Girl Down

I watched a movie called The Fits last night. I had heard it reviewed on the movie podcast I listen to a number of weeks ago so when it popped up as a 99c movie rental on iTunes I went for it.

It is a very short film, and while I would normally wait for the weekend to watch a new movie I had a small window of opportunity. I had come home to find my husband in his pajamas at 5pm and looking glum next to a box of tissues. Shortly after that, he took himself off to bed aching and snotty.

The film centres around a young girl, who goes to her brother’s gym and trains with him as he boxes. She is a tomboy but is drawn to the activities across the corridor where a group of vibrant and older girls are practising a dance routine for competition. The group is large, the routines are modern and the dance moves highly energetic. There is a spirit of tribalism in the performances. She ends up trying out for the troupe and rehearsing with them, but as the dancing intensifies, a number of the girls start to suffer fits. There is no explanation and she is torn between wanting to be involved and scared of suffering the same fate.

Naturally, in the middle of all this weirdness, my husband got up out of bed, appeared in the living room and stood in front of the TV for a few minutes before walking outside with no comment. He is used to me watching indie films that are a little offbeat, or ‘weird crap’ as he refers to them. Weirder than the film, though is that when I was at school – which was an all girls’ school – we had something similar happen. I think we were about fourteen or fifteen when a craze broke out in ‘hypnotism’. I say hypnotism but it was not exactly that. I have no idea really what it was. Basically one girl would sit and watch the ‘hypnotist’ as she moved her hand in a circle in front of the other’s face. At the six o clock point, she would click her fingers. This circular movement was repeated rhythmically and rapidly nad at some point a final click of the fingers would render the subject ‘hypnotized’. Usually the subject would pass out, dramatically, like you see congregation members in spiritual churches pass out when they are being healed. 

It was very odd, but as is usually the case with these things, as wildly popular as it was occult. Certain girls were particularly good subjects and would ‘go under’ very quickly. One girl was undoubtedly the expert hypnotist. The sessions were conducted in the change rooms before or after games, or in lunch breaks and were only finally discovered after one girl passed out and could not be revived, so the teachers were called. They, of course reacted with horror and the fad died a resolute death. (The girl was fine).

I wonder if this sort of thing is common in all girl environments, or if we were just weird? I never had anything to do with the practice, other than as a nervous observer and it was probably this memory of my experience at school that meant I engaged with the film more readily. I have never had anyone else tell me about anything like this that happened at their school, but then The Fits had to come from somewhere, as did the British film The Falling, which I have not seen but which starts with a an outbreak of fainting among the girls at the school. What is it, I wonder about women that draws them to submission? Or is it more about the kind of choices we make when we sacrifice some of our individuality to become part of a group. Do women feel this as more of a metaphysical experience, rather than just the donning of costume or certain styles of behaviour?

So I watched the film – which I enjoyed- and then put all thoughts of women being weird and a little bit witchy out of my head. Thus, I am totally convinced that it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the next morning my husband woke me to tell me the milk had turned and was off – for the second time in two weeks. I am just glad we do not have chickens so they won’t stop laying. Now excuse me, I have a broom to fly.


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