Updated: Mar 10, 2020
Post By: Jessica
Currently listening to: Idle Hands - Blade and the Will
The origin of the word revenge is late middle English stemming from the old French word revencher and from the Latin word revindicare, re-(expressing intensive force) and vindicare “to claim or avenge”. The Oxford dictionary defines it as “an action of hurting or harming someone in return for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands.” At times, revenge is one of those fueling fires that drive people to do better for themselves or to right a wrong that has been done to them. It is a drive that has been written, filmed and sung about extensively for decades. You have to admit, at one point in our lives, we have all thought about how sweet revenge tastes when someone who hurt or doubted us in any way. Revenge can take on many forms, whether it is becoming a famous singer when everyone told you you could not sing. Or it can be violent and turn into a manhunt to either destroy another person’s life or take it away from them, just as they have done to you ( as seen in the famous literary work Count of Monte Cristo).
When it comes to the theme of revenge of films, it has been primarily dominated by a male protagonists. This was do to the idea that men were much smarter and stronger than women to be able to enact revenge and that they were justified in their right to do so. Whereas, when there was an element of a women taking revenge for how she was wronged, they have been portrayed as deranged or mentally ill as seen in the 1987 film, Fatal Attraction. Or at least that was common perception of that film. There have been other earlier revenge themed films with female protagonists such as What ever happened to Baby Jane (1962), Les Diaboliques (1955) or The Bride Wore Black (1968), but they have also promoted the story-line that these women who sought revenge were in some way mentally and emotionally unwell, which colours their acts of vengeance.
However, over the past decade or so we are seeing more revenge themed films with strong female protagonists. In the 90’s and 00’s we were introduced to the likes of Breatrix Kiddo/ The Bride (Kill Bill 2003/2004), Sarah, Bonnie, Rochelle and Nancy (The Craft, 1996) The Women in Deathproof (2007), Brenda, Elise and Annie (First Wives Club 1996) and Furiosa (Mad Max, 2015). Now this is just a small sampling of all the films I researched that focused on women in avenger type roles: there have been an increasing number of these films happening and not to mention television series.
Now I know you are looking at the list and wondering why I have not included the some protagonist from ‘rape/revenge’ films? They are the cornerstone to much of the revenge genre for women. To this I agree, however, we will be covering primarily rape/revenge in our podcast and I will also address the topic in my next blog post of the month. Recently, a newly made friend made the comment to me about why is it that revenge for women always has to come from being sexually assaulted and raped. That women had other motivations to want to seek revenge due to other forms of violation or pain. This started to get me thinking about this comment and about some of the other impetus that lead women to seek revenge on those we have wronged them.
I choose to highlight Breatrix Kiddo, because her revenge comes from being left for dead on her wedding day by her lover, fellow assassins, who not only stole 4 years of her life but her child as well. The ladies from The Craft as they seek vengeance on society for those who made them outcasts and tarnished their reputations at school. The women of Deathproof, who beat a killer at his own game and take revenge for those women who were unable to. Furiosa of Mad Max, fights for her sisters and their survival in a male dominated, vicious culture. And the ladies of the First Wives Club, women who hilariously take back their power from cheating ex-husbands who they had given everything in their lives to be left with nothing but dregs.
There are other ways that women in society are wronged whether it be a friend stealing another friend’s boyfriend/husband, being denied a promotion or pay raise at work, being bullied, physically/mentally/emotionally attacked by lovers, peers or family or being made to doubt our abilities and talents. Sometimes revenge is taken out in violent means, other times, it is done through clever and strategic ways such as finding out the legal clause that allowed you to take over your ex’s business because of your investments. Revenge can come in all different packages.