"Coffy" and Other Tales of Female Revenge

Claire Faggioli August 17, 2007

I refuse to believe that even the strictest Buddhist hasn’t shared at least one of those moments where you stare at yourself in the mirror five hours after an argument and come up with some sweet comebacks (“Oh yeah? Oh yeah? Well … at least I don’t misuse ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ all the time…BAM!”). Luckily few people take it further than that, although most likely not for want of fantasy. Thank god for the movies and their ability to exploit some of our ugliest fears and desires, turning forbidden fruits like revenge into horrifying yet cathartic experiences. While one may not partake in it during one’s own lifetime, many viewers will happily pay nine plus dollars to see it contained on screen. Some of the most compelling examples are those that feature women, characters so tired of being pushed around that they finally unhinge and let loose on those actually or seemingly responsible for their plights. While one might take comfort that the following list lies isolated to the filmic realm, do play it safe: don’t piss off the ladies in your life. (Especially not Pam Grier, whose “Coffy” plays Midnight Mass this Saturday at the Bridge.)

5. “Kill Bill” I and II (2003/2004)
Uma Thurman awakes from a coma, survivor of an attack that killed her fiancé and unborn child, and goes after the assassins/former colleagues who slighted her. Killing her way to the top of the V.I.P.E.R. food chain, its strangely attractive leader Bill (played by David Carradine), the quest takes her to many countries and even more genres, each showdown more pretentiously ironic and over the top than the last.

4. “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962)
“I wouldn’t give a plugged nickel for either one of those two old broads” was Jack Warner’s reaction to Aldrich’s casting decision of Joan Crawford as Blanche, the aging Hollywood icon and Betty Davis as Jane, her jealous former child star sister. Despite Warner’s reaction, audiences loved watching Jane mercilessly toy with her crippled sister, and the notorious on-set feud only added to the awesomeness of two of Hollywood bitchiest stars.

3. “Fatal Attraction” (1987)
Michael Douglas learns his lesson the hard way when he has a weekend of extramarital rough sex with Glenn Close; like so many epic love stories, his rejection of her results in an is-she-isn’t-she-pregnancy and her wreaking havoc on his unsuspecting family. The moral: don’t cheat on your wife. If you do, ignore the allure of the word “hutch” and keep your kid’s pet bunny in the house.

2. “Coffy” (1973)
This blaxploitation classic stars a gorgeous Pam Grier as the eponymous Coffy, nurse turned badass vigilante. What better way to stick it to the drug lords responsible for your 12 year-old sister’ heroin addiction than becoming a prostitute and seducing your way up the criminal ladder? I know I feel empowered. Our favorite scene: the over the top catfight where Coffy hides razor blades in her hair. See it at the Bridge this week as part of the Midnight Mass festival — and featuring the World Premiere of the San Francisco Hooker Pride Parade!

1. “I Spit on your Grave” (1978)
After her graphic rape by five rural men, a traumatized novelist played by Camille Keaton (grand-niece of Buster) brutally exacts her revenge in a variety of ways. This exceedingly violent sexploitation film-turned cult classic is not for the faint of heart. Or the easily queased of stomach.