Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Sexism and the horror genre.
I was recently directed to an article on Horrormovies.ca that gave a list of the top ten new masters of horror. People then began crying out "No women on the list"? I had to ask myself, was it really a case of sexism, or was it due to the fact that women still had to make a big name for themselves within the horror genre. Another question then came to me. What proportion of horror directors that are well liked are female? I would be the first to admit that horror is a male dominated industry, but to cry sexism because no females are included in a list of ten new masters of horror?
One could certainly argue that women be included just to represent their gender, but isn't that in itself sexist, giving women special mention because of their gender? Women on the list instantly jumped to female directors defenses, bringing up such talent as the Soska Sisters, Rachel Talalay, Karen Lam, Mary Lambert and Amy Holden Jones. Now I certainly don't mean this to sound harsh in any way, shape or form, but how could any of those be considered masters of a genre when they only have a handful of films between them. It seems that women don't seem to make a large impression in the horror genre, as opposed to their male counterparts. While there are many women working in the horror genre, many of them seem less keen to make an impression.
The fact that these female horror fans were reaching back to the 80's and 90's with movies like Slumber Party massacre (a classic slasher, but seriously not anything groundbreaking) and Freddy's dead (a joke of a sequel that turned Freddy into a fully blown parody of himself) shows just how scarce female filmmakers are.
I am certainly not disagreeing with the fact that there are many female directors out there who will make an impression, but so far, they only have a few movies between them and can't really be considered for a list showcasing 10 new masters of horror. Admittedly, the inclusion of Pascal Laugier on the list was rather silly, as he himself only has 3 movies to his name. There are many female directors in the horror genre, but you cannot tell me they are as prolific as someone like John Carpenter for example.
As for people who state the horror genre itself as being sexist and misogynistic, do you even watch horror? A huge percentage of horror movies contain what is known as 'The final girl', and admittedly, while she has been reduced to a screaming half undressed ravaged woman, they gain empowerment against their usually male persuers, and manage to destroy them.
Meir Zarchi's I Spit on your Grave is another film that is looked down on by both sexes in the horror genre. In that movie, originally titled Day of the Woman, the female character is repeatedly raped by a group of country folk who seem to take a dislike to her being from a more civilized area of America. The rape scenes are filmed with such emotion, not focusing on the forced sex, but the look of horror on actress Camille Keaton's face, that it is hard not to identify with her. She then gains a strength and takes revenge on each of her oppressors, the most famous of which is where she uses her sexuality to entice her victim to bathe with her, and then takes the very thing from him that he violated her with.
These movies constantly show women as strong, resilient and willed, and unable/unwilling to bow down to the males who are attempting to kill/torture/maim them, where as men are almost always seen as horny, drug taking selfish cowardly humans who think little of anything but getting drunk, laid and living.
Just because females aren't included in a top 10 list does not automatically make the list sexist. People claiming this would probably take exception if someone who was gay would complain that there are no gay people on the list, or a small person complaining there are no small people on the list. It is making an argument for arguments sake. In a few years, I am one hundred percent sure that there will be many more women in every top ten list of new horror directors, but as it stands, no woman has made a large enough contribution to horror to stand out as much as their contemporaries. Horror to me seems to be one of the most open minded genres out there, accepting of all genders and sexualities. Why make something that is so open seem so closed minded? I don't think we will ever be able to answer that question.
I love the horror genre as a whole. I don't mind if a male or female is directing, writing, handling the FX. If the film is good, people will take note. Just look at the acclaim Erica Summers and the Soska's are getting for their movies. It isn't because they are female. It is because they are making incredibly good films that have something to say, and appeal to horror fans in general. As long as directors of any gender continue to do this, the horror genre will continue to grow, and won't be held back by people making petty sexism arguments where they aren't valid.