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I like Rape Revenge Films...Does That Make Me A Bad Person?!

I find it really difficult to describe the power of films like Last House on the Left, because of its realistic representation of violence on screen. I know that the controversial “rape-revenge” subgenre has artistic merit, but as someone who recognizes that his gender and race are typically the aggressors in these films, I don’t feel it is my place to be the one shouting from the rooftops why they still have real cinematic bearing in our current cultural shift. What would you tell a guy who likes these films, but may be afraid explaining why he likes them? And more so, why do you think the rape-revenge of grindhouse cinema still holds a lot of power in cinemas today?
 
Sincerely, 
Mr. 45.


Dear Mr. 45,
First things first-- you are not a bad person. I want you to take the time and commend yourself for recognizing the power of rape-revenge films, but also realizing that your gender and race are typically the aggressors. This is an important distinction, because it’s easy to disregard people who find power in these sort of films as nothing more than exploitive or misogynist, but that isn’t always the case. The important thing is to realize WHY you are enjoying these films. If you find yourself enjoying the ultra-violence against women or seeing the rape scenes as titillating, that is a cause for self-reflection. 

However, if you enjoy these films because you recognize the artistic merit, I encourage you to speak on this. You’ve already done the hard part in admitting that in this cultural shift, that the voice of a cis-straight-white-male may not be the best voice to comment on these types of films. Do not think this means you should never speak on it. If anything, take the moment to carefully choose how to express this opinion. Something as simple as, “I sincerely enjoy the artistic merit of rape-revenge films, but as a white male, I’d be more interested in having a discussion about others’ thoughts and feelings about this particular subgenre.” Presenting it as a dialogue rather than a soapbox of “I LIKE RAPE FILMS!” will go a long way. This way, you’re expressing your opinion without treating your opinion as the foremost voice on the topic.

The rape-revenge subgenre still holds a lot of power in cinemas today because this sort of issue is not one of yesteryear...it’s an every year issue. The stories and the messages will never be outdated, because it’s still a problem millions (if not billions) of people experience every single day. We can only hope to strive for the day when these stories are a thing of the past.

 

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Am I crazy or is “period metaphor” overused in female horror narratives?

I’ve noticed in coming of age horror films that their tends to be always be a “first period” plot point. Ginger Snaps has it, Raw feels like one long bloody metaphor, and I’ve seen allusions to this “important moment in a woman’s life” in numerous short films recently. Yet whenever I watch one of these films with my fiancee she’ll say “I never understood why “first periods” are such a climactic moments in films. First time it happened, I just dealt with it and went to swim practice. A woman’s life doesn’t revolve around your period.” I’m sure her experience is not unique as this is something that, outside of special circumstances, happens to every woman. Do you feel like horror films put too heavy of an emphasis on this “menstruation metaphor” when telling stories about women?

 - Period Piece


Dear Period Piece,

I’m going to answer your question with a question. “Who are the people predominantly writing and directing horror films and have they ever had a period?” Take solace knowing you’re not crazy, and the period metaphor is extremely overused. The period is inherently something non cis-women will never truly be able to understand, and because of that, there is a lot of fascination surrounding it. A woman’s life does not revolve around their period, (and it’s important to remember that not all women menstruate) but because of the whole “bleeding for seven days without dying,” aspect of a period, it’s a cheap and easy way to signal a “traumatic change” in a character’s life. Ginger Snaps is definitely guilty of this, as is Carrie. Keep in mind that stories that involve women and blood aren’t inherently period related. That’s what makes RAW such a neat film. It’s blood, it’s coming of age, it’s female, and it’s NOT a period movie. It’s also important to note that even the experience of menstruation is not universal to those that menstruate. Some people experience periods that aren’t disruptive, but others experience cramping and flows that are so severe they are rendered immobile. Personally, I’d be fine with period metaphors in horror films if they were at least being written by people who actually menstruate. 
 

 

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Op-Ed, ColumnsBJ Colangelo