VIDEO: Misogyny in Horror: I Spit on Your Grave (1978), Part 1

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Count Jackula tackles the ever-present accusation that horror films are misogynistic. In this first entry in his four-part Misogyny in Horror series, Jackula analyzes a film so notorious that it was banned in several countries: I Spit on Your Grave, directed by Meir Zarchi and starring Camille Keaton.

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Tag: I Spit on Your Grave

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  • Richard Eriksson Hjelm

    Loved to see you tackle this issue

  • Looking forward to the rest! BTW have you made it a rule for the Count Jackula Show Bible for every episode to have one “stab” (rimshot) at “Jennifer’s Body?”

    • Jack Shen

      Seems to be going in that direction. At least until I finally do the episode on it.

  • … So good! ;)

  • MephLord

    This will probably end up being my favorite review of a horror film ever. Good job Count Jackula.

    • Jack Shen

      I hope Part 2 lives up to your hopes.

  • Liz

    Thank you so much for doing such an insightful review. This is the best explanation of Misogyny I’ve ever heard. Keep up the wonderful work.

    • Jack Shen

      Glad you found it insightful despite my ghoulish humor. :)

  • George

    Great video…And amazing choice for intro…

  • Shark Wayne

    From a magician’s point of view, Stage magic can be misogynistic… or could be perceived as so.
    Cutting a woman in half or seeing a woman in dire situations, depending what it could be, is more
    intense to the viewer than a man doing the same illusion.
    Because a woman is percieved as being a fragile, sweet, feminine, and anything done to the lady
    can be shocking because of the thought of “Who would do such a thing to that pretty lady?”
    Where as if a man is in the box, peoples thoughts go to “Ehh… he’s a man. He can walk it off.”
    It’s not as intense. Because he’s a man. The perception of a ‘Man’ is he’s tough and masculine.
    So when I saw this, It kind of relates to me on that stand point except in a different medium.
    Great video man!

    • Jack Shen

      Thanks man! Yeah cinema puts women in peril for the same reason: to get the audience to react. I think as a species we’re naturally more anxious about women dying than men for two reasons:

      1) Women are the undeniable caretakers of the next generation in that first year of life, and I think we (both male and female) are inclined to rush to a woman’s defense because of that (there’s a notable increase in the audience’s anxiety if the woman is both young AND pregnant/ has a child). Aliens used this famously.

      2) On some level we do expect men to be willing to die; for their country if nothing else. We see a woman’s death as tragic, but a man’s death is either honorable or ignominious.

      The funny thing is, I don’t think either perception changes according to the gender of the audience. Or at least, it’s not the deciding factor.

  • $36060516

    Admirable to do a video on this subject, and to try to approach it with humor as well. A few thoughts that came to mind while watching:

    * I hope at some point in this series you discuss your own frequent use of killing and disposing of the bodies of female prostitutes in your reviews (as far as I can recall most of the women in the Friday Night Fright Flicks reviews have been prostitutes) and your own thoughts on how you’ve attempted to use this imagery in a non-misogynistic way. I don’t think you guys are misogynistic, and do think you took this on in a positive way with your scenes showing the use of the chainsaw as a non-fatal sexual implement with the last love interest the Mad Slasher had, who was more than his match. But it does seem like something that should be discussed since you’re on the topic.

    * Of course my experience is limited to my own gender since I am a man, but I don’t really agree with the idea that being fat is a hundred times worse for women. There is a large community of male Big Beautiful Women admirers (sure, fetishization is attendant with its own problems) who love fat women, while I don’t know of a large vocal community of women who are into fat men (despite what all the sitcoms starring fat middle-aged male comedians with young skinny wives would lead us to believe). (Sure there are gay men who love “bears,” but that doesn’t help straight men.) Being fat contributed to serious problems fitting into society for me as a youth and beyond, and though I can see how women suffer from this due to the emphasis placed on their looks, I don’t see the discrepancy as being as great as you make it out to be.

    * I don’t think working for “a woman’s magazine” was intended to automatically symbolize feminist. Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Ladies’ Home Journal, Redbook, Woman’s Day, etc. were all women’s magazines at the time and were not feminist publications.

    * Gloria Steinem is sex-positive, yes, but she has also strongly called for the censorship of pornography and lumped slasher films in with them as equally guilty of mixing sexuality with violence against women in an essay by her I found in a quick Google search. I doubt she was a supporter of this film, though I could be wrong. I realize you didn’t say she was, but citing her as an example of sex-positivity in a (so-far) seemingly positive review of a film she probably would have supported picketing in the streets seems problematic.

    • Jack Shen

      We do the stuff with the prostitutes and Queen of Trash because well…we know a lot of gals that enjoy being on camera, covered in blood. Not much more to say about that.

