There is a unique genre of TV and film that I like to call Feral Women Media. While the most obvious example of this is Kill Bill, featuring Uma Thurman as an assassin with a vengeance, it’s only the beginning of a genre. If you looked at the reviews for films and TV shows within this category, it would likely contain plenty of men calling it “misandrist” or “teaching people to hate men.” They don’t seem to realise that we don’t need films or TV shows to teach us anything of the like, we have enough real-life experiences to guide us in the right direction.
Feral Women Media speaks to a darkness that many of us carry. It soothes the wounds of betrayals, times we were told to “just smile,” sexual encounters that don’t sit quite right, and every other moment we’ve been taught to saw off pieces of ourselves to fit the mould.
In order to properly understand the chokehold that Feral Women Media has over us, we first need to explore what this term covers.
Let’s first consider the perfect girl’s movie night pick: Gone Girl. Also known as ‘Rosamund Pike pulls a disappearing act to pin the blame on her cheating husband’. I mean, can we really blame her? Gone Girl is a staple in so many of our hearts. We don’t just see a crazy, spiteful woman, we see someone driven to extremes by her attempts to be the “cool girl” he so badly wanted. Haven’t we all tried to shape ourselves into a “cool girl?” Pretended not to be jealous? Acted as if we don’t mind him replying to our message four days later?
This violent approach is something we don’t see often enough in films geared towards women, to the extent that it can initially feel quite shocking. I experienced this most recently when watching Bottoms, which depicts a group of teenage girls starting their own fight club, and ends in a massive takedown of an entire football team. It was absolutely vicious, and I found myself tentatively thriving on the absurd violence of it all. This is the female form of action movies, it’s everything we were taught not to love and yet deeply desire.
But Feral Women Media doesn’t need to have brutal violence to fit in this genre. As women, we’ve so often been geared away from violence, and taught that our problems should be resolved in much sneakier manners. We can’t express our distaste directly and must find our own solution. This is a skill taught by our mothers, that they once learned from their own. Only now, it comes with additional tools in our arsenal, such as soft launching on Instagram, retweeting thinly veiled references, and posting hot 0.5 selfies.
Enter classics like John Tucker Must Die, where a group of teenage girls unite in their differences to bring down a cheating basketball player. This film taught me how to flirt and how to actually hurt a man who has no regard for your heart.
Then we saw this in what I consider to be one of the best films of the past decade, Promising Young Woman, where Carey Mulligan seeks revenge on everyone she sees involved in her best friend’s assault and subsequent suicide. Before that, she was punishing men who took home women too drunk to consent, and showing them that feeling of powerlessness. Too many of us have woken up the next morning to regret our actions, and directed the blame inwards at our promiscuity rather than where it’s deserved: at the person who profited from our inebriation.
Recently, we’ve seen a rise in feral women in TV. The most well-known example is Yellowjackets, where a high school women’s soccer team is stranded in the Canadian wilderness and fighting to survive. I learned that the Canadian wilderness is a lot larger than I ever expected, and that women will do whatever it takes to survive, perhaps more so than our male counterparts.
In Wilderness, we saw how successfully women learn to paint a happy face, even as they scheme to punish and murder the cheating husband who humiliated them so thoroughly.
Lastly, a show that’s not getting nearly enough attention is Class of ‘07, where a high school reunion of an all-girls school is cut short by a natural disaster, leaving them stranded and battling to survive. It captures the cruelty that women can subject one another to, often easier than we do to men, and is perfectly conveyed in blunt Australian humour.
These are just a few of the many incredible examples of Feral Women Media, but I think you’ve got the gist of it by now. So why do these violent or manipulative women strike such a chord with us? I think it’s because they capture an aspect of womanhood we’ve been taught to secretly nurture and yet be ashamed of.
Isn’t this the case with so many traits of being a woman? We’re taught to care for our looks yet carry them with humility. We’re taught to care for others yet never make those efforts apparent. It’s the virgin and the Madonna, the wife and the mother, the woman and the girl.
In a time when we have been thrust decades back to fight for our rights all over again, we need these depictions of female strength more than ever. Our right to abortion is being snatched away, and with it, many women’s right to a career or future outside of childrearing. We are losing the choices we fought so hard to gain, and we need the reminder of everything we are capable of. Yes, that capability may take dark means in a woman plotting her husband’s murder or a group of teenage soccer players resorting to cannibalism.
We need to see women who won’t be quiet, who won’t sit by. We need to remember that our intelligence is a weapon as much as someone’s fists may be. These shows and movies are the equivalent of screaming into your pillow at night, except that we are all screaming in unison until we are heard.
In a time when too many female-led shows are being cancelled, and the film industry is somehow even more male and white than it was a decade ago, we need to demand more Feral Women Media.