Ladies can be scary but not as frightening as my inability to come up with a decent system for organizing my show notes. For the most part, most of these follow along as per when they were mentioned in the podcast but some of them were out of order. And as a good measure, if you are wanting more about the vampire stuff, I will direct you to the behemoth that was the resources list for Dracula, because there is a lot to unpack with the female vampires and there’s a good lot in there too that I couldn’t include in either of these episodes because I’ve run out of time. Still, I’ve tried to pack this full of fun stuff as well as serious articles, so do have a look. Also, I know it was said in the podcast proper but there are some links that have some passages or pictures that you may find difficult to read. Where there are things that I thought might be a problem or might be triggering, I have bolded the text so you can tell right away to be cautious. I’ve tried to balance that out with other things as well, such as funny skits and other areas of interest so it’s not just a minefield of upsetting articles. But that said, let’s get to reading about the monstrous feminine, shall we??
“Menstruation” – Kids in the Hall – Performed by Dave Foley
This isn’t really a resource but given that this is a heavy topic for some, I wanted to include a bunch of extras that were fun because while this month’s theme can be a bit much, it can be enjoyable to talk about too. So to kick off our discussion this month, let’s all marvel at someone who doesn’t quite get what he’s talking about but still manages to have a “good attitude towards menstruation”.
“Translated definition of Sirens from Greek” – Translated by Robert Dryer – Accessible through Wayback Machine – Originally posted in June 2002
This is a fairly straight forward depiction of a siren in myth but specifically gives them the body of the bird. The main draw of this is specifically their song, which birds are more known for than fish, which the siren would later be linked to.
“Sirens” – Jessica Akmenkalns – Accessible through Wayback Machine – No date listed
Another, more detailed, look at what Sirens were in Greek mythology, but this one also lists possible influences and links the figure of the bird woman to different comparable myths from other places like Egypt. Also of note is how it traces the change from having sirens of both sexes to the creature being reduced down to only being female.
“Sirens” – No Author Listed – Greek Mythology – 2020
Another source that has a bit more information on sirens and how they have changed throughout history in their depictions.
Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers: Monstrosity, Patriarchy, and the Fear of Female Power
Sady Doyle – Melville House – August 2019
Excellent resource, though I will put it out there that I feel like the information on Mercy Brown is a bit on the leading side. The text offers a kind of relationship to the treatment of Mercy Brown’s body to her being female, which I do not agree with considering the treatment of suspected vampires throughout history. It also doesn’t fairly represent how other treatments had been sought out before Edwin’s untimely death and how this was only done as a last resort. In this regard, I do take issue with the text because I feel like it is injecting a kind of layer of projection on the author’s part that goes against what was told in the book Food for the Dead, which she cites. Moving beyond this one part, however, I will say that the author does make good points and I still give the book a recommendation for an up to date look at the concept of the Monstrous Feminine.
Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers perfume line by Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs
Normally I wouldn’t include a product like this, however, this perfume company, also known widely as BPAL, has done a lot of work with various organizations over the years, including releasing scents to raise money for causes such as RAICES, which tackles the treatment and representation for people being held in detention camps in America, the ACLU and many different charities for LGBTQ+ people, women and other marginalized peoples. I am in no way sponsored by them but I can personally attest to the talent of the very small team behind these scents and I can give a high recommendation if you are in the market for more. What’s more, they often do themes like this and this particular line was on the Sady Doyle book. So if you’re reading Dead Blondes and you figure you would like to smell like one of the tropes discussed, there is a perfume for you!
“Femme Fatale” entry – 2020
While I do recommend looking for more on this, especially if you are looking at tropes in Noir fiction, seeing as we’re just doing a bit of a passing look at this figure of fiction, I am starting at Wikipedia because it does give a good starting point for more research.
“Images of the Femme Fatale in Two Short Stories by Emilia Pardo Bazan” excerpt – Susan Walter – Romance Notes: Accessible through Project Muse – 2015
Unfortunately, this is only a very small fragment that is available for free on the database, as tends to always be the case. You can request a copy through Research Gate if you should so desire to read the whole paper. That said, the small section does provide some insight into the development of this archetype and for our purposes, I’m not going to dwell here for too long but I encourage others to seek out this paper for more info.
