Baby Bitches from Hell:|
Monstrous-Little Women in Film
"Personally, Veda's convinced me that alligator's have the right idea. They eat their young." --Eve Arden in Mildred Pierce (1949).
Monstrous little women, mad moppets, deadly dollies, deranged daughters, sinister sisters--call them what you will, there is no doubt that multifarious images of the evil girl-child haunt the celluloid corridors of popular cinema. A far cry from her innocent sisters, the monstrous little woman is capable of truly shocking crimes. Images of evil children, circulated in posters and film books, are predominantly of feminine furies: Regan, from The Exorcist, murdering clerics, spewing green bile and rotating her head full circle on her neck; Carrie, an avenging monster, drenched in pig's blood, burning up the entire school; and Lolita, the child-woman, sunning herself in her bikini, supremely indifferent, yet fully aware of her devastating effect on the wretched professor.
In contrast to her male counterpart, the abject little woman flaunts herself with such wicked style she is perversely unforgettable. Her diabolical deeds include: matricide (Carrie), patricide (The House That Dripped Blood, 1970), cold-blooded murder (The Exorcist), cannibalism (Night of the Living Dead), genital exhibitionism (The Exorcist,1973), pyromania (Firestarter), vampirism (Interview with a Vampire), and witchcraft (Stranger in the House). We also find sinister little women in other genres--in film noir (Mildred Pierce), adult drama (The Bad Seed, Heavenly Creatures, Celia), boarding-school films (The Loudest Whisper) and the baby-doll film (Lolita). Mary Russo's observation that when a woman makes a "spectacle out of herself ..... her behaviour is related to a kind of inadvertency and loss of boundaries" has relevance for our murderous moppets. Russo's women are "the possessors of large, aging, and dimpled thighs displayed at the public beach, of overly roughed cheeks, of a voice shrill in laughter, or of a sliding bra strap ...." (1986, 213). By contravening proper feminine modes of behaviour and dress, these women have put themselves on public display in the real world. Notions of feminine propriety are also relevant to the fantasy world of horror. The devilish child is defined as monstrous because she has transgressed the boundary between ladylike and unladylike behaviour. She however, is guilty of far graver sins than a loose bra strap or shrill laugh. The malevolent moppet utters foul obscenities, urinates publicly, exposes her body, masturbates, and menstruates openly. Whereas the carnivalesque (Stallybrass & White) privileged the lower parts of the body over the higher, the body of horror privileges the hysterical, abject body over, what Julia Kristeva (1982, 72) has described, as the "clean and proper", or symbolic body.
Baby Bitches Introduction
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Little boy monsters (I am thinking of children not yet in their teens), also populate the horror film. Boys are aligned with the spiritual (The Innocents), possessed by the devil (The Omen), and transformed into killers (Pet Semetary), but, in general, their monstrousness is not defined in terms of an abrogation of proper gender roles. Males do become monster at puberty (Twitchell), but their transformations into rough beasts (I Was A Teenage Werewolf, I Was A Teenage Frankenstein), are perfectly in keeping with the male role of sexual predator. Nor is the male body put on display in relation to such things as sexual exhibitionism, dirt, urination, shrieking or masturbation.
If classic mainstream cinema objectifies woman's body to appeal to a voyeuristic gaze, the horror film similarly fetishises the female body, but as an object of disgust, appealing to the shocked, perverse look. A crucial feature of all these films, is the role played by Innocence in the representation of the monstrous little woman.