins of the monstrous feminine can be found as far back as Greek mythology in the form of Medusa and in biblical texts as Salome. The existence and idea of woman as a monster appears to have been around since women however the ideas of the monstrous feminine have found varying popularity throughout the years in a variety of practices. To better understand the resurgence of the monstrous feminine throughout history one can access Dr. Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis where he speculates the reasons behind women’s monstrous visage and the effects of woman as a monster on men.

Although there have been advancements since Freud’s initial development of the theory of the mind titled  Psychoanalysis it offers key factors that remain integral to the evolution of understanding the mind. The most important factors of this theory as used in the understanding of the monstrous feminine are the psychological functions hidden from us known as the unconscious, the influence of childhood relationships in forming templates which we later carry with us throughout life, and the idea of the sexual and aggressive parts of our minds being set in place in childhood. The key most specific to this investigation regarding the monstrous feminine is Freud’s theory of the unconscious mind.

It is however the study of Freud’s theory in his Medusa’s Head essay which relates most directly to the monstrous feminine. The tale of Medusa is one of a woman punished for being raped, granted the power to turn men to stone with a glance, and later being executed by a hero by having her head cut off. Freud assesses decapitation as castration and the vision of her head, snakes representing penises via phallic symbolism, and the excessive number of snakes representing castration, as a reminder of what could be done to a man. It is a theory that grows from Freud’s theory of the castration complex where men view female genitals as man castrated and thus lacking and something horrific.  It is however an extension of this theory explained by Susan Lurie as references in Creed’s book The Monstrous Feminine ‘woman is psychically whole, intact and in possession of all her sexual power.’ (1993, pg6) and this is why she is feared by men.  A woman cannot be castrated therefore she is more than a man by way of lacking such vulnerability.

The Monstrous Feminine In Film

As the horror movie franchise has grown so too has woman’s role within them. In Barbara Creed’s book The Monstrous Feminine, she offers numerous examples of the differing monstrous characterizations offered in a selection of films.  Notable films that could be explained as the foundations of the monstrous feminine as noted by Creed are Cat People (1942) and the most notable Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). Creed explains that Cat People depicts ‘woman as non-human animal’ (1993, pg 1) and Psycho, specifically Norman Bates’ mother as ‘castrating mother’ (1993, pg 1).  Creed also gives other examples such as The Brood (1979) where a woman is depicted as a monstrous womb, Aliens (1986) the amoral primeval mother, Carrie (1976) woman as a witch and Basic Instinct (1992) woman as beautiful but lethal.

Although Psycho may have been one of the first famous horror films to highlight and feature a female character encompassing the monstrous feminine role it is most likely not the most influential beyond its support of the films which followed.

Since the release of Psycho, there have been numerous films where a woman has been depicted as monstrous in some form or another therefore both embodying the monstrous feminine sub-genre of horror and leaning away from the more prominent woman as victim storylines which are seen throughout a large majority of the horror film circuit. Examples of these non-monstrous feminine films are the Halloween Franchise and Friday the 13th franchise where not only are the villains male, with the exception of the first Friday the 13thfilm, but the methods of death and terror are very phallocentric via the use of butcher’s knives, axes and other weapons which penetrate the victims in some form or other.  What should also be noted in these horror films is the illusion that purity saves which is represented by the survival of the virginal female character and the evisceration of female characters that are viewed as promiscuous.

With this brand of a non-monstrous feminine horror film being most popular since before the release of Psycho and following it, it is important to recognize the monstrous feminine films most influential and adhering to the monstrous feminine genre. It is because of this that the primary focus of the investigation leads to two contemporary films whose influence is easier to understand due to a better understanding of the current social climate for the feminist movement. These two films are Teeth (2007) the tale of a girl who has vagina dentata, a vagina with teeth, and Jennifer’s Body (2009) the story of a girl whose friend becomes a succubus-like creature after being used in a failed ritual.

Films of the sub-genre monstrous feminine offer depictions of women as something other than their usual depiction throughout mainstream history and media, by further analyzing two of these films it will be possible to evaluate their possible contribution to the feminist movement.

