When I hear the term "catfight" I don't necessarily think "feminist." When I think of the word it brings to mind negative connotations about pitting women against each other or sexualizing them for the attention of men. Ironically, Catfight (out March 3) is perhaps one of the most feminist movies I've seen in a while, partially because of its ability to completely turn the stereotype on its head. Referred to as a "savage black comedy" by THR, Catfight chronicles an ongoing feud between former college friends (played by Sandra Oh and Anne Heche) that isn't a typical, catty, hair-pulling dispute. They truly beat the sh*t out of each other, multiple times. But it's not what it may look like.
Alicia Silverstone, who plays Heche's on-screen partner, highlights that the film plays to feminist strengths in unexpected ways. "Come and enjoy women in a way that maybe you haven't seen them in a while, or ever," she says at the Los Angeles press day for the film. After viewing the movie, I can certainly stand by that sentiment. As twisted as it may sound, the layered performances blended with dark, satirical humor make it hard to turn away or write it off as anti-feminist.
First off, the introduction of such truly insane, complex characters is feminist in itself, in that it provides these women with such rich material to work with. "What makes this a feminist movie is its full characters," says Oh. "Not because you see two women fighting, or because it’s not about puppies and rainbows. What’s refreshing is to actually see full, rounded, complex — potentially but not particularly likable — female characters." Silverstone agrees, saying the characters themselves don't aim to preach feminism. "It’s funny and exciting. That’s why you wanna see it. You wanna see these cuckoo birds going nuts... it’s a celebration of women," she says.
This isn't a typical kiss-and-make-up story. The film portrays women truly not giving a f*ck, which is exactly opposite of what society has taught women for years, in my opinion. And it's freeing for women to witness. "I think it’s a fantasy to see women acting and responding to each other so bluntly," says Heche. "Just going at it like, ‘F*ck you.’ It’s so anti-feminine, that it’s feminine: to behave the way we don’t feel we’re allowed to." Silverstone passionately expands on her point. "As women, we’re taught to sit pretty and be quiet and to not make noise... You can see them so freely asking for their needs to be met and it’s the purest thing," she says.
Granted, these characters are an extreme depiction of that notion, but it proves that acting authentically and unapologetically is still so difficult for women. "There are some people I admire so much. They really say what they mean," says Silverstone.
Perhaps the most obvious way the film is feminist is that it puts women in the often male arena of physical fighting. "For women, it is not as common to get into full-on fights with other women," says Oh. "It’s not guaranteed just because you’re a boy that you’re gonna get into a fight." Perhaps women aren't encouraged to let their frustrations out physically nearly enough as they should. "I think all women should learn how to take off their clothes and how to box," says Oh. "These are two areas of sexuality or violence and aggression that we don’t delve into enough or aren’t encouraged to explore."
Of course, violence isn't necessarily the answer, and these women agree, but that doesn't mean a good, old-fashioned punch doesn't feel like a release sometimes — even, or perhaps especially, for a woman.