The Monstrous Feminine ★★★

The Monstrous Feminine stars women who are not your average Barbie dolls. During this explorative piece by a group of five artists, we are invited to play with grotesque little Frankenstein’s creatures, each of which embodies a stereotypically feminine role. Do you want to be the perfect wife? Mother? Sexual partner? Get ready to adhere to a strict set of societal expectations. You had better learn to clean, cook, shave, and definitely keep your breast for your man to enjoy rather than for feeding your baby.

This short film is not the easiest watch but not because of the puppets. Those are actually genius. I particularly enjoyed the period puppet made out of a tampon box and a cranberry juice carton, which tragically bleeds out by the end. Then we have our housewife puppet with a sponge tied to its arm with an elastic band. Or the seductress, who wages a battle against its body hair until it gets impaled on the razors or stomps on them in triumph. A laugh-out-loud moment comes when she indulges in chocolate coins and plastic gemstones, a shot playing a joke on any raunchy music video.

The puppets go about their set tasks happily at first, their monstrous appearances juxtaposed with music fitting for a ’60s TV dinner commercial. This contrast does not only add dark humour but it perfectly expresses the contradictions and hideousness of a sexist world. Added to this, we start to hear dogmas and slurs that haunt a woman’s life from cradle to grave: body shaming, period shaming, breastfeeding shaming galore.

The unrefined visual quality, if on purpose, is fitting for a piece like this, though the sound mixing could have been clearer. The spoken parts were overpowered by the music. But the concept works. In fact, it is a bit on the nose. There is little space to offer nuance but it is brilliantly expressive.

The Monstrous Feminine leaves us with the question: which is truly monstrous? Perfectly normal bodily functions or the way society at large attempts to shame women for them?

Review by Dora Bodrogi