A few days back I decided that I wanted to get another tattoo. I already had two tattoos, both on my chest, both of imagery I had designed, and both deeply personal. It had been a while since I last got a tattoo, and when I had got my other tattoos there was a lot of time between designing and getting the tattoo. This time was different though. Instead of waiting and debating, I rushed through it all. The act of taking a risk and potentially facing future regret was important, because life is for making mistakes. I’ve often held myself hostage through over-thinking, sacrificing my own enjoyment by doubting my impulsion. Impulsiveness can be great, it’s how I ended up travelling from Scotland to New Zealand on a working holiday.
The tattoo is a mark of my own freedom and impulsiveness, but why The Babadook? Firstly, it’s horror. Over the years of thinking about hypothetical tattoos to get, I’ve always wanted to express my love of the horror genre and everything spooky with a tattoo. Yet I’ve never been a fan of tattoos of band logos, and the concept of favourite films is flawed. Any time I’ve chosen a favourite film, I rarely watch that film again and I’ll move onto another film that could be my favourite film. That being said, I love The Babadook.
With the sting of a fresh tattoo, I watched The Babadook again with my girlfriend who had only seen part of it before. Watching films you love with people you love is one of the most anxiety-inducing things I can think of. I’m just waiting for them to hate it. Usually. Watching The Babadook, I’m confident in it’s strength. One of the best indie horror films in recent years, and one with such a powerful message. One I can live with on my skin.
So I’m justifying my Babadook tattoo because:
a) I love the horror genre and The Babadook is a horror film
b) The Babadook is a really, really good horror film.
But that’s not all.
One thing I really love about the horror genre is that it’s one genre that female directors thrive. Film directing is still a male dominated job, and while I have no issue with male directors, I really appreciate diversity in the people making the films I watch, because I like diversity in the films I watch. Horror is a genre that often gets overlooked, considered to be low brow. There is no Best Horror Film category at The Oscars. Regardless of it’s lack of recognition, it is a powerful genre and one of the most inclusive. Low budget, DIY films thrive. Crazy concepts and deep messages flourish in the horror genre. The Babadook represents both independent horror, and female directed horror, helmed by Jennifer Kent.
The Babadook is more than just a Boogie-Man horror film, it’s a metaphor for mental illness. Amelia, a single mother of a troubled child, is living with so much trauma, denying her emotions, and lashing out at her child. The monster of The Babadook, doesn’t represent one particular mental disorder (although having lived through the tragic car crash, it’s understandable if Amelia has some PTSD), instead representing the denial of her problems. The Babadook is the violent behaviour of her illness lashing out at those around her. For a large part of the film, Amelia is seen rubbing the side of her cheek, suffering from a bad tooth, yet refusing to get it looked at by a dentist. It doesn’t actually say that she’s refusing the dentist, but with the way her life is, you can get the idea that she sees it as the sort of suffering she will put up with. That bad tooth eventually gets ripped out by Amelia, an act of self-harm. That bad tooth is such a fantastic way of seeing how Amelia denies herself self-care, and sucumbs to self-destructive behaviour, the same as how she’s refusing to face up to her grief and mental illness. In the darkest moments of the film, when Amelia is at her most violent, it’s kindness that breaks her out of it, and it’s only when she’s kind to herself (and The Babadook side of herself) that she escapes the horror. I’ve had my own problems with anxiety, and feelings of guilt for wanting to look after myself. Another reason for the tattoo.
If you google The Babadook, a lot of the more recent content is focused on LGBT. A while back Netflix categorised The Babadook as an LGBT film, an act that resulted in some confusion and then memes. The LGBT community ran with it, of course The Babadook is gay, he’s fabulous. You better prepare to be BABASHOOK. The B in LGBT is for Babadook… (It’s actually Bisexual, no Bi-Erasure here). I’m not going to say that The Babadook isn’t gay, or that the film isn’t a LGBT film. If you can watch the film and find your own experience in that film, then who I am to tell you what it is and isn’t. One of the biggest themes in the film’s subtext is denial of self. Amelia refuses to acknowledge that she isn’t the same as everyone else, she’s not like all the other mums. It’s only once she finally faces up to her problems, her demon, that she’s happy. If anyone can relate to denying an aspect of themselves to fit into society, but that denial leading to their own unhappiness, it’s the LGBT community. I’m not LGBT, I would say I’m pretty hetero. The reason I bring up this aspect of The Babadook while talking about the tattoo, is because I accept that aspect. The Babadook is a LGBT meme, an icon, and I support that. Just like I support my LGBT friends.
So I got a Babadook tattoo. It’s a great film from a great genre, and also it gave me an excuse to write a thought piece on horror, tattoos, and The Babadook.