Kim Fowley once said in an interview with The Runaways Movie concerning the challenges of producing an all female band that, “Men hate women, women hate women, other women hate other women. No body cares, no body is interested, unless, the female is an icon, the female is a goddess. The female as our mother earth. The woman who gave us birth and who says goodbye on the deathbed. If we could put all that with guitars it’s all possible to sell.”
Belladonna of Sadness was inspired by Jules Michelet’s Satanism and Witchcraft, published in 1862, which attempted to serve as a historical account for how witchcraft formed as a result of oppressive feudalism in Medieval Europe. Michelet illustrates witchcraft as a creative means for women to revolt against an oppressive social system.
Muchi Productions adapted Michelet’s illustrations of the life of a witch through Jeanne in Belladonna of Sadness, a peasant woman who is deflowered on the night of her marriage by being ritually raped by the lord of her village. Her struggles to survive with her husband in the desolate village make her susceptible to the lures of Satan. Over time she develops a relationship with the demon, who paves a path of success and failure that devastates her to the point of embracing her lowest perception of herself. At that vulnerable moment Satan empowers her and turns her into a goddess in human form. She empowers her village and challenges the lords, eventually to be persecuted for her strengths that she refuses to be minimized by serving the greed of the lords.
When a woman rises above a man it can, and has, evoke fear. The masculine energy is a force executed on a straight line to enact or maintain structure. The masculine energy has an objective to be objective. The nature of Structure is to maintain itself, that is, to protect itself. When something challenges that structure the natural reaction is to defend itself. Aversion and persecution of the feminine or women is often due to men who are not mature in their feminine energy. In romantic relationships a woman who enables growth within a man who is afraid or is ignorant of female energy can lead to toxic manipulations and abuse on behalf of the man who struggles to maintain a sense of control. On a grander scale, a society that is not in touch with the female energy can lead to persecution and execution when a woman challenges the status quo and inspires reformation, as in the case of Teresa de Avila or Jeanne d’Arc.
As a preventive measure society historically and in contemporary times places the female energy into a compartment that makes it easy to manage. Containing female energy has led to great advancements when channeled in the context of creation, but in the context of oppression, it has led to devastating persecutions such as the Salem witch trials. Save for a few exceptions the general rule worldwide has placed the female as second class in social status. This status reflects throughout the institutions and traditions of a given society from fashion to political policies. The mid-19th century steel-hooped crinoline literally caged women in order to emphasize the ideal feminine form. It’s not to say that the very instruments and technology cannot be used as a means to liberate women, such as the case with fashion. Where does one draw the line between pleasure and pain during sexual intercourse- the line is mutable to the specific situation and the moment of time within that specific situation.
Feminism is not just the liberation of social rights, it is also the liberation of feminine energy that is both within male and female bodied persons.Every individual is composed of the feminine and the masculine, quite literally. Biologically our bodies are produced with both estrogen and testosterone. Who, what, where, why, and how gender is defined and applied is the premise for queer theory. One of the greatest obstacles women have to face in progressing feminism is to liberate the female energy within men. Imagine the social and spiritual progress that would be attained if that wall did not exist?
This film was produced during the midst of second-wave feminism, and it now coming back in 2016 during a time when not only feminism continues to progress, but gender is quickly dying. Television shows such as Rupaul’s Drag Race and Transparent are not only challenging the social perception of gender, they are transforming men and women’s notions of gender within themselves. The rise of the feminine does not mean that masculine energy has to be displaced or destroyed. One might argue that there is no dual energies, that there is just energy. But certainly we can argue that when energy emerges through a feminine color society has desperately tries to revert to black and white. Lest we forget Pleasantville?