The Stereoscopic Eye

Inessential views of art and photography.

How to smash the patriarchy this Halloween: Crimson Peak.

Like many of you, we have been preparing for the spookiest night of the year for the last couple of weeks. Apart from putting costumes together and decorating the house, we watch horror movies and the anticipation continues just growing. We like films that make you jump a little and linger in your mind. Although I am easily scared, I just love that feeling of uncertainty and the ability of horror movies to stay with you (with me at least!) for a while (if it is about ghosts, they do stay with me to a couple of weeks!). But often I am overwhelmed by a feeling of absolute frustration and anger rather than by fear after watching a scary movie. Why? Well, because they are one of the genres where patriarchy is very well alive. So, we thought Jeanette Andromeda from horror made would be the perfect guest blogger to tackle this issue. She is here to talk about how some new stories manage to combine both: the best of horror with a progressive understanding of gender.

Jeanette herself is a strong female lead: she is in command of writing – and drawing – her own story.

Lately, as I’ve been ravenously devouring horror movies, I’ve been noticing a trend that is slowly taking hold of the genre.
Strong, charismatic female leads.
It’s been interesting seeing the horror film industry really stretching out into telling classic horror stories where the traditional male lead is being replaced by a female character.
There have been many films pushing this envelope, such as the Babadok and It Follows,  but the one that really brought this thought to my mind was Crimson Peak.
Poster for Crimson Peak

Poster for Crimson Peak

The story in Crimson Peak plays out very much like classic Gothic literature. It has all of the traditional Gothic elements:
  • Gloomy, decaying setting
  • Supernatural beings
  • Curses or Prophecies
  • Damsels in distress
  • Heroes
  • Romance
  • Intense Emotions
What it does, however, is shift the expectations of the audience when it comes to who the heroes and the damsels in distress are. In this case, It’s Edith Cushing (Played by Mia Wasowska) , our leading lady, who ends up in both roles at different points throughout the film.
From the get-go she is introduced as a person with her own mind who goes against the conventional norms for a woman of her station. She writes fiction (gasp!). And it’s not only fiction, but it’s Horror Fiction (extra gasps). You can tell almost immediately how different she is from the rest of her peers based on what an outcast she is from the social group. An ostracized emotionally naive girl, with the biggest of dreams.
Before she meets the mysterious Thomas Sharpe (played by Tom Hiddleston)  we are introduced to the man who would traditionally fill the role of the “Hero” in this style of Gothic story. Dr. Alan McMicheal (played by Charlie Hunnam). He is an educated, inquisitive, and honorable young man who asks all the right questions and follows all of the clues while Ms. Cushing is swiftly and helplessly swept off her feet by her emotions.
Elements of Gothic Horror. Info-graphic by Jeanette Andromeda

Elements of Gothic Horror. Info-graphic by Jeanette Andromeda

After she arrives in England at the Sharpe estate she realizes the error of her ways but has to play the part of the “damsel in distress” until the story twists you in a new direction near the end.
She becomes her own hero, and even ends up saving Dr. Alan McMicheal instead of the other way around. Her character grew and matured emotionally on screen and by the time the classic Gothic climax occurred she has slipped into the “Hero role”.
Crimson Peak flipped the traditional gender roles in a way that I entirely enjoyed, and I hope to see even more of this smashing of sterotypes in more films to come.
What is one of your favorite films with a strong female lead?

Author: Jeanette Andromeda
Jeanette blogs about horror as it is expressed through art, films, and books over on She also visits and chats about the world of Horror on her YouTube Channel, Haunting TV. If you’d like to chat with her you can find her on twitter: @horror_made or Facebook.

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This entry was posted on October 31, 2015 by in Feminism, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , .

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