Teeth and Jennifer’s Body

‘If a woman had only shown enough sense to remain content with her role as the passive human clay which man could mold according to his fantasies, to develop his perceptions concerning the structures of ideal beauty, everything would have been well.’ As stated by Dijkstra (1986, pg. 237)

The release of these films coincided with the emerging popularity and accessibility of social media where communities who would have never been able to do so before with such ease formed and communicated across the globe. It is with this rise of technology and its aid in enabling the ability to discuss subjects with strangers and research these subjects yourselves that aids the relevance of these two films in their possible contribution toward the feminist movement. Although their storylines embody the monstrous feminine in two very obvious and visceral ways it is the ease of access to them and to the world which works with them which could allow them any influence they may have upon the feminist movement toward equality.

Teeth (2007) is a story following the myth of the toothed vagina which has cropped up throughout history all over the world. It follows the life of Dawn who is unknowingly in possession of this legendary beast and how she discovers not only that she has vagina dentata but how they work and how she learns to understand both herself and her sexuality better. In its entirety, the film beyond the horror and monstrous-feminine sub-genre is a film about self-discovery, a coming of age film where a girl who takes a vow of chastity is assaulted both sexually and emotionally and how she learns to cope and adapt for the sake of survival. In the case of this film, the survival spoken of is more an emotional and psychological one as at no point in the film is Dawn threatened with death but rather by mistreatment at the hands of others. An example of this is her stepbrother, Brad, who we first see at the beginning of the film in a paddling pool with Dawn, both are young children, it is implied that Brad shows Dawn his genitals and that when Dawn does not reciprocate he touches her resulting in a mysterious cut on his finger which we later understand as a bite from Dawn’s vagina dentata. This troubled relationship between the step-siblings continues throughout the film and represents the largest insult to Dawn’s way of life despite the other men who wrong her and are punished along the way. The significance of Dawn’s relationship with her stepbrother follows her throughout the film and culminates when Dawn, having grown tired of Brad’s consistently unpleasant behavior towards their parents, his girlfriend, and herself, dresses in a white dress (a representation of false purity) and offers to give him what he wants by way of sleeping with him. Hesitant but ultimately weak to the offer of what he speaks of as a desire which has existed before their parents married and made her his sister, he gives in and as a result, loses his penis first to Dawn’s vagina dentata and then to his own dog who eats it off of the floor after it falls from between Dawn’s legs.

The film itself is filled with numerous significant moments, hints, and messages which could by themselves be a source of great investigation however it is primarily Dawn’s relationship with her brother which best supports the monstrous feminine genre due to it having a slow burn build-up throughout. Along the way, however, Dawn is first charmed by a young man named Toby who she meets through her purity group who later rapes her and as a result ends up with his penis bitten off before falling into a nearby lake where he is found dead later on in the film. With this being Dawn’s first experience of the opposite sex and of sex itself it appears to support the idea that a woman has an inbuilt ability to seek justice when such assaults take place.

The film itself offers an explanation of the myth of the vagina dentata is a voiceover by Dawn which follows a scene of her researching what may be wrong with her, using terms like mutilated genitals she eventually stumbles upon the myth of the vagina dentata, the toothed vagina and whilst on her way to the doctor for an exam, explains what she read.

‘The myth springs from a primitive masculine dread of the mysteries of women in sexual union. Fears of weakness, impotence. It is a nightmare image.’ (Teeth, 2007) this quote as read by Dawn is further supported by the Susan Lurie reference noted earlier. The woman is whole and intact, man is not and this gives him a weakness in comparison to a woman who throughout history has been seen a less than man. Because of this embodiment of the greatest and most central and possibly historic notion of the monstrous feminine the contribution this film makes toward the feminist movement is great even if it only serves as a reminder. Each male who approaches Dawn with a sexual nature, including the doctor who does not use his gloved hand when giving her an internal exam, fall because of their own inability to control their desires.

Teeth are also supported as an embodiment of the monstrous by B.Creed ‘the notion of the monstrous-feminine challenges the view that femininity, by definition, constitutes passivity.’ (pg 151, 1993) by showing Dawn’s non-passive response to sexual assault at the hands of men which does not in any way lessen the natural femininity of her character. This itself further supports the feminist movement by way of giving an example of what power women have without having to lose a part of themselves by trying to behave as men do simply to obtain power. Of course, it is not a direct example as the toothed vagina remains a myth but rather the toothed vagina represents man’s own weakness to his want of women and to his fear of being emasculated and seen as a failure.

