Grace: Abjections

For a Catholic country, when we hear of the word “grace” we would automatically think of God’s grace. In line with this, parents think of their children as miracles and God’s gifts to them. These concepts are very much contradicted by the 2009 film Grace directed by Paul Solet. It tells the story of two (2) mothers and a baby, but as a horror film it, of course, has a twist. At the 8th month of Madeline’s pregnancy, the baby died, however, Madeline insisted that she would carry the baby until birth. True to its horror genre, the baby turns into an undead infant. This is where trouble ensues.

The central theme of the movie is how extreme a mother’s love can be. One can see it as to how Madeline cares fro her undead baby, Grace, even if it means that she will suffer from it, and how Vivian tries to take Grace away from Madeline after her son’s death. In this film, not only is Grace the monster but it is also the 2 mothers.

There are a lot of things in the movie that contest the normalcy of the real world, or abjections. In Barbara Creed’s article, “Horror and the Monstrous-Feminine: An Imaginary Abjection”, she first mentions Julia Kristeva’s definition of abjection “that which does not ‘respect borders, positions, rules’ . . . that which ‘disturbs identity, system, order” this system or order she pertains to is the patriarchal system. In line with this, the film actually does destroy the symbolism of patriarchy. The men in the movie are either removed from the movie or are overpowered by females. The three men that was shown are Michael, Henry, and Dr. Sohn. Michael is Madeline’s husband, Vivian and Henry’s son, and Grace’s father who was immediately killed in the car accident that was supposed to kill Grace, too. Henry is Vivian’s husband who never has a say in anything because Vivian overpowers him and is very controlling with her son when he was alive. Dr. Sohn is Vivian’s friend and is an obstetrician that was, sadly, victimized by Madeline to keep her baby’s secret. Without any men, the patriarchal system cannot exist, and these ladies of different generations (Grace is a baby, Madeline is around her thirties, and Vivian is a grandmother) just wiped them out.

Another definition of abjection in Creed’s article, where Kristeva quotes Bataille, is “the inability to assume with sufficient strength the imperative act of excluding abject things (and that act establishes the foundations of collective existence)”. This definition is seen with the two mothers. Grace, without any patriarch figure to look to, has no choice but to stay with her mother, Madeline. On one hand, Madeline has done some unnatural things such as insisting that she delivers her stillborn like a normal baby, feeding her living corpse of a baby blood because Grace cannot digest milk, and killing the doctor just so she could keep her baby. On the other hand, Vivian was very controlling to Michael and when he died she desperately needed to replace him because she may have missed being a mother. This lead her to, also, do unnatural things such as breastfeeding Grace even though, normally, that is impossible because she is way past that age, and she even hired Dr. Sohn to visit Madeline’s house to get evidence that she is an unfit mother so that Vivian can take custody of Grace but, unfortunately, this lead to his demise. All these unnatural things would already enough to exclude the abject (which are the mothers) but the subject/s would need to tolerate them because they also help define life. Mothers are the ones that sustain our lives especially during our infant phase where we are completely helpless.

Aside from making subjects as abjects, it can also be experience through bodily functions such as blood, vomit, poop, pus, and milk. These things are considered taboo because they are repulsive despite being completely normal for our bodies to do. This film certainly has many of these especially since it explores the feminine body with breastfeeding and giving birth.

In conclusion, this movie is certainly unique because it focuses on women and their body. Women’s supernatural bodily function is bringing the miracle of life into our world, where only God has done something as divine and unexplainable as this. Their bodies could carry another life and withstand giving birth to this life. It may be hard to understand but Vivian and Madeline’s intense desires to be mothers may have originated from their relationship with this tiny human in their bodies and the relationship and love they will have for each other after.

Barbara Creed, “Horror and the Monstrous-Feminine.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002), 68-69.


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