“What’s your favourite scary movie? This is a question I’ve heard repeated by a lot of horror enthusiasts (specifically, fans of the 1996 Scream) but less do I hear it asked by feminist peers. The genre of horror has been overlooked in feminist discourse, as there are few academics looking into the genre specifically in comparison to other aspects of pop culture, nor has the genre been discussed in any of the women’s studies courses I have taken. Perhaps feminists deem the genre as too niche to talk about or too violent to ever be considered feminist. I would argue neither of those assumptions to be true. As feminists we should be commenting more on the importance of horror films in feminism, as it allows for tropes to be challenged and disputed.”
This was the title and in part the opening paragraph for my favourite essay I ever wrote during my undergrad. I don’t deem it my favourite because I think it’s my strongest piece of writing ever or because I received an insanely high grade. It’s my favourite because it made my place in academia make sense.
One of the (coolest) professors I had in my second year of undergrad told my class during an unprompted Q&A about life, art and academia, to not turn away from any of our interests. Even if they don’t seem like they belong together, they do.
Now, bare with me as my last two brain cells try to remember the details of this story. Some of it is probably made up, it’s fine… I’ll get to the point, promise.
He gave the example of a friend he had who was really good at building things, really liked music, and also really into history and how none of those things really fit together in terms of a (traditional) career. His friend went about his life just sort of bopping around and not really feeling like he had found his thing. UNTIL, he created the most beautiful, and captivating art installation where he used is construction knowledge to build this giant — thing… that played music… and commented on WW2 … (ok this is when I realized I don’t remember any of the details of the actual art piece, you get it though). It became his most successful piece of work and was on display at a gallery in Montreal! Amazing! That is when I began my search to figure out how I could combine all my seemingly unrelated interests to make MY OWN Montreal art piece (or something).
I always loved horror movies. I became very passionate about learning everything I could about the feminist movement in my mid-teens and really enjoyed learning about feminist theory in my undergrad. I always liked writing. I liked creating art, photography, film. But I never found a place to fit all these things together and often felt stuck because – if I can’t fit them together, I also can’t choose which one I like more, so I guess I’ll just do nothing about it. Which is a boring and horrible reason to not do anything. Don’t recommend it. It wasn’t until my fourth year (my thesis year) where everything came to me in a beautiful ah-ha kind of moment. I would include horror into my art and writing, which already almost always included some element of social politics. Which birthed my thesis; a photo series that used horror to draw on emotions felt by those living under capitalism. Around the same time I wrote the essay I included at the beginning of this post; which analyzed Jennifer’s Body as a feminist piece of work to prove that horror had a place in feminist thought.
You may be thinking,
‘Jaime.. why did it take you 21 years to think about including something you like into other things you like?’
You’re correct. It sounds very obvious and I appear to be very dumb. I guess my best answer to that would be that I was scared. I was scared to open about all of my interests and put them out for critique because I thought if this isn’t well received – it means I’m not well received. Does that make any sense to anyone outside of my brain, I’m not sure. I struggled A LOT with impostor syndrome during my undergrad, and I think it got the best of me in a lot of ways. Also just like… anxiety. We’re growing, and getting better with this everyday.
Now that I’m not writing academic papers every week, I wanted a place where I can talk about and analyze horror films. A place that wasn’t my car after I drag my boyfriend to see yet another horror movie at the theatre. Where I can continue to explore this intersection of thoughts and interests, without the pressure of critique from classmates or professors. Where I hope to create a space where feminists and horror fans can come together and talk about film.
Now please answer me this: what’s your favourite scary movie?