From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and their Tellers
Marina Warner – Vintage – 1995
This is an excellent book and though it doesn’t have a lot to do with this topic, I still highly recommend it, particularly if you have any interest at all in fairytales. The parts about the Femme Fatale are admittedly small but they matter in the context of how she frames them and it’s worth it to check out the rest of the book for some great discussions.
“Life’s a Bitch: Paranoia and Sexuality in the novels of David Goodis” – Eddie Duggan – Accessible through Academia.edu and originally published in Crime Time 2.1 – 1998
* Fair Warning Ahead * This article is mostly fine but one of the passages included of Goodis’ work contains a sexual assault on page 18. It isn’t graphic but if you are concerned, skip the instances where the Duggan includes examples from the author’s book. The gist of the article is to delve into the the mindset of a writer of Noir fiction and this does give some good examples of that. What’s more is that you see the figure of the transformed Femme Fatale in these stories, recast as the dominant and overpowering housewife or some variant of the untouchable woman.
“Hardboiled Detective Fiction in the Pulps” – No Author Listed – Vintage Media – 2020
Just in case you were wanting to know more about the difference between Noir and Hardboiled fiction, here is a great resource for finding some authors to check out, if you are unfamiliar. And while I’m not going to issue a warning for this page, because there’s nothing that grim or triggering on it, I will highly suggest that if you are making your way through some of these novels, keep in mind that they were written in the 1920s and 30s. It would be prudent to look up reviews first to see if there are any nasty surprises that time forgot in them, just in case.
Trailer for Promising Young Woman – Directed by Emerald Fennell, Starring Carey Mulligan
While there is nothing in this trailer that is explicit, I will issue a smaller warning that there is a scene where it depicts a man attempting to take advantage of what he thinks is a drunk woman. That said, it is beyond satisfying when it reveals that she isn’t drunk at all. Be forewarned if you are uncomfortable by this kind of thing, though. This film is hopefully going to be available by Christmas of the year 2020, having previously been set to be released in April. Thank you Covid. Still, the trailer reveals quite a bit about the story and gives us a look at the new incarnation of the Femme Fatale, this time with a woman behind the lens of the camera. Also that soundtrack is wickedly enticing, is it not?
“The Vampire in the House: Femininity, Female Body and Sexual Desire in Sheridan LeFanu’s Carmilla and Victorian Medical Texts on Hysteria” – Anish Baskar – University of Manchester – May 2020
Winning the title of the most cumbersome title in anything I’ve read this year, this paper does go into why it was called this which does give some context for it. If you would like to know more about the role of women in the Victorian era, it is worth it to look up more about the “Angel of the House” ideal. We’re not really covering that this time around so you can feel free to look it up on your own. That said, as a small warning, this article does deal with the topic of hysteria, as it relates to women in the 1800s. The treatments for this were less than pleasant at the best of times and could range from inappropriate to outright assault or surgical alterations with far reaching consequences. There are only scant mentions of these things in here but tread lightly, especially if you are aware of what these procedures actually were or are curious to find out more. Again, there’s less in here about the actual methods of treatment for hysteria but if you do look them up, know that they can include a lot of sexual assault and various other forms of so-called treatments that left the patients in a lot of pain.
“Can I Keep My Parents’ Skulls and Tattoos?” – Caitlin Doughty – Ask a Mortician – Sept 2020
As you can probably tell, I am a big fan of learning about morbid things and thus, I am a big fan of Ask a Mortician. This video is mostly just to contextualize the attitudes and laws surrounding who and what a corpse actually is and how autonomy is affected after death. Obviously, we are dealing with fiction but it’s worth it to keep in mind how these laws reflect how we, ideally, approach the idea of bodily autonomy.
“The Vulnerability of the Female Corpse” – Kelly (No Last Name Given) – The Spinsters of Horror – July 2020
Fair warning ahead of time that some of the themes and accompanying photos of this article are a little difficult for some to stomach. There are pictures from the movies they discuss, so none of what you might see is real but some of them are graphic enough that I would skip this article all together if you have experienced some trauma in the past and are likely to react to the images featuring blood and women’s bodies. There is a trigger warning at the start of it as there are discussions of rape and other violent trauma inflicted on female bodies and they are warranted if you have a harder time reading about that kind of thing. That said, this is an excellent examination of the trope of fetishizing dead or dying women at the hands of men and how their bodies are used in these narratives. This trope can easily be applied to the way that Lucy’s body is treated in Dracula, post transformation. In death, particularly when she is staked and mutilated at the hands of the heroes, she is finally returned to a kind of purity and sweetness. It should be noted too that Kelly and her “spinster” partner Jess are not only in possession of the best blog name on the internet, but also hosts of a podcast called I Spit on Your Podcast, which I highly recommend you check out, especially if you like knitting, horror and feminist discussion of horror.
