Nothing a Little Soap and Water Can’t Fix
Bedrooms offer a quiet respite from the toils of the day in the privacy of sleep. Churches and cemeteries encourage calm contemplation and introspection. The tranquility of watery natural environments (from lakes and brooks to the seaside) is soothing. Horror films and thrillers love to exploit and subvert the relative calm of these sanctuary spaces, because their serenity offers a useful contrast with those genres’ thirst for tumult and terror. No wonder then that bathrooms feature prominently in a lot of such genre fare: that specific location combines privacy, contemplative calm and soothing tranquility. And allows for an added dose of nudity.
More often than not, a female character is front and center in such suspenseful bathroom scenes. Their private space becomes a claustrophobic prison, a tiled cell from which there is no escape from (male) perpetrators and from the gaze of the film camera. This almost-narrative supercut by Jennifer Proctor strings together dozens of snippets from popular movies to illustrate just how the vulnerability of women in this domestic space has been used and exploited by Hollywood. Embedded above is a trailer for Proctor’s experimental short. The full 9-minute version can be bought on Vimeo (not only does the quality of this movie warrant spending some of your dollars, but there’s the bonus of knowing that all proceeds go to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund).
The trailer is an excerpt from the start of the full piece. Proctor dives right in with a suspenseful montage of point of view shots that show or suggest a sinister character invading the privacy of the women’s bathrooms. You might have expected this narrative bit to be used later on in the piece, because often these bathroom scenes feature a slow and tranquil lead-in where we see the female character getting ready for her bath before the threat is revealed. But Jennifer Proctor‘s putting it right at the start is a very smart choice, for it makes us more acutely aware of the voyeuristic nature of the compilation that follows. The scores of women getting undressed, running the bath, relaxing in the soapy water: these narrative clichés are shown here for the exploitative visual ritual they are. A ritual that is solely staged for our voyeuristic pleasure and is based on a careless objectification of the female body.
The great sound design is part and parcel to the impact of this montage. Where often suspenseful scenes are scored with dito music, here the soundtrack consists mainly of foley and effects. This sparseness stresses the mundane character of taking a bath and it reclaims this private act from Hollywood’s dramatizations.