How the Babadook is a feminist icon

As part of Genesis’ Directed By Women series, myself and a less than eager friend went to see The Babadook. ‘It’s not that scary, I promise,’ quickly turned into ‘I’m so sorry I forgot about that part please don’t leave me here alone.’ Nevertheless, armed with snacks and calmed with cocktails, we were ready to be baba-SPOOKED.


I first saw The Babadook almost two years ago, back in freshers week, and remembered it being satisfyingly scary and one of the best horror films I’d ever seen. I don’t know why I was surprised when I found out it was directed by a woman. In fact, Jennifer Kent both wrote and directed the movie. I was curious to see how my perception of the film would be different knowing it was created by a woman, if at all.


Elements of the film became more noticeable, such as how three dimensional the lead character was. Amelia, the single mother of troubled six year old Samuel, was so much more than ‘just’ a mother. Her character was thoroughly fleshed out, and gave insights into her life that perhaps only another woman could provide. Even the mother-son relationship was complex; sharing similarities with the relationship in We Need to Talk About Kevin, it was far from ideal. Amelia was not the perfect, warm mother often depicted in films.


The mother as the monster was an interesting take on the theme of possession. It was jarring watching the juxtaposition of the figure of a mother, somebody who should represent safety and love, as the enemy. It was incredibly refreshing, actually, to see a typical women’s role turned on its head. It demonstrated that a mother character doesn’t have to be cliche, that female characters can be (and should be) complex.


A more subtle element of the film that I noticed is how poetic the writing is. There were a couple of lines that could stand alone as six word stories, such as ‘There is someone in the house,’ and ‘I think it’s going to rain.’ These might not seem to be important lines, but they stood out as more nuanced than your average horror film. I’m not sure why this made a difference to me but, coupled with the films moody aesthetic, the film really is quite gorgeous.


Watching before and after knowing it was directed by a woman definitely had different effects on me. It’s not just another scary film, anymore. Maybe I went into the cinema paying more attention than I would have usually, but I appreciated so much more this time around. I came out of the cinema feeling more inspired than I have in a while. It made me excited to write, to take more pictures, even to experiment with film. I’m not sure it’s because it’s just a great film, or if it’s because it was directed by a woman, but the latter might have something to do with it.


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