Ladies of Horror: Gothika and Gaslight

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Written by Cat Wilson of
Today’s pick is the supernatural psychological horror Gothika. Critics lumped a lot of hate on this movie… saying it wasn’t scary, it didn’t make sense, etc. We ladies think they are wrong, there is a lot going on in this film. Halle Berry’s character Miranda is a psychiatrist at a woman's penitentiary. One a stormy night she serves her car to avoid a injured girl on the road. Trying to help the girl Miranda blacks out and wakes up in the other side of the bars having apparently killed her husband.

Spoiler Warning

It turns out that the girl was a ghost that possessed Miranda to act out her revenge on Miranda’s husband who is a serial rapist and murderer. It isn’t until Miranda finds irrefutable physical proof that she is believed, by even the men that care about her. What interested us at Lady was the parallels between this story, the Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas hearings and women historically being disbelieved when reporting rape.
There are two phrases repeated in the film. “Not Alone” which at first Miranda thinks it means she is not alone but learns to her horror that it means the rapist didn’t act alone. One could say there are many perpetrators and actors in rape culture.
The second is first said by Penelope Cruz’s character Chloe “How can you trust someone when they think you are crazy.” How can we? If men think women are crazy, not rational creatures how can we trust them. As Jenna Sauers, of Jezebel says

“Reflexively calling women “crazy” is a habit young men need to learn to break. As a term, “crazy” is entirely of a piece with the long and nasty tradition of pathologizing female emotion (and particularly sexuality). 

For women of color this has been doubly true. As Judith Worell and Pamela Remer say in Feminist Perspectives in Therapy

"African American women were sexually exploited during slavery" and because of stereotypes originating from slavery such as the Jezebel, black women "are not viewed as credible complainants, and are stereotyped (e.g., as promiscuous) in ways that blame them for their rapes."

When slavery ended these evil stereotypes lived on justifying the rape of African American Women.

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There is a term for manipulating a victims reality so that the doubt themselves, Gaslighting. We would argue that gaslighting is the one of the most terrifying forms of metal and emotional abuse. A true horror story for women. In the two films called Gaslight a trusted husband purposefully attempts to drive is wife insane by moving and hiding objects in order to undermine her reality. A man hurls crazy at a woman like a weapon devaluing everything she is in one swift stroke, which brings us back to Gothika. Gaslighting works when the woman or society trusts the abuser, so how can we “Trust someone when they think you are crazy.”