Once bitten, twice shy: The fall and rise of the female werewolf
by Magda Knight
The pros and cons of female werewolves... do we really want to see crazy naked hairy ladies creating havoc on our movie screens? Er, yes.
Have you noticed that when you see a werewolf on TV, in a movie, or in a novel, not many of them are female? Female werewolves do exist in art and literature, but they just aren't as common as the male werewolf. Why not? Where is the female werewolf in our horror repertoire? Has she snuck away to hide in a dark lair, growling softly, waiting for someone to notice her?
Well... horror movies need to maximise the threat exuded by their monsters, and in our society the creature we're most likely to fear is an aggressive alpha male. Funnily enough, werewolves in movies (barring a couple of notable exceptions that play with the genre like 'Dog Soldiers') tend to be male, violent, larger than an average man, hairier than an average man, more basic in their instincts than an average man - in fact, they're basically about as alpha male as you can get. The average werewolf is an alpha male thrust through the looking glass. It doesn't have to be that way...
Another visual issue for films is how to design a female werewolf costume. Werewolves tend to be naked - probably something to do with the cloth stretching and ripping as those manly human muscles begin to warp. From a director's point of view, would having a female werewolf detract people from the film, so appalled/titillated would they be at seeing a naked hairy lady?
There are no doubts that a female werewolf is everything a traditional young miss shouldn't be. Show me a single film that features a decorous, submissive, nurturing werewolf...
Like maybe this dialogue from Ginger Snaps
-- Ginger Snaps (John Fawcett, 2000)
And yet... as 'Ginger Snaps' figured out, women are actually perfectly suited to werewolfdom. Let's not forget that a woman menstruates once a month, and all caught in the hurricane that is PMT Woman will attest that she does indeed change during that time. Full fangs and throat-ripping? Maybe not, not on an average month, but a truly nasty period can get pretty savage. And the first time a girly gets her period, she's going to come to terms with her sexuality, which can also get pretty dangerous...
And werewolves, of course, change with the full moon. And when a werewolf turns there's a substantial amount of blood involved. Oh, and isn't it female mammals who usually hunt for food? While their partners hang around docilely waiting for the lion-sized portion and mating things?
If I was being flippant, which I never, ever, ever, ever am, I could point out that many women can't stand to have hairy legs, let alone hairy bodies.
-- Ginger Snaps (John Fawcett, 2000)
Seminal writers like Angela Carter (whose fabulously dark fairy stories were turned into the film The Company Of Wolves [DVD] ) have known that a fairytale represents a warning against straying too far into the world of the Other. They are often stories about sexual awakening - none more so than the werewolf. And a woman, with her blood moon ties and complications and social expectations, even - would make the most fearsome, most otherly, most society-warping monster of them all.
If a werewolf is meant to be terrifying, and if we find the concept of an uncivilised woman terrifying in our society, then let's put the two together. Let's have non-boring werewolf films that aren't just about evil-bad male predators hunting down unsuspecting women. Let's make werewolf art that is the most terrifying it can be - let's make that werewolf a woman. Let's have rude hairy ladies creating havoc on our film screens.
Let's get female werewolf on our ass!
Werewolf film and literature that plays with the traditional idea of werewolves:
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@MagdaKnight is the Co-Founding Editor of Mookychick. Her YA fiction and other writings have been published in anthologies and in 2000AD. She likes you already, so Email her and say hi, or visit her blog. She is on Google+.