I was excited to see two of my favorite people at Comic-Con this year â âSupernaturalâsâ Ruth Connell (Rowena) and Alaina Huffman (Abaddon). They both joined a panel called âBeyond Scream Queensâ on women in horror, which turned out to be a fascinating and thoughtful discussion.
The panelists (also including Alex Essoe of âDoctor Sleep,â Mali Elfman of âBefore I Wake,â and Jocelin Donahue of âThe House of the Devilâ) and the moderator (John Marcotte, a dad of several daughters) noted that horror is the only genre in which women appear more than men, and discussed ways in which horror films can include feminist themes and can empower girls and women. They also mentioned that when weâre watching media of men shooting each other up that isnât coded as horror, but if a woman stabs someone then it is.
They also talked about the lack of women behind the camera in horror films, which is sometimes presented as âthere are no women who want to direct horror.â Instead, the panelists said, we have to make space for them. They talked about the importance of films like âWonder Womanâ and âCaptain Marvel,â how and important it is also to have people with different life experiences behind the camera.
Mali: Women are told they have to have films already under their belts, while men are not.
Jocelin: Men are hired on their potential, women on proof of what theyâve done.
Ruth and Alaina: Female films are funded less, but they need the same resources to make the same caliber of films.
Everyone talked about their own experience both making horror films and television, and the films they watched growing up with female characters who were empowering, including Sissy Spacekâs âCarrie,â Jody Foster in âSilence of the Lambs,â and Jocelyn Laurie from âHalloween.â Alaina said that she grew up in Japan watching the three DVDs they had, one of which was âTank Girl.â
Ruth talked about how her character on âSupernatural,â Rowena, is an empowering female figure.
Ruth: My character burned to death in my show, but I knew she was going to save herself. It was a bit too exploitative, and that felt wrong. Surprisingly, Iâm the longest running woman on my show.
Mali: Actresses are sometimes pushed to do things they are uncomfortable with, because they fear theyâll lose jobs otherwise.
Ruth: I don’t get many auditions, but I have had to turn one down [when it wasnât an appropriate role].
Moderator: Only women get attacked by serial killers in their underwearâ¦
And, of course, thereâs the âfinal girlâ trope, in which the virginal girl suffers all the way through the film but survives because sheâs a virgin. If she has sex, oops â instant death!
The panelists also talked about the difference between movies (and television) filmed with a male gaze versus a female gaze, for example âWonder Womanâ versus âJustice League.â A female director might NOT do the âshoot up her skirtâ view.
Alaina talked about her recent film âThe Perfection.â
Alaina: It was one of the first after the Weinsteins were ousted, in the #MeToo time.
Ruth also mentioned âThe Handmaids Taleâ as possibly belonging to the horror genre much like how âGet Outâ was.
Itâs horrifying, thatâs for sure!
Jocelin: That scares women for real, the idea of someone taking control of their bodies.
Ruth: And the violence in âKilling Eveâ is the most fascinating ever, in some ways the most feminine.
The panel also discussed masculinity and horror.
Mali: Itâs empowering for us all to understand toxic masculinity. Also that men have feelings too.
Ruth: Itâs empowering to see little boys dressed as Wonder Woman!
They also talked about the importance of not writing for specific genders. âAlienâ ended up with a very empowering female character because it was not written with a specified gender. No one knew that Ripley was a woman until they cast Sigourney Weaver!
Alaina: Most characters donât have to have a gender. I mean, The Doctor is female now!
I made sure to catch this panel because Ruth and Alaina are two of my favorite people. (Here they are taking a selfie and being adorable)
But I ended up really enjoying the thoughtful discussion that touched on so many important themes. The whole premise of âFamily Donât End With Blood,â (which you can still get here) and most of my research as a psychologist is all about how media and the things and people we fan can have an impact on our lives, and this panel made it clear that can happen in sometimes surprising ways.
You can read Ruth Connellâs insightful and personal chapter in âFamily Donât End With Bloodâ about how her experience on âSupernaturalâ has impacted her as well. And look for Alaina in âThe Perfectionâ and for Ruth to return to âSupernaturalâ for its final season!