A couple of weeks ago I began writing a new script called “One Dead Girl!” about a woman, who was murdered in cold blood, gets resurrected for one night to avenge her death or be cursed to an eternity as the undead. Some of you may have heard me mention it before describing it simply as a lesbian-zombie exploitation film because exploitation films tend to thrive on shock-value words. Exploitation also runs the high risk of offending people of all walks of life and one could argue that it’s kind of the point. However, as I spend my evenings writing the script and every waking hour thinking about it, I’m noticing the heavy topics of feminism, violence, nudity, and homosexuality in film start to rise to the surface with as silly and far-fetched a plot as this, and why I’m choosing to tackle these topics as a genre film rather than a serious take.
I believe that successfully telling a story boils down to fifty percent what you say (themes, motifs, subtext, etc.) and fifty percent how you say it (genre, medium, voice, etc.). Additionally, I believe it should also entertain, especially when you have a message to get across or deal with heavy-handed topics. For example, I am a huge supporter of feminism and believe, in the case of film, that there should be more diversity in the way women are portrayed. I think by now we’re all tired of the passive woman who’s sole motivator is a man and will drop anything promising/interesting in her life to be with him at the end. It’s done in countless movies and I find it particularly annoying in action film. Not to say I’m anti-love or anything; there have been some great love stories out there. But you would rarely see it with the genders swapped. Usually the hero is out saving the world and doing it for a nobler cause than to win a woman’s affection. That’s usually a plus when it’s a male-centric film. Rarely, if ever, do you see that in a female-centric film. I digress, but this is something I have noticed in films in a post-feminist movement age. I’m not the first one to undertake these themes and integrate them into a film. John Carpenter’s Halloween, Ridley Scott’s Alien, and James Cameron’s The Terminator dealt with this topic over thirty years ago when women’s rights were still in their infancy. Each of those films boasted bad-ass female main characters that broke the mold from the helpless damsel in distress and their motivations were never based around a man (though they were often in conflict with men). In fact, I’m glad to see this carry over to the modern age with shows like one of my personal favorites: Avatar: The Last Airbender. There we see kick ass girls on the same level (and in some cases stronger) than the men they fought with and along side with. While there were romantic subplots, they were just that and rarely took center stage. There are more examples, particularly in the last 30 or so years, which is a good thing and something I hope continues.
All these above examples portrayed a strong element of feminism that otherwise is either subverted or totally non-existent in mainstream films and television series. These are considered classics or, at the very least, are strong contenders to become regarded as such. Other than how they deal with feminism, all these have one other thing in common; they’re all genre films/TV shows. Horror, sci-fi, animation, and fantasy. And these are probably the most recent examples. One could argue Russ Meyer (Motorpsycho, Faster Pussycat Kill Kill!) had been making feminist films in the early to mid Sixties when the feminist movement was only just gaining popularity. One could also argue that genre and exploitation films portraying feminism in a good light, have done more for that movement than any protest in much the same way blaxploitation pushed for blacks to be taken seriously in mainstream media. Queer cinema is currently going down the same path and breaking stereotypes that have been a staple in Hollywood. I’ll end up talking more about that in a later post, though.
Speaking of Hollywood, it is well known that most of the films they make, they cater to teenage boys. This is definitely not new and with genre/exploitation films it’s probably more so. Now, I’m against making movies specifically targeting one demographic as a whole industry, but perhaps there inlies the key to possibly exposing these impressionable teenage boys to such topics as feminism and even queer cinema. Wrapping these topics in the guise of a genre/exploitation film helps make it easier to digest and has a higher chance for opening a dialogue opposed to a heavy-handed documentary shoving facts in your face. Make the message entertaining and people will enjoy it.
Anyway, random thoughts while writing. I’m probably gonna do some more of these as I go deeper into this script and discuss some other possibly controversial tropes that will make their way into “One Dead Girl!”
I’d love for any of you to be a part of the process here and am far from opposed to opening up a dialogue with anyone who wishes to.
Ok, enough stalling. I can’t help but procrastinate. I’m going back to the script.