chat is a bunny boiler? It refers to Glenn Close’s character in “Fatal Attraction”, Alex Forrest. Alex Forrest has sex with Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) and then starts stalking and harassing him – subjecting him to anti-male shaming and emotional blackmail, pouring acid on his car, sending tapes full of abusive language. At one point she claims she is pregnant with his baby. When that ploy fails and her victim tries to get a restraining order on her, the police blow him off. She goes on to break into the family home when no one is there, kill the daughter’s pet rabbit – this is the origin of the expression “bunny boiler” – and leave it boiling on the stove. Finally she kidnaps the daughter in a very creepy scene where she takes her on a roller coaster.
The movie was remarkable in accurately portraying a certain kind of woman but what was really remarkable was the rapturous reception it got among women, who apparently approved of her behavior and considered her a “strong woman” (proving that they had no inkling of an idea of what strength actually is). Many criticized the film as stigmatizing mental illness and more unforgivably, showing a woman in a bad light, to the point that Susan Faludi considered the film a form of backlash against women’s progress, but out among the public the film and Close were received with rapture and the movie was such a financial success that it influenced a series of subsequent films.
Feminists criticized the film, but its reception among women in general was quite different. Close remembers practically being mobbed by admirers at one function. And that year as Close was going down the red carpet to the Oscars, she noticed:
“I was walking down the red carpet and all of a sudden there was a whole load of women with that hairstyle. Some had fake knives, too – made out of cardboard. I had my own little fan club!”
Let’s stop for a minute and ask what about an unhinged, murderous stalker was so appealing to so many women. I think it’s quite simple: she embodied so many cultural tropes they so many hold dear – the romantic trope of the desperate lover who will stop at nothing, the Daddy’s Little Girl radical entitlement trope seen as a form of empowerment for women, which takes its fullest form as consumerism, with the creed “Want, want, want; get, get, get” that burst into full corpse flower bloom in the benighted 80s. Alex Forrest was the customer, and the customer is always right! She is entitled to get what she wants, dammit. Alex Forrest embodied the female entitlement that is at the core of Anglophone gynocentrism, and American women loved it.
So that’s what a bunny boiler is. Fatal Attraction appeared in 1987; was Alex Forrest just a narcissistic denizen (borderline, actually) of a narcissistic decade, and her kind is seen no more among us? Would that it were true!
Emma Sulkowicz, Bunny Boiler
So now we come to the story of Emma Sulkowicz, a student at Columbia University, who accused another student, Paul Nungesser, of raping her, but not before having stalked him on Facebook and by texting. Her desire was not returned. And that was unforgiveable, and she became “viciously angry.”
She hadn’t taken the matter to the police, and an internal board had cleared Nungesser, and both he and she were bound to confidentiality, but that didn’t stop Sulkowitz in her crusade for justice. Sulkowitz didn’t abide by what she had agreed to and started her infamous mattress campaign of public humiliation and harassment against Nungesser, culminating in her dragging her now filthy mattress, against explicit instructions to the contrary, to the graduation ceremony, where she once more subjected Nungesser to harassment and humiliation.
In the meantime however, three other students, one male and two female, came forward to accuse Nungesser of other rapes. That looks damning, doesn’t it? The problem is that it turns out that these accusers were connected to Sulkowicz and the whole thing looks very orchestrated. For one thing the male accuser says he is a close friend of Sulkowicz’s. Columbia found their stories even less plausible than Sulkowitz’s. At point after point Sulkowitz’s and her confederates’ accounts have been found both internally inconsistent and inconsistent with sources that instead corroborate Nungesser’s account of events.
So that’s the sequence of events. What is also interesting is how much notoriety Sulkowicz has parlayed this into. L’affaire Sulkowicz has been running in the news for weeks now and she even had a US senator, Senator Gilliland, champion her cause, to the point of getting her invited to the State of the Union address. And Sulkowitz has seen her cause taken up by feminists like Amanda Marcotte and the people at Jezebel. Emma Sulkowitz, the champion and poster child of raped womanhood! That not only excuses her campaign of stalking and harassment, no, that makes it glorious and righteous!! Her distortions and lies and histrionics are a blow for justice!
This is the same celebration of bunny boiling we saw with Fatal Attraction. Nothing has changed.
A rapturous reception indeed among the Sisterhood. Alex Forrest rides again. And she’s not done yet. Now Sulkowicz has turned on the university president who enabled her whole campaign of harassment at Columbia in the first place: she’s accusing him now of slighting her (showing insufficient enthusiasm and deference when she crossed the stage) at her graduation. Not much sympathy for him, I’m afraid.
Alex Forrest’s fictional and Emma Sulkowicz’s real behavior reflect on them; the adulation it received and receives reflects on those defenders and admirers and champions of that behavior, and the image that reflects is sick and ugly.
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