SWFs Were The Villains Of The 90s. What's Scary Now?

Elizabeth Wurtzel, rager against dying of light and proud singleton, asks: what’s with all the movies portraying SWFs as stalkers?

As Wurtzel puts it in the Guardian, in the 80s and 90s, films – <"em>Fatal Attraction, Single White Female, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, The Temp, Disclosure, almost any Sharon Stone vehicle” – featured a predatory single woman, deranged by loneliness, success, or lack of traditional fetters, making life a living hell for more stable people. While villainesses are nothing new, Wurtzel notes the distinction between the psycho career singleton of 80s vintage and the bored-housewife moll perfected by Barbara Stanwyck, Lana Turner and their shadow-dappled sisters. As she interprets it,

A free woman is a loose cannon who is so dangerous that everybody else needs body armour and a bullet-proof vest to survive an encounter with them. That this dangerous female is alone and vulnerable, compared to everyone else with their spouses and kids and pets and household staffs, seems not to be anything anyone is supposed to notice. Singleness, in these movies, is actually a form of psychosis rather than a relationship status.

Of course, it’s not hard to see that for the era of the culture wars, the single predator was America’s Godzilla, or Gort, handily vanquished in two hours and for the price of a ticket. Wurtzel’s peg is the latest entry into the “single psycho” genre, the ridiculous catfight Obsession, in which Ali Later’s deranged secretary’s motiveless stalking proves that “the only lesson any man could learn from this movie is pretty much: ‘Don’t get out of bed in the morning – ever!'”

Looking at the recent roll-out of horror films, it seems like we could learn a little bit more. Unless it’s motiveless, senseless malignancy – The Strangers, Funny Games, Red – which does correlate pretty well with the times actually, the main theme of horror films lately is, young women. Sure, sacrificial lambs of varying levels of resourcefulness are as old as Udolpho. But the girl-on-girl rivalries of The Uninvited, the demonic pregnancy possession of The Unborn , the psycho cheerleader of the upcoming Jennifer’s Body the vagina dentata of Teeth – and did we mention the vampires? – shows that nowadays, the conflict is less married versus single than young women against the world, even when that means themselves. These are premises to which men are incidental, but that’s not to say the trend’s especially empowering. The SWF trend may have been a cautionary tale to those women who Chose Wrong…but nowadays, it seems like there is no safe choice anymore. But then, any internet catfight – or Wurtzel’s meditation on againg – could have told you that.

Look Who’s Stalking [The Guardian]
Earlier: Elizabeth Wurtzel: Aging is a Real Bitch

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