Tag Archives: The Babadook

A Tattoo of The Babadook

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

and

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.

Horror and Mental Illness

You don’t have to think long about the genre of horror before thinking of murdering madmen, I’m sure plenty horror fans have been accused of being one more than once just for loving the genre. The idea of a madman, a person unable to control their mental compulsions to kill, is one that has been prevalent in the genre and popularised by films like Hitchcock’s Psycho. Obviously that film didn’t set out to demonise anyone with a mental illness but it didn’t try to defend those people either. With a topic as sensitive as mental illness, how should horror films handle the subject matter.

med_1407917128_image

The film that I watched recently that inspired me to write this piece was The Taking of Deborah Logan, a found footage possession film that came out fairly recently. The film starts off as a documentary focusing on the horror of living with Alzheimer’s, but the woman they are filming becomes stranger and it becomes apparent that there’s something else going on here. And it’s that plot development that irritated me. Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease and for the filmmakers to come along and more-or-less say “yeah that’s pretty bad but what if it was ghosts/demons/monsters” makes it’s feel exploitative in my mind. It’s downplaying that seriousness of Alzheimer’s and I just don’t think that’s cool.

deborah_logan_2_zps7e863e91.jpg~original

Another film that came out recently was The Babadook, which has subtext about mental illness and the following will contain spoilers if you haven’t already seen the film. So in The Babadook a single mother is suffering while raising her problem child and his boogie-man manifests in all manner of terrible ways. However the implications of what happens to the two is that the mother has some form of post-traumatic stress disorder. The film has an unusually upbeat ending in which the mother has accepted the death of her husband and she has the monster, The Babadook, locked away in the basement. She feeds the Babadook and the son asks if he’ll ever see it again, which the mother replies “when you’re older”. She’s living with mental issues. This kind of film takes the emotions that someone living with a mental illness, the terror and anxiety, and uses imagery to inflict it upon it’s viewers. It doesn’t belittle any victims, it helps us empathise.

the-babadook

As I said before, horror films have always had maniacs and madmen, some of them have used mental illness in less than tasteful ways. The problem of representation comes to mind again, that perhaps if more functional people with mental illnesses were to be shown in the genre they might not feel like the genre was demonising them. I’m not saying to boycott any films with negative representations in them, but encouraging anyone who’s writing or producing to give it a thought.