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Storyhouse Gems – Unlikeable Women

Young Programmer Jodie Jeffs writes about the latest season of Storyhouse Gems.

Storyhouse Gems is back in 2024 with a new hand-picked selection of films. In our last season, we explored subversive meditations on manhood, all filtered through a distinctive genre lens. In this season, programmed by Cinema Assistant Jodie Jeffs, audiences are invited to explore films about complicated, flawed women and the nuances of girlhood.

From a satirical political drama to a queer high-school comedy, a quirky coming-of-age comic book adaptation, and a blood-soaked feminist revenge horror, this season celebrates and embraces the complicated women who enrich our screens and liberate women from having to be nice. Offering a fresh feminist perspective and reclaiming the word ‘unlikeable’, these films question whether these often-maligned women truly deserve their reputations.

This season follows a trend in film culture recognised by Anna Bogutskaya in her book, Unlikeable Female Characters: The Women Pop Culture Wants You to Hate, and inspired by ‘Good For Her’, a meme-turned-subgenre popularised by film buffs on social media that celebrates overt depictions of female rage and ‘women’s wrongs’ on screen.

Our third season of Storyhouse Gems kicks off with Alexander Payne’s witty late 90s comedy, Election.

With the highly anticipated release of The Holdovers from American satirical icon Alexander Payne coming to cinemas, this season of Storyhouse Gems begins with Payne’s celebrated black comedy Election (1999), which follows Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) in her relentless quest for political dominion in the high school presidential campaign.

Tracy Flick is the unlikeable and relentlessly ambitious female candidate you love to hate.

The real political drama of the film is between teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) and Tracy Flick. McAllister attempts to stop Tracy in pursuit of the presidential campaign by encouraging the delightful but simple Paul (Chris Klein) to run against her.

The campaign only becomes further complicated when Paul’s anarchic sister Tammy (Jessica Campbell) joins in the race, only to undermine the entire student political government.

BOTTOMS_R3_00265880_R Rachel Sennott stars as PJ and Ayo Edebiri as Josie in BOTTOMS An Orion Pictures Release Photo credit: Courtesy of ORION Pictures Inc. © 2023 Orion Releasing LLC. All Rights Reserved.

For the second screening of the season, enjoy Emma Seligman’s queer high-school comedy, Bottoms.

Following on from her impressive feature debut, Shiva Baby in 2019, Emma Seligman’s latest film, Bottoms, follows loser lesbian best friends PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri) in their hilariously desperate attempt to impress the popular cheerleader girls by starting a self-defence “fight club”.

As their “fight club” gains popularity, the pair find themselves out of their depth and caught in a web of complicated lies. Seligman and co-writer Sennott delightfully subvert the rules of the typical American high school movie, where the unpopular kids are the likeable heroes who triumph over the high school bullies by making their protagonists every bit as unlikeable and shallow as the typical high school bullies.

Inspired by comedies such as Bring It On (2000), Mean Girls (2004), and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), Bottoms joins the canon of high-school comedies but with a uniquely queer perspective.

Next up is Terry Zwigoff’s distinctly unique comic-book adaptation of  Ghost World.

Terry Zwigoff’s 2001 cult-classic Ghost World follows social misfit best friends Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) as they attempt to navigate life after high school.

When Enid becomes interested in the lonely record collector Seymour (Steve Buscemi), this causes a rift in the two girls friendship. As Rebecca begins to find Enid’s cynicism and attitude towards post-graduation life too much to handle, they must try to navigate this journey alone.

Adapted from the comic by Daniel Clowes, the film provides a quirky, bleak and charming portrait of alienation and complicated female friendships. Although it wasn’t a box office success upon release, it received an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, and over twenty years later, Ghost World has become a beloved oddball cult classic.

JB-050 Jennifer’s (Megan Fox) insatiable appetites take her on the prowl for a meaty snack. Photo credit: Doane Gregory TM and © 2009 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved. Not for sale or duplication.

Finally, to conclude the season, we have Jennifer’s Body, a reclaimed feminist revenge horror from director Karyn Kusama.

This season of Storyhouse Gems concludes with the 2009 cult feminist horror Jennifer’s Body, which follows unlikely best friends Jennifer (Megan Fox) and Needy (Amanda Seyfried) in the small town of Devil’s Kettle. When Jennifer is sacrificed in a satanic ritual, she returns as a demonically possessed cheerleader with a taste for her male classmates.

Directed by Karyn Kusama, Jennifer’s Body has been reclaimed and celebrated as a witty, feminist take on the horror genre, anticipating the themes of feminist revenge of later films such as Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman (2020).

Storyhouse Gems is a new monthly strand of hand-picked, one-off cinema screenings featuring cult, classic, and contemporary film favourites with a focus on the unique and unusual, specially curated by a member of your Storyhouse Cinema Team.

Tickets are £5 for YSC Members. Explore the season page here.

Story written by Jodie Jeffs.