It’s what I like to call “Halloween Month!” And as such, I thought it might be fun to write a critical analysis on the main female character from Takashi Miike’s Horror/Gore film The Audition. Also known as one of the most messed up movies I’ve ever been forced to watch. This is critical analysis, so spoilers are kind of a given.
Now, this article has a bit of a background story. Back in my first year of University, I took a world film class. I’m pretty sure my prof took personal pleasure in making his students as uncomfortable as possible with his movie selections. One of the acquired movies was The Audition.
After the movie, and after our Prof took great pleasure in watching us squirm, he posed the question: is Asami Yamazaki a feminist icon? We didn’t get far in that particular discussion, mostly due to the one guy who felt the need to express his opinion that no she wasn’t over and over and over again, with little else to add. (In hindsight, kudos for that guy for not automatically associating feminism with psychopaths.) So… we’re gonna discuss this now.
There’s been a lot of discussion about this film as a feminist text already. Some people say the film is about objectified women finally taking revenge. Others caution against feminist reading because it demonizes women and because one of Asami’s victims was a woman. A third interpretation adds her culture into the mix, claiming that this movie paints the terrible consequences of the historical repression and oppression of Japanese women.
To be clear, I don’t condone Asami’s actions in the film and I don’t consider her or her actions as feminist in any way. Nor do I pretend to have any insight into the developers intentions for this film. That being said, I don’t think any of this rules out Asami as a feminist icon. I think the question is much more complicated and I think it goes outside the narrative of the film. But, before we get there, let’s first take a look at the narrative itself, because it can certainly allow for a feminist interpretation.
For those of who are unfamiliar with the movie, our protagonist, Shigeharu Aoyama, is asked by his son to begin dating again after his wife had been dead for 7 years. After seeking advice from his friend a film producer, they stage a fake audition for a fake film so that Aoyama can find his perfect wife.
And make no mistake, the woman are heavily objectified by these two men. Aoyama states he’s only looking for young, beautiful, obedient women. What comes next is a montage of women completely unaware they’re auditioning for the role of wife. The male gaze is used to great affect. And of course he falls in love with the perfect woman who is the perfect embodiment of everything he wants. Of course, none of her references check out and it turn out. But, he’s not too worried about that. They go on a few dates, she shares her past history of abuse and he fully intends to propose, until of course, he learns about her tendency to torture and kill people in brutally disturbing ways.
I think the theme involving the oppression of Japanese women is absolutely worth while when analyzing this movie, especially when a male Japanese student in my class pointed out that the desire for this type of women is still very preventable in Japan. but that theme has already been explored, instead, I’ll look at how Asami, despite not having any sort of feminist ideology in her actions, can still be a feminist icon.
Asami is not fighting for oppressed women. She’s not even fighting for herself. She’s fighting for her understanding of love. To her love is pain and she has an idealized understanding of pain as the only truth that exists.
Sure, you can list her murder of another women as a reason she’s not a feminist, but it goes way past that. Her goal isn’t to even liberate herself from her suffering. She’d stay the small unassuming wife forever if it meant she could remain in her twisted idea of love. But it’s ruined because she get’s jealous. Her idea of love isn’t real and no one can match or understand it. Her actions simply aren’t framed as an act of feminist revenge.
But that’s ok, because my idea of feminism isn’t about women turning the tables on men or a narrative of revenge. It’s about the equalization of the sexes and the dissolution of oppressive gender roles for both the sexes.
Looking at the film though the perspective of a white, North American female there were certain aspects of the film that I found especially interesting. The way the male characters literally held a audition for a wife. Literally anyone could have auditioned. The main character went on dates, had sex in a hotel room and fell in love with a woman who was little more than a stranger. He was considering marriage before he ever even went to her apartment. And for the most part they were completely unconcerned. Most woman I know would say that it’s crazy. As far as I remember, there was no discussion about being careful or taking precautions.
In any other movie Asami would be the clear victim. The trope of the innocent and vulnerable girl being taken advantage of there. But, instead she uses those same stereotypical characteristics that Aoyama was so attracted too, to lure him in and trap him. It defies the innocent, and pure and honestly sexist trope that is common in horror movies.
The best way for create a feminist icon is to portray women as human beings, flawed and different with their own thought and motivations. Asami Yamazaki is a deeply flawed and damaged human being who is genuinely terrifying. She’s cemented herself as the most iconic female villain in horror movies. And I think this is exactly why she’s a feminist icon.