Horror and the Sad Reality of Gender Discrimination

We all know that the internet is a breeding ground for every kind of asshole and sociopath you can imagine, and there’s a stigma that the loudest voices always seem to come from the world of fandom. One of the many reasons I’ve fallen in love with our genre and its community is that horror fans are by and large an intelligent and civilized group. Sure, you get the occasional loudmouth crazy, and there’s harsh criticism everywhere you look, but compared to the day-to-day internet hysteria, they’re a pretty down-to-earth bunch.

And while I’m no stranger to illiterate morons running their mouths online (see: the IMDB forums), I was particularly enraged when several friends posted links to an Ain’t It Cool News article about the upcoming all-female horror anthology XX. Now, it’s common knowledge that many of the site’s talkbackers live to talk smack, but these comments in particular seemed fueled by rampant mockery and sexism:

XX

There are pages upon pages of this shit, all punctuated with some frat boy joke about PMS or menstrual cycles. Misogyny isn’t a word I use lightly – especially since it’s thrown around so casually by psycho click-bait websites like Jezebel – but I’ll be damned if this isn’t some of the douchiest and demoralizing stuff I’ve read on a movie talkback lately. And over what? A fucking poster.

Most of these assholes defend themselves by saying that they’re just joking and that anyone who calls them out is part of the “whiny liberal thought police,” but that’s total bullshit. You can’t even try to engage with these parasites because dozens more will suddenly come out of the woodwork to drown you out and virtually high-five each other. I had previously laughed off #GamerGate as being the stupidest non-issue in human history, but it’s becoming more and more obvious that there is a real geek culture war going on. Yes, it’s pathetic and the product of sexually frustrated internet shut-ins, but it exists nonetheless. And while you can argue that it’s all a meaningless online pissing match, the hard truth is that the internet is a powerful tool that affects every move the entertainment industry makes.

I’ve read a lot of comments online that projects like XX are counter-productive because calling attention to directors for being female doesn’t help diversity. And while I agree that rounding up a group of all-women filmmakers shouldn’t feel like a novelty, the sad fact is that we don’t see enough of them, especially in this genre, to make this seem like the norm. Hell, it’s been decades since Kathryn Bigalow and Mary Harron were making genre waves, and I keep reading how shocking it is that a woman made The Babadook. Horror is one of the most female-empowering genres, so why aren’t we seeing more of them in creative roles?

If this isn’t an issue like all the detractors claim, then a project like XX wouldn’t need to exist and certainly wouldn’t be subjected to this level of sarcasm before anyone has seen a frame of it. I know a lot of female artists and have seen first-hand the kind of sexist reactions they receive any time they put something out there to the world. I can only imagine the kind of shit they have to deal with that I’m not privy to. Granted, I’ve seen and worked with way too many women in positions of power to buy into the stereotype that the entertainment business as a whole is misogynistic. But the number of female producers and executives far eclipse actual working writers and directors. Why that is can be endlessly discussed and debated, but there are still very few concentrated efforts to change things.

A lot of people argue that pushing female filmmakers shouldn’t be “a thing” because it will only lead to mindless PC affirmative action. They say that the industry should be based purely on talent and not gender… but here’s the thing: There is no shortage of incredible undiscovered female talent out there. One of the most exciting events in Los Angeles is Etheria, a film festival dedicated specifically to showing sci-fi, fantasy, and horror from women filmmakers. Their programming is top-notch, and I’ve seen more talent come out of there the last few years than anything Hollywood shat out in its 2014 horror output. Yet, every single one of those filmmakers is still out there fighting for recognition and any opportunity that she can get.

Yes, the industry is tough on everyone, males and females alike. It’s a fucking beast to navigate, and those who succeed bust in largely by happenstance. But like it or not, there are still a lot of perceptions and illusions about female artists that need to be shattered. If history has taught us anything, it’s that it takes a sea of loud voices to make anything happen, and that goes double for the entertainment industry, where it’s a miracle when anything happens at all. For that reason alone, I hope that festivals like Etheria and projects like XX continue to hoist their flags and scream it from the rooftops. Cause that’s how things change.

XX Poster

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Andrew Kasch

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