Gaslighting, sexist disbelief grows in horror movies

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The Greek Epics The Iliad and The Odyssey weren’t written as horror stories – but they probably started that way. All the bloodshed of the Trojan War could have been avoided if the Trojans had believed the priestess Cassandra and her warnings of the coming war. But alas, Cassandra had been cursed, subjected to a lifetime of disbelief by the god Apollo for rejecting his advances, which sounds…extremely creepy, to put it lightly. Cassandra’s is a tale particularly haunting for those who know what it’s like to scream at the top of your lungs that a horrific outcome is at hand, just for the sake of being written off as hysterical. The June overthrow of Roe v. calf was a direct manifestation of it.

There’s something uniquely spine-tingling, perhaps instinctive, about knowledge feeling in your bones that something is wrong and not believed. Increasingly, horror films and jump-scare psychological thrillers channel this experience, transporting audiences into an almost physical, corporeal space of discomfort alongside on-screen heroines and then, in the same breath, telling us that our discomfort is unfounded.

Gender has always been at the core of the genre, which is literally breeding “last girl” trope: youthful, virginal, but attractive to the male gaze, and constantly hunted by monsters armed with huge, phallic knives with which they attempt to enter her. The hapless babysitter Laurie Strode is a case in point Halloween. But as we near the holiday of Halloween are two of the most talked about movies of the season don’t worry darling and barbarian—respectively, an erotic psychological thriller that strives to perpetuate gendered terror and a bloodier, more classic horror film — both are based on the sexist attribution of credibility. The monster changes.

in the don’t worry darlingdisgruntled men hold women captive just as happily clueless trad housewives in a simulation from the 1950s; When Florence Pugh’s Alice senses something is wrong with her circumstances, no one believes her warnings and she is forgotten by her “husband” Jack (Harry Styles), the project’s pesky doctor, and his collaborators Leader inspired by Jordan PetersonFrank (Chris Pines). Treasure However, it falls short of its goal of inducing terror due to its ponderous script, which repeatedly relies on male characters and tells Alice verbatim, “You sound crazy” or Alice berates her husband for “driving me crazy”. The most visceral horrors are shownNot said via 2013 Tumblr-like sermons. We are stripped of a frightening sense of authenticity when characters amidst gender horrors suddenly erupt into a feminist oral history of gaslighting in America.

In contrast to Treasure, barbarian Relying on traditional, slasher-esque scare tactics, Tess (Georgina Campbell) discovers the airbnb she accidentally double-booked with Bill Skarsgård’s initially repulsive Keith, and finds herself in a haunted basement where a monster called Mother hunts, locks up, and kills those who enter. But beneath all the bloodshed and limb chopping, not dissimilar Treasure, barbarianThe horrors of roots in how trust and credibility are determined on the basis of gender. The film’s mostly male victims might have been spared if they had simply heeded Tess’ warnings about the basement; Instead, her male hubris is her death sentence, while the film ends with the mother revealing her feelings of gender solidarity with Tess. As we learn, the mother only became a monster after surviving the rape and imprisonment of a man whose male privilege allowed him to escape suspicion forever.

In early 2022, A24 fell men, the non-stop horror festival about a woman who was abused by her deceased husband and is subsequently stalked by the men and boys (who all seem the same) of the small pastoral village to which she retires. Until the film’s bitter end, locals often write off Harper’s (Jessie Buckley) fears about their various male stalkers as the debauchery of a madwoman. men essentially transforms all of the diverse, everyday male characters you encounter into a uniquely gendered evil.

As we witness the long prophesied (by women!) erosion of our reproductive rights and the consequences of a Retraumatizing abuse process a wrote that off Victims of domestic violence as insane, the feminist message of these films is clear: to their horror, women are often not believed. Perhaps the shift started in 2016 with the Genius by Jordan Peele Go out and his acute awareness that the latent white supremacy of performative white liberals is more violent than any amount of blood or paranormal activity. Go out challenged other creators to use horror and thriller pieces for social messages that similarly make monsters out of oppressive realities – and the market is becoming saturated with its gender-centric imitators.

