There is a terrific scene in the new “Halloween” film where three generations of Strode women: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, and Andi Matichak) face off against “The Shape” Michael Meyers.
The set-up is devastatingly simple: traumatized by the events in the original film, Laurie Strode (Curtis) has become a neurotic, agoraphobic recluse, convinced that Meyers will return to kill her one day, and sacrificing the love and warmth of her family to attempt to protect them and prepare them for the danger to come. She has become a “gun nut”, obsessed with barriers and traps and the nearness of death.
Her daughter Karen (Greer) wants nothing to do with her, and her grand-daughter Aliyison (Matichak) would like to be the bridge between mother and grandmother. When Meyers escapes custody and comes after them, the reality that Mom was right the whole time hits like a ton of bricks. When Karen and Aliyson are trapped in the basement, Michael battering his way in, Karen grabs a rifle in a desperate attempt to protect her daughter and her own life…and the pressure breaks her.
It is an awful scene. This is her dying place, these cold walls and dark shadows her tomb. She has let down her daughter, who will die under Michael’s knife. She has heard of the horror, of this implacable hellish, soul-less creature her entire life and mocked the concept…and now it is here.
Death itself, is here. She looks into what Dr. Loomis called “The Devil’s Eyes” and sees no mercy, no hope, nothing but her own ending, and the abyss sucks her in.
Even with a rifle in her hands, she screams that she can’t do it. She calls for her Mommy, paralyzed with terror.
Michael, the predator that he is, knows she is helpless, comes for her and…
She shoots him BOOM. She was faking! And what follows is one of the most satisfying sequences in horror film, as three generations of Strodes stand up to this terror, (at least temporarily) destroying it, and in the process healing their shattered family. Wow.
The audience I saw it with went NUTS at the basement scene! THAT was one of the great moments of horror cinema. She was luring him in with the illusion of weakness, where in reality the training, her fear for her life, and her commitment to saving her daughter has actually moved her totally OUT of illusion, and into a savage reality:
Women can and have protected themselves throughout all history. And throughout the animal kingdom.
Female “weakness” is an illusion, a game, an agreement between male and female that works great for producing more grandchildren, but is not based in biological or psychological reality. Are males stronger, larger, more explosively powerful? Yes. Does that mean females cannot defend themselves?
There is an expression: “it isn’t the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.” And a woman fighting not just for her own life but the life of her child is about as dangerous, pound for pound, as a human being can be AS LONG AS SHE STAYS OUT OF THE SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED ILLUSION. Get out of her head. Get into her heart, and her body instincts.
If you step back and look at the game of male and female, it is arguable that deep in prehistory the human race decided to play a game: females would pretend to be weaker more timid than they were, males would pretend to be stronger and braver than THEY really were. The goal? Produce maximum grandchildren via specialization.
And it had advantages and disadvantages for both sides. The thought that “women’s ambitions and men’s lives were disposable” comes to mind. Arguably, the human race, post-industrialization, birth control, the invention of firearms and overpopulation, has entered a new era, one in which we can question those gender roles and actually shift them if we choose. This is new. And…the good news is that this change is actually good for both sides.
All that is required for this change is to awaken from the illusion. To do this, start with the assumption of equality (with some inevitable reproductive complementarity). It can be difficult because of all the politics, but just as with racial issues, if you START with an assumption of equality between groups, understanding that societies exaggerate the differences for its own purposes (mainly genetic or tribal survival), then “waking up” frees us. If you stop needing to project guilt, blame and shame and instead ask: “how did we get here, if we are basically equal across gender and racial lines?” all of the answers will come, and WITHOUT demonizing either side. Stop the war. We have done the best we could as a species, and now we have the chance to do better. A chance to step into a new future that is rooted in our distant past, but builds upon it to create new options.
I ask you seriously, guys: when you saw Karen blow Michael Meyers away (well…or at least wound him. You know how these immortal monsters are!) didn’t that turn you on, just a little? I can’t imagine a healthy male who would want a weak woman. Could such a woman protect his children? Protect HIM if he was sick or wounded? Don’t you want the strongest life partner you can possibly find?
And I ask you, ladies: when you saw that, didn’t you cheer? Didn’t you feel that that was YOU , given the right situation, the right motivations? And what would you think of a man who looked at that and cheered? And was turned on by the notion that you could stand at his side, utterly female but utterly capable of defending your children, no matter what it took?
This isn’t a salvo in the gun control debate. Stop the politics, just for a moment. We’re talking about primal survival, the creation of young, one of the primary drivers of human sexuality. And ALL animals have the means of self-protection and the internal permission to fight for their lives. WEAKNESS IS AN ILLUSION. POWER IS SEXY. That power can manifest as various forms of intelligence, drive, self-confidence, skill, talent, calm, balance and so forth, but except for BADLY wounded people and predators, weakness is NOT attractive.
I recently met with one of the producers of “Halloween,” who chuckled when I mentioned that Michael Meyers could be seen as an avatar of Toxic Masculinity. Unstoppable, violent, dominating. But that would only be half the puzzle, because the other half would be Toxic Femininity: pretending to be weak, begging for help she didn’t need, thrusting the protective energy (Curtis) out to the hinterlands to harden the heart and then blame it for the very sacrifices that keep the home safe.
The path forward is for BOTH sides to awaken. To end a “war” that has lasted tens of thousands of years. Which once served a very real purpose which it may well have outlived It will not be easy, because partisans on both sides are convinced the illusion is real. But there are massive rewards for those who can shake off that fantasy and embrace a new and better world.
And one of those rewards is the ability to love BOTH the male and female aspects of ourselves. And therefore…each other. And the path is to connect to the child self, to commit to the protection of hat helpless one at any cost. From there, we can see we must harness everything within us, every drop of compassion and love, which then spins into a total commitment to protect and smashes the illusions.
We can be more. We can be free. We can love ourselves, and understand our world, and embrace each other as we walk this journey called life.
The answer, as always, is love.
Be kind to yourself…and love each other