Friday, March 8, 2013
I’m writing my director’s statement for my new film on International Women’s Day in the year 2013. President Obama just re-signed into law the Violence Against Women Act. It seems odd to me that in the 21st century we need a law to remind us that violence is wrong. Regardless, I am glad that this law exists in my country. As an American woman, I continue to enjoy legal protections and freedoms that don't exist in other parts of the world. And yet, my new film, The Spinster – a horror film – is violent. I know the adage – that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. But taking revenge upon men is not the reason I decided to make a horror film about a woman with a dark side. When I first started telling people about the film, there was some immediate backlash regarding the title. Some women said that, based on the title, they already knew they would hate it. They wondered why a woman director would want to make a film that might portray women in a negative light. When I asked my long-time friend to play Phoebe, the lead character in the film, and then told her the title, she was apprehensive. Why would any woman at our age, especially a single woman, want to be associated with a term that Webster defines as “an unmarried woman past the common age for marrying”? Why? Because all the unmarried women in my life defy the insinuation that they are somehow lacking. Today, a woman's worth isn’t tethered to her age or to her marital status. You don’t need me to tell you that unmarried women are smart, ambitious, healthy and outgoing. We seek deep meaning in our lives. We refuse to be taken for a ride. We set high goals for ourselves. We won’t settle for less than what we know we deserve. So the old implications no longer hold water. It’s time to give the spinster a fresh new look. I wish I could say that I decided to make this film as a feminist statement – that as a woman director, I wanted to provide more complex portrayals of women in film, especially in horror films, in which women are usually the victim. But that’s not really the truth. To be honest, I wanted to make The Spinster because I thought it would be a fun film to make, plain and simple. Since I was a girl, I’ve always liked horror films, and in my 20s I was a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The horror genre has always appealed to me, especially as a filmmaker, because it is intensely dramatic and imaginative. It’s a genre that pushes metaphor to the extreme. Your lover sucks your blood and all the life out of you. The dead burst from their graves and walk again. That shadow behind you could be your maker. Fear of the dark leads to your untimely death. As humans, we cycle through extreme emotions that take us to dark places. I often let my imagination deal with my dark moods. That I am a woman and a filmmaker is what lead me to write The Spinster. My female perspective inspired a screenplay that flips the horror genre on its head. In this film, The Spinster is no victim. She is strong. She is athletic. She is capable. She is independent. She is fun and funny. She is fierce. She is at once the protagonist and the antagonist. You love her and you fear her. She is single, and she rides a bike, hence the title. In this film, being unmarried and riding a bicycle are normal lifestyle choices for smart, urban women, just as they are normal lifestyle choices for real women in real life. Ultimately, The Spinster is a fantasy, as all horror films are. As the filmmaker, my hope is not to make you fear women or cyclists. My hope, simply, is that you enjoy Phoebe’s wild ride to the dark side. Oh yeah, and if you’re a dude, you’d better get your butt on a bike.