Rosemary's Baby is a classic horror film with a large impact on the genre. But does it do more harm than good? This film tells the story of a world without hope or feminism. Gabe discusses how we can't separate art from the artist. Kat explains the need for intersectional feminism.
Sources in this Episode:
Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby: Patriarchy Without Feminism Is Hell
Rosemary's Baby, Reproductive Rights & Every Day Female Horrors
Roxanne Gay: Confessions of a Bad Feminist
Media from this week's episode:
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
A young couple trying for a baby moves into an aging, ornate apartment building on Central Park West, where they find themselves surrounded by peculiar neighbors.
Director: Roman Polanski (ew.)
Rosemary's Baby: A Patriarchal Hellscape by Gabe Castro
RED: Quotes, someone else's words.
Rosemary’s Baby follows Rosemary Woodhouse, a young woman who moves into a new apartment with her actor husband, Guy Woodhouse. In this apartment complex, Rosemary meets her neighbors. A nosey, rude, and loud older couple, the Castevets and a ward of theirs, Terry who befriends Rosemary before her untimely fall out a window. A supposed suicide that Rosemary doesn’t quite buy.
The Castevets bully their way into Rosemary’s life. Her actor husband, Guy has been down on his luck until a freak accident allows him to land a lead part. This inspires Guy to want to finally start a family with Rosemary. Something she has mentioned numerous times, “3 or 4 would be nice.” she purrs at Mrs. Castevet. They determine the day when Rosemary will be most fertile and mark their calendars. However, when the night arrives, Rosemary becomes intoxicated (alarmingly so) and passes out. Her night is filled with a horrific nightmare sequence where she is r*ped by a demon, perhaps the devil himself. Guy explains in the morning when Rosemary awakens to find terrible scratches on her violated body, that he had gone ahead and had sex with her despite her being unconscious. He jokes about it, saying he felt like a necrophiliac.
Rosemary becomes pregnant and is immediately ill. Not the morning sickness you’d imagine with pregnancy. Rosemary is completely devoid of that pregnant glow and instead looks near to death. She is in constant pain. And although she is suspicious of her husband and his new friends, she doesn’t advocate for her health. One of the few moments of feminine solidarity, Rosemary’s friends (otherwise absent - isolation from friends is a form of abuse, btw) urge her to see a different physician. They explain that her pain is not normal and she looks incredibly unwell. They are worried for her safety and it is clear from Guy’s behavior at this party that something isn’t right. He has been lurking around and is desperate to have his eyes and ears on Rosemary at all times, lest she reveal her struggles to someone not involved in the scheme. Rosemary responds in a panic, “I won’t get an abortion!” to which her friends politely remind her had never been mentioned.
When Rosemary is finally at the end of her rope and desperate enough to finally stand up for herself, the pain miraculously vanishes. Dr. Sapirstein was right! No need to worry. We timejump to a round and bright Rosemary, happily preparing for the arrival of her baby. As the birth becomes more imminent, things begin to further unravel. She attempts to escape but the conspiracy runs deeper than she could have imagined. Resulting in her having the baby. She is told the baby died and while (being the only one) mourning this child, she hears the cries of a child. She investigates the apartment next door and stumbles upon the cult. A black crib holding her monstrous son, Adrian. Her and Satan’s son will bring about the end of the world. But she is a mother at the end of the day, her instincts kicking in and resulting in her taking on her role happily. Thus, ushering in the end of the world.
Can’t Separate Art from the Artist
“All that you touch. You Change. All that you Change Changes you.” Octavia Butler
We’ve discussed previously on the Ghouls, in some form or another, this idea about separating an artist from their art. It has been a popular topic within “cancel culture.” Can we still love and appreciate a piece of media or art that has impacted our lives individually when the creator is a POS? Think of all the people who made Harry Potter their entire identity, what is left for them in the ashes of their beloved franchise? (It's still hella profiting and that TERF is beyond wealthy - when we say eat the rich, we mean her too).
While we can’t help or change the impact media had on us as growing people we can’t erase the thread between artist and art. When we create, we take pieces of ourselves and input that into the work. Our lived experiences, our identity, and our worldviews influence our art. As someone who works closely with creatives every day, one of the biggest lessons I teach is that who you are as a creator is just as important to the piece of media as the plot, the characters, etc.
I say all this to highlight an issue we have within this Ghoul’s series, F*ck the Patriarchy. Only two of the films we’re covering are made by women or femme folx. We chose these films for a variety of reasons. One is the subject matter but also to discuss the influences of film and how it is so much of you and also can so easily transcend your original intentions (if you have any intentions at all, Alex Garland). I want to be very clear that the director of today’s film is a disgusting, terrible human being and we do not endorse him in any way. We cannot separate the art from the artist in this film. Even though this film is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Ira Levins. Both of these men have affected the work in a very specific way.
No Feminism in a Patriarchal World
This story is a Patriarchal hellscape. The ending leaves us to believe the end is upon us. We watch as Rosemary continues to put others lives before her very own, just as she has been conditioned to do in this world. In an article on Tor.com, I found the answer I was looking for, to why I felt this film though dubbed feminist is incredibly lacking in any feminism. Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby: Patriarchy Without Feminism Is Hell by Noah Berlatsky, they explain that these men paint a world that is dark, grim, and utterly hopeless. It’s a defeatist approach that only exists because these men can’t understand a world in which feminism exists, and therefore, cannot see a way out of Hell.
In Rosemary’s Baby, feminist consciousness is notably absence, which is part of why the novel is so bleak and terrifying. The narrative recognizes that Rosemary’s fate is diabolically unjust. But it offers no way out, narratively or theoretically. The devil’s victory is total not because he defeats feminism, but because he rules over a world in which feminist possibilities don’t exist.