So I Watched “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” – Female Revenge?

jane doe

Apologies in advance, but are you ready to get freaked out? Cuz I’m gonna say it – menstruation. Just the word itself can make people uncomfortable. But what has that got to do with revenge? To quote Dr. Venkman from Ghostbusters, “back off man, I’m a scientist.” Perhaps I’m being facetious, but this is a movie that really encapsulates and synthesises the cycles of a woman’s body with the cycle of revenge.

Hell, it’s such a fucked up topic, I don’t even know if I’m allowed to talk about it. Aren’t the two things taboo? One perhaps more than the other…..

But look, you can click away and hide behind the digital sofa, or you can be like Alex with his eyes wired open. I promise to make it quick as I’ve got edits to be doing. Firstly, I am perhaps a lucky man as my wife is one of the few who understands the workings of my brain. She suggested that I watch The Autopsy of Jane Doe and yep, the old grey matter got triggered….. in a good way. Turns out that this movie is pretty darned good on the outside if you’re just hankering for a creepy, supernatural mystery, but on the inside there some rather interesting things hiding away.

A little like Ms. Doe herself…..

First up, some boring stuff because if there’s one thing that we might theorise about in horror, fantasy, and sci-fi then it is the male fear of female bodies and childbirth. I would take this further and say that there is a definite set of themes in movies around two kinds of sex – fertile/natural/married and infertile/unnatural/unmarried. This is general, and like mythic structure is subject to reveral. Cop out, I know, but they also appear in conjunction with a “time” element – frozen in time (Demolition Man), travelled through time (Terminator), seasonal time (Jaws). Or how about Annihilation which was described as a chick flick (or feminist) sci-fi – yet all the characters are failed wife material (drug addicts, adulterers or old and cancerous etc) who enter a strange, bounded zone where time works differently.

Oh, and there’s also a scene I can only described as a male caesarian section.

Yeah, unnatural, and infertile.

Oh, and don’t get me started on Aliens with that whole male face rape thing…..

(Too much Dave, too much…..)

Okay, so is it justifiable to say that there are many horror elements that appear to be male fears about female bodies? Is it reasonable to assume that Laurie Penny’s opening question in her book Meat Market: Female Flesh Under Capitalism is justified:

“Why are we so afraid of women’s bodies?”

Why don’t we have a little look at the movie and find out?

[Spoliers ahead – don’t want to ruin the mystery before you see it, do you?]

We start of with a father and son coroner team (who appear to have no wife/mother) doing an autopsy on a mysterious body of a young woman. As they proceed they realise that the corpse, which was in a house of murdered people, is the body of a witch who has been tortured, and what’s more, as they cut the corpse up and she starts to bleed, she begins to enact her revenge through the conjuration of evil spirits.

And how does that not sound menstrual? Bloody and evil, the body of this young woman in the prime of her reproductive appeal is the site of a strange and deadly power. We might construe this as: dead/reproductively unavailable/not marriage material. On the other hand the young coroner’s girlfriend is alive/reproductively available/marriage material – until she gets cut down with a fire axe by the father after the evil has tormented him into the mistake.


Now I’m gonna leave it at that for now. There is probably lots more detail, but I think the most salient thing to note is that this evil has happened before – the house of murdered people where she was found – and it is quite clear that the evil is going to happen again: at the end of the film, the corpse has restored itself to its unblemished state and is taken away with the indication that the whole thing is going to start once more.

And isn’t that always the way, that the evil always comes back?

Again and again, in a cycle….?


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