The Broadsheet


March 2008

This Issue: Feminism and Horror
by Lettie Prell

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My father was ninety years old when he died recently. In the days that followed I experienced a wide range of emotions. The sadness of his absence. The sweetness of favorite memories. The marvel at the paradox that my often-stern father had managed to encourage his daughter to be independent and capable. The disappointment of realizing he’d never hold my first novel in his hands. Concern about how my siblings were taking it all. And also relief at the death, because it marked the end of the decline I had witnessed. My father’s death was a demonstration of the forces of nature in action.

So it was that this real death came in the middle of putting out the first-ever issue of the Broadsheet to celebrate horror—a genre devoted to quite unnatural death. It brought to mind my own horror-reading phase, when I was in my mid-twenties. I became addicted to the jolts of the suddenly-revealed hideous thing. Or alternatively and perhaps worse, the kind of writing that delivered the slow crawl of ever-deepening, twisted revelation. By the time I put horror aside (save for the occasional tale), I had become wise as a Buddhist, realizing everything was impermanent, and death was a part of the cycle. In the horror genre, death—just death—was often the hoped-for antidote to the bizarre sufferings of the characters.

Something I didn’t realize at the time was that horror exposed me to lots of strong female characters. Sometimes the female character is the horror element, the unrelenting embodiment of evil. She can be repulsive in her monstrous form, or an object of desire—albeit a dangerous one.

Other times, the female character is the force that vanquishes evil, and Donato Totaro covers this topic well in the essay, The Final Girl: A Few Thoughts on Feminism and Horror. The Totaro essay comments on the themes in Carol J. Clover’s Men, Women, and Chainsaws: “Clover points out that in most horror films, especially the slasher film, the audience, male and female, is structurally ‘forced’ to identify with the resourceful young female…who survives the serial attacker and usually ends the threat (until the sequel anyway).”

A site that thoughtfully, playfully and unabashedly celebrates feminism in the horror genre is Hannah D. Forman’s Ax Wound Zine. As explained on the main page, the zine’s title is a derogatory term for a menstruating vagina, and that it exists “to create a dialogue about gender in the horror/slasher/gore genre—a genre typically thought to reinforce patriarchal values.” Any reading of the site demonstrates Ax Wound is doing its job very well, and we’re proud to feature Hannah’s editorial in the Broadsheet, which discusses the Final Girl and more.

I doubt my father would have approved of Ax Wound. No, certainly not. But the way he raised me to be independent and think for myself—and the pride he took in my career—echoes quite compatibly with feminist principles, through whatever medium they choose to express.

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