      On the weight issue, while there are men that like BBWs the problem is that the judgement they face in the workplace and in the majority of their personal lives is greater than a man’s. Being a fat guy doesn’t prevent you from getting a promotion. Being a fat woman can. Hell, just being an outspoken woman can. Look at a magazine rack, any woman over the weight we deem as ideal is ridiculed. All you have to do is look around and it becomes obvious. I don’t want to say more on that topic in the comments because even if WE don’t see heavy girls negatively, the more we talk about it, the more likely some troll will show up, and try to hijack the conversation and I won’t have that.

      On Gloria Steinem and horror. First off, I can’t criticize someone for something they MIGHT have done. Now she does make the distinction between “pornography” and “erotica” where pornography is that which subjugates and depicts violence against women, while erotica is more what more people think of as “pornography.” But that distinction never caught on.

      You don’t have to agree with someone 100% to see the value in what they say. Also horror is a touchy subject in general and doubly so in Feminism. But the point I’m making is that horror DEPICTS misogyny and CONDEMNS it far more often than it indulges in it. Also in the post-Chainsaw era horror should be reexamined, by Feminists, because it says the same things Feminism does. It just does it using shock and terror. They can be powerful allies. Of course we all have to figure out how best to get past our prejudices about each other. Horror fans and filmmakers are not slavering ghouls that live to rape and murder, and feminists are not all man hating lesbians that want to take our fun away. We have to get to a point where we can communicate because the two worlds of feminism and horror are not in opposition and it’s only the hurt feelings we have accumulated due to endless arguing that stand between us.

      Also Gloria Steinem’s stepson played the Titular character in an adaptation of a book she DID try to get banned. Can anyone tell me who that is and which movie?

      • $36060516

        I won’t answer your trivia question as I cheated via Google, but that was a cool one! Had no idea they were connected. Thanks for the tip.

        Everything else, I can see where you’re coming from. A lot of good points.

        Agree that you should be able to have fun with these gals who like to be covered in blood and think it’s all in good fun. I guess what I was getting at is that some people would claim such campy scenes are misogynistic, so it could be an interesting thing to discuss why you don’t think it is. I don’t blame you at all for not being similarly interested, though.

        I do see now that you mention it the gaping hole in my BBW argument, the fact that this only covers a small area of life, and that places like work aren’t covered, only a fringe area of the dating scene. Very good point. Minor quibble, as a fat man I was passed over for a permanent job at a fitness-related company I had been freelancing at for years in favor of a younger skinny unproven guy who’d never worked for them before. Sometimes it’s very hard to know. I honestly don’t know, and it could just be that he was a better prospective employee than me. He did a good job once he was hired. Do we really have any hard data on fat women being passed over for jobs more than fat men? Maybe we do, I haven’t gone looking. I understand your reluctance to discuss the topic more, and will drop it. My disagreement on that point isn’t that strong anyway. I tend to mostly read women on sites like Jezebel saying fat women have it harder than fat men and it feels to me like it’s an assumption rather than a proven fact. I could very well be wrong.

        • Jack Shen

          The thing on misogyny in films is this. There is a big difference between depicting it for purposes of examination, shock, and absurdity and promoting it as a belief system. A movie can have a scene about misogyny and not be misogynistic. If you want a concrete example of this, I Spit On Your Grace has a goodie-two-shoes version called The Accused. It also deals with the same theme of misogyny against sexual liberation (unfortunately that theme takes a backseat to legal drama). No one would say that The Accused is misogynistic, and it’s rape scene is just as graphic.

          Now there is a very important difference between the way the rape in both of those movies is treated, but I talk about that in in the next episode so I won’t go into it here.

  • Muthsarah

    I’m a bit puzzled by your inclusion of Gojira as a horror film. Where do you draw the line between a “horror” film and a film that merely has elements meant to be scary?

    I’m not a big horror movie aficionado (I just saw the original Evil Dead in its entirely for the first time about 36 hours ago), so I don’t have a personal formula for what makes a horror movie distinctive from a movie that’s nonetheless meant to be scary. Is a horror film any film that is meant first and foremost to be scary, and not just a movie, like say Jurassic Park, where scares are an integral part of the movie, but not the main draw? Would this make Jaws a horror movie? I don’t think I’ve ever heard it called that before. Scary, absolutely, horror, never. But on the other hand, Evil Dead (clearly in the horror genre) played more like a gross-out shock comedy than something that was meant to be really scary.

