The Feminist Spectrum In Rob Zombie's Halloween
By Alicia Cole
We arrive: the child's bloodied hands.
We arrive: the child, verbally abused by a dominant male figure. All is screaming and the child's raw frustration and rage.
And what we see on arrival to Rob Zombie's Halloween is the stark female figure, strong and fragile at the same time..
Horror is at its base a feminist art form.
It's all about creation and destruction, actions that are ultimately embodied in women. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, written by a female master of horror, is a novel about birth and loss and destruction. Women create, of course; but what can destroy more than a mother gone wrong?
So in horror, life, which is given, is taken away.
In Halloween, the mother has not gone wrong in the large sense, but she's made a wrong turn. For security, she's partnered with an abusive man, much to the detriment of her children. It's hard to tell where the crack in Mike Meyers truly comes from, but much of it must come from his physical and emotional surroundings.
Sex gone ‘wrong,” the unchasteness of youth, is often a lead in to the killing blow in horror. Pure sex, the virginal or untouched woman, is often a necessity for salvation.
The mother in Halloween represents both sides of the sexual duality mentioned above. She uses sex as a necessity for her family's survival. She doesn't engage in sexual acts for the sake of joy, but because she has to. As such, she does not fall prey to the external violent demise of many sexually active women in the horror genre; understanding her own part in the horror of her son's life, she takes her own.
So, the feminist way of seeing and approaching horror moves from the bigger picture of life/death to the individual scale of each woman's place in the life/death concept. It’s as if each figure is bloodied from either leaving the womb, granted life once more, or being kept in the womb and denied exit, trapped and facing death. As though horror itself is just some huge mother who either accepts or rejects life-you can grow, you can not grow-all again due to purity. Mother’s final call: who you are in terms of sexual role and sexual satisfaction, the most misogynist of tropes in the horror genre, is who will survive.
Many women killed in horror movies tend to fall into one of two categories: the sexually permissive victim who is also a transgressor in terms of victimizing the killer/original victim; or, the sexually pure survivor who, while potentially desired by others, neither acts on the desire to have sex or uses violent taunts against the killer/original victim. There is another character type, not seen in Halloween: the über-woman who is able to fight her way through the carnage.
Among those who are killed, horror becomes a supplanting of the orgasm or path to orgasm, the punishment of both female and male for seeking transgressive sexual stimulation; the procreative reversed.
Among those who survive, a prize granted to the innocent, either the sexually pure or the young or both, horror provides a final birth: for those pure enough to secure it, the new birth canal is where those bathed in blood come through alive, “clean”.
In Halloween, Laurie, Mike Meyer's little sister, is the virginal being who comes through her bath by blood to ultimate survival.
While horror is in construct feminist by nature, the genre would benefit from more roles for women and more character concepts that reach beyond the sexually promiscuous/sexually pure stereotypes. Where are we going by continuing to examine these roles? Is there a way to examine more facets?
Halloween illustrates a multiplicity of destruction: the destruction of childhood emotional poverty, its internal and external repercussions; the destruction of self when shackled to a loveless relationship and oversexed job; the destruction of all sexual impulses; the destruction of suburbia, the “safe” refuge after having grown up outside the suburbs, from these and other forces as mirrored in the mass murderer’s attempted revenge.
Perhaps horror could reach through the destruction to something deeper by reexamining women's roles within the genre.