As per every evening, I was looking for something to watch on Netflix when I came across XX, an anthology of four short horror stories told from a female perspective. Naturally, I was curious about what they meant by a female perspective. How would it differ from mainstream horror films? If at all? A quick google of my favourite horror films prove that they’re typically written and directed by men. Take The Descent, for example. A film starring six women, written, directed, edited, produced, with music and cinematography by men. Or Jeepers Creepers, yet again an all male team. These are the first two examples that came to mind, but I could go on. I won’t, because it’s disheartening, but I could.
Finally, Netflix brings us a feminist horror anthology. It’s not worth asking why we need to make a point of creating films by women, it shouldn’t be a big deal, right? However, considering the previously mentioned films, it’s apparent that we desperately need to keep making feminist films. But just how feminist is XX? Perhaps that depends on your requirements of what makes a feminist. The lines are definitely blurred with this one.
While the four short films each star women, and are written and directed by women, (Roxanne Benjamin, Sofia Carrillo, Karyn Kusama, St. Vincent and Jovanka Vuckovic), it struck me that three out of the four films are about women as mothers and/or wives. While this can work in certain horror and thriller films, (one of the XX films had a We Need to Talk About Kevin vibe) I think to be a feminist film, it should portray women outside of their traditional, heteronormative, dated roles. XX fails to do this. In the fourth film, where the woman isn’t a mother, (perhaps simply because she is younger) she is a sister, and a girlfriend, of two men. Do women ever exist not in relation to men? Considering these were written and directed by women, it’s disappointing that each of the films fall into the obvious stereotypes long portrayed by male driven film and TV. On top of this, it is worth mentioning that each film depicted white, cisgender, heterosexual women, thereby excluding the intersectional feminist perspective.
Another aspect that I only realised while researching for this column is that while it is written, directed and starring women, the editing, and cinematography were done by men. This reminded me of that image of Taylor Swift standing on stage claiming to be a feminist while surrounded by her team of men. Aren’t there any female editors and cinematographers out there? Why aren’t they getting jobs on feminist projects? Why are their jobs going to men? Can film claim feminism when it misses the mark on so many levels? Maybe we should be thankful that at least films written and directed by women are getting out there. But maybe we should keep hoping for the day when women are shown as more than mothers and wives; as more than white, cisgendered, heterosexual people.
Contrary to what this column may have come across, I did enjoy XX. The stories were weird and creepy, and The Box and The Birthday Party were particularly original. It’s worth a watch. I just don’t agree with it being a feminist film; they could have done so much more.