    I’ve always viewed Alien and The Terminator as monster movies (not quite horror movies, but close), and their first sequels as action movies, because of their different “feels”. In the first movies, weak people are trying to evade/survive unstoppable beasts (not unlike Gojira), while in the sequel they spend much of the movie actively fighting back against them. One feels more like a monster movie than the other, since the focus is on how weak the lead characters are, it’s more about fear of certain death than about trying to defeat an opponent. To you, would that make the first movie of each series a horror movie? And would the sequels not be?

    I suspect this is a YMMV thing, but are there any common guidelines among the horror community?

    • Jack Shen

      The best way to determine if a film falls under Horror is to attempt to remove everything that’s not obviously horror from the film. If the movie would still work if all the non-horror elements were changed, than it’s squarely a horror film.

      Great example is the original Alien. You can remove all the sci-fi elements and still have a story that works. For example, if Alien was set in a mining town and the xenomorph was replaced with a creature of local legend (say a Uktena or Ahuixotl), the story would functionally be the same. It wouldn’t be Alien, but it would be the same story. However, you can’t remove it’s horror elements and have a story of any kind.

      Same thing with Jaws, if you remove the horror elements, it’s just an episode of Shark Week. But the shark could be replaced with ANYTHING and it would function the same. Hell you could even set that movie in space and it could function identically.

      Of course a film can come under more than one genre. Event Horizon is a film where you cannot remove either the horror or sci-fi elements from the film and have the story work. You could even remove all the action scenes and still have the same story, but the horror and sci-fi elements are critical, so it’s a Horror/Sci-fi film.

      As far as Gojira is concerned, it is ABSOLUTELY a horror film. Without the horror of nuclear fallout and mutation, Gojira does not work. Some of the later films are more focused on the action and spectacle so the horror elements were dispensed with, because they weren’t needed in those films. But the original Japanese version of the original cannot do without them.

      • Jason Withrow

        Loved the definition AND how it gave me a new perspective on the Booth’s own Fear Fan. I admit with shame, I had just taken him for a kaiju fan, “on the side.”

  • Alexa

    What’s your opinion on Bret Easton Ellis? Or are you gonna cover that area later?

    • MichaelANovelli

      Bret Easton Ellis? Still?

      • Alexa

        I know, but I’m genuinely curious.

    • Jack Shen

      Well Bret Easton Ellis is a novelist not a filmmaker so he’s not as likely to come up in my show. Adaptation analysis is more Horror Guru’s area of expertise. But I’ll say this about American Psycho, most people miss the part of that story where Patrick Bateman is revealed not to be a psychopath so much as a pathological liar. American Psycho is a critique on the fact that American business is predicated on exalting the traits of psychopathy, and even those that aren’t, pretend they are in order to get ahead.

      • Alexa

        Hmm that makes sense. The only reason I brought it up was I figured out the answer to the question down below regarding Gloria Steinam.

  • Marshall Oliver Estes

    I am super excited for the second video; I find “I Spit on Your Grave” to be a really interesting film, and not misogynistic at all.

    Do you think that maybe part of the problem with horror movies being considered misogynistic is that our society tends to assume that the only hardcore horror fans are straight men? I think this may discourage studios to invest in horror films that deal with themes that appeal more towards women and queer men, since they don’t think that group sees these types of films?

    As far as horror movies condemning/condoning misogyny, I think part of the problem lies in the fact that there is always an element of titillation in the violence. This isn’t a bad thing; we watch movies to be entertained, and what you may enjoy seeing in a fictional work may disgust you if you saw it in real life, but for those who may not enjoy this type of entertainment, it can come off as downright hateful. Also, part of it comes down to the writing/directing/acting etc. A more talented team of filmmakers may be able to write a complex, sexually active woman who may get killed brutally, but still comes off as a person and not a sex object, whereas a less talented team may end up creating a character who is nothing more than a life support system for her boobs waiting to be killed. I think part of what comes across as misogyny is really just ineptitude, laziness, and the idea that horror fans only care about breasts and blood. Then again, there are movies that are definitely misogynistic, and sadly those are the ones that seem to get remembered by those that don’t like horror.

    • Jack Shen

      Well if you want to talk about titillation and violence, horror is the wrong genre to examine. You want to examine action movies, particularly the 80’s brand of super macho guy flicks or the violent women flicks of Russ Myer like “Faster Pussy Cat Kill Kill.”

      As for the idea that people see horror as inherently misogynistic, I think it’s simpler than that. I think people have a hard time separating what a movie depicts and what a movie is trying to promote, especially horror films, which are by nature pushing boundaries and buttons.

  • Jackie

    Mind if i feature this video on my Tumblr?

    • Jack Shen

      Not at all, please do. Tumblr anything of mine you like :)

  • Mark Brown

    Excellent video, and very thought-provoking. Definitely looking forward to the other 3 parts.

