The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Do cult movies deserve our feministic rage?

with 22 comments

“Cult film is the film world’s equivalence to a man cave. A place where you still in the year of 2012 can withdraw from the world, filling your walls with boob calendars, polishing your samurai sword and saying “negro” without having a bad conscience. A little sanctuary, far away from all political correctness which forces you to in broad daylight defend your values. Or values is perhaps to say a little bit too much… to defend the right not to have any. Because this is kind of just for fun. A breeze.”

This is the beginning of a blog post, roughly titled “Cult – an excuse for all sorts of outdated dung”, which I came across earlier this week.

It’s written by Wanda Bendjelloul, a Swedish journalist who presents herself as a film maker and cinephile. Recently she got some media attention thanks to her ongoing project which she calls a “feminist film lent”, which means that she during a limited time ony watches movies directed by women.

I won’t translate the entire post for you, but I think the Google translation is good enough to give a fair picture of the content. Basically Wanda Bendjelloul claims that it’s just men who care for genre movies. She says that those movies are rotten at the core, and that the charm we may see of them just is deceiving us.

And finally, in a baffling manoeuvre she argues that the geeks who are into those subgenres in fact are acting as oppressors. You see, people like her come out as if they don’t have any sense of humour, and that’s the geek’s fault.

This post rubbed me so much the wrong way that I need to rant a bit about it. So let’s go.

Attacking the wrong thing
I think it’s safe to say that I’m as much of a feminist as anyone these days. People who’ve spent some time at this blog can testify that I bring up gender related issues on a regular basis. But this doesn’t prevent me from seeing that extreme low budget movies in the sci-fi/horror/adult genre can get a small but devoted following. There are different sorts of bad movies. Some movies are bad in a dull way. But some movies are bad in a charming way. While they may not work as intended, being neither frightening, nor sexy, they can still give a few giggles to women as well as to men.

I’m the first one to say that we have a long way to go before we reach equality between the genders on a global level. We need to fight for women’s rights to decide over their own bodies and their own lives, to be given the same opportunities as men are given.

And if we’re more specifically talking about the world of movies, I think we need to speak up about the tired stereotyping in block busters and TV series. We need to fight body ideals that are dangerous for women’s health. And we also need to make an effort to discover and talk about the female directors there are, since they sadly enough not always are given the same attention as their male equivalences.

So yes, I think we can agree on that a lot could be cone to improve the world of movies from an equality perspective. But I don’t think attacking and belittling and demonising geeks is the right way to go. Not even if they dwell in man caves.

The case Fädbodjäntan
As one of her examples of detestable movies, Bendjelloul mentions the Swedish erotic film Fädbodjäntan (reviewed by Bondo at The Movie Review Warehouse a while ago). This movie is of course badly played and plain boring after a while, but I also remember that it gave me a few good laughs when I watched it over 25 years ago. (Just for the protocol: I don’t usually watch porn, but since my husband had spent his childhood in the same summer house as the movie had been shot in, it was a fun thing to watch.) I can’t see it as anything but a bit silly and laughable and very time typical. And I honestly fail to see what there is to be upset about.

I’m sure there are films that have been labelled “cult” that are truly abhorrent. But they should be criticized individually. It’s unfair to assume that everything that is declared to be a “cult movie” to automatically be racist and sexist.

There are women as well as men who can find enjoyment in watching Creature from the Black Lagoon. Being a feminist doesn’t stand in opposition to being a geek. We’re fighting the fights that we think are important. And then we can have a laugh at a corny movie from the 50s, without taking it too seriously.

All the blog post achieves is to make bad PR for feminism. She seems to rule out that women can be into cult movies. And thinking of it – isn’t that as much of stereotyping as anything? She makes feminists appear as if we’re on a mission to fill the world with Political Correctness, not stopping until the last man cave has been shut down.

It makes me embarrassed and frustrated. Please. Leave em’ geeks alone. There are more urgent things to deal with.

On a final note: I’m the proud owner of a Samurai sword. I had it special made for myself and imported it from Japan. And yes, I polish it.

Written by Jessica

March 30, 2012 at 4:42 pm

22 Responses

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  1. Hmm, I’m rather disappointed she didn’t actually make an argument about why Fadbdjantan is to be included among the mancave movies. I guess that goes to the point that she’s willing to dismiss the whole concept of b-movies/genre movies without considering the individual films. My review commends that film specifically for its take on gender matters and I dare say it is an anti-patriarchal film that feminists should embrace. So if she disagrees with this I would have loved to hear her argument. Unfortunately she makes basically no argument, just a baseless, generalized claim. I think there is a good argument to be made that many, even most of this sort of film does rely on really problematic treatment of women, the “female shaped gore containers” issue, but that’s an argument for better genre films, not no genre films.

    Bondo

    March 30, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    • You’re definitely the one of us who has watched Fädbjojäntan most recently, so I rely on our judgement in this. The generalization is really unhelpful. And again: I think it’s more problematic with how women are pictured in the box office successes than in a ridiculous 40 year old B-movie that oone takes seriously.

      Jessica

      March 31, 2012 at 10:37 am

  2. Interesting stuff! I have real difficulties teaching feminist film theory to students and they always tsay things like ‘feminists will always have something to complain about’ and ‘isn’t feminism just sexism for women?’ I guess I’m not getting to them.

    I look at a film like Machete or Hobo with a Shotgun and the sexism is really digusting. It’s depressing. Totally with you on tired stereotyping though. Tired being the perfect word. It’s just boring. Move on Hollywood.

