The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Edited by: Aahana Banerjee
TW: Mention of Abuse, Anger, and Violence
Nail marks etched on palms, shaky hands, tired eyes brimming with tears, trembling lips murmuring “enough”, loud voices, turbulent thoughts, a virulent breaking point; hushed. Silent suppression weaves its way into the interstices of our articulations, anger painted over completely with guilt.
“Try smiling more.”
“Don’t be so sensitive.”
“Be more accommodating.”
This picture of quietened female rage is all too familiar—daily conversation serving as a constant reminder. Rage and anger are valorous shields for cis-heterosexual men, yet herculean burdens, sustaining shame for anyone who doesn’t belong to that category. Oppressive silences strike at even minor indications of rage, ostracization an ever-looming threat.
As we trudge through, carrying this burden as a collective, can anything ever be done to relieve us of it, even if it is momentarily?
When arriving at this answer, an unexpected contender lies in what many now call the “good for her” movie genre.
The “good for her” movie genre most prominently entered public consciousness due to Gone Girl, a film adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name. It follows the story of Amy Dunne, a woman in a crumbling marriage, who plots her own disappearance to get back at her husband. While at the outset, this film appears to be any run-of-the-mill thriller, what makes it especially poignant is its depiction of female rage. Many code female rage in film to be of an “unstable” or “manic” nature, but it is important to remember how Amy’s rage isn’t static.It is representative of a culmination of infinitesimal micro-aggressions and burdens of emotional labour that render her invisible within her own marriage. This invisibilization hits home for many—the extremities of her rage become liberating to watch precisely because they occur in response to what many non-cis-heterosexual-men have had to face for years on end. To see this invisibilization be vindicated on screen (even if in extreme ways) almost mirrors a form of personal vindication that one could not end up receiving in real life.
Another movie within the genre that portrays this vindication extremely well is the folk-horror movie, Midsommar. The movie is based around Dani, who, after the death of her parents, joins her boyfriend and his friends to visit a commune in Sweden. Despite facing immense grief as her parents pass away, Christian (Dani’s boyfriend) shows a distant apathy towards her, even gaslighting her when she finds that something strange is happening within the commune. This apathy allegorically reflects dynamics that one can often see play out in their relationships—Christian deliberately becomes more and more avoidant, as Dani continually apologizes for asking him to do the bare minimum. The ignorance that Christian then harbours illustrates the very invisibilization we discussed above; the emotional labour of non-cis-het-men again remaining unseen. Christian’s inability to let Dani express her feelings and her grief freely renders her emotionally isolated. The intricacies of this web of induced isolation are what hit too close to home for many of us. When finally Dani takes revenge on Christian by letting him be a part of the Harga’s sacrifice, it triggers fictive vindication of having to bear this muted labour.
Carrie, a horror movie, based on the Stephen King novel, is also a direct example of the extent to which many non-cis-het-men are deliberately systemically placed in a position wherein they’re backed into a corner. Carrie, a girl with supernatural powers who lives in an extremely strict, religious, (and at times abusive) household is bullied by her peers at her highschool. Eventually the bullying becomes so horrific that they dump pig’s blood onto her head after voting her as prom queen as a “joke”. While the popular imagination often caricatures Carries’ actions at the end of the movie as those of a “manic ” woman, very few critics look at her actions as a summation of all that she has been put through. This reiterates the culmination of rage as occurring due to a variety of overt and covert aggressions snowballing together—pushing a character towards their descent into alleged “madness”.
From looking at the “good for her” genre, it then seems apparent that it carries a common element—catharsis. When you’re consistently denied the ability to express your rage, especially at the multitude of micro-aggressions that are thrown towards you, you’re forced to suppress your rage. When you do eventually express these emotions, you face the brunt of simultaneous ostracization and invalidation. This presents a predicament bent on taking away power and agency from non-cis-heterosexual-men—a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” circumstance. In seeing women on screen take over their narratives, and assert themselves against relationship and power dynamics, it seems as though one can vicariously experience a vague sense of interpersonal justice. It is through expressions of vicarious rage, it is then that many of us are able to reclaim the power and the narratives around our relationship with anger.