“Folk Culture and the Liminality of Children” – Yoshiharu Iijima – Current Anthropology: Volume 28, Number 4 – August to October 1987
Very interesting paper written about folklore associated with children in Japanese history. There are some interesting parallels to their treatment of children under the age of seven with other cultures, particularly the use of specific dress styles that defied gender and their burials being marked away from the adult population if they died before that age. It also gives a good idea of how belief informs the culture around children in any given society. This paper also comes highly recommended because it was written by a Japanese scholar who was able to give proper insight into the topic and gives a much better picture about the world of Japanese lore than anyone else outside it ever could.
“The Very Strange Life of Nepal’s Child Goddess” – Julie McCarthy – NPR – May 2015
This is a very short but good introduction to the worship of children as gods, and specifically young girls representing a very particular goddess. The article does unpack a few elements of this ancient practice of choosing young girls to act as a physical vessel for a celestial being and includes a few issues that people have raised with it. That said, it does still make a point to include the point of view of women who were appointed the role of the goddess when they were children and had them reflect on their time performing as a living goddess. As with anything that might go counter to the way things are done in western society, it is always worth it to keep an open mind about the practice and acknowledge the cultural differences between Nepal and the western world. That said, this is nowhere near as comprehensive as it would be need to be to properly talk about any element, problematic or not. That established, it does go a long way to show how longstanding the link between childhood, especially for young girls, and the otherworldly.
Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of the Bram Stoker, the Man who Wrote Dracula
David J. Skal – Liveright Press – October 2016
This book factored heavily in my research for Dracula, obviously, but there’s actually a lot more to it than just talking about Bram Stoker. For better or worse. On one hand, Skal gives almost too much details and really digs deep into Stoker’s life and legacy. That said, he also digs deep on a lot of side tangents, including the life and times of Oscar Wilde, which is entirely fascinating all on its own and comes with some great anecdotes but can be tedious if you are trying to find out more about vampires or Stoker specifically. The reason it comes up here is that it did include a lot of talk about gender blurring that happened during the Victorian period and particularly focused on the use of feminine dress to keep male children safe, specifically from fairies who might take them and replace little boys with fairy counterparts. And if you need a reason to look further, that section, in chapter one, features a story about Oscar Wilde and features an adorable picture of him as a toddler wearing a very fancy little dress and it’s precious.
Entry for “Polergeist: 1982 film”
This is included mostly to give context through the reviews of the time and how they viewed the film. There is more information regarding a little bit of the drama surrounding who had creative control over the film and the story, as well as the so-called curse regarding the deaths associated with the film. As noted in the podcast, none of these deaths were actually linked together and be forewarned that the death of Dominique Dunne was the result of domestic violence at the hands of her partner.
“Reviews: The Exorcist” – Roger Ebert – Ebert’s official website – First published December 1973
A blast from the past review of the film archived from the seventies. It’s nice to have a look at things like this because it gives a kind of in context look at how the film was actually viewed in the time it was released, before time had its way with it. It’s also nice to see how something of an iconic horror film was viewed at the time through the lens of someone who is noted for not much enjoying his horror movies.
“A Monstress Comes of Age: Horror and Girlhood” – Yhara Zayd – her Youtube Channel under the same name – October 2020
Excellent video essay that unpacks the history of women in horror, its draw, some of its badass leading ladies and where it can be improved. The Shelley Stamp Lindsey paper that was quoted in this essay is behind a paywall, as per usual, but it was the same paper that was quoted by Bianca Nielsen linked below. It is a bit on the difficult side to try to quote a video creator, so I wasn’t really able to give this creator props during the podcast proper but I do highly recommend watching this video to unpack these tropes and especially looking at it from the point of view of a Black horror fan. She was also able to unpack a lot more than I was in different areas that I just didn’t have time to get to and look at films that I wasn’t able to so, again, check her out and subscribe to her channel if you haven’t already. And in regards to the rant in the middle about so-called “elevated horror”: NO TRUER WORDS HAVE BEEN SPOKEN!! Seriously, horror has always tackled the strange, the taboo and the uncomfortable. This was not the domain of A24.
