“I’m a survivor - A living example of what people can go through and survive” - Elizabeth Taylor
Post by: Jessica
I quote Elizabeth Taylor because when I was a child and teenager, I was enthralled by her and her story. Also, she played the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra, one of my historical role models who I would obsessively read anything and everything about. Both were women who had endured tragedy, personal heartache, and attacks only to come out each time stronger than they were before. They took their pain and trauma and allowed it to shape who they were - not define them. I say this because when I look back on my life, I can recognize that I was always looking for female role models, both nonfictional and fictional, who endured a traumatic event and grew stronger from it. I guess you can say that is why I turned to the horror genre, especially films that have strong female protagonists that survive in the end, like our Final Girls.
In our most recent podcast episode that will be released at the end of this week, Kelly and I explored the genre of Rape/Revenge. In it, Kelly relates the female avengers in these films as similar to our Slasher Final Girls. Women who endure horrific trauma to turn around to seek and enact vengeance on those who transgressed upon them. That despite the most malicious act of violation done to them, Jennifer (I Spit On Your Grave), Mary (American Mary) and Noelle (M.F. A) all find within them strength to take back what belongs to them and show their assaulter that they are survivors and that their actions have consequences. Sadly, revenge against such acts is only a fantasy. The reality is more like how Skye and Lindsey (M.F.A) strove to deal with their attackers and the unending trauma that comes from it just learning how to live again.
I will not lie, I found this month of film exploration and research a very challenging one. As a survivor of sexual assault, I had thought that after 20 years of counselling and personal self work, that I would be OKAY to add my voice to the conversation and talk about this very controversial niche in the horror genre. It got even harder after watching the incredible film M.F.A. While this film has such a powerful message, its’ depiction of how rape culture persists and how trauma impacts a survivor’s life, really impacted me and reopened some wounds that I had thought long since healed over. I struggled with whether or not I could even do the podcast or even write my final blog post of the month. But after a weekend of working through the pain, reaching out to friends and loved ones, and acknowledging all that I have done in the past 20 years in order to not let what happened to me take my life away - I felt like it was time to add my voice to the conversation. To break my silence.
Although these films were hard to watch and triggering, I will say that they are feminist films and they depict a truth that is hard for people to stomach but they are important. They show that sexual assault, abuse, and rape are brutal attacks against individuals who NEVER asked for it. While some films depict the woman seeking vengeance against those who violated her (ISOYG and Revenge), they also show how trauma significantly changes her and how she learns to live life again - as someone different from who she used to be. Films like American Mary and M.F.A, while they show the survivor become a vigilante, they also show women learning how to cope with their trauma and how to live again. Everyone thinks that when a woman or child is sexually abused or raped, that the worst part is over. But really, while the horrific act may have ended, these women and children have to learn how to cope with the resulting trauma and become survivors.
But that is what all victims of a sexual crime are - they are not broken victims - they are survivors who learned how to reassert control of their lives and find their own way. Whether it’s seeing the accused being held accountable for their actions or learning to live again by not allowing their trauma to define them, but instead to shape them into the fighters that they are. The role models they are for the women of the future.