ABOUT THE PROJECT
The first true crime documentary I watched was about Jeffrey Dahmer, a man who was responsible for a series of gruesome murders (and cannibalistic acts) of 17 young men starting in 1988 ‘til he was caught three years later in his Milwaukee apartment.
Dahmer stuck out to me in the midst of the true crime stories I was starting to read (Ann Rule was a regular in my household.) On camera, he appeared calm and mild mannered, but on paper (and an ill-advised, safety-off web search,) he was violent, disturbed, and murderous.
“When I was a little kid I was just like anybody else,” said Dahmer during an interview, and it was true. All of my true crime books said so (although, if you read into Dahmer’s past, you can make your own judgment of the definition of ‘normal’.)
So I began to read extensively about Dahmer.
Not because I sympathized with the man (who poured acid in people’s skulls while they were still alive,)
and not because I felt he was some ‘damaged, misunderstood, sweet-baby-angel’ like many’a serial killer groupie,
but because I was intrigued that someone could do such horrible things to innocent people, yet seem so... Regular.
Like you or me.
It surprised me even more when I realized that these people–these monsters–did not only take the shape of men, but women too.
I mean, I went to an all-girl’s school my whole life, but not once during my readings about Nellie McClung, Dr. Maude Abbott, or any other powerful woman did I come across the likes of Karla Homolka or Genene Jones.
I was confused as to why more people knew the horrific details of Ted Bundy‘s crimes than about the existence of unrelated Carol Bundy and the atrocities she committed. In fact, as I began to move from reading true crime to horror literature, I noticed that there were typically two types of women being written into existence:
SUBJECT A: The badass, hardcore, take-no-shit female
who knows how to destroy with a gun/blade/chainsaw-arm
/blow-darts, and has no absolutely fear,
and SUBJECT B: The damsel, doll-eyed, pouty-lipped
beauty who gets kidnapped/emotionally destroyed
/abandoned, and has no means of saving herself.
I wrote Damsel because horror is typically seen by most as gruesome and morbid; scary for the sake of being scary without much more substance. The same stories are used over and over, repeated in another tale of blood and gore.
When people think about horror (especially film,) the first thing to pop into mind is usually a bleach blonde babe with giant boobs, stumbling naked through a forest as some masked dude with a machete lumbers after her. People don’t tend to think of poetic short stories.
“Hello?” the tiny stereotype squeaks as she opens the door to the oddly super isolated cabin, her razor-sharp high beams visible from under her tight white tank top.
Though recent horror has taken a more creative turn with film (The Cabin in the Woods), and television (American Horror Story), I wanted Damsel to write its fictional female characters on paper as more than just cut- and-paste horror stereotypes.
I wanted to be able to tell their stories of violence and blood in a creative way. I wanted to make their rage beautiful.
Peter Vronsky, author of Female Serial Killers, speculates that female murderers often kill for the same reason males do:
as a means of expressing rage and control.
For some, this fact is shocking. But most people tend to forget that women can be as scary as men.