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A Lesbian Feminist Horror Movie

Posted on | August 19, 2014 | 35 Comments

Lesbian actress Ingrid Jungermann (left) and director Stewart Thorndike.

Working on “Sex Trouble,” my continuing series about radical feminism, I routinely search Twitter for relevant news and commentary. Searching for “lesbian feminist,” this headline popped up:

Lyle Director Stewart Thorndike on Making
the Lesbian Version of Rosemary’s Baby
and the Need for Feminist Horror

We will proceed to criticism of Ms. Thorndike’s film Lyle, but first this thought: Does anyone else notice how “lesbian” and “feminist” go together so naturally that the writer who did this interview, Kelcie Mattson, sort of took it for granted? Because I’ve spent so much time researching the subject, I’m beginning to take it for granted, too. Just a couple of quick examples from Twitter:

What you see here is young women spontaneously associating the terms “lesbian” and “feminist,” occasionally to defend these terms, occasionally as a sort of joke. As we have seen, however, this association is not accidental; since the early 1970s, radical feminists like Artemis March and Charlotte Bunch have insisted that lesbianism is essential to women’s equality and liberation. And if you accept their premise — that heterosexuality involves a condition of subordinated inferiority imposed on females by the male-dominated patriarchal society — it is impossible to dispute their lesbian/feminist conclusion.

For more than four decades, so-called “mainstream” feminism has attempted to marginalize (or at least to conceal from widespread public scrutiny) the outspoken advocates of this radical ideology, despite the fact that lesbian feminism is the logical conclusion of the basic feminist theory, which views men and women as collective groups that have inherently hostile interests. However, in the Women’s Studies programs that have proliferated on American university campuses, enrolling more than 90,000 female students annually, the curriculum invariably features lesbian feminist treatises, and the professors who teach these courses are often themselves proudly “out” lesbians. Graduates of Women’s Studies programs are employed in key roles at “mainstream” feminist organizations, so that the radical agenda and the mainstream agenda have steadily merged over the years.

All of this was sort of “inside baseball” within the feminist movement until the past decade. The 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision and the 2013 Windsor v. United States decision, however, have legitimized homosexual equality, meaning that gay adulthood is now a socially acceptable and legally protected condition. From this “emerging awareness” (to quote Justice Anthony Kennedy’s decision in Lawrence) it is logical to assume that one purpose of education now is to prepare young people for their lives as gay adults. Post-Windsor, you will be condemned as a homophobic hater if you disapprove of gay advocacy in public schools, and all opposition to such advocacy must be swept away in the name of “social justice.”

The general trend is unmistakable, if you pay close attention, and the teleological meaning of “equality” becomes apparent, the conclusion of the radical syllogism being implicit in its premises.

While much conservative criticism of the gay-rights movement has focused on male homosexuals, however, few conservatives noticed that lesbians actually bring greater ideological resources to the battlefields of the Culture War. They are both gay and women and, in terms of the Competitive Victimhood Derby that is modern progressivism, this places lesbians in a position to claim that they are suffering from double discrimination. Because feminism has always been a movement of the political Left, and because the Left is fanatically committed to gay rights, no woman who considers herself a feminist would dare disparage the militant lesbians who increasingly dominate the official institutions of feminism. Heterosexual women concerned about workplace harassment or abortion rights might not publicly lock arms in solidarity with lesbian radicals. The “mainstream” feminist may quietly ignore the angry dykes ranting about the heteronormative patriarchy. Yet no woman could hope to maintain her status as a feminist if she were to publicly denounce the academic radicals who relentlessly strive to teach girls that lesbianism is the feminist ideal. Professor Daphne Patai, who spent a decade teaching Women’s Studies classes at the University of Massachusetts, saw this trend emerging, and described it in her 1998 book Heterophobia:

Something very strange happened toward the end of the twentieth century. Heterosexuality went from being the norm to being on the defensive. By calling this phenomenon “heterophobia,” I am not speaking abstractly. Rather, I am referring to a distinct current within feminism [since the late 1960s], a current that has been “theorized” explicitly by feminist scholars and agitators alike as they attack men and heterosexuality.

If this trend was apparent more than 15 years ago, we ought not be surprised now to see high-school girls declaring themselves lesbian feminists on blogs, on Twitter and elsewhere. The ideas of the 1970 Radicalesbian manifesto and Adrienne Rich’s 1980 treatise “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” have been gradually diffused throughout the culture. And so we return to Stewart Thorndike’s lesbian horror film Lyle.

