I love the spooky atmosphere of Halloween, but I severely dislike the misogyny in the horror genre and the sexist and racist costumes that crop up each year around this time. Instead of a Halloween gender reader this year, I’d like to try to do a nearly-daily short (hopefully positive) post on items that other feminist Halloween-lovers can enjoy, including recommendations for horror and horror-adjacent works, writing on representation in the horror genre, and discussions of combatting sexism in Halloween.
This is a rather ambitious undertaking at the last minute, so I hope I’ll be able to keep up.
Today, I’d like to take a look at a chart from Seattle’s EMP Museum’s Can’t Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film exhibit that explains the subgenres of horror for its timeline of influential horror films:
From left to right:
What I like about this chart is that it shows the possibilities of the horror genre. Horror doesn’t have to be the “final girl,” in which people of color and sexually experienced teenagers (typically girls but also their boyfriends) are picked off. Horror doesn’t have to be in the sub-sub-genre of body horror that focuses on what Barbara Creed dubbed the “monstrous-feminine” (1993). (Pdf of the introduction here.)
Horror can be created by and focus on women, queer and nonbinary people, people of color, and people with disabilities. And that, readers, is what I’ll aim to do in this series: highlight horror that doesn’t rely on violence against or fear of marginalized groups as the site of horror. The fears presented in horror films reflect the social climate, but horror can also be transformative in the way speculative fiction can be: by putting the supernatural and extraordinary into the ordinary world, horror can call attention to social injustice instead of perpetuating it.
This series was inspired by a life-long love of the horror genre; Rod Buxton’s horror film course at DU; Projected Fears by Kendall R. Phillips (2005); the writing of Carol Clover, Laura Mulvey, and Barbara Creed; a growing dissatisfaction with the lack of episode-specific content notes on Pseudopod; and Stewart Thorndike’s revolutionary feminist horror film Lyle.