According to Betty Freidan The higher the dominance, or strength of self in a woman, the less she was self-centered and the more her concern was directed outward to other people and to problems of the world.’ (pg 277, 1963) which is why Jennifer’s Body is not only a positive aid toward the feminist movement by way of horror but by way of the characterization of the two female leads themselves.

Jennifer’s Body (2009) is a film that follows a teenage girl Needy who struggles to help her best friend Jennifer after Jennifer is mistaken for a virgin and used in a ritual sacrifice which results in Jennifer becoming demonic. The film tells a story not only of a woman as a monster by way of Jennifer’s boy eating but of female perseverance and strength in the face of great emotional and psychological turmoil.

By way of Barbara Creed’s explanation, Jennifer’s Body displays the monster not only with a woman as possessed body like The Exorcist (1973) but also a woman as a beautiful but deadly killer like Basic Instinct (1992). This combination is enabled in the film by the actions of a band, Low Shoulder, who, thinking Jennifer is a virgin kill her in a ritual sacrifice in a bid to get Satan’s support in their music career.  This mistake although facilitated by Jennifer herself who lies in a bid to survive is at the end of the day originates in man, specifically the lead singer, Nikolai, who we see discussing Jennifer with his bandmate Dirk before choosing her to be part of their plan. It is Nikolai’s assurances in his own understanding of women that makes him choose Jennifer who he believes to be one of those girls who ‘like to show it off but they do not give it up.’ Dirk agrees but goes with Nikolai’s choice after Needy overhears their discussion on whether Jennifer is a virgin or not and insists Jennifer is a virgin despite it being a lie.

The whole film offers two strong female leads, Needy as the self-aware, sensible, and average looking friend and Jennifer as the fiercely confident beautiful friend. Both have flaws and weaknesses, neither is perfect but both are real in their depiction. It could also be argued that despite the film encompassing the monstrous-feminine subgenre it includes the typical horror movie trait where sexually promiscuous women are killed or punished. In the case of Jennifer’s body it would be Jennifer who takes this role most obviously but toward the end of the film Needy despite having a boyfriend, kisses Jennifer and initially went to see Low Shoulder with Jennifer, therefore, earning the trials she must go through throughout the rest of the film.

Despite the possible sexist message of women earning punishment the film starts and ends with a strong monstrous feminine tale throughout. Men seek a virgin to kill, mistake a promiscuous young girl, and as a result unleash an insatiable boy eating demon upon a town before inevitably being tracked down and punished by way of murder for their misdeeds. The film shows women as strong, it shows women as survivors who can adapt to their situation in a way that is similar to Teeth (2007) in the sense that in both cases they have a situation thrown upon them which they must learn how to cope with or fall apart in the case of Teeth or lose everything and die in Jennifer’s Body.

The opening line of Jennifer’s Body isHell is a teenage girl.’ (Jennifer’s body, 2009) And this is supported throughout Barbara Creed’s The Monstrous Feminine. According to Creed’s quotation of Stephen Neale ‘it could well be maintained that it is a woman’s sexuality, that which renders them desirable – but also threatening to men.’ (1993, pg5) What is more sexualized in today’s culture than teenage girls?

It is the desire the men have for Jennifer which enables her to lead them off to devour them, it is their willingness to be close to her that leaves them exposed and it is her sexuality and confidence which draws them in. Later in the film, Jennifer states ‘I am a god.’ (Jennifer’s Body, 2009) And that right there is the full embodiment of the monstrous feminine, women with power, and women with real personalities fully aware of themselves and unwilling to remain as passive as women of the past.

In addition to the visceral powers depicted in Jennifer’s body such as healing, super strength, levitation, and agility the film touches on a sense of understanding, of being aware of things no person is expected to know. Some examples of this are Needy’s knowledge of Jennifer’s arrival at her house early in the film despite no sound or sight giving away Jennifer’s presence (before the sacrifice), Needy’s mother’s dream which seems almost prophetic towards the end of the film as she describes having a nightmare where some people were trying to harm Needy and the last but least significant is Needy’s line as Jennifer gets into the van with Low Shoulder ‘I watch her get into that van and I knew something awful was going to happen. He was skinny and twisted and evil like this petrified tree I saw when I was a kid.’ (Jennifer’s Body, 2009) All three incidences hint towards a female intuition for the way of the world and although the latter could be argued as obviously ominous it is Needy’s comparison with the tree which hails it as important. Her assessment of him as something of nature but no longer natural is exactly as he is the driving force behind the ritual sacrifice which sees Jennifer brutally stabbed and turning up at Needy’s like a demon.

