What a hallowed genre Obsessed is a member of! Right up there with such psycho stalker greats as Play Misty For Me, Fatal Attraction, and The Hand that Rocks the Cradle. If you'd like to remember a few more, Peter did a great list for Valentine's Day ... and would you look at that, 5 out of 7 of those are chicks! Why the persistence of this cinematic archetype? Why don't we ever see psychotic male stalkers beyond Sleeping with the Enemy? Where's Fatal Attraction where a man is screaming, begging not to be ignored?

My theory has always been that we see these stories played out again and again because they're somewhat of a male fantasy. Think about Play Misty For Me, Fatal Attraction, Obsessed, or even the real B-movie variations like Swimfan, The Temp, and The Crush. There's something very flattering and erotic about a woman who can't get enough of you -- a plot point exploited pretty heavily in Play Misty and Fatal Attraction, since both male protagonists really set their stalkers off by ... sleeping with them. If Fatal Dan and Misty Dave had just taken Alex and Evelyn out for a nice dinner and a movie, no sex, would any butcher knives have been wielded? I guess so, given the chaste plotline of Obsessed: just flirting is enough to drive Ali Larter over the edge.
If a man stalks a woman, the stories are based less around sex than pure fear. (As in Fear, starring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Wahlberg!) Sleeping with the Enemy is about abuse and possession, not about being unable to get enough of Julia Roberts. I think there's also a puritanical element at work -- the female heroine must be abused to be sympathetic. If she was sexually free, she would be asking to be stalked because she had slept with the wrong guy. She should be more choosy, and not succumb to a one night stand.

Obviously there are several gender stereotypes and sexual attitudes at work in the "psycho stalker" genre. If we had more female filmmakers, would we see Fatal Attraction remade with a male stalker, and female protagonist? Would it have the same hint of the erotic, the suggestion of obsessive desire? My gut says that it's just not a conceit that a woman would want to explore, that we find stalkers more frightening or annoying than flattering. But I realize that's really a very sexist assumption, as I know men who have been stalked, and they found it to be frightening and annoying. Obsession isn't sexy or flattering no matter what the gender dynamic is. (And I've had Enough of this whole generic sub-genre! -- SW)

Maybe the entire sub-genre just needs to go the way of the dodo (or should I say boiled bunny?) as it's just not flattering to either gender, or a genre that's full of surprises. I mean ... "violent devotion," as a central plot point,
doesn't exactly lend itself to pleasant surprises or happy endings, does it?
categories Cinematical