  • FullofQuestions1

    I haven’t ever successfully made it through “I Spit On Your Grave”, but man, this review was still interesting, and this is a very interesting subject matter to make a series about!

    So even though it’s the part that I always turn off when I get to, I can’t wait for part 2!

    • Mark Brown

      I’ve never had any interest in watching the film before now, but I have to admit this review has given me the urge to track it down. Mostly so I can better follow Jack’s reasoning!

  • Excellent video, Jack. I think “I Spit” has become one of those movies that anybody who has the capability of talking about horror knows better than to dismiss, and anybody who doesn’t will never be convinced. My main memory of “I Spit” was the fact that I had to keep turning away during the rape scene because it was just unbearable to watch it for that amount of time. Thing is, and I think Brad Jones may have mentioned this, that’s kind of the point. Rape scenes aren’t supposed to be funny, or sexy, or okay, or any of that. And here, it’s clearly not. Although I may be getting ahead of myself, considering that’s what you’ll be discussing next part.

    I admit I cringed at you even using the word “erection” in relation to this movie… but not only did you lampshade it, you were right…

  • Hakun Foochas

    Awesome review! I can’t wait for the other parts to come out.

    Have you seen the remake and are you going to add anything from it to the MiH series?

  • Cheshire Cat

    I have a hard time calling something misogyny, sexist or degrading to women when I see women readily participate in the medium in question. If something is that bad, stay away. And, no, I don’t feel I am being naive in this. It really is that simple.

    • Mike

      Here’s the issue though: Just because women participate in it, doesn’t mean it isn’t misogynist. I’m sure if you went to Saudi Arabia and asked around, a lot of the women there would say that they weren’t oppressed and that things are more or less the say they should be. That’s one of the devious things about patriarchy (and this applies to any system of thought that puts one group below another, really): It works best when it is internalized by its victims. I’m not saying this because I’m some radical feminist (though I do count myself a feminist), Rather, this is kind of basic gender theory stuff here. In simple terms: Patriarchy doesn’t just say things like “A Woman’s Place is in the Home (or whatever stereotype is appropriate to our current time),” it gets women to believe it.

  • WTF?

    So in a video that’s twenty minutes long, you waited to discuss the movie that’s the subject of the video until eight minutes in? Not cool.

  • Zee Panda

    I don’t normally watch a lot of your videos as I’m not much of a horror fan and particularly not a fan of most contemporary horror; however, I decided to give this one a shot because I was intrigued by the idea. I definitely enjoyed this segment. I think you had a lot of interesting, provocative thoughts here and I’m looking forward to the subsequent segments.

  • Misogyny is real for sure. Horror movie Heroines decry that. The Day of the Woman, was the answer back to a disturbing reality. Cathartic for women to say the least and a reality check for all men. My female heroines are my vicarious tools. In reality, a misogynistic man would say he “loves” women and is actually philogynistic. Twisted for sure. But the great extreme of misogyny allows for the great extreme of self love. As women, we are always looking for ways to love ourselves…and what makes us love ourselves more than controlling a man? Give us a good enough reason, ooooh perhaps gang raped by vile and disgusting men, and we’ll control your manhood:) Great film, right for its time, and the remake was great. Timeless.

    • dan

      No it wasn’t

    • Jack Shen

      What did you think of Rape Squad and Ms. 45?

      • There’s only room in this little brain of mine for one day of the woman. I mean, once you’ve had your day, you can’t have another. Once you exploit something, for example violating a woman, you can’t ever exploit that same thing again. An exploit is the movies first impression. So, to answer your question Jack:) I thought Rape Squad was fairly generic and the story wasn’t personal; too many characters. Ms. 45, I can live with. If that’s her thing then go for it, just don’t whine when you get caught or killed. Flashy movie if you like sexy tough girl flash. My nonfiction example of misogyny and female revenge is Monster. You can’t get any more real, than real. You can’t exploit the real any more than making a movie out of it. The least I can do is appreciate the opportunity to empathize with the characters;-)

      • Man bashing is what most female revenge movies give off, whether intentional or not. And women truthfully LOVE men, we don’t want to hurt them, muchless cut off their penis. We love that part. That’s why a personal story like I Spit on Your Grave is timeless. It’s ambiguous in that every woman who watches it or hears a “bobbit” story, thinks (and women think, believe me:) “what would it take for me to do something like that…could I ever do something like that…” In that moment we determine whether or not we really hate men or love them. And I’m happy to say that most women love men.

        • danbreunig

          I fully get your point and agree with it, but I just wanted to say:

          Thank you for your sympathy toward my whole gender!