    Pete

    March 30, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    • Women (girls?) are represented as nothing more but prizes in these two movies so yes, it’s sexism. However, the men in these movies are stereotyped as much as women. Take Machete, he’s one huge block of testosterone: all muscles and no brains. Surely, we wouldn’t want him as an example to our children.

      carrandas

      March 31, 2012 at 12:41 am

  3. Read the post you refered to and all I can say to Wanda is: Get a life.
    Suddenly i felt a great urge to watch Ilsa – she wolf of the SS 😉

    filmitch

    March 30, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    • It has its fun moments but don’t expect much. Looking it up on imdb I’m reminded that there are a ton of similar nazi-exploitation flicks. The Gestapo’s Last Orgy poster proudly exclaims “banned in the UK”. That should draw in an audience.

      carrandas

      March 31, 2012 at 12:31 am

    • She’s written a lot of good and relevant posts on her blog though. A couple bothers me. This one. And one about Woody Allen.

      Jessica

      March 31, 2012 at 10:39 am

  4. Ah, she covers Ilsa, she-wolf of the SS, that movie left an imprint in my mind. I can see why women would not enjoy these kind of torture flicks, they’re pretty male oriented.

    Cult movies are however simply movies that have a wide following outside the mainstream. And I’m glad they exist, imagine a world where only blockbusters for the average movie-goer get made. No Donnie Darko, Cube, Pi, Welcome to the Dollhouse or Dazed and Confused[*]. I’m glad to be called a cult fan.

    [*]http://www.nerve.com/movies/the-fifty-greatest-cult-movies-of-all-time

    carrandas

    March 31, 2012 at 12:26 am

    • Exactly my view. I would hate to see them go away. I want the world of cinema to be wild and sprawling and I want it to include some weird corners, be it incomprehensible extreme arthouse experimental movies or silly cult movies like the ones mentioned here. Multitude ftw!

      Jessica

      March 31, 2012 at 10:41 am

  5. speaking as a lover of bad and/or cult movies, my appreciation for these has nothing to do with any kind of sexual politics. I just like cheesy movies.

    Dave Enkosky

    March 31, 2012 at 3:14 am

    • Yeah, I think they’re basically pretty harmless. And occasionally funny.

      Jessica

      March 31, 2012 at 10:34 am

  6. Well said! While Wanda definitely has a point in her crusade generally, she mostly misses the mark on the cult film discussion. Primarily because she makes the mistake of “dragging the all over the same comb”. I don’t think I’m the typical nerd but still find great humor in these kinds of films. I mean, come on! Bashing Fädbodjäntan?! Critisising an almost 35 year old cheap pornomovie? There must be bigger challanges to modern day feminism than that…

    Sofia

    March 31, 2012 at 10:10 am

    • Yes, that’s my point too. I stil think women made by women need to be highlighted more and she’d doing a great thing taking action to do so. The attack on cult movies is just unncecessary and offputting.

      Jessica

      March 31, 2012 at 10:33 am

  7. I’ll point my feminist rage where-ever I please!

    In seriousness, it does seem to be a bit of a low blow to attack cult films, many of which exist in such a fantastical and silly world that a lot of what literally happens and is being show cannot be taken all that seriously. Part of the campy-ness of a good cult film is that what it literally shows might be a form of mockery, like a women being so distressed and helpless that it becomes a joke.

    I think this is even more the case when we have much more popular, mainstream films coming out that have much more explicit and negative images of women than most cult films. X-Men: First Class comes to mind as the big film that objectifies and dis-empowers women by sexualizing them at every turn, even as it puts on a veneer of empowering these women through their fantastical abilities. To me, that’s far more of a negative image than a damsel in distress in a bad horror flick.

    James Blake Ewing

    April 1, 2012 at 5:19 am

    • I can only nod in agreement. i actually brought it up how strange it was to see the Bond-style sexy-girl thing in a movie made now in my review of X-Men: First Class. I didn’t see many others bringing it up though.

      I think the blockbusters are far more relevant to discuss than some charming, silly old cult movie that we just laugh at.

      Jessica

      April 2, 2012 at 12:34 pm

  8. Pro-feminism, pro-geek. The 21st century theme.

    Steve Kimes

    April 1, 2012 at 10:21 pm

  9. Oh god what a load os tosh!!

    Not your article Jessica, the other one…

    I am not pro-sexism or anything, in fact i do believe that women are still getting a bit of the short straw everywhere, but it is just on the down low. But attacking something like cult movies is ridiculous.

    Why can’t we all just get along?

    • Well I think we do usually get along pretty well among film buffs. Feminists that embrace cult movies for their entertainment value aren’t unheard of. There ARE things that need to be brought up in the film business in regards of lack of equality. But B-movies from back in the days are very low on the list. I don’t think you’ll change the world by attacking those who like them.

      Jessica

      April 2, 2012 at 12:32 pm

  10. Totally agree, you can’t blame films for the state of the world, and you can’t classify someone by the type of movies they enjoy. But on the same note, I don’t think you can take too much offense with what a journalist writes, because sometimes I think they do these ridiculous articles just to stir things up.

    Bonjour Tristesse

    April 4, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    • I’m not particularly offended tbh. I just think she makes feminism a disservice with this kind of posts. She’s basically on a mission for a good cause but this was just off the target.

      Jessica

      April 5, 2012 at 9:44 am

  11. […] to shut up and just enjoy the film. Do they really have to make an issue about everything? Can’t they at least leave the cult movies alone? Don’t they have ANY humour at all? (Please notice that on those occasions I suddenly exclude […]


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