Embrace your inner bad girl with Movie Bad Girl of the Week!
By Alexandra Elaine Michaels
This week’s Movie Bad Girl Column is dark in subject and is very important. Sexual harassment. Emotional and physical abuse. Rape and sexual assault. Something that happens, in particular, to women and children every day of the week and many times this goes unreported with devastating results. This is half the subject of Day of the Woman better known by its alternate title I Spit on Your Grave. The other half of the story is revenge.
Camille Keaton plays Jennifer Hills, a magazine writer who rents a cabin for the summer, seeking peace, quiet and relaxation while she works on her first novel. Jennifer is pretty, smart and kind. She could be any woman out there. She is easy to identify with, which makes what follows even harder to watch. I am not going to describe the plot in graphic detail because it is just that, very graphic. So here it is in a nutshell.
Jennifer leaves New York City headed to her rented cabin. She stops at a small gas station to fill up her car and stretch her legs after her 3 hour car ride. There she encounters 3 men. One of them runs the gas station and his two friends are playing a game of stretch while he works. He is taken by her good looks. He wishes her a good summer and she drives to her summer home. She meets a fourth man who delivers her groceries. This man is childlike in his manner and speech and may have autism, although it is never stated in the film. The men are seen later hanging out fishing and talking about women. The subject turns to Jennifer Hills and we listen in.
The next day two of the men come out in a motor boat on the lake in front of Jennifer’s property. They act like teenage boys showing off trying to gain her attention while she lounges in a hammock working on her novel. What at first amuses her quickly becomes annoying and she goes inside her home. This (which at first seems harmless) flirtation quickly escalates into the men teasing and taunting her that night from her yard, whistling and calling out to her.
In the day that follows Jennifer is on the lake reclined in a rowboat enjoying the warm weather. The men come with their motorboat and tie a rope to the boat she is in and speed off with her. What follows is Jennifer being terrorized, humiliated, beaten and sexually assaulted in one of the most brutal rapes ever put on film. The men show no compassion for Jennifer as she is violated over and over. As a movie watcher it seems like this scene will never end and the brutality is hard to watch. The scene goes from the woods they take her to and travels back to her cabin as she attempts to escape the men with no luck. When they are done with her they decide that she should be killed so they don’t get in trouble for their actions. They force their friend with the childlike mind to take a knife and go back to kill her. When he comes up to Jennifer he looks down at her, bruised, bloody and passed out and cannot do it. Her rubs blood from one of her wounds on the knife and comes back to the men claiming to have done the evil deed. They ride off in their boat leaving her for dead. They get on with their lives. (They will later discover, while she is healing, that their friend did not stab her and their terror begins)
Jennifer, now physically and emotionally hurt hides in her home allowing herself time to heal from her physical wound caused by this group of brutal men. She comes to the decision (even going to church to pray about what is going to happen) that they are not going to get away with it. She methodically (through the rest of the film) stalks and kills her attackers. I believe (and I may be reading far too much into the movie) that she does this not only to avenge herself but to also prevent these men from doing this to any other woman.
When the movie was released it was slammed by many critics (being called sick, perverse and garbage) and women’s groups for being anti-woman or degrading to women. I disagree. The movie has artistic merit although it is very brutal and hard to watch. Anti-woman? I disagree again. Jennifer is a Movie Bad Girl Legend. She punishes the men for their crimes. Talk about self-empowerment. She refuses to be a victim and that is powerful! Love it or hate it (there is no middle ground) this woman is an Epic Movie Bad Girl.
What can we learn from Jennifer Hills?
We have a choice. We can be victims or we can be victors. I am not suggesting that murder is an option but you have the right to defend yourself.
At work no one, and I mean no one, has the right to sexually harass or degrade you simply because you have a pretty face or a nice bottom or because of sexual orientation. Boys, listen up in case you are the one being harassed. You have the right to speak up and make those doing this to you accountable. This goes on at many work places and people take it, usually for fear of losing their job. Who the hell wants to work in an environment like that? You should enjoy going to work and feel safe from harassment. Make sure to follow protocol in this situation and call them out on it. If it is happening to you there is a good chance it is happening to others. You deserve a safe and happy work place.
How many people are date raped and never say a word? Many times it is because people are embarrassed or worried that it may be partially their fault, while others are afraid at what their rapist will do to them if they do speak. None of this is acceptable. It is okay to feel embarrassed but remember that it not your fault if someone forces you. No means no. It is as simple as that. The person committing the crime uses the fear of retaliation as a weapon so you will not speak up. They want to take power “away” from you. It is not enough to be a survivor. You need to speak up and stop them. It can be a frightening thing to do but you can be the victor in this situation. The same goes for people and families that are abused physically, emotionally and sexually. You do not have to take it. There are many agencies that are willing to help if you just take that first step. I will not lie. It is a very hard road to travel but freedom from fear lies at the end of that road. If you know someone you think is in this situation, talk to them, listen, offer them help if you can and let them know they are not alone. It may be as simple as looking up a phone number for them. We all deserve to live a healthy, happy and safe life.
Until next time, Embrace Your Inner Bad Girl, because being bad feels so damn good.