“Women in Horror: Victims No More” – Beth Younger – The Conversation – June 2017
This was the article that was mentioned in Yhara Zayd’s video, which is included here for context. Most of this also has something more to talk about in regards to the final girl trope but it’s worth including for conversation sake. And unless it wasn’t clear already: there is no such thing as elevated horror. This is a genre that has always tackled difficult truths and sometimes been able to shed light on taboo topics in more elegant and realistic ways than the mainstream has ever given it credit for. While I don’t think this is a bad article, I do wish mainstream media and scholars would kindly leave this discussion of trying to legitimize horror back in the past where it can die peacefully.
“Something’s Wrong, Like More Than Just You Being Female: Transgressive Sexuality and Discourses of Reproduction in Ginger Snaps” – Bianca Nielsen – Third Space: A Journal of Feminist Theory and Culture – Mar 2004
One thing that we’re going to say right away is that the font on this is significantly smaller than it probably should be and it’s a bit on the jargon-y side, so it might be a bit of a cramping read. That said, it does feature a lot of works that set up a precedent for how Ginger Snaps plays into the Monstrous Feminine. One small note, however, is that it seems like sometimes the author doesn’t quite get the film. At one point, she notes that the sisters are seemingly outcast because they haven’t gotten their “curse” yet when the film is pretty on the nose about the fact that they are girls who are obsessed with death and their morbidity and disgust with mainstream culture is what makes them stand out. Also, some of the claims about Brigitte’s envy of Ginger are a little too far reaching as far as I’m concerned. There is a claim to be made about jealousy between the two sisters but this interpretation denies any agency to Brigitte and the fact that she begins the film in her sister’s shadow despite her advancement in school. The tension between the two girls, as far as my own interpretation goes, goes both ways, with Brigitte’s need to keep in step with her sister and fearful of being left behind, while Ginger continually bullies her sibling because she absolutely needs her for companionship as well as a guide to her trauma, seeing as their home life is bereft of any kind of real parenting.
“Carrie On” – Ian Spelling – Fangoria – 2004
This is an interview with Bryan Fuller and Angela Bettis regarding the made for TV remake of Carrie from 2002. It’s good to get the context of what Fuller had intended as well as the time frame. One of the reasons that this ending might have been more attractive, as was mentioned, was the proximity of the film being made to the Columbine massacre, which was still pretty fresh in people’s minds. It should be noted here that while the film does have its flaws, not the least of which is a misunderstanding of the monstrous feminine and why its important, this version does have some elements that were taken from the book and it does have some excellent acting in it. One of the people that you’ll notice playing one of the mean girls was none other than Ginger herself, actress Katherine Isabelle.
“Carrie at 40: Why the Horror Genre Remains Important For Women” – Noah Berlatsky – The Guardian – Nov 2016
This is a short but interesting look into the different view points on how horror films treat their women, specifically in regards to Carrie, but there are some opinions included on slashers as well. For what it’s worth, this is a pretty rudimentary look at the genre and while there are elements of criticism that can be taken with horror, these are better expressed by Yhara Zayd’s video, listed above. I’m sorry, but I care little for what Roger Ebert says about how the genre treats those with female bodies when he seems to care very little for the genre. (Granted, he was talking about rape revenge films, but I would argue that this is up to individual survivors to define their own healing process and I know that for some, those films do offer the opportunity for catharsis to see someone getting a kind of justice that they won’t in real life. The fantasy might be triggering to some but it’s not up to everyone to curtail the discomfort of a man who has never experienced that trauma at the expense of someone who is capable of getting relief from such a film.) That said, this article does also provide some counter points and also gives some good statistics on how often women outnumber men in their enjoyment of the films. There is merit in seeing monstrous women on screen and the numbers support this.
