The 2012 horror film The Cabin in the Woods aimed to transcend the traditional plot and gimmicks of slasher flicks. Put simply, a facility has placed young adults in rigged death situations that closely mirror horror films, as an offering to the Ancient Ones, who would destroy the earth if this ritual was not fulfilled. The regurgitation of horror movie stereotypes mixed with the plot of The Facility was a witty commentary on the state of the genre. In particular, the two types of females prevalent in horror films, the
“virgin” and the “whore”, are used in a stereotypical fashion in backlash to the genres fetishization of these two types. In society at large, each woman is expected to be both a virgin, pure and good, as well as a whore, sexual and bad. This dichotomy created by the patriarchy is on direct display throughout this film, and it seems that the creators, Goddard and Whedon, were motivated to parody it, like many other genre-typical actions.
The “whore” in this film is named Jules, and she is sexy and carefree. She travels to the cabin with her group of close friends, which includes her hunky boyfriend, Curt. Once there she begins acting like the typical “dumb blonde” due to drugs placed in her hair dye by workers at The Facility. She is given libido enhancing drugs as well, leading her to make out with a taxidermied wolf and dance promiscuously in front of the whole group. Eventually Jules and Curt go for a walk in the woods.
He tries to engage her in sexual activity, but she refuses, and begins to walk back to the cabin. The facilitators don’t like this, so they release pheromones into the area where she is walking, causing her to engage in “whore”-like activities with her boyfriend. This displays how she is being blatantly sexualized against her will by the people who labeled her “whore”, and even has the connotation of a woman who is slipped drugs and subsequently assaulted. As she is having sex with Curt, Jules reaches her hand out in apparent ecstasy, only to have it stabbed by a zombie redneck torture man. Choosing this exact moment for her to be attacked shows that she is being punished for being a “whore”, for being a female who enjoys sexual acts.
The “virgin” is Dana, a smart and adorable college student (however throughout the film her actual status as a “virgin” is questionable). It is stated by Jules that Dana was “fucked” by her professor; while Dana is kissing Holden (another guy on the trip), she stumbles over a few phrases like “I’ve never”; finally the Director, the person in charge of the facility, explains that Dana fulfills the “virgin” component, to which she says “Me? The virgin?” and the Director replies “We work with what we have”.
Aside from all this ambiguity about Dana’s virginity, she is still considered “virginal” enough to fulfill the prophecy requirements: she is a good girl, restrained and submissive in comparison to Jules. While Jules is unwillingly sexualized by workers in the Facility, Dana is not forced into the same situation when making out with Holden- he makes sure she knows that they don’t have to do anything. This mirrors how in real life, often perceived “virgins” are treated better than “whores”. For the “virgin” component of the ritual, Dana’s death is optional- the only requirement is her suffering. And suffer she does: she watches two friends die, has Jules’ dismembered head thrown at her, practically drowns, is tortured for a length of time, runs from a menagerie of horror story monsters, and is attacked by a werewolf. This suffering could be interpreted as a metaphor of society’s expectations of women being sexually available to men, and when they are not, they are ridiculed and proclaimed to be “frigid”.
So, bitcas, which would you rather be: the “virgin” or the “whore”? The horror story Whedon and Goddard created is directly applicable to society; women who are perceived as either of these types undergo real life horrors for their sexual choices. Women shouldn’t be judged based upon their sexual choices, yet these expectations are foisted upon nearly every woman at some point (#yesallwomen). It is my opinion that Whedon and Goddard are trying to subvert the virgin/whore dichotomy, as they are also trying to turn the horror genre upside down. By the end of the film, the plot of The Facility is revealed, and Dana and another of her surviving friends refuse to fulfill the ritual. This is the subversion in work; they could succomb to the norm or change it. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but every time I watch Cabin, the dichotomy is SO apparent.
Happy Monday, bitcas.