In the eye of the beholder

11 May 2012

Kameron Hurley, author of God’s War wasn’t overly impressed by The Cabin in the Woods, as maybe you can tell from this short excerpt from her blog:

Throughout the whole movie, the guys are the puppeteers. The guys still get most of the lines. They’re in control. Throwing in Show Spoiler ▼

at the end for the final fight doesn’t magically “fix” the fact that I just watched a very uncomfortable movie about how men maim and humiliate women in service to their dark, primordial desires/underlord. The scene with all the guys oogling over whether or not the blond’s shirt was going to come off was just… unnecessary.
[Kameron Hurley – Why your gun-toting chick isn’t feminist redux Thoughts on Cabin in the Woods]

The thing is, a lot of what she points out as being misogyny is, totally and utterly, misogyny. But I watched the film thinking that that was part of the point. The world we live in has a whole heap of misogyny in it. And, in most cases, old white men are the ones in charge. I watched The cabin in the woods as a dark comedy/horror first up, but I also saw it as having a whole heap to say about the world, in general, and the horror genre in certain specifics.

I’m trying to figure out how to articulate this properly. It has been so long since I’ve actually had to write an argument. Anyways, unhidden spoilers below.

What I mean is that throughout the film we are shown over and over that the group in the cabin are the good guys, from a certain perspective. They are certainly the ones we should be rooting for. After all they are about to get attacked and killed for no good reason and they have been primed to make this destruction all the more entertaining. For the “old gods”. And if the students are the good guys, that makes their enemies the bad guys, right?

Not that the whole world exists in polar opposites, but the surveillance guys are trying to kill them. I think that certainly makes them enemies, and in my book makes them bad guys. Even if they get to make jokes and we laugh at and with them. And, from my viewing, *that* was part of the point. The bad guys aren’t always evil and dressed in black. Most of the time they are just guys doing a job, a job that might even save the world. And yes, they do make misogynistic jokes. They are the patriarchy. They are the established order. Whedon makes you identify with them as people first, but lets not beat about the bush here, they are people who conspire to murder groups of other people in sacrifice to their gods. Human sacrifice is never a good thing.

And the bit with them oogling over the blond, to me, that just showed exactly how removed they were from “the blonde” as a person. They saw her as a role to be filled. Which was the very point of the film! All the students were pushed and prodded, drugged and otherwise interfered with to make them more stereotypical. That point was made very early on, so to see them being reduced down to this cut-out characters was highlighting just what the patriarchy does.

That is part of the reason I enjoyed the idea behind Dollhouse. The execution was definitely lacking in a lot of cases, but I always felt that the premise was the “dolls” represented sex slaves. And that should make you uncomfortable. But by not coming out and explicitly saying that it allowed viewers to get carried away with whatever scenario the dolls were put in, be that spy related or sex related. And yet as a viewer who knows the back story, you are so aware that the dolls had no say in what they did. They were forced into this life and every part of them that could give, or withhold consent was taken away from them. You can fool yourself into thinking that it isn’t rape because she seemed to enjoy it, but you should know that that isn’t the truth. And it should be uncomfortble, you should feel squicked out by the idea of Dollhouse. It is icky and horrible. But isn’t that the point?

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2 Responses

  1. Eris says:

    Spoilers below…

    Yes, absolutely right. Calling the events in Cabin in the Woods misogynist *entirely* misses the point. The film is calling attention to these events which are wrong, cruel, misogynist etc and showing that that they are all of these things. Showing misogyny is not the same as approving it. The ending of the film shows that the film-makers believe that the earth and humanity does not deserve to survive, if the price of its survival is arbitrary torture, cruelty and death.

    • Fence says:

      Exactly, I meant to mention the ending in my post but forgot. It pretty much says that a world where condemns anyone who would think that that sort of thing is a-okay.