About ten years ago, Mick Garris put together an anthology show for Showtime called Masters of Horror. I’m currently going through a phase of thinking through how the tropes of horror films can influence our intuitions about legal things, thus I’m watching a lot of horror movies. While researching the background to one movie, I came across notes to this anthology series curated by Garris. Helpfully, it is streaming on Stan.
So you’re given the opportunity to curate 26 short horror movies of about 60 minutes each. How many of them do you think you’d allocate to female writer/director teams?
If you answered ‘None of them’, then you’d at least be consistent with Masters of Horror. In fairness to Garris, he then produced a third series (called Fear Itself) and that at least included one female director.
What is weird about this is the way that the vast majority of the anthology series spends a lot of time talking about women, either as victims or as monsters. In the case of a lesbian, both (‘Sick Girl’, produced as a horror-comedy).
This is one of the problem with our current cultural gatekeepers. Australia has a vibrant horror scene that is largely dominated by female writers and directors, and yet there’s no obvious pathway for mainstream audiences to come into contact with their work.
It’s not just market failure: it is a deeper structural problem about how Australians perform their culture. It is also a failure to invest in our own stories in the hope that North Americans would invest in our arts scene (see, for example, why so many science fiction and fantasy shows were shot in Australia and New Zealand, but we have a moribund local science fiction and fantasy industry; see also how the Commonwealth Government has invested in bringing blockbuster films to Australia at taxpayer expense but radically underfunds both local cultural production and local exhibition).
This loops me back to the start. Because very few people are given the opportunity to curate 26 short films, we keep squandering resources on the same people who are responsible for the current state of the culture industry. It also means that we keep seeing the repetition of old problems — particularly the lack of diversity in storytelling. More worrying (from my perspective) is that this approach has drastically reduced the gene pool of those who are responsible for the production and reproduction of cultural norms (such as the ones that generate intuitions about legal issues).