In comparison, both films support the ideas of feminism as they depict women as more than the passive or lesser able figures that Freud and Darwin saw them as. Shown not only in situations of great emotional adversity the films display an ability to remain feminine throughout the struggle, that women do not need to mirror man’s way of life to overcome the trials set upon them.  It is not only because of a lack of these clears strengths but the recent release of It Follows that evaluating its influence on the feminist movement must be left until some time has passed.

With the feminist movement gaining more attention with the aid of advancing social media the importance of accurate media representation of all genders is a great one. According to Creed ‘The presence of monstrous feminine also undermines the view that the male spectator invariably takes up sadistic position because the monster is always male.’(pg. 156, 1993) This is why the monstrous feminine supports the feminist movement as a whole rather than just supporting the representation of women as more than the victim. The monstrous feminine works against stereotypes on all fronts and in the world of the horror movie that is a significant step to make as the majority of horror films made lack a diverse and realistic portrayal of woman as a person.

In the words of Barbara Creed ‘further work needs to be undertaken in the area of spectatorship and questions of audience identification in relation to the construction of the monstrous in the horror film and other popular fictions.’ (pg 156, 1993)  which could serve to further the theory that the monstrous feminine supports feminism or at the very least further shine light on the influence that the sub-genre of horror has upon the feminist movement.

The influence of contemporary monstrous feminine horror films on the feminist movement may not be grand but it is at the very least aiding the movement on a person by person basis by showing different views of women and endless possibilities. It is without a doubt that the monstrous feminine genre has inspired my own artwork which takes its influences from the horror film genre and depicts Rorschach wombs, delicate and ominous avian sculptures, and feminine Molotov cocktails.

In conclusion, the monstrous feminine is based primarily on Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis which although flawed highlights the fear men have of woman’s power because they are not or already have been subjected to castration. Because of this women have something over men as it has already been done to them (castration).  The sub-genre of monstrous has at the very least influenced audiences with its varied depiction of women with the power which in turn has influenced society. The full effects of the monstrous feminine on the feminist movement require further study however it appears certain that some support and influence exists within the sub-genre by way of depicting a variety of female and male characters not bound by societal conventions and lingering out of date stereotypes.

Bibliography

Aliens (1986) Directed by James Cameron [Film]. California: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Brandywine Productions, SLM Production Group.

Basic Instinct (1992) Directed by Paul Verhoeven [Film]. United States: Carolco Pictures, Canal +

Carrie (1976) Directed by Brian De Palma [Film]. California: United Artists

Creed, B. (1993) The Monstrous Feminine. London: Routledge.

Dijkstra,B. (1986) Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-De-Siècle culture. New York: Oxford University Press.

Friedan, B. (1965) The Feminine Mystique. St Ives: Clays Ltd.

Jennifer’s Body (2009) Directed by Karyn Kusama [Film]. California: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Jurassic Park (1993) Directed by Steven Spielberg [Film]. California: Universal Pictures

Kristeva, J (1982) Powers of Horror: An essay on abjection. New York: Columbia University Press. California State University online. [online] Available at: http://www.csus.edu/indiv/o/obriene/art206/Readings/Kristeva%20-%20Powers%20of%20Horror%5B1%5D.pdf

Psycho (1960) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock [Film]. California: Paramount Pictures

Teeth (2007) Directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein [Film]. California: Momentum Pictures, Roadside Attractions, Golden Village Entertainment.

Comment
by CWolfe

Hey,

I’m Lola and I’ve been writing fiction since I learned to write and more recently some non-fiction pieces after enjoying the process of doing a dissertation; mainly minor political rants to purge some of the injustice rage and fact based poetry.

For the last five years I have been registered disabled after I was maimed during an operation and have been left housebound besides medical appointments so... I have a lot of time on my hands. This is a fact both helped and hindered by mental illness but I’m here, I’m hopeful and I haven’t started talking to the wallpaper yet.

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