Who knew that fifty minutes would go by so fast! Panel discussions need a chance to breathe and sometimes take on a life of their own. At the “(Not So) Strange Appetites: Women and the Horror Fandom” (#NotsoStrange #GGC14) panel at GeekGirlCon ’14, there were a couple of topics related to the subject matter that I had prepared for, but didn’t think they fit in the flow of the conversation. I wanted to post them here.
A big thank you to Tanya at Geekquality for inviting me to participate on this panel. It was wonderful meeting Ashlee of Graveyard Shift Sisters, Christina of Geekquality, and and Grace of Mythcreants and All Things Trek.
Regarding women behind the camera: American Psycho
There seems to be a bit about the film American Pyscho (2000) going around recently, possibly because of the proposed musical, and because of that I have been revisiting my own relationship with the Bret Easton Ellis novel and the Mary Harron film.
I read the novel soon after its release. I was in college at the time and in all honesty this book scared the crap out of me. I had been consuming a lot of horror in movies, TV, and books. Yet, there was something in Ellis’ novel that drove home the fact that women are too often victims and that misogyny was a real threat. I missed any sort of satire that Ellis states is represented in the novel, and that Mary Harron and Gunivere Turner brought forward in the the film. I did not find this a feminist book. There are passages were so horrifying to me that they remain with me to this day—and still turn my stomach.
I had avoided the movie for a very long time. While I enjoy the horror genre, in spite of the problematic tropes and content, I felt no need to see this film. However, motivations change. Mine certainly did after learning more about the creative team behind the film and the reviews that claimed the film brought out the satire of the novel. And now, I watch the film every now and again, especially if it is on cable. Christian Bale’s performance is excellent, really.
Mary Harron, director, and Gunivere Turner, screenwriter, managed to use the satire that I missed in the book to create a hyper-real world where women are present as objects and not valued nearly as much as an elegant business card or a designer suit. American Psycho isn’t really a slasher flick for me. I’m not sure it fits in my box for the horror genre generally either. There is a chainsaw and LOTS of blood. However, the film and its execution exposes the excess of male privilege and vanity–it makes its own brand of terror. One that points out that I’m not at all valued because I am not male.
American Psycho has an interesting legacy. After thinking about this through its creators–a novel written by a gay male, screenplay crafted by a lesbian, and directed by a hetero-married woman–does that make up of creators satirizing this state of male privilege make this a feminist film? Does only showing that women are a commodity in a hyper-real world of men work to convey a message of feminism? It is a film without any well-rounded and complete female characters. The satire certainly could be feminist, but I don’t find it empowering.
Gunivere Turner believes she and Mary Harron created feminist film. Watch Turner in an American Psycho Q & A at the Citizen Jane Film Series to hear what she has to say about the making of the film. The video is 45 minutes, but filled with interesting stories and insight into making the film.
Male privilege continues to extend over the same entities that Bateman’s does–women’s bodies, homeless people, and prostitutes. How much of Patrick Bateman remains in our culture to satirize today? Is American Psycho just a movie of 1980s excess? (Bateman worked on Wall Street and that entity has not seemed to have changed.) And how does the depiction of male privilege in American Psycho differ from shows today like Mad Men? Maybe it’s just the chainsaw.
At the time of the film release, Ellis was positive about the film and seemed happy with the outcome according to Turner. It appears his opinion has changed in the interceding years. He has said the book never should have been made into a film. And, he’s stated that he’s not a fan of women directors. The female-directed movies are not as good as those directed by men because film is a visual medium better suited to men. It’s all in this Movieline interview from 2010.
The film of American Psycho has more fans and a cult status that the novel never achieved. That has got to sting for Ellis. No matter what you think about the novel or the film (or eventually the musical), the controversial content has a interesting history.
The panel made a few recommendations. There was a push for Hannibal, one of my favorite TV shows right now. Ashlee Blackwell made some great suggestions for classic blaxsploitation like Sugar Hill, Blackenstein, and Scream Blacula, Scream. She also suggested the short films Goodnight My Love and Small Talk. (Note: Ashlee said mention to not go complaining to her should you choose to watch Blackenstein.)
Christina, who blogs at Geekquality as Lois Payne, a a great knowledge of J-horror and Korean horror movies. If you are curious about recommendations in that genre, reach out to her.
Being a comics reader and a horror fan, I enjoy reading material on the bloody and creepy end of the spectrum. I really love the Creepy and Eerie anthology series from Dark Horse. Here are a few more titles for recommended reading:
- Locke & Key (IDW) by Joe Hill
- Nailbiter (Image) by Joshua Williamson
- October Faction (IDW) by Steve Niles
- Revival (Image) by Tim Seeley
- Rachel Rising (Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore
- Wytches (Image) by Scott Snyder
- Hack/Slash (Image) by Tim Seely
- Chew (Image) by John Layman
- Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight (Dark Horse) by Alex de Campi
- Severed (Image) by Scott Snyder
- Baltimore (Dark Horse) by Christopher Golden and Mike Mignola
- Afterlife with Archie (Archie Comics) by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
I don’t have many movie recs right now. I do like the classics: the Universal Monsters and Hammer Studios. I revisit those often. I liked the evolution of the final girl trope in You’re Next. The ending was not what I thought it would be in Martyrs. If you’ve any doubt that women can make gruesome films, then go see American Mary from the Jen and Sylvia Soska or Truth or Dare from Jessica Cameron. Just note that Truth or Dare has made folks walk out of screenings. (Yes, some parts are that disturbing.) I dig the vamps. The vampire genre, in my opinion, has been redeemed with Byzantium and Only Lovers Left Alive. Jim Jarmush’s Only Lovers Left Alive isn’t really a horror flick–but it is one of my recent favorite films.
In Seattle, we are having a lovely fall. Soon enough I will be hunkering down with the heater on and a cup of tea streaming as much horror as I can get my hands on. The Pacific Northwest rain has its purpose.