“Queen Mother: The Enduring Theme of Motherhood in the ‘Alien’ Franchise” – Meagan Navarro – Bloody Disgusting – May 2019
This is an excellent article that breaks down all the Alien movies in the franchise, going over the way the theme of motherhood travels and changes in each. The writer does go over every mothering element, from the ship, to Ripley’s role as mourning mother to surrogate, to the Queen’s relationship to its eggs, to the way that a barren woman is transformed through her encounter with the Aliens in Prometheus. It actually does manage to unpack a lot for a shorter article and does a lot to explain the lore of the series so I highly recommend checking this out for anyone who wants to do a little deeper dive into the world of Alien(s) and how well matched the main feminine characters are in their motivations.
“Ridley Scott Finally Reveals the Gender of Alien: Covenant’s Xenomorph” – Rosie Fletcher – Digital Spy – May 2017
If you ever wanted to know more about Alien biology, there’s more about that in the next link, but this is a good crash course into the mythology of the Alien franchise. Their reproductive cycle is something of note because of how complicated it is and this has been fertile ground for exploration, for good and bad.
“Alien Xenomorph Biology Explained” – Kyle Hill – Because Science youtube channel – May 2017
This is just a fun bit of science behind the story and it does fill in some of the gaps behind how the xenomorphs function. I’ll issue a smaller kind of warning that if you are squeamish about bugs and parasites, this might be a little gross for you, as a big part of the inspiration that Dan O’Bannon had in creating these creatures came from parasitic insects. The only thing this does get wrong, as per what Ridley Scott says, is that there is no need for fertilizing the Queen’s eggs.
“Rosemary’s Baby: No. 2 Best Horror Film of All Time” – Anne Billson – The Guardian – Oct 2010
Okay so to tackle that title first off, if I were making this list, Rosemary’s Baby, which a decent film and certainly deserving of its praise, wouldn’t even crack my top ten. That said, this article does give a pretty good run down of the plot and some of the reasons that this movie has endured over the years. After all, having only come out in 1968, this film has weathered the test of time against slashers, torture porn and a wide variety of other trends that have taken tastes in all kinds of new directions, including some that make this film seem like a walk in the park by comparison. Still, it’s true that this film really was the gateway in some ways to bigger horror films to come. Without it, there would have been no The Omen, certainly no Poltergeist and a basically no genre of Satanic horror to come. All that said, be on the awares that this film does employ a LOT of gaslighting and abusive tactics to keep Rosemary from figuring out what’s going on with her own body. Skip it if you are likely to be triggered by it or if you think you’ll be in danger of punching through the screen every time you see the husband because he is legitimately the absolute worst. Seriously, if you read reviews on this book or movie, they ALL feature rants about how Guy is such an asshole that if not for the whole rape scene thing, Satan was the better choice between the two.
“Canadian Urban Legends: Newfoundlanders Can Tell You All About the Old Hag” – Allie Turner – Nuvo Magazine – July 2020
This is a good but short article on the phenomenon of Sleep Paralysis and how it merges with local lore in Newfoundland. For those of you who might not be aware, Newfoundland is a small province in the eastern tip of Canada. There is a very strong vein of Celtic influence in the area and that is likely a contributor to the lore surrounding the Old Hag. There are other resources that are listed in the article itself if you are interested in learning more. We’re only touching on it here because it does have its place in discussions on Witches, which is something that we’ll be coming back to later on.
“Baba Yaga, Monsters of the Week, and Pop Culture’s Formation of Wonder and Families Through Monstrosity” – Jill Terry Rudy and Jarom Tyler McDonald – Birmingham Young University; accessed through MDPI – March 2016
Up front, this is another article that has very small print, so it might be best to read it in the day. It’s also dense AF so you are likely to want some coffee in your veins before you attempt to read it. A good noon-ish read, really. And it does a lot to unpack how Baba Yaga is used as a trope within the world of pop culture and what that does to her as a folkloric figure.
Extra resources for survivors and those in need of help. Where possible, I have also tried to curate a list that would be inclusive to anyone. Obviously, this list is not exhaustive and I know I am missing areas of the world where there might be need. If you know of a good organization that should be on this list and isn’t, please let me know and I can add it. Please note that I am happy to add anything that will help but we don’t want to include anything that will turn away someone based on identity or the color of their skin or their religion. As far as I know, these organizations should be available to everyone, including trans women and BIPOC women. * If, for any reason, you know that one of these organizations does NOT meet this standard, let me know and I will remove it IMMEDIATELY! Again, this list is to help those in need and if there’s a chance that it might turn away any woman at all, I want that resource gone and replaced. *