Women in Horror: Getting Naked

Now that I have your attention…

So I’m sitting on my couch taking a break from working on a manuscript. I’ve avoided working on this post and others like it all day, but after getting other things crossed off the to-do list (and some copious chocolate), I’ve decided I’m going to go for it. I’ve spent all month addressing the need for recognizing women in horror and celebrating s me amazingly creative authors. I’ve also made it a point to celebrate all sorts of female characters within the horror genre. So with the month nearly over, is it really time to stir the pot? Do I really need to go there?

Apparently so, heh.

Besides the lack of recognition for women within the horror genre, there are a few other things I’m trying to wrap my mind around. Maybe it’s just because I’m a girl, maybe I just look at things differently, but there are some elements that are very much in vogue both in fiction and film that just don’t seem unfair. Not only that, but it’s like they’ve become staples of the genre.

There’s no good way to approach this so I’m just going to get to it.

I get that hot women and large breasts are a staple of the horror industry. I get that people like to look and read about pretty girls (don’t kid yourself, they show up in comics and fiction, too). I get it. I’m not declaring war on breasts or saying these things should be done away with all together. Still…if I may offer my opinion as a storyteller and a woman…

1. Does it have to happen all the time?

2.If you’re going to go this route can you please make it make sense?

3. Do you understand that in some circumstances this completely takes a person out of a story and sometimes undermines the work that you’re trying to validate

4. If you get naked women why the hell can’t I have hot men running from a supernatural serial killer through the woods getting their clothes torn off, preferably in the rain?

And now, my thoughts…

1. Does it have to happen all the time? Let me just say it. Boobs aren’t scary. They’re not. Any woman in the world will tell you that they see themselves in the mirror every day without freaking out about seeing their chests. I also don’t see why this is so hot in the context of a movie or book where people get killed/possessed/have their lives ruined. I get this is probably the male answer to women’s romance in some ways, and there is something to be said about having your emotions and attractions played with and set against fear, but still…

Whether it just happens to be the titles I’m finding or whether it’s a trend, I find it hard to believe that the entire realm and every sub-realm where horror takes place, women just walk around with their boobs hanging out getting their clothes ripped off easily. I’ve tried really hard to approach this quirk with an open mind, but even guys I know laugh about the trend. It’s almost becoming cliche. My frustration is that always including scantily-clad women who are on the wrong end of a chainsaw/knife/tree branch/hedge clipper/etc are usually there to be a victim or a sex object or a weird combination of both. I get there are victims in horror, but this portrayal really baffles and frustrates me. It’s uncomfortable to watch – I feel like I’m being expected to cat call or laugh at this girl getting her clothes shredded and possibly run over by a lawn mower…I thought horror was suppose to put me out of my comfort zone and make me think about my own fears. If this sort of thing is included in a book/movie/comic/etc, wouldn’t it be scarier to do this with someone who looks like your mother, sister, next-door neighbor, teacher? Wouldn’t that be terrifying, to see someone that you could know be pushed to the edge like that? If you’re going to use something like this in the horror genre, why make it a character who inevitably looks like a pin-up model and is there pretty much only for that purpose? I’m not afraid for those women, I just feel uncomfortable for them.

To clarify, I have nothing against scream queens. They’re part of the genre, and I find when used as tongue in cheek or subverting the norm, they can be fun and effective. I get it. I get guys like to watch pretty girls in little clothes. But as a woman, let me recount a particular incident in my life from a few years ago…I refuse to name names because this isn’t what that’s about.

So I was at a convention sitting with a crowd who were going to screen a movie. We were all hanging out and talking, I was sitting with some people I’d met at the event, looking forward to seeing the movie. Most of us didn’t know much about it, but I was intrigued and I like to expand my range, so I figured what the hell, that’s what I was there for. The director was there and talking about the film, and happened to introduce some of the people involved, including an actress who was of that sort of scream queen variety. Much applause abounded and people were stoked. She jokingly opened her coat to show off her cleavage (she was clothed, it wasn’t that kind of con), and sat back down. THE MOMENT she sat back down, everyone around me started snickering how they didn’t know it was that kind of movie, and they knew why she was cast. This was men and women surrounding me, by the way. I was startled and I wished I would have been of the mind to call them out on that, but I was so shocked I managed to just sit there. I’m not proud of letting that go, but it’s one of those things that was so sudden, that you can’t quite believe it’s happening around you. Not only that, but when we actually saw the movie, the entire attitude of the audience changed. It became almost a game to look for nude scenes and cat-call them. Now I don’t go for women, but I will admit that this gal was attractive in a way I’ll never be. I fully admit that, and jealousy has nothing to do with it. If anything, I felt bad for her because no one in that room was able to concentrate on her acting. I’ve since talked to other people who have seen the movie and they pretty much never remember anything about the story, but they totally can recall the naked scenes. How is this furthering the horror genre if people can’t even focus on the plot of the story? Beyond the shock factor to get people to see it, how many are actually going to repeatedly view or read something that depends on that?  How is this good if it’s encouraging people to demean someone who could very well be a great actress and a great person? As an actress, I would not be happy if it was me in that position, and we all know I don’t take myself too seriously.

