Saturday, February 8, 2014

Women in Horror: X is for XXL from ABC's of Death

x is for xxl by xavier gens from abc's of death from u.mass2001 on Vimeo.

The ABC's of Death as a whole was pretty disappointing with many silly, pointless, or boring segments. My personal favorite segment was Xavier Gens' X is for XXL. It is the most real because it deals with actual issues affecting people portrayed in a horrifying and grotesque way. The short starts with the woman going home like she would do any other day. Two things stand out. First, passersby and random people loudly and obnoxiously insult her because of her weight. This usually doesn't happen in reality because most people have tact, but the accusing and disapproving stares of judging people (which is much more likely to be the case) can speak volumes. It could also be the woman's own  views about her appearance reflected back at her by the passersby. Her response to the abuse is either to ignore them or say thank you, possibly suggesting she's used to the abuse or that she agrees. Second, the ads of scantily clad and model skinny women are present absolutely everywhere. Again, reality is exaggerated, but the presence of airbrushed, photoshopped, perfect women in the media is everywhere even though those models don't even look like that. The combination of public disapproval and unattainable beauty standards create a culture of self loathing where women's bodies are never good enough. This scene portrays one day of this woman's life, but these things exist every single day and definitely affect people over time.

Then the woman goes home and binge eats, which is indicative of an eating disorder. This woman may not even truly look as she appears in the film. Body dysmorphic disorder often accompanies eating disorders, causing people to believe they appear much different than they actually are. Regardless of what she really looks like, she feels it isn't good enough compared to the ideal paraded in the media. Then, she starts to cut her self with a knife and then finishes cutting herself into the ideal shape with an electric carving knife. Dripping with blood and skinless, she stands for a few seconds and poses in a sick parody of a model before she collapses and presumably dies. Many women, whether they have an eating disorder or not, find themselves doing unhealthy things to lose weight, and appear more as the media and society tells us we should look like. I've heard people say (and even thought to myself), "if only I could just cut the fat away." This short perfectly captures the pressures and mindset many women experience.

While googling for interviews with Xavier Gens, I stumbled onto a ProAna forum (for people with eating disorders to encourage each other to lose weight and share experiences) where someone posted this short and the women posted their thoughts and reactions to it. They were disgusted, shocked, and found it powerful. For a lot of them, it illustrated what it's like to have an eating disorder. Most found the binging scene more disgusting than the self mutilation scene and used it as a deterrent to eating or binging themselves. A couple of them commented on how much better the woman's shape at the end of the short despite what she had to do to get there. Their comments perfectly illustrated the woman's mentality and gave me a new perspective of the film.

My rating: 10/10 fishmuffins

1 comment:

Amy Connell said...

Thank you for seeing the real issues and acknowledging the power of this short horror film. It's sad that it is such a reality and so many live their lives with this terror fueled by a demand for beauty on the outside instead of fulfilling souls, expanding minds, finding inner peace, learning acceptance, and so on. Your article was wonderful. Thank you again.