Many horror films have remarks that usually say that the characters are weird, or the story is twisted, or the entire film is unusual. Whether people would deny it or not, when they find or see something weird or not “normal” in their view depending on their context, they are quick to judge them and even distance themselves from those people. The same way with these horror films, though being quite popular with audiences peculiarly attracted to it, in a way, are still depicted as different and weird compared to the other genres. In a lot of horror films, what is weird or not “normal” is used as tools in order to reflect certain views in the real world.
In Harry M. Benshoff’s article, “The monster and the homosexual”, he discusses the homosexual and how they are depicted in horror films and uses it as a tool to reflect views of society on these people. He discusses in this article normality, the Other, and the relationship of the two in talking about queerness, and how homosexuals play roles of the victim, gays or lesbians, and ultimately the monsters of these horror films.
The film May tackles a lot of what Harry M. Benshoff discusses in his article. This film was directed by Lucky McKee and was released in the year 2002. I personally found the film weird, in the latter parts horrifying, but I mostly felt sympathetic about May and the story revolving around her in this film. The entirety of the film was weird for me because of May’s fixation on perfect body parts and relating to that, was horrifying because of how she created a “friend” by murdering several people she encountered throughout the film that had these “perfect” body parts she was so fixated on. For me, it was like seeing a different version of May as she creates that costume that makes her a lot like her doll, Suzie, physically. Though, as mentioned, the film also evoked a sense of sympathy from me for May. Her childhood as a bullied child because of her lazy eye, how she was made an outcast since then until she was older, and how much effort she was putting into desperately trying to connect with someone led me to feel sad about her character. In addition to that, her only friend was a doll.
Normality, as discussed by Benshoff, is “deﬁned chieﬂy by a heterosexual patriarchal capitalism.” What is “normal”, in this sense, is what is normal for men, for heterosexuals, and those largely against homosexuals. The Other, on the other hand, is mainly the monster of the film. In this article, the monsters of the horror film are homosexuals, a group whose identity is greatly opposed by society. The normality, the Other, and the relationship of the two is well-represented in the film, May. Normality is represented by Adam, the mechanic who May follows and eventually dates for a short while. The Other in this film, obviously, is May because of her weirdness, her childhood as someone with a lazy eye, her fixation with body parts that to her are perfect, and her only friend who is a doll, Suzie. In their interactions during the film, we see that at first they were doing well enough just watching films that Adam made, etc. Though as May’s weirdness “comes out”, Adam gets freaked out and leaves May and eventually says bad things about her to her friends and cuts her out of his life. This is the clash of normality and the Other as shown in the film.
One of the definitions given to the word ‘queer’ in the article is “Queerness disrupts narrative equilibrium and sets in motion a questioning of the status quo.” In the search for a friend and companion after May gets rejected by Adam, she indulges in Polly’s subtle hints of seduction. Here we discover that Polly, May’s friend from work, is a homosexual or the sexual Other. Here it is shown how the film opposes patriarchal heterosexism and disrupts the heterosexual status quo. As the story progresses in the film and eventually May also gets rejected by Polly as she finds another woman, May starts to device her plan of creating her new “friend”. Polly becomes a victim of May’s plan. She gets Polly’s neck because of how “perfect” it is. Here we see Polly, a homosexual, not as the monster, but as a victim of the monster. Though, the fact that May indulges in the pleasure brought by Polly, connects homosexuality to the monster of the film. Thus, in this specific film, homosexuals are both seen as the victim and the Other or the monster.
Overall, I found the film interesting because though it was a story of revenge against society and how they made May an outcast, for me I thought that, from the perspective of May, she did not intend to kill them for revenge, she only really wanted to make a friend to make her less lonely and to finally have a companion. To add, I still do not understand how the “friend” May created came to life.
Source: Harry M. Benshoff, “The monster and the homosexual.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).