The Horror Honeys: Channelling power and sexuality with "Carrie"

Channelling power and sexuality with "Carrie"

A Guest Honey Editorial by Ashlee

"If The Stepford Wives concerns itself with what men want from women, then Carrie is largely about how women find their own channels of power, and what men fear about women and women's sexuality...which is only to say that, writing the book in 1973 and only out of college three years, I was fully aware of what Women's Liberation implied for me and others of my sex. The book is, in its more adult implications, and uneasy masculine shrinking from a future of female equality. For me, Carrie White is a sadly misused teenager, an example of the sort of person whose spirit is so often broken for good in that pit of man- and woman-eaters that is your normal suburban high school. But she's also Woman, feeling her powers for the first time and, like Samson, pulling down the temple on everyone in sight at the end of the book ." –Stephen King

I first read this Stephen King passage from his well referenced book, Danse Macabre in the introduction of Carol Clover's  Men Women and Chainsaws comprehensive feat on gender in the contemporary horror film. While I was an undergrad and finding my stride with doing work on the horror genre, this quote very much captured the affirmations I took a stand for in my thesis; that horror tells us so much about gender, sexism, and our scary world. It is poetic yet instructional, a great start in understanding why horror, especially popular films over time like Carrie resonates so much with so many.

Conjecture assumes, King felt both prepared to approach the opposite sex with a level of equitable esteem and consecutively deal with his comfort with patriarchy. The infamous prom scene and what follows is literal and interpretive. The "future of female equality" is and has been about destruction. The idea and practices of 'dismantling the master's house' to borrow from poet and activist Audre Lorde is about undoing and rebuilding our systems to create inclusivity without compromise at the expense of others. It is further interpretive of the affects of the dismantling. How are we really putting equality into practice and how are we truly reacting when we're at our wit's end? Some of us become fearless to be feared. Some channel power with weapons used against us so often. There are more variables to ponder here, but this is ultimately how Carrie’s blood soaked path of destruction plays out.

It is effectively purposeful that we follow Carrie’s awkward and tragic journey through the terrains of adolescence. It is very easy to fall deeply sympathetic to her circumstances and feels just as euphorically satisfying to witness her out of control, take control modus operandi in the high school gym. Each time I watch Carrie, I am just as uneasy as King proposes. From the perspective of being a woman, what’s equally unsettling is the very fact that girls, with youth and the lesser of life knowledge at their disadvantage, feel driven to these extremes. 

Since reading King’s passage, I've given myself almost any reason to use it in my papers on horror films. It was the first time I read a male artist explicate how feminism and/or the Women's Liberation Movement's impacted some of his work. No matter what you may feel about Carrie in book or film form, the point is, movements, ideologies, cultural shifts are meant to provoke some sort of introspection. Whether the feedback is positive or negative. It's all very subjective. So is my love for this quote.

Ashlee is the founder of Graveyard Shift Sisters, a website dedicated to highlighting and celebrating the experiences and achievements of Black women and women of color in the horror (and science fiction) genre. Ashlee is a Philadelphia-based critical media writer who specializes in writing about film (horror/science fiction) with a niche focus on representations of Black women in horror: fans, artists, filmmakers, and characters.