If you use Instagram, you will want to follow the @MENACEseries account right now. In the current political #resistance we’re living in, this is the kind of intersectional, feminist media we like to see, especially in regard to increasing legislative and social oppression toward women and minorities. Menace was created by 3 filmmakers from Chicago – Flavia Borges, Devon Carson and Sarah Alò who also play the three main characters in the series.
There are 13 episodes in total, each of them 1 minute as per the limits on Instagram videos. The series was shot over 2 days by a predominantly female crew, and is now available to watch on their account. This dystopian microseries is reminiscent of the world in Hulu’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’.
Although the comparisons to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ seem like an easy fit, the creators are adamant about the intersectional aspects of ‘Menace’ setting it apart. Flavia told Feministing.com they felt the HULU series felt devoid of the particular struggles of women of color.
“I’m also hypersensitive to this, being of color myself. For us, the only way to not tell a color blind story was to hit the nail on the head. In our series, Ana is dark skinned and clearly at higher risk than the other two women so when they ban[d] together, it’s bound to come up. I back the importance of Handmaid’s as a feminist piece and I’m here for it but negating history doesn’t help feminism. This is an exciting time where women feel empowered to advocate for representation in media they consume. If you fail to address intersectionality in 2017, you are behind,” she said.
The story centers on three single women in the near future. It is a time where women’s rights have declined and violence against women is rampant. In the face of femicide, three neighbors, Ana, Daisy and Jane, hide out in a small apartment together for survival, protection and companionship.
Despite the pervasive violence against women, Ana is determined to find a husband to secure her citizenship in a country where her deportation is inevitable. Fiercely independent Daisy subverts the system by making her money as a financial dominatrix and capitalizing on her belief that “men like to be dominated.” Jane, having recently escaped her abusive husband, is struggling to cope in a world of violence she finds inescapable.
“It’s sort of wild to have written a show about male pride groups attacking and killing people based on differences of gender thinking we were making pure fiction … and then just a few months later to turn on the TV to watch a white supremacist run over people on the streets [during a Nazi rally in Charlottesville, VA] based on differences of race. It’s all too scary,” said Flavia.
“It’s not that we’re anti-male, we were just sick of seeing so many things centered around men, so we decided to create something distinctly female. For us, MENACE is more than a series, it’s a mission. We really want to unite and empower other women. We need each other now more than ever before,” Sarah told Hello Giggles in an interview.
This is becoming a scary version of art imitating life, with female-driven content and films containing story lines that should be such a far-out piece of fiction, but instead they are reflecting the reality of people across America more and more.
The three creators met through various creative workshops and classes in Chicago and decided to collaborate as a way of taking ownership of their filmmaking ambitions. They wanted to create something unapologetically from the female gaze, which also spilled over into the story they created.
The series opens with an alert on a cell phone stating “Females seek shelter immediately. Attack in your area”. 1000 women have been murdered in Chicago by a group of radical men’s rights activists, jokingly called GuySIS. The series combines humor, drama and futuristic elements, but ultimately it is about sisterhood. While the characters are forced to get to know each other while holed up in an apartment to stay clear of the attacks in their city, the real depth comes from learning about each of their backgrounds and struggles.
Devon plays a dominatrix called Daisy, Flavia plays Ana who is an illegal immigrant, and Sarah plays Jane, a domestic abuse survivor. Over the 13 episodes we see the women deal with issues such as body image, race, sexuality, intersectionality, sex-worker stereotypes, beauty standards, and feminist ideals. But these characters are not as black and white as you may think.
For instance Daisy and Ana eventually discover that Jane, the abuse survivor, is actually a poster child for white privilege, something you wouldn’t think of to tackle in a character has has been abused. Sarah says this is part of the intersectionality they wanted to include in the series.
“I was really excited to write Jane as a white feminist, as someone who doesn’t get intersectionality. I thought it was important to force that type of woman into a situation where she can’t just look away and pretend what’s happening isn’t real or that there aren’t still inequalities between women. I was trying to be able to be compassionate to her while also keeping her accountable for the ways in which she has inadvertently caused inequality in her own life,” she told the Chicago Reader.
Challenging viewers/followers’ ideals about feminism was also key on the filmmakers agenda, which also served to ensure portrayals of complex women, rather than the stereotypical two-dimensional women we are seeing being called into question in massive way in Hollywood.
“Our instincts and emotions might not match the logical thing that we’re supposed to think or feel or believe. When we were writing these characters, we didn’t want them to be perfect feminist icons. That doesn’t exist,” said Devon.
Ultimately ‘Menace’ is a series that is entertaining, relatable and draws viewers in with its fast-paced mix of comedy and dystopican drama. The filmmakers believe it is important to not to shy away from creating content that reflects the current political times and consciously center the stories and lives of women on screen.
“Women are angry, as we should be, and we are finally owning up to it. We created this series because we feel misrepresented, unheard, devalued or constantly told we don’t belong in television,” said Flavia.
All 13 episodes are now available to watch on the @MENACEseries Instagram account, and you can watch the trailer below: