Harry Styles: Feminist?

So as we all sluggishly dragged ourselves to work after a no-doubt indulgent long bank-holiday weekend, we were treated to a rude awakening call; a general election.

However, rather than wallow in this impending doom I call Great Britain’s future I kept scrolling through Twitter for the meme’s and the will to live.

When I came across this little snippet of an interview by everyone’s fave babe, Harry Styles.

harry styles comments

Now, I am well versed in white boys getting more credit than they’re due just for saying basic things like ‘women deserve human rights’ and shit. But I was actually genuinely a little impressed by Harry’s comments.

It is true that teen heart-throb boyband types grow up and suddenly want to be perceived as a srs tortured soul who has more srs things to be interested in than screaming girl fans.

However, Harry brings up an increasingly interesting comparison that I’ve seen used before. The Beatles were (are?) considered the greatest and most successful band of all time. They are considered the epitome of musical talent. Yet who were their core fanbase? You guessed it; teenage girls.

beatles fans

You’ll get many a male hipster these days though shouting at teenage girls wearing Beatles t-shirts that they’ve no right to be wearing it and to name Ringo Starr’s neighbours cat in order to prove herself worthy.

Is it probable that Harry Styles’ manager or agent may wish to tap into a new fan demographic? Is it really understandable that their marketing/PR team want to appeal to a new audience?

There is so much money in teenage girls. They have so much disposable income. Why would anyone want to move away and leave that? Unless they thought that teenage girls and their opinions weren’t credible. Unless they considered teenage girls and their opinions dismissive.

Which largely as a society, sadly, we do.

Beatlemania allowed women of that time to break free from society’s expected gender norms. However ‘mania’ and teen fanatics has now, after 50 years, become the norm that society expects from teenage girls and now ridicules it.

We need to demand respect of teenage girls and their interests. Demand respect from our parents, brothers, grandparents and most of all journalists and the media. Continually speaking of teenage girls interests as if they are ‘stupid’ or ‘silly’ and ultimately aren’t credible is terribly dismissive of teenage girls themselves. And this should not be acceptable.

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The Babadook

I have already mentioned on this blog about my preferred way of watching horror films. I like to be in a fun group of people who are all about as much of a wuss as myself, and I’ll do anything to avoid sleeping alone that night. Bingo! August 22nd I went to my friends house for wine, take-out and films. I had been meaning to watch The Babadook for months, however as I am a massive wuss, I usually wait for events like these to roll around to tick off a horror movie.

Thankfully, my two friends and viewing partners that evening love horror films and are both just as big a scaredy cat as I am.

We had an insane amount of technical difficulties in order to get the film to even start. Netflix was down, then the laptop we were using was too slow to stream anywhere else online, and the download speed was dire also. By the time we got the film going, I was praying that it was going to be worth all that faff.

the babadook

‘The Babadook’ centers on Amelia who is a single mum (as her beloved husband died years earlier) and her son, Sam. Early on we are shown that the son is extremely difficult, getting himself in trouble at school and at birthday parties as well as continuously not sleeping complaining of the monster in his bedroom – this all leads to Amelia becoming increasingly stressed and exhausted. One night when Sam can’t sleep, Sam picks a book from the bookshelf which Amelia proceeds to read to him: Mister Babadook. From then on, the Babadook is ever present in both their minds and their home.

Amelia is a truly incredible character. I do realise that I am suffering from my usual ‘honeymoon syndrome’ which I experience with films, where I love everything about them until something better comes along. I can’t help it; I’m fickle. But honestly, Amelia may be one of my favourite female characters to date. Definitely my favourite horror film character. She is presented as an actual complex character. This is a gift usually only bestowed upon male characters, especially in horror. Female characters are continuously presented as the victim and/or the sexual object. Amelia is a mother, neighbour, sister, colleague, potential love interest as well as being a messy character in that she ruins all of these relationships during the course of the film and importantly, there is no male character coming to save her. It is also worth noting that Amelia as a mother is extremely believable – she doesn’t strip off and jump into the shower to ‘wash away her worries’- she is a complex human being who then also happens to be a mother.

The use and presentation of female sexuality and agency is also relatively rare in a horror. Amelia is not branded the ‘slut’ after she is shown using her vibrator, nor does she become the first to die; she doesn’t seem to be punished as a result of her sexuality at all. Similarly, female sexuality is not presented as ‘monstrous’ such as it is in ‘Carrie’ or ‘Alien’ and is regularly another horror stereotype. As mentioned earlier, Amelia’s sister, her sister’s friend, neighbour and female child services officer are all female and they all possess a form of agency and control over the narrative. They are not treated as back seat characters.

the babadook book

The monster itself I found very intriguing and original. Some of the best horror films I’ve ever seen always forgo revealing the ‘monster’ and instead increase tension to the point where I almost start feeling sick. ‘The Babadook’ had this exact affect on me. You’re first shown a drawing of the Babadook in the story book that Amelia reads to Sam. After that the monster is merely hinted at, yet his presence is so overwhelming that that in itself was scary enough and you’re constantly waiting for it to make an actual appearance. Luckily, it does and the wait is worth it. The tension built in ‘The Babadook’ reminded me of ‘Mama’ (I’ve written about ‘Mama’ here), however thankfully once you’re shown the monster, that is where the similarity ended. The payoff in ‘Mama’ was dire and disappointing. Mister Babadook himself appeared looking almost as hand-drawn as he was in the book itself, and moved with a stop-motion effect. It almost makes you continue to use your imagination, and this made the monster creepy and eerier than I expected.

‘The Babadook’ deals with incredibly complex themes such as motherhood, grief and depression. Sadly, I’ve read a lot of Facebook status’ and Tweets which give the impression that the main themes and important issues that the film deals with were missed by a lot of viewers; who in turn rated the film badly. The film transcends entertainment and I found myself actually caring for and fearing for these characters. Usually in horror films, the characters are written so badly that I’m quite excited to see them die.

It turns out that the film was definitely worth all the technical faff and has found itself in my Top 3 films of 2015!

Have you seen ‘The Babadook’? What did you think?