“90 Minute Permissions” by Holly Rios is a thought-provoking collection of cropped film stills that scrutinize the portrayal of gender roles in horror films, primarily from the 1970s and 1980s. Rios selects scenes that depict women in states of distress, stripping away context that might provide a more nuanced view of the character, and addressing the binary of the female neurotic as either a victim or a villain.
Rios employs a color-coding technique to challenge and emphasize the conventional perception of these characters. As the artist explains, “the pink coded characters are viewed as victimized or passive – while complicated emotions are generally denied to women, emotions like fear, sadness, and pain are still “comfortably” feminized. Utilizing the campy horror aesthetic of vintage monsters, green coded characters are viewed as the aggressor. Anger, rage, and violence are viewed as masculinized behavior which become monstrous when performed by women. Where pink and green are both present, I am highlighting women who have been presented as justified in their monstrosity. This is frequently present in the rape-revenge subgenre, or for monsters like Carrie, who have carried the burden of abuse prior to their breaking point.”
In an intriguing twist, Rios introduces male characters in these scenes as white silhouettes, a commentary on the racial homogeneity of the characters and the default complexity afforded to male characters in horror films. “While I am not interested in exploring the masculine construction in these films, I have included the men in these images to examine how their respective films characterize the main female character’s ‘insanity’ through her relationship to the male protagonist or antagonist.”
Through “90 Minute Permissions,” Rios invites viewers to reflect on the rigid and extreme representation of gender roles within the genre of horror. The work is a critique of the lack of nuanced character development for women and the gendered coding of emotions and behaviors, which perpetuates stereotypes and reinforces the victim/villain dichotomy. By using color to encode these representations, Rios not only draws attention to the limitations of these tropes but also the wider societal implications of such gendered perceptions.
Originally from Colorado, Holly Rios has studied printmaking at Western Colorado University (BFA) and the University of Utah (MFA).
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