Preview our new ebook, Beyond Empowertainment: Feminist Horror and the Struggle for Female Agency, by reading four chapters from the book: one taken from each of the four case studies (on Unsane, Personal Shopper, Thelma, and Raw).
Beyond Empowertainment: Feminist Horror and the Struggle for Female Agency spotlights a new generation of female-centred horror classics that focus on women’s psychological experience of fear. These films go beyond so-called ‘empowertainment’: stories of women rising up against their oppressors, and in so doing, becoming oppressors themselves. Instead, the feminist horror films in Beyond Empowertainment focus on the horror of the everyday: family trauma, gaslighting, partner violence, and objectification. These films each focus on a single female protagonist and the toll oppression takes on her psyche. The films in Beyond Empowertainment examine the bargains women make in order to survive, and what happens when those bargains become bad deals.
With Beyond Empowertainment, Seventh Row brings its interdisciplinary, technical approach to horror cinema. Seventh Row has previously focused on character-driven, naturalistic dramas. These films featured heightened storytelling to make subtle shifts in identities and relationships visible on-screen: a father and daughter separating in Leave No Trace; a boy’s search for home in Lean on Pete. Horror, as a genre, is a natural extension of Seventh Row’s previous work because it magnifies and externalizes our subconscious fears into forces that can Beyond Empowertainment confronted onscreen. The films in Beyond Empowertainment are horrifying because they ask uncomfortable questions of personal responsibility and complicity that most women must deal with every day.
While Beyond Empowertainment draws on a variety of films to illustrate a new wave in feminist horror, the cornerstone of this book are four case studies: Unsane (2018), Personal Shopper (2016), Thelma (2017), and Raw (2016). These case studies dive deep into the filmmaking choices that make these movies so effective. Each case study features multiple articles that consider each of these films from a variety of different perspectives — interviews with creatives, comparisons, and essay — fostering conversation about films that deserve a place in the horror canon. Most importantly, each case study explores the strong collaboration between director and lead actress that makes each film so effective at getting inside its protagonist’s head.
For horror fans, Beyond Empowertainment provides a new perspective on horror as a genre through reframing classics and incisive analysis of recent horror gems that will be influencing the genre for decades to come. For viewers new to horror, this book illustrates why film lovers should be paying attention to horror and why some feted auteurs are turning to this genre. Taken together, the films discussed in this book reveal a new focus in horror on female agency.
Beyond Empowertainment: Feminist Horror and the Struggle for Female Agency was edited by Alex Heeney, Mary Angela Rowe, and Orla Smith.
To preview what Beyond Empowertainment has to offer, check out these four chapters from the book: one piece from each of our four case studies.
Preview four chapters from the case studies in Beyond Empowertainment
Unsane gives form to society’s systemic sexism
Scott Wilson writes that Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane explores systemic sexism by comparing and pairing stalker David Strine with a corrupt medical facility.
Personal Shopper conflates depression with technological obsession
Alex Heeney writes that in Personal Shopper, the boundary between Maureen and others is both because of technology and merely exacerbated by it
Thelma is more than just a modern Carrie
Orla Smith writes that Thelma has been compared to Brian De Palma’s Carrie, but Trier gives his female lead agency whereas Carrie was simply a victim
‘It is with love that I do this’: Cannibalism and power under patriarchy
Rosie McCaffrey writes that in Raw and We Are What We Are, cannibalism is used as a metaphor to explore what it is to be a woman living under patriarchy, in both the macro and the micro
Want to read the rest of the book? Order a copy of our new ebook on feminist horror beyond empowertainment here.
Want to read the rest of the book?
This is an excerpt from the book Beyond Empowertainment: Feminist Horror and the Struggle for Female Agency.
The book contains 20+ chapters on films such as Thelma, Raw, and Perfect Blue.