The Horror Honeys: The Faux-Feminism of Lucky McKee

The Faux-Feminism of Lucky McKee

A Vintage Revenge Honey Rant

(With the release of Lucky McKee’s newest film, All Cheerleaders Die, I’ve decided to revisit a piece I wrote on my massive ethical issues with him. I’d like my anger fresh prior to seeing a film that just may soften me. So join me in my two part odyssey, Faux Feminism & The Equal Opportunity Misogyny of Lucky McKee!)

I'm next in line. Aim for the part of my brain that remembers
these movies please!
As a female fan of horror, its not always easy to find films that don't objectify women as simple set pieces for psycho slasher murder parties. With few women directing horror films, we have to rely on feminist men to combat directors like Eli Roth who seem to delight in tearing naked women to shreds for fun. These kinds of men can be infuriating beyond belief but unfortunately, are often the norm. However, what could possibly be worse than out right misogynistic filmmaking that casts women as a means to a bloody and violent end? Only this: filmmakers that pretend to be pro-women while propagating anti-feminist stereotypes. Writer and director Lucky McKee is one of these filmmakers and, pardon my language, really just cheeses me off.

I can't say that every movie McKee makes is offensive. The Woods was a mostly effective and atmospheric horror film with strong performances from Agnes Bruckner and Patricia Clarkson. The problem is that the offensive movies he makes are SO frustrating that its hard to remember he's made a film that wasn't ridiculously off-putting. (In fact, I totally forgot he even made The Woods until I glanced back over his resume.)

May, the best known of McKee's films, tells the story of the title character, a young woman played by McKee's muse, Angela Bettis. May was a tormented little girl who's complicated childhood carries over into an awkward adulthood. Grown-up May has trouble establishing relationships with other humans and instead, connects with the animals she treats as a veterinary assistant and the dolls she's collected since youth. When May attempts to make friends with a lesbian co-worker (Anna Farris) and mysteriously handsome (epically cliche) film student (Jeremy Sisto), the results are less shocking cinematically and more psychologically preposterous.

If only you were as lovably clueless as you appear.
May is generally embraced as some sort of metaphorical feminist odyssey and frankly, doesn't even begin as a standard horror film. At the outset, May comes across as more of a slow-burn portrait of a young woman wrestling with her fractured psyche. But as the minutes creep along, May starts to devolve into a stereotypically negative representation of schizophrenia. At it's best, May is an insulting degradation of the mentally ill and a violent portrayal of adverse bisexual stereotypes. At it's worst, it implies blind kids are stupid and lesbians are oblivious to danger as long as it gets them laid. You would think May would be as much of an affront to various minority groups as possible in a two-hour format, but McKee was only getting started. And he would soon be much more efficient.

The Netflix description of Sick Girl, McKee's entry into the Masters of Horror series, does an excellent job of highlighting all of the problems with the short film even though it probably wasn't meant to (I'm assuming anyway. Maybe all of Netflix's employees are radical feminists? Or maybe just horny adolescent boys.)

A bizarre bug tries to horn in on the fleshly action of a torrid lesbian tryst in this sensual and shocking thriller from writer-director Lucky McKee. A cryptic package from Brazil containing an unusual insect arrives on the doorstep of introvert entomologist Ida Teeter (Angela Bettis). When the creepy crawly bites Ida's new lover (Misty Mundae), the sapphic couple finds their erotic affair transformed into a gruesome ménage à trois.

Now, I'm going to assume that while some of you may be bugged by that description (pun 100% intended), just in case, I am going to highlight my irritation with this movie. While I believe that McKee probably saw this as some sort of lesbian empowerment film, all it does is perpetuate a stereotype that something is inherently wrong with gay women that must be punished. Ida is sent this male bug by her bigoted father in an attempt to "turn" her straight. Her girlfriend is infected by the insect and turned into a baby bug breeding factory. In the end, the girlfriend "converts" Ida to a fellow breeder and the movie ends with a shot of the pregnant women embracing under the watchful eye of their male bug buddy.

Lesbians. According to Lucky McKee,
not at all picky.
Really? Not only is this the worst kind of anti-feminist propaganda, but frankly... it's bullshit. Sick Girl does nothing more than reiterate the frat boy mentality that lesbians are only lesbians because they haven't met the right penis yet. Is this really a message that we should still be perpetuating in this day and age? And more importantly, for a director that keeps sending out films with a surface message of "yay ladies!"to reiterate such a homophobic subtext is deeply disturbing.

I'd like to say that McKee's outlook on women improved after Sick Girl in 2006, but unfortunately, the situation only became more complicated. The Woman, released in 2011, managed to be highly offensive to both genders while remaining impressively uninterested in character motivation. And it is there that I will leave you until next time, when I return with an entire post devoted to Lucky McKee's magnum opus of pain and degradation, The Woman...