Rebalancing History in a Feminist Utopia

By Harkness, Alistair | The Scotsman, September 16, 2017 | Go to article overview

Rebalancing History in a Feminist Utopia


Harkness, Alistair, The Scotsman


Opening this year's Scottish Queer International Film Festival (SQIFF), Bruce LaBruce's provocatively titled new film The Misandrists couldn't be timelier. Revolving around a lesbian terrorist cell called the Female Liberation Army (FLA) as they plot to topple the patriarchy, the Canadian artist and filmmaker's riotous, sexually liberated, politically incorrect opus arrives at a moment when gender politics and LGBT+ issues have become a regular fixture of both the mainstream news cycle and the pop culture landscape.

"It's funny," says LaBruce, on a Skype call from his home in Toronto. "I watched the first season of The Handmaid's Tale and it was kind of interesting that it covers some of the same territory. Instead of a dystopian world in which women are literally enslaved and subjugated to men, mine is a more utopian world in which women reject men and try to forge their own society."

Set in a girls' school run by a former porn star called Big Mother, and featuring a subplot in which its most secretive pupil provides shelter to an injured male anarchist sympathetic to their cause, The Misandrist is, admits LaBruce, also a loose remake of Don Seigel's The Beguiled, a film that was updated more recently (and more officially) by Sofia Coppola - albeit without the witty digressions into hardcore feminist theory, hardcore pornography and hardcore gore that LaBruce's spin on the premise brings to the table.

"I can dig pretty deeply into ideas about gender and feminism that you wouldn't see so much in a mainstream film," agrees LaBruce, name-checking the likes of Simone de Beauvoir and Ulrike Meinhof. The latter's transition from radical feminist to terrorist leader of the Red Army Faction is also one of the more blatant inspirations for his outré satire, which, LaBruce says, is intended as a critique of certain aspects of radical feminism while also being supportive of the spirit of feminism. The title plays into that. "It's kind of a hyperbolic expression of a certain kind of radical feminism," elaborates LaBruce. "But it's also a kind of rebalancing of history. After millennia of subjugation and patriarchal oppression, it's a cathartic thing for women to be able to express that kind of anger and hatred. That's why the over-the-top castration scene is there." Oh yeah, there's an over-thetop castration scene. "It's meant to be cathartic reaction against the weight of history and oppression of women."

That kind of outrageous expression of serious ideas is one of the hallmarks of his work. He also makes explicit and frequent use of hardcore porn and views gay porn stars as "the last bastion of gay radicalism" in an era of mainstream assimilation. In The Misandrists, the FLA celebrates pornography as an "honourable expression of sexuality", a path to liberation and an artform that's "inherently hostile to the dominant order". …

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