Black Christmas (1974) is an arguably accidental feminist film that features a pro-choice protagonist. Black Christmas (2019) is intentionally feminist and features a protagonist dealing with updated misogyny. Gabe unpack these good bad girls and if the films did these themes justice. Kat shares resources and information about safe abortions in the light of a doomed Roe V. Wade.
Sources in this Episode: Jess's Choice: How 'Black Christmas' (1974) Responsibly Addresses Abortion And Bodily Autonomy Slay, Girls: The Sliding Scale of Feminism in the Black Christmas Films Lined Lips, Spiked Bats: When You're a Woman It's Always Political National Network of Abortion Funds Resources for Abortion Access: https://abortionfunds.org/
View our curated list here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vRNe6HfpeYKvn5pKPsd0UxfLNlPjGCFXZlZi2vyPTdSTD9GI-CQqGi6XMN_qzxHD4yNP5UBKp0vmGCt/pub
Media from this week's episode:
Black Christmas (1974)
During their Christmas break, a group of sorority girls are stalked by a stranger.
Director: Bob Clark
Black Christmas (2019)
A group of female students is stalked by a stranger during their Christmas break. That is until the young sorority pledges discover that the killer is part of an underground college conspiracy.
Director: Sophia Takal
Those Good Bad Girls in Black Christmas
by Gabe Castro
RED: Quotes, someone else's words.
The original Black Christmas follows a group of sorority girls as they are slowly picked off by an unknown killer in the darkness. The girls have been harassed by a creepy male caller dubbed the Moaner. He calls and says horrifying and uncomfortable things about the girls or women in general. They don’t bother telling the police because what help are they anyway? As girls go missing and the others worry they eventually seek out help from the authorities but they are dismissed. It’s winter break, the girls are probably off with some boyfriend. It’s not until another man expresses concern, a girl’s father, that the police believe something is amiss.
Black Christmas (1974) is an original slasher. Before Halloween and the horror subgenre’s popularity, there was Black Christmas. It features creative POV shots for which Halloween is often praised for. The death scenes are long and suffocating. The final girl is human, vulnerable but steadfast. It’s also one of the first “the call is coming from inside the house” tropes. What makes Black Christmas quite interesting however is its incredibly feminist undertones. I say under because it seems from interviews with director Bob Clark that it wasn’t his original intent. It just comes with the territory when writing about vulnerable women. Women that are at the mercy of patriarchal power and are in direct opposition to society’s expectations of proper women.
Our final girl, Jess is pregnant and she doesn’t want to be. It’s quite an amazing situation for a horror movie in the 1970s. She tells her boyfriend, Peter, that she wants an abortion. She does not sugarcoat it, no use of euphemisms. She wants an abortion. Released only a year after the ruling of Roe V. Wade, the presence of a final girl who steadfastly seeks an abortion in a horror film is transformative. Whether it was Clark’s intention or not, it certainly becomes that here. Jess is our protagonist and we never see her in a villainous light. Rather, we see her rage-fueled boyfriend, Peter, as the monster. He is destructive (destroying a piano) and is even believed to be the killer. While Jess is continually compassionate, seeking answers and fighting against the oppressive systems that seek to invalidate her and her fellow sisters’ experiences.
In an article on Dread Central titled, Jess's Choice: How 'Black Christmas' (1974) Responsibly Addresses Abortion And Bodily Autonomy, writer Mary Beth McAndrews further describes the important subtext of having a final girl like Jess and a villain like Peter. “Before he can get too excited, she quickly says ‘I’m getting an abortion’…She is merely telling Peter that she has made the decision. Yet, in this moment of establishing her bodily autonomy, Peter becomes livid, making the situation about him. Peter asks Jess, “Don’t you ever consider anyone but yourself?” He adopts manipulative and abusive language to weaponize Jess’s own decisions against her. Then he asks, “how could you do this to me today?” centering Jess’ experience on himself. He doesn’t care about Jess, but about how this affects him and his own personal goals. These questions snarled through his curled lips drip with cruelty and accusations, telling Jess she isn’t allowed to, or capable of, making this choice. To Peter, Jess’s body is his, especially since it’s bearing his seed.”
McAndrews goes on to explain that Jess doesn’t even have a big reason for not wanting to have the child. She is in a somewhat stable relationship, at a good place in her life, and fully capable of taking care of a child. She simply doesn’t want one right now. And that, in Peter’s eyes, makes her a pure villain. McAndrews says, “Even more, her abortion doesn’t define her. Jess isn’t just a character undergoing the procedure whose every action and motivation revolves around pregnancy. Instead, she is the final girl, a survivor, and a fighter not just against Peter but against all the men that refuse to listen to her, including the police.”
Those Good Bad Girls:
The true killer (which honestly should’ve just been Peter), is a stranger in the attic. A man who is superimposing his traumas onto the women in the house. He speaks of a mother. Of getting rid of a baby. Of abuse and torment. And he acts out these delusions onto the women of the house and the town. In an article on HorrorObsessive.com titled, Slay, Girls: The Sliding Scale of Feminism in the Black Christmas Films by Robin Moon they explain, “the killer is a psychosexual villain who targets solely women and girls, addressing them over the phone in an inherently sexual and creepy manner. He hides from women, luring and attacking them only when he knows they are vulnerable. After killing Clare, he sits her in a rocking chair and places a baby doll in her lap. His actions reflect an inferiority to and infantilization of women, enjoying control over their bodies after he has killed them. These are all signs of misogyny-fuelled murder.”
This brings me to another eleme