But scary movies shouldn’t just mirror reality back to us and expose us to cheesy scripts that spell out the lessons of Gender Studies 101. With that in mind, there is a simplicity and essentialism with which barbarian and men deal with gender relations. At least in Treasure, we’re reminded that men aren’t the only patriarchal monsters – another housewife, Bunny, also initially sets Alice on fire. The freeform mystery drama of 2021 Cruel summer isn’t a horror film either, but it similarly fuels terror by toying with gender and believability – instead of a man and a woman, it pits two teenage girls’ memories of the truth against each other in a high-stakes situation and challenges us all to take part in his spectacle of misogyny and to question what makes young women more credible and what doesn’t.

The twisted genre of thrillers and horror films rooted in sexist disbelief had a relatively busy 2021 overall with Amy Adams’ The woman in the windowa classic tale of a suburban woman who survived unimaginable trauma and is discredited when she says she saw something horrific at the house across the street. False positive followed a pregnant woman’s (Ilana Glazer) freezing descent into insanity when she was gaslighted by a creepy fertility doctor who impregnated her and hundreds of other women without consensual impregnation; She has constantly said everything is fine despite fearing for her life and is being subjected to protective, paternalistic treatment that actually puts her at risk.

2020, The Invisible Man presented a deranged scientist who perfected an invisibility potion, faked his suicide and now terrorizes his wife, who is laughed at as a quack when she seeks help from the police. In 2019 Pugh gave us midsummer, whose main antagonist may seem like an ancient, bloodthirsty Swedish cult, but is actually Pugh’s condescending on-screen friend who spends the film making her feel like nothing until he burns himself alive in a disemboweled bear. 2018 delivered Claire Foy, Juno Temple and Matt Damon insanity, a horror story about a woman pursued by a monstrous male stranger with whom she finds herself locked in an insane asylum while doctors and nurses question her sanity when she expresses her fear. 2017 the camp horror directed by Darren Aronofsky and Jennifer Lawrence Mother! captured the intrusive violence a pregnant woman is subjected to when terrifying strangers invade her body and home.

The rise of horror-thrillers grounded in sexist disbelief is generally well-timed with today’s realities, such as the anti-MeToo backlash entailing public gaslighting and embarrassment of abuse victims, or the fall of roe make our already fundamentally sexist healthcare system that much deadlier. It’s no coincidence that women are average diagnosed years later than men for life-threatening illnesses, or which pregnant people experience frighteningly high maternal mortality rates. These findings are often a direct result of medical professionals refusing to believe women and pregnant patients about their own pain. In 2018, Serena Williams remembered almost die shortly after giving birth because the doctors didn’t believe her when she swore that something was wrong.

As horrifying as these realities are, there will always be a commercial appeal to storytelling to reflect them. The public’s obsession with true crimes, often centered around female victims, highlights the monetization of our discontent: All viewers, but women in particular, seem to love a good story about something horrible happening to other women. It stands to reason that a psychological thriller about housewives being jailed and gassed (by Harry Styles and Chris Pine, no less) or a horror film about a stalking victim locked up in an asylum could attract female viewers. As such, more recent entries into the horror-psych-thriller space feel deeply suited to female audiences. In between Treasure‘s lavish cunniligus scenes were topped with Harry Styles on his knees and the grisly fates of barbarian‘s incredulous male characters but not its female protagonist, both films affirm the fear of not being believed as a woman, while also throwing in a treat or three for the female gaze along the way.

In the centuries since Homer scribbled The Iliad On its small panels, Cassandra’s story, once just a footnote in a cluttered epic of supposedly more important tales of men killing each other on the battlefield, has exploded into a fast-growing genre of its own. Some will find these new works of sexist unbelief affirming and comforting; others, exhausting or even triggering. Perhaps the test of whether a film about women you don’t believe can exude the catharsis of Florence Pugh, who smiles as she watches her emotionally abusive boyfriend burn, or the exhaustion of watching another teenage girl get ripped up Halloweendepends on how misogyny is portrayed on screen: as suffocating and inescapable, or as something the heroines (and female audience) on screen can ultimately triumph over. Gaslighting, sexist disbelief grows in horror movies

Adam Bradshaw

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