The movie premiered at New York’s Outfest for gay films. Ms. Thorndike wrote and directed the film, and cast her girlfriend Ingrid Jungermann as the lesbian partner of the protagonist played by Gaby Hoffman. An excerpt (no spoilers) from a recent review:

Lyle stars Gaby Hoffmann as Leah and Ingrid Jungermann as June, a lesbian couple with a young daughter, Lyle, in search of an apartment in New York City. And although somewhat disturbed by an off-kilter landlady, the couple settles into a comfortable dwelling to raise Lyle and the new baby which Leah is carrying. Things immediately go bad in this one-hour horror story that gives the viewer very little breathing room as it makes very good use of every minute of that hour. Hoffmann’s Leah carries the film as her partner is almost constantly away at a recording studio working on an increasingly successful music career. Without giving away too much of the story, simply know that a life-altering tragedy occurs and Leah’s mental well-being is crushed along with the picturesque life she and June were building. Determined to discover just what is truly tormenting her life and how deep the web of deceit goes, Leah turns to researching her new apartment and her strange landlady and begins to put the pieces together. But is the puzzle truly an evil plot, or is it Leah’s fragile psyche playing tricks on her?

Having promised no spoilers — and I haven’t seen the movie — I’m going to take a wild guess that the villain of the movie, the “strange landlady,” is some kind of hateful homophobe. Ah, but what was the inspiration? From the interview with Ms. Thorndike:

The story for Lyle came to me in this one, really clear moment. I was dating Ingrid [Jungermann], who plays June, at the time and was mad at her. I wanted to have a kid, and she didn’t. I was in the shower — angry — and I had this thought: she’s bad. Then the whole story of her preventing me from having all these babies I wanted slammed into my head. I remember jumping out of the shower, jotting the whole thing down, looking at it, and thinking, Oh, I just wrote the story for Rosemary’s Baby a little. But the lesbian version.

Isn’t this interesting? A lesbian couple angrily arguing because one of them wants children and believes her partner is “preventing me from having all these babies I wanted.” You can’t blame that problem on the heteronormative patriarchy, can you?

But notice the way Thorndike answers this interview question:

What do you think your perspective brings to the genre, and to Lyle in particular, with its deliberately female/LGBT-focus?
Thorndike: Maybe Lyle‘s contribution to LGBT stuff is that it normalizes it. They just happen to be gay — it’s not the storyline.

Wait a doggone minute there. The movie is about a lesbian couple having babies together and the director has declared that it was inspired by a quarrel with her girlfriend, who is cast as one of the partners in the movie, and yet “LGBT stuff” is “not the storyline”?

Do people like this actually understand what they’re saying? Or is it the case that their worldview is so prevalent in elite culture that they are accustomed to never having their ideas criticized?

Also, I’m guessing Ms. Thorndike isn’t a fan of Disney movies . . .




 

 

THE ‘SEX TROUBLE’ SERIES:

 

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Comments

  • http://alanye.com daialanye

    We simply must get women like this Ingrid Jungermann off testosterone—for aesthetic reasons if no others.

  • RS

    So the movie involves two children, one of whom is still in the womb. Given that this is an expressly lesbian movie, I assume the children arrived via parthenogenesis.

  • Matt_SE

    What a screwed up generation these people are going to produce. On the bright side, there won’t be many of them.

  • Steve Skubinna

    That’s why God created turkey basters.

  • Steve Skubinna

    Okay, just one question: is “Stewart Thorndike” her real name?

    On second thought, it must be. No way would she pass on, say “Butch Thorndike” if she were making it up.

  • daleyrocks

    “They just happen to be gay — it’s not the storyline.”

    That’s a social construct. Biology means nothing. Ignore it.

  • https://twitter.com/Mthomps016 M. Thompson

    Snort!

  • CL

    I can’t believe Thorndike is one of the two models roaming around Zieglers party with
    Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut.

  • CL

    No, it’s Megan.

  • http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/ Evi L. Bloggerlady

    This was all done previously in John Waters “Pink Flamingos” which also helps to explain the weirdness of Maryland.

  • RS

    The movie is streaming free online here. I did not watch the whole thing but probably 30 minutes skipping through to the end, enough time to figure out what was going on. I was not impressed. It seems forced and amateurish. You know you’re watching people act. Were it not for the lesbian hook, this movie would be no more noteworthy than a college film student’s graduation requirement.

    The problem with “themed” art–“lesbian horror,” “Christian [fill in blank]”– is that in order to be good, it must be art first. It must stand on its own within its genre without regard to whether it hits the proper ideological notes. If the art is crap, it’s merely pandering to a segment of the population, whom the artist hopes will set aside aesthetic considerations in favor of taking one for the “team.” And worse, if one turns a blind eye to the fact the work is crap, one immediately is deemed “inauthentic.”

  • Mm

    THIS —-> “Or is it the case that their worldview is so prevalent in elite culture
    that they are accustomed to never having their ideas criticized?”

  • RS

    Last sentence should read “. . . refuses to turn a blind eye . . .”

    My bad.

  • RS

    “Butch Thorndike” is her “leather” persona.

  • https://twitter.com/Mthomps016 M. Thompson

    This just goes to show RSM’s ability to write headlines. I mean, it is great click bait.

    Still, interesting to read.

