The Feminine Wiles

Be advised of spoilers for Audition, Kingdom, and X.
At a time in society where every subject deals with the interpretation of feminism, there has been a gradual increase in the showing of female protagonists that are no longer tied to the archaic structure of needing a man to save them.

In the earlier days of horror, there was the standard representation of women in the genre as frail. They are forever remembered as beautiful objects and motivators of the antagonist’s actions, such as in 1989’s The Phantom of the Opera. Then there was a transition from the helpless damsel in distress to the final girl trope. This troupe has seen a few evolutions, where it started from only the one “virgin” female character who escapes or is saved after a massacre to the more current she-or sometimes he- survives because they fought back. There has been another trope slowly peeking through the genre. Motivated by their desires and impulses, women do acts that deviate from accepted social norms.

These acts aren’t to be confused with madness. No, I wouldn’t dare dilute this level of
calculation by saying they are in any way unaware of their intentions and actions. There has been a trend in today’s media where women have been subverting the genre and allowing women to thrive within their femineity, whatever that ever-changing concept means to them. Embracing their feminine wiles, women are using whatever tools are available to them to meet their selfish desires by any means possible.


A notable example is Asami from 1999’s Audition. In a film that can be confused for a romantic
psychedelic dream, up until the last act. Asami, who is portrayed as the perfect woman, is looking for someone who will love her and only her, and once she determines that that’s a lie,
she reacts accordingly. Asami may seem like the typical revenge troupe, but that’s the beauty of her complexity. The men in the film may have manipulated her, but she also is the manipulator. Like a spider spinning its web, she carefully reveals what information she wants her partner to know. Asami even informs him of her criteria that he must love her and no one else while also ensuring that she keeps her paralytic drug somewhere nearby in case they don’t.

One of my favorite examples of this would be Queen Cho from the 2019’s television series
Kingdom. In a period where women were only seen as tools, she uses her husband’s sudden
illness, the King of Joseon, and pregnancy to secure her position of power and rule as Regent.
Every single maneuver she makes is to situate herself in said position further while
simultaneously removing any obstacles that may arise. Instead of being bound to tradition and following the patriarchal leadership of her family, she chose her own vicious path to power.


The newest contenders on the list would be Pearl from 2022’s X’s, whose motives are more
carnal in nature but are solely her own. At first, she seems frail and helpless to viewers. Then it is slowly revealed that the entire situation, and the ones that have come before them, are all due to Pearl seeking to meet her own envious needs while simultaneously grasping at the willowy strands of morality.

This new addition to the ever-expanding sub-genres is an absolute delight. Instead of being
saddled with the problematic revenge troupe, these women are all about committing what would be dubbed “evil acts” for a multitude of reasons, from trying to find love, to ruling a nation, to simply satisfying an urge. While I’m thrilled that I now have a selection of titles to choose from where I can enjoy the complexity of women in horror, I cannot say that they had very bright futures. The horror genre still has a long way to go regarding its treatment of women in media- I’m looking at you,extreme horror novels- and the lack of overall representation concerning racial and sexual identity.

Written by Brittany. You can listen to her podcast HERE