Maybe I Like My Edge Thanks: On Being A Female Monster Kid
I like to affectionately refer to myself as a monster kid. I have been fascinated with monsters as far back as my first memories, probably because my first memories were horrible traumatic events. My actual first memory was the taste of blood in my mouth. I grew up in a horribly abusive home life, so I was surrounded by real life monsters walking around in human skins. I learned fear before I ever learned what love was.
It is just a fact of my existence. I don't claim all monster kids came to be such through the same means as I did. I just came to it the hard way you might say.
I have embraced my dark curiosities over time, and realized I am not alone. That there is a whole group of people out there, horror fans, monster lovers, and shadow chasers who love the same things I do. Everyone had different reasons for being there, but we were hiding in the dark corners together. When we looked around, there were many eyes looking back at us that understood.
I have loved all kinds of monsters and favored different kinds depending where I was in life, but I have to say, the one I kept coming back to over and over was the werewolf. I had a love affair with vampires during puberty, had a zombie period in my early 20's, and off and on keep having a fling with the Frankenstein's monster because I just adore his tragic story. But werewolves have always been my first love, and the one I relate to personally the most. A lot of monster kids have a favorite monster they feel personally touched their lives, and for me, it was werewolves. The struggle with being trapped between the worlds of beast and beauty makes sense to me. I grew up a very aggressive girl, who was too much of a fighter for her own good. Somewhere during puberty I snapped, and let a torrent of rage out on my abusers, then out into the world when I ran away from home. It took me years before I calmed down and tried to revert to human form again. I was pretty much like a werewolf in the throws of the full moon. I will never forget what that felt like, to be full of wild passion that felt like it was literally ripping my body and soul apart.
Sadly, there are not a lot of female werewolf stories to use as references, especially on film. While I watched every werewolf film I could get my hands on, I longed for more female beast ladies. Cat People was not enough for me, as I was not able to relate to cats. When I change, I am more furious and messy. I find cats are more graceful killers, and even though Cat People is a good movie, it lacked the viciousness wolves have. Cat People (both movies) tend to portray the shifter as sexy in a way I just wasn't able to relate to. It seemed too stereotypical. Some women are the sultry kind of sexy, but I am more like Ginger in Ginger Snaps when she shoves her fist into the janitor, “It feels so... good, Brigitte. It's like touching yourself. You know every move... right on the fucking dot. And after, you see fucking fireworks. Supernovas. I'm a goddamn force of nature. I feel like I could do just about anything.”
That is a kind of sexy I can sink my teeth into.
It took me a lot of digging to find out where the first female werewolf is shown on screen, and I was happy when I found the black and white classic Cry of the Werewolf (1944). Like a lot of werewolf films of the time, Cry of the Wolf is pretty hammy. But there is a certain charm to the black and white films of that time period that makes the silliness of it wonderful to watch.
But if you were to ask me what my favorite representation of the female werewolf is on film I would have to tell you it is Ginger Snaps (2000). I was finally given a werewolf story that understood me as a female monster kid. This film captured everything I needed to see on screen. From the horrors of becoming a woman, (and to me, having my period is a horrific experience. I call it my monstrous moontime for a reason) to the transformations Ginger goes through when she changes into a wolf, from the strange and wonderful relationship the two sisters have together. I love how they were just weird, creepy girls who stood out from the crowd and got picked on for being so. How they were fascinated with horror, like I am, and just wanted to be allowed to be so. Their school project made me laugh and clap because I DID shit like that as a kid. I made art projects that disgusted my teachers, who treated me like I was broken in the head when really I was just expressing myself. These girls were just weirdos. PERIOD. Their mother was a bit smothering and their father didn't care enough, but despite that they would still be weird just because they honestly are. No matter what society might say, some of us ladies drawn to the monsters are actually drawn to them because we like monsters! The reason we love it doesn't really matter. The horror of everyday life just becomes more manageable when we have an outlet to express the darkness we see.
Ginger Snaps also put words to horrors that are very feminine, without excuses. I love Ginger telling B off in the drug store, “Just so you know... the words "just" and "cramps," they don't go together...” It made me howl out loud! Because I am one of those percentage of women who do have horrible things happen to her body during her moontime. “Just” and “cramps” don't cover it for me. I am sometimes literally crippled in pain because I get cysts and other nastiness that goes on in my body. And as women, we are taught to not talk about these things. Some of us are trained to suffer in silence. And here was a horror movie that both lovingly poked fun at that kind of shit and also said, “Hey, this happens. Deal with it.”
I enjoy body horror that relates to the female body. I NEED body horror that does. Because like a lot of horror fans, we watch horror to face things that we might fear, or are disgusted by, or that just fascinate us. And lots of horrific things happen to women all the time. I need films about monster babies tearing themselves out of women, or vagina dentatas, or the horror of mensuration. Because damn it, those are MY fears. Being a women is fucking scary sometimes.
And this is why I love Ginger Snaps. Not only did I get a movie that dealt with the horrors of being a werewolf and that feral passion they possess, but it was a WOMAN viscerally dealing with it. With two female leads coping with the change, trying to stay sisters throughout the film. Right down to the bitter, bloody end. The makers of this film knew the tropes they are playing with. They knew the statements they are trying to make. They even point out the flaws a lot of horror movies play into when women are used in films. Ginger herself says, “A girl can only be a slut, a bitch, a tease, or the virgin next door.”
Well Ginger and Bridgette are more than these flimsy tropes.
We need movies like this. Movies that deal with the horror and beauty of female monsters. That show the struggles we endure when our monsters are exposed to the light. I want to see more movies like Ginger Snaps made, even if I have to find a way to make one myself. This is partly why I wrote Red Handed, and why I hope to get it off the ground. I wanted to bring the werewolf back, and put my own spin on it.
I'm a werewolf monster kid, and I am proud of my changes. Even the ugly ones.