by Madeline Iva
There’s nothing like a good feminist horror movie to get you in the mood for Halloween. And such is our society that for the first thirty minutes of Julie Ducournau’s feminist allegorical film RAW, she doesn’t even have to go out of her way to create horror–she just turns the camera on all the normal, yet utter bullls**t young women typically go through in the world, simply by virtue of being young women.
A young woman named Justine (get it? JUSTine?) leaves her vegetarian parents to go off to medical college and become a vet. She goes through an initiation everyone must go through, in which she’s covered in blood and made to eat raw meat (she’s a vegetarian too.) But the initiation goes on for weeks–that’s just the beginning of it all.
La-la-la! You know, for the first half hour she goes through horrible stuff. The whole point of these initiation rituals is a kind of semi-compulsive, semi-voluntarily trial of humiliation and degradation. Justine tries to get through it all while she’s being pushed and pummeled on all sides (literally, at one point, when she’s at a party.)
As we move through this set up the first scene of actual horror comes. She’s been accused of cheating because she and another student (who is also her roommate) have the same answers on a test. Clearly he copied from her, but the professor wants her to confess SHE cheated because she’s a smarty-pants know it all, and it’s clear that this man just enjoys bashing bright, young women. Afterwards, there’s a scene that’s analogous to purging. But make no mistake–this is not a film about eating disorders. It’s allegorical. It’s about the f**ked-upness of our world. First of all it’s not food she’s purging. (No spoilers here!) Second of all, when Justine emerges from the toilet cubical having purged, the response of another young woman at the sink is this: “It’s easier if you stick two fingers down your throat.” Thus invoking a kind of sisterhood of eating disorders! Yes, that’s messed up—and THAT’s what the entire film is like. The horror of how twisted real life is with the volume dial turned up a little higher and then a little higher still.
The next special moment of horror in the film devoted to Brazilian waxing.
Let me pause here: imagine a movie in which women are tortured by having patches of hair ripped from the most private part of their body–and somewhat to the detriment of our own health (we’re talking micro tears of the va-jay-jay that lead to an increase in infections, etc.) —that’s a pure horror movie concept right there.
But wait! In this horror movie — the tortured women are somehow convinced to volunteer for this torture again and again. Moreover, to crank the horror up another notch–they start putting pressure on their friends and daughters to torture themselves the same way. It’s eventually revealed to the audience that the evil people who started this whole thing have actually gotten the women to pay for their own torture. The final scene answer the question of why would women ever do this to themselves in this way is that they’ve somehow they’ve been convinced in some nebulous, undefined way that men like it—men like women to be smooth down there like little pre-pubescent girls–as if all the men were pedophiles or something. (Insert scream of terror.)
I mean, — why hasn’t someone made a horror movie yet about popular grooming trends in modern life?????
Watching the film, I start to get the idea we’re witnessnessing a “pyscho-sexual” unraveling.
Like in BLACK SWAN.(Why have I never done a blog post on Black Swan?) Like in that classic French film REPULSION. (So good!)
The truth about sexual bullying in college is revealed here clear as a bell. There’s one of those variants of college heteronormative, de-virginizing activities–certainly familiar to all U.S. college students as well–where two people are basically told “You git on in there and boink or else.”
The situation with the Justine’s gay roommate/study mate is also interesting – REALLY interesting. Like there’s so much I want to say but it’d be spoilers left and right. So I won’t.
Except…He’s hot. She likes him, and at one point –
Ah! I can’t go any further…you’ll have to watch the film yourself.
I will say this:
It’s fascinating, and I also, since I’m writing this blog post as I’m watching it—I’ll confess I have no idea where it’s going.
There’s a clear indication that the movie is allegorical. It’s not about vegetarianism at all. It’s really saying something about the initiation of young women into the world. About the swift egregious violations of one’s own moral code just to get along. And then what? How can you use your own moral compass when you’ve already been compelled by social pressures to smash it?
The movie definitely points out how those who are oppressed in turn victimize and oppress others.
Yeah, it’s like that. Justine turns upon someone weaker than her –and wants to inflict damage. Not only does she want to do that–she also instinctively blames the weaker person for the violation. Towards the end of the film, Justine yells at a victim in remorse: “How come you didn’t fight back? You should have hit me!”
If I had to guess, I’d say this movie is about how societal institutions (like a competitive college for vets) bully and harass us into becoming aggressive, compulsive consumers (in this case of flesh). The only other choice in this false dichotomy, is to become a victim yourself.
What I’m saying, of course, is that the movie is brilliant. It’s on Netflix right now. Perfect Halloween date night horror movie–if you’re a twisted, feminist vegan—like me. ; >
Hey! Check out this HALLOWEEN ROMANCE page on Facebook Wednesday night, Oct 11th, the page is having an event where we’re watching PRACTICAL MAGIC at 9:30 EST. On Thursday, October 12th, I’ll be doing a take over and hosting some fun posts and giveaways.
And! Don’t forget if you live within reach of Charlottesville, VA I’m going to do a panel and book signing for the QUEENS OF THE DAMNED event at Barnes & Nobel. (See Our FB Event Page and let us know you’re going). It’s on Saturday, October 28th from noon to 3. Here’s the postcard:
Madeline Iva is the twisted sister you always wish you had. She’s also the author of the fantasy romance Wicked Apprentice. Check out her other Lady Smut posts, Join her newsletter or follow her on Facebook, twitter, and Pinterest.