  • https://twitter.com/Mthomps016 M. Thompson

    Generally, the lack of quality is how you know it’s a ‘festival’ or ‘art’ film.

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  • Captain Obvious

    I’ve been rigorously following this series, and though your prose is usually quite meticulous, I do have to pick a nit with the haphazard way you throw around the term “gay rights” in such a way as to perpetuate leftist mythology. I’m sure it’s unintentional, but I feel compelled to remind you that real “gay rights” are the same as “straight rights” e.g. life, liberty, speech, etc. What you often discuss here dealing with special status and legal carve outs and sociological exemptions for gays only should properly be referred to as “gay privilege”. Do not conflate the two, lest such vagaries breed the very confusion so coveted by those activists.

  • concern00

    We’re getting to the point where lesbian feminist is a tautology.

  • Dianna Deeley

    Confession – I wouldn’t see this movie because it involves the death of a child. It sounds awful.

    It’s too bad the two women can’t agree about having babies. That’s usually a deal-breaker in marriage.

  • TheOtherAndrewB

    I think what confuses me most about lesbian feminists is how inauthentic they are. If you are a woman–and not merely a woman, but an uber-feminist/lesbian/non-heteronormative avenger–wouldn’t you start by being…a woman? Why do you take the name Stewart, and name your (female) character Lyle? Why do you and your partner dress like only slightly less manly versions of Johnny Cash? I know that you don’t want to reward the patriarchy or anything, but isn’t there some interesting new twist you could add? Nope. Just pass yourself off as a low rent K.D. Lang and have done with it. How sad.

  • Käthe

    There is an ambivalence about women and womanhood that many of them fail to recognize or confront in themselves. They take on all these cloaks of masculinity–the Buddy Holly glasses, the blue collar man costumes, the masculine sounding names, an evaluating and sexualizing way of viewing other women–because they fear and despise the weakness they associate with women. Yet at the same time, in a classic narcissist’s move, they exalt the female sex as superior because it is their own sex. You know the cliche that narcissism is a cover for low self-esteem? That’s exactly what’s going on here. They are fascinated with women because they hate women. They hate women because they hate themselves. Thus they exalt women as superior. The perfect logic of a personality disorder.

  • Käthe

    I absolutely refuse to watch it, I have already watched way more than my share of bad feminist “art,” I hope it will take some of the years off my stay in Purgatory. But could you “spoil” enough for me to get the gist of what is going on though? Is it like McCain said, that the landlady is an evil homophobe witch or something?

  • Käthe

    Upstanding men in the community need to start pressuring young guys in college to stop giving to the sperm hustling companies, seriously. They can get $500 for a “donation” given via some time with an adult magazine and the temptation is particularly strong for men in expensive programs like medical school. Every guy who participates in a “sperm bank” is contributing to fatherlessness and growing chaos for the next generation. It’s easier to talk women out of egg donation because it’s annoying and painful in addition to immoral.

  • RKae

    On a episode of “Friends,” Joey was planning to get paid for sperm donations.

    Phoebe: “You’ll be making money hand over fist!”

  • SolStans

    Camille Paglia needs to kick the ever-lovin’ stuffin’ out of this “chick”.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    -THIS.

    -The perfect logic of a personality disorder.

    And a rather perfect example of Nihilism.

  • robertstacymccain

    They are “gender atypical,” as they would say. You’ve got to read Foucault and Judith Butler to understand the “deconstruction” of gender.

  • RS

    I hate dropping spoilers. I will say, there is plot hole a mile wide which is immediately apparent to anyone who has actually had children. It’s obvious in the first five minutes or so and upon it, the rest of the plot rests.

  • RS

    I would also say, it’s extraordinarily derivative, not only of Rosemary’s Baby, but of any of a number of other well-known, better done thrillers. Combine that with the obvious fact that the direction and cinematography is over-the-top, as if the director is screaming “Look at me! I’m making a horror movie! See, I can do funny camera angles and different stuff with this focus thingy!”

    That said, the lesbian thing is not really part of the plot. What that means is Thorndike is invoking her sexual preference as means of deflecting criticism of her art. If it were a well-crafted and acted movie, I’d say so. It’s not. But I guarantee any reviewer who pans it is going to be labeled a “hater” of lesbians and gays.

  • Käthe

    Wow a mistake like that would require real laziness or a total imagination/empathy fail on the writer’s part, or both.

    People who think of children as a lifestyle choice which can be obtained through commercial means typically are clueless about what is realistic for most of humanity.

  • Southern Air Pirate

    RSM,

    There has already been a Lesbian Feminist Horror film. It was released in 2007 at Sundance and it was called “Teeth”. All about a girl with Vanginal Dentata who kills all the men that throw themselves on her with those teeth. Of course the few women who showed her love was not attacked. There was a bunch of praise heaped on this film, but you could see the gimmick after the second murder. Basically, anyone who is male and uses a pen is bad or evil. It’s not even “Evil Dead” level of camp, it’s just plain stupid.

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