If the movie Dead Girl made a strong statement about masculinity (and a minor one about femininity in the process) in its dominant oversexual male characters, Grace made a strong statement on the female with focus on one of the major roles (or the major role) of women: motherhood. With the normal that seems abnormal and everything in between, the movie discusses gender and sexuality, politics, and power in the most basic institution the society is founded on — the family. With this, I would say that the overarching tension or theme in the movie is that of conventional/conservative and the modern/liberal sexuality.
The film tackled ideas in gender and sexuality in many aspects. From the very start of the movie when the married couple (Michael and Madeline) were having sex in order to conceive, you would already think that something was wrong. Depending on your beliefs, you could ask yourself why they aren’t doing it for pleasure or you would think this reason is normal. The procreative stance of tradition especially with regard to a woman’s body was accented and challenged in a way, given the extra chill-down-your-spine with the presence of the black cat. The same thing is brought up when Madeline’s parents-in-law, a 70-something year old couple, make out and presumably have sex. Although this may be their own bedroom and this may be something that we all know happens, we do not like to think about such things. Why? I’m making the same point here: they’re doing it for pleasure and not for procreation. They can’t conceive anymore and conservatives see sex as simply that.
Body politics, which is essentially a feminist idea, was again brought up in the hospitalization of Madeline as the male doctors were making themselves in charge of her body and insisting that she undergo forced labor without thinking of Madeline’s decisions regarding her own body. Even the grandmother was trying to have a say in all of the decisions, when it is fundamentally the individual’s choice (well, if you’re pro-choice). The body of a woman, especially in reference to reproductive health, is always a subject of discussion, whether it be a political issue or a personal one in an attempt to exert a certain power, as the ideas of Michel Foucault iterate. Tradition is broken here, as the midwife, Patricia, enters the scene and the male doctors fail to provide a legitimate reason for forced labor.
Looking at the motherhood angle of the movie, the idea of the femininity and what it means to be female comes along again in the suffering of Madeline as a mother whose child is literally sucking the blood out of her. It’s the stereotypical sacrificial Fantine-from-Les-Miserables mother brought out in a very symbolic, hyperbolic macabre way. The movie somewhat exploited motherhood scares, as a woman is already scared about miscarriage, what more a still born and even more so, an abnormality in a baby? A mother would literally kill for her child’s needs. It was even more difficult to imagine Madeline’s life as a mother because she was a single mother doomed to face the hardships alone. It’s a role that is a burden or a blessing that only women can fulfill. The movie simply points out that being a woman is just not easy (I’d take the director for a feminist if I were to judge).
To top it all off, another sexuality border is broken when the homosexual female (aka lesbian) theme comes along in the end. This was such a furtive attack on the conservatives by the director, but the message was received.
The movie concealed socio-political issues in the taboo and almost beyond-this-world topics that it tackled. It wasn’t the “shock” tactic that most horror films used, but it was the clandestine creeping-into-your-mind tactic that made it even more impactful for me. One can especially see it with the ending being as different from the beginning as it could have been. Basically, it was an ingenious horror film if we want to talk about the importance and the relevance of the genre.
- Food for thought: The scene when the doctors were about to induce delivery on Madeline