2. Can’t this make sense? and 3. If done wrong, it takes a person out of the story.  I’m not against boobs. I’m totally not saying no nudity. Horror is all about showing us how we’re vulnerable, and nudity is another dimension of that. It makes sense that it would be terrifying to be caught in a vulnerable moment, whether it’s while changing or preparing for an intimate moment, or whatever. That being said…It makes sense to show a scene of a woman freaking out while changing, or breaking down while changing or bathing, especially if she’s experienced trauma. I get that, we all have some intense emotions in our private moments, and there’s no reason to censor what’s obviously there as long as it’s tasteful. That being said…it does NOT make sense to zoom in on the chick’s boobs while she’s having this emotional scene. I’ve had my share of meltdowns, yet I’ve never been so upset that I cry from my nipples, so why? How is it sexy to look at the boobs of an emotionally distraught woman? How is it hot to look at the semi-naked form of a chick being killed or maimed? I don’t care how gorgeous she is, it’s dehumanizing – shouldn’t you be more concerned that she’s freaking DYING and not zoom in on her privates because it’s an excuse to get her clothes off? Same with books – I do not need to read a page and a half about someone’s breasts jiggling while they’re fighting for their lives. That is not what’s important, and I hope if I ever try to slip something like that in to be snarky, an editor catches me at it and calls me out on it. At least in romance, the whole point is pretty much to get naked. I know people think vampires are hot, and zombie romance is not a thing, but the point of horror is not to take your clothes off. That’s just not a realistic reaction when faced with a huge threat. And no matter who they’re facing down, if the spirit/monster/killer/evil mastermind is so intent on their rampage, I don’t see how they’d spend the time to undress only certain victims (conveniently only disrobing the hot ones). It does not make sense. It takes you out of the story. It slows things down. Seriously, I’ll believe it’s not about shock value when someone shows me the director cut of Misery that shows naked scenes of Kathy Bates.

4. Why isn’t this reciprocated? Everything else aside…there are women who love to watch and read horror. And I, for one, also like silly B-Z movies, so it’s not that I don’t mind silliness and vulgarity. I get it, and sometimes it’s fun to watch movies like that. But come on…you know the argument of men wanting some action or something interesting if they have to go to chick flicks? How about something for the ladies that are going to see horror (and not getting dragged to them,thank you very much). I get you can’t show full frontal without losing a rating, but come on…I for one would fully back any horror movie that shows a hot guy getting chased and getting his clothes ripped off. Bonus points for it happening in the rain/through a sprinkler/in a pool/in a car wash. There are plenty of parts to focus on that still get the job done: chest, torso, butt, legs, shoulders, I mean seriously…you have a lot of options. And I’m sure a scene like that would make men really uncomfortable, too, which is the point of a horror movie, so there you go! Trust me, women would watch this. People thought we wouldn’t get into Magic Mike and look how that turned out. Give us a chance to be just as shallow as our male counterparts. I think you’d be surprised how many dvds you’d sell/seats you’d fill/books you’d sell, horror industry. Don’t dismiss it until you’ve tried it…at least twenty times. Give it a chance to catch on. I will shut up about boobs when you give me a half-naked man running around for no real purpose other than to end up as a victim or be saved at the last minute, thus only providing us with a gratuitous, if uncomfortable scene.



5 thoughts on “Women in Horror: Getting Naked

  1. Interesting, isn’t it? I’ve never thought overmuch about the gratuitous nudity, more about the apparent idiocy of the women in some of the ‘horror’ I’ve watched. That irks me a good deal more… though that may just be because I quite like boobs. o.O

    1. See, for me the inane character development kind of goes hand in hand with nudity. The same with overuse or ill use of jump scares and gore. It seems these days that those items are so expected to be part of the genre, that writers or film makers are focused on getting those into the end product, instead of investing time in a really, really good story. I’m not against seeing boobs or nudity, but like I said – if it doesn’t make sense or is obviously placating people they think are filling seats or buying a book, how is that furthering the story? If anything, it’s taking away from potentially really good character development or plot. If it’s done well and works in the context, I’m fine with it.

  2. There is an awful issue with this in the comic world. Women cosplay the characters they love and artists say that since they are women, they can’t possibly truly be into comic AND they get called sluts and worse for wearing the outfits. Well artists…YOU drew your damn characters that way. Deal with it.

    1. Totally, totally agree. I’m not against sex or hot characters, male or female, but it seems like especially in comics, there’s something bordering on misogyny with female characters. Same with some urban fantasy – it’s like, I get this may be the author’s special daydream, but the way it’s handled and worded and drawn is offensive! Women who like the characters and get behind them or dress as them shouldn’t be type-cast sexually because they happen to be drawn to the series or character. Never mind that they have a brain and could probably contribute a hell of a lot to those story arcs, themselves.

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